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Epic Desert Road Trip Part 2: Arches & Canyonlands National Parks

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Posting by Caroline Seitz

We entered the surreal world of Arches National Park, UT on Friday October 22, 2010.  It was as if we had been transported to an alien world. Bizarre rock formations appeared through the misty, rainy desert day like something out of a dream.alien-rock-225x300Arches National Park comprises 119 square miles of protected land containing over 2000 natural sandstone arches.

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Even though it was cold and raining, we braved the elements and spent a few hours hiking in the park.

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Most of the arches in the park have names.  The arch pictured below is “Landscape Arch.” This arch is 290 feet long but only 6 feet thick in its thinnest section. It is nearing the end of its “lifespan” – it could collapse at any moment.

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The most famous arch in the park is Delicate Arch – the arch that is featured on the Utah license plate.  Below, Will is pointing to the famous arch.

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Many of the arches seemed like portals into other dimensions or worlds.  Like the Star Trek Episode “City on the Edge of Forever”  – I thought if I went through this arch, I would be transported to an alternate reality.

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Was that an alien creature on the other side of the portal?

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No, just a beautiful raven. After exploring the arches in the freezing cold, we need to refuel ourselves and have lunch.

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After our delicious lunch, we loaded up into the car and headed out to Canyonlands National Park.

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Canyonlands is a totally different experience from Arches.  Easy access and day hikes are a big part of Arches, but Canyonlands is a much larger and formidable park.  Although the main roads are paved and well maintained, most of the 530 square miles of Canyonlands are only accessible via off-road vehicle, horse, raft, or foot.

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One of my favorite books,  Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey features both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks (before they were National Parks) as prominent “characters” in the story.  Abbey is able to capture the essence of the look, feel, and even smell of the area.   He also echoes many of my own thoughts of the desert:  “Strolling on, it seems to me that the strangeness and wonder of existence are emphasized here, in the desert, by the comparative sparsity of the flora and fauna: life not crowded upon life as in other places but scattered abroad in spareness and simplicity, with a generous gift of space for each herb and bush and tree, each stem of grass, so that the living organism stands out bold and brave and vivid against the lifeless sand and barren rock. The extreme clarity of the desert light is equaled by the extreme individuation of desert life-forms. Love flowers best in openness and freedom.”will-pointing-canyon“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” – Edward Abbey

Next, we’re headed to Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

Epic Desert Road Trip – Part 1 Reno to the Great Salt Lake

On October 19, 2010 I flew to Reno to meet up with my brother from Hawaii and my Dad who lives in Reno in the summer and Arizona in the winter. Our mission: drive from Reno, NV to Surprise, AZ via Colorado and visit as many National Parks as we could along the way.

We started our epic journey by packing up Dad’s 2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. We had a lot of stuff, including two boxes of home-grown tomatoes plus three grown adults to take, but my experience loading vehicles for live animal shows has taught me a thing or two about how to pack!

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Will and Dad and a Packed Monte Carlo

We headed out of Reno on I-80 east, along the Truckee River.

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The Truckee River

We were following much of the Truckee River Route of the California Emigrant Trail. We stopped at a rest area that marked the Forty-Mile Desert.  This part of the trail was described as the most dreaded section of the entire route to California.  We decided to have lunch.  Too bad those emigrants in the mid 1850′s could not have gotten in a time machine to join us.

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Lunch in the Forty-Mile Desert

We continued heading east until we reached Wendover NV.  We spent the night there and in the morning, we toured the historic Wendover Air Base. “Wendover Air Base operated primarily as a training site for the crews of B17, B24 and B29 aircraft, including the Enola Gay and Boxscar, the crews of which were responsible for the first deployment of nuclear weapons over Japan in 1945.” – (Tooele Co Website)

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Wendover Air Base

The Great Salt Lake loomed ahead – and we stopped at one of its shores to explore and have lunch.

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Great Salt Lake

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Caroline examines the Great Salt Lake

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The Great Salt Lake is too salty for most plants and animals to survive, however, there is one famous resident of the salty lake: Sea Monkeys! Sea Monkeys are actually shrimp that are able to exist in salty inland lakes around the world.

No reptiles live in the Great Salt Lake, however, many species of snakes and lizards live in the surrounding desert. Sadly, I found a juvenile gopher snake in the parking lot of the lake’s marina, but it had been squashed by a car.

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Smooshed Gopher Snake

Next Posting…Arches National Park

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Arches National Park

Creature Feature: Amaya Perez

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Amaya Perez

Animal Keeper

Reptiles Alive Name: Amazing Alligator Amaya (aka Triple A)

Hissstory: Amaya got her Masters in Telecommunications Engineering in her native Pamplona, Spain.  Amaya’s adventures since migrating to the US in the summer of 2001  include performing research on different species of bats and working  as a  Keeper Aide at the National Zoo.  Amaya joined the Reptiles Alive! team in September 2010.

RA Diet: Leftovers or a frozen meal heated up in the super amazing RA microwave. That thing is on steroids!. Oh yeah, a coffee in the morning is a must.

Natural Diet: Even though Amaya’s natural diet is Mediterranean food, she loves to try new flavors.   She is the ultimate omnivore and will eat just about anything with gusto.

Range: “Amayas” or “Amaias” are most often found in the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula. They are a hardy and adaptable species and can now be found in several continents.

Habitat: You can regularly find Amaya roaming the wonderful natural parks in the DC metro area guiding her offspring and teaching them survival skills. Playgrounds are likely to produce sightings as well. When away from her offspring you can find Amaya at RA’s headquarters baby-talking to the animals or at the National Zoo coming up with fun and crafty enrichment ideas  in between cleaning and feeding.

Size: Amaya is about 5’7” and would rather not disclose her weight.

Lifespan: Amaya rarely gets a good night sleep so she is afraid years are being shaved off of her life. If sleeping patterns improve, Amaya could live up to 80 years or more.

Reproduction: Amazing Alligator Amaya has been mated for 10 years and has produced three rambunctious offspring with our very own Boa Brad.

Conservation: Amaya has always been in love with animals. Her biggest dreams when she was a little girl was going to Africa to be amongst some of the coolest animals on Earth and becoming a veterinarian.
Even though her background is in engineering her life has been dedicated to animals (including juvenile human primates) since her migration across the Atlantic.
Amaya enjoys caring for animals greatly and also loves sharing her knowledge and love for animals with the public when working at the zoo. Amaya also enjoys training animals and learning about animal behavior.

Cool Facts: Amaya has been an animal keeper since 2002 and has worked with a wide variety of non-reptilians. Amongst the creatures on her list are: lions, tigers, spectacled bears, sloth bears, giant pandas, gorillas, orangutans,Sulawesi macaques, gibbons, lemurs, coatis, caracals, servals and red pandas.
Amaya has only recently discovered how cool reptiles are and loves learning about them.
She has made it her mission to always soak the elderly animals in comforting warm baths at RA  every day she works.  Amaya also loves to hear Jeremiah the Bullfrog sing in happiness after she gives him a tasty treat.

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We had a great experience with Reptiles Alive for my daughter’s 6th birthday party. Rachel arrived exactly on time, set up quickly, and immediately engaged the group of curious children. We had an impromptu dance party while waiting for last minute guests and Rachel was very accommodating. The children LOVED the show!! And my soon-to-be 11 year old wants them to come for his birthday! I highly recommend Reptiles Alive for your next event!read more

Kelly Maguire

Kelly Maguire

22:57 12 Mar 18

We just had Reptiles Alive come to our preschool and the kids loved it!! We had 4 shows over 2 days to accommodate all our children and everything went great! Caroline was very easy to work with and quick to respond to all my emails. She was our presenter too and was early each day and ready to go when the kids arrived. She really geared her show towards our audience (2-5yr olds) and had them laughing and answering her questions and touching the animals. It was perfect… we would definitely book them again!!read more

Lauren Dolinski

Lauren Dolinski

20:47 01 Mar 18

We booked Reptiles Alive for our son’s 7th birthday party. Miss Rachel put on an amazing show for the 20 kids we had over. The highlight was when my son and I had the chance to hold a long and surprisingly heavy boa constrictor named Sunflower. The show was both educational and fun for the kids, and it kept them captivated for a full hour – priceless!!read more

Rick Jandrain

Rick Jandrain

01:53 06 Feb 18

Rachel is an awesome instructor and very good with many kids. The reptiles were fascinating. This was a great birthday party for my daughter and her second grade class.read more

Robert McKeon

Robert McKeon

23:26 26 Feb 18

We invited Reptiles Alive for our birthday party. Ms. Rachel did a wonderful job to educate the kids about the fun facts of Reptiles and also kept them entertained and focused. It’s not a easy job facing a bunch of 7-year-old boys and 3-year-old preschoolers. We highly recommend Reptiles Alive show. It’s fun and full of knowledge!read more

Tianchan Niu

Tianchan Niu

22:09 17 Dec 17

We had Reptiles Alive join us for a country club event and they did an outstanding job! Ashley was amazing and so professional. She was very interactive with the children and played the role perfectly. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience!read more

Chelsea Barb

Chelsea Barb

20:20 28 Mar 18

We’ve been working with Reptiles Alive for the past 4 years now and they show up and show out every time. Everything from booking to the day of is efficient and friendly. At our past event, presenter Liz did 6 shows back to back for our campers, which is truly impressive and phenomenal. We will continue to work with Reptiles Alive for years to come and really appreciate the work and educating that they do!read more

Lydia Vanderbilt

Lydia Vanderbilt

21:09 05 Apr 18

Reptiles Alive gave an awesome show at our elementary school! The presenter was so much fun and really engaged the children. Very cool reptiles and a great interactive meet and greet at the end. The kids loved it!read more

Jonathan Grau

Jonathan Grau

14:52 07 Apr 18

I am in charge of grade level assemblies at our school and our 3rd grade has RA in for their Rain Forest show every year to reinforce the things they have learned about in class. This is my second year working with them and I have been absolutely thrilled with the interaction to book the event and with the presenters. They engage the kids and help make them a part of the show. I can’t say enough about this wonderful program and the amazing people that work there.read more

Kim Painter

Kim Painter

23:32 07 Apr 18

We love this show at our preschool!! The kids have so much fun and learn a lot! They are very organized and always start on time. We have always had a wonderful experience with Reptiles Alive and can’t wait to have them back again!read more

Melissa Jones

Melissa Jones

15:06 20 Apr 18