The sign is clear and unequivocal: Private Property. No Photography. The area behind the sign is empty. There are no buildings, no livestock. What doesn’t the landowner want you to see? As you follow the chain link fence towards White House Ruin, stands of cottonwoods and green brush block the view. Glimpses through the trees reveal that there is something there — a house or a barn. You continue on to the ruin where you meet vendors selling jewelry and crafts. On the way back, you see other tourists photographing the sign.
Many national parks and monuments contain private land, some more than others; so Canyon de Chelly is not unique. Some overlooks (such as the one above) let you look down into the lives of the farmers and sheep herders who make the canyons their home. You might ask “What is the problem?”
My dermatologist had me strip down to my underwear while her nurse watched, then had me lie down on the examination table while she scanned my skin with a black light. The white spots on my well-tanned arms gave her no cause for concern; the moles on my extremities seemed normal. But then she took out a can of freon and sprayed an area on my left cheek bone.
“There was only one pre-cancerous area,” she announced. “It’s gone now.” She went on to explain that it wasn’t unusual for basal cells to form on the left side of the face because that is the unshaded side when we drive. After she told me to make an appointment for next year, she told me to get some sunblock and use it.
Now there is another test that I routinely get: my endocrinologist measures my Vitamin D levels. A few years ago, they were lower than they should be, so she urged me to start taking supplemental doses to bring them up. The main symptom that I felt was a sustained, moderate depression. Weeks after I began taking the extra gel tabs, I started feeling better. I also started wearing shorts when I walked so that a larger area of skin would be exposed to the sun.
We get our Vitamin D from two sources, primarily: fortified milk and the sun. Vitamin D production is our version of photosynthesis. This is why psychiatrists and other doctors recommend that we get enough sunlight. But the recommendation clashes with what the dermatologist wants of us. Too much sunlight gives us skin cancer.
Never underestimate a little dog. Once I saw a small poodle following its master up the trail to Cucamonga Peak in the Cucamonga Wilderness of the Angeles National Forest. The trail was rocky and steep, and we were about two miles up it, but there was the little guy keeping up with his owner who was moving at a steady clip. The only problem that I had was that the dog shouldn’t have been in a federal wilderness area (we had stopped with our Boston Terrier at the boundary). Like many dog owners, his master presumed that his dog was well behaved enough that he could snub the rule.
Some of us collect anecdotes of stupid hikers at Whiting:
I met him just as he was coming off the Edison Trail in Whiting Ranch, a small, spindly man with no hair, shorts, a short-sleeved plaid shirt, and a pair of earbuds blasting Beethoven as loud as he could stand it. A few months before I had met a mountain lion on this very trail, so I stopped him.
“There’s deer up there at the end of the trail,” he said, waving his arm in the general direction of nowhere in particular. I have to admit that I was surprised that he saw them.
“There’s also mountain lion up there,” I said, motioning to his earbuds.
“Oh yes,” he shouted with a smile and went on his way.