Just a Boy and His Dog… My 11 Years at Burning Man

A robot boy and his dog check out the building of Medusa. She will show up in my next post. Beware of her eyes! (Well, maybe my next post— after I report on how the Russians used WordPress as a key tool in their efforts to disrupt the American elections of 2016.)

I often think about how are lives are impacted by robots. Peggy and I even have one of the small vacuum cleaners that runs around and cleans our floors and carpets. We call her, Robota. As I grow older, I look more fondly on the robots of the future. In 10 or 15 years from now when the world decides my driving leaves a bit to be desired, I am hoping there is a self-driving car sitting in my yard or readily available to zip me around to where I want to go. Next stop, Grand Canyon. Then there is the downside. Maybe when robots are given quantum computer brains, they will decide we aren’t necessary. I seriously doubt that they will approve of our ‘pulling their plugs,’ under any circumstances.

What’s the danger of a flower sniffing robot, however? This fellow was given one of Burning Man’s prime locations, just in front of the Center Camp Cafe bordering on the Playa. The woman provides some perspective on his size.
Fido appears a little questionable. Maybe she is howling at the moon.
It appears our robot is more sinister here. What happened to the rider of the bike he is holding? Is it time to run?
This robot looks like it was an extra in a 1950’s sci-fi movie.
No question here. Run for it!
Spotting this creature, I’d want a bunch of Burners between me and it.
I think the red eye glowed a dangerous red at night.
A bit more personality.

Aliens are another matter. Maybe they are already here. I’ve blogged several times about the UFO I saw over Sacramento circa 1968. If there are aliens, it seems obvious to me that they would show up at Burning Man. Think about it: a remote desert where it is easy to disguise yourself and people don’t care if you are an alien. Each year there are a number of candidates.

This guy shows up as a master of ceremonies every year at the annual costume contest. What better way to infiltrate Burning Man?
This one showed up in our camp and demanded a beer, an expensive beer. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)
I’ve always been suspicious of purple people. Remember, “He was a one eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater?” Or are you too young?
Or maybe their disguises are more subtle. Slap on a few tattoos and you can get into any party at Burning Man.

Flying saucers aren’t unheard of in the Black Rock Desert. One year we even had one crash.

How much more attractive can a flying saucer get? Aliens contracted with a group of kids in the Bay area to create this one.
But then there was the crash…
Rumors were that a human the aliens had captured was a notorious back-seat driver and had caused them to crash.
The way she buddied up to aliens later seemed to confirm this suspicion.
Undoubtedly part of the crew.
Alien buzzards tend to be a little scary.
And they may be the reason that there are so few alien bodies found. They are also known to snack on Big Foot, or is that Big Feet?

Enough on Invaders from Outer Space. My next post will feature invaders from Russia.

Stunning Rocks and Gorgeous Junipers… The PCT through the Mokelumne Wilderness

There is no hurrying through land like this. The combination of junipers and rock sculptures called to both me and my camera.

I was surprised by the sheer beauty along the PCT south of Carson Pass. I had hiked through the region several times over the years, but my trail had always been slightly to the west. Somehow I had missed the incredible rock sculptures. That, and the junipers. If you have ever wandered the West, you are familiar with this gnarly, photogenic tree. Most of todays photos were taken near Pennsylvania Creek in the Mokelumne Wilderness, maybe 15 miles north of State Highway 4 and Ebbetts Pass. I’ll let the photos speak for the area.

Hiking down into Pennsylvania Creek, I found this juniper.
And then this one, wedded to a rock.
That night, I camped on the south side of Pennsylvania Creek. This was the view !
Later, at sunset, the whole ridge.
The next morning, smoky skies and the sun provided a red cast to the view.
Farther along, I was treated to this view.
Near the crest of the canyon, I found the juniper tree and rocks I featured at the top pf the post.
The view included this leaning rock, which could be seen just behind the juniper.
Another perspective.
I considered this a real treat.
And photographed it several times. This is it for today. But I’ll have several more views of the rock sculptures on my next PCT post.

NEXT POST: Back to Puerto Vallarta. P.S. I will be playing with various themes over the next few weeks, so don’t be surprised by the changing looks of my blog. ALSO: For those of you who haven’t read “The Bush Devil Ate Sam,” I will be posting a chapter once a month on the top ‘pages’ to give you a feel for the book and encourage you to buy it. Many thanks! This chapter reflects our first night in our Gbarnga home, appropriately titled: Armies of the Night!

A Canyon of Mystery and Magic… Sego Canyon Rock Art

These larger-than-life pictographs at Sego Canyon in Utah are among the strangest I have ever seen. Now add in the fact that they are several thousand years old. And what’s with the pictograph on the right? Also, check out this guy’s spiky hairdo.

 

Zipping along Interstate 70 in Utah, you might very well decide to take a detour and visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. It is a decision you will never regret. The odds are, however, that you will miss the small road that extends north of the Arches turnoff heading toward the town of Thompson Springs. In so doing so, you will miss the opportunity to visit one of the most magical and mysterious rock art sites in the Western United States: Sego Canyon.

Our van sits in Sego Canon as Peggy and I wander around looking for rock art. Most of it is located on the two rock faces below. Peggy watches as I work my way up closer to the petroglyphs.

Most of the rock art at Sego Canyon is found on the two faces of this large rock.

This is another rock face that Peggy and I checked for petroglyphs in Sego Canyon. We didn’t find any rock art but the rock itself was quite unusual. I could see why Native Americans might have considered the area sacred.

Three different historical periods are represented in the rock art here dating back over a period of 6,000 years. The most fascinating to me are the pictographs left behind during the Archaic period by nomads who roamed the area from 8,000 to 2,000 years ago. The large, anthropomorphic forms that are painted on the rock normally lack eyes, arms and legs but may come with antennae, snakes and earrings. Known as the Barrier Canyon Style, it’s hard not to think of these pictographs as alien, or at least imagine a shaman encountering these creatures on a drug induced journey into an alien world.

Dave Kingsbury, one of my followers from England, and I were discussing cults where people run around with rattlesnakes in their hands. We both agreed that such sport wasn’t for us. This horned pictograph from the Archaic period seems to have a thing for snakes. Possibly he belonged to such a cult. Or possibly he was a very powerful shaman.

Or maybe something else. I see this and I want to say, “Take me to your leader.”

And this.

I find these jellyfish-like pictographs even more mysterious than the anthropomorphs. UFO fans might describe it as a space ship taking off, but hey, maybe it is a jellyfish. Or likely something else.

This shot provides a view of how some of the pictographs fit together on the right side of snake man.

And to the left..

And now, all together.

A final shot from the Archaic period. I found these pictographs a bit ghostly.

The Fremont Culture took over from the Archaic period and lasted from  600 CE to 1200 CE. Unlike the nomadic Archaic peoples, the natives of the Fremont period grew corn, lived in permanent stone buildings, and had a complex social structure. Most of the rock art they left behind is in petroglyph form, pecked into rather than painted on the rock.

The Fremont era had its own strange figures, but these were loaded down with jewelry. I found the hand interesting. I wonder if it is holding Datura seeds. It looks a bit like a foot walking in the circle. And there is a Big Horn sheep. It is rare to find petroglyph sites in the west that don’t include them.

A close up of the two figures with another ghostly one to the right. There is also another hand and another sheep, a fat fellow. The tiny figure on the left looks more like a deer to me.

And finally, we have the more modern Ute Culture that populated the area from 1300 to 1880 CE, when the Utes were forced out of their homes and onto Indian Reservations so pioneers could grab their land. One way to distinguish petroglyphs from this period is the presence of horses, which the Spaniards brought to North America in the Sixteenth Century. In fact, horses are a major tool used in  dating rock art.

This Ute rock art featured what is thought to be a shield. I’d say that the horse is about to become horse meat.  But wait, is that a small man on the back of the horse? Maybe he is the enemy.

Ute Indians seem to hunt buffalo in this scene, which will be my last for Sego Canyon. If you ever find yourself in the area, don’t miss the opportunity to explore this fascinating  site.

Next Post: I am still out backpacking but will try to get a post up on petroglyphs Peggy and I have photographed in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks during my next break between trips.

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On Being Squirrelly

(Today marks the beginning a series of blogs related to an 18 day trip Peggy, Bone and I made down the Colorado River in May and June. It starts with us arriving in Flagstaff…)

Bone tries on his Grand Canyon/Colorado River life jacket.

Five squirrels with long tufted ears just went charging past our van… in a row. I think it must be love and Peggy agrees. We speculate a female is leading the boys on a glorious romp. “Catch me if you can!” she giggles. The Albert Squirrels are excited to make babies and perpetuate the race, or species, if you want to be biologically correct. Lust is in their hearts. Or maybe it’s just the guys working out territorial differences.

We are located at a KOA in Flagstaff, Arizona as we prepare for our trip down the Colorado River. It’s a big campground. Everywhere we look men and women wearing yellow shirts are busily preparing for the onslaught of summer tourists. It feels like a beehive, or squirrel’s nest. The camp cook tells us 28 people work here. Jobs are highly specialized. The man who straightens out misplaced rocks stopped by to chat with us this morning.

Yesterday we watched two employees struggle for an hour on laying out the base of Teepee. It had all the flavor of an old Laurel and Hardy film. They kept measuring and remeasuring the angles, first one way and then the other. I expected one to leap up and start chasing the other around camp with a 2×4.

We wonder what the Kachina deities who live in the San Francisco Mountains overlooking our campground think about the squirrelly activity taking place beneath them. There are bunches of them up there, over 300 according to Hopi lore, and each one has a lesson to teach, wisdom to disperse. They come down from their perch in the winter to share their knowledge. I suspect they would have made quick work of the Teepee project.

Peggy and I hike up the mountain following Fat Man’s trail. Of course there is no irony here as we desperately try to beat our bodies into shape for the Canyon trip. The trail’s name suggests this is a gentle start. Instead it takes us straight up into a snowstorm. The Kachinas are rumored to mislead people under such circumstances.

Bone celebrates having received official Coast Guard approval for his PFD (life vest) from LT Tony Lumpkin (Lumpy).

Once they had the mountain to themselves but now they have competition. Technology has arrived. Tower after tower bristling with arrays of tracking, listening and sending devices look out over the sacred lands of the Hopi, Navaho and other Native Americans. It’s hard not to think Big Brother is watching. Or to be disturbed by the towers’ visual intrusion. But their presence means we can get cell phone coverage and climb on the Internet. We are addicted to these modern forms of communication so it is hypocritical to whine, at least too much.

But back to the squirrel theme, Peggy and I are a little squirrely ourselves as we go through our gear and get ready for our grand adventure. I am nervous. This is my first multi-day river trip. What have we gotten ourselves into? Do we have the equipment we need? Will we survive the rapids? What will the people who are joining us be like? What challenges will we face that we are ill prepared for? There are many questions and few answers.

Bone too must get ready. Peggy makes him a bright red life jacket and Lieutenant Tony Lumpkin (Lumpy) of the Coast Guard certifies the life vest is approved for travel down the Colorado.

SPECIAL NOTE: Bone will be travelling at the end of August to the unique event in the remote Nevada Desert known as Burning Man. In preparation for this adventure, I have added a new tale to the story section. If you’ve ever wondered what this modern-day extravaganza is about, check out the story.