Epic Desert Road Trip Part 4: Four Corners Monument and Canyon de Chelly National Monument

One of the most isolated areas of the lower 48 United States is the only place where four states intersect at one point:  Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah.

four-corners-symbol-300x225Four Corners Monument is located on Navajo Nation Land and is operated by the Navajo Parks & Recreation Department.  The Navajo are in the process of renovating the area – they have added a granite and brass marker, interpretive signs, and booths for Navajo vendors selling handmade jewelry, crafts and traditional foods.

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After spending some time walking around in the four states, we got back in the Monte Carlo and headed south into Arizona towards our next stop:  Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

canyon-de-chelly-panorama-300x84Canyon de Chelly National Monument is managed by the United States National Park Service, however, the entire 84,000 acre  Monument is comprised of  Navajo Tribal Trust Land.

The area is one of the longest continuously inhabited regions in North America.  Ancient Puebloans (Anasazi) built cities into the cliffs and overhangs throughout the canyon.  They left the area in the mid 1300′s.

The Navajo re-settled the area and about 40 families currently reside in the Monument’s boundaries.

While we were at an overlook, I saw a group of children playing basketball in field at the bottom of the canyon.  Right next to where the children were having so much fun were the ruins of an Ancient Puebloan city.

cliff-dwellings-at-canyondechelly-300x225While we were at another overlook, my Dad decided to be funny and moo at some cows he saw on the canyon floor.  Dad’s voice seemed to echo and echo throughout the canyon.  In fact, it just kept echoing.  “Wow, that is a REALLY LONG echo in this canyon!” I exclaimed.  Until my brother pointed to a rancher walking down the dirt road far below us.  He was mooing back at us.

Coming Next:  A Painted Desert and a Crystal Forest

Epic Desert Road Trip Part 3: Mesa Verde National Park

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We left Moab UT and headed southeast for about 140 miles until we reached Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.  The weather was very turbulent, changing from dark and stormy to bright and sunny and then back to stormy.  Aaaah, mountain weather…

As we drove up, up and up into the park, the  fog became so thick that I became a bit apprehensive about being on such a twisty, turney mountain road.  Luckily, we made it safely to the top and the weather cleared so we could see the ancient ruins.

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The sky had cleared enough and the rain/sleet mix had stopped long enough that we decided to do a quick lunch.  MAN – it was COLD!!

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Over 1400 years ago, people known as the Ancestral Puebloans (aka the Anasazi) started building villages and towns in the four corners region of the United States.  During the height of their civilization, the area was more heavily populated with people than today.  They built elaborate towns into protected alcoves in the cliffs.  Families lived in apartment buildings and row houses, kind of like we do in urban areas today.

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Agriculture, basket and pottery making took up much of their time.   They were able to survive and even thrive in this region for about 700 years.

inside-the-ruins-300x225For many years, the disappearance of the Anasazi was a mystery.  Did they all get wiped out by disease or war?  Were they taken away by aliens from outer-space?  Did they enter another dimension?

Archeologists today believe that the Anasazi never actually “left.”  That they are, in fact, still living among us.

“When the cliff dwellers of Mesa Verde left, they traveled south into New Mexico and Arizona, settling among their kin who were already there. Whatever may have happened, some of today’s Pueblo people, and  maybe other tribes, are descendants of the Ancestral Puebloans of Mesa Verde.” – National Park Service & United States Department of the Interior

Next:  Four Corners Monument & Canyon DeChelly National Park

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

Reptiles Alive LLC visited our 1st grade friends and did the “Reptiles Alive!” show. They exceeded all of our expectations and were excellent at keeping the students engaged. The students have talked about it for days after, even repeating some of the facts they have heard! I would highly recommend Reptiles Alive!read more

Brittney Gjorgjievski

Brittney Gjorgjievski

16:12 14 May 18

Reptiles Alive was a MAJOR hit at the Mattie Miracle Walk & Family Festival. Rachel was incredibly professional, engaging, and clearly loves what she does. She made the show and meet & greet fun for both kids and adults. Can’t wait to have Reptiles Alive back next year to our event. We received a lot of positive feedback from our guests and we were thrilled to see how well attended the show was at our event. Thank you Reptiles Alive!!!read more

Peter Brown

Peter Brown

01:58 22 May 18

Caroline did an awesome job for our kindergarten Reptiles Alive performance. She held their attention and told fun stories. The reptiles are so cool! Every time she introduced a new reptile, the kids were amazed. I recommend the “meet and greet” time as well. My students will never forget touching a boa constrictor! Thanks Reptiles Alive!read more

Michelle Baldwin

Michelle Baldwin

03:00 09 Jun 18

Reptiles Alive! came to our elementary school for a 3rd grade assembly. Nothing ruffles this organization — they can handle kids of all ages, big groups or small, and bring a *ton* of animals. They are engaging, age-appropriate and bring their own mic system so hearing is not a problem. I highly recommend the meet and greet afterward.read more

Stacey Evers

Stacey Evers

19:25 22 Jun 18

The show was a success, we had around 20 kids between 5-12. Lizzard Liz was great, she was able to keep all of them really interested. The reptiles were amazing, she even brought a small alligator and a boa constrictor.read more

florencia behrensen

florencia behrensen

14:39 02 Jul 18

Caroline at Reptiles Alive! always gives us the best show! It is fun and informative with a variety of reptiles each time she comes. We LOVE Reptiles Alive at Happy Faces Daycare in Centreville, VA!read more

Jessica Roberts

Jessica Roberts

13:56 12 Jul 18

Amazing 5-year old birthday party- Everyone loved the party, especially the birthday boy, who got to be the star of the show (besides the critters). Liz was on time, prepared, AMAZING at answering kids’ and adults’ questions, incredible breadth of knowledge, so good with the kids and animals, made the party fun, arrived on time, totally professional and courteous and an amazing ambassador of animals and representative of Reptiles Alive. We got to meet a few great snakes, a small alligator, a boa constrictor(!), tree frog, bearded dragon, gecko, and turtle.read more

Stacey R

Stacey R

12:55 30 Jul 18

This organization is great! They have a wide varieties of different shows that appeal to all types of audiences. The educators are very gentle with the animals and engaging with the students. Our educator, Caroline, was awesome! She spoke to the children in different voices, was very interactive, creative, and fun. The kids laughed and loved it. I also really liked the additional education that they provided us, as they told us about the origin of the animals that they were showing. It was also really nice to hear that not only the animals have big, safe, appropriate homes, but also that a great deal of their animals are rescues. I would highly recommend this show and we will definitely be booking them again in the future!read more

Mandi Ellis

Mandi Ellis

13:05 08 Aug 18