Skiing in the desest

Now that winter seems to be over I can finally write about it. I’m not one of those people who loves winter (and that’s putting it nicely). Chad on the other hand, IS one of those people. And he loves to go out cross-country skiing, and yes, I admit, I have come to love it too because it means I can be outside in midwinter and be warm. At its best it feels like a heightened form of walking to me, which I also dig. Here are a few pics from our first big cross-country outing this winter, skiing in the desert. We saw cottontails, weird vegetation, the stark beauty of canyon cliffs meeting the snowy ground… And Chad played around with the panorama mode on his camera.

Curly-Cup Gumweed

This summer, anytime we walked up to the end of our lane, Chad would point out a plant with bright yellow flowers growing along side it and tell me he heard it had medicinal properties. He told me it was called Curly-Cup Gumweed.

We looked it up and found out what it’s good for: primarily bronchial problems, particularly phlegmy throats, and skin problems. (On the other hand it is contraindicated for those with heart or kidney problems.) Montana Plant Life says you can make the leaves and flowers into a tea, so that is my plan – dry the leaves and flowers and store them for winter, when the inevitable sore throat shows up in cold season.

I did not go to the driveway to harvest my gumweed, since there is most likely some contamination from the cars there. Instead I headed out into the field where the donkeys are pasturing to see if I could find any growing out there in healthier soil.

When I married Chad, I became co-caretaker of three donkeys, a fact which I find at once thrilling and totally alien. Apart from one day when the donkeys broke out of their fence in search of more lush pasture, all my interactions with them have been face to face over the top of a fence. Having avoided getting kicked during the donkey break out, I was fairly confident I could go hang out with them in the pasture without any problems.

I walked into their pasture nonchalantly, and instead of running away from me, they all three came over to get their heads rubbed. After massaging three donkey noggins, I went about looking for bright yellow flowers. The donkeys followed me at first, but went back to grazing when they saw I had moved on to non-massage activities.

The first plants I found only had dried flowers on them. Leaves only would have been okay, but I was really hoping for some nice bright flowers. I was starting to think that I had waited too long and all the flowers had dried up. Then I started seeing plant after plant that had been blending in with the tall grasses in the field. I harvested a basket full, being sure I left enough for the plants to renew themselves next year.

Apparently Curly-Cup Gumweed is good externally for eczema, and I’m going to be trying that remedy out first. I have two small red spots on my face that I recognize as eczema. It’s strange how you can go your whole life without something and then it appears on your body one day, and then occasionally reappears. Annoyingly, these small spots seems to flare up anytime my stress level nudges above “Relaxed.” I’m going to try macerating some flowers into some shea butter, apply it everyday for a week or so, and see how that goes.

Curly-Cup Gumweed is a native plant, which makes it even more exciting as a medicinal, being part of our botanical heritage. Even if I don’t need them for my throat this winter, seeing the dried yellow flowers in a jar will serve as a nice reminder of a warm autumn day hanging out with the donkeys.


Chaco National Heritage Park, New Mexico

The road to get there was 21 miles of washboard purgatory (why not hell? well, we didn’t know if we would ever arrive…), but the arrival was cool moonlight silhouettes of astounding buttes. Coyotes howled all night and the burning sun woke us in the morning. This was my first real experience of the desert.

Late arrival at Victoria Bryant State Park

Our first stop on our cross-country trip was Victoria Bryant State Park. This was not where we had planned to stay, but once we got on the road, we quickly realized we weren’t going to make the 10pm gate closing at Fort Mountain State Park in Georgia. (Note to fellow travelers, 10pm seems to be the universal gate closing time for state parks!)

We were relieved to arrive at the park minutes before closing and find a campsite that was somewhat private. Traveling through the south during the heart of summer we realized that we would be using the electric hookup to cool off the RV with the AC. The generator on the RV is impossibly loud and makes the RV feel like we’re experiencing an earthquake. Luckily we didn’t have to choose whether to sweat or undergo tremors as we were able to hook up to electricity when we needed it most in the sweltering south.