Flagstaff, AZ – For more than three centuries, the Puye Cliffs of northern New Mexico were home to hundreds of people ancestors of the present-day residents of Santa Clara pueblo. The soft volcanic rock of the cliffs was easily carved into rooms, handholds, and ledges, while the mesa above provided flat, fortified ground for buildings and gardens.
Flagstaff, AZ – Some nature enthusiast watch birds, others chase butterflies, a growing number look for this countries finest trees. Since 1940 a non-profit group called American Forest has sponsored the national register of big trees. It lists the largest known specimens of over 800 American trees.
Lightning is a given during the Colorado Plateau's summer monsoon season. But it's not the only kind of electricity that comes from the heavens.
St. Elmo's Fire is a peculiar phenomenon that infrequently, but memorably, shows up at the margins of thunderstorms. It forms when the atmosphere's highly charged electrical field comes into contact with grounded objects. As molecules in the air are ionized, they emit a bright blue, violet or green glow.
Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: Corraling Canyon Graffiti
Graffiti isn't something that only happens along inner-city alleyways. Despite advice to leave nothing but footprints, each year thousands of visitors to southwestern natural areas scratch their names into boulders and cliffs rather than into designated trail registers.
Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: The Calls of the Wild
The aural character of any landscape is unmistakable. That's "aural" with an A-U, as in sounds. Think of the expressive and remarkable sounds of wild animals: the castanet clacking of a riled diamondback; the Morse code of nuthatches tapping tree bark for insects; whirring sphinx moth wings buzzing around flowers.
Environmental psychologists agree that sounds feed acoustic memory. They're integral to our attachment to particular places.
Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: Florence Merriam Bailey
In the Victorian era, most woman interested in nature enjoyed the great outdoors from a lawn chair, not astride a horse. But naturalist and writer Florence Merriam Bailey defied convention throughout her long and eventful life.
Born Florence Augusta Merriam in New York State in 1863, she was baby sister to C. Hart Merriam. He would become a renowned biologist and pioneer of the life zone concept and Florence's lifelong mentor.
In the arid Southwest, the idea of a rainy season comes as a surprise to many newcomers. But the region does enjoy a distinct monsoon period that usually begins in early July and lasts into the middle of September.
Domestic cats tend to do exactly as they please. Wild felines are no different, as biologists learned after re-introducing lynx to Colorado's southern mountains.
Over the past decade, 218 of these wild cats with shaggy coats and tufted ears were placed in woods where they'd become regionally extinct decades ago. Each lynx wore a radio-collar that allowed scientists to follow its movements.
Take a break on a fallen tree during a hike through a ponderosa forest, and you might want to take a closer look at where you're sitting. Chances are you're not alone: you might see a large ant or two walking along the log.
The Colorado Plateau is a treasure trove for petroglyphs. Ancient peoples of the Southwest carefully carved and chipped their art into dark rock, exposing the lighter rock beneath.
One hot spot for rock art is the weathered basalt of Picture Canyon in east Flagstaff, where some 700 designs on more than a hundred rock panels line the sides of the canyon. In them archers hunt, and deer, bighorn sheep, and lizards play.