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Turtle Rock at Dinosaur National Monument in Utah.

Turtle Rock at Dinosaur National Monument in Utah.

            “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” – John Muir

 

A Turtle and a Lizard

One Saturday morning back in January of 1999, I woke up at o-dark-hundred feeling lazy and bored after a heavy-duty work week. My first inclination, as I noted in my journal that morning and reread for the first time this morning, was to turn over and go back to sleep. That, however, was quickly followed by the words “road trip” jumbling around in my brain.

Lizard petroglyph at ; Dinosaur National Monument, Utah

Lizard petroglyph at ; Dinosaur National Monument, Utah

Knowing which of those two thoughts would reinvigorate me more, my then canine companion Peaches and I set out on a day trip to Dinosaur National Monument, a mere 250 miles away from my Ogden, Utah, home. .

We left in time to see what I think is the most magical moment of the day, those seconds between night and dawn when the world is all gray and silvery and the world recatches its breath – and so do I. But we missed it because of the bright street lights on Harrison Boulevard as we exited the city. I was disappointed, but I consoled myself by knowing the day was young and there were still magical moments ahead that I wouldn’t miss. It’s the same feeling I have at the start of any road trip – and I’ve never been disappointed.

Among the sights I recorded on the drive to the dinosaur quarry were a farmer feeding his cows, snow in Echo Canyon and ice fishermen out on Strawberry Reservoir. I stopped in Heber for breakfast, where I was waited on by a grandmotherly woman who sweetly called me honey. Her words took me back to my Southern-raised origins.

There was more snow after Heber, but the road was mostly a sandy slush as the snowplows had already been out. I passed a guy rubbing snow on his car’s windshield to clear it, and was thankful my wipers and windshield fluid were keeping mine clean. The windshied fluid, however, ran out just as I was coming into Duchesne, where thankfully I stopped at a gas station and replaced it so I could see clearly again.

Just a few of the 1,500 or so dinosaur bones on display at the monument's enclosed quarry exhibit.  -- Photo by Pat Bean

Just a few of the 1,500 or so dinosaur bones on display at the monument’s enclosed quarry exhibit. — Photo by Pat Bean

After Duchesne, it was sunny and bright all the way to the Dinosaur Monument, which was located east of Roosevelt. On arriving, I didn’t spend too much time looking at the actual bones of dinosaurs exposed by diggers in the quarry. I was more in the mood to explore the 10-mile Tilted Rocks Road, which is rife with petroglyphs and pictographs, and scenic views of Split Mountain, which a few years earlier I had rafted past on the Green River.

It was memories of a quick drive on this stretch many years earlier that had been in my mind as destination for this morning’s spur-of-the-moment road trip. And this time, as I had not earlier because someone else was in charge, I was able to leisurely enjoy the drive at my own pace. I stopped often to get closer up views of the wall paintings and landscape. I saw mule deer, rabbits and visited a shelter site that may have first been used over 9,000 years ago.

The views of Turtle Rock and the Lizard on the Rock were two of my favorite sightings. They held the magic for me that made up for missing the gray still seconds between day and night.

I didn’t pull back into my driveway until well after dark, and after encountering more snow in the mountains. It had been an invigorating road trip, and I didn’t feel lazy or bored anymore; nor did Peaches, who enjoyed a good romp in the snow on our return drive.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Glenrosa Journeys http://tinyurl.com/htmsjfj Do a bit of bird watching with Candace.

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Through my windshield: Somewhere in New Mexico on one of the better stretches of road. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Through my windshield: Somewhere in New Mexico on one of the better stretches of road. — Photo by Pat Bean

“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.” – William Feather

Snow and Ice Adventure

            I left Dallas the day after Christmas, after three weeks visiting my scattered Texas family. It was a quiet, cold overcast morning with 950 miles of interstate driving ahead of me. I hate freeway driving, but I needed to get home by the 27th because my Tucson daughter was having surgery on the 28th.

To make the drive go faster, I listened to an audible version of Ken Follett’s “Edge of Eternity,” which is the third of the author’s Century Trilogy, and which covers the period of the 1960’s through the ‘80s. Those are years I lived through, so the book was a refresher history course for me of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Civil Rights issues.

Not too far from my daughter's Rowlett home.

Not too far from my daughter’s Rowlett home.

About 5 p.m., I pulled into Van Horn, Texas, and checked into a $47 a night Motel 6 – and immediately regretted my economy decision. About 7 p.m., as I was lying on the bed (on my own blanket) watching TV, the electricity went out. It flickered on and off for another hour then blacked out altogether. I blamed the cheap motel until I got up a bit later and opened the window curtain to see if I could let in some light. My car, parked right outside my door, had about 10 inches of snow on it — and the entire town was blacked out.

The next morning I learned of the Texas tornados, and that one had sat down just two miles from my daughter’s home — where my return to Arizona journey had started. Thankfully all my Texas family was OK, although sadly other families were not so fortunate.

Since I needed to get home, I got on the road early – well, after a half hour of scrapping ice and snow off my car without the proper tools and no gloves. For a while the roads were clear, but somewhere before I hit El Paso, snow began to fall. And somewhere after El Paso, the roads turned to ice. At one point I was following a snowplow, and at another traffic slowed to 10 mph, or even stopped completely a time or two.

Cayenne in El Paso, after I cleaned her up in Van Horn and before the nasty New Mexico snow and ice. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Cayenne in El Paso, after I cleaned her up in Van Horn and before the nasty New Mexico snow and ice. — Photo by Pat Bean

On the sides of the road were many stuck and wrecked cars and semis, whose drivers I assumed didn’t know the first rule of getting from one place to another on ice. Drive as if you have no brakes because you’re going to lose control of your vehicle when you apply them.

With 25 years of Northern Utah winter driving behind me, I felt reasonably confident I would make it through, and so I decided to take William Feather’s advice and consider the day an adventure.

It worked. I forgot about making time and my stress level dropped significantly – and I even made it home before dark. You don’t get many adventures like this at my age.           

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Pelicans http://ghostbearphotography.com/pelicans/   One of my favorite bloggers hates birds, but loves pelicans. I love his photos.

 

 

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, whn contc

The first aspens I saw were off in the distance, where their golden deliciousness stood out in contrast to the dark evergreens -- Photo by Pat Bean

The first aspens I saw were off in the distance, where their golden deliciousness stood out in contrast to the dark evergreens — Photo by Pat Bean

“Willows whiten, aspens quiver, Little breezes dusk and shiver” – Alfred Lord Tennyson

“Late in August the lure of the mountains becomes irresistible. Seared by the everlasting sunfire, I want to see running water again, embrace a pine tree, cut my initials in the bark of an aspen, bet bit by a mosquitos, see a mountain bluebird, find a big blue columbine, get lost in the firs, hike above timberline, sunbathe on snow and eat some ice, climb the rocks and stand in the wind at the top of the world on the peak of Tukuhnikivats. – Edward Abbey            

Aspens at Last

            Jacob Lake, a tiny community that sits at the junction of Highway 89A and State Road 67 and which is the turnoff to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, sits at an elevation of 8,000 feet.   I had expected to see aspen trees by this elevation, but none came into my view, although I usually began seeing these scarred, white-trunk trees around 7,000 feet. Of course that was when I lived in Utah, and now I’m in Arizona.

The second grove of aspens was right next to the road. I stood beneath this one and let it sing to me.

The second grove of aspens was right next to the road. I stood beneath this one and let it sing to me. — Photo by Pat Bean

Still hopeful that the goal of this particular road trip, to see aspen trees in their golden autumn colors, would be met, I took the turnoff  for the Grand Canyon. There was still 44 miles to go before I reached the rim of what many people consider to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world, so there was still time for this road trip’s mission to be accomplished.

And it was – although I was closer to Grand Canyon National Park than I expected before the landscape began to be dotted with patches of yellow that challenged the color of the sun. I was delighted.

Aspen trees gown in colonies from a single seedling that sends up its children through the earth into the sunlight. If you look closely, you’ll see how similar each tree in close proximity looks like its neighbor; and how different they look from a nearby patch of aspens that also hover close together with roots and branches entangled.

 

Near the top of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Near the top of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. — Photo by Pat Bean

Until its death, only the mother tree can send up new seedlings. Then another tree takes its place. It has to do with some chemical or such that the mother tree sends out as a birth control pill to the other trees, is how it was once explained to me. While an aspen tree can live only up to about 150 years, there is one large aspen grove in Utah near Fish Lake that is 80,000 thousand years old. Just thinking about this sends shivers through by brain neurons.

As I stopped to stand beneath one of the aspen groves, I was reminded that not only are these trees pleasing to the eye, but to the ear as well. The breeze rippling through their coin-sized leaves sent a pleasing melody into the air. The aspens sang for me.

 

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Life’s Purpose   http://tinyurl.com/ocjqsok  Why limit yourself to one passion. As a person who has many passions, this blog appealed to me. Even though I know that it’s the people with only one passion who may accomplish the greatest things in life. But oh what they miss.

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The Vermilion Cliffs -- Photo by Pat Bean

The Vermilion Cliffs — Photo by Pat Bean

“When in doubt, wear red.” Bill Blass

            “Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises.” – Pedro Calderon de la Barca

Red, Black and Green

If you’re driving north from Flagstaff to Zion National Park’s east entrance, you have a choice of two routes, Highway 89 or Highway 89A. Both are scenic. The first will take you up past Lake Powell and the second past the Vermilion Cliffs and the Kaibab National Forest.

Just red for miles and miles. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Just red for miles and miles. — Photo by Pat Bean

I’ve driven both many times, but since I was going to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, my only choice was to take 89A, which is where I passed over the Colorado River via Navajo Bridge.

Red is the dominant color of the scenery as you pass by the Vermilion Cliffs, which are the second step-up in the five-step Grand Staircase of the Colorado Plateau. These red-rock escarpments dominate the landscape for miles in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah.

I cannot pass by them without looking up toward the blue sky, however. The Vermilion Cliffs was one of the release sights for returning California condors to the wild, The population of these nearly 10-foot wing-span giants dwindled to a population of only 22 birds in 1987, all of which were in zoos or sanctuaries. By the end of 2014, thanks to efforts to save this endangered species by we humans, California condors numbered over 400, of which half had been released back to the wild.

One of the condors soaring once again in the wild. Note the attached number on its wings.  -- Wikimedia photo

One of the condors soaring once again in the wild. Note the attached number on its wings. — Wikimedia photo

I didn’t see one soaring high in the sky this day, but several years ago, I saw two flying overhead in nearby Zion National Park. Since I had followed the first condor born in captivity in 1983, when I had placed the story and a photo of the hatchling on the front page of the newspaper I was working for at the time, it was a triumphant moment for this birdwatcher, as well as a monument to the efforts of the human race for saving a species from extinction, whose cause of near death had been the pesticide DDT.

I was still reflecting on this momentous achievement, when the red of the landscape turned to green. In the last few miles, the highway had left the red cliffs to zigzag up in elevation until I found myself surrounded on both sides by the green of pines, spruces, oaks and firs that thrive in the Kaibab National Forest .

But I would have to climb higher, still, to find the golden aspens I sought. … To be continued. 

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Winter Syntax http://tinyurl.com/q6wb5ct As a writer and nature lover, I found this blog’s poetry appealing.

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This is an aerial view of the two Navajo Bridges, with the original one on the left. -- Wikimedia Photo

This is an aerial view of the two Navajo Bridges, with the original one on the left. — Wikimedia Photo

          “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” — Heraclitus

Beneath Which Flows the Colorado River

 

Looking down at the Colorado River from the original Navajo Bridge. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Looking down at the Colorado River from the original Navajo Bridge. — Photo by Pat Bean

           The first time I ever crossed the original Navajo Bridge was in the 1960s, and it was night. Built in 1929, and then the highest bridge in the world with the next bridge crossing the Colorado River 600 miles away, were facts which I knew at the time, and facts that sent a shiver of anticipation down my spine , and a bit of dread because of the dark night.

After that first crossing, I drove over the narrow bridge probably over a dozen times more over the next 30 years, and then I walked across it, and stared across it at the new, wider, stronger Navajo Bridge that was built in 1995. The old bridge was kept for foot traffic, with a parking area and a historical museum at one end, and a parking area and Native American open-air market stalls at the other end.

I’ve never crossed the bridge without stopping, and this morning was no different. Pepper and I walked to the middle of the bridge, where I looked down on the river, this time with camera in hand.

My two rafting trips through the Grand Canyon had started just a few miles upstream at Lee’s Ferry, the only easy crossing of the Colorado River within a hundred miles before the first Navajo Bridge was erected. The site is named after John Doyle Lee, who operated a ferry across the Colorado at this spot for many years.

Looking across at the Colorado River as it flows beneath the new Navajo Bridge. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Looking across at the Colorado River as it flows beneath the new Navajo Bridge. — Photo by Pat Bean

Just a short distance downstream Navajo Bridge crosses the Colorado River at Marble Canyon, which marks the start of the 277-mile long Grand Canyon. This spectacular gorge varies from up to 18 miles wide and 6,000 feet deep. But it’s only a little over 800 feet wide at the Navajo Bridge crossing, and a little less than 500 feet deep.

Looking down on the river from the original bridge this day, I envision myself floating beneath it, and a flood of wonderful memories canter through my brain. Sixteen days, each trip, of river baths, sleeping on sandy beaches, sunbaked skin, watching stars pass overhead through a slim ribbon skylight, hikes to waterfalls and fairy-like hidden canyons, no phones, no mirrors and, most memorable, an unexpected swim through Granite Rapid.

My excuse for taking this road trip was to see aspens in their autumn splendor. I suspect, however, that once again crossing Navajo Bridge was never far from my mind. To be continued …

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: There was a man http://tinyurl.com/peztncx Poetry and Flowers. Who could ask for anything more? A little bread and wine, maybe?

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Thank Heavens for Wikimedia and generous photographers for this fabulous stitched panorama of Horseshoe Bend because halfway down to the overlook I remembered I didn't have my camera with me. But even if I had, I couldn't have taken such a magnificent photo. -- Wikimedia photo

Thank Heavens for Wikimedia and generous photographers for this fabulous stitched panorama of Horseshoe Bend because halfway down to the overlook I remembered I didn’t have my camera with me. But even if I had, I couldn’t have taken such a magnificent photo. — Wikimedia photo

 

“Walking is magic … The movement, the meditation, the health of the blood pumping, and the rhythm of footsteps. This is a primal way to connect with one’s deeper self. – Paula Cole

On Being the Caboose

            Pepper and I set out for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon shortly after dawn, but stopped just south of Page for a quick hike to Horseshoe Bend. It didn’t turn out to be as quick, however, as I remembered it from my younger days.

The hike started with a steep trek up a sandy hill, where you got a good look at the long downhill path ahead of you leading to the edge of a cliff overlooking perhaps the most photographed spot on the Colorado River.

Pepper, the little engine that could to my caboose. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Pepper, the little engine that could to my caboose. — Photo by Pat Bean

Just coming off a serious episode of heavy-duty back pain – from being stupid and lifting way too many pounds for an old broad my age – I questioned my sanity about going on instead of turning back. It wasn’t the next downhill section that worried me, but the trip back up it.

Pepper, however, was still quite frisky and eager for the hike to continue. As for me, I wanted to prove to myself that I still had some go left in me. As I trudged, step at a time in the quickly warming day, I thought back to 1999 when my 60th birthday present to myself was a rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

I had made the same trip earlier in time, when I had paddled through the canyon in a six-person paddle raft, enjoying a wondrous up close, personal connection with the rapids. The second trip down the Colorado through the canyon was made in an oar boat with someone else doing all the hard work, which wasn’t too bad because I got to carefully study the passing scenery.

But then, on a side hike up one canyon, over a ridge and them down a second canyon to meet back up with the rafts, I reached a point where I had to have someone help me over a boulder in the path because I couldn’t manage it on my own. I shed a few tears at that. I wasn’t used to having to be helped on a hiking adventure. Usually I led the way – and was never the caboose.

On this day’s adventure to the Horseshoe Bend viewpoint of the Colorado River, I was following my canine companion Pepper. But at least I was going – and of course the viewpoint was worth the effort. In fact, it was magnificent.

On the hike back, I followed Pepper up the hill, and didn’t resist, nor cry, when she trotted far enough ahead to pull me along with her. I’m quite thankful to have such a wonderful hiking companion, and doubly thankful that I still have at least a little bit of go left in me, even if I have to be the caboose on my adventures. .

Back in our vehicle, with its air conditioning blasting away, Pepper and I continued on our day’s journey to the North Rim of the Grand Canyonas Dr. Seuss’s words danced in my head. Oh the places you’ll go and the things you’ll see. To be continued           

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Wednesday Vignettes http://tinyurl.com/qape662 Tranquil

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View across Lake Powell from Wahweap Marina. -- Photo by Pat Bean

View across Lake Powell from Wahweap Marina. — Photo by Pat Bean

“The power of the river is to flow wildly. The power of the lake is to think calmly. Wise man both flows like a river and thinks like a lake.” – Mehmet Merat ildan

Then Lake Powell before Dark

            After joining up with Highway 89 in Flagstaff, where I made a quick stop for gas and snacks — Cheetos and a Coke despite my resolution not to eat such road trip fare — I didn’t stop again until Page, where I checked into the Super 8 Motel.

Lone Rock as seen from the beach where I camped my first night in Gypsy Lee. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Lone Rock as seen from the beach where I camped my first night in Gypsy Lee. — Photo by Pat Bean

While the accommodation was definitely economy with no frills, the cost of my room, $150 a night, definitely wasn’t. I had gotten one of the last free rooms available in town when I had called five days earlier. The only room free at the Super 8 — and it was the cheapest of what was still available — had been a three-bed unit. It was a bit of overkill for me and my canine companion Pepper, for whom I paid an additional $10 pet fee. But I was thankful for it when I arrived because the people in the check-in line, both ahead and behind me, were turned away because they had no reservations and there were no vacancies.

This motel, one couple said, was their last hope. Page sits pretty much in the middle of nowhere on its northern edge with the Utah border.  Kanab, if the unlucky travelers were headed west was 75 miles away, and Flagstaff, if they were headed south, was 135 miles away. Little else was located in between.

Page, with only about 8,000 residents, has about 15 hotels – and sees about 3 million tourists annually. The town sprang up in the late 1950s as a housing community for workers and their families during the construction of the nearby Glen Canyon Dam, which backed up the Colorado River to form Lake Powell. The 17-square mile city of Page, land for which was purchased from the Navajo Nation, is perched atop a 4,300-foot mesa, about 600 feet above Lake Powell..

View from a scenic overlook near Wahweap. -- Photob y Pat Bean

View from a scenic overlook near Wahweap. — Photo by Pat Bean

It was still a couple hours before dark after I was checked in, so I decided to check out Lake Powell from the Utah side of the border. You can see the lake from Page, but the better views, I knew, were on the Utah side.

This would be a nostalgic trip back in time for me. I had camped at Lake Powell’s campgrounds several times when I was living in my RV, Gypsy Lee, and toured its lake aboard a boat before that. As an environmental reporter, I had also written about its controversial construction that flooded Glen Canyon, and its environmental impacts on the Colorado River. As in all things, there were two sides to the story. Actually, there were a hundred sides as I now recall.

But this late afternoon was not for thinking, just for seeing – and remembering. And the very best memory of all came when I looked upon Lone Rock. This unimproved beach was where I spent my first night in Gypsy Lee back in April of 2004.  What a great sundown ending to my first day of this road trip. To be continued …

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: The Open Suitcase http://tinyurl.com/nfg6823 This is a great blog for those of us who can’t afford to visit Europe, And if you don’t live in New York, you can even have fun trying to find Europe in your own backyard.

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