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  • ISEGS-blog2 | Basin and Range Watch
    content Home About Us Visit our Main Site Coyot es Network ISEGS blog2 Published December 22 2012 at 4161 946 in How It All Started Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System on public land that was once a thriving Mojave Desert

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/basinandrangewatch/2012/12/22/how-it-all-started/isegs-blog2/ (2015-09-25)
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  • Better Yet Crawl | Dispersal Range
    last year Finally we tried to photograph each seedling head on against a white shadowless background so that Danielle can use computer vision analysis to determine the area of its canopy or leaf silhouette another way of measuring biomass without ripping a tree out of the ground and taking it back to the lab This photography project may have been the most frustrating of all this year s field tasks for reasons that are too boring to go into but mostly involved the total lack of cooperation of sun terrain camera and human body It did cause Danielle to spend an evening fashioning a portable portraiture backdrop for our seedlings out of construction paper a hard backed folder a clipboard electrical tape and binder clips That thing was awesome Remind me to write a post sometime about the crazy gear field scientists make out of household objects But listen pretty much everything on that to do list required getting down on and crawling on hands and knees One afternoon I saw a bit of dust moving out of the corner of my eye and ended up watching a carpenter ant try a dozen times or more to shift the body of a dead compatriot significantly bigger than itself out of a depression in the soft red earth Once there was a glint of something burnished so small it could have been imaginary but when I scratched beneath the bark of the log I was sitting on I found the green sheeny case of a wood boring beetle long moved on to better skins There were pieces of it Here wing here head here torso An arthropod jigsaw puzzle Another day I bored Jack who was napping beside me during a break with the astute observation There s a really pretty blue fly or something over here Hiking home evenings after I spied a spider being mauled on the trail by the same little beast and took a video and that is how I know it was really a blue mud dauber wasp not as menacing looking but related to the cicada killers I used to see in Chicago After one pee I returned with the pleased announcement that I had found a tree that had become a trail In its afterlife the fallen trunk retained a thin shell of intact bark cradling a woody avenue of beetle mulched chips Danielle considerate pretended to be impressed by the discovery but afterward I noticed decaying tree trails all over the place One of it turns out many tree trails I d like to tell you everything How red fir pine cones fall apart into scales that look to me like miniature gingko leaves in fall color how their terpene sap sometimes smells like ripe oranges How you can tread hard on the torso of a tree gone through by ants and release a fall of wood dust fine as baby powder How the pine marten we saw chasing Douglas squirrels one day

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/dispersalrange/2013/10/05/better-yet-crawl/ (2015-09-25)
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  • Coyot.es Network | Coyote Crossing
    every now and then images of tiny fluffy black birds will make their way across the internet with labels explaining that the birds are baby crows But they are not baby crows and the mislabeling tweaks Jenn s sense of scientific accuracy I feel her pain I have a similar peeve This week at The Corvid Blog Jenn explains how you can tell those cute fluffy baby black birds from actual baby crows which are cute in their own special way As for me here at Coyote Crossing I wade into the ugly fray over Danielle N Lee s travails with the seamy side of scientific publishing this weekend It s just one post down but here s a link for your convenience There s plenty of good recent stuff on the Coyot es Network from earlier this month too you can browse all our blogs via the list here Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in This week on October 13 2013 by Chris Clarke This week on the Coyot es Network by Chris Clarke Leave a reply My esteemed fellow Coyot es have been coming up with some good stuff in recent days and so it s time to do something I ve been meaning to do for some time start a weekly roundup of new posts on the Coyot es Network First off we ve got a formal fundraising page up for those of you who d like to help us out with our operating expenses here on the Coyot es Network where I explain We re providing talented environmental science writers with free space here on our network That includes not just hosting space but cost for third party services like backup and support Right now Coyot es Network founder Chris Clarke that s me is paying those costs out of pocket That s easier some months than others and as we add new bloggers those costs will increase Check it out Thus endeth the fundraising pitch Since this is the first such roundup post we ll go back more than a week Back in mid September over at Toad In The Hole Ron Sullivan posted a nifty photo of a cryptic moth she found on a Bougainvillea outside her digs in Berkeley I can t make head nor tail of it myself Madhu has been busy reacclimatizing to California moving his family and starting his Fall semester but he did take time to share a spectacular eagle cam video over at his blog Reconciliation Ecology Gorgeous And so why didn t the hobbits just fly all the way to Mordor At Slow Water Movement Charlie takes a deep breath swallows his annoyance at the inane Republican shenanigans occurring in DC and treats us all to a bit of leaf peeping from his viewpoint in the Green Mountains of Vermont not so green this month so much as orange and yellow and red Charlie provides a suggested soundtrack too The Corvid Blog s Jenn is full of surprises Not only does she write engagingly and do public speaking with a bird on her head but she s also a talented visual artist as she shows in this post on her participation in an art project book about endangered birds Her Mariana crow nearly leaps out of the monitor I want a copy of that book At Dispersal Range Meera Lee offers up what is likely the first in a series of Coyot es Network posts touching on the shutdown of the Federal government But her post is no polemic it s a paean to the importance of noticing detail disguised as a travelog of a hike in the Sierra Nevada with a field ecologist studying conifers especially red firs Abies magnifica a tree that I haven t seen in far too long outside an arboretum They make vast swaths in middle elevations in the Sierra s conifer belt dark and moist with chartreuse Letharia lichen and noisy chickarees Said field ecologist is now denied access to her study sites because they re in National Parks Data may well be lost But that s not what the post is about Go read And me Well I complained about human centered environmentalists last night Big surprise I know I ll be putting together a piece on the shutdown and hiking with furloughed feds in the next couple days to follow up on Meera Lee s shutdown post Names will be named Not of people of course because who needs trouble But there are plenty of other names Check all these newish posts out then visit some of our bloggers who haven t had time to post in a while Shaun and Mike and Patrick and Basin and Range Watch and say hello Another update next week Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Coyot es Network This week on October 6 2013 by Chris Clarke FtBCON Science Skepticism and Environmental Activism by Chris Clarke 2 Replies Tonight I spoke with my Pharyngula co blogger PZ Myers and my Coyot es Network colleagues Madhu Katti and Jenn Campbell Smith about the relationship between Science Skepticism and Environmental Action Or at least that was the intended topic We talked about a lot more than that And Jenn had a bird on her head The panel discussion was part of FtBCONscience Atheism With A Conscience the online conference sponsored by Freethought Blogs still in progress with panels all day Sunday on a wide range of issues Check it out Here s the conversation between PZ Madhu Jenn and me Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Blogging Coyot es Network Science Video video podcast Writing on July 20 2013 by Chris Clarke Like the Coyot es Network I could use your help today by Chris Clarke 3 Replies We seem to have come up against a small denial of service attack a site in the UK

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/crossing/category/coyot-es-network/ (2015-09-25)
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  • Friends | Coyote Crossing
    for women who blog to cover a wider subject range Take my pal Rana f rinstance who often gets typecast including by herself as an academic blogger but who writes just as often about knitting and politics and environment and silly quizzes Or Roxanne new to my blogroll check her out in the unlikely event you haven t already a top notch political blogger who holds forth with just as much expertise on culture and travel and who has a pretty good web novel in progress to boot Or Beth who has a range to match the sum of contributors to the New York Review of Books and a voice that s the equal of any of them But the self appointed serious blogger guys see they have to search through posts on cable stitching or analyses of 14th century devotional art or photographs of brick walls in small New Hampshire towns to get to the one subject they care about And they get bored and confused and wander off and forget where they were and then two weeks later claim there aren t any women bloggers I have to admit the diversity hypothesis has its counter arguments Atrios publishes silly jokes and cat pictures with some regularity Timothy Burke has thrown in the odd Ren and Stimpy related post here and there Bérubé is all over the map and hilarious to boot Oddly enough I never see any of those guys asking where the women bloggers are Maybe it s not a division between male and female so much as a division between the fox who knows many things and the hedgehog who only knows one big thing And maybe most of the hedgehogs for reasons potentially having to do with inflated sense of self importance and unrealistic evaluations of the mellifluousness of one s own voice are men Insert stupid also many women are foxes joke here In other words there s a fight between the spice of life and the monotonous regardless of the gender of the blogger And I know what kind of blog I d rather read And write PZ Myers who has been extraordinarily generous with links to CRN these days added Creek Running North to his blogroll in the science blogs category Though this surprised me for a moment it s as as good a pigeonhole as any I write about science as often as probably all but the top five percent most science obsessed bloggers which is to say I write about science once in a while About as often as I write about politics say or about hiking or about old bad memories dredged up from 1983 But somehow regardless of topic it all comes back to the bad news these days F rinstance The other day I found a site that ll be incredibly useful in writing the Joshua tree book Olle Pellmyr has done a bunch of research on yucca moths the insects responsible for pollinating you guessed it yuccas As Joshua trees are yuccas I will be writing about the moths in my book Yucca moths are fascinating Chris wrote as his readers slipped into a deep slumber The yucca moth relationship is the textbook example of coevolution The female moth in genus Tegeticula or Parategeticula deliberately gathers pollen and puts it in the spot in the yucca flower where it needs to go to fertilize the ovaries She then lays eggs in the flowers The eggs hatch and the caterpillars eat some of the seeds as they grow then drop to the ground and rest for as long as twenty years before they metamorphose into adult moths and lather rinse repeat The moth gathers enough pollen to make sure that each flower will produce more than enough seeds to feed its young while still having plenty to make new yuccas I ve dissected a few ripe yucca fruit on many of my desert trips and oh what the hell Let me dissect the Yucca baccata fruit that s sitting on my desk right now Be right back Looks like approximately 120 seeds distributed through six seed chambers One of the chambers is completely undamaged and a few others have some intact seeds still remaining Call it about twenty percent efficiency in seed production certainly sufficient considering that a single yucca flower stalk can hold two dozen fruit and that many yuccas bear multiple flower stalks in any one flowering season That s a lot of seeds to scatter on the desert soil enough to feed the woodrats and jackrabbits and still germinate a surviving yucca every few years which is all the yuccas need The important thing the thing that gets this relationship into the textbooks is that neither the yucca nor the moth could reproduce without the other Such a relationship is called obligate mutualism and it s cool not only to watch this take place in the field but also to figure how the relationship evolved Anyway I m reading an article by Pellmyr Yuccas Yucca Moths and Coevolution A Review Ann Missouri Bot Gard 90 35 55 2003 that covers what s known about yucca moths and Pellmyr describes Prodoxus a closely related moth that lays eggs on fertilized yucca fruit Its larvae eat the seeds or other tissues but it provides no benefit to the plant in return It s commonly called the bogus yucca moth And Pellmyr writes about Charles Valentine Riley an entomologist best known for saving the entire European wine industry from phylloxera but who also did almost all the initial research on yucca moths And I read this footnote V T Chambers an amateur lepidopterist mistakenly used the first non pollinating bogus yucca moth to challenge Riley s description of pollinator yucca moths Chambers 1877 In a rebuttal Riley 1880 untangled the confusion and used Chambers s moth to erect the new genus Prodoxus Gr judging of a thing prior to experience And the first thought I have on

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/crossing/category/friends/ (2015-09-25)
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  • Zeke | Coyote Crossing
    leeward of one of the lowest parts of the Sierra crest the environs of Mammoth Mountain While the tall peaks elsewhere in the Sierra catch most of the moisture blowing off the Pacific here wet winds are funneled through the range to dampen the excellently drained pumice soils Though the humidity is similar to that of the west slope the temperatures resemble that of Bishop or Reno The result is an ideal nursery for Jeffrey pine It s no accident that the largest ski resort in the Eastern Sierra is nearby The moisture that quenches Jeffrey s thirst falls partly as fat white flakes Mammoth gets more snow than most other places on the East Side It is this convergence of soil and weather that makes the forest possible here in the rainshadow of the Sierra Place a huge healthy old growth forest in a region of plains and low hills with mining and ranching nearby and you find some of the trees will disappear made into fenceposts houses flumes and charcoal for smelters Run a railroad and then an all weather highway through the woods and the timber companies show up to send the trees to exotic locales like Los Angeles The forest here has been logged and logged again enough that it s likely the collapse of the old growth ecosystem here cannot be prevented It may have already collapsed for all we know ecological axioms that hold true in forests of the Pacific Slope may not hold for East Side forests Where the ecology of the Redwood Forest is abundantly researched from marbled murrelet above to mycorrhizae below most of what we know about the East Side is how to grow a nice straight Jeffrey Pine We know what birds you can find here but we don t know whether they depend on being here Unfortunately for this forest Timber Harvest Plans make no provision for untested ecological hypotheses The burden of proof is on the forest dwellers if they can t prove sufficient harm they get evicted And so the logging continues to this day carving the heart out of this queen of the Jeffrey Pine forests The trees here though are as yet unmolested and they give welcome shade as we follow Deadman Creek a fork of the Owens River upstream The banks are lined with wild rose and an incongruous hedge of Artemisia tridentata Big Basin sagebrush which I ve never before seen near fresh water The creek is narrow Zeke can easily put two feet on either side but the water is filled with 8 inch rainbow trout We re without tackle so my thoughts of fish steamed in bitter Artemisia go unrealized The fish are hatchery stock planted in season by the Department of Fish and Game The DF G truck plops thousands of fish into the creek here each year Being hatchery trout they re much stupider than wild trout and all of them tend to stay pretty much where they re planted Of course even stupid trout are smart compared to fish in general while catching these guys may be literally a picnic it isn t exactly easy There is some evidence of tree cutting here though it may be due only to the efforts of campfire builders Becky runs to a four foot wide Jeff pine sticking her nose between the plates of bark and savors the vanilla smell of the tree s resins her favorite East Side pastime Zeke finds a baseball bat sized branch and worries it tossing it in the air raising a big cloud of pumice dust His coyote colored fur makes him look like he belongs here I lean against a downed tree and gaze toward the crest at the line where the grey green of Jeffrey pine gives way to the darker shade of red fir If I were one of the fish in Deadman Creek I d forsake my fellow hatchery graduates and swim upstream to the Owens River headwaters There under the protective gaze of Two Teats and San Joaquin Peak I d eat the small drab fir seed moths as they emerge from the red fir cones and flutter onto the dark cool forest waters Let the other fish fall for Velveeta and Power Bait That red fir forest in the San Joaquin Roadless area is little traveled considering its location Next to Reno Tahoe this is the most crowded spot on the East Slope but people tend to stick to the roads and well known trails The red firs are seen mostly by chickarees also known as Douglas squirrels who eat the scales of the cones and heap sciurid calumny on the few passersby There are pine martens there too They feed on the more unwary portion of the chickaree population Porcupines eat the bark of the few western white pines scattered through the forest Fishers eat the porcupines Until recently only a few humans have hiked off trail into the forest The approach is too steep for logging trucks and red fir isn t the most valuable of timber Campers tend to avoid red fir forests too Red firs are prone to branch dieback and dead branches will plummet to earth at the slightest wind I ve seen the falling branches described both as windowmakers and as widowmakers depending I guess on whether or not one sleeps in a tent Lately though more humans have been visiting The local Sierra Club chapter has led groups of hikers into the Roadless Area so that people can gain a more intimate knowledge of this special place Surveyors have been here too plotting the layout of a proposed Alpine ski resort which is why the Sierra Club has become interested in publicizing the charms of the area in its pristine state The resort with its roads clear cut runs garbage and loud groups of skiers would disrupt the forest and disturb the reclusive furbearing animals But local environmentalists are hampered by

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/crossing/category/zeke/ (2015-09-25)
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  • Coyote | Coyote Crossing
    feeders are constantly secreting dried sugar Lucky verdins Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Coyote Desert Solitudinousness The Neighborhood Wildlife on May 20 2014 by Chris Clarke Concert night by Chris Clarke 2 Replies Coyote hunting in the Marin Headlands Creative Commons licensed photo by Franco Folini We had a concert out in the back yard last night Closest I d heard them to the house since I moved in Looks like someone other than the cat has noticed the presence of rabbit neighbors The cat was frankly curious at the singing wearing his my better instincts tell me to run for the closet but I m trying to be brave face Funny thing looking at the photo above my eye is drawn to the amole the weedy looking agave family plant just behind the coyote A constant companion in three decades of hiking in the Bay Area hills and it never occurred to me just how much I miss it Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Coyote Desert Solitudinousness Pets The Neighborhood Wildlife on May 17 2014 by Chris Clarke Coyote pups by Chris Clarke 2 Replies Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Coyote on July 1 2013 by Chris Clarke Advertising in Carsonite by Chris Clarke Leave a reply Ken Cole took this photo and sent it to me For some reason he thought I d like it Social media are where you find them Ken Cole photo Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Coyot es Network Coyote Desert Photography on June 9 2013 by Chris Clarke Post navigation Older posts Search for On the Coyot es Network On Forgetting My Field Guide Birds and Words Published on September 16 2015 by Julia Zarankin My Hit Single Are Warblers Less Important Than Tigers Reconciliation Ecology Published on September 12 2015 by Madhusudan Katti Making Friends With Crows The Corvid Blog Published on August 2 2015 by The Corvid Blog The Heart of Freedom Cecil the Lion Wild Within Published on July 29 2015 by Jennifer Molidor There s Gold in Them Hills Dispersal Range Published on June 28 2015 by Meera Lee Sethi California note 1 Slow Water Movement Published on July 7 2015 by slowwatermovement Joe Eaton calls Fowl A Review Toad In The Hole Published on July 4 2015 by Joe Eaton The other invisible hand View from Elephant Hills Published on 5 June 2015 by T R Shankar Raman The Silurian Valley spared but will it be conserved Miracle or Mirage Published on December 5 2014 by Patrick Donnelly Lone Pine s lone pine Is Dead InyoOwnWay Published on August 13 2014 by Mike Prather A Good Defense Is Not Enough The Not Essential List Published on August 18 2013 by Shaun G Nevada Part 2 Basin and Range Watch Published on July 17 2013 by Basin and Range Watch Recent

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/crossing/category/coyote/ (2015-09-25)
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  • Family | Coyote Crossing
    in It lives on my bookshelves Every once in a while like tonight I pick it up It always feels heavier than its mass justifies That may be less gravity than gravitas Or perhaps it s a vestige of muscle memory left over from when I first hefted it with a right arm just turned four not knowing that it was the first of probably thousands of times I d pick it up turn it over absently Here I am the age my grandfather was that night and still clutching the birthday gift he gave his four year old grandson On Saturday it will be fifty years to the day I ve owned this inconsequential bit of yellow rock Fool s gold Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Biography Family Science on January 2 2014 by Chris Clarke Deadman Creek by Chris Clarke 5 Replies Thinking of this piece because of something I wrote that will show up soon at KCET I wrote this about 20 years ago about a day that happened before even that It first appeared in Terrain the now defunct publication of Berkeley s Ecology Center in a Sierra Nevada theme issue I ve edited it lightly from its original form as I ve learned a few things about words in the interim It s the Third of July and we re enjoying the traditional Third of July picnic The campground improved by the Forest Service so you can back your 34 foot RV right into your wilderness campsite is surprisingly uncrowded Maybe it s the mile of washboard between here and 395 easy to drive but with a chilling effect on the pilots of 90 000 campers like those lined up outside Mammoth Lakes Or maybe it s the name of the campground commemorating some forgotten 19th Century miner double crossed by his business partner Whatever the reason this place is nearly abandoned we re glad to have it mostly to ourselves We re not looking this gift horse in the mouth Zeke tied with my bearbag rope to one of the abundant Jeffrey pines loudly regrets that he s just out of reach of the barbecue Becky tosses him a piece of watermelon rind which he devours with gusto Every few minutes he spies a chipmunk testing the borders of our territory and he forgets the rope is there lunging for the critter He reaches the end of the rope and a loud twang like the E string on Paul Bunyan s pedal steel fills the quiet air as he flips backward He doesn t seem to mind much and is on his feet and wagging his tail before the dust settles Matthew tosses yet another piece of melon A fragment breaks off in midair landing a few feet out of the dog s reach A chipmunk spies it and grabs her windfall snack Twang Though it s a beautiful day and we re nearly alone here I m not in the best of moods Tomorrow Matthew and I leave for a week of backpacking along the John Muir Trail Perverse beast that I am I dwell not on the wonders in store for us along the route but rather on how much I ll miss Becky while we re gone I ll be out of touch for a week there are very few phones in the high country and anything could happen while I m gone What if a meteor hits Oakland Matthew is amused but tolerant of my sentimental foolishness and quietly makes himself scarce as Becky unties Zeke and we stroll up the pumice slope into the forest This is the largest Jeffrey pine forest in the world stretching from near the Nevada line to just below the crest of the Sierra from Long Valley to the shores of Mono Lake It lies leeward of one of the lowest parts of the Sierra crest the environs of Mammoth Mountain While the tall peaks elsewhere in the Sierra catch most of the moisture blowing off the Pacific here wet winds are funneled through the range to dampen the excellently drained pumice soils Though the humidity is similar to that of the west slope the temperatures resemble that of Bishop or Reno The result is an ideal nursery for Jeffrey pine It s no accident that the largest ski resort in the Eastern Sierra is nearby The moisture that quenches Jeffrey s thirst falls partly as fat white flakes Mammoth gets more snow than most other places on the East Side It is this convergence of soil and weather that makes the forest possible here in the rainshadow of the Sierra Place a huge healthy old growth forest in a region of plains and low hills with mining and ranching nearby and you find some of the trees will disappear made into fenceposts houses flumes and charcoal for smelters Run a railroad and then an all weather highway through the woods and the timber companies show up to send the trees to exotic locales like Los Angeles The forest here has been logged and logged again enough that it s likely the collapse of the old growth ecosystem here cannot be prevented It may have already collapsed for all we know ecological axioms that hold true in forests of the Pacific Slope may not hold for East Side forests Where the ecology of the Redwood Forest is abundantly researched from marbled murrelet above to mycorrhizae below most of what we know about the East Side is how to grow a nice straight Jeffrey Pine We know what birds you can find here but we don t know whether they depend on being here Unfortunately for this forest Timber Harvest Plans make no provision for untested ecological hypotheses The burden of proof is on the forest dwellers if they can t prove sufficient harm they get evicted And so the logging continues to this day carving the heart

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/crossing/category/family/ (2015-09-25)
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  • Paleontology | Coyote Crossing
    brow to the floor in thanks 12 For friends of long standing Greg Lester and Ron and Joe and Meester Matthew Berna my heart of hearts Mike Ketterer and Elena Gellert and Dave Roycroft and for your profound patience over the decades deepest thanks 13 For Becky s family and oh all right for mine thank you 14 For dinner Thursday with bright eyed nephew Liam and devastating femme fatale niece Sophie just shy of her first birthday and for the chance to watch them grow and for all my dear and far flung and incredibly gorgeous nieces and nephew making their marks on the world some of them in indelible ink on the new paint Allison and Grace and Meghan and Emily and Lissa and for Carolyn and James who I need to visit someday thank you 15 For the world for Corvus corax and Uintatherium for three day old calochortus blossoms against Ramalina lichen for my muse Yucca brevifolia and all her consorts for the shifting crustal plates that shape my homeland and the rain that washes it to the sea for the Pleiades and Luna and the Galilean moons canyon wrens and coyotes for the spiders with whom I shower and the mice in the compost for the dog and the rabbit and the guinea pig and all their commensals for all the tangled tree of shared ancestry and its mineral substrate I thank you Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Family Friends Music Paleontology on November 23 2004 by Chris Clarke Chicken Point by Chris Clarke I I feel as though I m hiking among friends All along the trail today the plants are of species I have planted in my front garden Nolina microcarpa Penstemon eatonii Agave parryi prickly pear opuntia and various others Perhaps it s no coincidence that the flagstone leading up to our front door is of a rock called Sedona red by the quarry Was I unconsciously aiming for congruence with a landscape I d only driven through before Even a plant or two I wouldn t have expected at the bottom of a plunge pool in Marg s Draw ten feet down beneath a thick slab of Schnebly Hill Formation red rock a hedge of Muhlenbergia rigens a bunchgrass common in California grows prettily in the relative wet It s about the same size as the Muhlenbergia hedge atop the retaining wall in our front yard Becky tells people that our front garden is designed according to a plan she describes as the inside of Chris brain No rows of little uniform plants there aside from the Muhlenbergia To tell the truth the garden did not start with any particular plan other than a list of plants I owned some others I liked and a general arid intention But once work started certain themes emerged despite my lack of planning For instance without intending to I gradually found myself curating a burgeoning collection of plants in the agave and closely related nolina families I d plant a cactus and then later would plant a semiwoody shrub nearby and a few weeks after that would realize I had set into motion a set of circumstances that resulted in the recreation of a common desert floral interaction the nurse plant phenomenon Cacti and other delicate plants cannot withstand full sun when young and they thus are often found growing within the partial shade of a hearty shrub I didn t intend for the Great Basin sagebrush to shelter the golden barrel cactus or for my giant island coreopsis to serve as nurseplant for the Trichocereus spachianus but the plants seemed almost to grow toward one another None of those plants to my knowledge grow together in the wild Some of the stuff in the garden like my chiranthofremontia doesn t grow anywhere in the wild I ve assembled plants from the Northeastern US and Peru and Chile Australia and Mexico and Sedona and of course a number of local natives Membership requirements do not grow so fast that you get out of hand so far that s only violated by the California natives and do not expect me to water you more than once per summer after you re established The garden plan as I see it if it makes sense to me it can go in And not just to me There s a plant growing there now that will if it survives eventually dominate the yard and in fact the neighborhood It s a two year old live oak planted by a squirrel the year we tore the lawn out It will grow It will shade out the agaves and the puya and the kangaroo paws be sculpted by the prevailing wind off the ridge to the west shelter its planter s great grandsquirrels and spit out acorns to grow in the gutters and lawns of the children of the people who buy our neighbors homes II A Steller s jay wakes me from my reverie I come all the way out here to Sedona to hike and I spend my time thinking of my front yard I pull myself up head further up the trail past a copse of Nolina microcarpa just like the one in my yard There are remarkably few hikers on the trail A couple with their college aged daughter another couple at around retirement age muttering that the trail was too much for them I figure they ll be all right their muttering comes through broad smiles I appreciate their being there everyone else in the hills today has come up on a Pink Jeep like Jesus they have come into the country on their asses A broad gray scrape marks the jeeps path across the slickrock Passengers pile out at Submarine Rock and Chicken Point the official visitor vistas on the Chicken Point Road The desert is a thrill ride to them one hears their whoops from across the ridge I calm my nerves They re staying to the road I tell myself Nothing wrong with enjoying a ride Looks like fun I might like to try it myself Lies all lies My trail converges with theirs at Submarine Rock and I stride out onto the gray scrape I recognize the looks I get it s the Yosemite Valley Tourists seeing the week long backpackers coming down past Nevada Fall How long have you been walking One relatively buffed 30 ish Jeep rider asks I m somewhat reluctant to disappoint him with the truth It s only about three and a half miles back to my truck Three and a half miles How long did that take you And you have to walk all the way back I shrug I go for lots longer hikes in the Bay Area suburbs every week This is nothing My comfortable smug is restored I press on arriving at Chicken Point well ahead of the Jeepsters not hard considering they drive at about five per on average The retiree hikers are there and I congratulate them on making it I m not ready to turn back but I m afraid that I ll run out of water too soon if I hike any farther No sooner does the dilemma present itself than a solution occurs to me I ask a Pink Jeep driver if I can fill my Nalgene from his cooler He s glad to help out I temporarily revise my opinion of the whole Jeep tourism idea But still I m sixty pounds overweight I ve been back at hiking for maybe two months and this pathetic little walk is nonetheless more hiking than most of the Jeep riders will do in a year How much more seriously would they take this land if they got here on their own power Hiking they might take pride in having gotten here as those older folks did a little surprised at their capacity and pleased as hell at their accomplishment That s the kind of experience that generates love for land getting here by passenging might as likely inspire a desire to see the road straightened Also if fat old yours truly can accidentally find himself in the top percentile of active Americans then this society is doomed III The red rock of Sedona is divided into two parts There s the Hermit Shale a soft crumbly fossiliferous layer about 275 million years old and the Schnebly Hill Formation named for a hill that was named for Sedona Schnebly The Schnebly Hill Formation is harder and about 8 10 million years younger There are other rocks in Sedona but those are the red ones Both are built of sand dunes parts of an immense beach hundreds of miles wide that fronted a sea to the west its coastline at the edge of the present day Mojave The rocks are too old to have been laid down during the Permian extinction that wouldn t happen for another twenty million years when sea levels had dropped and the ocean had retreated to the approximate location of Barstow But you can see a mirror of that extinction in these rocks The Middle Permian s atmosphere had a remarkably high concentration of oxygen created by the huge forests that had reached their peak in the Carboniferous The atmosphere was nearly one third oxygen in those days a high enough concentration that holding a lit match to a two by four would have caused the timber to burst into flame enough that free iron rusted in short order even if locked inside a sand grain Some theorize that the Permian extinction occurred when sea levels dropped exposing vast stretches of formerly submerged sediment Undersea sediment is anoxic it lacks oxygen Once exposed it combines greedily with oxygen Near my home this results in the subsidence of former freshwater marshes as organic soil once protected by water literally burns off bit by bit bonding with atmospheric oxygen and turning into carbon dioxide When sea levels dropped in the late Permian the sediments sucked up so much oxygen that animals suffocated Fossil evidence shows that at the end of the Permian rivers that once ran straight and swift were suddenly choked with sediment turning nearly overnight into braided meandering sloughs Why Land plants which need oxygen just as much as we animals do despite their ability to create it died off wholesale No longer held in place by forests roots Late Permian soil eroded away filling the riverbeds Or so one theory has it As the Permian ended and the Triassic began those uncovered sediments captured as much as half the oxygen in the air Red rocks created when there was a surplus of oxygen were covered by red rocks that sucked that surplus dry Triassic rocks around the world show that characteristic red color It was millions of years before biodiversity recovered and the dinosaurs began their reign IV I just can t get away from that extinction obsession despite having driven 900 miles from my desk my files my connection to the Net that brings me a daily crop of bad news In Tucson the other day a guy told me of visiting a wild cave near here somewhere finding a mummified teratorn whose intact ten thousand year old feathers turned to dust at a mere touch That metaphor works as well as any These days all around me I see ghosts of animals that disappeared just yesterday or that will as soon as tomorrow Pronghorn fast enough to escape the extinct North American cheetah agaves flowering for dwindling bats ripe saguaro fruit fourteen feet up waiting for titanic browsing animals that vanished when Death Valley was still a lake They disappeared so quickly that their shadows still haunt the land A line from that Peter D Ward piece that brought me into this funk has stuck in my mind like a metal sliver Ward quotes James Kirchner and Ann Weil authors of a paper on the rate of biodiversity recovery from mass extinctions Even if Homo sapiens survives several million more years it is unlikely that any of our species will see biodiversity recover from today s extinctions For years I d harbored the notion that somehow all this would work out that I d be able as a tottering old man to stumble out into the woods and see thriving populations of wolves and bears Perhaps we wouldn t restore the massive flocks of passenger pigeons from the DNA in mounted museum specimens but certainly we d see the error of our ways and stop the damage let it heal Maybe it would take a hundred years or two If that s what it would take then so be it Kirchner and Weil put the time to recovery at at least ten million years assuming humans stop doing their damage V I cruise down the far slope from the ridge beneath Chicken Point and before I know it I m at the road to Oak Creek I turn and the ridge seems surprisingly far away I start back with a big ass grin on my face hours more hiking But it s uphill and this is mile six and it s warm I stop beneath a juniper sit in mid trail drink some water There s a live oak seedling across the trail I take another drink Red Hermit Shale dust lies in a thin layer on the rim of the bottle I feel it on my lips It marks my pack my feet and calves and I assume elsewhere as I m sitting in a big pile of red gravel I m covered with Permian sand dune reground into sand for the first time since trilobites were still alive A cubical piece of rock about a centimeter on a side sits in mid trail I pick it up look at it Tears well up It s a meeting across the divide sand laid down before the mother of extinctions meets a son of those who repopulated the earth The perils of living too closely in the present are well known It leads to foolish behavior Liquidate your assets with no regard for the next fiscal year clear cut the timbered slope without thinking of the next rainy season spend the rent money on booze Some people actually think that the way we lived in 2002 is the normal and by rights eternal condition of mankind Tell them there were once deep sea fishes thriving in Nevada and they curse you for a heretic But there are perils in the longer view as well Much I ve said here about the Permian may prove tomorrow to be false The further back into the past one reaches the thicker the mists become And the future is far more impenetrable My garden s live oak seedling stands a good chance of dying in the next twenty years but perhaps it won t I could twist my ankle on these rocks and die of thirst Only the most immediate predictions are at all safe I can confidently predict that this little rock will hit the trail in less than a second when I drop it but beyond that who knows And see even there I m wrong the rock doesn t hit the trail at all but falls right into my pocket I rub its edges as I hike back toward Chicken Point Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Desert Hiking Paleontology Recommended Science Travel Wildlife on October 22 2004 by Chris Clarke Profit and loss by Chris Clarke Nights lately have been marked by waiting It has been weeks since that familiar comforting clicking has cascaded past our open bedroom window I scan the sky for the telltale outline the soft white wingbeat The nesting palm across the street is disturbingly silent West Nile has come to California and owls are high on the list of potential victims Tonight I watch until I cannot stand it anymore then turn to other tasks Almost immediately a reassuring screech fills the air Good news but for how long How many more days before the wrong mosquito penetrates that snowy down inoculates the owl How many more days before scar tissue forms in those marvelously efficient lungs before encephalitis dulls and then extinguishes that bright aural map behind her eyes As an environmental writer bad news like this pays my mortgage If no emerging diseases threatened wildlife if flame retardants and pharmaceuticals did not accumulate in the tissues of sturgeon and no bark beetles razed western forests I would be out of a job In dying therefore the owl will simply be doing its part to boost those employment figures There is reason for optimism everywhere you need but seek it Indeed I read not long ago an argument that those very owl lungs far more efficient than mine at extracting oxygen from the air may owe their efficiency to an episode of breathtakingly bad news At the end of the Permian 230 million years ago goes the story sea level dropped dramatically Sediments that had lain beneath the surface were exposed to air and started to oxidize the new soil sucked the oxygen out of the air Ninety percent of the species then living on the Earth went extinct A human at the elevation of Lake Tahoe would have died in a few minutes In this new nearly airless world a few animals prospered relative to their contemporaries They may have been alpine species adapted to low oxygen levels who migrated to lower elevations in search of air and found a world newly vacated Or they may have evolved efficient lungs in a spectacular hurry Either way they replenished the earth and their offspring were dinosaurs whose offspring were owls and other birds Peter D Ward in whose book Gorgon I read this

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