Monday, May 23, 2016

Zion Part 2

In my last post, I was camped out at the lookout on Cable Mountain in Zion National Park. This was the sunrise view from my lofty perch.

My destination on that day would be Weeping Rock trailhead, which is just "down there" at the bottom of the canyon in this photo. If I had been a basejumper or parachutist, I could have made it down in a minute or so. Instead, I chose the slower nine mile route on the East Rim Trail...

There were still lots of wildflowers blooming. (By the way, thanks to my Botanical Guru, Colette Sasina, for identifying the primrose from the previous blog.) This part of the trail crossed through a mixed forest of Ponderosa pines and scrub vegetation. 

Echo Canyon was the next landmark. Cut by thousands of years of rain, the canyon has steep sides, and a narrow trail established by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers during the Great Depression follows a series of switchbacks down hundreds of feet.

The narrow trail had some serious exposure (drop-offs), but its two foot width made it a safe enough path, if somewhat exhilarating at times. 

Nearing the bottom of Echo Canyon, the trail flattened out quite a bit, but the views were still quite nice. The only sounds here were a few songbirds and woodpeckers and the wind rustling the treetops. I saw several ground squirrels, and there was sign of deer and elk, but no large mammals were observed by your correspondent. In fact, I was the only human being on the trail that morning... it can get a bit lonely, but there is also no one to comment on your smelly clothes or B.O.

In the depths of the canyons here, slickrock predominates, and trails are marked with cairns, since there is no readily apparent path to follow. Every now and then you have to stop, look carefully in several directions, and figure out where the next cairn is located. 

The second mountain from the right is where my day's hike started. I was almost three hours into a 4.5 hour hike at this point, and just starting to hear voices from day-hikers on their way into Echo Canyon from the trailhead. (That's another reason for no people in the preceding images... there weren't any around!)

But there were still many wildflowers out and about, including these beautiful red ones...

And finally, other hikers appeared, in this image just before reaching a narrow slot that rushing waters had cut through the relatively soft sandstone. 

Passing though the slot shown above gave one this view of tiny people on the canyon floor. During thunderstorms, a half inch of rain can produce a flash flood pushing a 25 foot high wave of water, tree trunks, rocks and debris down a slot canyon at 10-15 miles an hour, much faster than a human can run or climb to safety.  

The swirls and etchings of the rocks and cliffs in slot canyons lend a surreal aspect to the landscape here in Zion. For perspective, there is a hiker wearing a blue backpack on the trail just to left of center.

Looking straight up at 1500 feet of sheer cliff is not nearly as terrifying as looking straight down, but it is still very impressive!

And to prove to My Lovely Bride that I didn't just borrow someone else's photos while I was hanging out at Hooters or Twin Peaks, I asked another hiker to take my picture on the last set of switchbacks going down Weeping Rock Trail. (But I have to admit, I was ready for a beer at this point!) I finished the hike out in 4.5 hours, found a shuttle bus, and enjoyed a coffee and blueberry muffin in Springdale after calling Suzanne for a lift. I was happy to see her, but she actually asked me to roll my window down on the drive back to the coach... something about eau de backpacker in a confined space... 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Case for Buddha Love; Heading to Utah; Zion National Park; A Chair With a View; East Rim Trail, Part 1; GO NAVY!; A Tent With a View

Faithful Readers of this blog may recall the interaction of Buddha and Hula Babe described in an earlier post. I received this amazing interpretation from my spiritual guru, Judson Emens: A Case for Buddha Love: Buddha's perception of the solid, yet undeniably curvaceous, reality before him belies the absolute reality of Hula Babe's rapidly pulsating and undulating matrix of gyrating fields of energy. The predictable patterns of waves from Hula Babe's effortless, yet appealing bumping and grinding rapidly interact, at the velocity of the speed of light, with a higher vibratory frequency than Buddha can assimilate and subsequently our  little Buddha-man is reduced to being, alas, just a man.  His reality is no longer absolute. His holographic matrix has been penetrated at a depth that he has, heretofore, never known and therefore the altered state of consciousness he prefers is replaced by the altered state of consciousness that she prefers.    R.I.P. Little Buddha Man   

While still trying to fully digest Judson’s amazingly incisive spiritual treatise, we departed Page, AZ, and headed north to Utah. This sunrise view is of the mountains west of Glen Canyon Dam; I had read of the Paria Canyon Wilderness, but hearing George Hardeen tell about his week-long backpacking adventures there made me wish we had more time here in northern Arizona.  

The drive to Zion was relatively short, but as we made our way up the Virgin River Valley, the terrain got more and more impressive. Our campground was in the town of Virgin, within view of these cliffs. 

We arrived too late for a long hike, so we set up camp and took a walk through the town of Virgin. I suggested that this “fixer-upper” might be for sale. My Lovely Bride simply lifted an eyebrow. Funny how complex thoughts can be transmitted without any words being spoken…   

We got out for our first hike in Zion National Park the next day; the Watchman Trail is located right near the Visitor Center, but it's not exactly flat. There are several steep sections with overhanging sandstone cliffs. My Lovely Bride asked, "Ty, what keeps those slabs of rock from falling?" "Well, my dear, the only thing holding them up is friction, and often they come crashing down - hopefully not while we are standing here talking about them... let's keep it movin'!" 

It's been a wet spring here in the Southwest, and we have seen lots of light rain, and some quite heavy, while in Arizona and Utah. On the positive side, the desert is in bloom, with many wildflowers showing their colors. (Colette, I need your help identifying this one!) 

Suzanne found this perfectly formed sandstone chair to relax upon during our hike up the Watchman. I briefly thought about stuffing it into Suzanne's backpack, but of course the Park Service would frown upon its removal... 

I had been planning a solo, two-day backpacking trip for several weeks. MLB would be giving readings and staying with Rudy and Gretchen in the coach while I hiked Zion's East Rim Trail. The drive to the park's East Entrance along Utah Route 9, the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, provided a great view of Checkerboard Mesa. The mountain is comprised of Navajo sandstone, the most widespread rock layer in the western US.  In Zion, this layer of sandstone exceeds up to 2,200 feet in thickness, the thickest in the sediment world. The checkerboard pattern is caused by uneven snow melting and water runoff, and repeated thawing and freezing. 

Here is a lovely hiker enjoying another beautiful overlook near the East Entrance. The terrain here is stunning; this is my 8th trip to Zion, and I never get tired of the mountains and vistas.

Here is Your Faithful Correspondent about to embark on his trek. His Lovely Bride will accompany him for the first few miles, and then head back to care for our puppies. The trail looks very sandy here. In fact, it is soft, deep sand, hard to hike through. Of the 18 miles or so I would traverse over the next two days, about 15% would be sandy. The weather outlook was good, nights in the 40s and daytime highs in the mid 70s. During the summer, carrying enough water would be problematic, but spring snowmelt was still keeping the few springs running, and I would be able to replenish my water supply at Stave Springs, about 6 miles in.

During the hike with Suzanne, we found this stretch of rock in a wave pattern. A closeup might make you think she was on a beach, but the wider angle view shows the true terrain. 

After Suzanne turned back to retrace her steps to the car, I continued up onto a mesa that was cleaved by several canyons, including Jolley Gulch. Jolley's steep cliffs are a popular canyoneering spot, involving multiple rappels, and there have been several serious accidents here. I am too old these days for real rock climbing, but admire those who do it (safely). Just getting close enough to the edge for a photo makes me a bit queasy, and this is only a few hundred feet down...

I kept hiking up and up, and arrived at the mesa top and Stave Spring in a couple of hours. The foliage had changed to ponderosa pine forest mixed with junipers and scrub bushes. Near Stave Spring, I met a couple hiking the same trail. I noticed the young woman's visor and said, "Go Navy! Are you an Annapolis grad?" Lauren Sutehall is indeed a 2007 Naval Academy graduate, and served as a nuclear engineer and Surface Warfare Officer aboard USS Hopper (DDG-70), an Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyer, and the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69). Her hiking companion, Tim Wilson, is from Capetown, South Africa. We traded Navy stories and then parted for different campsites. They would be the only other backpackers I met during this trip.

Another hour found me at Cable Mountain (6,798 ft.), where logs and lumber were sent down from here to the Virgin River Valley, 2,136 feet below, from 1904-1911. The sheer cliff is just inches beyond the end of the cable tower. 

The view straight down into the abyss. I wonder if the loggers ever tied any poorly-performing men to a log for the quick trip down... that would sure build character and motivation!

Here are the luxury backpacker accommodations at the top of Cable Mtn, about 60 feet back from the cliff. I was the only one camping out for at least a mile in any direction. (Why do you suppose that was???) The temps didn't get below freezing, and I was snug as a bug in a rug - as long as I didn't go sleepwalking. I had a dinner of freeze-dried Thai chicken and rice (Backpacker's Pantry from New Zealand, very spicy but delicious). There were lots of deer or elk tracks around, but no bugling during the night.

Finally, this dusk silhouette of a big juniper tree near my campsite and a crescent moon behind it provides another clue as to why I do this. Come back in a few days for Zion Part 2 and onward!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sedona; Red Rock and Stalkers; Prescott Valley Event; Prescott; the Granite Dells; Steep and Steeper; A New Medium; A BATGAP Friend

We departed The Phoenix area for a few days' R&R in Sedona. Our campground at Dead Horse Ranch State Park is actually located along the Verde River in Cottonwood, about 20 minutes south of the famous Red Rocks for which Sedona is famous, and where we spent most of our time. The state park was named after a ranch owned by the family who originally bought the land here, and turned it over to the state for a park.

While in Sedona, we met our favorite stalkers, Brenda and Lynette, who had driven up from Phoenix for the day. We arranged to meet in a restaurant parking lot with a fabulous view (more on that later). 

While Suzanne gave several readings, I got out on several hikes. The Soldiers' Pass and Brins Mesa trails are two of my favorites. The next four photos give you a flavor of the dramatic scenery in Sedona. And yes, My Lovely Bride did get out once or twice to hike with me...

We did take time out to have a delicious dinner out one night at Sedona's fabulous new restaurant, Mariposa, whose owner and chef Lisa Dahl has had a reading with Suzanne. Lisa's son Justin has come through with stunning evidence for Lisa on several occasions, and this evening was no exception. The view from the restaurant is stunning, undoubtedly the best in town, and the menu even better.

After our Sedona R&R, we moved on to Prescott Valley, AZ, for Suzanne's next event. Shortly after we arrived, we met up with Rita and Chris Wuermann, who took us to dinner at the Iron Springs Cafe, a former railroad station. We had a great meal and enjoyable conversation with them, and learned a lot about their charming community. Rita would be attending Suzanne's Serving Spirit workshop the next day...

The meeting room in Prescott Valley was full for Suzanne's weekend workshop, and by all accounts it was one of her best. Many of the attendees were not planning on becoming mediums, but did want to learn how to connect with higher consciousness. Suzanne also had the opportunity to channel her guides Sanaya on Saturday, which was a favorite part of the weekend event.

Dr. Amit Batheji, an oral surgeon, had flown in from California for the event. He was a very nice guy who specializes in root canals, and asked us to schedule a stop in Southern California on next summer's tour. I'm hoping his request was for Suzanne to give a talk on spiritual topics, rather than to get me into a dental chair on a professional basis!

We had a splendid dinner with Elizabeth Boisson and her parents Judy and Jim at the Prescott Resort. Jim is a retired university health professor and has excellent taste in wine; he chose a great Argentinian Malbec that I was singularly impressed with. 

As the weekend ended, Diane Calderon presented us with Sedona "Red Dirt" tee shirts. "Arizona Guard Dog" was the design on Suzanne's immensely appropriate shirt, but it was really a diamondback rattlesnake; mine read "Old Guys Rock"... what Old Guys are you taking about, Diane???

On Monday, we moved the coach from Prescott Valley to Prescott's Point of Rocks campground, in an area called the Granite Dells. These Precambrian boulders have been carbon-dated to 1.4 billion years of age, and have an unusually high uranium content. One advantage: after four nights camping there, I don't need a reading light...

After two full days on her feet, Suzanne was grateful for the opportunity to get out in the fresh air for hikes and mountain bike rides. She made me promise to take her on "mellow" trails. I selected the Watson Loop Trail, and thought I was doing the right thing until we got to this sign; it pointed to a fork in the trail, with "Steep" and "Steeper" being the choices... "Ty, what were you thinking???"

This beautiful, twisted fallen tree appeared to have been sculpted by human hands, but of course wasn't. It was also a pleasure to observe that it hadn't been defaced by anyone carving their initials into the wood. 

We hiked down to the outlet of Watson Dam, where the outflow release appeared to be quite similar to the waterfall design on this lovely hiker's shirt. 

In a previous blog post, I mentioned that I would be sending My Lovely Bride to check out the vicinity for rattlesnakes before I headed to the campground showers, for which I received more grief from some "friends" than I expected. I suppose I may have made another tactical error in suggesting that Suzanne ride ahead of me on the mountain bike trails, in this case on the relatively mellow Embry Riddle - Jan Alfano Trail near Prescott. I was a bit miffed as we were screaming down a winding trail when MLB screeched to a halt without a word. "Love of My Life, what the heck did you stop for?" I asked petulantly. She replied in a calm voice, "Ty, I didn't want to run over that huge, five foot long snake lying across the trail 20 feet ahead of me." I smiled and said, "Oh. Well, of course, that would have been unkind, wouldn't it?" She's actually gotten much better about snakes since we arrived in Arizona; I think this was her fourth in the past two weeks...

On our last day in Prescott, I went for a hike in the Granite Dells while Suzanne gave a reading. On my route I came upon this search and rescue team setting up a simulated cliff face rescue. This team was made up of 12 very fit young men, most likely all volunteers, who often risk their lives saving some unfortunate hiker who was injured or had a heart attack, or a rock climber who selected the wrong route and got into trouble.

After a 24-hour delay to avoid 50-60 knot winds that could be dangerous to high profile vehicles like our coach, we hooked up and headed north through central Arizona. While on the road, we heard from Terri of the Frozen North in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, which is the only really important suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Terri was gloating that winter was gone in the Far North, and advised us that her state had actually recorded the highest temperatures in the entire United States that day, 20 degrees warmer than Phoenix and Death Valley. The weather news from Minnesnowta was not nearly as good as that of Terri's official "coming out" as an evidential spiritual medium. You can find out more information about Terri on her web site,

We arrived in Page, AZ, for a BSF. Aboard Navy ships, that's an acronym for a Brief Stop for Fuel. In this case, it meant a Brief Stop for Friends, in the form of George Hardeen, a Board Member of the Internet radio show Buddha at the Gas Pump (BATGAP). Suzanne had been interviewed on BATGAP by its founder, Rick Archer. George and Rick are close friends, and when George found out we would be passing through Page, he asked if we could meet for dinner. George is a thoroughly charming, engaging gentleman, and two hours and a delicious meal flew by in the blink of an eye. One of the most interesting people we've ever met, George is a public relations consultant, horse trainer, hiker,  40-year meditator and an expert in Transcendental Meditation (TM). Our visit with him was a fitting end to our delightful (but too short) month in Arizona. We are now headed for Zion National Park in Utah, but look forward to returning to Arizona next Spring for a longer visit.