Canalside Ruminations

6

November 11, 2019, Venice, CA-

As I set out to walk alongside the canals of this down-to-earth beach community, I noted that its namesake, in Italy, is at serious risk of sinking into its swampland underpinnings.  California’s Venice has its own concerns:  Earthquakes and a large homeless population being two very different such points of focus.   This is a part of Los Angeles where it is not unusual for people to set up impromptu “shops” along South Venice Boulevard, across from the north entrance to the Canal Walking Path.  There are many who sleep where they can, around the village.

The canals themselves are lined by eclectic houses, which seem to have many students and artists, in residence.  The quirkiness of the district is as much of a draw as the serenity that radiates from an early morning, canalside.

I chose to walk mainly along Grand Canal, which is the western boundary of the District.  My route took in the bridges of Carroll, Linnie, Howland and Sherman Canals, at their juncture with Dell Street.

Here is a long view of Grand Canal.

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I turned left at Carroll Canal, looking to cross the bridge in the foreground.

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From the Dell Street Bridge, here is a view towards the Eastern Canal.

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A couple of Little Egrets were on hand.  Here is one, grooming herself, along the Grand Canal.

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There is plenty of kitsch here, as well, including a Pink Flamingo paddle boat.

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Linnie Canal is the next feeder to Grand Canal, going north to south.

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As is seen in a previous paragraph, Halloween has a lingering presence, in the Canal District.

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Howland Canal came next, on my southward jaunt.

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These peace-infusing homes are at the junction of Grand Canal and Howland.

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This Gingko Tree nearly overwhelms the towpath.

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An upside-down dinghy strikes a pensive mood.

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Various messages appear, along Grand Canal, between Howland and Sherman.

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Canalside gardens also tend to be polychromatic.

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Here is a view of Grand Canal, as it bends towards Sherman.

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As I crossed Sherman Canal Bridge, and was walking northward again, I caught this Little Egret on its way to “safer” perches.

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This mural, outside the Canal District, depicts some whimsical creatures out of Dr. Seuss’s lesser known tales.

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With a peaceful counterpoint to the noise and energy of Venice Beach, I felt ready to take a look at Santa Monica’s vibrant Third Street Promenade.

 

A Day of Small Parades

5

November 11, 2019, Santa Monica-

For the first time in several years, I was not in Prescott for Veteran’s Day.  The three-day weekend coincided with key events that I have already described and with a long-standing visit to Orange County and Los Angeles.  I honour my fellow veterans and my own service, almost on a daily basis, in thought, word and deed.  Coming by other communities’ parades, if it came to that, would not be such a bad thing.

As it happened, a few veterans were at Gramma’s Country Kitchen, when I took a seat at the counter.  We quietly enjoyed our breakfasts, the regulars gathered in their group and I headed off, towards Hemet, Menifee and Lake Elsinore.  Traffic in the Riverside County suburbs was rather light, for a day of considerable commercial activity.

I chose the winding Ortega Highway as my route to the coast.  There were clusters of commuters, for whom I pulled over, as my first order of business was checking the water level of the reservoir for which the city of Lake Elsinore is named.  It looked to me that the lake is hurting, a bit, which is surprising, given the high water levels of reservoirs north of Los Angeles.

The views from the bluffs east of town were nonetheless impressive, though.

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There is a face, of sorts, chiseled into the limestone bluff, in the middle.

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Winding along Highway 74, as the Ortega is otherwise known, I came upon El Cariso, a wide spot in the road, which hosts the California Wildland Firefighters’ Memorial. It was initiated to honour the six firefighters killed in the Decker Fire, in 1959.  There is a trail from the memorial plaque to the actual site where the men died.   As I was due to meet a friend at Crystal Cove State Park, the trail was put off for another time.

Here are some scenes from the Memorial site.

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These scenes show the general area where the tragedy took place.

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My next stop, a bit north of Laguna Beach, was Crystal Cove, a state park which features beach cabins, in various states of disrepair-especially on the north side of the park.  My friend, J, who lives about an hour away, has visited the site several times.  I’ve been with her on four such visits, and am always interested in the progress, or lack thereof, in the renovation.

It appears, this time, that the work is being done in earnest.

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There were scattered birds looking for their meals, as the tide was out.  This little one appears to be a kind of sandpiper.

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Some children had compiled a cross between a cairn and a rock castle.  The stone on the front left reminded me, a bit, of Spirit Tower, in northeast Wyoming.

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With that, our table ringer vibrated and we went to lunch at Beachcomber’s.  The problems of the world, or at least our individual corners of it, were resolved over a fresh repast. I even was given a second bowl of tomato soup, whether by mistake or because I was wearing an American Legion t-shirt, is open to interpretation.  The meals were great, in any case, and I made dinner out of what was left, this evening.

On the way north  along the coast, from Crystal Cove, I stopped in Lomita, where I had stayed at a reasonable motel in the past.  I found it had become a residential motel, whose owner would not accommodate anyone staying one night, and that  it was a cash only operation.

I continued on, past the South Bay beach towns and Long Beach, opting to stay in Santa Monica, at Rest Haven Motel, as Venice and Santa Monica are on my itinerary for tomorrow.  Rest Haven’s  staff are very kind and accommodating. This day has been a full one, but also very affirming.

NEXT:  Canalside Reflections

The Sweetness of “Indian Summer”

5

November, 4, 2019, Cottonwood-

When I was a child, “Indian Summer” was the name given to that part of Autumn which featured warm days and cool nights.  It was usually done by Halloween.  This year, October was a mixed bag. Some days were mildly warm; others were a bit nippy.  There was no “Augtober”, at least around here.

November has usually been a guarantor of frost.  So far this month, we’ve had what usually comes earlier.  It’s been a delayed “Indian Summer” and is likely to continue as such, until after Veteran’s Day. No harm, no foul, though.  A major wedding is coming up, in my circle of friends, and besides, I have a distance trail that I’d like to complete by Thanksgiving.

Thus, today being a non-work day, I found and hiked a small, remote segment of Limekiln Trail, between a graded dirt road named for one Bill Grey and the point where I left off last time, at the base of a quartz-laden hill.  This would be a 3-miler, including the rough section of terrain between the road and Sheepshead Canyon’s southern tip.  A local man told me he didn’t think my Hyundai would handle Bill Grey Road, but it is flat and graded.  I had no problems reaching the trailhead.

Here is where I found Limekiln’s spur trail.

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This is what the bulk of the trail featured, as a backdrop.

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I crossed one wash and two mild inclines-nothing too difficult, on this rather bright day.

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The next segment will be 4 miles, each way, from Bill Grey Road to a point along Highway 89-A near Deer Pass Ranch, at Sedona’s southern edge.  That will feature a transition from desert scrub to the promontories that signal one is in Red Rock country.

It can wait until the air is just a tad cooler.   For now, I’ll just enjoy my brisket sandwich and potato salad at Colt Cafe.

 

 

Limekiln Trail

2

October 21, 2019, Cottonwood-

Being a sucker for distance trails which can be hiked easily in segments, I’ve managed to complete the Prescott Circle and Black Canyon National Recreation Trails, over the past five years.  Limekiln Trail, which stretches from Deadhorse Ranch State Park, here in Cottonwood to Red Rock State Park, in Sedona is the latest undertaking.

It is a fifteen-miler, one way.  So, this morning, I headed out on a whim, and parked at the Middle Lagoon, of Deadhorse.  Up past the actual Lime Kiln, a defunct lime quarry, I bid a good day to a couple who were inspecting it from a distance and headed towards my goal of what I thought would be the 6.5 mile post. (I ended up at the 4.5 mark, before heading back,  due to sunset and park closure concerns, but no matter).

Here is a view of the kiln.

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The first 1/2 mile or so, is the only real climb, on this segment of the trail.  I spy a rock face, looking me over, from the rim of Rattlesnake Wash Ravine.

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This granite outcropping resembles a dinosaur rib cage.

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Heart-shaped objects would be abundant, today.

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Here are a couple of views, from the north side of Rattlesnake Wash Ravine.

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Yes, central Arizona has its fall foliage.  These ocotillo are putting on their mini-show.

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Yuccas also send their wishes skyward.

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Limekiln is a very well-marked trail, especially with other Forest Service trails, intersecting, towards the 2-mile mark.

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Around the 4.5 mile mark, Highway 89-A is visible in the distance, and long ago volcanic activity is evident.

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I took a rest break, snacking on beef jerky and baklava, whilst sitting next to this welcoming lichen.

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Igneous rocks, of course, also extend their welcome.

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Carefully-maintained cairns keep the visitor on the right path.

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Lastly, more ocotillos bade me farewell.

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The rest of Limekiln will be hiked in two segments, sometime during the next five weeks:  Mile 9, alongside Highway 89-A to the bench where the heart-shaped lichen is found (Mile 4.5) and Red Rock State Park (Mile 15) to Hwy 89-A.

 

The Round and Square of It

4

October 9, 2019, Aneth, UT-

Any illusion that Native Americans are somehow all cut from the same cloth, or are otherwise a uniform group, was hopefully dispelled, some tome ago.  This is as true, with regard to various aspects of culture, including architecture, as it is to language and  physical appearance- just as it is with people of any large subgrouping.

Hovenweep, a Paiute name meaning “Deserted Valley”, is the site of a large number of mud brick structures, both atop and just below the rim of, Cahone Mesa, in southeast Utah-about 15 miles northwest of this small Dineh settlement.

I last visited this area in 1979, about a month after summer  break began.  There has been an expansion of the National Monument since that time.  For this visit, though, I focused on the Main, or Square Tower, Group of structures.  Outlying ruins will be the focus of a future visit.

The trail around the Main Group is 2 miles long.  The terrain is similar to that of Natural Bridges and other nearby canyons.  A short walk across the table of Cahone Mesa leads to a short, but rugged, canyon crossing, then around to Twin Towers and the Square Tower triad, before snaking back towards the Visitor Center.

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As you will see, the Puebloan architects variously used square corners and round construction, depending on the function of the building.  Squared structures appear to be more for dwellings and the rounded buildings either as kivas or as observation towers of some sort.

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The descent and ascent of Little Ruin Canyon is the most rugged part of the hike around Square Tower Group.  I would rate it as moderate, in difficulty.

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A small heart-shaped rock is visible, towards the rear of this small cavelet.

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Remains of several small homes, on the mesa top, precede one’s arrival at Twin Towers.

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As I approached Twin Towers, a girl of about twelve passed by me, cheerfully in her own experience of the area.  Her grandparents called her back, not so much out of fear, as to ask her to carefully pull a discarded plastic water bottle out of this crevice!  She gingerly did as asked, and had no trouble getting out of the fissure.

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Here are the remnants of Twin Towers.

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Just a few paces from the round towers is another rectangular tower, likely an early apartment dwelling.

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There were several people at Square Tower, as I approached, so care was taken to honour each one’s quiet investigation of this central area of Hovenweep.

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These are the structures of Hovenweep House.

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Square Tower is in the midst of the main kivas.

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Below, is a small single family dwelling.

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This is Eroded Boulder House, an example of the effects of the climate change of that era (1200-1300 A.D.)

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There are four areas of Hovenweep National Monument that are accessible by high-clearance vehicles.  One of these days, I will get to those outliers.

Today, though, I had two other visits to make.  I headed out of Hovenweep and made it to this oil and gas-producing community, in Utah’s southeast corner.  Here, I visited for about 1 1/2 hours, with two Dineh sisters, who are caretakers of this small Baha’i Center.  Members of our Faith have lived in Aneth for about fifty years.

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After visiting with the ladies, I am headed to The Farm Bistro, in Cortez, for an early dinner,  then will likely drive back to Prescott.  It’s been a fascinating Fall Break!

Three Bridges

4

October 8, 2019, Blanding-

In the summer of 1981, I was coping with what turned out to be a short-term derailment in my private life.  What worked for me was a week’s sojourn in southeast Utah, with visits and hikes in Capitol Reef National Monument and Natural Bridges National Monument.  I came upon the latter, serendipitously, going in with a skepticism as to how it would measure up to more well-known places, such as Arches and Canyonlands.

The rangers on duty at the time were among the most enthusiastic workers I’ve seen, cheerfully stating that I would find the Monument equal to Capitol Reef, certainly, and as challenging a series of hikes as any at Arches.

On that trip, I camped overnight and hiked a nine-mile loop that took in all three bridges.  This time, still tired from Goosenecks, I opted for one hike to Sipapu Bridge, and checked out the other two, Kachina and Owachomo, from short-trail overlooks, saving their trails for another visit.

Let’s get back to the difference between a natural bridge and an  arch.  The only difference, between bridges and OTHER types of arches, is that bridges are created by a body of water actively eroding the rock. Other arches are created by wind erosion, as well as flash flooding.

So, here goes-a flash flood of photos.  First, from the Canyon View overlook, which gives an introduction to the type of sandstone from which the arches, which became the bridges, were carved.

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Note that some of the same sky islands that are found at Goosenecks, and elsewhere in this area, are found here.

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Now, it was down the trail, with the help of some rails and log ladders.

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Lichen is also ever at work, turning rock back into soil.

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After three log ladders and several stretches of railing, I was close to Sipapu Arch.  Sipapu is a Hopi word, meaning “place of emergence”.  I can imagine how it would have felt, to have this structure towering overhead, when climbing out of a subterranean refuge.  For the record, the Hopi regard their actual Sipapu as being near Indian Gardens, in the Grand Canyon.

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From long ago, and a galaxy far away, comes Jobba the Hutt, keeping an eye on things.

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After absorbing the energy of being under the bridge, it was back up the ladder to further exploration.

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An interlude, between Sipapu and the Kachina Bridge overlook, is a view of Horse Collar ruin.  There appear to be two groups who built kivas here:  A circular kiva was built by people of the Ancient Puebloan culture, related to the Hopi, Zuni and Keresan nations of today.  A square kiva was built by people of  the Kayenta culture, associated with Hovenweep ruins, which are about 40 miles from Natural Bridges.  More on Hovenweep, in the next post.

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The overlook for Kachina Bridge shows it to be the widest of the three.  First, though, note the sandstone twins.

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White Creek, which cuts the bridges, is still very active here.

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Owachomo Bridge, visible below, is the narrowest of the three, being nine feet thick at its strongest point.

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Natural Bridges is adjacent to Bears Ears National Monument, a place whose existence is somewhat controversial.  The butte for which the Monument is named is visible from the turnoff to the Visitors Center for Natural Bridges.  The butte is sacred to Dineh and Ute people.

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In truth, I wanted lunch, more than anything else, so heading to this small tourist town was a priority,  over two more hikes.  Those give me an excuse to come back to Natural Bridges, though, which is a pretty good thing.

 

The Goosenecks and Valley of the Gods

8

October 8, 2019, Blanding-

There have been several goals that I have kept on embers, for several years now.  Camping out, above the Goosenecks of the San Juan River, is one of these.  The otherworldly ambiance of this unique landscape has captivated me, every time we passed by there, en route to visit the Dineh of southeast Utah.

Once out of Monument Valley, one comes upon Mexican Hat, a small, mainly Dineh town that offers astonishing cliffs, a small, expensive motel and a fairly economical cafe.  I enjoyed dinner there, then pursued my camping option.

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Small outcroppings of Monument Valley appear to the southeast of Mexican Hat.

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Three miles due east of the town, I turned left, drove three miles north and came upon the Goosenecks.

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As the soil at the campground is powdery, for at least a foot down, I opted to sleep under the stars.  It was a bit chilly, towards morning, but the brilliance of the stars and the sheer stillness of the place made it more than worthwhile.  I felt there were two rivers, one below and the other above.

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The easternmost promontory of Monument Valley is visible to the south.

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Once morning arrived, I greeted a few of the other campers, ate some stale leftover cinnamon buns and called it breakfast, changed clothes in the port-o-potty and headed uphill, to the Valley of the Gods.  This small, unorganized park is accessible by gravel road, just before engaging the 3-mile series of narrow switchbacks which leads to Natural Bridges National Monument.  I opted to take several photos from the side of the road.

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The last two photos were taken from turnouts, along the switchbacks.

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This view of the area was made even more otherworldly by the early morning cloud cover.

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In about twenty minutes, I had scaled the switchbacks in my Elantra and was en route to Natural Bridges.  I look forward to returning to this area again, in the near future.

 

The Grandeur of Monuments in Red

6

October 7, 2019, Mexican Hat, UT-

Several years ago, Penny and I took a guided jeep tour of Monument Valley, another of the Southwest’s signature geological wonders.  We encountered rock formations which resembled all manner of creatures, both past and present. There are, of course, myths and legends which explain these formations, though geology does quite well to keep things in the realm of reality.

My drive along U.S. 163, in northeast Arizona and southeast Utah, offered a glimpse of the formations which are visible from the road and some of which allowed for a better view, from overlooks.

The Mittens and Agathla Peak are the southernmost, and among the most famous, of the “monuments”, which are mostly sky islands that remain from the Oligocene Period, nearly 25 million years ago.

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Various ridges also remain from  the Oligocene.

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This pinnacle resembles an otherworldly sentinel.

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Agathla is 7055 feet in elevation.  It is what’s left of  an ancient volcano.

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This butte is also part of the same dormant volcanic outcropping.

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Second from right, the column looks like two spouses, engaged in a conversation.  The column to the far left resembles two onlookers.

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No matter how captivating and iconic the red columns and benches look, one must always remember that this is a working environment.  Ranching is a huge enterprise for Dineh people, struggling to thrive in an extremely arid environment, with poor soil.

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As the valley rises, and gets closer to the San Juan River, the promontories become more spread out, but no less majestic.

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Monument Valley, even fenced off, has a decluttering effect on one’s psyche.

 

Glen Canyon’s Legacy

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October 7, 2019, Page-

Leaving the pleasant Utah border town of Kanab, after a good night’s rest and getting myself a neck pillow (replacing the one left behind in Pennsylvania, last summer), it seemed like a good time to stop a few places in the basin of Glen Canyon.  The area is now best known for the resorts and water-based recreation of Lake Powell.

Just shy of the Arizona state line, lies the former polygamist community of Big Water, UT.  It is now an industrial zone and a research center for the Bureau of Land Management.  The BLM has an interesting Visitor’s Center there, with much research on the fossil remains found in the cliffs shown below.

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Ceratopsians, and their close relatives, are a major focus of the paleontology that has been done here. There is a well-illustrated display, which explains quite clearly the various members of this group of dinosaurs.  As is commonly known, what is now the Great Basin was once a large inland sea, separating  large peninsulas of present-day North America.  Ceratopsians, Mosasaurs and Icthyosaurs, along with giant crocodiles and sea turtles, were abundant here.

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Note that there are three types of Ceratopsians, distinguished by the length and breadth of their snouts, as well as the complexity of their cranial armor.

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Centrosaurs had narrow, short faces and simple armor.  Chasmosaurs had broad, long faces, with elaborate armor.

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After examining the details of the paleontology being done at Big Water, I headed a few short miles to Wahweap, a resort area long Lake Powell’s western shore.  The lake views are refreshing, but strangely, Wahweap’s restaurant is closed for the season.

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A good zoom view of Navajo Mountain, some thirty miles northeast, is available from Wahweap.

 

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Feeling somewhat famished, I stopped in Page, the town which grew as a result of the building of Glen Canyon Dam, and enjoyed a hearty meal of barbecued pulled chicken, with potato salad, at this fine and popular restaurant.

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Rarely does the Lone Ranger share space with a Hopi kachina, but that is what one might expect in Page, a welcoming resort town that makes the most of Lake Powell.  Page, Wahweap and about six other marinas reap the benefit of Glen Canyon Dam’s having “tamed” the Colorado River.  There are plenty of people who depend on the Dam and Lake Powell, for their livelihoods.  There are many others who think, as did the late Edward Abbey, that Glen Canyon was perfectly fine, both ecologically and economically, without any tampering.  I think that, had there not been a dam, Page might have become like Moab or Durango, and grown as a haven for the many who enjoy the still formidable canyon.

 

 

 

Resurgence

2

October 14, 2019, Arcosanti-

The first sentient being to greet me,

this morning, was my friend Pam.

It was a silent greeting,

each  of us stretching,

across the courtyard,

of the sleeping area,

known as the Vaults.

There were about twenty of us,

some, like Pam and me,

in our own singular spaces,

and responsible for

our own warmth.

Others coupled,

keeping each other warm

against the early morning chill.

Each of us dreamed,

many lucidly.

I resolved an old conflict,

wondering why fault had been

continually found with me,

all those years ago.

The answer came,

in my lucid dream,

and I was absolved,

set free,

with a new understanding

of why a beloved soul

had been so quick to judge,

back then.

It is always pain,

that brings this on.

When the pain is gone,

so is the blame.

The second sentient being to greet me

this morning,

was a peregrine falcon,

whom I will call Percival.

He perched on the rail,

outside the central kitchen,

and took in our shared morning world.

I sat and did the same,

for several minutes.

This, we can learn from animals.

The morning ever brings resurgence.