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Field Notes
Ira Block
Photograph by Harikrishna Katragadda
Ira Block

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

I camped out at Range Creek for about a week, and I had to go to a lot of the sites that required extensive climbing. I'm a novice, but I was lucky because the writer, David Roberts, is a great climber. He brought along friends and climbing assistants to help us get into some really extraordinary places that would have been impossible for me otherwise. We rappelled into a granary with the archaeologists, and the view going down was spectacular. I could see the whole canyon system. But even with all our ropes, clamps, and other little gadgets, we had a hell of a time. It makes me wonder how the early Indians did it.

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

It was 80F (27C) when my wife and I started driving along a narrow dirt road to a ranch on a very high plateau in Price, Utah. The road had a lot of switchbacks, and my wife started getting nervous when dark clouds began to appear. By the time we got up to the top of the plateau, we'd hit a blizzard that had already dropped about four inches (ten centimeters) of snow on the ground. I couldn't tell where the road went, so I got out of the car and walked around in the snow in my shorts and low-top sneakers. My cell phone didn't have service, so I couldn't call anyone. Eventually, we got back onto the road. Then the sun came out and melted all the snow. But the next day I had one muddy road to deal with.

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

While at the same ranch, I watched ranchers herd cattle down to a lower range with the help of border collies. One of the dogs was a six-month-old puppy, and it was his first time out. It was incredible to watch him learn from the older dogs. He would emulate what they were doing for a while and then run off and do some puppy things. Then he would come back and mimic the adults some more.