Tag Archives: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

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

Observations, Photos

Hello again: For three weeks I’ve been trying unsuccessfully (until today) to write a new post for this blog. I could blame my lack of production on limited access to Internet or (sometimes) even electricity, but that is not where blame lies.  No, the blame lies in my wanting to condense my recent travels and experiences into aphorisms. I have wanted to tell you that I have been living close to the ground, that I am being here now, and that I would rather be a forest than a street. (see, in order, Lao Tzu, Baba Ram Dass, and Paul Simon).  I am beginning to think that it is a bit ironic, not to say pompous, to try to distill into handy phrases my attempts to live more within the present.  Instead, today, I am going to write down a few observations from the last several weeks and share some photos.

Observations:

About identifying flora, fauna, and geologic formations: I am less strict with myself now than in previous times.  That is, if I see some kind of aster, say, I will allow myself to check it off in my flower guide even if I am not 100% sure of the species or sub-species name.  Or, if we thought we saw a western meadowlark, I allow myself to mark it off in the Peterson’s A Field Guide to Western Birds. My copy is over forty years old, falling apart, and now there’s even an app for identifying birds on your smart device—I might as well mark up the guide now.  When I am dead and gone, I don’t think anyone will be inspecting my book to see whether I made any inaccurate identifications.  Re the geologic formations: if I think a layer of rock is likely Moenkopi Formation, I say to Tom and myself, “I think that layer is likely Moenkopi Formation.”

Asters, Kirk Creek, Los Padres National Forest, March 28, 2013

Asters, Kirk Creek, Los Padres National Forest, March 28, 2013

Capitol Reef National Park, March 6, 2013

Capitol Reef National Park, March 6, 2013

A Field Guide to Western Birds

A Field Guide to Western Birds

On tolerance for risk: While I have always been quite risk averse (read: overly cautious, chicken, etc.), this tendency seems to be intensifying. My husband and I love traveling where no one else is around.  On this trip, we’ve spent days on empty roads and deserted campgrounds. We love being by ourselves with the beauty and the silence and the maybe meadowlarks…but. Get us on a muddy hill in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and we turn tail (slowly, carefully, in 4-wheel drive mode) and go back to a more civilized campsite.

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, March 11, 2013

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, March 11, 2013

About our vehicle: We drive a Ford F-150 EcoBoost with a Hallmark (Ft. Lupton, Colorado) Guanella camper. So far, our truck camper has proven to be a yare craft.

Lava Beds National Monument, April 8, 2013

Lava Beds National Monument, April 8, 2013

About bodies of water: About camping at Big Sur—I don’t have the words.  Still, it’s clear to me that I love lakes and rivers more than the ocean. I grew up on a Michigan lake and the voices of the frogs, the calls of the red-winged blackbirds, and the low sounds by the shore are music for my soul.

Big Sur, March 29, 2013

Big Sur, March 29, 2013

Regarding the tastiness of food while hiking: For decades my friends and I have laughed about how good the Vienna sausages tasted below the rim in the Grand Canyon and how toothsome the Gerber’s blueberry buckle was in the Kolob backcountry of Zion. At least this one aphorism stands: just about anything tastes delicious when you’re hiking.  Nothing tastes better than whole wheat bread, peanut butter and (Art’s homemade) jelly sandwiches, accompanied by some carrots, chips, hummus, and clementines, washed down with water.

Lunch, almost finished, Chesler Park, The Needles, Canyonlands, March 3, 2013

Lunch, almost finished, Chesler Park, The Needles, Canyonlands, March 3, 2013

Concerning flexibility: Lately, I’ve been thinking a great deal about my physical and mental flexibility (or lack thereof). However, I think these are enough observations for today.  More on flexibility next time, but now, here are some photos.

Photos:

Pinyon Pine

Pinyon Pine

Flowers, Arroyo Seco, Ventana Wilderness

Flowers, Arroyo Seco, Ventana Wilderness

Gull along Big Sur

Gull along Big Sur

Virgin River beach

Virgin River beach

Presidio, San Francisco

Presidio, San Francisco

Lava Beds Overview

Lava Beds Overview

Snake River Bluffs near The Oregon Trail

Snake River Bluffs near The Oregon Trail

Eel River Campground, Mendocino National Forest

Eel River Campground, Mendocino National Forest

Places and Names

One of the happy memories of my intensive child-rearing days is watching PBS’s Reading Rainbow with our children, Sarah and Robert.  In those hot and humid Virginia summers, the three of us looked forward to piling on the bed, cooling off with the faint air of the window unit, and enjoying LeVar Burton’s light, upbeat delivery of the good news about books (or the news about good books).  My favorite episode, from 1983, featured Paul Goble’s Gift of the Sacred Dog.* In this episode, Phoebe Snow sang a song written for the show by Steve Horelick, “Ancient Places, Sacred Lands,” which evokes the power of American names. I cry whenever I hear the song, including twice this morning. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Odd53Y3d2GM):

Come sit beside me, and hear a story 
Of long ago when the people lived free 
And named the waters, and all the places 
High and low
Refrain:
Ancient Places, Sacred Lands 
Names we know so well 
But no one understands

I guess it is either the English teacher in me or my somewhat obsessive nature that makes me love lists. Furthermore, I particularly love American lists. Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Maya Angelou, Stephen Vincent Benét, Edward Abbey, heck, even Vachel Lindsay please me with their incantations of American experiences, people, and places. 

Why I am telling you this now: For the last seven weeks my husband Tom and I have been traveling by car in the intermountain west in fulfillment of a long-held dream.  I’ve tried to post some insights (or, at least, experiences) of this trip, but that has proven difficult.  I don’t have words to describe the places we’ve seen. I have some photographs (below), but even the best of them are only crude likenesses of what we have seen. Likewise, I can’t describe my emotions accurately either.  Tom and I have been happy and sad, giddy and pensive, and satisfied or not. We have visited some of our dear friends from the old days and found them to be as dear as ever. That is, we have not arrived on a different plane; life has gone along with us on the journey.  So, I have turned to the names of the places we’ve visited, hoping, as with the poets, that some of the power of the places can be transferred to this page:

Colorado, Denver, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Book Cliffs, Utah, Uinta National Forest, Price Canyon, Soldier Summit, Salt Lake City,Quince Street, Marmalade District, Little America, Goshen, Kolob, Zion, Rockville, Springdale, Refrigerator Canyon, Walters Wiggles (a few), Pa’rus Trail, Angel’s Landing, Oscar’s Café, St. George, Ivins, Santa Clara River Reserve, Arizona, Arizona Strip, Kaibab Plateau, Jacob Lake, Vermillion Cliffs, Flagstaff, Coconino Plateau, Mogollon Rim, Sedona, Sally’s house, Teacup Trail, Jim Thompson Trail, Chapel of the Holy Cross, Jerome, Prescott, Thumb Butte, Nevada, Boulder City, El Cortez Hotel, Las Vegas, California, Needles, Mojave National Preserve, Barber Peak Loop Trail, Opalite Cliffs, Banshee Canyon, Colorado River, Cattail Cove State Park, Virgin River Gorge, Springdale (again), Zion (again), Great White Throne, Pioneer Lodge, Watchman Trail, Coalpits Wash, Scoggins Wash, Weeping Rock, Hidden Canyon, Temple of Sinawava, Page, Big Water, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Wahweap Hoodoos Trail, Kanab, Sq**w Trail, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Moccasin Mountain Dinosaur Track site,  Mt. Carmel Junction, Elkhart Cliffs, Long Valley, Sevier River, Panguitch, Panguitch diner, Panguitch in the snowstorm, I-70 to I-15 in the blizzard, I-15 to Payson in the whiteout, Art and Skip’s Mardi Gras, Spanish Fork Canyon, Price Canyon again, Soldier Summit again, Glenwood Springs, Vail Pass, Eisenhower Tunnel, Denver.

 

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*In the last three years I have divested myself thousands of books and papers, but I still have all of our Paul Goble books safe and sound in storage. I highly recommend Goble’s retellings of Native American stories, but you don’t have to take my word for it…. I’ll see you next time.