Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ostrich and Oryx Extinction in Saudi Arabia

We usually don't think of ostriches and oryxes when we hear of Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, they are or were living there. Wilfred Thesiger reports the following from his second crossing of the Sands in the western part of the Empty Quarter [1]:
... finding some broken ostrich eggs, bin Kabina and Amair [Bedu travel companions] argued whether ostriches were lawful food, a purely academic point since ostriches had been extinct in southern Arabia for more than fifty years, although a few survived until recently in the Wadi Sirham in northern Arabia. When I was in Syria a Bedu told me that the Rualla had shot one there just before the war [World War II]; it may well have been the last of them. My companions stopped to show me what their tracks looked like, saying that their grandfathers had known these birds. I had seen plenty of the tracks of the African ostrich, a larger bird than the Arabian, in the Sudan, and the copies which Amair made in the sand were correct. It is sad to think that the Arabian oryx and rim are also doomed as soon as cars penetrate into the southern desert. Unfortunately oryx prefer the hard, flat sands and gravel plains to the heavy dunes. Since they differ from the four species to be found in Africa, it means that yet another kind of animal will soon be extinct. In Saudi Arabia during the last few years even gazelle have became rare. Hunting-parties scour the plains in cars, returning with lorry-loads of gazelle which they have run down and butchered.

Does anybody still keep track of ostriches and oryxes in Saudi Arabia or is their trail into the future lost?

References and more:

[1] Wilfred Thesiger: Arabian Sands (1959). Reprinted in Penguin Travel Library, 1991; pages 231 and 232.

More on animals in the Sands: Find out what animal circled their camp site or how to revive an exhausted camel.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Monument and Monroe Ridge Trail

The Monument Trail and Monroe Ridge Trail are located in the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. The Monument Trail starts from the picnic area near the Gold Discovery Museum. This trail brings you uphill to the James Marshall Monument and to the Catholic Cemetery. From the parking lot at the Monument, the Monroe Ridge Trail provides an easy climb to the ridge. The trail continues along the ridge with some beautiful vista points. The picture (March 24, 2008) shows a view across the South Fork American River. Hiking downhill on Monroe Ridge Trail, you 'll arrive at the Monroe Orchard. Crossing Highway 49 and the parking lot and turning right along the river, the Gold Discovery Loop Trail brings you back to the Gold Discovery Museum. If you continue walking along Back Street you'll get to Brewery Street and the Beer Garden. However, I wasn't able to spot the brewery and found the ruins of the jail house instead.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Point Defiance Loop Trail in Spring

The Point Defiance Loop Trail is located in the South Yuba River State Park in California. Coming from the visitor center, cross the covered bridge over the South Yuba River and turn left at the end of the bridge. The beautiful trail leads you along the river (see picture) for about one mile. Near Point Defiance are beaches and sand banks that can easily be accessed, but may be muddy. Continuing on the trail you reach Englebright Lake. From there the trail goes uphill, with amazing views of the sometimes blue-green lake water. On top of the hill you'll find picnic areas and views down to from where you started. Hiking the trail downhill, you return to the covered bridge, but may want to cross Pleasant Valley Road and hike Buttermilk Bend Trail, again along the river, now in the opposite direction.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gerlach Weather Station

You'll find the Gerlach Weather Station off Guru Road next to road 34 just a few miles after leaving Gerlach, Nevada, into the Black Rock Desert. The station includes a hanging rock with a laying rock underneath that says: "If Rock Above Is Moving, Winds Blowing, Wet It's Raining, White Snowing." It's not about the grammar, it's about the weather, which certainly will influence your stay in the Black Rock Desert: If Moving, Move Along; If Wet, Put On Your Raincoat Or Nothing; If White, Bring Snowshoes. If Everything Together, It's Burning Man!

Trailing Guru Road

"Never Never Take Advantage It May Cost Your Life." Simple and plain, this wisdom has been written on a rock you'll find on your way from Gerlach into the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada where the Granite Mountain Range slopes into the Desert Playa. Next to this rock stretches a spiritual circle put together with rocks. This and many other rock creations can be found along Guru Road - spiritual and otherwise. Elvis stands there too, built from rocks that don't roll! Not too far away you'll find the Gerlach Weather Station, based on a hanging rock. That's all you need (plus food and drinks) on your Black Rock Desert trip: a good weather forecast, Elvis in your ears and the hope that the desert won't take advantage of you.