Back to Bright Angel, June 19-20, 2012: Part 2


The warning sign is very clear: “Down is optional.  Up is mandatory”.  I was determined I would get to the Colorado River and back, within one 24-hour time period.  There are things one can do to make that happen- drink the water that is available at three locations along the way, soak the shirt and hat, copiously. (Women can do this, discretely, and most of us men are gentlemanly enough to turn ourselves away).  Lastly, take advantage of the four rest houses and numerous rock overhangs that provide shade.

I set out from Mather Campground at 6:30 A.M., on Wednesday, the “Longest Day” of the northern year.  Greeting several of us at the trailhead were a pair of elk.


The little boy on the right was my steadfast friend on the first 1/2 mile of the hike.  Then he fell back to rejoin his father.

There are 21 more photos in this post.  Bear with me.


I started off in earnest at 7:00 A.M.


The top layers are Kaibab and Toroweap Limestone, respectively.  Toroweap makes the sheer wall one sees just below the surface.


A few big horn sheep were keeping us company during the first half mile.  There were also mule deer, which were a lot more skittish.



We pass through two windows within the first mile of the trail.  Next are two views of the Toroweap Limestone wall.


Not far away, I spotted the 1.5 Mile Rest House.  This is very welcome in the afternoon!   Below is a close-up of the rest house.  Those at 3 Mile, Indian Garden and Pipe Creek are quite similar.  Water is available at the first three, and all four have toilets.


Below 1.5 Mile, there is a solid layer of Coconino Sandstone.


As I neared Indian Garden, an NPS helicopter landed.  This appeared to be a wild animal transfer of some kind.  The ranger had his tranquilizer gun out, so it may have been a mountain lion, which would not have been welcome at Indian Garden Campground!



The Colorado Plateau is largely desert, at its lower elevations.  Indian Garden offers a lush oasis, for about 1 1/2 miles, along Garden Creek.


Above, Undivided Dolomite and Mujav Limestone are your hosts, heading from Indian Garden to Devil’s Corkscrew.  This rock layer is from the Cambrian Era.

Garden Creek remains a friendly helper, for about a mile past Indian Garden.


Devil’s Corkscrew is a mixture of Zoroaster Granite, Nankoweap Sandstone and Gardenas Lava.  Dox Sandstone makes up the bottom layer, where one gets to Pipe Creek.  This is a 2.5 segment of extreme desert, with triple digit temperatures in the afternoon.  Be fit, or turn around!


I took this from underneath a rock overhang, along the Corkscrew.  This postpile is of Dox Sandstone.


The emergence of Pipe Creek, and the presence of blue dashers, signal that the river is close by.  I tried to encourage a couple of ladies to keep going the last mile or so.  Apparently, they’d had enough.  A man who came by while I was at Pipe Creek Resthouse said he saw them soak their shirts and head back towards the Corkscrew. I never saw them after that, so they made it out. Always follow your gut, in these situations.


At 11;30 A.M., I reached the Colorado River, at Pipe Beach.  The rock you see along the north bank is Bass Limestone and Vishnu Schist.  This is all the legacy of Pre-Cambrian Earth, when everything lived underwater.


I rested, had lunch and soaked my feet at Pipe Creek Resthouse, after chatting with a couple who were kind enough to record my presence (above), and taking their photos, in turn.  It took from 12:15 to 6:38 P.M. to return from the river to the rim.  There were confirmations along the way, and I was constantly reminded of confirmations that I would be just fine.  One of those was a heart-shaped prickly pear cactus.


Here are the Navajo Sandstone and Toroweap Limestone layers, in late afternoon.


I had the good fortune to meet up with three people from Tusayan, when I got to 3-Mile Rest House.  They pretty much stayed with me the rest of the way.  It was their first Canyon hike, and two of them said it would be their last.  I would be surprised if that were the case.  Cooler weather brings a much different Grand Canyon experience.

I cannot say enough good about the rangers.  These are among the hardest-working young people I’ve ever seen.  They keep very close watch on hikers, and will be the adults in the room, when one’s judgment gets cloudy.  I got through the Longest Day by following their guidelines.  Though traveling rim to river and back on foot is discouraged, it can be done- if one is in good shape, takes his/her time and stays hydrated.

Back to Bright Angel, June 19-20, 2012- Part I


I had not been in the Grand Canyon since Penny and I went in June, 1981.  We slept in the open that night.   In 1983, we went for a day trip to the North Rim, but only went about a mile on the North Kaibab.  We took Aram along the Rim Trail in 1996.

About a month ago, I read about the Alzheimer’s Association having a Longest Day campaign, to raise awareness on the plague of dementia.  I didn’t have the money to formally register for the event, but decided to do a hike along the Bright Angel Trail, to make a statement, and maybe better-off people would feel like chipping in, on their own.

So, Tuesday afternoon, I headed north, through Williams and Valle, to the South Rim.  Williams is the southern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railroad, a narrow-gauge system that also goes to  the South Rim, ending at Bright Angel Lodge.

Here are a couple views of Williams.



Williams was named for Bill Williams, a roguish mountain man of the mid- Nineteenth Century, who is also the namesake of nearby Bill Williams Mountain, which I plan to hike over Labor Day weekend.  His name extends to a river which flows from this area into the desert between Wickenburg and Kingman, eventually meeting the Colorado River, south of Lake  Havasu City.

After a nice cup of joe at American Flyer, I headed on to Valle, home of Flintstones’ Bedrock City- a nice diversion for families with very young children.  The outfitters’ supply store in Valle is made up of two pyramids.


The area from here to Tusayan varies between grassland and pine forest, but mostly has the former.


There are occasional buttes, like this one just north of Valle.


I got into Tusayan, the service town just southwest of the park, and purchased a few more necessaries, like granola for breakfast and ice for the cooler.  Then, it was off to the campsite.  Like South Carlsbad State Beach before it, Mather Campground was full.  I took my reserved spot, at the tail end of the grounds and jerry-rigged my rodded tent, using twine and string.  It served its purpose and any snickers were kept to a dull roar.  NOTE TO SELF:  Pick up some tent rods next week, before the three-day camp-out.

Here are a few shots around the Mather Campground area:

It’s dry here, so the ponderosas need all the help they can get.


At 6:30 PM, Ranger Kim gave a talk on the area’s wildlife.


At 7:15, one of her subjects introduced herself.


I arrived  at Mather Point, the site of my evening photo shoot, around 7:20.  Here is what awaited.


This is Kaibab Limestone, the topmost (for now) layer of the Grand Canyon.


Here is a formation of Navajo Sandstone.


Various Coconino and Toroweap (Limestone) formations bid farewell to the Sun.


This ominous looking creature is an outcropping of Kaibab Limestone.


Coconino Sandstone and Hermit Shale in twilight  were awe-inspiring.  These sights evoke my bird fantasies.


Sunset at any of the overlooks is a must-see.  Now, for the piece-de-resistance.


This is one of the features that made me fall in love with this canyon.  Next, I will present some of the others.

Father’s Day, 2012, in Sedona


I went to Sedona today, on a whim.  In 1983, Penny and I climbed a mountain called Wilson Mountain.  It is about 1.7 miles northeast of Sedona proper, just across a span called Midgely Bridge.


This being Father’s  Day in Sedona, of course I parked by the side of the road.


The majestic red rocks of Sedona speak for themselves.  I will not interrupt.



Wilson Mountain trail itself wends away from the red rocks and is a sun-drenched, rugged high desert mountain hike.  For this reason, as I had started late, due to a morning some commitment, I stopped at the saddle and leave the crest for another time.  I did this with some nudging from the angel on my shoulder.  She indicated she would not be happy with me if I over-stressed myself.  That would have made two of us.


Still, it was a fine 5.4 mile round trip, and took me through some amazing country.


Above, one can view Oak Creek Canyon from the trail.


This rock formation lies midway up South Wilson Mountain

The flowering agave, below, is the tallest I’ve seen.


Here is what remains for me to explore here, on a slightly cooler day, maybe in early November.


After retracing my steps down Wilson Mountain trail, I looked down a bit at the coolness of Oak Creek and its canyon.


While I waited my turn to view Oak Creek at the overlook,   a family from the Caribbean made a short video.  As a token of gratitude for my waiting, the father of the family took this:


This was a fine Father’s Day, topped off with a Tuscan Tuna Salad and Mango Frappe at this fine establishment:


Canyon Breeze’s back patio gives a lovely view of  the red rocks, while one savours its delicacies.

Hope all my fatherly readers had a great day.

Home Turf: A Visit to the Native American Baha’i Institute


I rode “over the hump” last Friday, taking I-40 from Barstow, CA to Winslow, AZ.. I couldn’t see “the Corner”, but I did end up paying homage to rock n’ roll.  After being told a room advertised for $40 would cost me $60, I left America’s Best Value Inn, and went next door to Delta Motel.  Here, a more reasonable room took me to Graceland.  Elvis was everywhere on the walls.


I went through a few brain burps the next day.  The worst was, once I got to the road that I always used to take to the Institute, I found myself battling a sand dune.  A local couple came by, pulled me out with their truck and a chain, got paid for their trouble ( Always offer cash to local people who help you out on a Native American reservation.  Even with casinos, not that many people are working.) and I was on my way to NABI in an hour’s time- by a newer and better route.

I arrived at NABI, at a good time.  An elder, whom we refer to as a Continental Counselor spoke, followed by Mr. Kahn, who, with his brother, organized a Council Fire, a spiritual gathering of two-four days, in their home community of Pine Springs, in 1962.  Thus, we were marking the 50th anniversary of this ground-breaking event in the history of the Baha’i Faith.


Mr. Kahn is an elder in his own right now, but still has a keen mind and led the gathering later in the evening, in a traditional Navajo social dance, known as a Round Dance.  Couples danced clockwise, in a circle, following Mr. Kahn and his wife, who is a local teacher.

Below, a Mexican-American friend from California speaks to the group.


Mr. Bathke, another long-time resident of the area, who is now co-adminstrator, with his wife, of the Native American Baha’i Institute, gave a brief talk on Saturday, as well, and would speak further on Sunday morning.


The Institute has come a very long way, since some of us gathered here in 1981, and engaged in the process of putting up a rudimentary shade house and mainly slept under the stars, or in our tents.  There was one time I was shaving by with the aid of my car’s side view mirror.   A Navajo friend quipped, “What do you need a mirror for?  Don’t you know where your face is?”  Navajo humour has always given timely insight into the ways in which we have separated ourselves from nature.


Above, is the Dining Hall at Native American Baha’i Institute.


Ted Lew, a Chinese-American friend, remembers his visits to Navajo land over the years.


Alfred Kahn, Sr. and his family sang a Baha’i prayer.


The Baha’i Faith, in each country in which it is freely allowed to practice, is governed by a National Spiritual Assembly, which is elected every year by delegates to a National Convention, held in May.  The delegates, in turn, are elected by a gathering of Baha’is in each  electoral unit within the given country.  This election takes place every October.


Above, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States is shown giving a gift to the Kahn family.


Jeff Jentz, a friend from many years ago, speaks of his experiences as a Baha’i on the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo believe, inherently, in the oneness of the human race.  That there are disputes among us is largely due to the abuses of political and social systems on which we’ve depended over the centuries.  More and more Native Americans, along with other ethnic and national groups, are coming to realize the need for people to unify, at the grassroots level, so as to avoid tyranny and oppression, and move forward to a truly global civilization, which honors the vast variety of cultural expressions.


This is why I feel I went home last weekend.

Southern California, Trip 2: The Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library


To look more carefully at a life of seemingly endless re-invention and resilience is something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.

I was never a particularly strong fan of Richard Milhous Nixon.  A lot of that antipathy has melted away over the years.  His achievements as President have largely withstood the test of time- the EPA, pulling a kicking and screaming Communist China, and Russia, into the world family, further advances in Civil Rights, much-needed reforms in government policy towards Native Americans, and slow movement out of Viet Nam- all were overshadowed by the dour countenance, the air of callowness , and the climate of secrecy and distrust.

A visit to the Nixon Presidential Library paints a far more complete picture.  Watergate and the resignation are not swept under the carpet.  Indeed, the first thing one sees, upon pulling into the parking lot off Yorba Linda Boulevard, is Marine One.


The Library itself is majestic, but in the spare way a man with Quaker roots would be expected to approve.


I entered the welcoming hall, which immediately takes the visitor through the bookstore/gift shop.  I would later pick up lunch here, but out of prudence, I bought nothing else.


After looking around a bit, and reading the timeline of Nixon’s life, from birth to Congress, I headed outside to absorb the garden, which featured many of Pat Nixon’s ideas about how a Presidential Garden should look.  She was arguably the finest presence in his often tortured life.  This year marks the Centenary of her birth.


This is the bower used by Tricia Nixon and Ed Cox.  I always thought she was cute, though it was Julie’s stunning countenance which made my adolescent jaw drop.


On with the flower show:


Here is Richard Nixon’s birthplace, still sitting on the same ground on which it was built.  The spare Quaker -style home looks comfortable enough on  the inside, though.


Hauntingly, the replica of the East Room of the White House is kept dark and remains spare, except for a set of four portraits of presidents and first ladies.


With this, and a viewing of the video of President and Mrs. Nixon’s  respective funerals, my visit ended.  I came away with a much fuller appreciation of how fully he lived, how much he suffered- especially with the loss of his wife, and how greatly he valued persistence and resilience.  These two, regardless of one’s politics, are traits he recommended to everyone who espouses meaningful goals.

My commemorative southern California journey would end, later that night, with dinner at Panda Garden, in Needles- a surprisingly good Chinese establishment, which was packed.

My weekend took me to one more place- the Native American Baha’i Institute, for a 50th Anniversary celebration.

Southern California, Trip 2: Los Rios Historic District.


Down the street from Mission San Juan Capistrano and a block to the west, across the Coastliner  train tracks, lies Old Capistrano- aka Los Rios Historic District.  This reminds me of old sections of other cities founded by the Spaniards in the Southwest- a mini- La Villita or Viejo San Diego.

I spent about an hour walking about the shops and back streets of this comfortable town.  First, it’s necessary to cross at a five corners.

We entered Los Rios, just across the tracks and near the train station.


Then, we were welcomed into the historic district.


My first stop was the coffee house.


The  house was originally that of this lady, who worked hard to preserve Los Rios.


I walked a bit further around the plaza, after savouring a cup of white chocolate mocha.


Walking a bit north from the plaza, I came upon a bric-a-brac shop.  These seem to be all over the old Spanish towns.  I saw several in Laredo, and three in Mesilla.  SJC had just one.


Coming back onto the plaza, I saw the house of Lupe Coombs, who helped Mrs. Olivares in the preservation efforts.


I ended my visit to Los Rios Historic District by checking out Casa Montanez, a California adobe home.


It was time for me to depart the 18th Century, and head into the ebb and flow of the LA Basin.

I got as far as Placentia, and the relative luxury of a Marriott Residence Inn.  Tomorrow would belong to the 20th Century, and the story of Richard M. Nixon.

Southern California, Trip 2: Mission San Juan Capistrano


In all southern California, there are three iconic features which draw visitors: Beaches, mountains and missions.  The oldest standing buildings in the state are found on the grounds of Mission San Juan Capistrano.  People of a certain age know Capistrano from a  song  of the 1930’s, which mentions cliff  swallows.

“When the swallows come back to Capistrano
That’s the day you promised to come back to me
When you whispered, “Farewell,” in Capistrano
’twas the day the swallows flew out to sea”

—excerpt from “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano” by Leon René
The mission’s rector at the time, Father O’Sullivan, wisely cultivated the idea of the Mission as a refuge for the birds, who were regarded as pests by area shopkeepers.
Today, though, the Mission is awe-inspiring through the beauty of its gardens and the durability of its structures.  These rival the edifices I found in St. Augustine, San Antonio and San Diego.
This is the basilica, on the north side of the Mission grounds.
The flora quickly take over as our gracious hosts.
Walking along the northern quarters of the Mission, one finds rooms which housed vintners and penitents alike.
This garden graces the northwest corner of the Mission grounds.
Archways are crucial to the Mission’s style.
Both red and pink bougainvillea abound at the Mission.
This is a long view of the southern buildings of the Mission.  These are where the kitchen was found, and where young women lodged.
Here is an outdoor bread oven, on the west side of the Mission.  There are several industrial areas and ancient archaeological digs on this side of the grounds.
The Mission is still a working farm.  This kale gives new emphasis on “Eat your veggies!”
Thursday afternoon (6/7) saw about two dozen Filipino pilgrims visit the chapel that was established here in 1776, by Father Junipero Serra.  This is the last remaining church where Father Serra was known to have celebrated Mass.
Outside Serra Chapel, there is a large courtyard, where the bells may still be rung to call worshipers to Mass.
The priest St. John O’Sullivan’s remains lie here.  St. John was his given name, and he has not been canonized.  Nonetheless, he was largely responsible for renovating the ruins that he found here in 1910 and re-establishing San Juan Capistrano as a working parish.
Just past Father O’Sullivan’s  grave lies the southeast corner of the Mission, its tallest standing structure.
Here is a view of a grotto, on the exterior of the southeast corner of the Mission.
These bells are close to the southeast edge of the Mission grounds.  Below is another window apse, at the southwest corner of the Mission.
It means a lot to me to part with an ancient structure by getting one more view of its botanical splendors.
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Appropriately, this garden, at the southwest corner of the Mission grounds, served as the escort to the exit from this extraordinary site.  I next headed to San Juan Capistrano’s version of La Villita- the district known as Los Rios.



Before diving into my recent visit to San Juan Capistrano, I need to reflect a bit on my blessings at this stage of life.  A few days ago, I met a few people whom I will henceforth regard as dear friends. I left at least one of them with a sense of puzzlement, as to what sort of person I am, and for what I stand in life.  So, for her, and anyone else who is a bit uncertain, these are nine things that mean everything to me.

1.  No one can know the true nature of God.  I just know He is in all things, yet above all things.

2.  Every person has value, and that value is unique to that person.

3.  I had thirty beautiful years with the person who gave me the best of everything in her life.

4.  I have the honour of calling a fine young man “son”.

5.  I am blessed with so many loving family members and friends, I could not possibly dwell on the negative.

6.  Marriage is among the most sacred of bonds.  Unless that sacred nature is fully understood and respected by one and all, there can be no real bond between people.

7.  I am far from perfect.  Some people, right up through last night, have seen my flaws.  My flaws, though, do not define me.  My task is to transcend them.

8.  I love all people, and while I am, at present, “in love with” no one, I will always work towards the best interests that I perceive for each person in my life.

9.  I am on a journey of discovery. Sometimes that involves physical travel.  Other times, as at this moment, my discoveries may be done by reflection.

So, to all my dear family and friends, know that you are, each and all, among the greatest blessings God could ever bestow on me.  I think of my friend Andreas, in London; of Ruth and TD in Washington State;  of two dear young ladies, both named Chelsea, who are like daughters to me; of my spirit brother Ted, on his own road of discovery; of my brother Glenn, who just celebrated the 52nd anniversary of the start of his amazing life, and his dear wife and wonderful family; of my siblings Cheryl and Dave, and their beautiful families; of my mother, keeping a distant watch over me, after giving my upbringing the best anyone could ask; of my own beloved son, now serving our country and humanity; of my forever in-laws; of all my Baha’i family here in the Prescott area, in Phoenix, in Dinetah and the world over; of my online family, in Xanga, Facebook and WordPress and of those new friends I met this weekend- Mike B., Jeff, Ed W., Bijan, Amy H., Marta (and Peter, who I know was with us in spirit).

I can’t promise that I will be on top of the world, financially or in public esteem, but I can assure one and all that my life will never be for naught.

Southern California 2012, Trip 2: Laguna Beach


I made my second visit of this year to an old favorite- Laguna Beach, on Thursday morning (6/7), at the behest of my OC friend, J.  In truth, it doesn’t take much to get me to stop somewhere on the coast between San Diego and Los Angeles; there is so much to be savored.

We enjoyed a fine brunch at The Cottage, near Laguna Five Points- just north of Laguna Art Museum.  This was one of the haunts of the well-known actor Eiler Larsen, who was a fixture in Laguna Beach for several decades.  “The Greeter”, as Eiler was known, graced the beach town with his presence and his various guises.


This statue of Eiler is several blocks south of The Cottage, which goes to show that he just loved Laguna, wherever he was in town.

We walked along Main Beach, southward as far as the private resorts.


There is a Bird Rock here, as there is at Dana Point.


While Heisler Park, which I featured in my last Laguna Beach post this past March, is LB’s premier botanical spot, Main Beach has its mini-Heislers.


This Life Guard Station was salvaged from an inland site that was being demolished.


Back in 1979, a local prankster tried to tell me this was Laguna  Beach’s Spanish mission.  I already knew that to be balderdash- LOL.  Still, it’s a fine resort hotel.


Beyond Hotel Laguna Beach, the rocks and private resorts modify a walker’s regimen.


Halfway up the walk to streetside, there is an urgent message for us all.


On this overlook, we met a delightful newlywed couple.  J took a couple of photos for them here and along the street.


A few minutes later, J and I parted company and I headed for another of my OC favorites- San Juan Capistrano.  That fascinating town will be the subject of the next two posts- one on the Mission and the other on Los Rios.