THE DESCENT OF CIVILIZATION - AMERICAN BISON, SOUTH DAKOTA

These animals have largely forsaken the nomadic tendencies of their ancestors and are generally content to remain the year around on the home range. Only occasionally does one wander away. Such was the case in 1936 when an old buffalo appeared in a farmer’s yard near Witten in the Rosebud country. The children screamed and climbed the windmill; the excited parents called the neighbors on the party telephone line and soon all were there with automobiles. Using cars, the farmers chased the decrepit old buffalo until he fell exhausted and died.

A South Dakota Guide (WPA, 1938)

Before Alexander Hamilton’s visage graced the ten dollar bill, it was Andrew Jackson’s mug leering from the note. But just preceding Old Hickory, for an all-too-brief period of 13 years, the sawbuck sported a far worthier American symbol—the bison. When the Treasury released the “Buffalo Bill” in 1901, there were only a few hundred living animals remaining. 

The American bison was one of the first and best cases for conservation in the United States, largely because their near incalculable numbers were relentlessly exterminated within an incredibly short span of time. White buffalo hunters, government policies targeting American Indians, the Transcontinental Railroad, and even telegraph companies were all drivers behind the bison’s systematic annihilation.  

In 1889, William Hornaday, the first director of the Bronx Zoo, wrote, “Of all the quadrupeds that have lived upon the earth, probably no other species has ever marshaled such innumerable hosts as those of the American bison. It would have been as easy to count or to estimate the number of leaves in a forest as to calculate the number of buffaloes living at any given time during the history of the species previous to 1870.”

Today there are about 500,000 bison in North America (some 10 percent of which belong to Buffalo Bill wanna-be Ted Turner) and the animals continue to be a source of controversy. In Montana, ranchers fear the spread of brucellosis from roaming bison to their cattle herds, and are trying to stop the restoration of wild buffalo to the land. One state legislator remarked, “Why do you want to spread this creeping cancer, these wooly tanks, around the state of Montana? We’ve got zero tolerance left in our bones.”

All wrangling aside, when you round a bend and see for the first time the hulking black masses dividing flat green from flat blue, it is heart-stopping. A shadow play of the Great Plains myth moving slowly across the horizon, never to be forgotten. 

Guide note: During the summer months Custer State Park’s Wildlife Loop Road is packed with RVs and minivans, but it’s also a good place to get the merest hint of what bison herds must have been like in the 19th century. And if you’re up for roughing it in the primitive camping area of the park, you may wake up to the snorts, snuffles and bellowing grunts of a herd surrounding your tent.

Further reading: 

Ghost Dances: Proving Up On the Great Plains by Josh Garrett-Davis begins at the Bronx Zoo’s bison enclosure and unspools the deeply layered history of the Great Plains alongside a memoir of growing up in South Dakota.  

The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America by Douglas Brinkley contains (amongst other fascinating conservation tales) the story of Roosevelt and William Hornaday’s attempts to save the bison from extinction.

Images - Erin Chapman & Tom McNamara; Words - Erin Chapman; Archive - Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Burton Historical Collection - Detroit Public Library

* * *

Erin Chapman and Tom McNamara are co-editors of The American Guide. 

SOME NATIVE ANIMALS in the OHIO HISTORICAL SOCIETY - COLUMBUS, OHIO

About 60 species of mammals inhabit Ohio. With the exception of a few deer and bear, protected by State law in reservations, only the smaller animals run wild. The opossum, squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, and red fox thrive in Ohio woods and fields.

The Ohio Guide (WPA, 1940)

American Guide Week lingers with some pre-Thanksgiving stuffing from Karen Schreiber. 

* * *

Karen Schreiber was born and raised in California and moved to Ohio several years ago. She was skeptical about moving to a state that had an actual winter but now that she’s lived here, she wouldn’t give up the four seasons for anything. Follow her on Tumblr at parttimecynic.tumblr.com.

JEAN LAFITTE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK AND PRESERVE - MARRERO, LOUISIANA
Covered in lichens, garlanded by Spanish moss comes this delta dispatch from photographer Elena Ricci:

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is located in Marrero, Louisiana, just south of New Orleans.
Sweeping landscapes of marsh reeds, palmetto thickets and soaring cypress trees make this park a prime example of the uniqueness of Louisiana’s Mississippi delta region. Hidden amongst the vegetation are critters, large and small, playing the predator and prey game on a picturesque backdrop. Great horned owls, vultures, alligators, boars, raccoons, rabbits, spiders and snakes are just a few of the animals that call this beautiful swampland home.
Visitors welcome, their door is always open.
[Some 35mm film, some 120mm film, some digital and some cell phone; All swamp.]

* * *
Elena Ricci is a photographer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana. Most of her photography focuses on the South, but she travels far and often. As an ongoing collaborative, she makes up one fourth of the lady photo ensemble Southerly Gold. Find Elena’s website at elenaricciphotography.com and follow her on Tumblr at elenaricciphotography.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
JEAN LAFITTE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK AND PRESERVE - MARRERO, LOUISIANA
Covered in lichens, garlanded by Spanish moss comes this delta dispatch from photographer Elena Ricci:

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is located in Marrero, Louisiana, just south of New Orleans.
Sweeping landscapes of marsh reeds, palmetto thickets and soaring cypress trees make this park a prime example of the uniqueness of Louisiana’s Mississippi delta region. Hidden amongst the vegetation are critters, large and small, playing the predator and prey game on a picturesque backdrop. Great horned owls, vultures, alligators, boars, raccoons, rabbits, spiders and snakes are just a few of the animals that call this beautiful swampland home.
Visitors welcome, their door is always open.
[Some 35mm film, some 120mm film, some digital and some cell phone; All swamp.]

* * *
Elena Ricci is a photographer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana. Most of her photography focuses on the South, but she travels far and often. As an ongoing collaborative, she makes up one fourth of the lady photo ensemble Southerly Gold. Find Elena’s website at elenaricciphotography.com and follow her on Tumblr at elenaricciphotography.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
JEAN LAFITTE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK AND PRESERVE - MARRERO, LOUISIANA
Covered in lichens, garlanded by Spanish moss comes this delta dispatch from photographer Elena Ricci:

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is located in Marrero, Louisiana, just south of New Orleans.
Sweeping landscapes of marsh reeds, palmetto thickets and soaring cypress trees make this park a prime example of the uniqueness of Louisiana’s Mississippi delta region. Hidden amongst the vegetation are critters, large and small, playing the predator and prey game on a picturesque backdrop. Great horned owls, vultures, alligators, boars, raccoons, rabbits, spiders and snakes are just a few of the animals that call this beautiful swampland home.
Visitors welcome, their door is always open.
[Some 35mm film, some 120mm film, some digital and some cell phone; All swamp.]

* * *
Elena Ricci is a photographer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana. Most of her photography focuses on the South, but she travels far and often. As an ongoing collaborative, she makes up one fourth of the lady photo ensemble Southerly Gold. Find Elena’s website at elenaricciphotography.com and follow her on Tumblr at elenaricciphotography.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
JEAN LAFITTE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK AND PRESERVE - MARRERO, LOUISIANA
Covered in lichens, garlanded by Spanish moss comes this delta dispatch from photographer Elena Ricci:

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is located in Marrero, Louisiana, just south of New Orleans.
Sweeping landscapes of marsh reeds, palmetto thickets and soaring cypress trees make this park a prime example of the uniqueness of Louisiana’s Mississippi delta region. Hidden amongst the vegetation are critters, large and small, playing the predator and prey game on a picturesque backdrop. Great horned owls, vultures, alligators, boars, raccoons, rabbits, spiders and snakes are just a few of the animals that call this beautiful swampland home.
Visitors welcome, their door is always open.
[Some 35mm film, some 120mm film, some digital and some cell phone; All swamp.]

* * *
Elena Ricci is a photographer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana. Most of her photography focuses on the South, but she travels far and often. As an ongoing collaborative, she makes up one fourth of the lady photo ensemble Southerly Gold. Find Elena’s website at elenaricciphotography.com and follow her on Tumblr at elenaricciphotography.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info

JEAN LAFITTE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK AND PRESERVE - MARRERO, LOUISIANA

Covered in lichens, garlanded by Spanish moss comes this delta dispatch from photographer Elena Ricci:

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is located in Marrero, Louisiana, just south of New Orleans.

Sweeping landscapes of marsh reeds, palmetto thickets and soaring cypress trees make this park a prime example of the uniqueness of Louisiana’s Mississippi delta region. Hidden amongst the vegetation are critters, large and small, playing the predator and prey game on a picturesque backdrop. Great horned owls, vultures, alligators, boars, raccoons, rabbits, spiders and snakes are just a few of the animals that call this beautiful swampland home.

Visitors welcome, their door is always open.

[Some 35mm film, some 120mm film, some digital and some cell phone; All swamp.]

* * *

Elena Ricci is a photographer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana. Most of her photography focuses on the South, but she travels far and often. As an ongoing collaborative, she makes up one fourth of the lady photo ensemble Southerly Gold. Find Elena’s website at elenaricciphotography.com and follow her on Tumblr at elenaricciphotography.tumblr.com.

MONK PARAKEET COLONIES - AUSTIN, TEXAS

Your guide to Texas, Brenna Brock checks in for Field Assignment #2 - Flora and Fauna, presenting the tale of some feathered Austin inhabitants. They are not immune to the state’s football fever:

Austin has been home to monk parakeets since at least the early 1980s, and now these talkative birds can be heard all over town. Monk parakeets in Austin tend to build their communal nests in man-made structures, and they are often found in the lighting around sports fields. While they are relative newcomers to Austin, these bright green birds have already scored rave reviews on Yelp and gained their own Facebook page.

* * *

Brenna Brock is a State Guide to Texas who grew up in the western part of the state, but soon left for Austin in search of trees, hills, and occasional precipitation. When she’s not shooing varmints out of the garden, trying to cook native plants, or indulging her cats’ every whim, she’s probably chasing after something with a camera. She posts a photo nearly every day on Tumblr at Mr. Cake’s Photo Adventures.

THE BLOSSOM AND THE VINE (and the Racoon) - TENNESSEE

Perhaps the best known of the mountain flora is the rhododendron, ranging in color from white to deep purple. At Roan High Bluff (6,287 altitude), is a rhododendron garden, an outstanding display of the shrub in its natural setting.

Tennessee, A Guide To the State (WPA, 1939)

To share the plant and animal life of Tennessee, your Guide Tammy Mercure sends along blooms, creepers, and the unofficial mascot of American Guide Week for Field Assignment #2 - Flora and Fauna:

The rhododendron images are from the Rhododendron Festival on top of Roan Mountain. The festival tends to hit with the blossoms every other year. When they bloom with the festival it is magical—dense fog and beautiful pinks.

Then I have a couple photos of kudzu, the plant that ate the South. In the summer it can grow as fast as one inch a day. My first winter here, seeing how dead it looked, I was convinced the plant had become eradicated, but it greens up every spring.

The state animal of Tennessee is the raccoon. I found this poor little guy dead and clutching a Frito. I have several theories to how this happened, but none are very plausible.

* * *

Tammy Mercure is a State Guide to Tennessee. She was named one of the “100 under 100: The New Superstars of Southern Art” by Oxford American magazine.

Follow on Tumblr at tammymercure or on her website, TammyMercure.com. Support her work at TCB Press. 

CRAB ORCHARD NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE - MARION, ILLINOIS

Finding the region abounding with deer and wild turkeys, and being greatly impressed with the fertility of the soil, he returned at once to North Carolina, and persuaded his father and four brothers to accompany him to this land of plenty.

Illinois, A Descriptive and Historical Guide (WPA, 1939)

When it comes to American Guide Week Field Assignment #2 - Flora and Fauna, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a great place to turn. Our friends at USFWS send along this dispatch:

The American Guide is working to get more Americans to see America … and we love any opportunity to talk about going outside and visiting a National Wildlife Refuge!

In fact, we have some Thanksgiving-themed advice for you right now! After you’ve celebrated at the table, why not take the family outside to see some wilder this year?

When you explore a foot trail at a national wildlife refuge, you not only get the chance to see some seasonal wildlife, but you’re outside getting exercise, which could help stave off the butterball look.

Visiting a refuge offers great bird viewing in late November.

Some will just be entering their peak migratory bird season. Join a planned Thanksgiving-theme event or venture out at your convenience. 

Refuge trails are open sunrise to sunset daily, even on Thanksgiving Day when refuge visitor centers will be closed. 

Free trail maps are available outside the visitor center or at a refuge entrance kiosk. For more Refuge System trails, visit http://go.usa.gov/w9O.

The beautiful wild turkeys seen displaying above, had their photo snapped at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. According to Crab Orchard’s website:

The wild turkey was hunted to near extinction by the early 20th-century but conservation and reintroduction efforts by America’s hunters and bird lovers over the past 60 years have returned this bird to its former abundance. Turkeys were not known to occur on the Refuge until 122 of the birds were released in 1958. Their numbers continued to increase over the following decades and the first annual turkey hunt on the Refuge took place in 1989. Today, Crab Orchard is home to a thriving population of wild turkey and it’s one of the most frequently seen animals on the Refuge.

Image - Jim Osborn/USFWS

* * *

Open Spaces, is the blog from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They’re dedicated to the conservation, protection and enhancement of fish, wildlife and plants, and their habitats. Follow them on Tumblr at fws.tumblr.com and visit them on the web at fws.gov. (But more importantly, visit them in person by enjoying one of the country’s 560 refuges or 38 wetland management districts.)

AMERICAN GUIDE WEEK - QUESTIONNAIRE FOR FIELD REPORTS, ASSIGNMENT #2

Take Pride, It’s the American Guide

YOUR ASSIGNMENT, TRUSTED GUIDE:

The original American Guide series of books was produced by the federal government’s Works Progress Administration in the 1930s and ’40s. Your A/G editors unearthed the actual mimeographed field manual from 1935 that was sent out to each WPA state research office. Editors, researchers, and volunteers used the manual as a basis for collecting information on their district.

We’re asking you to do the same. Stay tuned all this week as we release 10 assignments drawn from the 1935 manual for the upcoming American Guide Week (Nov. 18-24). Use these questions as your guide for contributing #AmericanGuideWeek content. For your second assignment, Class I - Flora and Fauna. (And yes, these are actual questions from the manual.)  

CLASS I - FLORA and FAUNA

  • Are there places to which one may drive or hike where some special variety [of plant] blooms at a certain time?
  • List plants and trees common to your district.
  • Are there trees of historical interest?
  • List animals, birds, fish native to your district.
  • Are there dangerous animals?
  • Are there interesting animal colonies such as colonies of beavers or prairie dog cities in your district?

BE A GUIDE. SHOW AMERICA TO AMERICANS. 

Between Monday, Nov. 18, and Sunday, Nov. 24, tag your Tumblr photosillustrations and writing that answer these questions and describe the America you live in and the America you travel through — people, places and things.

Check out a couple of past A/G posts on flora (or fungi, in this case) and fauna. Now go out there and describe/photograph/draw what it’s like where you live. 

This is a collaboration, folks: a living, Tumblifying documentary about the USA. You’ll be reblogged or featured on The American Guide.

#americanguideweek

Check out A/G Week assignments here.

ST. JOSEPH / SAN JOSÉ ISLAND, TEXAS

St. Joseph / San José Island, called St. Jo’s by the locals, is a small, privately-owned barrier island along the Texas coast, snuggled between Mustang and Matagorda Islands. St. Jo’s is only accessible by a small ferry boat that carries about 30 people at a time. This limited access cuts down on the summertime crowds and prevents driving on St. Jo’s beaches. In turn, this makes St. Jo’s popular with beachcombers, surfers, and fishers alike. 

St. Jo’s is now uninhabited, but in earlier times, it was home to the (long gone) city of Aransas, the site of the first United States flag to fly over Texas, and host to a lunch attended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

Unfortunately, these days St. Jo’s has more than its fair share of litter, both left behind by visitors and washed up from offshore. That said, on my visit, St. Jo’s managed to make even its litter charming.

* * *

Brenna Brock is a State Guide to Texas who grew up in the western part of the state, but soon left for Austin in search of trees, hills, and occasional precipitation. When she’s not shooing varmints out of our garden, trying to cook native plants, or indulging her cats’ every whim, she’s probably chasing after something with a camera.

She posts a photo nearly every day on Tumblr at Mr. Cake’s Photo Adventures.

SUMMER IN PURGATORY - DURANGO MOUNTAIN RESORT, COLORADO
Purgatory Ski Area opened in 1965, and helped Durango, a small town in southwest Colorado, move from a summer tourist destination to a prosperous town with a year-round economy.  After decades of ups and downs, the resort was sold in 2000 and renamed Durango Mountain Resort.  Locals still tend to call it Purgatory.
I love to go up during the off season. Of course the resort offers all kinds of official summer activities…  You can ride up on the ski lift and slide down a giant slide, or go mountain biking on a huge network of trails.  You can ride a bungee trampoline or a zipline, or climb into a plastic ball-shaped thing that lets you walk on water. 
I have not done any of those things.
For me, DMR means spectacular views, great hiking, and unparalleled access to the San Juan National Forest.  The flowers and wildlife are pretty great, too.
Once you get a few hundred yards from the main roads and attractions, you rarely see another person.  But you may see a bear, or a herd of deer.  And you will definitely be glad you came.
* * *
Amadee Ricketts is an At-Large Guide to the West. She’s worked as a cemetery groundskeeper, a shoeshine valet, and a bill collector. More recently, she’s been a children’s librarian in five states. She takes a lot of pictures and lives near Durango, CO. You can see her photos at textless.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
SUMMER IN PURGATORY - DURANGO MOUNTAIN RESORT, COLORADO
Purgatory Ski Area opened in 1965, and helped Durango, a small town in southwest Colorado, move from a summer tourist destination to a prosperous town with a year-round economy.  After decades of ups and downs, the resort was sold in 2000 and renamed Durango Mountain Resort.  Locals still tend to call it Purgatory.
I love to go up during the off season. Of course the resort offers all kinds of official summer activities…  You can ride up on the ski lift and slide down a giant slide, or go mountain biking on a huge network of trails.  You can ride a bungee trampoline or a zipline, or climb into a plastic ball-shaped thing that lets you walk on water. 
I have not done any of those things.
For me, DMR means spectacular views, great hiking, and unparalleled access to the San Juan National Forest.  The flowers and wildlife are pretty great, too.
Once you get a few hundred yards from the main roads and attractions, you rarely see another person.  But you may see a bear, or a herd of deer.  And you will definitely be glad you came.
* * *
Amadee Ricketts is an At-Large Guide to the West. She’s worked as a cemetery groundskeeper, a shoeshine valet, and a bill collector. More recently, she’s been a children’s librarian in five states. She takes a lot of pictures and lives near Durango, CO. You can see her photos at textless.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
SUMMER IN PURGATORY - DURANGO MOUNTAIN RESORT, COLORADO
Purgatory Ski Area opened in 1965, and helped Durango, a small town in southwest Colorado, move from a summer tourist destination to a prosperous town with a year-round economy.  After decades of ups and downs, the resort was sold in 2000 and renamed Durango Mountain Resort.  Locals still tend to call it Purgatory.
I love to go up during the off season. Of course the resort offers all kinds of official summer activities…  You can ride up on the ski lift and slide down a giant slide, or go mountain biking on a huge network of trails.  You can ride a bungee trampoline or a zipline, or climb into a plastic ball-shaped thing that lets you walk on water. 
I have not done any of those things.
For me, DMR means spectacular views, great hiking, and unparalleled access to the San Juan National Forest.  The flowers and wildlife are pretty great, too.
Once you get a few hundred yards from the main roads and attractions, you rarely see another person.  But you may see a bear, or a herd of deer.  And you will definitely be glad you came.
* * *
Amadee Ricketts is an At-Large Guide to the West. She’s worked as a cemetery groundskeeper, a shoeshine valet, and a bill collector. More recently, she’s been a children’s librarian in five states. She takes a lot of pictures and lives near Durango, CO. You can see her photos at textless.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
SUMMER IN PURGATORY - DURANGO MOUNTAIN RESORT, COLORADO
Purgatory Ski Area opened in 1965, and helped Durango, a small town in southwest Colorado, move from a summer tourist destination to a prosperous town with a year-round economy.  After decades of ups and downs, the resort was sold in 2000 and renamed Durango Mountain Resort.  Locals still tend to call it Purgatory.
I love to go up during the off season. Of course the resort offers all kinds of official summer activities…  You can ride up on the ski lift and slide down a giant slide, or go mountain biking on a huge network of trails.  You can ride a bungee trampoline or a zipline, or climb into a plastic ball-shaped thing that lets you walk on water. 
I have not done any of those things.
For me, DMR means spectacular views, great hiking, and unparalleled access to the San Juan National Forest.  The flowers and wildlife are pretty great, too.
Once you get a few hundred yards from the main roads and attractions, you rarely see another person.  But you may see a bear, or a herd of deer.  And you will definitely be glad you came.
* * *
Amadee Ricketts is an At-Large Guide to the West. She’s worked as a cemetery groundskeeper, a shoeshine valet, and a bill collector. More recently, she’s been a children’s librarian in five states. She takes a lot of pictures and lives near Durango, CO. You can see her photos at textless.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
SUMMER IN PURGATORY - DURANGO MOUNTAIN RESORT, COLORADO
Purgatory Ski Area opened in 1965, and helped Durango, a small town in southwest Colorado, move from a summer tourist destination to a prosperous town with a year-round economy.  After decades of ups and downs, the resort was sold in 2000 and renamed Durango Mountain Resort.  Locals still tend to call it Purgatory.
I love to go up during the off season. Of course the resort offers all kinds of official summer activities…  You can ride up on the ski lift and slide down a giant slide, or go mountain biking on a huge network of trails.  You can ride a bungee trampoline or a zipline, or climb into a plastic ball-shaped thing that lets you walk on water. 
I have not done any of those things.
For me, DMR means spectacular views, great hiking, and unparalleled access to the San Juan National Forest.  The flowers and wildlife are pretty great, too.
Once you get a few hundred yards from the main roads and attractions, you rarely see another person.  But you may see a bear, or a herd of deer.  And you will definitely be glad you came.
* * *
Amadee Ricketts is an At-Large Guide to the West. She’s worked as a cemetery groundskeeper, a shoeshine valet, and a bill collector. More recently, she’s been a children’s librarian in five states. She takes a lot of pictures and lives near Durango, CO. You can see her photos at textless.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
SUMMER IN PURGATORY - DURANGO MOUNTAIN RESORT, COLORADO
Purgatory Ski Area opened in 1965, and helped Durango, a small town in southwest Colorado, move from a summer tourist destination to a prosperous town with a year-round economy.  After decades of ups and downs, the resort was sold in 2000 and renamed Durango Mountain Resort.  Locals still tend to call it Purgatory.
I love to go up during the off season. Of course the resort offers all kinds of official summer activities…  You can ride up on the ski lift and slide down a giant slide, or go mountain biking on a huge network of trails.  You can ride a bungee trampoline or a zipline, or climb into a plastic ball-shaped thing that lets you walk on water. 
I have not done any of those things.
For me, DMR means spectacular views, great hiking, and unparalleled access to the San Juan National Forest.  The flowers and wildlife are pretty great, too.
Once you get a few hundred yards from the main roads and attractions, you rarely see another person.  But you may see a bear, or a herd of deer.  And you will definitely be glad you came.
* * *
Amadee Ricketts is an At-Large Guide to the West. She’s worked as a cemetery groundskeeper, a shoeshine valet, and a bill collector. More recently, she’s been a children’s librarian in five states. She takes a lot of pictures and lives near Durango, CO. You can see her photos at textless.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
SUMMER IN PURGATORY - DURANGO MOUNTAIN RESORT, COLORADO
Purgatory Ski Area opened in 1965, and helped Durango, a small town in southwest Colorado, move from a summer tourist destination to a prosperous town with a year-round economy.  After decades of ups and downs, the resort was sold in 2000 and renamed Durango Mountain Resort.  Locals still tend to call it Purgatory.
I love to go up during the off season. Of course the resort offers all kinds of official summer activities…  You can ride up on the ski lift and slide down a giant slide, or go mountain biking on a huge network of trails.  You can ride a bungee trampoline or a zipline, or climb into a plastic ball-shaped thing that lets you walk on water. 
I have not done any of those things.
For me, DMR means spectacular views, great hiking, and unparalleled access to the San Juan National Forest.  The flowers and wildlife are pretty great, too.
Once you get a few hundred yards from the main roads and attractions, you rarely see another person.  But you may see a bear, or a herd of deer.  And you will definitely be glad you came.
* * *
Amadee Ricketts is an At-Large Guide to the West. She’s worked as a cemetery groundskeeper, a shoeshine valet, and a bill collector. More recently, she’s been a children’s librarian in five states. She takes a lot of pictures and lives near Durango, CO. You can see her photos at textless.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
SUMMER IN PURGATORY - DURANGO MOUNTAIN RESORT, COLORADO
Purgatory Ski Area opened in 1965, and helped Durango, a small town in southwest Colorado, move from a summer tourist destination to a prosperous town with a year-round economy.  After decades of ups and downs, the resort was sold in 2000 and renamed Durango Mountain Resort.  Locals still tend to call it Purgatory.
I love to go up during the off season. Of course the resort offers all kinds of official summer activities…  You can ride up on the ski lift and slide down a giant slide, or go mountain biking on a huge network of trails.  You can ride a bungee trampoline or a zipline, or climb into a plastic ball-shaped thing that lets you walk on water. 
I have not done any of those things.
For me, DMR means spectacular views, great hiking, and unparalleled access to the San Juan National Forest.  The flowers and wildlife are pretty great, too.
Once you get a few hundred yards from the main roads and attractions, you rarely see another person.  But you may see a bear, or a herd of deer.  And you will definitely be glad you came.
* * *
Amadee Ricketts is an At-Large Guide to the West. She’s worked as a cemetery groundskeeper, a shoeshine valet, and a bill collector. More recently, she’s been a children’s librarian in five states. She takes a lot of pictures and lives near Durango, CO. You can see her photos at textless.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
SUMMER IN PURGATORY - DURANGO MOUNTAIN RESORT, COLORADO
Purgatory Ski Area opened in 1965, and helped Durango, a small town in southwest Colorado, move from a summer tourist destination to a prosperous town with a year-round economy.  After decades of ups and downs, the resort was sold in 2000 and renamed Durango Mountain Resort.  Locals still tend to call it Purgatory.
I love to go up during the off season. Of course the resort offers all kinds of official summer activities…  You can ride up on the ski lift and slide down a giant slide, or go mountain biking on a huge network of trails.  You can ride a bungee trampoline or a zipline, or climb into a plastic ball-shaped thing that lets you walk on water. 
I have not done any of those things.
For me, DMR means spectacular views, great hiking, and unparalleled access to the San Juan National Forest.  The flowers and wildlife are pretty great, too.
Once you get a few hundred yards from the main roads and attractions, you rarely see another person.  But you may see a bear, or a herd of deer.  And you will definitely be glad you came.
* * *
Amadee Ricketts is an At-Large Guide to the West. She’s worked as a cemetery groundskeeper, a shoeshine valet, and a bill collector. More recently, she’s been a children’s librarian in five states. She takes a lot of pictures and lives near Durango, CO. You can see her photos at textless.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
SUMMER IN PURGATORY - DURANGO MOUNTAIN RESORT, COLORADO
Purgatory Ski Area opened in 1965, and helped Durango, a small town in southwest Colorado, move from a summer tourist destination to a prosperous town with a year-round economy.  After decades of ups and downs, the resort was sold in 2000 and renamed Durango Mountain Resort.  Locals still tend to call it Purgatory.
I love to go up during the off season. Of course the resort offers all kinds of official summer activities…  You can ride up on the ski lift and slide down a giant slide, or go mountain biking on a huge network of trails.  You can ride a bungee trampoline or a zipline, or climb into a plastic ball-shaped thing that lets you walk on water. 
I have not done any of those things.
For me, DMR means spectacular views, great hiking, and unparalleled access to the San Juan National Forest.  The flowers and wildlife are pretty great, too.
Once you get a few hundred yards from the main roads and attractions, you rarely see another person.  But you may see a bear, or a herd of deer.  And you will definitely be glad you came.
* * *
Amadee Ricketts is an At-Large Guide to the West. She’s worked as a cemetery groundskeeper, a shoeshine valet, and a bill collector. More recently, she’s been a children’s librarian in five states. She takes a lot of pictures and lives near Durango, CO. You can see her photos at textless.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info

SUMMER IN PURGATORY - DURANGO MOUNTAIN RESORT, COLORADO

Purgatory Ski Area opened in 1965, and helped Durango, a small town in southwest Colorado, move from a summer tourist destination to a prosperous town with a year-round economy.  After decades of ups and downs, the resort was sold in 2000 and renamed Durango Mountain Resort.  Locals still tend to call it Purgatory.

I love to go up during the off season. Of course the resort offers all kinds of official summer activities…  You can ride up on the ski lift and slide down a giant slide, or go mountain biking on a huge network of trails.  You can ride a bungee trampoline or a zipline, or climb into a plastic ball-shaped thing that lets you walk on water. 

I have not done any of those things.

For me, DMR means spectacular views, great hiking, and unparalleled access to the San Juan National Forest.  The flowers and wildlife are pretty great, too.

Once you get a few hundred yards from the main roads and attractions, you rarely see another person.  But you may see a bear, or a herd of deer.  And you will definitely be glad you came.

* * *

Amadee Ricketts is an At-Large Guide to the West. She’s worked as a cemetery groundskeeper, a shoeshine valet, and a bill collector. More recently, she’s been a children’s librarian in five states. She takes a lot of pictures and lives near Durango, CO. You can see her photos at textless.tumblr.com.

PURPLE MARTINS - AUSTIN, TEXAS

…the wildlife of the state still flourishes wherever civilization permits.

Texas, A Guide To the Lone Star State (WPA, 194)

Every summer, the Highland Mall parking lot in Austin, TX hosts a horde of purple martins. Thousands of these aerial insectivores (which, to my great dismay and despite claims to the contrary, do not ingest prodigious amounts of mosquitoes) come together each evening to roost in a stand of live oak trees. Before settling down for the night, clouds of birds circle against the sunset, creating an unforgettable show for the small crowd of bird watchers gathered to view the spectacle.

* * *

Brenna Brock wasn’t born in Austin, but she got there as quick as she could. Follow her on Tumblr at Mister Cake’s Photo Adventures.

This dispatch arrived care of THE AMERICAN GUIDE submission page. Be a guide yourself and send a post from your state: theamericanguide.org/submit.