April 29, 2018


by Rosemary

We took the scenic route from Flagstaff to Sedona, enjoying beautiful winter landscapes along the way.

The mountains surrounding Sedona were dusted with snow, but the town itself, although cold and damp, was snow-free.

This rock formation is called "Snoopy Rock" because some people think it looks like the silhouette of Charles Schultz's beagle, reclining atop his doghouse.

Sedona has a reputation as a kind of "new age" center, attracting people looking for mystical experiences and spiritual peace. Believers and tourists seek out "vortexes," supposedly locations of swirling spiritual energy that create pleasantly mysterious sensations and enhanced emotional or psychological well-being. We didn't notice anything unusual, perhaps because we already felt pretty good.

One of the vortex sites is Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Roman Catholic chapel built in an impressive location in 1956.

In 1957, the chapel received the Award of Honor from the American Institute of Architects. It was later added to the National Register of Historic Places. There are terrific views of the surrounding landscape from the chapel's floor-to-ceiling window, as well as from the parking lot. Of course, there is a gift shop, featuring "the latest in religious accessories".

Sedona has a thriving arts community. Back in 2005, the annual art festival was launched with "Javelinas On Parade," an exhibition of statues decorated by local artists. When we were here for an afternoon in the summer of 2007, we saw dozens of these on display downtown. Not long afterwards, most of them were sold at auction, but, nearly eleven years later, we spotted a couple of them still in place.

"Mamacita de las Flores" by Susan Kliewer

"Hairalina" by Barbara Brown and Michael Artinian

We enjoyed browsing in the shops and viewing public art along the main drag.

"Caduceus" by James N. Muir

Although we were tempted by some of the local art work in the nearby galleries, shopping isn't practical for us at this time, so we just enjoyed what we saw and moved on.

Note: We were here at the end of February.

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April 24, 2018

The "Grand" Daddy of Them All

by Steve W

After spending a week visiting Utah's national parks, we realized that we had not seen enough red rocks and natural wonders, so we decided to drop down to Arizona and go to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

This area is part of the Grand Staircase, a vast geographic region that stretches from the Bryce Canyon area to the Grand Canyon. Over millennia, the rock layers have been uplifted, tilted, and eroded, creating a series of plateaus that can be visualized as a staircase extending over hundreds of miles. Bryce Canyon's bottom layer is Zion's top layer, and Zion's bottom layer is the Grand Canyon's top layer.

We stayed in Flagstaff, about 60 miles from the south entrance. Although it was very cold, the sun was out and it was a beautiful day for sightseeing.

I recalled that when we visited the Grand Canyon 10 years ago, you had to walk through a parking lot to get to the rim, where you got your first glimpse of the canyon. It was breathtaking then and, even though I knew what to expect, is still breathtaking now.

The canyon was carved by the Colorado River over millions of years and is 277 river miles long (a river mile is a measure of distance in miles along a river from its mouth), up to 18 miles across and over one mile deep.

Offering some unparalleled views, words can hardly describe the scenery, so here are some photos and a video:

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As in the other parks, the layers of color in the rock indicate the evolution of the land now forming the canyon walls before they were eaten away by the river and wind.

Even though there was some snow, there were hikers on the Bright Angel Trail at the lower levels of the canyon. First, a long shot for perspective (with the trail circled). then a closer look at some of the hikers.

Not being daredevils (or idiots, depending on your viewpoint), we stayed on the rim.

Given the height of the canyon walls and the wide open spaces, it would be natural for people with drones to try to get better views of the park from above the canyons, but...

There is also a monument to John Wesley Powell who, in 1869, was the first man of European descent to navigate the Colorado River that flows through the canyon.

And the lovely views continue!

Hey Dude, you're blocking the view!
Toward the late afternoon, we headed for the east side of the park. An informative sign helped identify what we were seeing.

Here is a good shot of the Colorado River as it flows through the canyon. We could see small portions of it from other locations, but this is the place where the largest section is visible.

As the sun got lower in the sky, the difference in the angle of the light gave us a different perspective on the canyon.

After a long day in the canyon, we headed back to Flagstaff for some dinner and a good night's sleep. But the beauty and grandeur of the canyon remain in our memories (and in these photos).

Yes, it is as cold as it looks!

Note: We were here in February.

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April 19, 2018

Even More Red Rocks

by Rosemary

On our way into Zion National Park, we stopped to observe wild turkeys and bighorn sheep. The turkeys fled a second after this photo was snapped, but the sheep remained calm and kept on grazing.

Zion is in a region that was formed over many millions of years, the result of sedimentation, pressure, uplift, and erosion. The Virgin River and smaller streams have carved deep canyons into the rock layers. All of these processes are still going on.

We were able to drive along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive because we were there during the off-season. During tourist season, only park shuttles are permitted on the drive. Zion is extremely popular; despite the season and the bitterly cold weather, this was the most crowded of the five national parks we visited in Utah. The park gets so crowded during tourist season that its managers are considering implementing a reservation system.

As usual, we stopped at all the viewpoints and turnouts along the way.

An impressive balancing act.

The park is characterized by massive, steep cliffs.

Snow highlights the feature that gave Checkerboard Mesa its name.

There are many arches in the making. The park also has some completed arches, accessible by hiking.

The mineral content in the rocks varies, leading to a wide variety of colors and textures.

Plants get a foothold in cracks and crevices, helping to speed the process of erosion.

The dark coating seen on some of these rocks is known as "desert varnish" or "rock varnish". Clay and oxidized minerals, especially manganese, adhere to the hard rock surface.

This group of three huge sandstone peaks is known as the "Court of the Patriarchs".

Considering the weather and trail conditions, we decided not to take any of the steep, narrow hiking trails, but we did walk along a section of the Riverside Walk.

I was well prepared, with a thermal base layer, three pairs of pants, two shirts, a down jacket, wool socks and cap, a scarf, and gloves.

The steep canyon gets narrower and narrower, eventually leading to a section aptly called the Narrows, where there is no trail but the river itself. This was not the right time of year to go wading!

Despite frigid conditions, some green plants seemed to be thriving.

"Leaflets three, let it be." I wasn't convinced this was really poison ivy, but I didn't test it.

All of the parks we visited in Utah shared a common theme: geological processes. They all had rock formations, exposed sedimentary layers, and plenty of red. Yet each one was different. We never went through a park with the feeling that we had just seen the same thing somewhere else. With its vast landscapes and magnificent parks, Utah was the most spectacular state we visited.

Note: We were here in February.

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