Three Bridges

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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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A first view of Sipapu Arch is found at an overlook, 1/4 mile from the trailhead.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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

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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

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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.

 

And The Bears Came

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October 15, 2019-

On Saturday evening, after I had put in about 7 hours of volunteer work in the kitchen at Arcosanti, I drove back to Prescott, with the intention of helping someone else with an early morning project.

There was a lot of energy generated that night, at Arcosanti.  Some of it found its way to me, at my Home Base.  in the prime dream time that is the early morning, I had a lucid dream that a group of children were in my apartment.  We had enjoyed a small celebration of sorts, and were looking out the window, when I spotted a large, shaggy brown bear heading into the neighbourhood. (We don’t have brown bears here, although the occasional black ursines show up, in the areas near the mountains.)  Kids ran, screaming, into nearby houses, and some came here.  Several more brown bears came, some walking on their hind legs. (Bears do not customarily run in groups.)

I found myself talking, through the closed window, to the bears which were approaching my place.  They understood my firm tone and went away.  One small boy called to  me and said that some “wind energy” had just messed up my bed. As no one had been in my bedroom, it was rather stunning to see that the previously well-made bed was indeed messed up.  I looked out the back window, and saw three more brown bears standing outside, with a nineteen-foot-tall figure, who resembled a character from the Transformers movies, in their midst.  I spoke to the tall figure, and it collapsed.  The bears then dropped to all fours, and went away.

I interpret this dream as meaning that there may be a time, soon, when I will need to safeguard vulnerable people, and speak truth to power.  Ironically, the bear, along with the tiger, is my spirit animal.

The Peak of the Canyon: Part III

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October 6, 2019, Jacob lake-

I came to the highest point of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, a bit earlier than planned.  My initial goal of hiking the Uncle Jim Trail, in honour of my late uncle, met up with the reality of approaching sunset.  I decided to head for the twin high spots, Point Imperial and Cape Royal, instead.

Point Imperial, the eastern flank of the North Rim, gazes towards the Navajo Nation and the various smaller canyons of the Paria River basin and House Rock Valley.  Such Grand Canyon landmarks as Vishnu Temple and Desert View Tower may be seen from here. The shadows were creeping in,though, so that added to the sense of grandeur.

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A soldier is, of course, watching.  This is also the best spot on the North Rim from which to get a clear view of the Colorado River.

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The striation of the entire canyon wall may still be discerned, layer by layer.

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It appears that the various peaks are lined up, almost directly, north to south, across the canyon.

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Seeing the shadows lengthening, I headed west, towards Cape Royal. It was this leg of the trip which reminded me that I am living in a society that often knows only “full speed ahead”.  The professional photographer, whom I mentioned a few posts ago, was on my tail, the entire fifteen miles.  We both made our goals, though, so the forty mph zip was an odd footnote.

One side feature, along the Cape Royal trail, is Angel’s Window, an eroded spot in the middle of  a sandstone promontory, on Cape Royal’s east side.

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The Cape offers a full-on view of the Canyon’s majesty, even towards twilight, as it faces mostly west and south.

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Below, is a better view of Angel’s Window.

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Sunset was gathering.

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There is always majesty in  the gloaming.

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The final moments of a sunset confirm that all is well.

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So, I bid farewell to the North Rim, for now.  Uncle Jim Trail still awaits-on June 3, which was his birthday.

NEXT:  The Legacy of Glen Canyon Dam

 

 

The Peak of the Canyon-Part II

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October 6, 2019, Jacob Lake-

I made a silent promise to my long-departed maternal grandfather, whom I never met in this life, but who has appeared to me, a few times, that I would not give in to a more irrational level of acrophobia.  He has been one of my spirit guides, all these years, exhorting me to face life and overcome obstacles.  He and Grandma imparted that message to my mother and her siblings; an examination of their lives bears out  that exhortation’s fruits.

So, as I readied for visits to three of the overlooks at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, there was no trepidation at engaging the heights of this wondrous place.  The North Rim exists at the highest point of the western Colorado Plateau. Had the canyon never been carved, one would face a 2,000 foot increase in elevation, from Tusayan to  the site of Grand Canyon Lodge.

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My first order of business, after looking around the Lodge for a bit, was a walk out to Bright Angel Point.  As today was one of the most gorgeous Sundays in quite a while, there were dozens of people, of all ages, walking about or at least lounging on the Lodge’s patio, which also offers views of the canyon below.

Here are a few of those scenes available to the sedentary.

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I then availed myself of a couple of overlooks, close to the Lodge.

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Bright Angel Point involves a fairly strenuous hike, mainly due to the elevation.  Those with pulmonary issues do best to stick to the Lodge area. An intrepid woman using trekking poles made it half-way, before concluding it would be a mistake to continue.  There were several of us late middle-agers who made the walk, though, along with folks as young as five.

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It was at the above guard fence that a little girl wanted to climb up, for  “a better view”.  You’d best believe her mother’s hands were firmly on her, for that exercise in bravery!

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The various striations in the sandstone clearly show the levels it has taken, to build this most magnificent of geologic records.

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In the next post, Point Imperial and Cape Royal offer a northeastern perspective of the Canyon’s wonders.

 

 

North Rim

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October 7, 2019, Kanab-

I will, as usual, post photographic accounts of my current jaunt, once back at Home Base.  In the meantime, here’s a verse on the topic.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Serene, confident teenager

stretched herself out

and took in the view,

of the gaping maw below.

Mother’s watchful gaze notwithstanding,

the girl took pains to keep herself safe,

as a much younger child,

asked her mommy,

“Can I do that, too?”

“Maybe, when you get

to be that big.”

The North Rim,

eight thousand,

three hundred feet

above the Colorado River,

at Bright Angel Point,

is not for those

with acrophobia,

or shortness of breath.

I promised my late

maternal grandfather,

spiritually,

that I would not

entertain the former,

and, as yet,

I do not suffer,

from the latter.

So, down the narrow trail,

I went,

and gazed over the edge,

at Bright Angel Point,

again at Point Imperial,

and, lastly,

at Cape Royal.

where two dozen of us,

watched the sun dip,

below the horizon,

accenting the smoke

from a prescribed burn.

Diahann Carroll

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October 6, 2019, Flagstaff-

Supremely dignified,

even in a scene of hand-to-hand combat,

she graced the small screen,

and cinema, alike.

She played out her life,

in a television program,

called, simply, “Julia”.

Her presence was magnificent,

throughout.

Diahann never took a backseat,

to anyone,

and the world is the better,

for having seen her like.

Rest in power,

dear queen.

Growing My Vision-Part 1

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October 5, 2019-

At our Baha’i Unit Convention, this morning, I spotted a sign on the host’s chalkboard, with the message, “Build Vision”.  One of the constant mantras of my childhood was that we each had to see ourselves in five years, ten years, etc.

Most of us have thought of this, to the extent we think of it at all, in terms of education, career, size of family, etc.  I did all that, and now, as my formal career has little more than a year to run, albeit as a part-time substitute teacher, my vision is changing tack.

It’s always been natural, even impulsive, for me to take in the world, in my planning or visualizing.  Often, I have been chastised, for being too global.  I think the point was for me to be more present, in the here and now.  My head has made great strides, in that regard-and my focus is sharper, in the past dozen years, than it was long ago.  A good part of that came with being a caretaker. There is, as is said in such challenging environments as, say, the Alaskan Bush, the fact that “Ignorance, distraction and stupidity are the three Princes of Death”.

There is much that I have left to do, so keeping my broader vision global, whilst maintaining a sharp focus on what’s close at hand, has presented itself, with a welcome intensity.  If I slip, I know there are those among my faithful readers, not to mention, real time friends and family, who won’t hesitate to blow the whistle.

That is the supreme comfort.

Nuance

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October 4, 2019-

We have all seen and heard- over the past few days, months, years- those among us who shun nuance, skit tact and embrace the bullhorn-far more than the average person.  Granted, most of us drop the tact microphone every now and again. Fatigue, stress, runaway emotions can all factor in and create a thoroughly embarrassing moment-or extended series thereof.

Those who have followed me for several years, know that I’ve had my share of tact-free episodes.  I have to own those times, and if they get thrown in my face, it is best that I ponder the situation and see what remains to be learned.

We have had a few firestorms of nuance taking a vacation, over the past several years, and most recently the back and forth over responsibility for climate change, as well as diplomatic fracases.  The larger truth seems to be that every living thing affects the climate of the planet on which he, she or it lives.  We humans, being the most advanced creatures on Earth, have the greatest capacity for influencing such change, but I digress.

Humans, chimpanzees and ants are the three groups of animals most closely associated with warfare.  Ants use what Nature gave them.  The Primate species use tools, and unlike ants, can effect intentional destruction.  There is scant nuance in war.

Nuance is developed by adopting a mindset that gradual change is best; that things aren’t always, or even often, what they seem; that complexity is inherent in the human condition; that people are not prisoners of their past.  Nuance, like any other feature of civilization, requires an open mind, listening skills and an essential love for humanity, for sentient life.

I look forward to continuing to develop an appreciation for nuance.