Few Changes in the Gila

Today’s news: Today the current Gila Cliff Dwelling superintendent, Steve, and his wife Kathy left the RV park to enjoy retirement in Oregon. This is a huge change for the Gila Cliff Dwellings since Steve takes with him more than 11 years of experience. All the long time volunteers are in “wait to see” mode – waiting to see how the management of the park might change. I do not foresee many changes in the offing since the interim superintendent is not going to take the job permanently. He is here until August.

Meanwhile, I got to do my official “tour” twice this last week and it seemed to go very well. I encouraged my first group to fill out comment cards, and I will find out at one of the next staff meetings if there is any official feedback.

Probably the most interesting stuff has been some of our guests getting “orbs” in their photos of cave 3. For people who believe that the energy of spirits stay around, the orbs are really cool. I do believe in that energy, but am a little miffed that my photos don’t show the orbs! Usually the photos show hundreds of orbs of multiple sizes and sometimes very pretty colors.

Because of agreements with the modern Native American tribes we do not talk about religious practices, burial practices, personal hygiene practices, etc. with visitors. If a visitor asks, though, we can answer. In ancient Puebloan culture the dead were buried under the floors of their dwellings and it is believed that they stay at that location. Some skeletal remains were found in the cliff dwellings and were reburied at secret locations here per the wishes of the current tribal descendents.

I have been enjoying riding my bike to work. It is about 4 miles one-way to the visitor center and another almost 2 miles to the contact station where the Cliff Dwellings are located so I get a little workout each workday. The roads around here are really mountainous so my red-letter day will be when I can ride up the last little ¼ mile hill to get home! Right now I can only make it a few feet up the hill, and then I have to get off and walk the bike the rest of the way. What a wimp I am!! I almost forgot to tell how I almost ran over a blacktailed rattler the other day! He was all stretched out like a stick, sunning when I realized what he was and made a quick maneuver to avoid squashing him! I rode back to confirm his identify and tell him to get off the road, but he had already made that decision and was lethargically scooting back into the grass. He acted like he was in a sun coma!

We always have interesting guests. My favorites this week were a couple (Holly and Andy) celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary with a trip sans kids to the Cliff Dwellings. They were our last visitors of the day, so we gave them the royal treatment – a personal tour! They were so excited and bubbly! Holly was the first guest I’ve ever had who had orbs in her photos and what a huge collection two of her photos captured!! We had fun being scientific, too – took similar pictures with all our cameras and their cell phones with only Holly’s two camera photos picking up the orbs.

Yesterday, we had another interesting couple visit us. He had previously worked for the Audubon Society and now works for an organization called Wings and leads tourist birding expeditions all over. They are expecting their first child soon and her parents are moving into a house next to theirs in this area. We laughed about what a help her parents are going to be – perhaps even like “Everybody Loves Raymond” huh! I was amazed at the number of birds he added to the list of “birds of spring” that we keep at the contact station.

The Cliff Dwellings are closed this week due to rock removal taking place on the cliffs above the dwellings. We are offering an alternate tour of an unexcavated Puebloan village near the visitor center. I get a reprieve since I have Monday through Wednesday off and, due to inexperience, will take care of the contact station Thursday and Friday. We expect that some visitors will be very disappointed if they drive here without knowing that the dwellings are closed, so our job will be to appease/dazzle them with other information. There are road signs and internet postings telling visitors about the closing, but most people don’t read or check on the park before driving up.  Hopefully all will go well.

 I was looking back to see if I had written about the raven who does occasional morning fly-bys of the cliff dwellings. Could not see that I had written about them. I have NEVER seen a raven do such a thing before – this one announces his presence with loud quorking. Then he quorks again as he folds his wings in and flies upside down for a moment, flips back over, then repeats the quork and upside down flying 2-3 times in a row before disappearing for the day. It is as if he is saying, “Neah! Neah! I can fly and you can’t!!” He is the reason I especially like to be up at the dwellings in the morning!

I am not sure what I will be doing the next couple of days. Here are just a couple of photos from the last week – the full moon sunset over the Gila, a few birds and flowers, too.

s-Full Moon

s-Bird s-Moth s-Stellars Jay

s-Flower s-Grosbeak

We believe this black and white butterfly is a Weidemeyer’s Admiral. He is a newcomer yesterday. People sometimes confuse him for the black swallowtail. Very pretty, does not like flower nectar, and entertaining, too, as he was landing on a lady’s pant legs and everywhere at the contact station.

s-Butterfly 1 s-Butterfly 2 s-Butterfly 3 s-Lizard

That is all for now! Love to everyone who is checking in on my adventures.

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