|The world of Nyumbani|
Friday, March 2, 2018
Thursday, March 1, 2018
|"I have no funny quips to say. Ever."|
o be fun! Would Indiana Jones be as good an memorable without the one lines and occasionally silly situations? Can you imagine a grim-faced, mirthless Harrison Ford as the titular lead? Me neither. Old Lara was more Jones while new Lara is more.....Christian Bale Batman? I think?
|"Adventuring is the worst."- Lara Croft|
Thursday, July 7, 2016
http://wilderness.org/keep-americas-public-lands-public-hands, tell your representatives, send letters, tell your friends, write a blog post. Show you care. Because if you don't, you won't know what you missed until it's already gone.
Monday, July 4, 2016
Okay, so now that the formalities are out of the way let's start with a little town called Fairbank, aptly named as it sits on a nice little spot along the banks of the San Pedro river in Southern Arizona. No one lives there anymore. It's a ghost town. Once it was a nice little mining town near Tombstone, famous for Wyatt Earp and the Clanton feud. Ike Clanton himself had a ranch nearby little Fairbank but that's another story. So here we are in 2016 and all that is left of Fairbank are some little wooden buildings, a cemetery, a rebuilt school house and the ruins of a large Silver Stamping mill. The school house was restored in 2007 and also houses a modest library and gift shop for visitors. It is maintained as a historic site by the Bureau of Land Management as part of the San Pedro Riparian Area. If you happen to visit, I highly suggest you see if Ron Stewart is the volunteer for the day. He is super nice and very knowledgeable. What's left of this little town is tucked away along a lonely stretch of highway between Whetstone and Tombstone, the buildings are huddled together beneath the shade of Cottonwoods and the humidity of the river.
|The Fairbank Silver Mill|
The real question is why do you think this town sprung up here? Anybody? *chirp chirp*. You, the blonde in the back with Doctor Who shirt. Yes you. What do you think? Very good! It's the river. The river is why they chose to build. As mentioned before, this town relied heavily on its Silver Mill, which of course used the coursing water of the San Pedro to do its job. The Mill brings workers, workers bring their families and then a town pops up. The Railroad comes to ship the goods and soon enough you have a hotel, a mercantile and schoolhouse. But eventually the rails decide to move elsewhere, the people run out of things to do and they all move on. It's the story of more little towns than one can probably count. At one point, the U.S. census states that there were a whopping 72 people living in Fairbank. A little strange because the Business Directory lists at least 242 in 40 households. During this time, the Census was not something to be trusted. Many people considered it government over reach and some just plain didn't want to be found. Fairbank was never very big by any means, Tombstone being only a 15 minute drive away, but it had its place in the web of the mining economy in Southern Arizona.
Speaking of Tombstone, let me deviate for a second for a pretty cool story. Don't roll your eyes at me Mr. French. Wyatt Earp. Famous and/or notorious gunfighter of the Old West. Made popular by his shootout with the Clanton gang at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, was once tried for murder. Many thought that he wrongfully killed those men cold in the street, many had a less than positive perception of the man. They charged him with murder. Fearing that he would not get a fair trial in Tombstone, the judge had his trial moved to Fairbank. After news spread of Wyatt's charges, old acquaintances and friendly citizens of Dodge City, Kansas sent letters speaking highly of Earp's honor. Wyatt was eventually acquitted and the charges dropped. Prime example of how important it is to have a good reputation.
Anyway, Fairbank was founded alongside the San Pedro because of the abundance of water. It lasted from 1881 to 1973. But what happened before? Any guesses? Susie, go ahead. There were Native Americans there? Well, you are not wrong, but there was something else in between. Ah, the Spanish. Awesome. So the Spanish had come to this area for the same reason. The land was rich and fertile because of the river valley. Fairbank was built within the boundaries of the San Juan Boquillas y Nogales Land Grant that was once owned and operated by the Elias family out of Sonora. They came into the land in 1823 and the Spanish intended to settle it as part of New Spain, or Mexico, by today's terms. They had a hard time of it because they weren't the only ones there. The Chiricahua Apache fought them every step of the way which led to the abandonment of the area, leaving nothing but thousands of wild cattle roaming the San Pedro River Valley. In 1854 this area became part of the United States after the Gadsden Purchase but wouldn't be settled until the founding of Tombstone, Charleston and Fairbank.
So why were Spanish trying to ranch there? What made it good for such a thing? Andy? Very good, its the water. I think you are catching on to the pattern here. The San Pedro River creates an area that is far more fertile than the surrounding Sonoran Desert. Water is a hot commodity in the desert and everything relies on it. Even today, the land around the river is filled with Cottonwood trees, Mesquite, marsh grasses and all kinds of wildlife that rely on the water found there. In 1695 Father Eusebio Kino visited a string of Apache villages just north of the ruins of Fairbank. 156 years earlier, in 1530, Fray Marcos de Niza explored the area for the King of Spain describing the area as "an irrigated, evergreen garden" (Friends of the San Pedro River). Again, its the water.
|Prehistoric Pottery and Points|
me who the Clovis are? Red hair and glasses, in the front, what do you think? Perfect, the Clovis were one of the first major migrations into the Americas. This happened between 12-9,000 BC, give or take a few and low and behold, there they are right along the San Pedro River. Now the climate back then would have been much different from the desert that it is today, but regardless the water was very important. The San Pedro started flowing at the end the last Ice Age and would have attracted all kinds of animals including Megafauna. Near Fairbank is Murray Springs that has evidence of Mammoth and Bison Antiqus kills. Also along the River are the Naco and Lehrner Mammoth Kill sites, just a stone's throw away.
Ah, a question Mr. Petro? What's the point of all this? Excellent, I was just getting to that. What have I told you again and again is the point of studying History? Not the names. Not the dates. History shows us the overarching themes of human interaction and existence. Now I know it seems obvious that people need water. Everything needs water. But today we have talked about some concrete examples of how people relied upon the San Pedro river for their lives and livelihoods. The river gave them game to hunt, grass to feed cattle, and power to run their mills. It brought food, settlers, miners, merchants, and families. This is a pattern that will ring true nearly everywhere in the world with only a few exceptions. Where there is water, you will find people. Even today, the San Pedro is a conservation area that attracts visitors and outdoor enthusiasts from all over. Ranches still dot the valley and other towns have sprung up. If you ever hope to understand people, history is where you need to begin. Thanks for paying attention today class...for the most part....except you Scott. I saw you sleeping over there. I'll see you after class.
This is not the post I've been working on for the last couple of days, but I am currently sitting and waiting for law enforcement so our Survey Crew can get on with the day. I am currently less than a mile from the Mexican Border and can clearly see the fence from where I stand. I realize this is a blog mostly Bout exploring but I also touch upon Nature and Environmental stuff too, I'll try and stick to that without being very political, but honestly, I think you'll deal with it. Going to start this out by straight up saying, I hate the Fence. I'll hate it even more if it becomes a big stupid wall. It's a waste of money, time, effort and barely works. What it is good at is screwing up the environment. It started out as open space and slowly became barbed wire and wooden posts. Today it is a long series of closely placed metal bars. This kind of barricade is meant to restrict illegal goods and people (don't get me started on the term illegal). This also has an impact on large wildlife like deer, bears and coyotes. As the reduction of these animals continue, it negative impacts the smaller wildlife and plants. This in turn effects insects and soil and the thing gets messed up. I can't figure out how to upload pictures from this app, but if I could I could show you what essentially looks like a prairie. I will remind you I am standing in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. Makes sense right? No. The grasses are almost entirely invasive and non native. Really, the only area where I don't see stuff that is in the proper order is the nicely tended garden of native species. I don't particularly have a huge point here, except just one more instance of our impact on the world with basically no return. Happy 4th of July everyone. Pick up your trash and do your best not to scare the pets/wildlife. We are heading to the Border Patrol HQ to see if we can get this underway...
Saturday, June 25, 2016
|Top of the Mountain|
|Looking East from the Sandias|
I had been reading about interesting things in the area and read about an outcrop of limestone at the top the Sandias that supposedly had fossils. Nothing really special, mostly coral and small bivalves, but regardless, I wanted to see it. I could have driven to the top, parked, had a short, relaxing hike and been done. Did I do that? No. No I didn't. On a whim I parked just short of halfway up that bad boy and hiked. One of my favorite parts of hiking up a mountain is being able to go through all the different ecosystems that melt together as the elevation increases. The trail I chose began next to a small stream at the very top of Madera Canyon, it was a fairly modest trail, lacking in upkeep and only tenuously marked, making it all the more exciting. Looming above me, somewhere above the massive pines, was the peak that I sought to reach. The tail meandered up around the side the mountain, taking me through some truly beautiful stretches of forest. Unfortunately that was not the case the whole time.
I spent a lot of time in my life working for a Nature Center in Nebraska where were basically in constant battle with Invasive Species. Sounds dramatic? Good. Because it was. Lost a lot of good
|Prescribed burn back in NE|
|Easiest way to read "Owls Hoot in the Daytime"|
path. It is derived from old Appalachian folklore; I promptly ignored its warning and continued on.
It was a long trek, not going to lie. I had to take a more than a few breathers because walking up hills is hard work. My eyes widened as I walked
|Looking down from the top|
Anyway, eventually I made my way the highest point on the mountain and looked down and out across the world around me. Gods is it a beautiful sight. In moments like that, I am overwhelmed with a sense of place. That meditation thing I was talking about at the beginning. I knew where I was and for a moment my doubts and fears rushed away with wind. But I still had a goal. I had to find me some fossils. The age of the earth is profound to me. The fact that at the top of the mountain I am standing on what used to be the bottom of an ancient sea. Untold centuries of violent processes radically changed the shape of the surface into what I was seeing then. Talk about perspective. Looking out into the horizon, feeling the weight of time and pressing my hands against the remnants of some of the earliest lifeforms on the planet. People find solace in many things. Religion. Fantasy. Art. I find it most often in the feeling of insignificance. It is peaceful there. Maybe a bit lonely. But it's clarity. For me at least. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I look up at the sky. Down at the world. Peace. The hike back down in way easier. I feel a little high. Maybe its the meditation, maybe its dehydration. Who knows. Aside from being stabbed in the side by a Yucca thorn, it was a good day.
|Bottom of the Ocean|
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Let me introduce the author of this post, her name is Sara. I call her Honeybee. Not because its a cute pet name or anything. Because we met as counselors at a Nature Camp and we had to have Nature names. Don't ask me why. There was Bison, and Hedgehog and Blue Jay and Sprout and Honeybee....which one was me I hear you asking? None of them. I was Cockroach. Anyways, I have known Sara since she was like 16 and have seen her grow up to be a strong willed and adventurous young woman. She has spent the last while in Asia, traveling and teaching and generally being herself. I have no doubt that some of that time was spent trying to tame her hair, but to no avail. Sorry Sara, I couldn't help it. My most popular blog post ever was one I wrote about Women in Adventuring/Exploration and I wanted to follow that up with one that I know personally. Thanks Sara, for your input and for being someone that not only young girls/boys can aspire to be, but also because you inspire me. Because you're awesome. And I'm super jealous.
Love and Disaster in East Asia: 10 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way
- If you are a native English speaker, count your blessings. No matter where I was, I was able to find at least 1 person with rudimentary English. I could buy what I needed and find my way when I got lost. In a farming village in east Nepal, I was even able to learn a handful of words and phrases in Nepali. As an English teacher in China, I understand the popularity of the English language, but it wasn’t until Nepal that I really experienced how hungry people were for it. A business that has the most rudimentary grasp of English has a huge advantage over one that doesn’t.
- Always do something that scares you. You might end up loving it. I went paragliding in Pokhara, Nepal. Me. Terrified of heights and, more specifically, falling from great heights. With nothing but a harness and glorified piece of fabric keeping me in the air (and also a pilot named Sabine to whom I entrusted my life). Despite the fog and smog, my view of the AnnaPurna range from 2000 m up was...surreal. There are only a few times in your life when you feel like you are finally big enough to stand out and face the universe in all of its vastness. In that moment, you realize just how small your footsteps are. You feel the thin threads of silky time tying you precariously to your present. You come face to face with your relative insignificance and it is the most liberating moment. You finally feel free enough to take the big risks that our collectively massive existence requires for growth.
- Pick up some local customs. In Nepal, the head movement for “yes” is bobbing your head from side-to-side instead of the western up-and-down. The one-nod “hello” is universal, but you can also touch your hand to your heart or to your forehead (the third eye) instead of putting your hands in the prayer position when you say “Namaste” to someone. It’s these little things that make people treat you with a little more respect and less like a tourist.
- Don’t Panic. Ok, I’m borrowing this one from Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but it’s true. There is a story I like to remember and it helped me through getting pickpocketed of all my money and important documents, on several small and cramped buses, and in long and confusing customs procedures.
- I mentioned this briefly in the last lesson, but it needs it’s own section. Happiness and Success are things that we create, not find. On my travels, I met with a professional chef, several students, a virology lab tech, a few engineers, dozens and dozens of volunteers with varying backstories, international hospitality staff on seminars, managers and consultants of everything under the sun, and so many others who I didn’t have time to really know. Many of these people were not Americans (which was an eye-opener for me in and of itself) and they were influenced differently to believe in more flexible measures of success. So often in Western culture (and particularly in the US), the daily grind lives up to its name because it only offers us 1 scale for success: the almighty dollar. The backpackers and vacationers and workers I met did not share the same view. One night, in my hostel room, we held a yoga class led by a Chinese woman who had been practicing for only a year. Between the laughs, falls, and broken English, we came to value this woman’s dedication, rewarding her with our thanks and respect. For her, it was enough to simply share and communicate with us something that she considered important.
- Research the things that are considered to be “Western luxuries” before you “go”. I mean this both figuratively and literally. Figuratively: In many places, even tourist towns like Bangkok and Siem Reap, free WiFi, hot water, electricity, and blankets may be hard to find. Literally: You want to know what else is hard to find? Tampons and toilet paper. See what I did there?
- It’s OK to relax. You might be thinking, “But I’m on vacation, how much more relaxed can I get?”. Imagine you only have 2 weeks in an area that is famous for its temples and palaces and beaches and sights. Of course you want to go see everything, so your day might look like this:
Great Wall at Mutianyu
Beijing Duck Dinner
Acrobatics Show and Fireworks
- This is less of traveler’s lesson and more of a life lesson: Never try to out-drink an Australian. You will lose. Badly. I had the lake-soaked dress clothes and rolled ankle prove it.
- Take carry-on baggage only. Most of the time, airport security won’t lose your stuff. Most of the time, if the small, low-cost airline won’t transfer your bags for you, you will have enough time to get your bags and re-check in. But it is a huge relief that, when things do go wrong (I’m looking at you, Calcutta airport), you don’t have to hold up the plane even longer because you have to go and get a checked bag. You can wash your clothes in any country you are in, either by hand or paid service. You can buy any liquid toiletries anywhere including, to my delight and surprise, contact solution. You can leave your L’Oreal at home because travelers all look the same: worn and weary. It’s a very noble look, even if the smell is a little funny.
- Keep a journal. I would not have been able to write this if I hadn’t kept mine. There are so many little things you forget when you are completely overwhelmed by the new sounds and smells. The leaf-gold temples standing high above the city burn brightly in your memory and almost make you forget sipping your first Thai iced tea while watching the sun set over the river.The colossal majesty of Angkor Wat eclipses the innocent humor of a little girl riding to school on a bicycle that is much too big for her. The name of our resident elephant in Chitwan National Park (Pumaya), the Irish Red Cross volunteer leaping up to join the Tharu cultural dance program, making milk tea in a little farming co-op with Muna and her boys, Mohit and Marbin. My journal honors my time in these sacred places by providing me with the space to store those memories. It honors the people I lived with, traveled with, or just talked with for teaching me something new about the world. It lets me continue learning from these people long after they’ve gone by reading through the pen-captured conversations I can only barely recall. And best, it provides a teaching guide so that I can share the lessons I’ve learned with my family, my friends, and other adventurers seeking to start a journey of their own.