Today, I am thankful


flowers in the desert

flowers in the Nevada desert near Hoover Dam



Superdad hiking in the Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park


silly siblings (me with my almost-twin brother)

silly siblings: me with my almost-twin brother at our Tucson hotel


Balanced Rock, Arches National Park

Balanced Rock, Arches National Park

…that the storms of life surrounding us cannot erase HOPE. 

springtime desert storms

springtime desert storms at Arches National Park

A Delicate Landscape (4th and final Arches post)

Our final hurrah at Arches National Park was a pre-sunset hike up to Delicate Arch.

And I do mean UP. See those tiny spots of color on that slickrock? Those are hikers ahead of us.

Cairns like this one are trail markers on the slickrock.

You’d like to think that once at the top of the rock, you would be there — at Delicate Arch. But you’re not. This is the view, looking back toward the trailhead.

We still have farther to go to reach our destination.

Every time we round a bend, there is hope that we are finally there…

No, that’s not it. But we’re close!

We saw these guys up in a window.

SuperDad scrambled up to see what a great viewpoint they had staked out, and they were kind enough to share their spot for a few minutes.

on top of the hill
bravely standing on cliff’s edge
a Delicate Arch

SuperDad scrambled back down from the window and took my photo just before we rounded the final bend of the trail.

And then we were THERE. SnakeMaster and H-J had hiked more quickly and were sitting in the shade, playing a game of Ten Rock. I regret not getting a photo of them at that moment, but my mind was on this other photo op…

Here are my guys standing under Delicate Arch.

That’s me, standing with my arms outstretched under Delicate Arch

Had we wished to stay for another hour or so, we could have watched the sun set and the moon rise. It was to be a full-moon night and I’m sure it would be an incredibly beautiful sight. However, we had not been able to secure a camping spot in the park (there are a limited number of these) and since our nearest options were rather far away, we still had a long drive ahead of us. Plus, understandably, there are no restroom facilities at Delicate Arch (the pit toilets are at the trailhead parking lot). I imagine that could be a problem for anyone staying several hours in the cold, at least for me, but I suppose that depends on the person and individual situation.

It looks a bit more delicate from this angle.

Another view from the Delicate Arch viewpoint.

 Bonus shot (as seen on our hike back down):

You know it’s springtime when you see this sight on a hike!

Somehow we missed this message while hiking up, probably because we were so focused on what we had come to see.


A Textured Landscape (Arches, part 3 of 4)

Fins of the desert

Landscape Arch is the longest Arch in Arches National Park, measuring 306 feet from base to base. In 1991, a massive slab of rock fell from its underside, resulting in an even thinner ribbon of rock.
[from the Arches National Park website]

SuperDad and I visited here in June of 1990, before Landscape Arch went on a crash diet. This time, I sent him with the kids and the camera while I took 800mg of Ibuprofen and rested my feet.

There is a wideness, a largeness, an immensity of the landscape here at Arches National Park that makes a person feel small and alone. It is a truly awesome place to visit, but I cannot imagine living in such a harsh environment.

But the Wolfe family did live here.  Father and adult son for a decade, alone together, then adult daughter and her family joined them (and convinced the menfolk that a wood floor was a good thing to have).

How would you like to crowd your crew into this fixer-upper?

I hope, for the sake of everyone fitting into this cabin, that they were all as small as my 12yo son (who is 5′ tall).

A Civil War veteran and his family were not the only ones to spend time in this lonesome yet beautiful place.

Art as life, and life as art… can you see it?

Ute people (Native American tribe from this region) moved into this region in the early 1300’s. We know that the horse was introduced to North America by the Spaniards in the mid-17th century; the experts believe these petroglyphs were carved sometime between 1650 and 1850.

looking closer

The state of Utah was named for the Ute Indians.

I learn something new every day.

Friday in the Fiery Furnace: Arches, part 2

It has been an entire month since we were hiking and scrambling over rocks in Utah. We spent Good Friday at Arches National Park, and it was a good day for a hike in the Fiery Furnace.

“Water Bears” are one of the creatures that live in the ephemeral pools (potholes) — so don’t drink disturb the water!

This particular hike is one you have to plan in advance: either by being familiar with the area and obtaining a back-country permit, or by signing up for a ranger-guided hike. We chose the latter, which came with the additional benefit (besides not getting hopelessly lost in the maze of canyons) of learning about interesting things, such as the creatures that live in the pools of water (and burrow into the sand when the water dries up, until it rains again) —

cryptobiotic soil crust: the necessary base for all desert plant life at Arches N.P.

and that the blackish crusty stuff that sort of looks like dead moss is actually the foundation of all plant life in this desert environment.  It is primarily made of  cyanobacteria and is often called cryptobiotic soil.

These are just two of the examples of how fragile the environment is here at Arches National Park and the main reason our tour was conducted in single file. (Although there were times that single file wasn’t even wide enough and we had to go sideways, too.) Arches N.P. isn’t just a bunch of cool rocks! 😉
We wouldn’t have learned this information without Ranger Karen in the lead. (Yes, really, that was her name.)

[click on any pic to embiggen]

Everything I know, I learned from our park ranger…

The Utah Juniper is a fascinating tree for more than its incredible textures.  To preserve itself in times of severe drought, this tree can stop “feeding” one or more of its own limbs in order to ensure that another part is able to live. This self-selection is apparent on many of the Utah Juniper trees that we saw.

She also told us about Mormon Tea — a natural version of Sudafed that can quite easily become a dangerously powerful diarrhetic, depending upon the abilities of the person who brews this plant into tea.

This information should make a person wary of playing herbalist, but all I could think was, “Either way, you’re no longer ‘stopped up’!”

*I did not say this aloud at the time.*

[H-J, my teenage son, thinks I have an odd sense of humor. My husband thinks that middle-aged women are supposed to uphold society and that I am not doing my part. I’m too busy laughing.]

The Fiery Furnace hike is one you sign up for after considering your personal abilities. From the website:

The hike lasts about three hours and is considered moderately strenuous. Everyone attending the tour should be aware of the demanding nature of this hike…

During the hike, participants must walk and climb on irregular and broken sandstone, along narrow ledges above drop-offs and in loose sand. There are gaps which must be jumped and narrow places that you must squeeze into and pull yourself up and through. In some of these places, you must hold yourself off the ground by pushing against the sandstone walls with your hands and feet.

They weren’t kidding about the narrow passageways.

On a hot summer day, this might just be one of the coolest places in the park, thanks to the narrow canyons formed by towering rocks.

I didn’t know the other people on this tour. They don’t know their backsides are being blogged. Hopefully they never find out!

So if it isn’t a hot and miserable place, why is it called the Fiery Furnace?

Late in the day, the sun touches the rocks with a red glow. Apparently it reminded folks of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (I’m not even going to attempt an explanation of the weirdness of using Wikipedia to explain a reference from the Old Testament. We live in strange times.)

Hiking on trails and slickrock: Arches, part 1

Double Arch

Hiking on trails and slickrock was great fun 22 years ago, and it was a joy to return to Arches National Park with two of our children in early April.

H-J stands in the North Window, buffeted by winds

SnakeMaster was nearly blown over

It was windy! Of course, it was springtime and not all that warm… wearing shorts was wishful thinking on my part.

I had to give up wearing shorts after having my legs sand-blasted.

Turret Arch

The Three Gossips


Balanced Rock

Click on any photo to embiggen

Utah Juniper