American Robin, Courtesy US NPS Will Elder, Photographer
American Robin,
Courtesy US NPS
Will Elder, Photographer

World Migratory Bird Day logo courtesy & © Environment for the Americas, EFTA World Migratory Bird Day logo from
Environment for the Americas
Connecting People to Bird Conservation and Inspiring the
Next Generation of Conservationists
Courtesy & © Environment for the Americas, EFTA

This WAU is intended to honor a very special demographic in our state. We have labeled them Hispanic, or more recently Latinx. I was blessed in my early Michigan years with neighbors of this ethnicity who enriched my live in many ways, including in natural landscapes. They planted a large garden to support their substantial family, some of the produce coming our way, even though they had little to spare. The family patriarch led his flock as minister for the West Side Gospel Tabernacle and found great joy in watching me spit out flaming hot red peppers.

We spent many summers swimming, fishing, frog and turtle catching, bird nest and baby mammal discovering, and reveling in a gravel pit, which had dipped into an aquifer creating some life-filled ponds surrounded by willow and cottonwood trees. This family was a major influence on whom I’ve become, with a special fondness for their rich culture and our natural surroundings.
As an educator, my Latinx students have shared their knowledge and talents on many occasions. Their leadership role for our Utah Conservation Corps Bilingual crews building trails, fences, and invasive plant control in our parks and forests has been a joy to be a part of. On one of our outings, a student revealed how saliva can quickly subdue the pleasantries of a stinging nettle encounter. I’ve found the senior members frequently have vast native plant knowledge from their homelands, so we have a lively exchange while they compare our local plant virtues with theirs found south of the border.

As seasonal faculty for a Colorado State University program, we recruit underserved college students from numerous campuses both in and out of country, many of whom are Hispanic. We take them into the national parks, beginning with Teton and Yellowstone. The students are engaged in various citizen science activities including pica and bat surveys, native plant restoration, and pollinator transects. They meet with park administration, and are invited to share thoughts on how to manage their parks in a sustainable manner.

The parks have gained in many ways from their presence, and have adopted some of their ideas. Additionally, these students have added considerably to the parks databases from their inventories and pollinator transects. They especially appreciate our diverse collection of students, several of whom have become part of the park and forest staff following the experience.
For those Latinx students and others who have an interest in birds and education, I strongly recommend visiting the Environment for the Americas, an excellent program that connects birds and people from both sides of the border.

Last weekend I offered a Bridgerland Audubon bird outing for Latinx families and others behind the Logan River Estates trailer park. Although none joined us, there will be other opportunities in the future, for I’m fully aware they have interest from many past experiences.

This is Jack Greene for BAS, and I’m wild about Utah and how it has benefited from our Hispanic people.

Pictures: Courtesy US NPS, Will Elder, Photographer
World Migratory Bird Day/Environment for the Americas logo: Courtesy & Copyright © Environment for the Americas
Audio: Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/jack/

Environment for the Americas, https://environmentamericas.org/
Other Environment for the Americas sites:

World Migratory Bird Day illuminates the dark side of light pollution, UN News, United Nations, May 13, 2022, https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/05/1118262#:~:text=World%20Migratory%20Bird%20Day%20is,the%20northern%20and%20southern%20hemispheres

Mendon’s May Day

Mendon’s May Day: Mendon May Pole Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer
Mendon May Pole
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer

Mendon Glacier Lilly Courtesy & © Mary Heers, PhotographerMendon Glacier Lilly
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer

Mendon Glacier Lilly Close Up Courtesy & © Mary Heers, PhotographerMendon Glacier Lilly Close Up
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer

Mary's Neighbor's May Queen Crown Courtesy & &copy' Mary Heers, PhotographerMary’s Neighbor’s May Queen Crown
Courtesy & &copy’ Mary Heers, Photographer

Never have I seen the coming of spring celebrated with more flair than Mendon’s May Day.

On the first Saturday in May, Maypoles with 20 foot long ribbons appear in the Mendon town square. By ten o’clock a couple hundred residents have gathered around the poles. A piano in the gazebo strikes the first chords and the May Queen and her entourage step around the corner of the church and onto the green. Suddenly everybody gathered in the square begins to sing. “Come to the woodlands, away, away”. Most people know the whole song by heart.

The queen is crowned and the real showstopper, the braiding of the Maypoles, begins. Mendon’s young girls, grades 1-5, pick up the ribbons. Braiding the poles is complicated. The girls have been practicing after school three times a week since the beginning of April. Last week I dropped in on one of the practices and counted: 3 Maypoles, 64 girls, and a little bit of chaos. There’s a march, a minuet. More songs. Stepping in, stepping out, kneeling, skipping. The girls bob up and down as they sing ”Apples blossoms swing and sway..”

Mendon is one of Cache Valley’s oldest pioneer towns, tucked up against the Wellsville Mountains. Winters were long and hard, and the coming of spring eagerly awaited. The beginnings of May Day can be traced back to the days when the young girls in the pioneer settlement raced up the hillsides to gather spring wildflowers to put in their hair.

The first May Queen, Seny Sorenson, was crowned with a hand woven wreath of flowers in 1863. Since then, every year, rain or shine, a queen has been crowned in the town square, and the maypoles have been braided with the same songs and dance steps. 160 years, with only a few changes.

The queen’s name is now drawn out of a hat from a pool of the town’s high school juniors. And this year, for the first time ever, the young girls will be getting store bought dresses. In the past, the mothers were expected to sew the matching dresses for their daughters. Not knowing about this tradition, you can imagine how bewildered I was when I had just moved to Mendon and answered a knock on my door. A woman I didn’t know handed me a dress pattern and proceed to say something about altering the interfacing. I was pretty sure she was speaking English, but I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. Luckily my good friend and neighbor quickly brought me up to speed. This wonderful neighbor had actually been Mendon’s May Queen over 50 years ago. “Do you want to see my crown?” she asked as she opened the door to her hall closet. And there it was, a tight ring of pink and white flowers, secured to a tiny satin pillow with a fading ribbon.

I had one more stop to make. I hopped in my car and drove up to the Deep Canyon trailhead high above Mendon. A short way up the trail I found it– a whole hillside covered with curly yellow Glacier Lilies, the “early blooming flowers” from the May Day song “Maying and Straying…” And believe me, this was a sight worth singing about.

This is Mary Heers, and I’m Wild about Springtime in Utah.

Photos: Courtesy & Copyright © Mary Heers, Photographer
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers AND Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text: Mary Heers, https://cca.usu.edu/files/awards/art-and-mary-heers-citation.pdf
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Postings

Mendon May Day, https://www.mendonutah.net/may_day.htm

May Day Celebration, Mendon City, Utah, https://mendoncity.org/may-day-celebration/

Grandaddy Basin

Grandaddy Basin: Oft Have We by Alfred Ralph Robbins Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Oft Have We
by Alfred Ralph Robbins
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Oft have we, my friends and I,
Left cares of home, and work day woes
To find a haven, there cast a fly;
And where we’ll camp–God only knows.

Oft have we hiked the trail uphill
To see it pass, and again return–
Walked mile on mile, to get the thrill
Of a meadow lake and a creel filled.

Oft round the lake we’ve cast and fussed
And wished it something we might shun;
But something deep inside of us
Just holds us fast till day is done.

Breathtaking Beauty by Alfred Ralph Robbins Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Breathtaking Beauty by Alfred Ralph Robbins
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Utahn Alfred Ralph Robbins loved exploring the Grandaddy Basin in northeastern Utah’s High Uintas with a group he called The High Country Boys. He compiled his labeled-and-dated sketches of camp and lake adventures among a sprinkling of black-and-white photographs in a scrapbook spanning the 1920s through the 1960s. They were casting at Governor Lake in 1927 and resting at Pine Island Lake in 1952 with 125 trout strung between the trees. I know they fished Pinto Lake, Trial Lake, Betsy Lake, and just about every lake in the area for 40 years. I know they, outfitted by Defa’s Dude Ranch, even stopped “on top of the world” on their way to Hatchery Lake with Alvis Newton Simpson, Robbins’s son-in-law and my grandfather, because he captured and preserved it.

Alfred Ralph Robbins and Grandson Jerry Newton Simpson 1947 Utah Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Alfred Ralph Robbins and Grandson Jerry Newton Simpson 1947 Utah
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
As my father handed down copies of this family fishing scrapbook to his grandchildren, my sons and daughters, after what they called a Fishing-with-Grandpa Simpson Saturday, he included a cover photograph of his Grandaddy Robbins, in his fishing waders, holding five-year-old grandson’s hand. My father added, “I only made one horse pack trip to Grandaddy Basin with Grandpa Robbins, but it was a very eventful week. It stormed one day and we could hear the rocks tumbling down the mountain when the lightning would strike and dislodge them. Another day there was a mayfly hatch as we were fishing one of the lakes. When that happened, the fish would bite on anything that hit the water. The mosquitoes just about ate us alive, and repellant didn’t help much. We saw some fish about three feet long near the rocks on shore, but we couldn’t get them to bite. We caught plenty of other fish and ate fish for supper most days that week.”

Do you have similar memories in the wild with your grandparents recorded somehow? Turning to one of my favorite books, “Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place,” I read again how Terry Tempest Williams described the memories with her grandmother among avocets, ibises, and western grebes during their outings in Utah’s Great Salt Lake wetlands. Grandmother Mimi shared her birding fascination with her granddaughter Terry along the burrowing owl mounds of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Williams wrote, “It was in 1960, the same year she gave me my Peterson’s Field Guide to Western Birds. I know this because I dated their picture. We have come back every year since to pay our respects.”

I’m not a grandmother yet, but I will one day make a trek over Hades Pass again, gaze at the Grandaddy Basin below, and capture nature’s poetry with pen, camera lens, and little hiker hands in mine. Bloggers have technologies today to share instantly with me and the rest of the world their adventures in this Grandaddy Wilderness region. Documenting autobiographical history has evolved from dusty diaries and scrapbooks with black-and-white photographs to today’s digital image- and video-filled blogs in exciting ways that can include the places in Utah you love with the generations you love. Consider it your contribution to history.

Grandaddy Ohs and Ahs by Alfred Ralph Robbins Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Grandaddy Ohs and Ahs
by Alfred Ralph Robbins
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

I would not miss the Oh’s! and Ah’s!
I’ve seen in Doug’s and Noel’s eyes,
When first they saw Grandaddy Lake
From the summit, in the skies.

They are thrilled I know, and so am I.
They show it in their face;
While I just swallow hard and try
To thank God for this place.

I am Grandaddy Basin poet Alfred Ralph Robbins’s great granddaughter Shannon Rhodes, and I’m wild about Utah.


Images: Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/
Text:     Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:

Williams, Terry Tempest. 1992. Refuge: an unnatural history of family and place. New York: Vintage Books. https://www.amazon.com/Refuge-Unnatural-History-Family-Place/dp/0679740244

Andersen, Cordell M. The Grandaddies. 2015. http://cordellmandersen.blogspot.com/2015/06/photoessay-backpack-1-2015-grandaddy.html

Wasatch Will. Fern Lake: Chasing Friends in Grandaddy Basin. 2018. https://www.wasatchwill.com/2018/06/fern-lake.html

Delay, Megan and Ali Spackman. Hanging with Sean’s Elk Party in the Uinta’s Grandaddy Basin. 2015. https://whereintheworldaremeganandali.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/hanging-with-seans-elk-party-in-the-uintas-grandaddy-basin/

Rhodes, Shannon, Wild About Nature Journaling, Wild About Utah June 22, 2020, https://wildaboututah.org/wild-about-nature-journaling/

Putting the Pieces Together

Putting the Pieces Together: Reading the World Through the Comb Ridge Ruins Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Reading the World Through the Comb Ridge Ruins
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes,, Photographer

Fragments EBLS San Juan Expedition 2021 Courtesy & © Stuart Baggaley, Photographer Fragments
EBLS San Juan Expedition 2021
Courtesy & © Stuart Baggaley, Photographer

Cobs and Adobe Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes,, Photographer Cobs and Adobe
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes,, Photographer

In Linda Sue Park’s novel A Single Shard, young Tree-Ear and his wise mentor Crane-man suggest that “…scholars read the great words of the world. But you and I must learn to read the world itself.” My own experiences reading many of Utah’s chapters on plants, animals, and landscapes expanded this year as I explored the Comb Ridge area. I saw my first tadpole in the creek meandering through Arch Canyon and marveled at the corn cobs mixed with handprints in the cliff dwelling adobe walls sprinkled along the red rock. Reading the evidence this land holds of other times and seasons begs me to put pieces together outside in ways I haven’t done before by tracing words on a page.Putting the Pieces Together
My friend Stu Baggaley, a teacher at Edith Bowen Laboratory School, has taken sixth-grade students down the San Juan River every fall for the last five years. On the most recent trip he described to me a serendipitous learning experience as they found themselves on a knoll sprinkled with shards of rock and pottery. “The kids scoured the area,” he said, “picking up as many interesting finds as they could, and we put them on a rock to see the differences. It was amazing to be able to see pottery fragments that were black with white markings, some were striped, some had wavy coil lines, and others were pieces of rock that had been chipped away for tools. We made a collection and took a picture of it.” That photograph speaks volumes to me, but the story gets even better.

Later that evening when they were back at camp, they listened to a podcast from Mesa Verde Voices. “We learned what it means to break pots and why the Ancestral Puebloans did that,” he continued. “One of the reasons was as a farewell ceremony when they were saying goodbye to an area.” Reflecting on their finds on that knoll, they used Lisa Kearsley’s San Juan River field guide to identify what the pottery sherds were. “It was a transformative experience to be able to notice that there were hundreds of years between different pottery sherds, and this could have been a place for many different people to break their pottery and say goodbye and move on. We realized we were walking in the same place as people did a long time ago.”

Saying goodbye and moving on. Many speculate about the why, when, and how these people left as well as the significance of the breaking pot ritual I had never read in my Utah history textbooks. Perhaps, as Tree-Ear decides, “there are some things that could not be molded into words.” How many sherds and shards and clues have I missed? Reading the world is a miraculous skill for learners of all ages who encounter not only words but the wonder of putting together the pieces we find all around if we just look.Putting the Pieces Together

I’m Shannon Rhodes, and I am Wild About Utah.


Images: EBLS San Juan River Expedition 2021 Fragments Courtesy & Copyright © Stuart Baggaley, Photographer.
Images: Cob Ridge Ruins & Cob and Adobe, Courtesy & Copyright © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer.
Audio: Courtesy & © Friend Weller, https://upr.org/
Text:     Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Courtesy Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:

Wild About Utah Posts by Shannon Rhodes https://wildaboututah.org/author/shannon-rhodes/

Canyon Country Discovery Center. https://www.ccdiscovery.org/

Edith Bowen Laboratory School San Juan River trip. https://edithbowen.usu.edu/students-parents/4corners

Hueston, J. What Pottery Can Teach Us About Ancient Pueblo Cultures. Real Archaeology: ARCH 100 Searches for the Truth. Vassar College. 2017. https://pages.vassar.edu/realarchaeology/2017/09/17/what-pottery-can-teach-us-about-ancient-pueblo-cultures/

Kearsley, Lisa. San Juan River Guide: Montezuma Creek to Clay Hills Crossing. Shiva Press. 2017 (third edition). http://shivapress.com

McPherson, Robert S. A History of San Juan County: In the Palm of Time. 1995. Utah Centennial County History, Utah State Historical Society. https://issuu.com/utah10/docs/sanjuancountyhistory

Mesa Verde Voices. https://www.mesaverdevoices.org/ and https://www.nps.gov/meve/learn/news/17-20_mesaverdevoices.htm

Park, Linda Sue. A Single Shard. 2001. Clarion Books. https://lindasuepark.com/books/books-novels/single-shard/

Toll, J. Wolcott. Making and Breaking Pottery in the Chaco World. American Antiquity, Vol. 66, No. 1 (Jan., 2001), pp. 56-78. Cambridge University Press. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2694318?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents