Friday, June 24, 2016

Mesa Verde National Park

We left Moab and drove south back into Colorado.  Although I had passed through this area many times in my life, I had never been to Mesa Verde, the famous cliff dwellings of the ancestral Pueblo people.  We made up for my past neglect, spending the whole day touring, hiking, and driving from one point of interest to the next.
The cliff dwellings are built into natural sort of caves or alcoves along a huge plateau.  It is mind boggling to think that people chose to live here, which meant a treacherous going up and down to hunt and gather.  However, the cliffs were good protection from the weather (killing sun in the summer, and freezing snow in the winter) and from predators who could not climb.

Square Tower House
We were so lucky to be able to tour two of these dwellings--actually climb down into them and explore a little.  The first was Balcony House, named because one of the building inside had a balcony.  We had to climb up a very long ladder to get in.  And once in, we wiggled through a cramped passage and a low, narrow tunnel--though the middle of the tunnel opened up into a small room you could stand up in.

The tallest ladder

Coming through the tunnel
We also got to go into the Cliff Palace, which I think is the most commonly photographed dwelling.

More ladders
We were lucky there because we got this dry witted Native American Indian (LaKota) guide who stood there above the kiva and played his hand carved flute for us.  It was truly otherworldly.

David Night Eagle
In this place again were the breathtaking vista's where you can look for miles without seeing evidence of man and the tenacious flowering plants.

Places like these give rest to the soul.  They offer refuge from the tragedies and hatreds and fears that plague our world today.  They remind me that we, as humans, are only temporal, and these stones and this earth will remain long after we are all gone.
And they also remind me about perseverance and strength of purpose--from the shallow rooted plants to the sure footed natives.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Arches National Park

After leaving Colorado National Monument, we travelled into Moab, Utah where the youngest one of us was very excited to swim in the postage stamp sized pool next to the motel.  I went too, and ended up getting all the way in and admitting that it wasn't really all that cold once you got used to it. HA!

We woke up early the next morning and drove to Arches National Park and stood outside the visitor's center waiting for it to open so we could get a map.  Then we headed straight to Delicate Arch and started our hike.

The trail was a mix of desert and slick rock.  My favorite part was at the top, walking snug up to the rocks, knowing that at any moment the arch we were waiting for would come into view.  And how it did!

Because it was still early, and the hike is not the easiest, there were very few people up there with us. (Though we did meet some truly early birds hiking down as we made our way up!)
The wind was up, and when I stood in the arch and looked up, I felt like I was going to blow out and die.  Of course, I knew I wouldn't really, but the sensation was truly terrific--as in terrifying terrific.

I was very proud that my dear husband made it all the way to this view.  I was sure he had given up waaaay back there.  But no!  When we just started heading back, to our surprise there he was!  I was so thrilled.  He, however, was not thrilled.  He was mad because he had not wanted to hike at all, and this hike was long and up hill and no one had waited for him and we had all the water.
Really though, once he got around the corner and to the arch and had a rest, his grumpiness faded a little.  And because of the remarkableness of the park, he hiked some more and was even caught smiling!

We spent a full day in the park, wandering among the arches and rock formations.  We were super lucky as clouds rolled in all day, sometimes sprinkling us with rain (which seems to evaporate as soon as it touches earth), so we kept cool in what would otherwise have been crushing heat.

Petroglyphs hammered into the rock by Native peoples around 1600.  See the people on horseback?
Is that Parade of Elephants there on the left?
The enormity of South Window

Clouds rolling in here over North Window
Double Arch
Picture from my collapsed state in the shade.  What happened to those clouds?

One of the young people is missing from this photo because he was hunting around for snakes.  The only snake we saw that day was on a man from England's phone.  He captured a picture of a big gopher snake as it crossed the car park.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Colorado National Monument

It is hard to believe that it was just last week we were in Colorado National Monument.  This National Park has an unfortunate name.  It sounds like a place you will drive up to and see a plaque on a sculpture of some sort.  But it is actually a huge plateau and canyon--not so large as the Grand Canyon of course--but still mightily grand.

 We spent some time up on the plateau and some down against the rock.

The enormity is hard for the mind to comprehend.  Yet, it is just this magnitude that seems to free my soul.  It's like I feel myself fly in these big open skies.
Focusing on the small details in these landscapes is delightful.  What contrasts!

At the end of the day, we took a back road into Utah, still following the course of the Colorado River.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Hanging Lake

Last week we flew out to Colorado.  Our flight landed in the early afternoon, so we had time for a hike.

As you head out of the incredible ski mountain areas around Vail, the road descends, following the Colorado river through a canyon. In the picture above the water is pretty placid, but there were parts where the rapids were extreme.

Just before Glenwood Springs, there is a turn off for Hanging Lake.  We had some excellent advice that we would find good hiking there.  And we did!

The trail starts off pretty friendly, but quickly becomes challenging.  It is a serious up hill hike.  The rocky trail switches back and forth across a stream, and in total you cross seven bridges.  It is the kind of hike where you start ticking off bridges and hoping that the next one comes into view soon.  I was concerned too, that we give ourselves enough time to get up and back before dark.  The trail in darkness would be a true nightmare.

After the seventh bridge, we saw a guy waaay up on a rock and a sort of rail.  Oh dear grief!  I thought, we have to get up there?!  And indeed we did, up a sort of steep, narrow rock stairway.  Up, up, up.  Then, as we rounded the bend, we saw the lake, and it was fantastic!
It was spectacularly clear so that you could see lovely little rainbow trout swimming in the shallows. Then the deeper part, under the cliffs and fed by waterfalls was a rich turquoise blue. And truly, the lake seems to hang there between the canyon walls.

I felt lucky to get this picture because a group before us had some show off-y young men who walked out on the log laying across the lake.  This is totally against the rules of the place which instruct you to keep out of the water and stay on the edges.  I did not want them in my pictures, and I found their behavior annoying.
Behind the waterfalls over the lake is the humongous grandfather waterfall that feeds them.  We spent a little time messing around taking videos and pictures before the freezing spray sent us back down the trail again.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Summer Rhythm

The rhythm of summer means . . .

. . . having time to learn new things, like knitting cables.  The cable business isn't hard, but this is only the second hat I've knit in the round and for some reason I've caught myself twice going around inside out which is mind bending--though I think I've got it solved now.  (The pattern here Northward from tincanknits free patterns.)

 . . . having time to read.  I haven't read a book by Louise Erdrich in years.  I'm loving this one! 

. . . having time to look after plants in a garden.  

There are eggplants already and flowers promising more. 

                           I love eggplant!!  I didn't even know what eggplants were when I was a kid, and I                                don't remember when I first tried one, but now it is at the top of my vegetable list.

                           We've had trouble with rats robbing our vegetables in the past (I know, rats ew! 
                           But this is an urban place after all), and I saw a few out the window one morning, 
                           so a friend left this cat thing over at our house about a year ago, and I'm trying it 
                           out as a decoy.  ?

                               Some of these petunia's survived the winter (the magenta ones I think).  

 . . . and having time to get started on some big clean up projects.  This one is an attack on the bamboo.  Right now it is a total disaster.  Chopped down bamboo is lying all over the place.  I need to get all the cut off pieces trimmed and stacked--like made into a lean-to or something rather than jumbled up looking like brush fire and home for rats!!