JOURNEY OF THE
Part One, Quire Three
Quest for The Solitude
HE FIRST TIME I VISITED
ELLOWSTONE and the Grand Teton as well as many other National Parks in the western United States was during the summer of 1980 in the third year of three years of wayfaring.
During the first two years of wayfaring, I visited many of the national parks in the east and fell in love with the national park system so much so that I even considered a career with the park service, but I held off doing so at that time because I was still not finished my quest to identify the brotherhood of wayfarers.
Upon arriving at Yellowstone earlier this year as recorded on my journal entry at Day
BR, I came upon a national park so very much different from when I found it on my first visit during the summer of 1980, first because of all the man made construction, and yes, there is a lot more of that now.
However, besides all the new man made structures, I found Yellowstone different from my first visit in other ways too.
The difference that first caught my immediately notice is that which was caused by the massive 1988 fire, one which burned over a third of the park′s forest, mostly on the south and west sides. Yellowstone′s forest are almost exclusively Lodgepole pine and it′s pine cones require the heat from a forest fire in order to release their seeds. So all the trees which are now five feet tall are those which have grown back since the 1988 fire, these trees being naturally seeded by that fire.
Amazingly, it has taken over twenty years for these trees to grow to their current five foot stature. Slow growers, do ya think? Yes, slow growers they are primarily because elevation in the park starts at about six thousand feet and rises to the high point in the park at the summit of Eagle Peak, 11,358 feet.
This quire records the passage through several of the national parks during this portion of the journey of the me.
September 02, 2009 - September 02, 2010
ANOTHER WAY Yellowstone is different now from my visit in 1980, is that during this past May there was a lot of snow in many places, so much that not all the park roads were open and the two lakes that I saw, Yellowstone Lake (elev. 7733 feet) and Lewis Lake (elev. 7782 feet) were both still frozen solid.
Also attributed to the 1988 fire, the park is different now from the first time I visited because then, all I could see along both sides of the park roadways was a wall of forest and the only open views available were those at the ends of the roadway ahead or at the feature sites such as Old Faithful, Canyon, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone Lake and etc.
(b1a03-13-20090523.1530) How I remember what Yellowstone from the 1980 visit
However, during my recent visit as I drove along the park roads, I could see not only three hundred sixty degrees of the
snow topped mountains but also the topography below the mountains with their valleys, waterways and a vast number of steam vents all over the landscape on each side of the roadways.
Methinks, that being able to see this larger part of the park′s topography is one benefit that resulted from the fire. Yes, a forest fire can achieve positive results.
(b1a03-13-20090523.1509) How I saw Yellowstone in May 2009.
Another major difference that I discerned is that the vast herds of elk and bison that once roamed the park, even as recent as my 1980 visit, are diminishing big time. Still, I did see a much larger variety of animals during this year′s visit but I attribute that to having a vehicle and being able to stop whenever I desired and especially when I see an animal.
In my travels, I have always made time for stopping at National Parks, seeing some for the first time, returning to revisit others, and for a few, even returning repeatedly. Too, I have been to many of the large National Parks, so many that most of the new parks I will visit during this journey will be some of the smaller, lesser know ones. Well, except for the few remaining large ones in southern California and the southwest desert which I plan to see this trip. Also, during this journey, I wish to visit as many as possible of the seventeen Grand Lodges.
Sometime in the process, I will drive to the small town of Bordertown, NV, north of Reno, Nevada to meet with Jim and Nancy, Bob and Renee and Mark (Renee′s brother). From Jim and Nancy′s home in Bordertown, we will all go to Yosemite NP for a week of backpacking in the wilderness. This trip will begin at Tolumne Meadows in Yosemite and exit seven days later at Agnew Meadows in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. When I talked Bob on Day
BR, he said "Thom, you have got to loose some weight." So, in order to loose weight and at the same time, break in my new boots, I have been waking five miles five times each week, hoping to logged over fifty miles before Yosemite. Also, I have cut out all fast food, now eating fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. Too, I am drinking lots of spring water and taking nutritional supplements to aid me in loosing that weight.
(Day 1125 BR) 50°F.
Previously, I had finished packing my backpack and wrote down everything that I am taking on the seven day backpack in Yosemite. The list includes the following: back pack, tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear, food, my hiking clothing and boots.
No, not really, ha-ha, but that is all one really Needs according to page 148 of The Journey to Katahdin. Now, what else have I include for this trip?
First the pack is the same pack I used in all my previous episodes, you can see a picture of it on page 146 of the book, but the
configuration is changed somewhat. It is a large external frame pack. (weight: unknown but I will weigh the whole pack when it is full.) Also, on the pack are numerous patches and I plan to sew on a couple more later so I have a small ditty bag containing: a sewing kit (one needle, thread, two pieces of 4 inches by 3 inches coated nylon patch material, two buttons, safety pin), my Marine Corps issued can opener, compass, and lighter. Normally, I would include my first aid in this bag but due to the possible encounter of bears, it is kept in the bear canister. This ditty bag is in the bottom-right side pockets. (weight: 2 ounces.) In the bottom-left side pocket is my TP bag containing a roll of toilet paper and an eight ounce plastic bottle of rubbing alcohol. (weight: 3 ounces.) In both of the upper side pockets, I keep my two one liter plastic water bottles. (Weight full: 4 pounds.)
In the main compartment I keep the pack rain cover, trowel, bear canister, clothing bag, camp shoes bag, and tent. My tent is a single person nylon tent and included with it is: a fly, poles, stakes, cord and ground cloth all in several stuff stacks. (weight 3 lbs and 6 oz.) In the bear canister, I place my: powdered meal shakes, powdered drink mixes, energy bars, steel cut oats, raisins, tea bags and supplements. Also, because of the scent factor, the canister includes my toothpaste, toothbrush, tea tree oil, tea tree topical balm, aspirin and grapefruit seed extract. (weight: 22 pounds.) In the clothing bag I place two extra pairs of nylon socks, two extra nylon underwear, (one pair on, one drying, and one spare), one pair of wool socks, nylon trousers, one short and one long sleeve nylon shirt, wool stretch cap, rain poncho and extra bananas. The clothing bag also serves as my pillow. The camp shoes bag will carry any dirty clothes until they are washed.
In the bottom compartment, I place my cooking equipment, camera and food for the day′s hike. The cooking equipment consists of a propane micro-stove (weight: 3.5 ounces) two small bottles of gas (weight: 6 ounces), a titanium cook pot with lid, wood spoon and my sierra cup (weight: 6 ounces). The camera has 12 megapixels, 24X optical and 4X digital zoom with 2 GB SD flash card. Also, I am carrying an extra battery and extra SD card. (camera gear weight: two pounds.)
Strapped on to the outside of the pack are my sleeping bag, ground pad and cap. The sleeping bag is a down mummy bag with stuff sack (weight about 2 lbs). The ground pad is the same one used in Episode One, a half inch foam pad with stuff sack. My hiking cap is has an embroidered PCT patch.
With all the discussion concerning this upcoming backpacking expedition, I must not forget the most important Need, that is the need for my spiritual health to not only stay strong but to continue to progress. Yes, in the top pouch under the flap, I will have my small Bible, reading glasses, my journal, two pens and some Bible tracts to share.
Yes, The Faithful
not only has reference to the
, a grand lodge in Yellowstone park that I greatly desire to visit during this quest for solitude, but this chapter stands as a strong reminder to me that any long distance travel that I involve myself in must be done in such a way as not to lessen any advancement previously attained in the status of being one of the faithful.
I lift my pack, put it on and walk around and it does not feel bad at all. I would guess that it weighs about forty pounds, but that is the weight without the water.
September 03, 2009 - September 09, 2010
LAST NIGHT proved to be a really tough night for sleeping; it must be the soft van floor that I am not used to, but I know that I will get used to it soon enough. For the next few nights, sleep may come easier if I have double scotch.
Thursday, 03 September 2009
. Mount Rainier National Park
(Day 1124 BR) 49°F.
parking lot (1917)
It is still very wet when I climb out of the van and walk into the Inn to take photos. I do not stay long and soon begin taking the back roads on my way south, skirting the east side of Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument and stop for photos of the crater in the distance.
Moving further south, I cross the Columbia River on the
Bridge of the Gods
and then head to Mount Hood National Forest to visit
(b1a03-14-20090903.1536) Mount Hood seen from Timberline Lodge
Arriving in the early afternoon, I take photos and then head south again hoping to arrive in La Pine, Oregon for the meeting. I drive directly to the hall arriving at six-fifty and find that the meeting is on Tuesday, so I continue south to Crater Lake NP arriving there after eleven.
Friday, 04 September 2009
. Crater Lake National Park, OR.
(Day 1123 BR) 50°F.
Sleep well, awake at sunrise and take some photos of the Lodge. Then I commence the loop drive beginning on the east rim taking hundreds of photos. Later, I depart from the east rim to drive out to the Pinnacles and find the abandoned East entrance to Crater Lake National Park.
(b1a03-14-20090904.1114) East entrance to Crater Lake is closed.
When I complete the loop, I stop at the Mazama Store which is a mail stop for PCT hikers and meet four thru-hikers who are here to pick up their bounce box. We talk for some time, then I leave the park by two this afternoon and head for the Oregon Caves National Monument, where I get a ticket for the last cave tour of the day. After the cave tour, I walk through The Chateau (1934) and find that there is a spring fed stream running right through the dining room. Then I return to the journey south driving through huge redwood forests and stop for the night in the Redwood National Park to sleep at a roadside park overlooking the Pacific ocean.
(Day 1122 BR) 64°F.
Awake to an overcast but warm morning with numerous birdsong all about. I get up and just sit for a while taking in the view of the pacific ocean before heading south through the big trees.
(b1a03-14-20090905.1245) California Coast Redwood trees
After several hours with the big trees, I finally say "That is enough big trees for me!" and change my direction to drive eastward and inland toward the mountains. The rivers and mountain ranges in this part of California line up north to south. What this means as I am traveling eastward across northern California, the roads take me up and over one range, then down to the river, then over the next mountain range and down to the next river, and this continues again and again, all along using steep, slow switchbacks up and down for the rest of the day.
Shortly after the sun set, a near full moon rises directly ahead of me while I am approaching Lassen Volcanic National Park. Arriving at the park after nine, I park in the store parking lot, take a shower, have a double scotch and then go to sleep.
Sunday, 06 September 2009
Lassen Volcanic National Park.
(Day 1121 BR) 40°F.
Stealth parking. 40°31′ 51"N, 121° 33′ 43"W
(Begin Journey Week 02)
(b1a03-14-20090906.0830) First before anything else, a cup of hot
I awake at daybreak, having slept very good and set up my stove on the table next to my van and begin heating water for breakfast, coffee first and then oatmeal. Then the store opens and I watch as in rushes a large number of weekend warriors wanting to get there sugar fix. Each comes out with coffee in one hand and cake in the other. A little later, a couple comes out with just coffee and walks to the picnic table across from where I am sitting. I begin a conversation by asking, "Where are you from?" The man who is still standing walks towards me and says "Michigan, where are you from?" Currently Washington, but I have spent a little time in Michigan, in the town of Paradise.
He walks over to my table, we introduce ourselves and then Jack and I walk back to where Sherry is still sitting, join her and we continue to talk. After a while, the conversation moves towards the subject of God with his beautiful creation and I smile thinking I could share the good new with this couple. About this time, Sherry goes inside for a refill and Jack begins to relate how animals do things from instinct but men have free will and do things from emotion which has caused so many problems. I follow that when God created man, it was in his image, not meaning the physical likeness because God is a spirit, but with the same qualities that God has. Then both of us begin to name the different qualities of God.
I pause for a moment, smile and then ask Jack, "Do you know any of the great crowd?" His answer was "Yes, I am one" to which I give him a hug and reply, "Glad to meet you, Brother." Shortly afterwards, Sherry walks out of the store and I tell Jack, don′t tell her. When she arrived at the table, I say "Hello Sister" and give her a hug too. Jack and I tell her how we found out and then we each tell how we came into the truth. We then decide to tour the park together.
Off we go, me in my van following Jack and Sherry on their motorcycle pulling a trailer. We stop at several places and do the short hikes. Later, we stop at the visitor′s center for the rest rooms and a break before heading out separate ways. When I leave the park, I drive out California highway 89 and decide to follow it all the way to Lake Tahoe. I find this route to be a beautiful one along first Indian Creek, then Feather River and finally Spanish Creek. I arrive at Lake Tahoe just after sunset but find this area to be such a turkey trap that I drive north into Nevada and up to the Mount Rose pass at 9000 feet. I stop at the empty parking lot of the ski lift to spend the night. Sunset is seven-thirty, the wanning gibbous moon rises just after nine.
(Day 1120 BR) 45°F.
Stealth parking. 39° 20′ 15"N, 119° 52′ 24.5"W
Awake to a brisk morning just as the dayspring begins and get dressed and out of my van to watch the sunrise. The moon is three hands high.
Then I head into Reno to stop at an outfitter for some final small items for the backpack. Later, I head out of Reno north to locate Jim and Nancy′s home in Bordertown, NV. I had called them yesterday and they were expecting me this afternoon. Upon arrive, I park on the street in front of their home and then hear Jim ask "Is that Thom?"
(b1a03-14-20090910.0747) The Windjammer parked at Bordertown, Nevada
We then meet and Jim offers me the sofa but I say, I just became comfortable sleeping in my van and don′t want to lose the feeling. We talk for a while and later Nancy comes home. I park my
van on the side of their home behind the gate.
(Day 1119 BR) 65°F.
Home of Jim and Nancy.
This day is spent replacing the transmission pan gasket on Jim′s van, the one we will be taking to Yosemite. He had changed the fluid and filter but when he put the pan back on, he did it with a sealer. We determined that the type of gasket he used did not need sealer and after cleaning everything, put the gasket back on with out the sealer. This fixed the problem!
(Day 1118 BR)
Mark, Bob and Renee arrived today and together with Jim and Nancy, we all go to a sports bar/casino for a buffet supper. Afterwards, we returned to Jim and Nancy′s home for Mark, Bob and Renee to begin packing their backpacks. I also make another check on my gear.
September 10, 2009 - September 22, 2010
AWAKE BEFORE sunglow and see a planet that plainly look to be Venus. I have been watching another planet in the evening for over a week thinking all along that it was Venus but after seeing Venus this morning, I immediately surmise that the evening planet is not Venus but instead Saturn. Later, I come to find out that the evening planet is not Saturn but in fact Jupiter. My astronomy skills have seriously waned ever since my return to life in a city.
Thursday, 10 September 2009, Bordertown, Nevada.
(Day 1117 BR) 60°F. Sunrise at 6:30 am
Home of Jim and Nancy.
This morning, I weighed myselƒ, put my pack on and weighed myselƒ again. The total weight was 290 pounds less my weight makes the pack weight 42 pounds. I had been trying to keep it at 40 pounds or less so maybe I will go through my gear again later and see what else I can leave behind.
We all pack into two cars and travel to Lee Vining, CA which is south on US highway 395, arriving at the RV park a couple of hours before sunset and set up camp. Everyone puts up their tents but I just pin down my ground cloth so that I can watch the night sky. Next, we all went to Chart House in Mammoth Lakes, CA for the early bird supper. I had the salad bar which is the best one I have had in a long time. While in Mammoth Lakes, we drop off one of the cars and drive back to the camp site, arriving just after sunset.
After getting into my sleeping bag, I begin to gaze at the stars and right away, directly above me a meteorite shoots across the sky from west to east and lasted for five hands. Also there is a constellation with a very bright star directly overhead but I can′t remember the name of the constellation or the star. Maybe the star is Altair. Sleeping on the ground is just different enough from my plush bed in the van that I am awake most of the night. The moon rose after midnight and in the early morning Venus rose.
(Day 1116 BR) 49°F.
Tent camping at RV park.
I awake at late Sun Glow with the gibbous moon directly overhead and Venus is high in the trees. Today will be the actual start of the backpacking on the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail in Yosemite National Park, but we have to pack up our gear and then put it all in the van, leaving room for Jim to sit in the rear. Being totally ready, I am first to put my pack in the van and now I am able to do some writing in my journal and a little reading in my Bible. The morning begins with a totally blue sky with the waning moon still hanging up above. In a short time we are all packed into the van and driving up into the park, and make it up to Tioga Pass, then drive past Tioga Lake and soon, we arrive at Tuolumne Meadows, elevation 8700 feet where we begin unloading the packs.
Backpacking Day One
There is a photo session in the parking lot and then we begin afoot on the Pacific Crest Trail by 10:00 am upwards into Lydell Canyon. During the first two hours, I am able to walk a strong two and a half miles an hour (5 miles) but in the next two hours, I slow to about two mile an hour. (9 miles) Then during the last mile of today′s walk which probable takes more than an hour. I have to stop often to rest, even putting my feet up twice. Still, the 45 pounds (I added water) is tough to endure: my feet are aching, my legs are aching, my back is aching, actually I don′t think anything isn′t, I am in "brain bleed." It is much like the struggle I endured when hiking through Georgia. I begin using that phrase to describe the feeling that I am having, as it is a total struggle to mentally lift my foot up and move it forward.
The plan was to walk nine miles to a bridge crossing the river and camp there, just before the climb to Donahue Pass begins. I think someone read the map wrong because at ten miles, I have not yet arrived at the bridge but then see Mark on the opposite side of the river setting up camp and I just walk across the creek getting both feet wet. The campsite elevation is at 8925 feet and I arrive here at about 3:30 pm and go directly to the water to wash with my yellow bandana. Bob and Renee arrive at 5 pm. Jim and Nancy stopped somewhere before this campsite. After setting up my tent, we start a fire in the fire pit and begin supper. We will wait here for them tomorrow. It is a warm evening with 65°F. and it begins to rain lightly. (21 northbound and packing, 3 on horses)
(Day 1115 BR) 42°F.
Base Camp, elevation: 8925 feet
I awake after the sunrise; the time was about seven-thirty and immediately start a fire in the fire pit and soon we have plenty of coals to boil a pot of water on. Everyone first has a hot drink and then boil another pot for oatmeal. At about nine-thirty, the sun reaches us from atop the mountains that stand high around this valley. After the tents dry, we all pack out, crossing the river back to the trail. The others head up to the pass but I wait here for a while longer. Finally, at eleven, I too begin up from the base camp. In no time, I pass the group but later stop to rest and Bob and Renee catch up to me. The pathway continues to be "Rocks and Roots and Ruts, Oh My..." up and up and up some very strenuous climbs and soon arrive at 9000 feet.
(b1a03-15-20090912.1132) The view back from which we came.
That means only 2056 feet left to climb to Donahue Pass. Already, I find the air so very thin making it hard to breath. I resort to my deep breathing technique and even though that helps somewhat, I still have to stop often to catch my breath and at each of these stops, I rapid breathe for several minutes.
Later, I arrive at a large pond and after crossing at the outlet of the pond, stop to rest up while checking my map for the path ahead. As soon as I begin up the path, I hear Mark on the opposite side of the lake, who also had stopped for a break, calling out to me to tell me that the trail is on his side of the lake, opposite from where I am. Knowing he missed the trail marker indicating a turn I call out to him, "Didn′t you see the rocks across the trail indicating a turn?" My question cause him to go back for a look see and then he crosses the pond at the outlet. When he catches up to me, we stop to talk and then he tells me "You first" but I know already that I will only slow him down if I walk in front and so say, "No, you first, please." Mark is 9 years younger and in better shape than me.
The trail, which continues south on the PCT begins upward along another steep slope with several switchbacks and in no time
Mark pulls ahead of me. During this climb, I stop often for my breath and once at a cascading stream, I stop, drop my pack and take my brown bandana from around my forehead and dip it in the cold water to wipe my face. Then I gaze up at the wide panorama below me.
(b1a03-15-20090912.1500) The view back from which we came.
At the top of this climb there is a flat valley with a small tarn; the trail passes to the left of the water and then begins climbing again toward a rise to the left. At the top of the rise, I see that the trail climbs down toward another pond. I climb down to the pond, cross at the outlet and stop for a meal under the shade of the few trees that are near the pond. It is good there is shade here above the tree line and over 10,000 feet because the temperature has risen quite high and I am sweating profusely. While I am here, I walk out on the rocks from the outlet and look down into the valley and catch my final glimpse of the Lyell Canyon valley floor far below where we came in from the north.
(b1a03-15-20090912.1535) Last rear view of Lyell before the final climb to the pass.
Looking up, I notice that there is only one more island of trees on the trail between this pond and the pass which looks to be about half way from here to the pass. I decide that I will take my next break there because I am now above the tree line and there are only open rocks the rest of the way to the pass. Then, I begin the final 1000 foot climb to Donahue Pass and it takes me over an hour to climb up to the island that provide a shady spot to rest at. I take off my pack and drink my last water. Getting out my camera and looking around, I notice far below is the upper pond where I just came from. I see a marmot and get a photo of him as he turns to bolt into his crag. Too, I take a photo of my pack showing the pass behind it and just above. Well, it is more like about five hundred grueling feet above. And this last five hundred feet of elevation will most likely take me up to two hours because of how steep the climb is and the high altitude. After a long rest I realize that I won′t get to the pass by sitting here, so I don my pack and step out of the shade and into the open rocks to begin the final climb to the pass and notice that there are no root and ruts up here, just ROCKS.
I follow the cairns and soon after I start up, I see Mark in the distance arriving at the pass. It is very warm on the sun baked rocks and I sweat a lot during the climb. It takes me well over an hour for me to climb to the pass, and by the time I arrive on the north side of the pass, I am in total brain bleed
and my pace has slowed to a crawl. At the last rest stop, I had the insight to hang my camera around my neck so I would not have to stop to take it out of my pack. Somehow, I knew that by the time I arrived at the pass, I would not be able to take off my pack for the camera, or for that matter be able to do any thing short of keeping my steps going. I did however, stop, turn around and look back down the north side, camera at the ready, and see the upper pond where I crossed earlier after climbing steep switchbacks. The tree island is the very small area to the right.
(b1a03-15-20090912.1630) West view from Donahue Pass, elevation 11,056 feet.
I am totally out of breath, but I walk slowly by a small tarn in the pass and up to the three signs marking Donahue Pass, the National Park and the National Forest. It is very windy here and the temperature is much lower so in order not to get chilled, I stop to put on my long pants. Then, I continue over the pass and just on the south side, I come upon Mark sitting down and waiting for me. He says that he waited in the pass but got too cold and then moved to this protected spot. We talk for a bit and decide that it is too open and cold on top and it would be better to continue down from the pass to the first water. He then takes off down from the pass and is soon out of site. I should have rested up much longer but I put my pack on to continue after him and the walk down becomes another brain bleed for me, I even stumbling a couple of times.
(b1a03-15-20090912.1730) Walking from Pass into the Ansel Adams Wilderness.
Nevertheless, I continue to put one foot in front of the other walking very slowly for about an hour and when arriving at the first water call out for Mark. No Mark! I take off my pack to rest and look back at
Donahue Pass. I arrive at the second water and again call out. Again, No Mark! Soon after, I stop to rest again because my brain bleed is increasing exponentially. While resting, I think about the first two waters and conclude that there was no place to set up camp. So I continue slowly putting one foot in front of the other until I see water once again. I call out and this time Mark answers so I walk off the trail and see his tent. When I arrive at the campsite, I drop my pack and immediately put my feet above my head by lying down on a slanted rock for ten minutes. Next, since it is much cooler here and I am getting chilled quickly, I get out my rubbing alcohol and proceed to take an alcohol bath and put clean clothes on. That did the trick to get me warn and next set up my tent, get water from the pond to boil water for a cup of hot tea, a hot meal replacement powder (MRP). I can not drink all of the MRP so pour it down a ground squirrel hole. In a little while, I hear Mark zip up and after I put the rain fly on my tent I zip up too. It is 43°F. at sunset. Later, the night seems to noticeably warm up. (10 northbound and packing)
Sunday, 13 September 2009
. Ansel Adams Wilderness, CA.
(Day 1114 BR)
High Meadow Campsite, elevation: 10400 feet.
(Begin Journey Week 03)
I awake after sunrise to a warm morning at about six-thirty and then work on packing my gear while the tent rain fly dries. Soon, I pack the fly and continue to work on my journal for a couple of hours. Mark unzips at eight-thirty.
(b1a03-15-20090913.0953) First water in Ansel Adams Wilderness.
After we talk, we decide to stay here until the others climb over the pass and arrive here. Mark then heads out across the valley to explore as I continue writing in my journal. I check my thermometer and it is just over 70°F. Earlier, I only heard one bird but have seen several fly by. Also, except for the marmot and some chipmunks, I have seen no animals, especially no bears yet. Mark has been gone now for about an hour and I decide to stand up to see if he is nearby. It is a good thing I do because it seemed that he was looking for the camp site but could not find it. When I stand up on top of a large rock, he sees me and heads for camp.
Then at ten-thirty, Bob and Renee walk up and tell us that they stayed at Donahue Pass last night; that it was really cold. They don′t take off their packs but continue south on the PCT saying that they want to make it to Thousand Island Lakes today. I finish packing and begin afoot at eleven and Mark passes me in less than a half hour. We are together for a short time when someone walking the opposite direction offers to take a photo of us. The PCT continues downhill passing several creeks, several side trails and soon the trail drops below ten thousand feet elevation only to begin back up towards Island Pass. The same struggle I experienced yesterday trying to catch my breath begins anew. Later during this climb I catch up to Bob and Renee who are also struggling and walk with them the last portion up to Island Pass. (Elevation 10205 ft) I suggest that we stop at one of the lakes just after the pass but they said that Thousand Island Lake is less than two miles ahead and besides, Mark is carrying Renee′s sleeping bag and that he is pushing ahead to find a camp site at the lake.
OK, I say to them, let′s go to Thousand Island Lake.
(b1a03-15-20090913.1558) Thousand Island Lake in Ansel Adams Wilderness.
After the pass, the rest of the walk slowly descends atop a ridge towards the campsite with superb views down at Thousand Island Lake and this section is no where near as bad as the previous climbs. Also, it appears as if there really is a thousand islands in the lake. All along this ridge, Mount Ritter, elevation 13143 feet looms as the backdrop and my camera is constantly clicking. The path then begins downward and I watch as the water slowly gets closer and closer. At one point with a great view, I continue on around a switchback and then take photos of both Bob and Renee when they arrive at the point.
Soon after, we spot Mark on the opposite side of the lake standing out on the point. Continuing, we walk across the outlet and around to the campsite on the point. Immediately I go to the water to clean myselƒ using my blue bandana.
Later, Bob asks Mark, "Are we on vacation yet?" Then Bob cooks supper and offers me some but I am so tired that I spill the food. So, the nice guy he is, he offers to refill my cup. I guess every one is as tire as me because everyone goes to bed before sunset. The wind blows hard most of the night and again, there are no bears who come to visit. I think that I am getting use to the ground here because I fall asleep rather quickly. (17 northbound and packing, 2 dogs packing)
(Day 1113 BR) 35°F.
Thousand Island Lake, elevation: 9833 feet
Awake before sunrise with just a little color in the sky and then the sun pops up above the mountains in the distance. It is much colder this morning; Bob and I get up to make hot drinks and then oatmeal.
(b1a03-15-20090914.0715) Thousand Island Lake camp site.
Next Bob walks to the lake to do some fishing. I join him for a little while and then it begins to snow lightly. Next, the fog rolls in, the temperature rises to 50 degrees and I take a photo of Bob at the lake.
(b1a03-15-20090914.0727) Thousand Island Lake in the morning fog.
Soon the sun comes out from behind the clouds and it warms up to 60°F. Earlier, I had retreated back to my tent to get warm but now the sun is doing just fine. Later the Great Fisherman comes back into camp and says "There are huge fish swirling around my fly" and Mark replies, "Are those the appetizers?" Bob says "I am hungry" and Renee gets out the cooking gear. A little while later, someone hears a whistle and then Renee says, "There they are, up on the point." I took a couple of photos of Jim, Nancy and Andrew, zooming in for a close up of them just coming off the point. Then Bob asks Renee to do the dishes because he is going to hike up to carry Nancy′s pack. I offer to do the dishes and begin heating water. Renee then begins doing laundry and asks me to string a clothes line. Afterwards, I wash some of my nylon clothes and hang them on the line too.
(b1a03-15-20090914.1310) Nancy, Andrew and Jim with Bob leading the pack.
It is about two in the afternoon when Bob, Jim, Andrew and Nancy arrive in camp and begin setting up. Bob goes fishing again. Jim asks Nancy for his power bait and when Nancy finds it in the bear canister, Jim and Nancy go fishing too. Mark takes a nap. Renee finishes their laundry and then joins the fishing crew. I rest on my sleeping bag for a while and Andrew comes by to talk about backpacking and how there are so few in our brotherhood who go backpacking.
Then Renee comes back into camp and says "Guess what? Bob wasn′t catching anything and I asked if there was a barb on the hook. There wasn′t. Now maybe they will catch something."
Later, Jim and Nancy return with no fish followed later by Bob and Renee also without any fish. We have supper and then get into the sack because it becomes very cold. I clean myselƒ using rubbing alcohol and my purple bandana.
(Day 1112 BR) 29°F.
Thousand Island Lake
It has been a very cold night and had my green bandana across my face to sleep and now wait still zipped up for the sun rise. This camp is a quarter mile west of the outlet on a large peninsula protruding out from the south side of the lake. As I lie here, I notice there is light on the eastern horizon and upon opening my tent fly see the moon begin to rise; a waning crescent. An hour later, Venus rises and finally some time later, the dayspring begins with the moon just two hands high.
Now outside my tent, I continue to watch the dawning and notice the stars are fading one by one. Soon, all the stars have vanished behind the cloak of daylight leaving only Venus and the Moon visible. The dayspring continues and slowly, even Venus fades in the increasing light of sunglow. A small bird flies across our camp heading south. Moments later a flock of duck fly directly overhead and land in the lake north of here all along making familiar sounds on the water. In the west behind me, the mountains are beginning to radiate from the sunglow causing the surface of the lake to becomes clearly visible. Looking across the completely still water, I see countless swirls on the surface from the movement of fish beneath.
Sunrise is very close now as the sky is bright from the sunglow. The daylight just hit the top of the high peak to the north, the one we walked beside to reach this lake shore. Behind me, the sun light is slowly advancing down the mountain. I tune in to a different sense and notice that the birdsong is now at concert level with new birds joining in from their perches all about me. Suddenly, a loon′s shrill cry pierces the air drawing my eyes back to the lake to find the continuing swirls from the fish.
Turning back towards the east, I see that the moon is now five hands high and Venus has become cloaked within the increasing brightness coming from below the horizon. The light on the mountains is very bright and it′s line which is enveloping the shadow is heading down the flank of the mountain towards the lakeshore. Sunrise is imminent but sunglow seems to linger for just a moment longer.
Again, I tune into my hearing and notice a strange absence of sound, all has become quite as if waiting in suspense for the appearance of the sun. I look at the hill to the north an watch the sunlight as it comes racing down toward the lake when suddenly the sun explodes above the eastern horizon. Here below, the lake is absolutely still, the wind becalmed, birdsong absent, all is quite at this moment except for the company of backpackers snoring in nearby tents.
(b1a03-15-20090915.0708) Early morning on the lake makes for a tranquil scene.
Later, when everyone awakes, we all have hot drinks and while the oatmeal is being prepared, Bob goes fishing. After cleaning up, and since the catch from this lake is nonexistent, most want to bushwhack over the knoll to the next lake. At first, I do not like the idea because I have never had success bushwhacking off trail. But when Jim says that the path is a horse trail, I then agree to go with. Mark heads out first, then Bob, Renee and Andrew. I watch as they climb up the side of the hill and disappear over the top. I wait for Jim and Nancy but then leave out just before they finish packing to find a patch of soft ground hidden by trees to dig a hole. As I finish covering the hole, Jim and Nancy walk by and we continue up the side of the hill.
We walk up along the dry creek bed sometimes on a horse trail, other times not and along a flat valley to arrive at Ruby Lake where we stop for a break. Jim scouts the south side of the lake and says "this is the way." From the lake, we follow a clearly designated horse trail around the summit to the pass and stop again, taking breaks because here we are above ten thousand feet in elevation.
When Jim realizes that he has forgot his camera at the campsite, he drops his pack and leaves Nancy and myselƒ to wait for him while he goes back to retrieve the camera. He is gone fourty-five minutes during which time I sew a repair in the rip in my hiking shorts. Upon his return, he says that the camera was just where he left it. We then don our packs and continue down to Garnet Lake, arriving at the campsite to set up. I see below at the lake that Bob and Mark are fishing and we are told they have caught five brown and three rainbow trout. Mark returns to camp and is sitting by the fire when someone asks "Where′s Bob?" I reply "He is in a battle of wits with the fish!" and Mark says "Well, then, he will have half a chance."
(b1a03-15-20090915.1334) Fishing is successful from the point on Garnet Lake.
I begin building the fire, pulling the coals to the front of the fire pit, adding fuel to the rear, so as to have a good hot fire for cooking the fish. After the fish have been cleaned and breaded, I begin cooking them along with couscous, beans and rice. After everyone is stuffed, we sit around the fire until the stars come out. As the fire dies and the temperature drops, the sleeping bags lure each of us to it′s warmth.
(Day 1111 BR) 29°F.
Garnet Lake, elevation: 9878 feet
Awake after sunglow to a frosty morning. Last night was nice, not to cold and I slept well. It did not get cold until this morning. I rise and walk to the lake to take photos, particularly of the mirror-like lake reflecting the image of Mount Ritter. Jim and Andrew go to fetch water and we heat the water we have for hot drinks. I drink a cup of tea and then Mark offers me an instant coffee. Such a treat!
(b1a03-15-20090916.0709) Early morning reflections from Garnet Lake shoreline.
When Jim and Andrew return, we begin breakfast and afterwards, Bob goes fishing. Later he comes back with two trout and Renee gets out the stove to cook them. While sitting at the fire, we mentally divide the total cost of the fishing licenses by the number of fish caught, we come up with fourteen dollars per fish. Still, we agree that the cost was well worth the fresh quality and taste of the fish eaten. Earlier, after learning that Jim, Nancy and Andrew were leaving today to begin the walk out, I thought about it and decided that I would rather not sit around all day here at this lake. After packing up our gear, we four say our goodbye′s to Bob, Renee and Mark and walk out of the campsite along the Garnet Lake trail.
(b1a03-15-20090916.1115) High above Garnet Lake walking to John Muir trail.
At about an hour into the walk, we arrive at the John Muir Trail (JMT) and continue south on it high above Garnet Lake. When we arrive at the wooden bridge over the lake′s outlet, we stop for lunch.
(b1a03-15-20090916.1229) John Muir trail wooden bridge at Garnet Lake outlet.
After eating, we leave the JMT and scramble down a steep rock wash to the river below where we stop for water and a snack. Then we begin the long walk south along the hot and dusty Pacific Crest Trail, also called the River Trail and I continue ahead of the other three. When I cross a small creek, I stop, take off my pack to cool down with water on my black bandana. I use it to wipe my face and neck several times along this path. Later, I arrive at the JMT trail junction up to Shadow Lake, take my pack off and while waiting for the other three, update my journal.
(b1a03-15-20090916.1644) River Trail, looking down the San Joaquin river valley.
Soon, the three arrive and Jim immediately heads up the JMT to located the the bridge across the river and the campsite which is nearby. I join him in the search for the campsite while Nancy and Andrew bring up the rear. We first find a campsite that has been abandoned and drop our packs and I stay with the packs as Jim scouts the area. In a few minutes, he returns, picks up his pack and says, "The campsite is back here, follow me." In only a short time we are at the campsite, a really nice one with lots of down wood for a fire and set up our campsite. After supper, we all sit around the fire watching the day come to an end while one by one, the stars take their positions in the night sky. (8 northbound and packing)
(Day 1110 BR) 40°F.
River Trail Camp, elevation: 8040 feet
Awake after dayspring, just before sunglow, because there are a few stars still in the sky. We are near the river at the bottom of a narrow canyon and this makes it much darker here but being in this canyon does make it warmer than it was up at the high country lakes. I arise and get the fire going from the coals still burning in the ashes; soon the others also arise and draw near to the fire. Then, there is a cold wind that blows down the valley and shortly after at eight o′clock, the sun peaks out above the valley walls and begins to warm up the entire area. I am packed and write in my journal while I wait for the others to ready themselves for the walk out to Agnew Meadows. I don my red bandana for the walk out.
Just like yesterday, the trail afoot is hot and dusty; soon I reach Olalue Lake (8010 ft.) and stop for a brief break to talk to another hiker. This is a pristine beauty with a mirror image of a large overhanging rock. Continuing down the River Trail I reach the junction to Red Meadows and drop my pack to wait for the trio and do a little reading.
Last Mile of Backpacking
When they arrive, we talk about the path ahead, just one more mile to Agnew Meadow. I arrive first at the River/Shadow trailhead, drop my pack, clean up at the faucet and use the head. When the trio arrives, we discuss the next step and as while they use the facilities, I walk out to the road and wait on a picnic table at the bus stop. (28 northbound and packing, 17 day packers, 4 dogs)
(b1a03-15-20090917.1115) End of the journey, the trailhead at Agness Meadows.
Shortly after Jim, Nancy and Andrew arrive, so does the bus which takes us to Mammoth Lakes Ski Resort where the car is parked. The only problem is that the keys were locked in the trunk, so Nancy calls a locksmith to open the car. When we get in, Jim opens the trunk, retrieves the key and tries to start the car. Nothing! The locksmith then check the computer that programs the keys and finds that the key has not been programmed. He then tells us that he can fix the problem but he will have to cut another as to reprogram any key, two is required. Jim agrees and he gets to work. The trio goes for a beer and I stay at the car. Soon, we are on the road and check into a motel.
Jim and Nancy take Andrew to his car in Yosemite and I go to my room. Once inside my room, I wash everything three times. When Jim and Nancy return with both cars, we go out to eat. Then we return to our rooms and I am soon asleep.
(Day 1109 BR) 50°F.
Confines of four walls.
Being inside a room, the dayspring does not awake me but I still awake before sunrise. I take another shower, finish packing and then walk with my pack to the lobby for coffee. It being quite early, the lobby is empty but in a little while a young man walks in and I say high and tell him my name. He says he is Arnold and from Puerto Rico. After we converse a bit, I offer him a seat at the table where I am sitting. I have previously taken out my journal, bible and a tract. He sits down and we talk more and I find out he is studying to become a MD. I ask what kind of MD and he replies, "Master of Divinity" in the Church of God. I begin to talk about the paradise earth and he says, "That′s very interesting" and it is apparent that he likes what he is hearing. However, his eyes keep looking up at the hallway because he said he was expecting family anytime, so I rap it up by giving he the tract about the paradise. His family does come in and he introduces me and they all depart with an adios.
I go out to the parking lot and find Jim putting a new battery in his van and give him moral support. Soon, we are driving, pick up Elijah and Lynita and then go for breakfast. This couple had started at Tuolumne on Saturday but we never saw them at all on the trail. We figured that they passed us while we were camping at one of the lakes. After breakfast, we return to Agnew Meadows arriving at eleven in the morning (the scheduled meeting time) and wait for Bob, Renee and Mark. Mark arrives at 11:15 and Bob and Renee at 11:23. Not bad! While we waited, two mule trains of people and gear, first seven mules, then six mules went into the park.
Our group, eight in number load into two cars and head for the Devil′s Postpile National Monument where we walk a trail one half mile to see the basalt columns.
(b1a03-15-20090918.1215) The Devil′s Postpile are basalt columns
Next, we all go to Mammoth Ski Resort to check into the condo where we kick back with drinks, popcorn and Monk on the TV. Later, we all go out for pizza and beer, then back to the condo for more TV. I choose a bunk in the loft overlooking the den and next to the window with a south view, then take a hot shower and hit the sack early.
(Day 1108 BR) 49°F.
Mammoth Lakes Ski Lodge
While still under the blanket, peering out the window, I watch as the as the Sunglow begins to fill the sky. When I see the sun′s rays hit the tops of the mountains, I get up and make a large pot of coffee. I also make some hot water and set out cups, spoons, bowls, packs of hot chocolate and oatmeal. Then I put all the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, make some oatmeal for myselƒ and finally sit down to eat and drink my coffee and watch for the others to awake.
Later, we put our backpacks in the van and go out for breakfast where all the others order omelets and hash browns and I just have coffee. Renee asks me why I am not eating and I answer, "I had oat meal earlier." Then she asks "Thom, are you still camping?" I tell her "Yes, but I did not have to use my stove this morning."
Finally, we begin the road trip back to Reno, NV, a drive that will take about four hours arriving at four in the afternoon and begin unloading the packs. I retire to my van to unpack my backpack and repack my gear into the van while the others go out to eat at a buffet. Then, I move my van out of the back yard to the street to be able to move in the morning.
As I sit here on my bench, the sun drops slowly below the horizon and I watch the Sunglow as it brightly colors the horizon. Slowly, the Sunglow fades and then Saturn appears two hands above the southeastern horizon
There are dogs barking at one another throughout the neighborhood. The sky is cloudless and the stars begin to come out. There is a warm wind draws out a soft melody from nearby wind chimes. All is well.
(Day 1107 BR) 80°F.
Home of Jim and Nancy
(Begin Journey Week 04)
Dayspring finds me awake and searching the sky. I see Venus in the east and another planet in the south. There was no moon last night and none this morning, a new moon. I get out my cooking gear, boil water and make oatmeal with raisins. While eating the oats, the sun rises. Later, I go inside to spend a little time with my friends before I move out on the road.
Driving south on US 395 for a couple hours, through Lee Vining, CA and up into Yosemite National Park, but the steep climb into is a hard one and once in the park, my transmission begins to leak. I stop at the Tioga store and buy three quarts of fluid, add one to the tranny and use the other two to drive out of the park into the central California valley. On the way out, I pass some amazing rock formations which just do not seem to stop in Yosemite.
(b1a03-15-20090920.1449) There are numerous campsites along the lake shore
(b1a03-15-20090920.1453) The Rock formations in Yosemite are amazing
At Merced, CA, I locate a transmission shop and stop at a store and buy water, ice and a new pair of reading glasses. Then I find a city park and stop for the night. The sun sets at seven and I look for the moon which I see is just a sliver one hand above the horizon. I begin cooking supper and watch as the stars fill the night sky. Saturn is due south now. Much later this evening there is a cool wind and I am finally able to sleep.
I have given much thought to this backpacking trip and how I truly enjoy being with my friends, especially when we are high atop the mountains. Too, there are so few of my friends who would ever consider putting fifty pounds on their backs and struggling over a mountain pass eleven thousand feet in elevation. Yes, the time we spent together backpacking was the absolute best of times, but there is one thing my friends do that does not quite fit in with my newly acquired life path. I am speaking about the days before and after the wilderness experience, those days of staying in motels and eating at restaurants (the same type of places I have always referred to as Turkey Traps). This way is no longer my way as I wish to avoid the expense as well as the other excesses and entanglements involved. So, to avoid the expense and excesses in the future but not to miss the wilderness experience, I hope that providing my own transportation to the trail head and thus avoid the motels and restaurants.
Further, I would never wish to impose my choice of foot steps on anyone, we all need to choose how we would walk before our creator. Yes, we each have to take our own individual steps even though we may be on the same pathway. During my journey, I have seen that when different ones walk on the same footpath, there may come an obstacle such as a rock in the way. All of us need to get past the obstacle, so some will step on the rock, some will step over it, some will walk around the rock and yes, some will even trip on it, but as long as we remain on the path, the "Way of Holiness," we will each succeed in our journey to find life.
(Day 1106 BR) 75°F.
Today, I awake with my van next to a neighborhood park in Merced, CA. Long story, short, the van′s transmission began to leak tranny fluid, but I was able to buy enough fluid in the park to keep it showing on the dip stick while I drove to a sizable town in the valley so as to find a transmission mart to inspect my transmission. I am waiting now for that to be done.
I just got the report back from the mechanic, the leak is from the front pump seal and the transmission will have to be removed to replace the seal. The good news is that he has the parts and can have the job done today, here is the bad news, at a cost of $633.00. I prayed about this one and decided that it is a necessary repair.
At four in the afternoon, I drive out of Merced, California on CA route 140 following the Merced River back into Yosemite NP, take a photo of the Bridalveil Fall, one of many an ephemeral waterfall here in Yosemite, then drive into the Yosemite Valley and stop at the Ahwahnee Lodge.
(b1a03-15-20090921.1753) Bridalveil falls, an ephemeral waterfall.
(b1a03-15-20090921.1752) Looking up close, there is still water fall.
Tomorrow I hope to take the tour of the lodge. Also, I will explore the valley floor and see some of the park features and sights.
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
. Yosemite National Park, CA.
(Day 1105 BR) 51°F.
I awake just after sunrise this morning, get dressed and have breakfast in the dining room of the Ahwahnee. Nest, I go outside for a few photos.
(b1a03-15-20090922.0738) The Ahwahnee, built in 1927 for $1,225,000
Then I explore the lodge and find a quite out of the way corner in the Mural Room with a desk and chair, a quite place for me to spend several hours writing in my journal and since the Ahwahnee Lodge has WiFi, upload several files to my websites. What a deal!
(b1a03-15-20090922.1134) The Ahwahnee, an out of the way work station
In the afternoon, I head out to explore Yosemite valley and see many an amazing sights. Yosemite is a national park that is close to large population areas and thus experiences massive amounts of visitors; this being the primary reason why I have not previously explored it. During today′s visit in Yosemite, I have become so distraught with the multitudes here in this park, so much so that I have opted to leave it sooner than I had wanted. I drive through the tunnel and was able to take a photo of Yosemite Valley from the very crowded view point.
(b1a03-15-20090922.1454) Yosemite Valley overview
As I drive out of the park, I see what looks like a red fox walking along the roadway. There is no way for me to get a photo of him because he darts into the forest post haste.
So, during this visit to Yosemite, because of the huge amount of visitors, I limit my time here and leave the park early today heading back down to the central California valley floor in order to gain access to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. I drive through Fresno on state highways and then began to climb back up onto from the lowlands, onto the foothills, and finally the Sierra Mountains.
The sunset is at 6:57 and the moon is two hands high and five hands south of the sunset. After sunset, I continued for an hour or so until I arrived at the 5000 foot elevation marker and then stop at a wayside, cook supper, write for a while in my journal and then get ready for the night. However, it is warm tonight and wait for the night coolness to overcome this area.
Sixteen: The Arches and Canyons
September 23, 2009 - October 08, 2010
BECAUSE MIDNIGHT was long past before I could get to sleep, due to the hot weather, I sleep late again this morning; until after eight. I hope for some cooler weather soon so that I can sleep better.
Yet, my plans are to continue here in the central California hot-lands for another day or two in order to visit the national parks here. Later, I hope to move into Arizona and Utah to visit some of the national parks there. Maybe it will cool off by then.
(Day 1104 BR) 60°F.
Road wayside at Sherman Pass on the PC Trail
Upon entering Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks (there is one entrance for both) this morning, I stop at several of the feature sites to see more
big trees. Some of the trees are named for Civil War Generals, such as the Grant tree. Yes, this is the habitat for the Sequoia trees which are cousins to the Redwood trees on the coast in northern California.
(b1a03-16-20090923.1042) The large tree forest in Sequoia.
Also, both of these trees are closely related to the Cypress trees that I learned about and became acquainted with while in the Boy Scouts on the Gulf Coast; all such trees have a bark that is fibrous and very flammable. When in the Scouts, we used the bark of a Cypress tree for tender; a substance used to catch a spark and ignite a fire. (Much like using paper in a wood stove to start a fire.) When driving through both of these two national parks, there is a noticeable absence of the multitudes of people that I encountered in Yosemite.
Here, I am able to drive up to the visitor center and easily park in the first or second space near the entrance. This is so unlike Yosemite where it was required to park in a large parking lot miles away from the destination and take the shuttle. Yosemite was so crowded! In Sequoia, I am just glad to be back in the normal park crowd.
(b1a03-16-20090923.1112) If the knot was hollow, it would hold several people.
Then I exit Sequoia via the southern route and again have to return to the valley floor to proceed to the next national park, Death Valley. The route takes me to Porterville, CA and then East through the Sequoia National Monument, climbing over the mountain and arrive at a pipe
where I stop to fill my water bottles.
(b1a03-16-20090923.1819) Stoping for water at a mountain pipe spring.
This winding road takes me over a pass of more than 7000 feet arriving just in time to watch the sunset. Afterwards, I drive into the next valley, over another pass of 6000 feet and then down to the floor of the California Desert. After driving until nearly ten o′clock, I stop at a truck stop, fill up and then park my van in the back next to several big rigs. Again, I have to wait until my sleeping quarters (the back of my van) cools off before I can go to sleep so I opt to work a while in my journal.
(Day 1103 BR)
I awake late as expected and because I am in a truck stop used the facilities that are available. This morning, I enter Death Valley National Park, drive over a pass of 7000 feet, then down to the first dry lake valley and next back up to over 5000 feet stopping at one view spot which provides a panorama of the low valley.
(b1a03-16-20090924.0850) The view of Death Valley from the western entrance.
Then, I drive down to the valley, stop at the visitors center and walk through the museum. Afterwards, I stop at
Inn but it is closed for the winter.
(b1a03-16-20090924.1132) Furnace Creek Inn built in 1927.
Next, I drive out of the park headed south circling around Las Vegas towards Hoover Dam. It is Thursday so I stop at the Lake Mead Congregation, clean up and get dressed for the meeting. There are two vehicles when I arrive and as I start to go into the Kingdom Hall two brothers walk out and I introduce myselƒ to Del and his study Bill. Del says, "There is no meeting tonight or Sunday because we are going to the circuit assembly." I leave the hall, get back on the highway and head to Hoover Dam and crossing the river on top of the dam.
(b1a03-16-20090924.1406) The view above Hover Dam.
I am impressed with the new
being built high above the dam and 840 feet above the Colorado River. Someone tells me that it has been under construction since late 2005 and the proposed completion date is November 2010. I continue south towards the interstate to take me to the Grand Canyon exit. Hopefully, I will arrive there tomorrow and maybe I will take a day off and work on my journal and website. Another hot day and wait for the evening to cool down. Today, I drive past the 3000 mile point on this trip.
first the Even
Friday, 25 September 2009
. Kingman, NV.
(Day 1102 BR)
Again, last night, I park at a truck stop for the night and it was a busy one with lots of noise and traffic. I sleep until seven-thirty, get up, dump my garbage and use the facilities. Then, I drive into town to find a coffee shop with WiFi to connect to the Internet to do some business. Later. I drive east on IH 40 and take some of the alternate routes so as to drive the Historic Route 66, looking to get my kicks on Route Sixty-Six. What I saw on this section was a group of people just struggling to keep it alive. I continued West on I-40 and then take another business route into Williams, AZ where the Route 66 legend is alive and doing well with numerous interesting shops. I also stop to do laundry, gas up and buy some groceries. I drive the town loop twice to check out many of the amenities.
Finally, I set my GPS for Grand Canyon National Park, begin the drive north and arrive at the Canyon an hour before the sunset. I park in the Mather Point parking lot, grab my camera and walk out to the rim for photos of the big hole.
(b1a03-16-20090925.1742) The view from the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
Afterwards, I drive to lodge parking, walk into the lodge and begin a self guided tour. This Lodge was open in 1905, the architect being Charles Whittlesey. I walked upstairs to the mezzanine lounge where Tom Dylan is playing the baby grand. I sit to listen, then when he stops playing briefly, get up to say hello.
Later, I walk across the entry drive to the Hopi House built in 1908 and serves as a gift shop for native Americans to sell there crafts. At about ten this evening, as I retire, notice that the night air is quite cool here on the south rim and the moon is in the southwest. I get into my sleeping bag and sleep follows soon after.
(b1a03-16-20090926.1756) The Hopi House next to El Tovar.
(b1a03-16-20090926.0702) El Tovar built in 1905 at a cost of $250,000.
(Day 1101 BR)
I awake at about seven, get dressed and walk into the dining room for breakfast. After eating, I take my computer to the lower
lobby and set up to work on my files. At about four in the afternoon, Tom Dylan begins playing again, it is nice to have some music to work by. I wanted to get some of my wilderness backpacking journal typed into the online journal but there has been many other things to do. Later, I pack up my computer and take care of some things out at my van but return shortly after sunset to the mezzanine lounge to continue in my journal.
Here in the mezzanine lounge with piano music to listen to and a whole lot of words to type, I sit until about nine-thirty pm and accomplish much by way of the journal. Several people say a greeting during the evening and I offer each my card. Now, it is late and I must retire to my sleeping bag.
(Day 1100 BR)
Grand Canyon National Park, El Tovar
(Begin Journey Week 05)
I awake at early sunglow but put the pillow over my head and sleep for another hour. Then upon arising go to the mezzanine for coffee and to work on my journal as well as organizing my photos that will be linked to the journal. Finally, I work on completing the previous daily entries that were not finished. I have been here since Friday and will stay at least one more night before driving to the north rim to see the Grand Canyon Lodge which opened in 1928. I guess the main reason I am staying here for so long is that El Tovar has free WiFi and not only have I had internet access but I have been making a few phone calls on my VOIP phone.
A little later, while taking a break from the keyboard to walk to my van for something to eat, I see a crowd forming in front of El Tovar near the rim walk and bringing my camera, I join them to see what the photo subject is. Once at the rim, I see a family of mountain goats on ledges about twenty feet below the rim walk.
(b1a03-16-20090927.1440) A long horn Ram on the goat walk below the rim.
Also, a long-horn ram walks by a few minutes later. It seems that just below where we people are congregating, there is a major thoroughfare for the animals in this park. After long hours typing, I finally go out to my van and get into my sleeping bag. The air here is quite cool at night, perfect for sleeping.
(Day 1099 BR)
Grand Canyon National Park, El Tovar
Today, I arise well before the sun does, about five-thirty and walk out to the rim to take pictures of the dayspring. When I arrive, I am completely alone in the dark but in a short while many more show up.
(b1a03-16-20090928.0530) The morning sunglow at Grand Canyon.
I am surprised to see so many who get up to see the sunrise. I take photos of first the
, then the
and lastly the
making a beautiful dayspring. I could tell that a grand day was brewing. Afterwards, I see a crowd forming at one of the grass areas in front of El Tovar near the rim walk and I join them to see what the photo subject is. It turns out there are a mother and kid mountain goat on the lawn grazing on the grass.
(b1a03-16-20090928.0637) Mountain goats on the green lawn in front of El Tovar.
After a few more people show up, the goats become uneasy and finally jump out of the enclosed grass area, making a dash toward the rim edge and leap over the wall into the big hole. Seeing this, I am shocked, thinking they are lying hurt below, so I run to the rim edge and look down only to see both walking quietly on the ledges about twenty feet below the rim walk. Methinks that these animals have done this before and know precisely where to leap. Amazing! From the lower ledge, the goats climb up onto some rocks seemingly to catch a morning sun bath.
(b1a03-16-20090928.0645) Mountain goat sunning on the cliffs in front of El Tovar.
After this performance by the goats, I go back to my van to have breakfast and then go into El Tovar to the mezzanine lounge to work more on my online Journal. It seems that I have a little more privacy here but I still talk to several people and pass out more of my cards. Then about twelve-thirty I pack up my computer and return to my car to prepare to depart, after which I leave El Tovar and head east out of the park. Soon, I stop at a roadside park to have lunch, and as I pull up, there is a couple getting into their car, so I said "This is a nice shady spot." They looked at me puzzled and said what? I repeated myselƒ but they still did not understand me. It was at that point that I realized they did not speak English. I get out of my van and jested to them by walking into the sun and saying "Sunny" and squinting my eyes. Next, I moved back into the shade and said "shady, bueno!" They laughed and get the message. We begin talking and find out that they are Italian, so, immediately, I say Bon Journo and again they smile. Continuing the conversation, they tell me they are here for three weeks to visit several national parks and then are going to Las Vegas. Such a nice young couple and offer them my card.
When they leave, I have a couple of flour tortilla with tuna fish, green onions and mustard. I choose to carry these ingredients because none require much if any refrigeration. Great lunch! Along the road east, I stop at several view spots, actually there were one after another and I talk to quite a few people, even one family from Norway. I tell them that I have spoken to many from Holland, Italy and Germany, but they are the first Norwegians. Then I stop at the ruins of the ancients to walk thru the site.
Next, I stop at the Desert View Watchtower, go inside, climb the 85 steps to the upper chamber and take several photos. When I talk with Dylan, one of the help, he informs me about the building and its history. Finally, I go outside to find a large and growing crowd who are evidently here for the sunset, so, I say out loud, “I heard there is suppose to be a sunset or something here.” I hear several chuckle and think to my self, “I do so like to work the crowd.” I take my place among the throngs on the point and watch a beautiful sunset.
(b1a03-16-20090928.1810) Sunset above Grand Canyon near Desert Watchtower.
After the sun has set, I walk away from the point with another couple who says they are here only "for the sunset." We talk as we walk to our cars and I hand them one of my cards. They ask about my camera and I say it has the best zoom than anything I have seen. Then to show them how good the zoom is, I take a photo of the moon and show them how it fills the camera′s two inch viewing screen.
(b1a03-16-20090928.1829) Moon above Grand Canyon near Desert Watchtower.
They are impressed and so am I because I have never zoomed in this close on the moon before. Afterwards, I get into my van, leave the park and head toward the North Rim, stopping at a turnout on the side of the road because of being exhausted. Just a few minutes after I stop, a state trouper pulls into the same turnout and asks if I am OK. I tell him that I am stopping because I am tired and need to sleep. He says "No problem" and leaves.
That was funny, he must have had a speed trap just ahead and saw me on his radar stopping alongside the road. It is time to write in my journal because it is quite warm here. I really need to sleep and long for a cool breeze to allow me to do so.
(Day 1098 BR)
US 89 A roadside turnout
After the sunglow wakes me, I drive to the next town for a cup of coffee. I know, I am carrying everything to brew my own, but I guess I have become too accustom to having someone pour coffee into my cup. Nevertheless, it is nice to not have to get out my stove. I continued west on US 89 A to Navaho Bridge where I stop to take some photos and see a California condor sitting on the under structure.
I wait until he begins to move and then take several photos of him sunning himself. I notice that he has the number A6 attached to the inside of both wings.
The next stop is at
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. After photographing the cliffs, I continue on to the North Rim, arriving there mid morning, park, and then walked directly into the Grand Canyon
Lodge, built first in 1928, burned in 1932 and rebuilt in 1938. When I arrive at the front of the Lodge, I am not impressed, but when I walk in, I say
Wow several times. Then when I walk around behind the Lodge, I say "Amazing" and not only because I can see the canyon but because of how the Lodge looks on the south side facing the canyon. Then I check out the showers and find that it cost $1.50 for seven minutes. I can not pass up that value. I also wash some nylon clothes, ring them out and then hang them on the rack in my van. They dry in about an hour while I drive towards Zion.
The highway I choose takes me first to
Pipe Springs National Monument which is not more than a very good spring that because of where it is located, it was instrumental in settling the
Arizona Strip, the land north of the Grand Canyon. Then after entering Utah, I drive over a pass and begin down into
Hurricane Valley at which time the sun begins to set. I stop and get a large panorama of the valley. Then I drive into Hurricane, Utah and find the Kingdom Hall to park and take in some meetings. It′s eight pm and it is another warm night but I will try to get some sleep.
(Day 1097 BR)
Overnighting at a parking lot
The warm weather does not cool off until late keeping me awake most of the night. When dayspring begins, I cover my head with my pillow to sleep a bit longer. Soon, I arise, make some hot coffee and hot oats. Then I get dressed for the service meeting and at nine this morning, there are about fifteen who meet at the hall. I meet Shawn and his parents, Ron and his wife Arlene, Ed, and several more. Ron conducts the meeting and he, Shawn, Ed and I work together this morning. I learn much from Ron about the logistics of understanding the local people. The task is daunting! Still, we are able to talk to several who listen but no one accepts the offer. We finish at three-thirty and Ed takes me back to the hall were my van is parked. I go into town for a few errands and then back to park near the hall for the evening. After supper, I am tired and go to bed early, at about eight and fall asleep right away.
(Day 1096 BR) 49°F.
Overnighting in a parking lot
I awake at early dayspring, during even, before the cockcrow. The weather front that came through yesterday lowered the temperature which made sleep so much more comfortable for me. I guess I an still acclimated to the cool weather of Puget Sound. Also, I did change time zones when I crossed the Colorado River at Hoover Dam so the sun is now rising an hour later, according to the clock.
Again, I meet with the field service group, a smaller group of six. Four of us, Shirley, Jim, Ed and I work in a rural territory with mostly orchards and horse ranches. We do talk to a few even though most people are not at home. At one home, I begin my presentation and the householder asks "Who are you?" I introduce myselƒ and tell her that I am with the local congregation and she says "So am I!" It is nice to meet one of the sisters in the field. Later, I drive to town to find a WiFi signal so as to check e-mail and update my journal. I will do some shopping now and then head back to the meeting.
After the meeting, I exchange names and e-mail address with a few of the brothers and then go to my car. I change into my driving clothes and then drive first to Zion but then backtrack to Virgin, Utah, where I park at a roadside park. It is after eleven and quite cool out already.
(Day 1095 BR) 49°F.
I awake at dayspring, get up because I am cold and begin thinking about the first time in this park, when my life was in dire straits. For years I have wanted to return here to locate some of those places where I had been at that time. I spend some time trying to locate the campground laundromat, which in 1980 served me as a refuge after escaping from the blizzard on the Zion National Park high trail, but the campground together with the laundromat appears to be long gone. So, I give up the search and drive back to Zion National Park, stop at the visitor′s center where I board the shuttle into the valley floor. I stop at several of the bus stops to take pictures and even walk along the paved Riverside Trail to the beginning of the wet foot path to the
Narrows but do not proceed further because the water level is high. Others do walk into the Narrows but those ones came prepared with boots or waders. Then I reboard the shuttle and stop at the museum for a ranger talk and learn about being an animal detective by being aware of animal holes, tracks and droppings. The presentation is very well done and quite enjoyable. Later, I stop at
Zion Lodge for a short look at this building.
(b1a03-15-20091002.0900) Court of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
(b1a03-15-20091002.1056) Amazing Art found in Nature.
(b1a03-15-20091002.1535) A windows cut for light and air; east park exit tunnel.
Upon arriving back at the van I break out the kitchen to prepare and eat lunch, after which I drive toward the east side of the park, through a tunnel and take many photos of sandstone formations on the way out of the park. I continue driving north and enjoy Red Canyon National Forest.
(b1a03-15-20091002.1729) Tunnel is natural but likely enlarged for highway.
Then, just before sunset, I arrive at the
Lodge in Bryce Canyon National Park and stop for the night. I walk through the lodge for a few photos, then have my supper and finally hit the sack.
(Day 1094 BR) 49°F.
Bryce Canyon Lodge
Wake up early to beat the crowds and hope to be out of the park by noon. I drive to the end of the eighteen mile drive to see the view first at Rainbow and Yovimpa Points and then begin to work my way back north along the Paunsaugunt Plateau. While driving on the plateau, I see a small herd of mule deer.
(b1a03-15-20091003.0835) Small herd of mule deer atop Paunsaugunt Plateau.
I am impressed with the formations here in Bryce as I stop at each of the turn outs: Ponderosa Point; Agua Canyon; Natural Bridge; Farview Point; Swamp Canyon view; Paria View; Bryce Point; Inspiration Point and Fairyland Point.
(b1a03-15-20091003.1003) Natural Bridge (actually not a bridge but an arch).
(b1a03-15-20091003.1056) Bryce Point with hiking trails in the valley.
Afterwards, I stop at the general store to use the WiFi, check my e-mail and upload photos to my website.
Then, after this brief exploration of Bryce, I continue driving east on SH 12 along the border of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and I am amazed at the uncommon beauty of this place.
(b1a03-15-20091003.1546) State Highway 12 follows a ridge through monument.
Even though I take several photos during the drive, I do not plan to explore deeper into this park and will only get a quick glimpse of it′s edge as I push on to Capital Reef National Park, arriving at the Reef a little before sunset. The view road at Capital Reef is eighteen miles (similar to Bryce Canyon NP) and I begin driving it immediately. At one point, there is a dirt road called Grand Wash and I drive it to the end to find it to be a really remarkable canyon and take numerous photos. Then I continue to the end of the main road and find another dirt road called "Capital Gulch" but do not drive it because the sun has already set and I still need to drive out of this canyon. When I arrive back to the state highway, I drive towards the northeast, set my GPS and arrive in Moab at about ten this evening. I clean up, do my study for tomorrow, write for a while in my journal and get ready for bed.
(Day 1093 BR) 53°F.
(Begin Journey Week 06)
The last time I was in Moab must have been 1992 when I drove from Washington to Texas to help my mother and pick up the rest of my personal belongings I was storing there. Now, some seventeen years later, I see it has changed a lot. I get ready for the meeting and enjoy the talk from a visiting brother. After the meeting, my van will not start due to a starter problem; the starter has been giving me problems for several days. I will have to buy a new one when the auto parts open tomorrow. So, I go to the service meeting and work with George and Estella for a couple of hours and then return to the hall where they drop me off and leave for home. About thirty minutes later, George returns to invite me to stay the night with him and his wife Estella and I accept.
(b1a03-15-20091005.0732) George at the Moab Kingdom Hall.
While Estella prepares supper, George and I drive up the Colorado River along the Red Cliffs; a local scenic route. When we return back to Moab, Estella has supper ready; beans and Spanish rice with sopapilla and this immediately becomes my favorite dish. Later, I help Estella set up a web site so as to sell here rock art; paintings on sandstone canvas. Just before I go to bed, I transfer the photos of Capital Reef National Park and Red Cliffs from my cameral to my computer. I must be really tired because after the transfer, I check my computer and find that instead of transferring the photos, I have deleted them. I try to retrieve the photos but they are lost, so I go to bed thinking that since I explored Capital Reef National Park so briefly, I will make it a point to go back to this park another time. However, as for the photos of the Red Cliffs, I will drive out that way after I replace my starter tomorrow.
(Day 1092 BR) 56°F.
Up before sunrise and have oatmeal and coffee. Then George takes me to the hall where my van is parked. Surprisingly, I am able to get it started and since it is running, choose to drive to my brother′s home in Gypsum, Colorado where I will replace the starter.
(b1a03-15-20091005.1015) Red Cliffs Canyon on the Colorado River east of Moab.
The drive begins with the Red Canyon shortcut on state highway 128 to interstate 70 in order to get some more photos and then I travel east through Utah into Colorado where I stop to drive through Colorado National Monument. I had driven this rim drive before but it is worth doing again, especially since I have several hours before Robert arrives home from his work.
(b1a03-15-20091005.1246) Colorado National Monument balanced rock.
Upon arriving at Robert′s home, he and Ellen are ready to take me out to the local Mexican restaurant for supper. I tell him about the starter and ask if I can use his driveway tomorrow to replace it and he tells me "No problem!"
(Day 1091 BR) 27°F.
Home of Robert and Ellen
Up before dayspring to visit with Robert and Ellen before they head to work. Robert gives me the keys to his car to use for getting parts. I work on my journal while it warms up outside and will try to start my van before I use Robert′s car. Can you believe it? It starts on the first try and I drive it to the auto parts store to buy a new starter. Then I drive back to Robert′s and install the starter. I also do laundry and help Joy, Robert′s daughter in-law to carry in her groceries. Joy and Shawn live in the downstairs apartment and are expecting a new baby any time.
I sit in the rocker on the front porch to cook supper and do some reading. Then Robert and Ellen arrive at five and we visit some more. Later, Robert and I play his computer simulation radio controlled airplane and it is great fun.
(Day 1090 BR) 31°F.
Home of Robert and Ellen
After coffee with Robert and Ellen, I head out and drive back through Glenwood canyon, turn south at Glenwood Springs to take the back route Robert suggested over McClure Pass to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. When I arrive at the canyon, I am impressed by how narrow it is. I take several photos of the north rim, the black walls of the canyon and a rainbow over the canyon.
(b1a03-15-20091007.0918) Colorado SH 133, McClure Pass, elevation 8755 feet.
Then I drive on Colorado highway 90 to cross the Uncompahgre Plateau and my GPS informs me the high point is about 9500 feet. While driving along near Iron Springs Campground there is a group of student runners in training. I think that working out at this high altitude would be the way to get in shape for the next backpacking trip, especially if we climb another pass like Donahue Pass at 11056 feet.
The Colorado highway eventually connects to Utah highway 46 which brings me out to US 191 just south of Moab where I find a place to park and sleep.
(Day 1089 BR) 50°F.
I awake at dayspring, a warm morning, start my car and drive to buy breakfast at a local national chain restaurant. Then I head to Arches National Park and begin the drive to the view points. I have been here previously but again, this is one of the ones worthy of seeing more than once. First, there are only sandstone columns, but later, I begin seeing some arches. Then, I take the trail (just over a mile round trip) to the Delicate Arch viewpoint and take several photos here. Too, I talk with many of the park visitors as I walk.
(b1a03-15-20091008.1107) Delicate Arch.
(b1a03-15-20091008.1222) Skyline Arch
(b1a03-15-20091008.1259) Landscape Arch
By noon, I arrive at the Devil′s Garden trail and begin walking the two and a half miles to the end but by the time I get to the Navajo Arch side trail, my stomach is feeling really bad; it must have been something in the breakfast. I decide to cut the walk short and head back to the trailhead and it is a good thing the outhouse is empty when I arrive! After that I leave the park and head south along US 191, but then stop at a rest stop to try to get over the sick feeling by sleeping.
After two or three hours, I get up to go the men′s room to get rid of all of what it was that made me sick. Feeling a little better after that, I drive south, pass
Wilson′s Arch and arrive at Blanding in southeast Utah shortly after dark. After a short drive through town, I find the county library and stop for the internet access. Later, another car arrives with the same agenda and this seems to be a safe location for me to sleep so climb into the back of the van and crash.
Seventeen: The Ruins of the Ancients
October 09, 2009 - October 21, 2010
HIS MORNING I would love to sleep in but I know that it will not be long before the kids are walking down the street to the elementary school at the end of the block and on this journey I would prefer to maintain stealth mode.
(Day 1088 BR)
Getting up, I prepare to vacate the location; I get dressed, make coffee and while drinking the hot liquid, notice that the crossing guards are setting up their cones. As I continue drinking my coffee several students begin walking down the street to school. Knowing that now is time for me to leave, I begin driving, coffee in hand and smile and wave to the crossing guards as I pass them by.
The first stop is Natural Bridges National Monument and I drive the loop to see the three bridges
as well as the first of the Anasazi Indian ruins; this ruins is called the Horse Collar ruins. I have always enjoyed seeing the cliff dwelling ruins of the ancient cliff dwellers and take many photos here. Later, I plan to create a photo gallery with sections for each of the ancient
sites that I will be stopping at.
(b1a03-17-20091009.0907) Sipapu Bridge is 220 feet high and 268 feet wide.
(b1a03-17-20091009.0938) Horsecollar Ruins, Anasazi habitat from 1 CE to 1300 CE
Next, I drive further into Arizona to the Navajo National Monument and see the cliff dwelling ruins here.
Too, I go into the campsite and find the same space where my friend Thomas and I stayed in 1980.
(b1a03-17-20091009.0938) Navajo Ruins, 452 feet high, 370 feet wide, 135 feet deep.
(b4wheels.1994.20091009.1546) Navajo National National Mon. AZ
(NavajoNatMon.19800515.0800) 1980 Navajo National Monument. AZ
Finally, I continue across the Navajo reservation and Monument Valley taking several photos of the monoliths and stop for the night at the next national monument and again park in stealth mode at the lodge. Tomorrow, I plan to see more to the ancient cliff dwellings here and spider rock.
(Day 1087 BR) 47°F.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
I awake at dawn but pull the pillow over my eyes to sleep another hour. Then, starting without breakfast, I drive to the Visitor′s Center of Canyon de Chelly
National Monument where I buy the park embroidered patch.
Methinks that patches are the only thing remaining that I continue to acquire as a possession. Over the years, I have collected different things in my life including: stamps, coins, postcards, cobalt glass, etched glassware and others. Nevertheless, patches were the first of my collectibles, which began in 1963 when I joined the Boy Scouts. If I were to ever count my patches, I would guess they would number well into the hundreds. My intent is to some day create a patch blanket on which to sew all of my patches, and to do so as if the blanket is a map of the North American continent with each patch located in the area it represents.
(b1a03-17-20091010.0909) White House, named for the remaining white plaster.
(b1a03-17-20091010.0948) Spider Rock at Canyon de Chelly National Monument.
Upon leaving the center I drive to the south rim of the park to visit several of the overlooks and especially enjoy the White House ruins. The reason it is white is that because it is deeper into the alcove and most protected, the elements have not eroded the plaster from the surface of the dwelling. From what I have read in the culture centers, the Anasazi were meticulous about keeping their homes "painted." However, as a home decays, one of the first thing to go is the "paint" and these homes have been decaying for nearly eight hundred years. Near the end of the south rim drive is one of my favorite spots of all the national parks, that being the twin peaked sandstone tower called Spider Rock. When I first visited this park in 1980, I was so totally mesmerized by this massive monolith that I sat on the rim rock for hours just looking and meditating on its existence and mine.
Sometime afterwards I returned to the lodge for lunch in the cafeteria; I have a tuna salad plate with plenty of vegetables which is just what I need. After the enjoyable respite, I drive to the north rim and enjoy the Mummy Overlook
where I meet some really nice people, including Joy from Bolder, Colorado. Finally, I leave the park and drive north towards the Four Corners area and stop in Cortez, CO where I will take the day off tomorrow to see to my spiritual needs.
(Day 1086 BR) 40°F.
Overnighting in a parking lot
(Begin Journey Week 07)
Morning comes way too soon so I cover my head again to sleep but my need to rise overwhelms me so I get up and drive to buy a cup of coffee. Soon, the meeting starts and as I begin to meet the friends, a brother named Jim asks me where I am from. When I tell him Oak Harbor, Washington, he asks "Do you know my daughter and her husband,
Jane and Arden?" I reply, "Yes, we are good friends, they lived in Oak Harbor for many years." Then he tells me that they are now here in Cortez and should be here at the meeting today. When then do arrive, Jane sees me immediately and comes over to give me a hug, Arden too. Such a chance occurrence that I arrived at this meeting and find some of my good friends here.
Afterwards, we go for Chinese food and then Arden asks me to come stay at there home. Tomorrow, I hope to drive up to the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument and a few other small parks. It is really good to be with close friends.
(Day 1085 BR) 45°F.
Home of Arden and Jane
Sophie, the family dog wakes me up this morning at about six and I get up immediately and get dressed. Then I go outside to look at the Dayspring and see Arden walking Sophie. We talk for a few minutes and then they went back inside. I stay outside and continue to enjoy the increasing sunglow. Soon, both Arden and Jane are outside getting ready to leave on a trip. We bid each farewell and I take off for a day with the Anasazi which is Ancient Ones in the Navajo language.
(b1a03-17-20091012.0820) Escalante Pueblo, with the Sleeping Ute as a backdrop
The first stop is just north of Cortez at the Anasazi Heritage Center, a Bureau of Land Management site, (BLM). I arrive about an hour before it opens so I climb the adjacent hill to visit the Escalante Pueblo, which was a home with a great view for the Anasazi who lived here about eight hundred years ago. Then I come down to enter the visitor′s center which is not only the heritage center but also hosts for the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument and the Old Spanish National Historic Trail (OSNHT). This must be one of the best museums I have viewed so far, especially the OSNHT exhibit where I learned much about the history of the early exploration of this continent. Too, the exhibit for the Ancient Ones is also exceptional, showing the many different areas on the Colorado plateau where they lived and displaying maps to many sites. The exhibit also has a display about their farming of the "Three Sisters" (beans, corn, and squash), their life styles including an average life span of about thirty years (primarily because of 50 percent infant mortality) and what might have happened to them after the year 1300 CE, when they ceased to live in their ancestral homes, the ruins that we see today.
(b1a03-17-20091012.1234) Canyon of the Ancients, Lowery Ruins chinking
Next, I visit Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, Lowery Ruins, a Puebloan (Anasazi) ruin about 1000 years old that is only a small part of the monument. This Pueblo grew to 40 rooms, eight Kivas and a Great Kiva which probably supported some forty men and their families (many rooms were used for food storage.) I notice that the room size is very small, probably used only for sleeping, so that daily activities were done on the roof tops, outside or in the Kivas.
(b1a03-17-20091012.1256) Canyon of the Ancients, Great Kiva
A Kiva is a round room, accessed from a roof opening and used by one or more families as a meeting place for social, religious or community activities. I believe that the Kiva was a sort of kitchen to prepare and eat their meals. Each Kiva has a fire pit, a vent chimney and a wind diverter, which is an ingenious short wall in front of the draft opening that keeps the down draft from blowing directly onto the fire. The Pueblos would have small doorways, probably in order to insulate the inner quarters from the outside weather. Also, I have notice that many of the Pueblos have t-shaped door openings, for what purpose I can not imagine. (I later learn that the t-door is the public entrance to the pueblo.) In the construction of the rock walls the builders used what is called chinking, a technique of pushing small stones into the mortar to prevent the mortar, when drying from forming gaps or cracks. Too, the building style of the Lowery builders features the banding of light and dark layers of sandstone.
(b1a03-17-20091012.1256) Canyon of the Ancients, Lowery ruins color banding
Also located at Lowery Pueblo is a Great Kiva, forty-seven feet in diameter, the largest Kiva in the area. This Great Kiva has two distinctive seating structures on the Kiva floor which is believed to represent the Winter People and the Summer People. The Winter People were the hunters while the Summer People were the planters. This Kiva could have been a location where a people from a large area would come together for religious or tribal meetings.
After pondering much about this well preserved site, I leave and drive south to another nearby site named Hovenweep National Monument. This one is just north of the San Juan River and near the Utah state line. This next site has it′s structures mostly atop the rim at the canyon head and with some of the structures built right atop boulders. Also, there was a dam built at the upper entrance to the canyon designed to retain water, water so desperately needed for desert agriculturalist. The path around this community is about two miles, a short walk indeed, which as I travel it goes first up to the head of the canyon, around the opposite side to the end of the ruins and concludes by climbing down and traversing the canyon. During this walk, I see many lizards and ravens.
(b1a03-17-20091012.1439) Hovenweep Ruins, building upon a rock
(b1a03-17-20091012.1440) Hovenweep Ruins, building with a view
(b1a03-17-20091012.1459) Hovenweep Ruins, fall colors beginning
Finally, I drive along the McElro River canyon towards Cortez, Colorado arriving at the south end of town and find a place to park for the night.
(Day 1084 BR)46°F.
Overnighting in a parking lot
Upon awaking this morning, I spend some time having some work done on my van. Afterwards, I drive to Yucca House National Monument and find it to be the least developed national monument I have yet been to. There is a board walk across a sodden field, a metal gate and then a dirt path leading to some small stone piles and an abandoned house.
(b1a03-17-20091013.1237) Abandoned home seems more interesting than ruins
Not staying too long, I return to the van and head back down the dirt road and finally stop at Mesa Verde arriving in the late afternoon and stop first at the visitors center to schedule a tour of the Cliff Palace ruins. Then I check out the Spruce Tree House, a very large cliff dwelling that has a self guided tour, even though there are park rangers who are at the site. This cliff dwelling has 114 rooms and eight Kivas all within a natural sandstone cave 89 feet deep by over 200 feet wide.
(b1a03-17-20091013.1657) Spruce Tree House in Mesa Verde
(b1a03-17-20091013.1706) Spruce Tree House, roof entrance to Kiva
(b1a03-17-20091013.11719) Spruce Tree House, a view from inside one home
This site probably was the home of 100 or more people. I am only at Spruce Tree for an hour before the park rangers begin to close the ruins for the evening. Then I tour the museum where I learn about a different kind of dating using tree rings. I conclude the day by stoping at Far View Lodge to see what it has to offer and then retire to my night′s respite just moments before sunset.
(Day 1083 BR) 50°F.
Mesa Verde National Park campground
The last time I visited Mesa Verde, I awoke with snow on the ground, but this day begins with a beautiful sunrise even though I am not up early enough to record with my camera. Immediately, I begin my breakfast of coffee, oatmeal with raisins and of course molasses. Then I begin my drive to the visitor′s center to get a ticket for the tour of Balcony House, the one immediately after the Cliff Palace tour.
(b1a03-17-20091014.0820) Lots of animals are out today, coyotes, wild horses
(b1a03-17-20091014.0820) and a small herd of deer with this twelve point buck.
As I drive to Cliff Palace, I see a lot of animals, first a coyote, then a couple of wild horses and finally a herd of deer. I still arrive thirty minutes before the tour so I work on my journal and then I walk down to the trail head and wait for the tour to begin. Soon, Denise, the ranger conducting the tour arrives and she gives us a pre-tour presentation. As we walk down to the Cliff Palace I lag behind to get as many photos as possible. Methinks this is probably the most famous ruins of all the ancient sites and the one ruin back in 1980 that I was able to capture by putting ink in my sketch book. During this very long day of exploring ruins, I take many photos, too many to count. The ones that I am showing in my photo gallery is only a small portion of those taken. Then I notice that the next tour is wait for us to vacate the site, so as the last to leave, I climb up the ladder-stairway up out of the canyon to the mesa top. I thank the tour guide for such good explanations of things and then proceed to the next photo shoot.
(b1a03-17-20091014.0922) Cliff Palace from the upper viewing area.
(b1a03-17-20091014.0923) and a close up on the kivas, ladders, and towers.
This one is Balcony House and is located high up on the canyon wall directly below where we meet. Unlike the last two tours, we will not even see the ruins until after we climb down to it. After the introductory talk by the ranger, he leads us down into the canyon along a cliff ledge and then up a ladder of about twenty five rungs. The ranger goes first and then we follow. He tells us that we will be climbing through some small door ways and crawl spaces. At first, I am a little bit claustrophobic but once I see into the passages, I have no problem.
(b1a03-17-20091014.1128) The main courtyard at Balcony House
(b1a03-17-20091014.1129) The view through the window to the next courtyard.
Then we arrive at the main courtyard and immediately we see why it is called the Balcony House. Why the ancients even built a parapet on the edge, probably to keep their children safe. From the balcony we climb up the ladder and move to the back of the cave to enter the next rooms, then out through a doorway and back down to the next courtyard. I suppose that the back of the cave became the tunnel that was the route between homes and each home had a balcony. We climb through another opening into the next set of rooms and down to their balcony where we can see through a window into the next area which has a couple of Kivas. We climb back to the rear tunnel and cross over to the Kivas were we explore this area. Looking back to the dividing wall, I can see the window that I had been looking through just minutes ago. These Kivas are quite deep and have no entrance from below, just an air vent hole. The columns around the inside perimeter would have supported the wood structure covered over with stucco of some sort. Somewhere on the roof of the Kivas there would have been a small hole through which to climb a ladder down into the Kiva. The hole would have also served the purpose of allowing the smoke to escape. The fire pit is in the center with a wind break between it and the air vent. The other hole opposite the air vent that looks like a drain hole is in fact part of their belief that their ancestors emerged from a lower realm, but I am not sure of the whole story. (pun intended)
The tunnel in this part of the ruin appears to have larger access to the living area as if this was a well used location unlike the first courtyard we entered earlier with limited access. Still, there are the same sleeping chambers here and what appears to be storage closets. Like all the other home sites in this area, this one has a large courtyard with a stone railing although in disrepair.
(b1a03-17-20091014.1147) The corridor in the back of the cave.
(b1a03-17-20091014.1200) Entrance that an old woman with a stick could defend.
Also, there is an interesting beam that sticks out from one of the buildings. Again, I am the last to exit and turning around I take one more photo of Balcony House. The south entrance is worse than the one we came in. The ranger tells us that an old woman with a pointed stick could guard this passageway because it required the person coming in to the pueblo to get down on their knees and crawl into a dark area. The ancients could have designed these entrances to prevent a possible enemy attack.
Then my exploration takes me to Sun Point, Square Tower House, Oak Tree House, the Fire Temple and finally to the Park Point fire tower, the high point in the park at 8572 feet. Afterwards, I head to Ignatio, Colorado to spend the night.
(Day 1082 BR) 40°F.
Overnighting in a parking lot
This day is spent in spiritual matters, those which both sustain myselƒ and help others to come to an accurate knowledge of the truth. Then late in the afternoon, while parked at the Hall and working on my journal, Theron and Debbie show up and ask if I would like to go with them for supper. Of course, I accept because I really love these two people. Yes, these are the two people that I specifically had come here to see; a couple that I fist met in Oak Harbor and even being very close to their families. In fact, Debbie is JP′s sister. At the restaurant, Theron picks up the tab and I promise to get it next time. Afterwards, I drive to Aztec, New Mexico and camp for the evening at a department store.
(Day 1081 BR) 47°F.
Overnighting in a parking lot
In the morning, I drive the short distance to the Aztec Ruins National Monument, wait at the gate until the park ranger shows up and she opens the gate to let me into the parking lot. At eight when the park opens, I enter the visitor center, get my park brochure and go into the auditorium to watch the movie about Aztec Culture. The name Aztec is a misnomer because the ruins are Puebloan, also known as Anasazi. The movie goes into detail about the religion of the ancients and it is amazing how some of there beliefs coincided with the Bible. They believed in the destruction of wicked people by a flood and the saving of "those with a right heart with the Creator." Then I browse through the museum for a short time before walking outside to examine the ruins; a massive settlement which from the way it is laid out, was built according to a master design over a period of two centuries. I have a history in architectural studies and this ruin straightway reveals to me that it was carefully designed. In it are the traditional Puebloan features such as multicolor banding, chinking, T-shaped doors, Kiva construction and a Great Kiva with a fire pit and benches.
(b1a03-17-20091016.0833) Alternate color banding
(b1a03-17-20091016.0843) Look in through one door and see through many
(b1a03-17-20091016.0849) This settlement was very large indeed.
Aztec ruins is located by the Animas River and it is this source of water that preserves the people until the great droughts of 1240-1260 and 1276-1279. Dating the droughts are determined by tree ring studies. West Ruin has 450 rooms rising to three stories high with 28 Kivas. It also is unique in that it has double bands of a darker sandstone visible along the outside of the West Ruin. Also in the West Ruin is a Great Kiva that has been rebuilt in 1934; the only Great Kiva that has been rebuilt. I did not explore the East ruin as I did not think it was as well preserved as the West one.
After Aztec, I drive to Chaco Culture National Historical Site and drive down the canyon to see the ruins. These ruins are different from many of the ones I have seen earlier in that these are built on the surface of the flat floor in the canyon, one which has a river flowing down a smaller canyon below. The ancient communities who lived here were very large, possibly in the thousands. There are large courtyards and in some of the ruins, corner doors allowing access diagonally through the walls. Much of these ruins are three stories high and there are many Kivas. I also see many T-shaped doors here.
Then I drive into the evening and arrive at Bandelier National Monument, NM and register at the campground. Like almost all of the National Parks Service campground, this one does not have showers, one amenity that would be nice, but I suppose more and more of modern day campers are in motor homes.
(Day 1080 BR) 49°F.
Bandelier National Monument campground
Awake after sunrise, it was a late night last evening. Soon, I drive up the canyon into
Bandelier National Monument, park and begin exploring the ruins. Also interesting is the Spanish style architecture used in the visitor′s center and adjacent buildings. Another unique feature is that the stone homes were built adjacent to a limestone cliff where it would be easy to cut into the cliffs in order to have additional rooms; many of these sandstone rooms are quite elaborate.
(b1a03-17-20091017.1013) The Ruins against a backdrop of sandstone cliffs.
(b1a03-17-20091017.1025) The view of the valley below from the cliff
(b1a03-17-20091017.1034) Inside the sandstone quarters
(b1a03-17-20091017.1045) A ladder up to the first floor.
(Day 1079 BR) 55°F.
National Monument campground
(Begin Journey Week 08)
Awake at sunrise and drive back into town to buy coffee and then return to park on the street next to the hall were I spent the night so as to go to the meeting. When I arrive, there is a couple waiting in a car. They tell me that the English congregation is away at a circuit assembly. I decide to head east towards
Pecos National Historical Site which is a combination of ancient ruins, Spanish Mission, Spanish Trail and civil war parks. It seems that the farther south I drive in my exploration of the Ancients, the longer they dwelled in their homes and the more contact they had with the Europeans.
(b1a03-17-20091018.0942) A ladder leading down into a Kiva.
(b1a03-17-20091018.0949) A kiva in the compound of the ruins
Next, I drive to just above Albuquerque and then use Historic Route 66 to get to the
Petroglyph National Monument west of the city. Upon arriving at the monument, I stop at Baco Negro and climb several of the trails up onto the Basalt Mesa. The Basalt is a black volcanic rock and the Petroglyphs are scratched into the surfaces, usually on the south or southeast facing rocks. I am amazed by the many Kokopeli drawings (God of sex and agriculture) and look for other different symbols.
(b1a03-17-20091018.1601) This one is definitely a parrot.
(b1a03-17-20091018.1603) This one, I am told is a lilly or lotus flower
This is absolutely the most Petroglyph′s per square foot that I have seen. (As the ranger in the visitor′s center said: “It′s the most bang for your buck!”)
Later, I drive west to El Morro National Monument arriving after dark and stop at the campground, which at this time has no fee. Nice! (I later find out why; they turned off the water because the park has had a couple of freezing nights.) While my supper is cooking, I say hello to my neighbors next door. After eating, I spend an hour or so making entries to my journal on the computer. It is after ten so will go to sleep now.
(Day 1078 BR) 50°F.
El Morro National Monument campground
The couple I met last evening was still sleeping as I drive away before sunrise; arriving at the visitors center two hours before it opens. I decide that this time would be well spent organizing some of my paperwork and just as I put it away, the doors to the center open. What timing!
(b1a03-17-20091019.0922) The reason this was an important stop for travelers.
(b1a03-17-20091019.0942) The ancients, Spanish, and pioneers all stopped here.
Upon entering the center, I find out that this Monument has not only ruins and Petroglyphs but other historical inscriptions, as early as when the Spanish held the New Mexico and California territories and other inscriptions that are from early US military and settlers. The reason all these travelers stopped here was that there was water in a large pool at the base of the cliffs. Yes, the three most important features that the Ancient Puebloans look for was not as it is today, "location, location, and location," instead, the three features in every single ancient ruin settlement is "water, water, and water." In order for the Ancient Puebloan people to exist in any location, there must be an ample supply of water. If the water ever stops flowing, the ancients start moving.
In most cases, they move south to the larger rivers such as the Gila, the Rio Grande and others. Many of the settlements in the north (northern Arizona, northern New Mexico, Utah and Colorado) became uninhabited after the drought in the years of 1240 through 1260 and then the remaining inhabitants vacated their homes during the drought of 1276-1279. In some of the ruins in the central New Mexico and Arizona areas, the inhabitants lived their until the 1500′s when the Spanish explorers began to enter the scene. Such an amazing history this country had before the Europeans showed up in these locations.
The loop along the Inscription Rock is about a mile long and after viewing the many inscriptions, leave the park heading west and stop in the Zuni Pueblo to look at some Zuni art. After a short stop, continue west into Arizona and turn southwest passing south of the Petrified Forest National Park and stop briefly to take photos of the Salt River canyon; an impressive canyon.
(b1a03-17-20091019.1518) The Salt River Canyon.
(b1a03-17-20091019.1539) The Salt River Lemonade stand.
Next, make a short jog to Tonto National Monument near Roosevelt Lake to see the ruins, but find that the tours are finished for the day. So, I take a couple photo of the ruins on the cliffs high above me and then begin taking photos of the saguaro (pronounced Sa-war-o) cactus with the setting sun.
(b1a03-17-20091019.1817) The Saguaro Cactus above Roosevelt Lake.
Finally, I head for the Casa Grande Ruins, which are somewhat southwest of Phoenix arriving after sunset and find a stealth location. The path takes me off of the Colorado Plateau down to the low desert. The elevations begin today above a mile high and here in the Sonoran desert, it is about 1500 feet. I drive into the parking lot of a large shopping center across from the monument and set up for the night. It has been a very hot day and continues to be a warm evening.
It is after ten so I will try to get some sleep.
(Day 1077 BR) 75°F.
Overnighting at a parking lot
I have been just waiting for the park to open, here in the shade of a mesquite tree in the parking lot. Last evening, I suspected that it would be quite warm when the sun rose so I purposely found the biggest tree to park under. Also, it provided shade from the parking lot lights during the night. I arrive at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument and find a totally different type of ruin, at least in the structure′s material, that being not sandstone but a type of adobe mud. Again, the key feature for the location is the water, this one having a year round river. Also, these Ancients stuck around until the mid 1400′s probably just before the Spaniards arrived.
(b1a03-17-20091020.1059) The Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.
I drive further south and use Interstate 10 to the east to arrive at Saguaro National Park an take a tour of the many types of cactus on the Sonoran Desert. The Saguaro cactus live about two hundred years and grow to be about 40 feet high. A small few live up to 250 years and reach 50 feet in stature. The nature walk takes me by a large variety of species of cactus. Ground squirrels and lizards are common here. Later, I drive back into New Mexico and then up onto the high plateau over 6000 feet headed to Silver City on my way to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. I stop at another shopping center and begin recounting the days journey into my journal. It seems that the days are just not long enough for me to cover as much ground as I wish to do because it is after ten once again, but at least it is much cooler up here on the plateau. On the drive, I watched a lightning storm during the elevation climb and then the road surface was wet for a while which only means I will have to wash my van again.
(Day 1076 BR) 33°F.
So glad to be back in the higher altitudes where the temperature is cooler and I can sleep comfortable at night. Arrive at the Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument and find it is so named because it is close to the Gila River (pronounced Hila). After walking the half mile up to the ruins, I arrived just after the tour begins and join it in progress. There are a series of five caves having rooms each with different purposes: kitchen, sleeping, animal skin drying and several for ceremonial. The caves where the structures were built are quite deep and have rooms stacked one in front of the other, about forty rooms total. There were Ancients living in this area for at least a thousand years, but the structures were not built until around 1270
and eventually abandoned some time in the 1300′s. New archaeological thinking is that this site served as a place for families and communities to come together for social and/or religious ceremonies, whereas the majority of those coming here lived in homes atop the mesa where most of the crops were grown.
(b1a03-17-20091021.1206) The Gila Cliff dwelling from the approach trail.
(b1a03-17-20091021.1242) Looking out from within the Gila Cliff Dwelling.
After the tour I have lunch before driving in the Gila National Forest and over the Black Mountains near the continental divide which has a great view at the pass. (Elevation over 8000 feet) Next, I follow the valley down to the desert floor and then cross the next low pass heading towards White Sands National Monument where I arrive soon after dark. The ranger tells me that there is no where to camp in the park so I drive to Alamogorda and park in the parking lot of the same department store I often park at.
Each time I stop at this store, I look for the best place to park, one that is strategically dark and away from the normal ingress and egress of customers. I talk to a couple parked near by who are here for the second night.
For almost two weeks now, I have been visiting the ruins of an ancient civilization which for many a year, the inhabitants have been called the "Anasazi." However, this name was given to the ancients by the Navajo′s and when translated means "Ancient Ones" or "Ancient Enemies." The Navajo did not arrive to this area until long after the ancient ones were gone. Now, many archeologist are calling these ancient people the Ancient Puebloan because these are the ones who built the Pueblo or stone structures, structures which are now the ruins that are found in the National Parks and Monuments. In one exhibit, the narrator said that there is possibly twenty to fifty thousand ruins, or more on the Colorado Plateau; another said that the population of the Ancient ones was much more than what is currently here in this same area. This concept completely overwhelms me to know that we, the people who now live in the United States consider ourselves to be the greatest civilization ever on this earth. How pitiful that statement becomes after viewing only a few of the ruins of these Ancient Puebloan people. As I have been going from one site to another examining these ruins, I am continually amaze due to the extent that the Ancient Ones had developed this land centuries before any Europeans ever showed up here upon the scene. Too, it confounds me to know that when the Europeans arrived, they considered the indigenous people to be savages and endeavored to civilize them. Instead, what those new arrivals did is to conquer the indigenous people, subdue the existing lifestyle and beat down any effort of those one to retain their heritage. I suppose you might notice a hint of disgust, yes even a total repugnance that I feel for what the Europeans did when they arrived as well as for what the people of the fledgling nation continue to do to the indigenous people.
The musings of this wayfarer is completely inadequate in sharing the true feelings as to how these ruins affect me, as well as how what happened in the more recent history to the indigenous people even embitters me. Too, I wish that there were something I could do to correct what has happened to the native people on this continent, but I remain helpless in doing so. Still, I might explain my feelings this way: I am just a grain of sand on the vast shores of mankind surrounded by so many other grains, none of which I can even budge. However, it remains with me that from what I have learned in my study of the Bible about God′s plans for the future, it is his will to correct all of mankind's woes. Furthermore, nothing that has gone before despite how bad it may have seemed at the time will stand uncorrected by the Creator in his coming day.
Yes, this Journey is proving to be a humbling experience for me, one which continues to prove to me that this wayfarer is merely a bag of wet dirt.
Eighteen: The Caves and Deserts
October 22, 2009 - October 24, 2010
AFTER TOURING Gila Cliffs, drive to Alamogordo, where I have no problems finding a mart-store and a place to park. As soon as I was set up for the evening, I prepared a double scotch drink which works well as I am soon asleep.
(1075 BR) 49°F.
Overnighting in a parking lot
Despite the help to sleep soundly, I still awake this morning before sunrise and arrive at White Sands National Monument just before the visitor′s center opens. As I drive to the end of the eight mile park road I perceive a profound quietness about me. There are no bird sounds here, I do not even see any fly over head. I arrive at the high dunes at the end of the park road and ponder about this wonder of Creation. There is very little wind today and except for the north and east horizons the sky is clear making it a very bright day and I am glad to have sunglasses.
(b1a03-18-20091022.0924) The covered table in the white sand.
Upon arriving at the end of the road, I stop at a covered
table to cook my breakfast and again, I think much about where I am. As I eat the oatmeal and banana here at the end of the park road, I think that these
dunes must continue further for a much longer distance. In thinking about these pure white sand dunes, I recall the white sand that I experienced on the beaches in Texas when I was a young boy and remember, how years later when I returned to those same beaches as an adult, how the sand was then brown from all the pollution. Later, I begin to drive slowly back through the dunes which are at first almost without any plants and gradually the plants begin to take root more and more. As I drive slowly, I look for tracks in the sand (huellas en la arena) animal tracks and see just a few, most small animals who were out last night but one large set that could have been a fox or coyote.
(b1a03-18-20091022.1044) The plants of the white sands.
This remarkable place is now behind me as I drive northwest to Roswell, New Mexico. Yes, I want to stop at alien city, but also, there is need for some spiritual food as it is a meeting night. Upon arrival, I clean up and get dressed and do my studies for the meeting. Then I think to check to see what day the meeting is held and find that this hall has two congregations, one called the Mountain View Congregation that meets on Tuesday night and the other, the Spring River Congregation that meets on Wednesday night. Wouldn′t you know it? Missed another meeting! Well, I will stay the night any way and possibly meet with the service group in the morning.
(b1a03-18-20091022.1044) The Aliens of the national landing site.
(1074 BR) 35°F.
Stealth parking, National Alien Landing Site (NALS)
Despite working on my journal last even for hours late into the night, I still awake this morning at sunrise. Since the days are getting shorter, I find that I need to spend more time during the dark hours doing things in my van, either driving, reading or writing.
When I get up and step out of my van just before seven, there are several cars driving into the parking lot for an early service meeting. I ask if I can join them and put on my tie. We have a great time together and finish just after noon. As I was about to change clothes, Antonio drives up and asks if I would like to go for lunch. He asks all about my moving to Mexico and wishes to keep in touch so as to learn my progress; I give him my card and asked him to e-mail me. After I return to the hall, Lindsey stops by to work on the lawn mower and we began to talk. We both do some work on the vehicles and we also exchange cards. I told him that I would e-mail him and then I left for Carlsbad Caverns.
The drive to the National Park is not too long and I arrive at sunset. After driving into the park to the visitor′s center to find out when it opens in the morning, I return back outside the gate and park at a truck stop. Tomorrow morning I will be there for the first cave tour and so I will close my journal for now.
(Day 1073 BR) 35°F.
I awake while the stars are still out and see both Venus and Saturn in the sky, get dressed and make a cup of coffee and some oats with molasses. Then I head into Carlsbad Caverns National Park to get a look in the big hole. Upon arriving, I find that the park has changed considerable since my visit in 1980. Now, the park has a lot more concrete both above ground and below. Also, the park allows self guided tours down numerous elevators through the original entrance and in the Big Room but requires a guide to see the Kings Palace area. Above ground there is a huge parking area which I suppose is necessary and also a large amphitheater at the natural entrance for watching the bats leave the cave at dusk.
(b1a03-18-20091024.0850) The big hole in the ground with lots of parking on top.
The next stop is Guadalupe Mountains National Park which has always made me wonder why a range of desert mountains would qualify for National Park status. Turns out, not only is this park the top of Texas but it also has a world renown exposed reef of ancient marine fossils. The park has three life zones: desert, canyon (or Riparian) and mountain which three zones host a large number of life forms, both plant and animal. Too, the Butterfield stagecoach crossed this area. The prominent rock formation, El Captain was a long time landmark for travelers. Much of the above information, I gained in this park through the Senior Ranger program, one like the Junior Ranger Program but for adults. You are required to research and answer a series of questions to receive the Senior Ranger patch. Since the bookstore was out of the regular patches, I opted for doing the program for a patch. Learned a lot!
(b1a03-18-20091024.1530) The Ceiling in the State of Texas.
Further south but before Big Bend is another stop I wish to do, that is McDonald Observatory. I have know about this place for many years but never had the opportunity to make it here. Now, it is right on my route between the national parks. I am not sure what I will find when I arrive or even if it will be open but upon arriving just after sunset, I notice the parking lot has many cars in and the visitor′s center lights are still on. I wonder what is going on as I approach the door and see the center is full of people. I walk up to the counter in the lobby and the young girl asks: "Do you want a ticket for the Star Party?" After finding out that a ′Star Party′ is an outdoor astronomy lecture including star location session and afterwards, a telescope viewing session, I pay the ten dollars and get my ticket. I also find a star chart for six dollars and a patch for the observatory. What a fantastic party!
Finally, I drive to Fort Davis and park near the national historical site. It is well after eleven before getting into a horizontal position.
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