Friday, October 5, 2012

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park: Always Something Going On

Sunset at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Alamogordo, New Mexico

I think deserts are like swamps in that there's always something going on to maintain your interest, to surprise you. There's also that primordial, reptile-eat-reptile vibe to keep you on your toes.

Now, I like oceans well enough, but really, unless you're in the midst of a horrific storm or you're an ocean-sport person, there's not much that changes ocean-side day to day. You do get the zen, "I'm but one drop in the vast sea, " effect, which is pleasant, but other than that, there's not much new that happens.

From the park the other day, I saw a dusty devil whip itself up in the basin:  

Dust up outside Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Dust up outside Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Dust up outside Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Alamogordo, New Mexico.

I was fortunate to be at the park around the full moon. One night, the park ranger gave a talk on moon lore, finishing up to watch the moon rise over one of the Sacramento Mountains. At first our little group thought the cloud cover would obscure the moon's entrance, then it cleared, then it covered, and then:

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Alamogordo, New Mexico.

My camera, alas, wasn't up to the task to finesse the brilliance of the almost-full moon rising with the ambient light it put out in its surroundings.

This photo, though, taken a day or two earlier:

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Alamogordo, New Mexico.

On the way back from the full moon program, I saw a rattlesnake. 

There's a lot of bird life in the park. On my last morning at the park, a gaggle of five or so birds, robin-like, but a dusty color, hopped into my site. One jumped atop a tire, another onto my car, and then another ambled right into my living room. I chatted hospitably with them until damned if that bird in my living room didn't hop up to my open camp box and proceed to nose about like a neighbor looking through my medicine cabinet. "Hi, you, get out, all of you now"! I called, clapping my hands. The nerve.

Considerable flora and fauna conducting their business in the park. From wikipedia:
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park is home to mammals that are typically found in the upper Chihuahuan Desert. They include Collared Peccary, Ground squirrels, Mule Deer, Black-tailed Jackrabbit and the Desert Cottontail. These are prey to predators like American Black Bears, Cougars, and Bobcats. American Badgers, North American Porcupines, Raccoon, White-nosed Coati and several species of bats and skunks are also found in the desert of the park.[2] Two species of rattlesnakes are found in the park, Western Diamondback and Black-tail. Several species of lizards, skinks, geckos, turtles, and non-venomous snakes can be found in the park. The Texas horned lizard, which is threatened by loss of habitat, pesticides and development in Texas and Oklahoma, is thriving in the park. The horned lizards are legally protected in the park and throughout New Mexico.[2] Known amphibians found in the park include salamanders and toads.[2] The park is also home to birds such as Turkey Vultures, Red-tailed Hawks, Mourning Doves, hummingbirds, warblers and wrens.[2]

One of my human neighbors likes to feed the neighborhood skunk on the premise that it'll keep the rodent population near the campsite in check. I'm not a big fan of that sort of thing because I think it creates problems for park visitors or the animals themselves down the road. The "road to hell is paved with good intentions" and all that.

But the same neighbor told me of the tarantula who maintains a hidey-hole in site #14. This tarantula greeted two campers on their picnic table the night they arrived.

Speaking of tarantulas, back here I talked about the 5 Secrets of Great Travel Photography. One secret is to take your camera everywhere you go, even if just down to the corner market in Rustavi. Or if you're at the Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, even if you're just walking the 300 steps up the road to the latrine. (Yes, I counted them.) If I had remembered that rule, I would have had a great shot of a tarantula up close.

In a desert environment, water, of course, is a prized commodity. So when I finished with some dish water or had leftover water from making coffee or for my oatmeal (cooled), it made sense to me to toss it where it would so some good, alongside a thirsty plant.

Which got me thinking about which plants would benefit from the water windfalls. Am I attracted to a certain plant, and if so, why? For its size? Beauty? Perception of need?

Reminded me of an article I read awhile back on the human-driven natural selection process of poppies in ... let me see if I can find this article ...  yes, but it was the snow lotus and not poppies. Here.

So: Was my attraction to a particularly attractive little cactus near my campsite a factor in my giving it water that it wouldn't otherwise enjoy, and furthermore, that other, less seductive plants did not receive? Over time, if other people have the same urges, will cactus become ever cuter, as the ones with cute genes get the water?

No comments: