A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tracks in the Sand

The first morning in Death Valley I simply took a walkabout straight out across the desert from camp. I soon became fascinated by the various tracks left in the sand from the evening's activities. Most desert animals are active at night and I wondered about the stories that each track could tell. No doubt most were searching for food in one form or the other. It could be seeds or another critter. The tracks could be of the predator or the prey.

A rabbit?

A beetle?

A snake?

A lizard?

A kangaroo rat?

A mouse?

Even the wind leaves its tracks.

This fly or bee was so engrossed in his excavating that he couldn't care less that I was hovering right over him only inches away to get a shot.
This was a fun day, just casually walking along through the dunes, so peaceful and quiet, warm and sunny.
Whenever I do these walkabouts in the desert, my imagination always takes me back 150 years.
I think about the pioneers, the prospectors and native Americans.
Try as I do, I cannot begin to imagine how difficult and dangerous it was for them.
Me with all my comfort and modern conveniences only a couple miles away in my little movable home.
Them with everything they own in a wagon, on a mule or on their backs.
 Hundreds of miles from where they came, from any help or assistance, from food or water.
And of course, I am always dreaming of finding some long lost artifact. But so far those treasures have always been limited to rusty tin cans or pieces of a broken bottle.
I'm still waiting to come across that abandoned six shooter from long ago.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Time To Move On

I learned weather systems were heading our way and a decision had to be made, where to go? All of northern Nevada looked to be nasty. Snowstorms were to hit Donner Pass in the High Sierra. South was the only escape and Death Valley was the most likely stop with guaranteed nice warm weather. With a few parting shots of Arches National Monument, we were on our way.

We made it as far as Cedar City Utah for the first night,

where we got snowed on in the wee hours of the following morning.

Sinbad settled in for the long second day push to Death Valley National Park.

Late that afternoon with the sun setting on the town of Beatty Nevada behind us, we crossed through Daylight Pass between the Grapevine and Funeral mountain ranges.
Death Valley lay before us with the snow topped Panamint Range in the distance.
It is below sea level just beyond the lighter colored area and over 11,000 feet high at the top of those mountains. Pretty amazing I think.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Award

I recently was gifted with a blogger award. The giver of The Versatile Blogger award to me was TexWisGirl at Run-a-Roundranch. I learned of this through an e-mail from her and I sent a reply e-mail thanking her but admitted not knowing what I was thanking her for. What is a blogger award? Gee, maybe there was cash involved. She was kind enough to clue me in to what this distinguished award entails (money was not involved).  I was to make a post displaying the award (see above), write seven things about myself (oh my!) then pass the award on to another deserving blogger whom I follow (a difficult choice).  The easy part of all this for me is to say I am quite honored that TexWisGirl selected me as one of her four choices she made. I mean this woman has over 300 plus followers so I suspect a good deal if not all those, she follows herself. Wow!

So...7 things about myself.

1.  I am an only child. I often hear about problems and incidents involving siblings. I am okay with being an only child.

2. I have been married to the same woman, who I love very much, for 43 years. She probably deserves an award.

3. Two years ago we moved after living in the same house for 36 years. The old neighborhood degraded down to all aspects of a third world country. We relocated to a "retirement community" for those 55 years of age or better. We never ever thought we would live in one of "those" places. But we have never been so happy as we are now to live in this resort-like setting. It is peaceful, quiet and clean. Our home is right alongside a golf course (we don't play) and I have trails in a neighboring State Park less than a mile from the house which I can hike, mountain bike and run to my heart's content. Life is good.

4. I like to run. For my 30th birthday present to myself, I took up running to get into shape. For the next 10 years I ran, and I ran hard in all types of races up to the marathon. Then my knee gave out and I didn't run for the next 20 years (a bad period). I thought I never would be able to run again. Two years ago, when 60 years of age and now close to dirt trails in the park, I tried running again taking it very slowly. I now can run 6 miles, something I never dreamed of being able to do again in my life. I am so grateful I can once again run.

5. I once stayed at a nudist resort after the invite from a couple we know. Once was enough. It wasn't a pretty sight. But I think everyone should try it once. You will come away with a deeper appreciation for clothing.

6. In all of my travels I have never been lost. I have been momentarily confused at times but never lost. Well there was this one time in the deserts of Nevada. I didn't know which direction I was going or where what I was seeking lay. We came upon this building which turned out to be a brothel. I had to go ask for directions much to the amusement of the wife and kids left setting in the Land Rover.

7. On blogs. I have follower envy. I covet other blogger's followers who amount to more than mine. I have trouble with a blog that has music playing. I can't read what they wrote and hear music at the same time, so I move on. To bad too for some look to be interesting blogs but the music pushed me away. I spend way too much time doing a post for my blog. I spend way too much time doing anything involving a computer. It has taken me 5 days to create this post. Thanks TexWesGirl!

And now to pass this award on to another. The definition of versatile is "to do many things well". Well the blogger I chose does his thing (blog) faithfully day after day, with excellent photos and always an interesting commentary sometimes filled with historical information. A Photo A Day - photos by Donald Kinney gets my vote. This guy is up at 4:30 AM everyday and takes off somewhere in the northbay area of San Francisco, comes home and usually has his daily post on his blog before I am up and had my first sip of morning coffee. Every day without fail. Even when his camera was in the shop for repairs. Now that is dedication.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Third and Final Revelation

At Double O Arch I had the option to retrace my trail thus far, or take an alternate "primitive loop" back. I consulted my trail guide. "A difficult low route through fins; short section of smooth slickrock; slippery when wet." Translated that means a tough slog along narrow edge rock ridges with steep drop-offs to either side; a hair raising descent down a 45 degree angled sandstone surface worn smooth by countless hikers before you; pray that it doesn't rain. At this point I have had enough adventure (disappointments) to suit me for awhile yet it was still a difficult choice for me to make.

Whenever a trail traversed over slickrock, little piles of rocks called carins guide the way. Sometimes they are widely spaced apart and the next one in line can be overlooked. Earlier I was on one trail where I could see the next marker up ahead. I hopped down, well...half-assed slid off a 4 foot ledge in one spot of the trail. On the way back I came to the same place and realized I could not make it back up onto the upper ledge. I looked around and yes, this is where I came down. I could see where others before me had wedged some thick branches into a crevice for a step-hold up but being alone, this would not help me. There was nothing to grab hold of. I honestly could not retrace my path. I was stuck. I ended up walking about 50 yards down the slickrock slope at where the ledge lowered to a point I could climb up on. Here sat another rock carin. The proper trail made a V-shape to a point where one could easily negotiate from one ledge to another, but most people did not see that, choosing instead to cut across to the following carin by hopping off the ledge as I had.

So for the next mile or so I though about how easily I could get myself into a situation that years ago would be nothing for me to get out of. But now, in my advanced years, I have to be aware of the fact that I no longer have the strength or agility I once had. This was my third revelation and with that in my mind, I did not take the "primitive loop" back to Sinbad and the Little House on the Highway.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Getting Arched Out

There was a side trail about a half mile in. Not many people took this trail and I found myself alone all of the way. There wasn't anything special about Partition Arch itself but the view through it was.

 After I arrived at the arch, a woman showed up soon after. She looked fit wearing running tights, a tanktop over a long sleeve t-shirt, baseball cap with her ponytail pulled through the back and carrying a Camelbak water container on her back. She seemed in a hurry, quickly snapping a couple of photos and trying to get one of herself with the arch behind her. I offered to take the picture for her which she appreciated. So I asked why the hurry. She explained that someone was waiting for her back on the main trail and then rushed off. I later caught up with them. That someone turned out to be her husband. He absolutely looked like he was not enjoying any aspect of being out in nature or on the hike. I am sure he would be a lot more happier back home, sitting in his lazy-boy recliner, eating pizza, drinking beer, working on his ever increasing waistline and watching the game. I felt sorry for the woman.

Interesting formations along the rock wall.

Next was Navajo Arch. Again, just another arch which I found what was beneath it more interesting.
Looks like one of those miniature dioramas in the museum doesn't it?

Back to the main trail which led on further to Double O Arch.

Beyond that was the Dark Angel (where do they come up with these names?) I had already hiked 5 miles and could see the Angel from this vantage point. That is it on the left about another mile away. After that, you turn around and go back the way you came. This here was far enough for me.
(Oops, I see I used this shot the other day. Well, here it is in color)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wall Arch Collapse

Wall Arch was the most recent collapse of an arch in the monument. I remember reading about it a couple years ago and definitely wanted to see it for myself.

Some of the trails in Arches N.M. follow along these sandstone ridges, or fins as they are called.
They are a bit unnerving for you cannot ignore the drop-offs on each side. Of course the photos do not really show how it is, but trust me, it is a long way down. Notice the well worn path down the center which gives one the feeling of walking a tightrope although it is really not even close to being that narrow.

But for this poor man, he had to get on his hands and knees to feel safe. Meanwhile his wife had scampered on ahead like a little chipmunk. You can see her waiting at the top.

It only bothered me in the sense that I was thinking about what I had to hike on and completely missed Wall Arch off to the side. I noticed it on the way back down when I saw this cabled off area and the signs. Being the curious person that I am I investigated it and discovered this was the remains of Wall Arch.

Where it broke free from. Wouldn't that be something to have witnessed? I wondered of the sound it must have created.

I had forgotten to include this photo from the Landscape Arch post of a couple days ago. I thought it pretty amazing that this fellow captured it as it occured.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Revelations 2 and Double Arch

There are a lot of arches to see and admire in the monument and I was most impressed with Double Arch. The only word that came to mind for me was "massive". To see this arch combination up close, standing beneath them, was overwhelming. You can see the little ant-like people under it.

I climbed around beneath the arches like everyone else was, then sat down taking in the scene trying to imagine the forces and time involved to create such a wonder. When it came time to come down from my perch, a sloping sandstone ledge I had just clambered up, the confusion (or terror) must have been evident on my face. "How do I get down from here without falling and making a spectacle of myself in front of all these people?" Two ladies around my age stood at the base and one extended her hand. "Do you need a hand?" "Oh no, I'm fine" and I committed to a butt slide down. I quickly walked back to the parking lot thinking "Has it now come to this?"

The next day I was at another arch, much smaller, and decided to join these two women sitting beneath it just to see what was down the other side. I stood there looking at the sandstone slope, the boulder off the side and just could not figure out how I could manage getting up. The woman jumping down offered me her hand saying "Here, let me help you" and pulled the old man up. I couldn't really enjoy the moment for all I could do was sit there and think about these new limitations in myself that I am now having to accept.
This was my second Revelation.

This is called...are you ready...Balancing Rock. It is the size of three school buses. The little nub to the right had another much smaller balanced rock about half as tall. It fell in 1975. I would like to be there when this big one goes. At a safe distance away of course.

Boring grey skies in the above photo, but here was a much better day for cloud pictures.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Revelations 1 and the Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch is probably the one arch used the most to represent Arches National Monument. It was a cold blustery day that I chose to go see this arch. The wind was whipping along continuously.

Just before the arch I walked along this trail edge, protected from the wind by the wall of rock on the right. Yes, it is straight off down to the left.

I stepped around the corner, saw the infamous arch for the first time
 and was blasted by a near gale force wind.
The ever increasing steepness of the angled sandstone was itself a bit intimidating with the thought of one misstep and the consequences of tumbling down into the deep bowl below. Added to that, having to compensate for the the wind coming at me at 25mph plus, I really had no desire to venture any further, especially after having to hit the deck when a tremendous blast came roaring past the arch. The guy above running and the girl behind him in the shadow had just been standing under the arch for a picture. The photographer was next to me. We heard the blast of air, the couple hunkered down flat on the ground and then it hit us and we too hugged the ground. Behind us? Straight down.
I eventually mustered up the courage to join the group sitting down at the left. I was none too proud to not confess to these 20 something year olds that "Years ago when I was your age I used to scamper around stuff like this just as you are. But in my later years..I guess the cojones shriveled up some." They laughed.
That was my first Revelation.

I briefly thought about going over to stand beneath the arch, but why? Why would I even consider such a thing, walking over on a 45 degree angle surface and risk being blown off into the abyss below?
No, I just wanted to get the heck out of there.
You may be able to see the guy at the bottom. He is in the right side of the photo a quarter of the way up from the bottom of photo. He was retrieving a metal water bottle that got blown away.

And you know, I don't even remember taking this photo or at from what vantage point.

On the way back I caught a view of the Little House on the Highway far off in the distance down below next to the road.
And yes, it is a straight drop-off here too.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Arches National Monument

Most of our visit was under grey dismal skies, not photo friendly. Occasionally the heavens opened up and I was able to take advantage of the light.

Landscape Arch at 290 feet across is the longest span in the park. Several years ago a slab broke free from underneath and since then then trail that led beneath the arch has been closed. Considering some of the other trails I was on, having some rock fall down on me would be the least of my concerns.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Messing Around Before Panic Time

With thoughts of freezing water pipes at night, I doubled up my sleeping bags and slept warm. The morning was cold but with the heater running and the strongest wi-fi signal I had yet for the trip, I was in no hurry to move on. Arches National Monument was only 53 miles away, an hours drive, so I relaxed messing around online, sending e-mails back and forth with my wife, catching up on the news in the world and a few of my favorite blogs including updating my own. I then checked the weather for the area. "Showers, possible light snow, and wind on through to Tuesday." This is not what I got on the road for weeks ago. "What am I doing here? What was I thinking? Why didn't I stay in Texas?!" I figured perhaps I'll just hunker down in Arches till this weather system passed. But wait! It is Sunday. What if the campground is full and I cannot get in! I then saw that it was 10 o'clock and I was nowhere ready to pull out. Panic now reared its ugly head. I got moving, fast.

I tried to enjoy the scenery through the windshield, not stopping for points of interest along the way.

I'll not go into all the nervousness, concern, thoughts of dread that were going through my head during the following two hours, nor the anguish over what to do now when I can't get in to the campground. I'll just say that we got the second to last campsite that was available. And little did I know, this was the just beginning.

It is nice being me, unaware of all the drama going on. If only the wind wouldn't blow sand in my face.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Few Bad Days and Newspaper Rock

After the Pecos River camp, campgrounds were nearly non-existent in northern New Mexico. We wound up at another mud puddle reservoir camp the following night. Towns were few and widely spaced apart. After what happened in Marathon Texas still fresh in my mind, the next day I paid way too much for fuel at what appeared to be a large town on my map that had only one station, when the next town further on was larger and had two stations with a lower price. With the price of diesel fuel as it is, you shop. I'll not trust the map and its red dots for town sizes again. We were now in Indian Reservation land with zero campgrounds to be had. We entered Farmington and the few RV parks left a lot to be desired and way too much time was wasted driving around town searching for them. We camped at a Wal-mart which by the way turned out to be a nice evening camp.

The next two days held sites for me I've always wanted to see much like Billy the Kid's grave. First was Shiprock, a large rock formation on the featureless plains which the early pioneers used as a way point in their travels westward on the Santa Fe trail. When it first came into view I was disappointed. The skies were so polluted with haze, dust and smoke from nearby coal fired power plants, I could barely see it. It just did not present the image I imagined they settlers had. This picture is of it much closer than the 20 mile away first sighting.

As we had been in Indian Reservation land, I was becoming morose seeing all the litter and disregard for the land. The road would take us by Four Corners where the state boundaries of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico all meet. I've seen it a couple times before and thought "Well I am here, why not?" I turned off the road and discovered that the litterbugs are now charging a fee to get in.
I did a U-turn and left. Not because I am cheap (which I am to a degree) but on a matter of all the desecration of the land. Now what to do? We were getting ahead of our itinerary. I needed to find a camp. A sign guided us to a Forest Service campground. This led us 18 miles up into the Manti-La Sal mountains of Utah, at 7000' elevation, with snow on the ground, not one other camper there and the Little House on the Highway bogging down in the dirt roads of the campground. I barely made it out and made hasty tracks back to the highway. Over an hour was wasted and now quickly approaching tea time. The next Forest Service campground was a few miles on and fortunately near the highway. Whew! I pulled off and up to a closed gate. My heart sank. The campground would open in April. Now what?

I saw that there was camping on BLM land across from Newspaper Rock 30 miles away. I really wanted to see this site the next day when I was fresh, but things don't always work out to plan. When we passed through Monticello Utah, I made note of the two RV parks I saw there. As we neared the Rock 12 miles from the highway I see a sign "No camping within the next 9 miles". How can that be? Sure enough, there was no campground across from the monument. It had been obliterated by a flood a few years back and deemed unsafe to renew. I was mortified! To make matters worse, Newspaper Rock was not what I was thinking. I had it in my mind it was etchings left behind as the pioneers passed through the area. Instead it was Indian petroglyphs. I would have bet anything I had read otherwise long ago. Yet I was here and tried to put all that I had been through so far out of my mind and enjoy the monument.

So these etchings pose some questions. What is with the spoked wheel on the right side? The ancient peoples did not have the wheel.

What can be made of this other than a rocket ship and an alien being?
Antennae on people?

Is this an instrument or craft of an extra terrestrial existence?

Why four toes?

The more I looked the more puzzles there were. At least I knew this was a road kill.

We ended up back in Monticello at a rustic little RV park operated by the young wife of the local sheriff. It was still cold enough at night that they had not turned on the water to the camp spots or restrooms for fear of freezing pipes. She gave me, the only camper there, a discount for that. I really didn't mind as I was just grateful to have found a camp for the night. But there was electricity and wi-fi which created further problems the following day.