Category Archives: environment

I Am in the Middle of a Mirage

Yes, I am at the Mirage in Las Vegas this afternoon.  It seems like an accurate name to me: This place is just a mirage to me.  The North Rim is what is real to me. I remember again the words of J.W. Powell in his The Exploration of the Colorado and Its Canyons:

Still farther east is the Kaibab Plateau [including the North Rim], culminating table-land of the region. It is covered with a beautiful forest, and in the forest charming parks are found. Its southern extremity is a portion of the wall of the Grand Canyon….Here antelope feed and many a deer goes bounding over the fallen timber. In winter deep snows lie here, but the plateau has four months of the sweetest summer man has ever known. (p. 102)

from Bright Angel Point

from Bright Angel Point

clouds and vegetation, North Rim

clouds and vegetation, North Rim

Deva, Brahma, and Zoroaster

Deva, Brahma, and Zoroaster

from Point Imperial

from Point Imperial

Transept Canyon

Transept Canyon

Transept Canyon sunset

Transept Canyon sunset

Traveling On

Tom and I like to go on road trips. We are on a road trip now. In the 25 days since we began this journey we have:

  • stopped in Pittsburgh to see our son Robert (Rebekah was working). Note: We saw Billy and Sarah and Mike before we started out. We just wanted to tell our children, “we love you.”
  • visited my dear brothers and sisters-in-law (in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan).
  • camped above the Straits of Mackinac and took the ferry to Mackinac Island.
  • smelled forest fire smoke through Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah.
  • visited the Ingalls Homestead in DeSmet, S.D. (Little House aficionados: we camped by the slough)
  • we took an “easy” 3.4 mile hike at Wind Cave National Park and discovered that all of our city walking really wasn’t the same as hiking a rocky track on a warm, sunny afternoon.
  • we listened to an Oglala Lakota NPS ranger from Wounded Knee tell us a strong story about the importance of naming. From now on, for us,  Devils Tower is Bear Lodge.

Note: I have many more items for this bulleted list, but I will continue it another time soon.

We are old now, but Tom and I like to keep traveling on. Now, the early mornings are cold (unless we are staying in a motel). We don’t even light the camp stove. We drink our coffee cold.

We keep traveling on because we want to see the country and family and friends along the way–while we are still on this side of the great divide. We want to keep learning. We see, listen, touch, and smell the beauty all around us.

Here are a few photos:

catbird in catalpa, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

catbird in catalpa, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

flower (?), St. Ignace, Michigan

flower (?), St. Ignace, Michigan

monarch, Mackinac Island

monarch, Mackinac Island

Lake Gogebic State Park, Michigan

Lake Gogebic State Park, Michigan

playing music, Ingalls Homestead, DeSmet, South Dakota

playing music, Ingalls Homestead, DeSmet, South Dakota

Devils Tower, AKA Bear Lodge, Wyoming

Devils Tower, AKA Bear Lodge, Wyoming

chokecherry, Sinks Canyon State Park, Wyoming

chokecherry, Sinks Canyon State Park, Wyoming

near South Pass, Wyoming

near South Pass, Wyoming

Bear Lake State Park, Idaho

Bear Lake State Park, Idaho

 

Staircase to Heaven, Part 5: Words

Kodachrome Basin State Park

Kodachrome Basin State Park

I have been putting off writing this post about the Grand Staircase.  Photos are easy, but sometimes words are hard for me.

This morning I have Windexed the living room table (where we leave smears when we eat in front of the TV). I’ve washed a load of clothes and I am about ready to put them into the dryer. I’ve put two applesauce cakes in the oven (from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book ). I feel comfortable and happily domestic.  Even so, somewhere inside, I am afraid that the despoilers of the land will win this battle of the Grand Staircase and Bears Ears and the others. I am sad and angry because I don’t think my words or photos can change the minds of those ones. I will try the words anyhow.

Three days later: My words still haven’t found their way to the computer. I sit in my living room chair. Through my window, I watch the winter silver Potomac flow in the distance.  Like most people I know, my heart weeps and my mind hurts.  More hate, more racism, more lies spew from our country’s White House. So many things to grieve about and to fight for, where should I begin?

I know. I look around our room and I see the huge blue and pink(ish) map: “The Colorado Plateau and Its Drainage.”  Tom bought the map for me about 18 years ago, when I briefly had a job with an office and benefits. To the left of the map are two bookcases, a Navajo rug, and a poster of Zion National Park, “Celebrating a Century of Sanctuary 1909-2009.”  On the walls closer to me are the Thomas Moran print of Indian Gardens from our friend Laura, a painting of Hopi basket designs by our friend Sally, and many other talismans.  Enough for now: Like a movie, the sun just broke through the clouds a tiny bit.  I will try my words again.

our living room, 1.13.18

our living room, 1.13.18

Now, it looks like I have too many words. Here are some more. I will stop soon.


1958 (?) I saw it on Mickey Mouse Club, I think.

I felt sad when I saw and heard a piece on TV about a river that was going to be dammed and a canyon that would disappear. I saw a fabulous rock called Rainbow Bridge. I felt sad until the feelings were buried.  Only decades later, I uncovered this memory and realized I had loved this land of the Colorado River Plateau 12 years before I ever even saw it.

Glen Canyon

The Glen Canyon Archeological Survey, Part 1, May 1959

1970 (My spring and summer in Zion National Park)

  • One of my Mormon friends, told me that if one prayed earnestly—some lines from The Book of Alma in The Book of Mormon—one would hear a response from God. I remember trying this praying somewhere up the canyon side not far from Emerald Pools. I thought I prayed earnestly, but I heard nothing. Well, I heard something. It was the tranquility, power, and beauty emanating from the land, sky, and water. Then, and, onward through the years, I became increasingly comfortable with my being a secular humanist nature-lover.*
  • After hours of walking, my coworker and friend Pat and I finally came across the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. At least one source says the park is 12 miles from Highway 89 to the dunes. No wonder it seemed so long to us tenderfoots. After Pat and I clambered around on the dunes, we settled down for the night. We had trouble opening up the can of peaches we brought, and I think we finally drank the juice through the little opening we had somehow managed to make. I don’t remember what else we ate or tried to eat. One more thing we didn’t know about the desert—at least at 6000 feet elevation in April—was that it was cold. Because we were freezing, we were wakeful through the night. We shivered all night inside our cheap sleeping bags, but, set down, this set down, I saw the starry sky I have never forgotten. The stars in that desert night sky have been the standard by which I have watched every night sky since and none have surpassed or even matched it. When I read the environmental news, I think maybe our atmosphere is now sufficiently polluted that no one can have the gift again of that starry sky. Magi or no, magic or no, god or no, I thank those stars I was lucky enough to see.*
  • Third person in line on a hike along Taylor Creek in Zion’s Kolob, a rattlesnake warned me. I had never heard the rattle before, but I knew the sound.  I have always tried to be careful.
  • Losing my way on my first hike and wandering to the rock face of the Watchman, The Narrows, West Rim Trail,  and much more.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

1971 (North Rim and environs)

  • Tom and I thought we might go to Page on our day off. I don’t recall why we wanted to go to Page. Page is 123 miles from the North Rim and we had no car, but we weren’t daunted; the North Rim is a long way from everywhere. We were hitchhiking and there wasn’t much traffic. It took hours, but we finally got past Jacob Lake and off the Kaibab Plateau. We were picked up by a young Navajo family and we got to ride in the back of their pickup. It was night by the time we got to Page. It was not much of a town, and all I remember is the crazy lady who was walking around the streets talking to herself. I felt uncomfortable and sad about her. Tom, as he has in such situations since then, just felt a kindly empathy for the woman. I don’t know where or if we slept and I don’t remember how we got back to the rim in time for work the next afternoon, but it was the start of a long journey for us together.*
  • I never made it to Calf Creek Falls. A coworker Ariane and I drove in her Datsun from North Rim toward Boulder, Utah. The water came down in torrents from the fresh falls streaming off the cliffs and from the sky itself. A large boulder fell a car length and a second or two ahead. We survived, unscathed–just.  We turned around and drove to the low bridge that spanned Calf Creek. The flash flood drove the brown water far above the bridge. The rain and then the creek subsided.  We got a room, probably in Escalante. I haven’t gotten back to Calf Creek yet, but I still hope to.

1972 — 2014: Too many years and too many stories

  • I have to stop for now. If I write too many words, I don’t think people want to read them.
  • If I keep thinking of this hike or that story or that friend, my mind lives too much in the past.
  • If I write too much, I worry too much about what is going to happen to our wonderful land.
  • If I stop worrying or writing, I think the the vandals might win. So, I will be back soon.
  • Tomorrow, though, I will contemplate the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr, the hero of my youth.

 

Singletree Campground, Fishlake National Forest

Singletree Campground, Fishlake National Forest

*(adapted from Losing It: Deconstructing a Life, unpublished work © Lynda Terrill, all rights reserved)

 

 

Staircase to Heaven, Part 4: More Photos

When we were hiking back in Zion in 1970, my friend Pat noted that–even with the technicolor, in-your-face canyon vistas surrounding us–I spent a certain amount of time looking down at the ground. I still do that.  Below are some plant photos from the Grand Staircase and environs.

cyanobacteria with flowers, Canyonlands National Park

cyanobacteria with flowers, Canyonlands National Park

columbine, Cedar Canyon Campground, Dixie National Forest

columbine, Cedar Canyon Campground, Dixie National Forest

bluebell, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest

bluebell, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest

roundleaf buffaloberry, Natural Bridges National Monument

roundleaf buffaloberry, Natural Bridges National Monument

Indian paintbrush, Kolob, Zion National Park

Indian paintbrush, Kolob, Zion National Park

cliff rose, Cape Royal

cliff rose, Cape Royal, North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park

cactus, Pine Valley, Dixie National Forest

cactus, Pine Valley, Dixie National Forest

juniper, Needles Overlook

juniper, Needles Overlook

pine cones, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest

pine cones, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest

pinyon pine, Canyonlands National Park

pinyon pine, Canyonlands National Park

cottonwood near Canyonlands National Park

cottonwood near Canyonlands National Park

Note: My next post will be mostly words, not photos.  I wonder if I can help convince Secretary Zinke, Senator Hatch, Congressman Bishop, and others to preserve our beautiful land.

Staircase to Heaven, Part 3: Photos

Happy New Year!

Below are some photos from the Grand Staircase area of the Colorado Plateau.  Plant photos to come soon, and then, finally, words.

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park

Altar of Sacrifice, Zion National Park

Altar of Sacrifice, Zion National Park

Trail to Angel's Landing, Zion National Park

Trail to Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park

Zion near the East Entrance

Zion near the East Entrance

Wahweap Creek, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Wahweap Creek, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Wahweap Hoodoos. GSENM

Wahweap Hoodoos, GSENM

Moccasin Mountain Dinosaur Tracksite, GSENM

Moccasin Mountain Dinosaur Tracksite, GSENM

dinosaur track, Moccasin Mountain Dinosaur Tracksite

dinosaur track, Moccasin Mountain Dinosaur Tracksite

Vermillion Cliffs, Kanab, GSEENM

Vermillion Cliffs, Kanab, GSENM

 Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest

Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest

The Needles, Canyonlands National Park

The Needles, Canyonlands National Park

Southeastern Utah

Southeastern Utah

Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument

Hovenweep National Monument

Hovenweep National Monument

 

Staircase to Heaven, Part 2

Colorado River (1973): Jackass Rapids/Jackass in the Rapids *

In the summer of 1973, one of my former eighth grade students (from Page, AZ) invited me to hike down to the Colorado River from near the Bitter Springs Arizona Highway Department outpost where she lived. This would be a walk down to the first rapids within what is generally considered the beginning of the Grand Canyon, not far below Navajo Bridge that spans Marble Canyon. My student said the locals called the area Jackass Rapids. I was a fair-to-middling red rock hiker back then, but it took fancy footwork to keep up with the sure-footed young girl. As my memory of the day comes into clearer focus, I think this trip might have been the girl’s answer to the environmental living elective (see Grand Staircase to Heaven, Part 1). She had not participated in the class, perhaps because, being of local pioneer stock, she already knew much more than I did about the local environment, or maybe it was just that she was already in band during the elective hour.

In any case, the sky was perfect blue and the sun was scorching and I already had sunburn from some recent hikes in Zion National Park. When we finally got down to the Colorado River, I did what I always did back then—I jumped in the water. The air temperature was probably in the mid-90s, the river was around 40°, and my back was already burnt. The resulting pain was intense and I felt like I was the jackass the place was named after. For several years afterwards my arms carried the marks of the sunburn and nowadays in the shower, I wince at cold water on my back. My memories of those Arizona and Utah times, though, remain bright: sky blue, rock red, pine green, and Colorado River brown.

sky blue, North Rim, Arizona

sky blue, North Rim, Arizona

 

rock red, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Uta

rock red, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Utah

pine green, Singletree Campground, Fishlake National Forest, Utah

pine green, Singletree Campground, Fishlake National Forest, Utah

Colorado River brown, Kings Bottom Campground (near Moab, Utah)

Colorado River brown, Kings Bottom Campground (near Moab, Utah)

*(adapted from Losing It: Deconstructing a Life, unpublished work © Lynda Terrill, all rights reserved)

Staircase to Heaven, Part 1

juniper (Juniperus osteosperma)

juniper (Juniperus osteosperma)

Then As far as I can recall, I first saw Utah’s Grand Staircase in the summer of 1970. Heading south and east from Fredonia across the Arizona Strip on U.S. 89A the road rises onto the Kaibab Plateau. Partway up in the pinyon-juniper forest is a scenic overlook. I had been to scenic overlooks before: by the Great Lakes, the Skyline Drive, and, that very summer, I was living right inside Zion National Park. Still, I had never seen a vista so vast as the Grand Staircase. Looking northward, I could see wave after wave of cliffs: the White Cliffs, the Pink Cliffs, the Gray Cliffs, on and on. It seemed like this view was also a bridge to some other plane: one that was all light, beauty, and possibility.

desert primrose (Oenothera primiveris?), Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Utah

desert primrose (Oenothera primiveris?), Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Utah

Now They did it. Last week Trump, et al. eviscerated (or, as millions of us have it, tried to eviscerate) Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bears Ears National Monument. My response has been to put up angry and sad emojis on Facebook and to sign petitions about this and so many other outrageous actions by the current administration.

I want to do more. I want to help save this land of light, beauty, and possibility.  For the next few postings, I will tell my own stories about the Grand Staircase. I am only one person, but I have a voice, and I want to join those other voices fighting to save the monuments.


Page, Arizona (1972-73): Dialogue Journals on the Kaiparowits Plateau Road*

Besides teaching eighth grade literature in Page, I developed an elective class I called environmental living. With two notable exceptions (below), I don’t remember much about the class. First, not many students signed up for the class and second, although I was enthusiastic, I was no science teacher.  I knew more politics and theory than practical knowledge about environmental issues. The students and I grew plants (I don’t remember what kind), toured the Glen Canyon Dam, and went on a few trips out into the desert that surrounded Page.

One time the students and I took a short trip to part of Antelope Canyon, a few miles outside of Page. I could drive my Volkswagen Squareback right onto the slickrock sandstone, and the times and local culture didn’t worry about insurance or whether there were enough seatbelts to go around. The students and I reveled in the views and in sliding down the slickrock on the seats of our jeans. The success of this outing must have given me the confidence to plan a more ambitious excursion. Note: Back then my students and I could go pretty much where we wanted, but things have changed since that time. For example, now access to Antelope Canyon is now more stringently controlled by the Navajo Nation, and now a large area north of Page is part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

I had been hankering to explore the remote area north of the Arizona/Utah border that could be accessed by what was then called the Kaiparowits Plateau Road. One snowy winter Saturday, a carful of students and I headed north on U.S. Route 89 and then took a right onto the (if memory serves) unimproved Kaiparowits Plateau Road. I don’t remember much about our activities. I think we walked around some, ate, and, like the silly brand-new teacher that I was, I let some of the students smoke cigarettes. As the afternoon advanced, we headed back toward the main road. I was driving up a long hill on the snowy road when some demon made me downshift. I knew better than that, but–all of a sudden–there we were, stalled in the middle of nowhere with the snow starting and the sun going down. The kids got out of the car and I tried again and again to get the car out of the icy tracks where it was stuck. Spinning the wheels on the ever more slick snow, of course, did more harm than good. I almost panicked, but a resourceful teacher is never without her materials.

In the back of the Volkswagen, I had a box of dialogue journals that the students and I had been writing back and forth to each other. Dialogue journals are great tools. The teacher writes a question or makes a comment to an individual student and the student writes back what he or she wants to—language correction is by modeling appropriate form, there are no grades, the sharing is whatever the student decides to share, and no one else needs to see the text. The journals were particularly great tools then, too, because I put some journals (as yet unused) under the back tires and my trusty car roared out of the icy tracks. The kids hopped back in the car and we hotfooted it back to town, just about when the parents and school people were starting to get worried.

*(adapted from Losing It: Deconstructing a Life, unpublished work © Lynda Terrill, all rights reserved)

Bryce Canyon looking toward the Grand Staircase

Bryce Canyon looking toward the Grand Staircase