10,000 Steps

Walking Mesquite Flats in Death Valley

We’ve been getting our steps in as of late. Striving to reach 10,000 steps each day. The weather has slowly been getting nicer, if only in fits and starts, gradually making this goal easier to attain. On Thursday, we walked in the park and yesterday, we did the long neighborhood walk. I first heard that 10,000 steps was a thing, while listening to Wisconsin Public Radio’s call-in doctor show, On Your Health, with Zorba Paster. He is still broadcasting, but his show no longer airs here in Saint Louis. He was a big fan of walking 10K steps a day. Later at work, Boeing initiated its Boeing on the Move fitness program. Over ten weeks, with the aid of a company supplied pedometer, employees would log their steps daily. The first year’s goal was 10,000 steps a day. In subsequent years this goal began to creep up, eventually hitting 14K steps. It was with these changes I came to realize that the 10,000 step figure was rather arbitrary. Only recently though did I learn its origin story. It turns out that in the sixties, a Japanese electronics manufacturer decided to make a pedometer and as a marketing strategy they called it the “10,000 Steps Meter”, because the Japanese character for 10,000 (一万) looks somewhat like a running man. The rest is history.

On Thursday, we drove to the edge of the park and then walked into it, across the golf course, around the art museum and then down to the base of the World’s Fair Pavilion. Once we had made it that far, we had exited the western half of the park that currently is shut to vehicle traffic. There were significantly more people there too. This is a phenomenon that we’ve noticed in the national parks, there are more people about, the closer you get to the parking lot. There were also three cop cars parked, I guess to enforce social distancing. We had to do some social distance dancing to get around Post Dispatch Lake and over to the Grand Basin, where the no-car quarantine zone reappeared. The highlight of that walk were two Canada geese, who were set upon by a big black dog. It came at them at a full tilt boogie and the pair only just got airborne in the nick of time. It was a sight to see, but it happened too quickly to photograph, the geese were still squawking about the confrontation long after we moved out of ear shot.  

Yesterday, was cold and rainy, so we just walked in the neighborhood. Once we got going though, we managed to stretch out our walk to the magic 10K. The poor weather limited the number of people about, such that even though I had my face mask on, I never had to pull it up over my face. Anne wore hers all the time though, because it helped to keep her face warmer. Today, looks like a nice day for another walk, or maybe even a bike ride. We’ll see, once it warms up. There was frost on the windshield this morning.

Desert Trumpet

Desert Trumpet

Eriogonum inflatum is a plant more commonly known as Desert Trumpet, but is also sometimes called Indian Pipe Weed, Bladder Stem or Bottle Stopper. Its most salient feature is a prominent bulging of its central stem. Originally thought to be a gall caused by an insect infestation, it is now believed to be related to regulating the plant’s carbon-dioxide levels. It has small yellow flowers (not shown) that are a primary food source for the Metalmark butterfly. Southwest Native Americans once used the plant to fashion pipes for smoking tobacco mixed with mistletoe. 

It has an unworldly appearance. With its base of petal-like leaves, long sinuous arms and bulbous head, it could easily be reimagined as some alien creature. Imagine it swaying on the high desert plain, while being buffeted by the wind, its arms seemingly grasping every which way. It is the stuff of science fiction.

Goblin Valley Hoodoos

Anne photographed these Desert Trumpets, last year, on the occasion of our visit to Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park. Know for its maze of hoodoo formations, Goblin Valley is just the kind of place that one would expect to find such an unusual species. When we visited the park, it was high noon. The parking lot was situated on a promontory that overlooked the portion of the valley that we had chosen to explore. It had rained heavily the day before and there were still rivulets of water flowing in-between the myriad of standing stones. Running water in the desert is always an incongruitous sight. There were already people down there, as we descended to the valley floor, but they soon disappeared as the hoodoos rose up to meet us. The shouts and laughter of the nearby children was pretty much all that remained of their neighboring presence. 

We had left Moab that morning and still had a drive of several hours, before reaching Capitol Reef, the evening’s destination. So, we only had a couple of hours to explore Goblin, but since we had skipped it two years earlier, I didn’t want to miss it this time around. We used what time that we had to wander among the hoodoos, photographing them and marveling at their naked weirdness. All the while, I kept my bearings, by keeping an eye out for the parking lot promontory that we had originally descended from.

As we progressed across the valley floor, towards the gray topped ridge of rock that demarcated the other side of this immediate valley, we talked about further exploring the next valley over. That would have been nice, because the number of people that we could still occasionally glimpse had decreased markedly from the start, but thoughts of miles yet to go and then a campsite to erect cautioned us against such an endeavor. Besides, with the dwindling human companionship there was something a little spooky about the place.

In the next valley over, the promontory where the Prius, our home away from home, was parked would be out of sight. I feared us getting lost in another maze, without any familiar landmarks and then I further imagined us out after dark, lost among the hoodoos, with only a new moon and our iPhones for light. What if instead of seeing more of the just few foot high Desert Trumpets, we ran into their gigantic queen? Would she call out to us using the melodious tones of her trumpeter’s voice and in her siren’s song, demand we, “Feed me, Seymour!” 

Honey Bees Sipping Water

Honey Bees Sipping Water from an Antebellum Sugar Mill’s Boiling Pot

It is hard to believe that after 150 years that the pictured sugar kettle would still have any sugarcane residue on it and the bees are not just drinking rain water, but I would like to believe that there is still something left from so long ago. These bees are sipping at the lip of one of four big copper boiling pots at the Reef Bay sugar mill, which ceased operations in 1908. The sugar mill began working before the Civil War as part of a slave plantation in 1855. This mill is unique on the islands, in that it was powered by a steam engine. Most mills were powered with animal or human labor. In 2017, the hurricanes blew the mill’s roof off, before that the abandoned mill used to house Fruit bats, but now they don’t roost there anymore.

Reef Bay Sugar Mill’s Sugar Pots

Sugarcane was refined in the mill, but only up to the point. To prevent loss to theft, the sugar was only refined into a brown paste. This paste was then shipped back to Denmark, where the refining process was completed. As part of the mill, there was also a rum distillery. Rum was primarily made for local consumption. On the islands, rum drinks were significantly cheaper than other alcohol forms, even though now, both sugar and rum are imported. 

Today seems far, far away from a week ago when these photos were taken. It snowed overnight and continues to snow this morning. That’s the trouble with tropical getaways, you eventually have to come back and I think that that is harder than never having gone at all. More’s the pity for that.