Category Archives: Places

Winter 2021

I started this article a week ago during Arlington’s small bout of snow and ice.  I couldn’t seem to figure out how to effectively reconcile my homebound (from weather and pandemic) current self with younger versions of me who always loved to be out in the snow and ice. I didn’t want to have to find the words for all those winter feelings I didn’t feel this year. (See Winter: January 1, 2019 for some of my words about winter). Today, I realize that I don’t need to dig for those words and feelings anymore. I have received my first Covid-19 vaccination, I have walked five miles today, buds are plumping up on the witch hazel in Hillside Park, and spring is coming soon.  Before spring arrives in earnest, I want to share some words and photos about my favorite refuge during this winter of our pandemic and social disunion.

witch hazel, Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia

This winter, I have been walking often on Theodore Roosevelt Island, which is 0.8 miles from our condo.  It’s not the ponderosas on the North Rim or the slickrock in Canyonlands, but I do love this tiny little bit of the national park system, just as I love the other parks.

While TR Island is only 88.5 acres, heavily visited (over 160,000 people visit yearly), and cheek by jowl with our hyper-urban Rosslyn, Arlington neighborhood, when I am on the island I find respite from this distressing time. I would have thought that walking here on this island–a little over a stone’s throw across the water from the Kennedy Center–would be much different from walking on the North Rim or in Canyonlands, but, somehow, it feels much the same. I glimpse a red-bellied woodpecker, I see the mallards paddle around the marsh, and I marvel at the fungus on the stump. I want to hug the beech trees. The underbrush all mixed together with water, snow, and leaves reminds me of the lakes of my childhood. I find solitude on the island’s Upland Trail. Seeing the Paul Manship statue of Theodore Roosevelt lifts my spirits.  None of the U.S. presidents have been without flaws, but, still, on every trip to the island, seeing the statue, of Theodore Roosevelt, who signed the Antiquities Act of 1906, eased some of my pain related to the presidency of Donald Trump. Time after time in these last months, while my mind and heart were filled with worry and sadness, my feet headed toward the island where my body, mind, and heart revived.

I keep meaning to go to the island early in the day with my binoculars. I want to sit on a bench on the boardwalk and listen to and watch the birds. I think I will go next week. Soon enough, I will be hearing the frogs.

 

sycamore along the river

mallards, theodore Roosevelt Island

forest floor, Theodore Roosevelt Island

stump and fungus, Theodore Roosevelt Island

beech leaf, Theodore Roosevelt Island

leaves and log with snow, Theodore Roosevelt Island

marsh, Theodore Roosevelt Island`

Theodore Roosevelt statue, Theodore Roosevelt Island


I hope you are vaccinated or will be soon. I hope you will be able to visit loved ones soon. I hope spring will come soon for us all.

 

 

 

Going to Zion

View from the Watchman Trail

View of West Temple from the Watchman Trail

On this last day of 2020–this annus horribilis that we have struggled through–I find myself looking backward.  I do not want this year to end without celebrating the occasion of my finding my way to Zion National Park fifty years ago.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for the last nine years may recall that I make fairly regular references to Zion in my posts (see, for example, Staircase to Heaven,Part 5: Words).  Many who know me personally know my abiding love for this place. I love Zion, not only because of its adjective-defying beauty, but because of the peaceful, happy, and worry-free season it afforded me in the spring and summer of 1970.  I could use another such season now, but I think the memories will be almost enough.

Why I went to Zion and how I got there*

In the spring of 1970 I signed on for summer work in Zion National Park in Southwestern Utah. This was fifty years ago, and Zion was not the trendy park it is now; it was more like the back of beyond. I was tired of my local summer job at Camp Dearborn in Milford, Michigan. Also, I had been fired up about environmental issues and the west by, among others, my young zoology lab instructor from Teton Country Wyoming. I had never been farther west than the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and I knew nothing about Utah. So, I went to the undergrad library at my college and I found and then was mesmerized by Wallace Stegner’s Mormon Country. Before I knew it, I was spending the summer in Zion Canyon. I can say that summer and (mostly)** ever since, just being in Zion makes me happy and as close to content as I have been so far in this life.

In April 1970 I flew from Detroit to Omaha, Nebraska. I somehow found my way to the train station where I boarded a train bound for Las Vegas. I was decked out in, I think this is true, a suit and a raincoat and, as enjoined by my mother, I had an iron grip on my purse. I immediately met another girl, Pat, similarly attired and gripping her purse. Pat went to my college and was also heading out west to spend the summer working in Zion National Park. As it turned out, she hailed from Walled Lake, a little town seven miles from Milford. This must have been the summer for small town mid-western girls to head out into the wilderness.

I hired on as–what was called then–a salad girl and Pat hired on as a cashier at Zion Inn, inside Zion National Park. Our train ride was free because the company that employed us, Utah Parks Company, was a subsidiary company of the Union Pacific Railroad Company. Of course, I never forgot the ride. The trip was long, cold (we had only our raincoats as covers), and somewhat sparse in meals (they were pricey for our budgets, but I still remember the dining car). Otherwise, the ride was transformational. All that land I had been reading about and watching on Bonanza was becoming real.

After a while, maybe a day and a half, I can’t remember, we ended up in Las Vegas. I am chagrined to notice that I am forgetting some of the particulars, but I think we found the bus that was to take us to Cedar City, Utah, where we would be met by a man with the unlikely name of LeMar Snyder. (Note: This only seemed like an unlikely name until I became familiar with a traditional Mormon naming convention—they seemed to like adding prefixes to both male and female names. Tom told me that families sometimes took part of the father’s name and part of the mother’s name and to make up the new name. I don’t know the provenance of LeMar’s name). However it happened, Pat and I did come to find LeMar, a big comfortable sort of man, who drove us to Zion where we were going to work at the inn, now gone these many years (Not really gone, the wood-and-sandstone building is now used by the U.S. Park Service). I don’t know what I was expecting, but Zion in all ways surpassed my preconceptions.

I had been going to parks all my life—municipal parks, state parks, national forests, and even Shenandoah National Park (my only national park before Zion)— but they had not prepared me for my first view of Zion Canyon. Inside the canyon, I was almost surrounded by red, grey, white, green, and black rock walls up to two thousand feet tall. An apparently inconsequential (to my eye) but restive river, the Virgin, flowed through the canyon. The narrow canyon was filled with grass, cottonwoods, many kinds of desert plants, birds and lizards, rocks and sand in an abundant jumble. On my first day off work, I walked from the inn, near the mouth of the canyon, to the end of the road about six miles to the Temple of Sinawava and back. I think this walk took me all day, and my jaw must have gotten tired because I was open-mouthed at the magnitude of everything as well as the unfamiliar beauty. I stayed in Zion from April to July, and I never got over the feeling of awe.

What I did there

My first actual Zion hike was on the short, moderate Watchman trail that started close to the campground near the inn. I had been on trails before at state and local parks in Michigan, but I didn’t know what to expect from a trail in a national park in the west. (Note: I checked online and the Zion National Park website claims that the Watchman hike is 2.7 miles round trip and climbs 368 feet.) I must have started out in the early afternoon after my morning shift. I was surprised how wide and well maintained the trail was. I think I was expecting a trail where moccasins could tread quietly and carefully single file—not a freeway for tourists to huff and puff up in expansive style. The trail followed the contours of a small side canyon— first heading east toward the cliffs and then back westward—for a view of the canyon floor and the little town of Springdale. After I got to that overlook point, finding the trail onward was more difficult. Here the trail was more like my single file ideal. In fact, sometimes I was a bit confused about where the trail was and where it was leading.

I took the trail upward and back eastward toward the cliffs and followed it as it continued around again onward skirting around the small side canyon. It seemed like (and maybe was) hours later my path stopped dead at the sheer cliff face of the Watchman itself. It was beginning to occur to me that I might possibly have made a wrong turn somewhere. I turned around and tried to retrace my steps. This was not so easy because there were faint trails crisscrossing everywhere. It had been dawning on me for some time that I might not be following human trails, but those of deer or other animals. Luckily, my general destination was clear: to wend my way back from where I had come along the canyon walls and scree. I did this and I finally found myself back at the overlook, where I now understood the human trail ended. I had been somewhat scared at my inadvertent bushwhacking to the sandstone ramparts of the Watchman, but I was also exhilarated at my small adventure. There was no time to waste in reflection for it was getting dark and I didn’t have a flashlight. Thinking back, I hope that I had been smart enough to have acquired a canteen by this point. I headed quickly down the now-wide trail. A bobcat crossed the trail very close in front of me trotting purposefully somewhere. Then and now, I read this as some sort of minor miracle or at least a benediction. I was a fool who had almost gotten into serious trouble, but, instead, some deep magic crossed my path.

The Watchman and the Virgin River

Any chance we got, Pat and I went hiking together. We hiked the Virgin Narrows, the Kolob Canyons, the West Rim Trail, and even Grafton***, the little ghost town below Zion that was featured in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park

Note: It is already December 31, 2020. and I want to finish this before the anniversary year ends. I have so many words already, but there is so much more I want to say about this season of grace. I will tell you a couple more stories and then be done for now.

Time passed and farewell

I needed to go back to Michigan before the end of the summer to be maid of honor for my friend Priscilla’s wedding. That was going to be exciting, but it was hard to leave Zion. For one thing, Pat and I were taking Senior Lifesaving at the Zion Lodge Pool but, luckily, the examination was scheduled for the day before I had to leave. If you’ve been to Zion Lodge in the last many years, you are probably saying what is she talking about, there’s no swimming pool in the canyon. Not now, but back in the 1970s there was a pool situated where the Zion Lodge lawn is now. The lifeguard at the lodge decided to offer a lifesaving class, so Pat and I would hitchhike the three miles from the inn to the lodge for instruction and to practice. The experience of swimming in Zion Canyon is worth recalling. We would swim round and round in the small pool surrounded on all sides by red Navajo sandstone cliffs and with the almost unbelievably blue skies—a dome of heaven—above.

It was already getting dark when Pat and I passed our swimming exams at the lodge. When we got back to the inn, we were whisked away somewhere outside for a going-away party for me. I remember three details about the food we ate. After I had asked for a well-done hamburger, one of my Mormon friends said he knew why I didn’t like rare meat. He said it’s because you are so civilized. Maybe yes and maybe no, but I appreciate the thought. In fact, the comment and the party highlight the civility and the hospitality that the people down there in Southern Utah showed to us and which I have never forgotten. We drank root beer—homemade for the party—and we ate Mrs. Cope’s spudnuts. She was a baker for Utah Parks Company and the mother of one of my friends. As Zion is to a municipal park, so Mrs. Cope’s spudnuts were to commercially produced donuts.

What I’m trying to say: I was entranced by the stories told by the older people I met at Zion. I met people whose own parents knew Butch Cassidy. There was my supervisor in the pantry, Mary, whose family—if I am remembering this right—had run cattle in what is now Bryce National Park. There was Chef Brown, who’d been a cook on the Union Pacific when doing that was really something. The people in Zion were hospitable in a way that seems uncommon these days. In that canyon and during that summer it was like I had fallen into an earlier time—a time my father would have understood. Plenty of the hospitable people that summer weren’t Mormons. Some were Jack Mormons, some were other locals, and some were outlanders drawn to this land. I want to sound grave and respectful here, but I think I might be babbling. Thank you for your part in my happiest summer (so far). Thank you for the spudnuts. Thank you, Zion.

A wish: May we all have more  beauty, peace, hospitality, grace, and deep magic in the new year. Thank you for listening and Happy New Year.

Zion Canyon

Zion Canyon

The Altar of Sacrifice, Zion Canyon

Virgin River beach

Virgin River beach

Zion near the East Entrance

Zion near the East Entrance

Entering Zion Wilderness, Coalpits Wash

Entering Zion Wilderness, Coalpits Wash

 



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

**The crowds almost everywhere in Zion these last years discomfit me.  An important element of being in Zion was the feeling of peace, quiet, and of being in a back of beyond sanctuary. I do not feel that much now.

*** I haven’t been back to Grafton since 1970.  I understand that the town may be a destination spot these days.  When Pat and I visited, it was an empty, overgrown actual ghost town.

The News I Need

I started  compulsively reading The Washington Post online the morning of September 11, 2001 in my office in Northwest Washington, D.C. After the attacks there were the anthrax letters and the snipers. My office was only a few miles from my home, but it was across the Potomac River. I used to fantasize about how –if Chain Bridge were blown up–I could swim across.  I didn’t need to resort to that and things returned to an uncomfortable new normal.

The last few days, I have been reading the  paper compulsively again. Sure enough, almost every time I log on, there is a new red (or sometimes black) breaking news banner. I am resolving to control myself. Tom and I plan on going camping tomorrow.

The News I Need Today

Although people will not be able to see it for awhile (the Smithsonian Institution is closing for now), there is a lovely exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum: Chiura Obata: American Modern. Obata’s art and his words are the news I need today. Please be well.

Sequoia feet

Sequoia feet

 

 

Today (EST)

About thirty minutes ago I gave myself the choice of spending the afternoon finishing Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, watching an afternoon NFL football game, or–now that summer appears over–putting up some final summer flower photos.  I think the novel is wonderful, but it is too emotionally challenging for me today.  I love football, but I was in the stands when Michigan beat Maryland yesterday; that is enough.  So, I am posting some photos. With them, I send my (still) hopeful wishes for us all.

tulip poplar flower, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

pitcher plant, Bartholdi Park, Washington, DC

Dutchman’s pipe vine, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, Washington, DC

bee on phlox, Mt. Cuba Center, Hockessin, Delaware

monarda

unidentified, June 14, 2019

at the National Arboretum, Washington, DC

pickerel weed, Punderson State Park, Ohio

pinkweed, Punderson State Park, Ohio

pussy ears, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, Washington, DC

toad lilies, Bartholdi Park, Washington, DC

swamp titi (Cyrilla racemiflora), USBG Regional Garden, Washington, DC

Narrowing and Focusing: Traveling Home

The Watchman, Zion National Park

I began teaching composition approximately 45 years ago.  In all that time, I am not sure that I  managed to help many novice writers become more effective writers of expository prose. However, I did read hundreds of essays and write many comments.  Over the decades, I found that the same few bits of advice remained constant: narrow and focus the topic, have a clear thesis, give specific examples, and do not overstate.

I am thinking of about expository prose today because I am struggling  (again) with my own writing.  How will I be able to distill a six week road trip into a narrow and focused thesis-driven post that includes specific examples and which does not overstate?  I don’t know–maybe I won’t be able to manage it–but I can comfort myself with a bulleted list. I don’t  understand writing, but I do believe words have power.*

  • Our Route: Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Arizona, California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia
  • Birds: I hauled along my new binoculars (see Vision Quest), but I didn’t use them much. The binoculars seem a little heavy around my neck and they annoy me when they bang on my chest when I walk.  Still, I think I spotted a few golden eagles this trip, and perhaps a bald eagle.  We saw  hawks, Steller’s jays, a red-headed woodpecker in Wind Cave National Park, a hairy woodpecker in City of Rocks National Reserve, and more.
  • Favorite Set of Facts: “Roosevelt credited his Dakota experiences as the basis of his ground-breaking preservation efforts and the shaping of his own character. As president 1901-09, he translated his love of nature into law. He established the US Forest Service and signed the 1906 Antiquities Act, under which he proclaimed 18 national monuments. He worked with Congress to create five national parks, 150 national forests, and dozens of federal reserves–over 230 million acres of protected land” (From the National Park Service information pamphlet for Theodore Roosevelt National Park).
  • Not narrowed, not focused, not in proper order, but here is my thesis: We traveled home the whole six weeks of our journey.
    • Home was with my brothers and sisters-in-law.  We visited them in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan at the beginning of the journey. Later on, we were lucky to be able to travel in Nevada, Arizona, and Utah with two of these dear ones.
    • Home was with our friends in Salt Lake City and near Cromberg, CA.
    • Walking through mountains, forests, prairies, and canyons felt like home.
    • I am from Michigan: Water has always felt like home to me.
    • North Rim and Zion: it was old home week for the soul.
    • Kind strangers we met along the way made us feel at home. (Tom just suggested that I need to be more specific. Haha, see one of the bits of advice, above. I am talking about the bellman at North Rim, the tour bus driver in Zion, the server at the Duluth Grill, fellow hikers on the trail, people in line at the Huron Mountain Bakery in Marquette and many others.
    • Tom and I were on the road again, but we were at home together.

*NOTE: Because of the ongoing Kavanaugh debacle (my home is about 4.5 miles by foot from the U.S. Congress), I am somewhat sad and angry today.  Thinking and writing about beautiful places, family, and friends helps me feel somewhat hopeful.

In the Sierras

in the Sierras

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park, Michigan

Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park, Michigan

Lake Superior

Lake Superior

Grand Canyon from the North Rim

Grand Canyon from the North Rim

Tom above Lake of the Clouds, Michigan

Tom above Lake of the Clouds, Michigan

reading in the van

reading in the van

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

March 2018: Washington, D.C.

Happy spring!

daffodil

daffodil

gulls, people, and Potomac River

gulls, people, and Potomac River

Potomac, Key Bridge, and Rosslyn

Potomac, Key Bridge, and Rosslyn

clivia, National Gallery

clivia, National Gallery

forget-me-nots (?) Rosslyn

creeping speedwell (?), Rosslyn

arms are for hugging

arms are for hugging

March for Our Lives, Mach 24, 2018

March for Our Lives, March 24, 2018

cherry bark, Tidal Basin

cherry bark,Tidal Basin

blossoms from the bole

blossoms from the bole

magnolia blossom and sedum

magnolia blossom and sedum

reflection, Tidal Basin

reflection, Tidal Basin

Tidal Basin

Tidal Basin

Enid Haupt Garden, March 24, 2018

Enid Haupt Garden, March 24, 2018

Statue of Sakakawea, U.S. Congress

Statue of Sakakawea, U.S. Congress

view eastward, U.S. Congress

view eastward, U.S. Congress

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

daffodils near Arlington National Cemetery

daffodils near Arlington National Cemetery

Excuses, Spring is Coming, and One More Staircase Story

day planners old and new

day planners old and new

Excuses Although it is March, I still haven’t transferred all of my phone numbers, passwords, and other data from my 2017 Audubon Birder’s Engagement Calendar to my 2018  Audubon Birder’s Engagement Calendar. This transfer usually happens early in January (see Old Year, New Year: Flexibility, Part 3). Part of the delay may simply be that there is so much minutia scrawled in the 2017 book that I am daunted by the task of transferring it to the new book.

I think the real reason might be more fundamental, though. I have been sitting here — each day at once agitated and inert–waiting to see what happens next to our country. My own version of Potomac fever, I am afraid. And I am afraid: I used to tell my children that our country had had difficult times before and had gotten through it. Now, I believe the current regime and its attendant problems are by far the worst in my lifetime.  I went to one march so far this year and will soon go to another. I sign petitions. I walk. I do my weights and stretches, and sometimes I even do my planks.  I photograph flowers and trees.  On TV, I watch cooking shows and basketball games. I think spring is coming. I believe my hibernation is ending and my hope is growing.

oak leaves and crocus

oak leaves and crocus

scilla, Mary L. Ripley Garden

scilla, Mary L. Ripley Garden

Happy Interlude  In early February, Tom and I camped for three nights in the Big Cypress National Preserve and for one night in Everglades National Park. We saw alligators and manatees; anhingas and egrets, mangrove islands and dolphins, and much more.

gulf fritillary, Big Cypress National Preserve

gulf fritillary, Big Cypress National Preserve

great blue heron, Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

great blue heron, Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

Spring is Coming Wood frogs are mating in vernal pools here in Arlington, Virginia. Salamanders are on the move. Daffodils are blooming and so is the witch hazel and some forsythia. Almost two weeks ago a cherry  tree was blossoming at Arlington National Cemetery. Tourist groups are massing on the National Mall. I think it is time to put aside my 2017 almanac and rejoin this year, this fight, and this life.

sign, Gulf Branch Nature Center, Arlington, Virginia

sign, Gulf Branch Nature Center, Arlington, Virginia

witch hazel, Mary L. Ripley Garden

witch hazel, Mary L. Ripley Garden

early cherry blossoms, Arlington National Cemetery

early cherry blossoms, Arlington National Cemetery


Staircase to Heaven, again

1972–1973 (North Rim and environs)

Did I ever tell you about the time I got dropped off at Pipe Springs National Monument? I was on my way from the North Rim to my friend Anita’s wedding reception in Salt Lake City. Someone drove me to Pipe Springs–on the Arizona Strip–87 miles from the Grand Canyon Lodge where I worked.  I tried to hitch a ride from Pipe Springs to Cedar City, Utah so I could catch a plane to Salt Lake.  At least back then, Arizona State Road 389 was not a well traveled road.

After some time, Pipe Springs National Monument closed for the day. It got dark and I felt forlorn and probably a little scared.  I settled down in the ditch beside the road. I wasn’t about to take my chances standing on the side of the road through the night. I worried some and I slept some.  Morning came, someone picked me up, and I made my flight to Salt Lake and the wedding reception.  I was an idiot back then, no doubt, but all that expansive sky, sand, canyons, and forests made me feel that all was possible, all was good, and I would not be harmed.

Angry and sad aside: Most of my life now, this Grand Staircase, this Colorado Plateau, has been for me not only the land of the beautiful, but also of the good and hospitable. I want to scream and cry and kick and yes, hate, as I see people and entities want to destroy this land. I don’t do those things: I am still trying for the beautiful and good.

So many more stories to tell, but I think I am finished for now.  I wanted to tell you about Hop Valley, the double rainbows on the snowy road to Bryce, pine nut gathering at Cape Royal, the smell of the ponderosas in the sunlight, and Chesler Park in late winter.

Now, I will march, I will sign petitions, I will walk.  In the end of summer, we may be at North Rim again, and, in November I will vote.

Thank you for listening.

Here are some photos:

aspens, La Sal Mountains

near Chesler Park, The Needles, Canyonlands National Park

near Chesler Park, The Needles, Canyonlands National Park

In the Needles District, Canyonlands National Park

In the Needles District, Canyonlands National Park

clouds, Natural Bridges National Monument

clouds, Natural Bridges National Monument

our camper in Capitol Reef National Park

our camper in Capitol Reef National Park

ponderosas on the North Rim

ponderosas on the North Rim

 

 

 

 

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)