One of the truly exceptional aspects of this once in a life time experience of serving as Artist in Residence at Mesa Verde NationalPark is the opportunity to apply for a backcountry permit to hike and visit the areas of the park without the distraction of other visitors. This is a fairly rigorous process, as well it should be, to both protect the integrity of the park's antiquities, natural resources and the safety of the the people applying for this privilege. Before I left Ohio I had to watch a video about backcountry safety (no mention here of how to handle animal attacks of assorted kinds, see previous post, Thank You brother Bruce) as well as read a manual on back country etiquette. Now I have to fill out a permit for each visit, have it signed by two people and carry a radio advising the rangers of my arrival and departure time, in order to save the government the expense of costly search and rescue missions involving helicopters, which I am told get charged to your Visa account at $15, 000.00 a pop. Now more about the etiquette part.
For those of you who were wondering, no this is not about being polite while you are hiking, it is about being a steward of the fragile environment that is Mesa Verde. Two primary concepts are : take only photos, and carry it in, carry it out. The manual gives sage advice on what to do if you, shall we say, need to use the facilities while you are in the back o' beyond. I am not kidding, if you need to go Number One you are supposed to pee on a rock or pine needles as urine attracts animals who might decide to burrow into fragile archaological sites. If you need to go Number Two, and believe me when I say that this has not happened to me since I was about nine years old, you are supposed to dig a hole just like a cat a little ways off the trail. Having had cats all of my life, I think I can just about manage this should it become necessary.