Thunderbird

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November 20, 2022- As I sat with two young siblings, in a friend’s apartment, they began drawing and then painting, images on cloth canvas squares. The kids did marvelous depictions of Pokemon characters and yin/yang symbols. My friend asked if I wanted to do a canvas of my own, which sounded like fun. I did a free-style depiction of a prehistoric bird, using a few colours: Red torso, black beak and legs, yellow tuft and green head. I would be surprised if any actual bird looked like that, but it was a nice, light activity.

It did get me thinking about the thunderbird, a common mythological creature of North America, ascribed by Algonquian-speaking peoples in the Pacific Northwest, eastern Canada, the northeast United States and the Great Lakes region, with thunderous wing-flapping and the ability to hurl lightning at giant serpents and other underwater creatures. It was said that thunderbirds ruled the land and sky, whilst serpents and underwater panthers shared the underworld. I heard about thunderbirds, growing up, and while they remain fanciful, the colour scheme has a polyglot, rainbow quality (Northwest) or has blue-black feathers.

The mythological nature of the beast, in turn, reminded me of the superhuman powers that we sometimes ascribe to actual creatures-even to the microbial level. I have fought a hard, but somewhat manageable, cold, over the past four days. It is at the point now, where it is subsiding and there is only a smidgen of mucous, itself clear. This is what I refer to as change-of-seasonitis, and it has usually showed up, around late October. My ailment has none of the symptoms attributed to COVID-19, and does remind me, pure and simple , of other bad colds I’ve had this time of year. The thunder is subsiding now,thankfully, and with a good rest and hydration, I will be fine for Tuesday’s flight.

Casa Remuda

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November 5, 2022, Sedona- About two months ago, I encountered an effusive lady from New York, who was living and working, at the time, in a relaxed and well-appointed Bed & Breakfast, close to several trails on the Near West Side of town. She told me it would be a lovely, if a bit pricey, place to stay overnight, if I wanted to hike a trail early or to stay late at Synergy Cafe, where I have sometimes joined impromptu musical sessions with my had-held drum.

I have had hot-cold relationships with the owner and manager of Synergy. Presently, things are in a cool phase, and while I spent a couple of hours there tonight, I did not stay long, once the manager showed up. That is a digression, though. Casa Remuda is an amazing place, nestled in a residential neighbourhood, near Thunder Mountain and Chimney Rock. The couple who own and operate the Bed and Breakfast live on the premises and have given their all to the comfort and well-being of their guests, a swell as being kind employers. The 2 or 3 workers, two housekeepers and a maintenance man, live on the premises as well.

It was a quiet stay, bookended by two virtual Baha’i meetings, for which Walter and Vivian graciously let me use a small table, right off the kitchen, as it had the strongest WiFi. I used their massage bed, twice, which also helped me relax and sleep-the Queen-sized in the Lower Guest Room also had a heated mattress pad, even furthering the quality of the rest.

Then, there were the cats-Vivian’s joy. Cleopatra, Merlin and Phoenix are basically gentle creatures and like all cats, have the run of the house-and much of the property during the day. Coyotes and mountain lions being what they are, the trio are called in as night falls. Phoenix chose to play with me a bit, and engaged in “stalk and catch”-the feline version of “hide and seek”. In the end, Phoenix gave me permission to finish packing my bag. She is gracious in that way.

Phoenix the Cat, at Casa Remuda, Sedona

Here are some other scenes of the various scenes, both inside and out, at Casa Remuda.

A crystal throne
A ceramic “Jar Couple”
The Servant Cats
Swedish Ivy, in bloom
Soaring Eagle (Walter’s Spiritual Name)
Reflection Room and Study

Here is the perfect place for taking in and processing all the energy, both positive and negative, that comes with a Sedona visit. The former can be channeled and the latter, left at the gate. Walter and Vivian have left that gate open for me, in the future. I will be sure to take them up on that, either solo or with another friend or two, in the time to come.

I think Phoenix would agree.

The Carson Loop, Day 4: Shakespeare and Sand Dunes

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October 18, 2022, St. Anthony, ID- The best thing about hiking on a sand dune is returning the sand to its spot on the ground, by emptying the shoes. There is no better feeling in the world, than “giving back” in this way.

Also right up there is seeing the lights in several children’s eyes shine, as they learn of things like rhymed couplets and iambic pentameter-taught by one who knows them best, their mother. Home Schooling makes sense for some children, and I witnessed such a group today. I needed to be with other kids, so it would not have been good for me. The three boys and their sister were able to dive into the mechanics of poetry, and read Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, with each person selecting a part, and Mom taking up the slack. Math, mythology, science and Physical Education rounded out their day, later on.

By then, I was off to St. Anthony Sand Dunes, another surprising aspect of the Snake River Plain. The dunes are twelve miles northwest of town, beyond the potato fields that are so synonymous with this swath of central and eastern Idaho. They were the result, it is said, of the shrinkage of several large lakes in the area, as the climate warmed, towards the end of the last Ice Age. The smaller lakes exposed fine sand, which stopped and began to pile up at the foot of the extinct volcanoes known as Juniper Buttes, as well as at older, longitudinal dunes from previous climate shifts. Today, the Dunes range in height from 10 ft. to 500 ft. Those off to the west tend to be higher, and are given names like Choke Cherry and Dead Horse Bowl. As one might expect, ATV users are given paths to follow, through the fine, white sand. The season for ATV use is essentially from April or May to November. The dunes are mostly closed from January to April or May-to allow for dune regeneration and to give the area’s wildlife a rest.

Here are some scenes of the foliage around Egin Lake and of the dunes themselves.

The oaks in transition, at Egin Lake, St. Anthony Sand Dunes
Egin Lake, with oaks across the way
Egin Lake, with both oaks and grass in fall splendor
Eastern dunes
Sage, oaks and sand
High dune, off Red Road (northern sector of the Preserve)
Dunes up against Juniper Buttes, Red Road sector
Up close with high butte, Red Road sector

Once back in town, I stopped at Chrissy’s, a family restaurant a few blocks from Three Bear Inn. They are well into the Halloween spirit. If you look closely, a skeletal parrot and donkey are in the lower background.

Halloween display at Chrissy’s Restaurant, St. Anthony

I got back to Three Bears in time to keep the ducklings company, while the clan went off to a physical education session. It’s been a rejuvenating 1 1/2 days.

The Carson Loop, Day 3: Sea of Lava

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October 17, 2022, St. Anthony, ID- The boys noted a white ball cap, at the bottom of the small crater. One of them asked if he might shimmy down and retrieve it-which of course brought his father’s gentle but firm negative response. The presence of the family of five was a delightful addition to one of the most impressive flows of lava rock in the continental United States: Craters of the Moon.

This was my main draw to eastern Idaho, with Three Bears Inn, a cozy family home here in St. Anthony, a very close second. Three Bears is a serendipitous find, coming about when someone at Hotels.com misinterpreted my request for a room in St. Anthony, Newfoundland, last June. I was offered a room here, as compensation, for the charge that was incurred then.

The day started, somewhat chilly, in Jordan Valley, with a convenience store breakfast sandwich the only morning meal option. After a fashion, I headed off towards Idaho’s Owyhee Region. The name is a corruption of “Hawai’i”, coming from fur trappers having brought a crew of Native Hawaiians to the area, in 1819. Three of the Hawaiians embarked on an exploration of the Owyhee River’s canyonlands, but never returned to the base camp. The name Owyhee has been bestowed on the area, spanning parts of Oregon, Idaho and Nevada, in their honour.

Owyhee Overlook, Idaho
Owyhee Overlook, Idaho
Owyhee Overlook, Idaho

I continued past Boise, which will be a stop on the way back to Carson City, and found Little Camas Valley, where some of Idaho’s fall foliage was on view.

Oaks of the Little Camas, south central Idaho
Basalt outcropping, Little Camas
Basalt promontory, Little Camas

The presence of so much basalt, all along Highway 20, interrupts the constant presence of sage brush, as does the large presence of agriculture-both corporate and small scale. The Snake River Plain, from Fairfield in the west to Ashton in the east, is a prime potato growing region. Just shy of Arco, however, Craters of the Moon’s lava fields interrupts the farmlands, as much as the soil itself was created and enriched by the flow. This is the bounty of the Great Idaho Rift.

Here are some scenes, north of the actual monument grounds, and along Idaho Route 20.

Lava beds, north and west of North Crater, which is the central point of the Monument.
Lava bed, along Rte. 20

Pioneer Mountains, above the lava beds

Entering the Monument, which focuses on North Crater and its nearby flows, I encountered a family of four, joyfully coming back from a short walk in the lava field across from the Visitor Center. Here is what they saw.

A determined and lonely pine rises above sage and stone.
Older lava flow, at base of North Crater
Dwarf buckwheat is one of the more prolific flowering plants that has adapted to the lava beds.
Inferno Peak, a hikeable cinder cone.

I made the hike to the top of Inferno Peak in ten minutes. There, to greet me, was the Leaning Juniper of the Craters.

Lone juniper, atop Inferno Peak
Resilient sage and mature buckwheat, Inferno Peak summit
Big Craters, from the summit of Inferno Peak

Red cinder, Inferno Peak summit

The last focus of this visit was on the Spatter Cones, small volcanoes-or as one of the little girls present called, “Baby Volcanoes”.

Here was the place where I encountered the family mentioned at the beginning of this post.

Lastly, I stopped at Devil’s Orchard, an otherworldly group of standing lava rock. The place was so named by a visiting Christian preacher, in the early twentieth century.

Basalt standing in Devil’s Orchard

The scope of Craters of the Moon surpasses Arizona’s Sunset Crater, and rivals Lassen. It will be a stop along the way to future visits to Yellowstone and Grand Teton. For now, I settle in for a day or so, with new friends at Three Bears Inn: A strong couple, three sons and a daughter, two cats and two ducklings. Everything is just right.

Highway 160, Old and New

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September 1, 2022, Walsenburg, CO- The message outside the Bistro was endearing: “In the quilt of life, friends are the sticks that hold the quilt together.” The Farm Bistro, in downtown Cortez, is a place that I have patronized each time, save one, that I have been in Colorado’s southwestern commercial hub, since 2015. What matters to me, about a business establishment, even more than its products, is the reception I get when I enter and how I am treated while there. The Farm Bistro excels in that regard. Heck, the manager even gave me a peanut butter cookie for having been patient while the staff was serving a tour group. As long as we have eyes, ears and hearts, it pays to use them in a way that reassures others that their efforts matter.

I left Kayenta, an hour or so southwest of Cortez, after a delightful breakfast, courtesy of Hampton Inn. Across the highway from the hotel, the full geologic variety of Kayenta is in view. There were numerous families, of different compositions and sizes, in the wing where I stayed, but all were quiet and considerate. The Navajo Nation is a place where face masks are still required in public, so there I was with an N-95. At least we don’t have to pull them up and down, with every bite or sip.

Before going to The Farm, I noticed a man sitting on the corner of a gas station lot. He had a sign that read: “It’s my birthday. Any little bit helps, and God bless.” This was a new one, and even though I normally don’t hand money to sign-bearers, the notion resonated that this was a real birthday of a human being, and he had one other companion, who was bringing him a ball cap, food and water. I gave him a bill and was thanked profusely. Then, I went and enjoyed a Yak Burger and salad at The Farm Bistro.

Going past Durango and Pagosa Springs, I came to Treasure Falls, a small preserve at the foot of Wolf Creek Pass’s formidable ascent. I had stopped briefly at the bottom viewpoint of this small cascade, a few times. Today, I hiked up to the Falls topmost viewpoint, where on a good day, one can feel the spray. Colorado has not had as much rain as Arizona and Nevada, this monsoon, so the Falls were not as potent as they have been in past years.

Nonetheless, the hike energized me, in the warm mid-afternoon, far more than an iced coffee would have.

I was a bit tired here, but the rest of the hike was energizing-and unlike some other walks I’ve taken, I stayed on the established path. A group of other men did not-and advised against following their route.

This poor little one was struggling in the afternoon heat.

Once back on the road, it was an easy drive up and over Wolf Creek Pass. I spotted an overturned semi-trailer, on the opposite side of the road, with a large sign that said “KEEP OUT!”. My guess is that it has been laying there for some days now. I drove on, through South Fork, Del Norte, Monte Vista and Alamosa, before dinner time came-and I stopped at Lu’s Main Street Cafe, Blanca. Milynn served up a sharp and well-prepared Stuffed Sopapilla. It is a fabulous place to dine, and a worthy replacement for Del’s Diner, in nearby Fort Garland, which closed during the pandemic and now sits, looking forlorn and sad, at the east end of town. My only caveat about Lu’s is that the waitresses are high school students and closing time, on a school night, is around 6:30. They at least take their schedule as seriously as they do their jobs. Milynn and her co-worker were pleasant, but made it clear that they needed to get done soon. Nonetheless, when I come this way again, I will stop at Lu’s, hopefully earlier than I did this evening.

I got into Walsenburg, about an hour later, settling in to Anchor Motel. Other than a brief, but loud, dispute between two apparently drunken men, the place has been quiet. Walsenburg is a businesslike, but friendly, town.

Questions About the Ordinary

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August 30, 2022- The students were asked to draw their non-dominant hand, to examine both front and back and to write down any questions that came to mind about the hand. This was all by way of the commenter explaining how great discoveries are made, just by taking time to look at things that one sees every day. He pointed out that Galileo, using a telescope that Italian military scouts employed to keep watch on intruders, managed to see the physical features of Earth’s Moon. Mary Anning’s curiosity about rocks on the beach at Lyme Regis led to her finding the complete fossilized skeleton of a plesiosaurus. She helped identify a skeleton her brother had found, of an ichthyosaur, and later herself found the fossilized remains of a pterosaur.

With that background, the two classes of 10-year-olds were set to the examination of the non-dominant hands of themselves and of a partner. Some came up with as many as ten questions. Others could not think of any. Such is the range of curiosity, even among children. Some are ready to examine the world and all that is therein-or far beyond it. Others are like the baked earth that follows a period of warm rain. While we ought give up on no one, a goodly dose of patience will be needed, in encouraging some to learn-while others are just late bloomers, who will eventually find the stirrings of curiosity breaking through, like shoots through a hard soil that is cracking open.

So many times, I have asked, with regard to an ordinary phenomenon: “Why is that?” As long as that persists, I will wake each day with a sense of anticipation.

Hiatus for The Rushing Streams

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August 29, 2022- Lynx Creek was impassible, as friend Akuura and I looked out over it, on a short hike celebrating a break in the monsoon. That is okay by me, as the creeks and streams of our area need to have a high flow, if for no other reason than to ever so slightly raise the water table, and flow level of the rivers into which they feed: Agua Fria, Verde and Bill Williams (which in turn feeds into the Colorado River.)

The monsoon itself is on hiatus, with sunny weather predicted from now until Friday, when there are expected to be more storms throughout the weekend. Next week, from Labor Day until Thursday, 9/8, will bring another hiatus, then more monsoon rains, the following weekend. Still and all, this summer has brought the best monsoon we’ve had here in many a year.

Here are some Lynx Creek scenes.

This was at the west end of a residential area.
Scene just off a Forest Service road, in Salida Gulch area
Upstream, in Salida Gulch

Where a cross-creek trail washed out

This area is one of those in which I have spent little time, up to now. It is definitely worth more exploration, in the weeks of early October and those of November.

I returned to a frequent haunt today, finding that the return of hot sunny days affects some adults and children in a not altogether pleasant way. I sense that humidity makes many people disagreeable-and there is also the difficulty that some have with sleeping, on sultry nights. I am fortunate to have ceiling fans that keep my sleep patterns from being interrupted. There is AC, in a pinch, but I try to keep the use of that to a minimum. Other people, particularly in high rise apartment buildings and in older houses,are not so fortunate.

I like the idea of living each day to the fullest, though, regardless of weather.

Breakfast of Champions and A Long Ride

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June 27, 2022, Channel- Port aux Basques, NL- I was warmly welcomed this morning, into the main house of Abbie’s Garden, and directed to sit in a place by myself at a well-set table. The arrangement, of each party being seated separately, apparently is a Newfoundland tradition, derived from the British Isles. Having not been anywhere in that archipelago, other than London, this is new to me. It was very pleasant, though, as the host took egg orders, poured beverages and proudly presented a superbly-plated hot breakfast of eggs, crisp bacon, pancakes and fresh biscuits. Condiments were in serving vessels, not in their store containers. Juice (orange, in my case) was the last item presented. My maternal grandmother would be very pleased.

Prior to breakfast, I went around the garden and over to the chicken coop, where the flock, still inside the predator-proof coop, came to the netting and greeted me. All the little beaks were at the wire netting, clucking or peeping away.

Here are some scenes of Abbie’s Garden. First, here is The Loft, where I spent the night.

Upon bidding a fond farewell to the family at Abbie’s, I resolved to check out some spots along the road in the Burin Peninsula. Here are a few of these.

About an hour after leaving the Burin, I came upon Joey’s Lookout, named after Joseph R. Smallwood, the first Provincial Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. The place overlooks his home town of Gambo.

As dinner hour approached, I was at a park overlooking the Humber River, just outside Deer Lake. A few other picnickers were at the lone table, so I took a bench and watched a lone fly fisherman, in the river, with his hip waders on.

As I got closer to this port city, the grandeur of the Long Range Mountains made itself known again.

Once settled in my room, at Hotel Port aux Basques, the chatter and antics of a group of teens caught my attention. They were likely enjoying the first days of summer, as school just let out in Newfoundland, last Friday. This is part of the park where they were hanging out. No, I did not photograph the group!

The long drive was not so bad. Tomorrow, I bid farewell to this consummately civilized people and their salubrious island.

Abbie’s, and Pippy’s, Gardens

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June 26, 2022, Grand Bank, NL-

The scenes went from jaw-dropping to heart-warming, as the day was spent traversing a more sublimely lovely part of this island. After a packaged breakfast, indicative of the ongoing seriousness with which the Canadian government still takes the pandemic-with considerable merit, I bid farewell to Memorial University, and went-across the street, to Pippy Park. This large and ecologically rich urban park was established by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, in 1966, and named for one of its prime boosters: Chesley A. Pippy, a St. John’s businessman and philanthropist. I focused on the area of the park around Long Pond. Here are some scenes.

Seeing a family go to this area and examine the plants, with the children playing some of these instruments, I naturally went there, after they had left and was delighted to see what is being done, in the name of autism research. The autistic children with whom I have worked love tending gardens and are comforted by soft vibrational sounds, as am I.

Returning to the parking lot, via the South Shore of Long Pond Loop, I picked up a snack of potato wedges, from an Irish gentleman, who proudly told me of his progress in curbing his smoking habit. Congratulating him and commiserating, just a bit. with his plaint that the day was too hot (I told him I was from Arizona, which gave him pause in bemoaning the 70-degree heat), I said his taters were mighty tasty.

I next made a brief drive over to the Fort Amherst area, near the south bank of St. John’s Harbour. From here, are views of Cabot Tower, on Signal Hill and of the confluence of the Harbour with the Atlantic Ocean.

Of course, more time is warranted in St. John’s. I sense there will be an Avalon and Burin-centric visit back to the island, in two or three years, along with everything else. For today, though, it was time to head over to the Burin Peninsula, three hours away and settle in for the night at Abbie’s Garden Bed and Breakfast.

I arrived here around 5:45, was warmly greeted by Abbie’s widower, his second wife and his daughter, who is the proprietress of her mother’s Garden. My room, in a lovely house called The Loft, has all the comforts of home, including a thick Newfoundland comforter. The gardens, which I will photograph tomorrow morning, are indeed Abbie’s legacy. The houses and the trails are the work of her husband, Bruce. Their daughter has maintained and built on this legacy.

I enjoyed a fine meal in town, at Copper Kettle. A finer lobster and bacon wrap has never been had by man. This, after being followed by a utility worker, who the waitress at Copper Kettle says is a self-appointed pair of eyes for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, until I pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot. I guess they don’t see too many vehicles with Arizona plates around here. For my part, I saw a vehicle with St. Pierre and Miquelon plates, which makes sense, as the French territory is a short set of nautical miles off the Burin. Marystown, the Burin’s commercial hub, is “town” for the St. Pierrois, and their “mainland” neighbours.

After a lovely time relaxing around Bruce’s firepit, and enjoying some of his homemade rhubarb pie, it is time to go up and crawl under that comforter. Thanks, Abbie, for all you did.

The Towering Guardians

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June 25, 2022, St. John’s- Some days, like today, present themselves with two themes. At L’Anse aux Meadows, to which I was directed to go, way back nine years ago-and again in January of this year, the focus was on connecting with the spirits of the past-both First Nations and Scandinavian. As I headed towards this oldest European city in North America, predating St. Augustine, FL by four decades, my focus was knowingly on its modern aspects-especially Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, where I am spending the night.

In between the northwestern and southeastern areas of this vast island, there is much of both natural and human accomplishment. The most striking example of the former are Newfoundland’s two National Parks: Gros Morne and Terra Nova. The first was easy to stop and appreciate. There are several areas visible from the TransCanada Highway. Terra Nova, on the other hand, has no safe turn-offs from which to photograph, along the highway. It was also very foggy and rainy as I passed the lovely park. I’m getting ahead of the story though.

Here are a few scenes from Gros Morne and two other places along the Viking Trail, between L’Anse aux Meadows and Deer Lake. First is River of Ponds, a mecca for fly fishermen.

Next, came the ocean, at Parsons Pond.

The beauty of the north is indeed rather stark, with lots of rainy days, foggy nights and as someone commented, low light-even in summer. I am fortunate to have been raised far enough north that these things are not so much a factor in my appreciation of this sort of beauty. Then again, I also enjoy lower latitudes.

What I did not enjoy so much was the rain, fog and wind while driving between Gander and St. John’s. I saved time and money by getting a handheld sandwich from a convenience store in Springdale, a bit west of Gander. That was a good thing, because the inclement weather started right around the aviation center. Some may remember that Gander was important to connecting with the rest of the world, during 9/11/2001. It is still a bustling-and growing community.

St. John’s has welcomed me, even at this late hour (midnight), and I am settling in to a university dorm room, single occupancy. Thank you, Memorial University, for this Summer Accommodations Program.