Friday, June 22, 2018

Las Vegas Friends; Zion National Park; Provo; "Sorry, Rudy!"; Attacked by Loose Dogs; Fly Fishing; Winston and Jean; "Poop Gold"???

Welcome back to Life As Ty Sees It! It's been a few weeks since my last blog post, and we've been doing a lot of driving. Distances out West are a lot longer than back East. We've been catching up with friends, hiking, fishing, and of course Suzanne, also known as My Lovely Bride (MLB) has been working long hours doing her spiritual work. We're glad you're back with us and keeping up with our journey, both the earthly and metaphysical sides.

From Flagstaff, we drove to Las Vegas for a brief stop to visit friends. Jill Chambers is a retired Army colonel, and her husband Michael Peterson,a Grammy-winning country singer, had us over for dinner, and of course Michael treated us to a private concert!

We also got together for dinner with Jerry and Karen Facciani at two fabulous restaurants, Lotus of Siam and Table 34. The former is one of the 10 best Thai restaurants in the US, and the latter has great New American cuisine. We are always impressed by Jerry and Karen's choices of dining opportunities (and of course his impeccable taste in wine!).

Our travels next took us to Zion National Park, one of the most stunning places on the planet, and one of my favorites. This photo was taken on the drive to Zion; we are still miles from the National Park, where semis aren't allowed!

About 75% of the visitors staying in our campground were from overseas, bearing witness to the awesome scenery here in southern Utah.

This was moonrise over the escarpment near our campground...

During our visit, we got out for a couple of hikes - the Hidden Canyon trail had a couple of areas with significant "exposure" - this means that if you're looking at your smart phone instead of the trail, you might fall a hundred feet or more, usually to very hard rocks far below... this is NOT the place to take a "close to the edge selfie".

In another section, park rangers had rigged steel chains to hold onto as you make your way over a very narrow trail; after awhile it got to be unremarkable... well, almost. Some hikers were acting frivolously...

... while others were more focused on the trail, rather than skylarking! By the way, did you know that "skylarking" is a nautical term, meaning to play or frolic about the masts and rigging of a sailing ship? The skysails were the topmost sails on a square rigged ship, and youngsters would run up the rigging and slide down on backstays from the tops of the masts to the deck far below. (Your Faithful Correspondent has judged that he a bit old for skylarking, at least here...)

We were also able to do a bike ride up the Virgin River canyon close to sunset, when there was almost no one around. Private cars are verboten, unless you are staying at the park lodge way up the canyon. The ride upstream (AKA "uphill") was a tad slower than the exhilarating 25-30 mph ride downhill. 

Zion is also known for many "slot canyons", which are very narrow canyons formed by rushing water. They are usually much deeper than they are wide. You would not want to be here during a flash flood, which can occur even on sunny days, if the water source is many miles away where a thunderstorm might be dropping several inches of water. The water piles up in the slot and can hit with incredible force and speed. Nine hikers died in 2017 in a slot canyon flash flood in the Tonto National Forest in northern Arizona. Eleven hikers were killed in 1997 in Lower Antelope Canyon when a 40 foot high wall of water hit them.

Road trips out west can leave a motor home pretty dirty and dusty. Campgrounds don't allow car washing, much less coach washes, so we took advantage of a Blue Beacon truck and RV wash facility. This of course is the semi in front of us; the six kids working there did a decent job, but minus the detailed waxing I would do myself. (But then it only took them 15 minutes to my 3 hours...)

Next stop: Provo, Utah. Suzanne flew out from nearby Salt Lake City to Manchester, United Kingdom, to meet with her colleague, Mavis Pittilla, in preparation for her next book, Mavis' biography. While Suzanne was packing, Rudy recognized that she was leaving, and decided that he was going along with her... "Sorry, Rudy, you can't go to England; they have a six month quarantine!"

While MLB was on travel, I had a week in Utah to hike and take a fly fishing class. Hard to say which was more fun, but after taking the class, buying some waders, boots, fish-friendly wooden hand net with sampling seine net, dry and wet flies, leader material, tippets, locking hemostat, etc., etc., I set up my six-piece backpacking fly rod which MLB had given me for my birthday last year and went fishing. 

I found a nice-looking spot on the Provo River and started studying the bugs suspended in the current. I picked out a tiny caddis nymph, and on my second cast, caught a brown trout, which I released. He wasn't huge, but he was pretty, and it certainly was a decent start to my new (and very expensive, compared to traditional spin casting) hobby of dry and wet fly trout fishing. Unfortunately, the sun was setting, and I had to be satisfied with that one trout and the joy of being on a beautiful white water river in a forested canyon. (To My Good Friend Bob: "Eat your heart out, Bud!")

We had a couple of dog problems in the campground - two loose dogs burst from a trailer and attacked Rudy and Gretchen. Before I could kick them, one had bitten Rudy, but fortunately Gretchen was unhurt. A trip to the vet was required, and of course the people responsible left town as soon as possible, before I could give them the bill. The very next day, a loose Chihuahua ran up to me, jumped up and bit me on the hand - fortunately he didn't break the skin. Now I'm carrying my hiking stick for self-defense.

On Suzanne's return flight from the UK, she had a three hour layover in Orlando, close to our home in The Villages. Bev Garlipp was kind enough to drive Suzanne's Lovely Mom Ruthie to the airport so that they could spend some time with Suzanne. Needless to say, Suzanne and Ruthie were very grateful for Bev's generosity.

When Suzanne returned to Salt Lake City, she brought a Very Special Prezzie to me from Jean Else, Mavis' partner. I was stunned - out of a very carefully wrapped package came... My Hero... Winston Churchill... well, at least a porcelain facsimile thereof, which pleased me to no end. This original Royal Doulton figurine had been Jean's treasure for 20 years; she and Winston share the same birthday, November 30 (1874 for Winston, a lot later for Jean!), and Winston was a Member of Parliament for Oldham, Jean's home town. I had mentioned to Jean when we met that I was a Churchill fan, and had been to the National Churchill Museum at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.  (Historical trivia note: this is where, in 1946, former Prime Minister Churchill gave his famous "Iron Curtain" speech, stating that "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent." He also advised that with the Soviets there was nothing they admired more than strength, and nothing for which they have less respect for than military weakness. (Things haven't changed much, have they??? Hopefully, we have remembered some of the lessons from Winston Churchill's era.) Thank you, Jean, from the bottom of my heart!!!

When Suzanne returned, we went for a hike up to a waterfall near Mount Timpanagos (11,752 ft), along the Alpine Loop in Utah's Wasatch Mountains. The exposed rock here is primarily limestone and dolomite from the Pennsylvanian Period, about 300 million years old. 

The mountain and surrounding valleys are heavily glaciated, and are very reminiscent of the Alps in France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.

Along the waterfall trail we encountered this impressive rockslide/avalanche chute. You wouldn't want to be here when the rocks are moving downhill!

Finally, during our stop at Hill AFB, this advertisement on the side of a mobile kitchen truck serving authentic Korean BBQ and rice (AKA "bop") caught Suzanne's eye... but not her appetite, for some reason. Come on, really? "Poop gold"??? Actually, it means good luck - in Korea, people eat this meal and go out and buy lottery tickets. (Sorry, but I don't think the slogan will do well here in the USA, although these Air Force guys seem to be quite ready to enjoy this traditional Korean food.)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Memorial Day; Sedona; Slap Ya Mama; A Juliana What? Flagstaff

First, a reminder that this is Memorial Day weekend, when we commemorate all those who have given their lives in the service of our great nation. It is particularly poignant to us because of our daughter Susan, a sergeant in the Marine Corps, who was struck and killed by lightning in 2006; she was six months pregnant. We would like to acknowledge all service members who have died on active duty and the sacrifices they and their families have made. 

Gosh, the past month has flown by! My last post had us in Prescott, Arizona, and we have just arrived in Provo, Utah. That's about 850 road miles, what with detours to Sedona, Flagstaff, Las Vegas and Zion National Park. So let's get caught up on some of our travels... and some travails.

Just before departing Prescott, MLB decided we should go on a bike ride. I wanted to find a nice flat paved trail where I could cruise along sedately and stop periodically for a refreshing glass of Sangria, but, "No, Ty... there are some moderately challenging mountain bike trails over at Emory-Riddle Air University, where we saw the rattlesnakes last year. Even you can do those... Mount up!" Sigh...

From Prescott, we motored north an hour and a half to Sedona, where we camped out at the Elks Lodge right downtown. Sedona is known for its red rock mountains and mesas, but also for its spiritual energy. Obviously, Suzanne is more tuned in to the energy here than I, but I can also appreciate Sedona's more sublime qualities, other than its serenely sculpted sandstone.

Our first hike took us on the airport loop trail with pretty decent views... I thought this cute hiker was as scenic as the red rock views.

But our week in Sedona wasn't all hiking. We got together twice with Lisa and Rick Wilcoxson for dinner at our two favorite Sedona restaurants, Mariposa and Dahl &DiLuca. Owner and Chef Lisa Dahl (center) graciously met us at both, and needless to say the food and company were 5 star! (If you're ever in Sedona, you MUST have dinner at one of Lisa's exceptional award-winning restaurants...)

While on a solo hike in Sedona, I came upon a group of volunteer search and rescue (SAR) guys on a training hike. For some reason, the attention of these guys was riveted upon a young blonde in short shorts taking a photo... "Dudes, wake up!!!"

The view from Brin's Mesa (via the Soldier's Pass trail) is terrific - Sedona lies about 5 miles in the distance, and the red rock vistas are stunning in every direction.

Of course, the reason we had come to Sedona was not for hiking - Suzanne was presenting her Serving Spirit Level 2 class in mediumship at the Sedona Creative Life Center, a beautiful campus on the north side of Sedona. There were many happy attendees in this class!

Okay, back to one of my favorite subjects, FOOD... back in Louisiana, Debbie Mercier had given us a container of her favorite Cajun seasoning, Slap Ya Mama, made in Ville Platte, LA, which the cognoscenti know as the parish seat of Evangeline Parish, the heart of Cajun Country. My Lovely Bride loves it as well, and because it is a low sodium seasoning, she is using it a lot, on eggs, fish, chicken, vegetables... on almost everything except ice cream...

While walking around our campground, we came across the first non-canine/-feline pet on a leash that we had ever met - a Juliana pig. Rudy seemed to think he was just another dog, albeit somewhat odd-looking. Seriously, a pig... his owner said that the breed is very friendly, so much so that they want to sit in your lap all the time. The pig also sleeps with him... I have to admit, I'm not sure I'd want to tell my friends that "I sleep with a pig..."

Speaking of our dear pups Rudy and Gretchen, they are enjoying our summer tour, but little Gretchen had a bout of GI distress and acute dehydration two weeks ago, and had to be admitted to the ER for a night. She was on an IV and several meds for a week, but is now recovering.

Our next stop was Flagstaff, where we spent a lot of time with Janean Quigley, a Shining Light Mom whom we had met at the Helping Parents Heal Conference in Scottsdale in April. Janean was our tour director and hiking/mountain biking guide/companion in Flagstaff... here we are on the Kachina Trail, a delightful seven mile trek between 8,800 and 9,500 ft through aspen groves and Ponderosa pine forests on the south slopes of the San Francisco Peaks in Coconino National Forest. The cute dog is Luna, Janean's inexhaustible Labradoodle.

The Kachina Trail's scenery was spectacular. We love aspens, and those here in "Flag" made our day. Those above 9,000 feet were still leafless, but those at 8,800 feet were just showing their new Spring leaves.

Janean and Suzanne were keeping a fast pace, and at one point I had to ask for a break... it's not easy keeping up with two young fifty-somethings!

We also did some serious (for us) mountain biking with Janean and Laurie, another Shining Light mom. Laurie is as hard-core a mountain biker as I have met, and she would have ridden us into the ground if I hadn't whimpered... so much for my macho pride!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Prescott; Granite Dells; Steep and Steeper; Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial; Prescott Events; 1877 Cabin and Gold Mines? More Hiking; Ty the Camel

One of our favorite places out west is Prescott, Arizona. (Please note that the name is pronounced "PRESS-ket".) Once the capital of the Arizona Territory (twice), it is now the county seat of Yavapai County. It's 5,368 ft elevation gives it a much milder climate than down in Phoenix or Scottsdale. We have stayed here several times before, and are taken with the Granite Dells just north of town. These granite boulders have been sculpted into dramatic forms by wind and rain, and partially surround Watson Lake.

The trail that loops around the lake has several interesting sections, as this sign reflects. It is a moderately difficult (in places) hiking trail, and a suicidal mountain biking trail. Indeed, we have never seen bikes on the toughest sections.

Watson Lake is a neat place to kayak, and the sunlit Dells make a great backdrop. "Kayak-Girl" was having a great time on the water!

There are a dozen or so submerged slot canyons where you can paddle up to a rock face or a sandy beach...

The waterlines shown in this photo are due to the rise and fall of lake water levels over the past few years, unrelated to climate change.

Up one slot, we found a large Amur carp (Cyprinus rubrofruscus; also Nishikigoi in Japanese) swimming alongside our kayaks. It wasn't as big as the manatees we paddled with back in Florida, but it was well-received by us humble humans. Of note, carp are long-lived; one Japanese fish named Hanako lived for 226 years (1751-1977). This fish probably won't live that long because this is a lake favored by great blue herons (Ardea herodias), and the carp's color makes him an obvious target, although he is a big boy...

We took a somber day trip to a state park near Yarnell, about 30 miles south of Prescott. The main reason for hiking that area was because of the Granite Mountain Hotshots; 19 of 20 men assigned to that unit had perished in a manzanita and chaparral-fueled wildfire near Yarnell, about 30 miles south of Prescott. The only survivor had been rescued from a nearby hilltop where he was serving as a lookout. 

This elite firefighting unit (all local young men aged 20-42) was sponsored by the city of Prescott, and after their deaths, the state of Arizona created the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park, where we had hiked a few days previously. This bronze statue was at the trailhead where
 we began our hike.

Along the 3 mile trail to the observation point, granite plaques commemorating each man are attached to trailside rocks. When I saw the photos of the 19 men who had died, I said to Suzanne, "They look like a platoon of Marines." In fact, three of these heroes had indeed been Marines serving in combat in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. 

This bleak landscape frames the site at which the Hotshot team was overtaken by a wall of flames fed by 60 mph winds that had changed direction 180 degrees. The 19 rectangles in the photo mark where the men deployed their fire shelters, designed to protect firefighters from less severe grass fire conditions, not the inferno that they faced on June 30, 2013. We finished that hike just a bit tired, but mentally exhausted after reading every memorial plaque to the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

On a happier note, Suzanne had two events here in Prescott; the first was a Sanaya channeling session, and the second was an Understanding the Shift workshop. Both were held at Unity of Prescott, a wonderful venue with an extremely friendly congregation.  

One of the highlights of our time in Prescott was dinner at the home of Billy and Laura Fields, along with our dear friend Diane Calderon. The Fields have lived and raised a family in their beautifully updated 1877 cabin for 43 years, on one of the prettiest pieces of land/mountain/river anyone could ever imagine (oh, and did I mention a couple of gold mines?). The culinary highlight was elk enchiladas, but the homemade guacamole and salsa was a close second. (Diane, thanks for the photo!)

This was the view from the hilltop woodpile above their house; urban sprawl is such a terrible problem out here... along with bears, cougars, wild pigs and javelina.

A short drive from Prescott took us to the Granite Mountain Wilderness for a hike up (what else?) Granite Mountain. The scenery is spectacular - pinon and Ponderosa pines, as well as the ubiquitous manzanita and chaparral, dominate here, along with lots of boulders and rocks!

Rock climbing is a popular sport here - these near vertical cliffs on the west side of Granite Mountain look forbidding. (Darn, I left my ropes, pitons and hard hat at home...)

... so, rather than attack those cliffs directly, we hiked around them. Okay, it's easier, but it's not cheating... who said we had to do everything the hard way?

These red and yellow cactus flowers blooming on the south slope of Granite Mountain were a pleasant reminder of the beauty that one can find in apparently stark mountain desert terrain.

On the way down! There were a few other hikers around and we asked one to take our photo - better than a selfie, plus we always forget to carry that silly stick! The hose running across my shoulder is connected to a 2 liter water bladder; I also had a soda bottle with water in my pack. (I was acting as MLB's camel on this trip... that's true love!) Our time in Prescott is coming to an end in two days... 

Oh, and when we finished this short hike, this was the time shown on my stopwatch... what's with all the 2's???