Tag Archives: Canyonlands

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

 

 

 

 

I Need to Stay Close to the Ground

Some days, weeks, years,  and decades seem difficult.

I think, at heart, I am a simple person.  I believe what Scout told Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird, ” I think there is just one kind of folks. Folks.” I am having a hard time holding to that ideal, or, more precisely, getting the world to accept it.  So what I do is cling to the ground to help preserve my sanity (or at least a bit of equilibrium). My ground includes the bugs, the bindweed, and the first tomatoes in my garden. More fundamentally, though,  I am thinking about the wild (more or less) places I have been lucky enough to hike in.

I had been planning to write a post about the hundredth anniversary of the National Park Service. For a  few minutes earlier today,  I thought the topic was too light for this day, week, month, and year of violence, ethnocentrism, demagoguery, and hatred.  I dropped that thought almost immediately. I believe also what Thoreau said, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

Enough words. Below are a few photos of some of my favorite places within the National Parks system. May we have peace (I still believe in that ideal, too).

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde

Widforss Trail, North Rim, Grand Canyon

Widforss Trail, North Rim, Grand Canyon

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly

fritillary, Yosemite

fritillary, Yosemite

Grand Tetons

Grand Tetons

Lava Beds National Monument

Lava Beds National Monument

Needles Overlook, Canyons

Needles Overlook, Canyonlands

Chisos Basin, Big Bend

Chisos Basin, Big Bend

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

Lava Beds

Lava Beds

Road Trip 2014: Restaurants

Grand Canyon Lodge, North Rim, Arizona

Grand Canyon Lodge, North Rim, Arizona–the dining room is on the left

My husband Tom and I have been on a road trip since January 2, 2014. I want to write about our journey in some—as yet unspecified—epic, metaphorical piece, but I have been finding it difficult to get these—as yet unformed—thoughts into the computer. Experiences and ideas swirl around in my head, but I can’t focus. I think I will start writing about simple, finite topics (e.g., restaurants, bookstores, campsites, hikes, medical misadventures) and hope that concentrating on them will help some of the other ideas settle down and organize themselves.

Path of our trip, in brief: Virginia, Maryland Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, District of Columbia, North Carolina, South Carolina Note: we plan on being in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania before year’s end.

Finite Topic #1: Favorite Restaurants

First, a minor confession: Tom and I are, some would say, foodies.* So, although we have shared many camp meals and picnics, we have ended up going to restaurants more than one might think for a couple of (would-be) adventurers. As Tom says, in our defense, we met in a restaurant— Grand Canyon Lodge in 1971—so, really, all this restaurant going is just a logical progression of how we started our journey together.

Anyhow, you can see from the list above, where we’ve wandered. For the amount of places we’ve traveled and eaten in, one might think we would have a long list of restaurants to recommend, but no, we have a list of six favorite restaurants from the whole trip. While there were plenty of okay, pretty good, or good meals, there are entire states, regions, and interstate highways where we didn’t find food that we loved.** Here’s the restaurant list:

Lunch in New Orleans

Lunch in New Orleans

 

I don’t want to critique the restaurants any more than to say that, in each place, we enjoyed tasty meals made with real ingredients and cooked and served by professional, friendly people.

 

Heading into Alicia's

Heading into Alicia’s

Saigon Bowl, Denver

Saigon Bowl, Denver

*Yes, we travel with whole nutmeg, Sriracha, smoked paprika, and the dowel rolling pin Tom made me.

** That’s not counting the delicious food we have shared with family and friends along the way.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Minidoka Plus Flexibility, Part 1

Forgive me, it has been 57 days since my last post.  I see by the notes in my day planner that on that day, April 14, Tom and I visited Minidoka National Historical Site (http://www.nps.gov/miin/index.htm) in south central Idaho.  I don’t need notes to remember that the winds hit heavy there through the ruins and the winter grasses.  Tom and I were alone there on the edge of some road, where the same single pickup truck drove past us two or three times, but there was no other traffic.  Even with our REI/L.L. Bean/whatever fancy brand jackets, hats, and gloves, the cold and sadness blew right through us. It makes me wonder how that Idaho wind must have felt to the Japanese and Japanese Americans who were relocated to Minidoka in 1942. Afterwards we were going to camp at Lake Walcott State Park, but, as my notes have it, “no dice.” The state park website had claimed a campground was open, but, it turned out that the bathrooms were not unlocked yet, so we headed back to civilization. Tom and I ended up at the Best Western Plus Inn and Convention Center in Burley.

We hadn’t passed through Burley since December 1974. We’d always remembered Burley as the (not historical) site of one of the worst dining experiences of our lives. Tom, our friend Sally, and I were heading back from the Northwest (Colville, Washington and Moscow, Idaho). It felt like we were in some, I don’t know, early Altman film. No one in the restaurant would acknowledge our presence—even though the dump was mostly empty.  I guess we finally got some food. One thing was for sure—we were going to get out of town before sundown. This time around, our server was friendly, and only mildly patronizing. Plus, our meals were merely bad, not extraordinarily so. The food wasn’t poisonous—American cheese grilled cheese and salad that could have come from any school lunch (before Michelle Obama got to it).

Note: It looks like I favor writing about inconsequential personal memories instead an abiding national shame relevant to our current times.  I hope the photographs below can explain a little bit about how I felt.

Minidoka #1

Minidoka #1

Mindoka #2

Minidoka #2

Minidoka #3

Minidoka #3

Minidoka #4

Minidoka #4

Minidoka #5

Minidoka #5

Minidoka #6

Minidoka #6

Enough of that detour:  In April, I told you I was going to write about flexibility, so, please see below.

Flexibility, Part 1: About an hour ago on my way out of my yard to the coffee shop to write, I almost tripped on my own Birkenstocks. I grabbed onto a handy tomato cage and all was well.  Still, perhaps that little non-incident sums up the current state of my physical flexibility.

I’m thinking back to March in Canyonlands. I’m afraid I was a sight (not historical). I was inching up (I originally wrote the word “clambering” but that makes the rate of movement sound more energetic than it was) a small, but steep, patch of snowy, icy slickrock. Generally, I am pretty good on slickrock—I really do clamber on it.  However, I notice that when more variables are added to a task (e.g., steep plus ice, melting snow, mud), I seem to be less flexible now than in the old days. Anyhow, we put on our Yaktrax*, Tom clambered up and then tossed down kindly words of encouragement and the offer of a hand, which I refused with what bit of dignity I had left. Really, I’m not talking about a cliff here, just four or five vertical feet. It’s like if items are not organized—first slickrock, then snow, then a scramble on a narrow trail, etc.—I’m not as comfortable multi-tasking as I used to be.  I don’t know if this is true. I’m just trying the idea on to see if it fits.

I tell you, with my soggy fingers gripping the wet ice, Yaktrax digging for purchase on the rocks below and my not insubstantial butt in the air—and I was wearing my bright blue hiking pants—I was living very close to the ground.

* A couple of weeks ago, I was regaling our daughter Sarah with tales of our hiking and camping adventure, but instead of saying Yaktrax, I think I was calling them Moose Tracks (as in the flavor of ice cream).  Makes me wonder about the flexibility (and reliability) of my cognitive functioning.  See Flexibility, Part 2, coming to this space sometime before another 57 days.

Yaktrax

Yaktrax