Tag Archives: Kaibab Plateau

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

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

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

Book Report

I read Wallace Stegner’s Mormon Country (for the first time) in the spring of 1970. That book ignited my passion for reading/almost reading/meaning-to-read books about the Colorado Plateau. Recently, in fact, I have accelerated my reading on this and related topics. This past year, in the camper on the road or in my chair at home dreaming of the red rocks, I’ve read:

  • Stone House Lands: The San Rafael Reef by Joseph M. Bauman
  • The Exploration of the Colorado and Its Canyons by J. W. Powell
  • A Canyon Voyage: The Narrative of the Second Powell Expedition by Frederick S. Dellenbaugh
  • William Lewis Manly’s Death Valley in ’49 published by Lakeside Press
  • Utah Road and Recreation Atlas by Benchmark Maps
  • The Geology of the Parks, Monuments, and Wildlands of Southern Utah: Including Road Logs of Highways and Major Backroads through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by Robert FillmoreGeology
  • Hole in the Rock: An Epic in the Colonization of the Great American West by David E. MillerHole in the Rock
  • The Boy with the U.S. Survey by Francis Rolt-WheelerBoy with the U.S.
  • Roads in the Wilderness: Conflict in Canyon Country by Jedediah S. Rogers (I just started this one)Road in the Wilderness

A relic from before they messed up Glen Canyon: The Glen Canyon Archeological Survey, Anthropological Papers #39 May, 1959 (Glen Canyon Series Number 6), Part 1 by Don D. Fowler, James H. Gunnerson, Jesse D. Jennings, Robert H. Lister, Dee Ann Suhm, Ted Weller. Tom bought me this used from Sam Weller’s Books in Salt Lake City, in 1972—the year I taught school in Page, Arizona.Glen Canyon

I do read other kinds of books: I just finished Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt, the latest in my quest to read all of the Newbery Medal and Honor Books. I also finally read and loved Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens and Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.

Speaking of Books and the Colorado Plateau: Did you know that, according to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (http://www.suwa.org/multimedia/map/book-cliffsdesolation-canyon-region/), the Book Cliffs (from East Central Utah into Western Colorado) is “the longest continuous escarpment in the world?”

For my friends from back in the day: an excerpt from The Exploration of the Colorado and Its Canyons:

Still farther east is the Kaibab Plateau, 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)