Tag Archives: Fishlake National Forest

Old Growth

I take lots of photographs of trees. I often take similar photos: I look straight up to the sky searching for the circling branches. I also take photos of leaves, pine needles, acorns, nuts, and twigs. I mostly haven’t been satisfied with my photos of trunks, but I keep trying. I’ve had a close relationship with trees my entire life and, if anything, I feel closer to them as I grow older.

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Fairfax County, Virginia

First Trees I started climbing trees when I was very young at our home in Detroit. The tree–I think my dad called it a silver maple–was also quite young and I was able to shinny up it and climb pretty far up the branches. I remember being proud of my skill because I was the youngest and the girl. My parents also planted a little cherry tree of some kind in the backyard. I remember swiping a maraschino cherry from the jar in the refrigerator and sticking it on a little twig and announcing that the tree had produced a cherry!  I didn’t fool anyone.* The street trees in our Rosedale Park neighborhood were elms. The trees from each side of the street met in the middle and made a comforting leaf canopy.  Back in the 1950s Christmastime was still reliably cold in Detroit. One night I walked around the block with my dad looking at the Christmas lights.  There was a blue spruce glowing with lights. I must have known it was a blue spruce because my dad told me its name. The magic was so strong that I feel it now, 66 years later.  That mix of the cold air, the holiday lights, the blue tree, and my kind father keep me–even through many long and sometimes trying years–looking up at the trees and sky.

A few years later, my family moved to a lake near Milford, Michigan. When we first moved to our house, trilliums still bloomed nearby in the springtime and we saw deer tracks on the beach. My parents made sure that the builders did not cut down any extra trees when they built our house, so our new world was guarded by a grove of tall oaks and hickories along with the odd little sassafras and wild cherry.  In most of the lawn, the grass grew a little bit thin, but the trees were almost like benevolent gods to my young nature-loving self.  When I miss my home, which is often for a place that I haven’t lived in since 1972, I sometimes miss the trees as much as the people who lived there.**

brother George’s photo of winter dawn with lake and trees from our house

*These early memories  are slightly fuzzy; I might not have been the only one involved in the maraschino gambit.

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

More Trees Through the years, I have been lucky to encounter many trees.  I’ve walked through Michigan woods, Appalachian and Piedmont forests, the grand ponderosa pine forests of the Kaibab Plateau, the bristlecone pines of Great Basin National Park, the redwood and sequoia cathedrals of California, and so many more tree lands. Not every forest or tree needed to be grand for me to love it.  I fondly remember the single small tree on a minuscule pull-out on U.S. Route 89A–then, the only tree to be found on the Arizona Strip between Fredonia, Arizona and the Kaibab Plateau. I can’t remember the species of that tree; it might have been a pinyon pine.

I only started taking photographs (first on little Nikons, now just on phones) about 13 years ago. Nonetheless, I find that I have hundreds of tree-related photos. Below are some of my current favorites.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore, Michigan

redbuds, Sky Meadows State Park, Virginia

Eastern hemlocks, Cathedral State Park, West Virginia

autumn, Arlington, Virginia

Mathews Arm Campground, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

sycamore, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Washington, D.C.

cherry blossoms, Tidal Basin, Washington, D.C.

Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Utah

Widforss Trail, North Rim, Grand Canyon, Arizona

November: Frick Park, Pittsburgh

Frick Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Beach Road, Meher Spiritual Center, Myrtle Beach, SC

Beach Road, Meher Spiritual Center, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Sequoia feet

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, California

North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

red mangrove, Florida

G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area, Markham, Virginia

black walnut, Ft. C.F. Smith, Arlington, Virginia

Enough photos for now, I think.

Old Growth, Part 1 In March 2020, Tom and I heard environmentalist Joan Maloof speak about old-growth forests. Maloof, “Professor Emeritus at Salisbury University, founded the Old-Growth Forest Network to preserve, protect and promote the country’s few remaining stands of old-growth forest. (www.joanmaloof.com/).” Since hearing Maloof’s presentation, Tom and I have been visiting more of these special forests, most recently last month when we walked in the Youghiogheny Grove Natural Area in Swallow Falls State Park, Maryland. I was going to make a bulleted list of the old forests we’ve hiked in, but I realized I don’t really know how many we have encountered. I don’t want to sound like a gaga old woman, but I have two ideas to share. First: not only do forests provide the earth with oxygen, food, shelter, fuel, etc., but they provide me with a sense of wonder and contentment that I don’t often feel elsewhere.  Second, while I am a proponent of  preserving all the old-growth forests that are left, I also want to acknowledge that a tree, a grove, a forest, doesn’t need a special designation to be awe-inspiring.  I do encourage tree lovers to investigate the Old Growth Network and I still want to list a few of Tom’s and my favorite forests below:

  • Kaibab National Forest, Arizona
  • Great Basin National Park, Nevada
  • Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan
  • Cascade Falls, Ottawa National Forest, Michigan
  • Congaree National Park, South Carolina
  • Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Utah
  • Fishlake National Forest (including Pando and Singletree Campground), Utah
  • Cathedral Forest, Cook State Forest, Pennsylvania
  • Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Yosemite National Park, California
  • The Giant Forest, Sequoia  & Kings Canyon National Parks, California

Old-Growth Forest Network sign, Swallow Falls State Park

Youghiogheny Grove Natural Area, Swallow Falls State Park, Maryland

Old Growth, Part 2 I realize that I think, talk, and write quite a bit about trees. I might even repeat myself sometimes. Part of that may be because I am old and prone to reverie, but mostly it is because trees (and birds, bugs, plants, and rocks) help me focus on beauty amid the terrible news that surrounds me almost daily. Side note: I once had an employer who gave me job–at least in part–because, she said, I was a life-long learner. Maybe I am. Now, though, I just want to grow like a tree–like a tulip poplar in flower or just hang on like a pinyon pine on a canyon rim.

tulip poplar flower, Arlington, Virginia

pinyon pine, Colorado National Monument, Colorado

Happy New Year, 2022

When I first considered writing this article, I briefly thought about calling it just “New Year, 2022.” This would be my snarky comment about the state of the continuing pandemic, our national politics, climate disasters, and just about everything else. My terse title would say: nope, not expecting happy things this year either. Almost immediately, though, I remembered that snarky and cynical don’t look well on me. More importantly, I see that all jumbled up with my weariness and anxiety are bits of happiness (or contentment or, at least, acceptance).*

January 31 As it is, I have put off finishing this post until the last day of the month. Luckily, Lunar New Year is beginning, so I am coming in just under the wire. Here is a list of things that make me feel better about going into a new year. I need this list to remind myself of all the good parts of my life.

The people abide. I walk by playgrounds and I see children playing as they always do. Parents are keeping an eye on the kids as parents do. Every time we go to the National Mall, Tom and I see people enjoying the museums, gardens, the ice rink, and food trucks. Despite the continual dose of disturbing news–let alone the wars and rumors of wars–I see helpers and kind people around me every day. I see the workers at my condo and my local grocery store, and those who seek out and help all the lost and lonely ones.

Mosaic Park, Arlington, Virginia

My county still has heart. Tom and I first moved to Arlington County, Virginia in June 1978 and have lived here on an off since. Our children went to school here. In the 1980s we lived a couple blocks from Arlington CentraI Library where I worked part-time. Later I taught immigrants and refugees in Arlington. We were here on September 11, 2001 and saw the Pentagon burning. Again, three decades later, we live a couple blocks from Central Library. Now, in Covid times, Central Library has free WiFi for all in the parking lot, a food pantry, a vegetable patch, and is surrounded by a native plant garden. Most importantly, perhaps, is the library’s strong stand as a safe place for everyone in the community.

Arlington Central Library, Arlington, Virginia

Nature comforts me. I find both wonder and solace in the plants, animals, rocks, and sky that I encounter.

sycamore, Theodore Roosevelt Island
oak tree, Arlington, VA
frog at Long Branch Nature Center
Shenandoah National Park, 2021

Dawn comes. Every day we see the morning light. We follow that light through the day until it is evening. All the light warms us.

dawn comes

We have family, friends, music, and food. I remember the many good parts of my life. I also remember those who have gone. I have listened to Tom play Mozart sonatas almost every day of the pandemic and I feel lucky. It’s the time of year when I remember “Auld Lang Syne.” I shiver or cry or both when I hear the song. I want and need that cup.

For old acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind
Should old acquaintance be forgot
In the days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet
For the sake of auld lang syne

Hope is still around here somewhere. So many words from the wise ones exhort people to live for the day, be in the present, etc. I am on board with that-not that I can do it all that much. I still spend plenty of emotional time in the past and the future, and I am not sure that is all bad. Just a couple of weeks ago, I made camping reservations for early June in Arizona and Utah. Tom and I don’t know how we will feel or how things will be shaping up with the pandemic. We don’t know much of anything. However, we remember the places and people we love from the old days. Maybe we can get to the North Rim another time. Maybe we can visit Capitol Reef and camp on the Aquarius Plateau. Maybe we can go back to Fishlake National Forest and be near Pando (a clonal colony of quaking aspen considered by some to be the largest single living organism on earth) one more time. Maybe we will drink a cup of kindness again with the friends of our youth (now of our age). I am hoping.

I recently bought a new head lamp. I am hoping it will lead me through dark nights to bright dawns.

my new headlamp

*If I were grading this essay, I would comment on the need for more specific language than “happiness” or “contentment.” I hope the examples and the photos add some heft to the words. Happy New Year! (Added 1/31/2022: Chúc mừng năm mới).

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 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)