Friday, October 28, 2016

Red rocks, arches, and Utah's finest

We spent a few nights in Capital Reef, in a campground in Fruita, named for its many fruit orchards, sandwiched among the gorgeous hills and rock formations.

After three attempts, we hiked to the top of nearby Cassidy Arch, named after a guy called Butch.  First attempt, we missed the trailhead and did a lovely unintended hike in a slot canyon in Capital Wash.

The next day we found the trailhead, but misread a sign and bypassed the arch, nearly heading up and over a mountain we didn't intend to climb.  Then we back-tracked, re-read the sign, and found the arch.  (See the tiny people-specks above the arch?)

There were a couple of groups rappelling off the end of the arch.  (See the girl hanging in the shadows?)  150 feet to the first ledge with several more rappels after that to reach the canyon floor.  One of the groups said they had an extra harness and offered me a quick trip down.  As if.  

Is this cool, or what?!

Next was our beloved Moab.  I won't go into much detail because I already did that in this and this post, from previous trips.  (We come here a lot.)  We hiked out to the famous Delicate Arch, (a hike we haven't done in several years) to capture it at sunset.  Husband's photos are always much better, but since he's off on his motorcycle right now and I'm too impatient to wait, you get to see mine.

This is a popular photo-op, so we weren't alone .....

Caught some great light with the setting sun.

The slope drops off into a deep chasm, and a few of the photographers almost gave me a heart attack as they crawled around on the steep rock to position their tripods.  No doubt there have been casualties over the years.

It's a three mile round trip hike to and from the Delicate Arch and I started back ahead of Husband so as to not be caught in the dark before reaching the car.  Half the population of Japan likes to frequent our National Parks, so I shadowed one of their little groups to make my way back because the trail isn't clearly marked.  (Can't say much for the conversation, since I couldn't understand a word they said.)  Husband was armed with a high-powered flashlight, so I figured he'd be okay, knowing how he tends to linger till the last minute.  And linger he did.

I reached the parking lot just as the last of the daylight disappeared, and waited in the car.  Nearly an hour later it was completely dark.  A few specks of light (flashlights) were still coming off the hill in the distance where the trail was and I watched each one till it produced a hiker who wasn't him.  Yeah, I was worried --- What would I do if he didn't return?  We were miles from civilization.  There was no cell service.  The rangers were gone for the night.  I don't know how to drive a motorhome.  Etc.

Finally, after the once crowded parking lot was nearly empty, he trodded in.  Of course he stayed too long before starting back and had to zigzag and backtrack his way in the dark across the rock, trying to follow the trail.  He wasn't the last one off that trail that night, but almost. 

This, I have learned, is the problem with being married to a landscape photographer.  Their goal in life is capturing "good light" ... but it seems to always put us in darkness.  Either we're chasing the sunrise which means getting up ridiculously early (in the dark) and driving miles to some remote location and waiting for the sun to arrive.  Or timing our day around the sunset in another remote spot and then hiking back, yet again, in the dark.  And most of the time, the sun is completely uncooperative by not waiting for us when we're running late, or hiding behind clouds with total disregard for the trouble we've gone through to be there.

   Nevertheless, sometimes things work out .....
(Above) Dead Horse Point.  Breathtaking.  This masterpiece, taken by Husband, must end up on a wall in my house.  

We headed south and spent a few nights exploring around Blanding, UT, (a semi-drab town) visiting ancient ruins.  It was a little late in the day and the sun was setting when we did this hike, but look carefully.  See the structures built on those ledges?  Under each of those rounded formations in the center of the picture, are the Anasazi ruins.  

While I stayed "home" to do some laundry, Husband did a long nighttime drive out to the well-known attraction called "Hovenweep".   This is a group of large ruins, overhanging a canyon.  He went in search of dark skies.   He found it.  Take a look.

We went back the next day so I could see it.

Elsewhere, near Monticello, UT.  So many ruins, if you know where to look.
I learned later, we're not supposed to go inside the ruins.  Oops.

Another hike produced this.
Appropriately named, "House on Fire".  A new favorite.

Next we spent a couple of nights in the almost-non-town of Bluff (which, in comparison, made Blanding seem chic and interesting) where we happened upon our adorable niece and her husband.   (Via Facebook posts ..... "Are you guys here too??"...)   He knew the area well so we were treated to a guided tour of spectacular scenery, with some delightful company.  (What?  No pictures of us together? ....)  

Next post:  Arizona (Move over, Utah.  You've got competition.)

Monday, October 24, 2016

If I could hug a town .....

I was only eight years old the final summer of my mother's battle with cancer.  School was out for the season and both sets of my grandparents, who all lived in Salt Lake City, stepped in to help.  My mother stayed with her parents and I stayed with my other grandma while my dad remained in Oregon to work.  Grandma took me to visit my aunt and uncle and their family in their summer home in Glenwood, Utah, several hours south.  These relatives were strangers to me because they lived most of the year in Phoenix, very far from Portland where I grew up.

I remember us arriving in their kitchen that night, finding this strange new group crowded around a small table ..... Uncle Glen (my dad's brother), Aunt Millie, and my cousins Liz, Glen, Gayle, Bo .... and my older brother Dick who had been there a few weeks before me.  I remember the laughter and banter that filled the room.  Being so very shy, I stayed close by my grandma.   Little did I know, my life was about to change.

Grandma and I were given the front bedroom to sleep in, which had one regular-size single bed and a small cot-like bed.  Gayle and Liz, whose beds (I assume) we were given, were on the sofas in the living room, my aunt and uncle were in the back bedroom.  The boys slept in the barn which was more of a bunkhouse.

I remember waking to my grandma moaning and my aunt and uncle coming in to help.  I remember Aunt Millie moving me and Gayle to the big bed in the back bedroom.  They took Grandma to the hospital where she was treated for a heart attack.   And before daylight arrived the next morning, I was again awakened by the frightening sound of a cannon in the distance.  Boom ...... Boom ....... Boom.  What WAS this strange place?!  

That cannon, as it turned out, was a local tradition, hailing in our annual Independence Day.  Hello, Fourth of July.

Later that morning, Uncle Glen took me with him to check on a neighbor's cows or something .... and I was introduced to a smell that, to this day, takes me back to Glenwood.  The smell of hay, manure, old farm buildings, and barnyards.  I fell in love that day, with my dear Uncle Glen.  A kinder man, I'll never know.  I also quickly grew to love Aunt Millie and my cousins Gayle and Bo, who were both close to my age.  They became my second family.

Thankfully, Grandma recovered and was able to return to Salt Lake but I remained in Glenwood for the rest of the summer.  It was kid-heaven.  We climbed trees, floated toy boats in the irrigation ditch, made play-houses in the mud, sewed clothes for dolls, and spent hours sprawled in the patio reading comic books.  Glenwood was small enough that we could walk from one end to the other.  It had some old pioneer houses and buildings that were unquestionably haunted.  Uncle Glen, a master of nick-names, knew all the local legends and told us that a mysterious old man named, "Jimmy-on-the-Binder", once lived in the scariest crumbly old house which is now gone.  Just to walk up and touch the front door took all the courage an eight-year-old could muster.  Uncle Glen nicknamed me, "Buckwheat".

Their funny old farmhouse had a coal/wood burning cookstove in the kitchen and a wobbly toilet next to a claw-foot tub in the one bathroom.  Hot water, needed for bathing and dish-washing, was created solely by the cookstove from which my aunt could produce anything delicious.  Her fried chicken was legendary and she introduced me to Mexican food ..... something unheard of at home.

I remember the ladle hanging by the kitchen sink that we all use to get a drink of water.  I remember the creaky screen door that squeaked and slammed each time we ran through.  I remember the covered patio outside that served as a central gathering place.  There was the ice cream maker, the party-line phone, eggnog made from raw eggs, and the garter snake named Roscoe that lived in the woodpile. Their Phoenix home was modern and comfortable, but this odd little Glenwood house was magical.

We rode their horse and went on Jeep rides in the mountains.  Aunt Millie took us into nearby Richfield to shop or for other errands, and we'd often stop at A&W for rootbeer freezes.  There was no TV, no videos ..... just playing cards, a radio, and a record player upon which we played Beach Boys and Beatles music endlessly.  It was wonderful.

The following winter I lost my mother.  I believe, however, with absolute confidence, that God filled that void with an army of heroes.  My best friend's mom, my 4-H teacher, my grandparents, etc., and especially my dear aunt and uncle who took me in .... not just that summer, but each summer thereafter for the next five years.  Glenwood became my second home.   It was half my childhood.  Fifty years later, I still feel the magic when I visit that dear town.  I continue to bemoan each old building that is torn down.

Aunt Millie and Uncle Glen are gone now, and the odd little house has been replaced by a lovely new home where my cousin Gayle now lives with her husband.  But the barn is still stands along with the old horse corral and chicken coop .... and that wonderful barnyard smell ...... and many more of my delightful relatives who, over the years, have also made Glenwood their home.

This includes three of my cousins and their spouses and my brother and sis-in-law.  My other brother owns a farm a few miles away.  Another cousin and her husband lives in a nearby town.  It's a reunion whenever we go there and we go there as often as we can.

Which brings me to my latest trip update.  We spent four days parked next to my brother's home.  I hung out with Gayle and made the rounds to see everyone.  I will never own property there .... it's too far from our kids and business ..... but for a few days my little house-on-wheels can be my own Glenwood home, where I can reminisce along the quiet, dusty streets, smell the smells, and reconnect with family.

(I don't have any pictures, so I found these online.)

The old mercantile.  It has looked just like this for the past half century.
The post office.  It too, hasn't changed.  No one has a mail box.  They all come here to collect their mail.
We used to pass this house as we walked to church.  Sadly, it too must be torn down.
Another of the original homes.
As it looks today.  I don't know the actual name of the mountain behind the town.  We call it Hercules because that's what Uncle Glen named it.  As far as I'm concerned, that's as good as official.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Can you say .... R E M O T E ?

We've been on the road since Sept. 28, over 2.5 weeks ago, and I am overdue on a blog update.  Since this blog is ruled by moods, particularly my mood, sometimes nothing happens.  Not that I've been in a bad mood ..... far from it ..... but I haven't been in a writing mood.  But I'll push the issue this time and see what comes out.

So how many of you have heard of Frenchglen, Oregon?  No one?  It's a community of sorts in SE Oregon, so small that it refers to Burns, Oregon, as "town" ..... as in .... if you need to mail a letter and have it arrive at its destination before New Years, it's best to run it into "town", some 60 miles away.  We spent three nights in an RV park a few miles away while Husband checked out the local fishing holes.
The Frenchglen store.  How can you not love a store with creaky wooden floors?  (Complete with self-serve gas pumps and an old-style phone booth across the street.)

Frenchglen sits next to the Steens Mountains, of which we HAVE heard, before this trip.

A few pictures:

On the other side of the Steens sits the Alvord Desert, known only by photographers and land-sailors.  It is a large, flat mass of dried, cracked mud, approximately 12 by 6 miles in size.  At the edge of this huge expanse of nothing is a natural hot spring, complete with pools lined with cement walls with old washing machine barrel-tub-things in the water to sit upon.  One pool was out in the open, allowing its occupants to gaze upon the desert while soaking, and the pool next to it was enclosed in four walls made of corrugated metal, complete with bullet holes.  Need I say, it had character?  And fortunately the two pools, separated by the metal wall, allowed us to avoid the naked guy.   A nice proprietor-lady charged us $8 each for this unique, earthy experience.  (And we most certainly DID wear swimsuits.)

We asked about the possibility of rain and our motorhome getting stuck out on the expanse and she said, "If it rains, wait an hour or so, and then drive out."  Okay!

Now to showcase a bit of Husband's photo skills and why photographers like it here .....

On the far end of the expanse-of-nothing, was a group of land sailors requiring us to use binoculars to determine they weren't just dots.  I'm not sure what their official title is ..... they have contraptions with wheels and sails, and they blow across the expanse.  Some reach speeds over 80 mph.

We drove over to see them and from their vantage point, our motorhome then became the dot in the distance.  We spent two nights there during which we had excellent data coverage due to a cell tower someone built on the top of the Steens.
(I'm pointing to my phone.)
We literally sat in the middle of nowhere, listening to the VP debate.  (Actually, I paced more than I sat.)
Husband listening and me out pacing.

From there we drove into Nevada and then on to spend the night in a Cabelas parking lot in Lehi, Utah.  (They are RV-overnight-friendly, like many Walmarts.)

We had a delightful lunch with longtime friends whom I have almost forgiven for moving away from us several years ago.  (Hi, Bill and Betty!)

Next we stopped at my brother's home in Salem, Utah, loaded some of their belongings into our motorhome and car, to help (in a small way) their upcoming move to Glenwood, two hours south.

(Note:  If your RV is loaded with boxes blocking the narrow walkway to your bathroom, do NOT buy a large soft drink when you fuel up at the start of the drive.  Should you ignore this advice, the resulting procedure is to careen into the Scipio truckstop, park anywhere, and run like mad in the general direction of a bathroom.  You will find one in back of the store, on the right.  Thankfully, there was no line.)

Next:  Glenwood, my roots, and the best relatives ever.