Sunday, July 16, 2023

Not Even Not Traveling 34: Four Corners and Mesa at Night

Four Corners - Sunday June 25

We were driving by.

Four Corners is a little tourist trap run by the Navajo. It’s cute and doing quite well. We wandered around, bought a couple of knick-knacks, and had a bad photo taken with us in the four states.

Arrival in Mesa Verde

We arrived in time to check in and then we wandered around the area a bit. In the evening, we encountered high elevation horses. They were eating grass on the slopes and they looked well-groomed and unafraid. As we learned the next morning, they are wild animals. The park service is trying to catch them.

At first, the horses escaped from farmers and from the Ute reservation, which is arid and apparently feels mostly inhospitable to horses. The horses found life better as they climbed up the mesa. They've been on the mesa in at least three herds for at least two generations. Early on, the park service kept taking them back to the Ute reservation. But the horses kept escaping the Utes and returning to the mesa.

For their next effort, the park staff captured the wild horses herd by herd and auctioned them off. But the horses are wild, after all, and gave the new owners trouble. Some owners refused to take them when they discovered how wild they were.

Finally, for the last effort so far, which appears to be working, the park service captures the horses herd by herd, ships them off to Texas to be broken in and trained, and then auctions them off. So far, so good. Horse numbers are down by half.

from Wikimedia Commons
Mesa at Night

At 2:30 in the morning, we woke to an alarm. Diane had set the time. She wanted to get up and look at the stars. A few minutes later, dressed and equipped, we stumbled out the front door of our cabin. We saw floodlights around us from the other cabin tenants.

The lights around the compound meant we couldn’t peer into the western quadrant of the sky. We would effectively be star-blinded if we tried. Still, after we manouvered between buildings, roads, and trees, we arranged ourselves to have a clear view of the rest of the heavenly sphere. On top of Mesa Verde, we had no city lights to contend with. We didn't have to endure nearby towns, even. Civilization was a long ways off, as was the light pollution from it.

“Big dipper,” I said as we strolled into the deepest shadow available in the strip of blacktop to the east of our compound. Maybe Diane could see the silhouette of my arm as I pointed to the star formations, maybe not. “And the Milky Way.”

“I don’t remember seeing the Milky Way before,” Diane said. She had followed the gesture.

We studied the sky for a while. I noticed a triplet of stars that were not the Pleiades. I found a reddish possible planet that was not Mars because it wasn’t red enough or in the right position in the sky. (It turns out this was Antares, a star sometimes mistaken for Mars. I learned this by using a sky-mapping app on my phone a few days later.)

“I’ve never seen stars twinkle before,” Diane said. “They really do.”

“Yeah.” I had been noticing it too. “All of them or nearly all.”

We gazed a while longer. She took my arm and told me it was okay to head back.

“It was totally worth it,” she said outside our cabin door.

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