Saturday, March 31, 2012

River Market District of Little Rock

We had quite a full day Friday,  we covered a lot of territory on our bikes. We started out about mid-morning and John informed me that just possibly we  may finish our touring in time to see the ducks march out of the water at 5 PM at the Peabody Hotel. I thought he had something figured wrong, surely we would not be on our bikes that long! However, I was not figuring that we would be spending a lot of time off our bikes. In the course of that day we toured an Arkansas conservation center, the Old State House museum,  and the Capital Hotel. We also stopped for fruit lollies at the Market Hall. We had a perfect day weather- wise also;  the temperature did not get much above 80 degrees, and there was no humidity. This posting will mainly be on what we saw along the Riverside Trail, which primarily includes Peabody Park. Our first stop was at The Rock. In 1722 a French officer was exploring the Arkansas River and identified "some rocky country" and a league further up to the right was a large rock which he called "French Rock"- today now know as "Big Rock".  Apparently thus started the naming of Little Rock. People later traveling by land also became familiar with the river's rocky outcroppings and at a low water ford found some smaller rocks which became known as "point of rocks" or "little rocks". That spot served as a survey point in 1818.
The rock above is not The Rock,  it just marks the general area. The tops of the little rocks are now covered almost completely by the river- its flow has been changed in recent years by placement of bridges and rail tracks. The next interesting point in our bike ride was Peabody Park. It was designed by children, which may explain why there are no public restrooms there- just portable toilets. The park has pavilions which have playground equipment constructed in and around them. Arkansas history is written on the walls of the shelters, and a large wooden Indian head sits on one of the pavilions. There is also a mammoth arbor covered with climbing plants over one of the paths.  We instantly felt a drop in the temperature as we rode through it. 
In Peabody Park there is also a Serenity Garden and a Sculpture Garden. I thought of my three sisters when I saw the sculpture pictured below- it is called "Sizzling Sisters". My sisters and I have had some good times over the years, and I am very thankful for them.
And I do believe that every child would want a splash fountain in the park of their dreams. I will write more on our bike trip in the next posting.

Spring in Little Rock, Arkansas

It was almost over-whelming Thursday, everywhere we went we saw masses of blooming pink and white azalea bushes. It seemed like spring had happened over night. Dogwood trees are now also in bloom as well as camellias, wisteria and roses.
Our first stop of the day was at Mount Holly Cemetery. The land was donated to Little Rock in 1843 and has earned the nickname "The Westminster Abbey of Arkansas". Interred here are 11 state Governors, 14 state Supreme Court justices, five Confederate Generals, and 22 Little Rock mayors. I could have wandered all day among the tombstones- it has to be one of the most fascinating cemeteries I have been in!  However, we had reservations for a tour at the Governor's Mansion, so we had to move on. We enjoyed our tour at the mansion. Our tour guide was quite friendly and reassured us that we could walk on the million dollar Persian rug in the dining room and sit anywhere we want. The home is sitting on what use to be the grounds of a school for the blind. That property was bought by the state in the 1940s. Until that time the Governors of Arkansas lived in their own homes. In 1950 the building was ready for occupancy. In 2003 a garden atrium was built onto the back wall and a Grand Hall was also added on for entertaining large numbers of guests.
We were most fortunate to be at the Governor's Mansion in the springtime. Framing the home are drifts of azaleas as well as a dogwood tree planted by Hillary Clinton during her tenure as the First Lady of Arkansas.
We found Little Rock's  biggest blaze of spring glory at T.R. Pugh Memorial Park. We drove there to see the famous Old Mill. The mill was built in 1931 and was never intended to be used. The developer constructed it in honor of his friend T.R.Pugh, for whom the park is named. I was not surprised to learn that the park is the setting for about 200 weddings a year.  The Old Mill was filmed in the opening scenes of the movie Gone With the Wind, and is the only remaining structure from that movie.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas

Central High School was the place where on September 3, 1957 nine black students tried to gain entry into, what was then, an all white school.  John and I mistakenly thought we would just stop, look at the school and then be on our way. We were all wrong on that idea!  Our visit started at a visitor's center near the school were there are many displays relating to the integration crisis.  Shortly after we arrive a park ranger informed us that he would soon be leading a tour over to the high school. We joined the tour and headed out on Daisy Bates street, on which the school is located. Daisy Bates in 1957 was Arkansas State President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. When the Supreme Court in 1954 declared racist segregation in public education unconstitutional, Daisy Bates, with her lawyer Thurgood Marshall, led the NAACP's protest against the Little Rock's plan for gradual desegregation of the public school and pressed for immediate desegregation. There is a lot more to her story, but I just want to note here that she was the one who mentored the nine African-American students.
The first stop on our walk with the park ranger Brian was at this gas station. It was here where newspaper reporters and journalists from around our nation gathered and made phone calls. Those people were the only barrier between the angry mob of demonstrators and the nine students. It was when one of the reporters received a severe beating from someone in the crowd that President Eisenhower ordered the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock and federalized the Arkansas National Guard to safely escort the students into the high school- that occurred on September 25. Being with a park ranger allowed us into the high school. It is a part of the federal national park service, so no major changes in the structure of the building has taken place over the years since 1957. The school is presently a magnet school, with a high academic rating. It is now around 52% white and 40% black with a small number of international students. While we were inside the building the students were swarming in the halls. It was time for them to move between their classrooms. What we saw was a big contrast to the horrible experience of the the nine black students in 1957!  Presently black students move easily down the school halls, chatting in amicably with fellow white students. Back into 1957 the nine African American students were harassed continuously while attending school. One of the nine students was suspended and later expelled for retaliating against white classmates. The remaining eight completed the school year. Senior Ernest Green was the first African American to graduate from Central. He was told his diploma would be mailed to him, however, he insisted on being there- he had to march in by himself.  As a aside here, I want to make note one of the people who was with our tour group. She is an Asian woman whose mother had been in one of the internment camps in Arkansas during World War 11.  After Central High School we drove over to the Arkansas capitol building. We toured the capitol as well as well as the grounds, where we saw the sculpture pictured below. It is call Testament; a monument honoring the Little Rock Nine. I found some irony in the fact that here those nine are facing the office of the governor, the very seat of power which in 1957 fueled the crisis at Central High School. Initially Governor Orval Faubus sent the Arkansas National Guard to Central High to prevent the nine from entering the high school.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Heifer International

While walking around the Clinton Presidential Center and Park Monday we were surprised to discover that Heifer International is located next door to that complex. All I knew about that non-profit organization is that when our children were in Sunday school they sometimes would save their pennies to buy a cow for some third world country through Heifer International. I had some time left after visiting the presidential center on Tuesday, so I walked over to Heifer to see if I could tour that place. There are two tours available there, one of their Heifer Village and another of the office building. I started at the Heifer Village and learned a great deal more about the organization. It was started in the 1940s when Sam West was working for his church (Church of the Brethren) in Spain. He was frustrated with the meager allotments of milk he could dole out to the needy refugees in that country, so when he returned stateside he started up Heifer International with the help of his church. His mantra then became "better to give a cow than a cup". Over the years since then the organization has provided not only heifers, but also camels, water buffaloes, goats, geese, bees, chicks, tree seedlings in about 125 countries. I was surprised to learn that Heifer has also had projects going in the United States. And, also contrary to what I thought, they are currently not connected with any church body. I also learned that every project is to be self-sustaining. That is, that local people are to learn how to care for their animals and also are expected to pass on any female offspring to another family in their village.
 During the tour of Heifer International's office complex I discovered that the building, as the Clinton Library, was also built to meet the highest standards of energy efficiency. Rain water is collected in a large tank and recycled for use in the building, all building materials were purchased within 500 miles of the complex, and insulating material is made of jersey cotton and soy bean- that is to name only a few of the green features of the building. I was certainly pleased to have had the opportunity to check out Heifer International!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

North Little Rock, Arkansas

We are now parked in North Little Rock, by the Arkansas River. Looking across the river we can see downtown Little Rock. We took the above picture at sunset from a bridge which is near our recreational vehicle park. That old railroad bridge was built in 1899 for the now-defunct Choctow, Oklahoma, and Gulf Railroad. In 2011 it was dedicated in 2011 as part of the Clinton Presidential Park and changed into a pedestrian/bike pathway. The old Choctow Route railway station has been renovated into the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.
 At the end of the bridge is a walkway to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. Surrounding the building is a wetlands area as well as a beautifully landscaped park which has trees and plants from Arkansas. The building has met the highest standards for energy efficiency. Floors of the library are made of bamboo, walls and ceilings have been constructed from recycled aluminum cans. Some of the carpeting has been made from the rubber of used tires. Another interesting feature of the building, which certainly make it most different from other presidential libraries, is that there is a penthouse on it where Clinton has living quarters, complete with a 4 hole putting green. It is where he stays when he visits Little Rock. This library is the largest of all the presidential libraries previously constructed. There is also space to showcase exhibits that are changed on a regular basis. We are fortunate that currently on display is a Cardinal baseball exhibit, complete with items from the Cardinal Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Louis. Our tour guide for the library told us that one of his fondest memories growing up was that of listening to Cardinal baseball on the radio.  Because of the current exhibit in the library, a large St.Louis Cardinal banner is draped above the entrance to the building.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lake Eufaula Oklahoma

We parked our rig within about a mile of this lake Saturday. It felt rather nice yesterday to step out of our home and to see green grass with puddles of water sitting around- not like the flat sandy dry land which we had been seeing in Texas. It was also pleasant to hear the sounds of frogs, crickets and geese honking as they flew overhead. However, after touring around  today, we are rather fed up with all the water standing around and the mosquitoes who are swarming over that water! Muddy trails kept us from from touring the Honey Springs Battlefield. I do believe that a little history lesson of this area is warranted before I proceed any further here. In the 1830s-40s The Five Civilized Tribes (Choctaw, Chickesaw, Cherokee, Seminole and Creek Indians) were relocated from east of the Mississippi to Indian Territory. The area around Checotah, Oklahoma became the home of the Creek Nation. The Civil War came to the Indian Territory at Honey Springs (located northeast of Checotah) on July 17,1963. The battle was historically significant because of the racial diversity of the soldiers. There were Indians, whites, Hispanics who came with Texas forces, as well as black troops from the Kansas Infantry Regiment. The majority of the Indians fought for the Confederates, while the black troops fought for the Union, there was a total of 9,000 troops. It was the first time when black units played a key role in a Union victory. At the battlefield there are 5 monuments for all the troops involved- pictured below is the monument for the Five Civilized Tribes.
After seeing what we could of the battlefield, we drove to Lake Eufaula. It is Oklahoma's largest lake, and the 15th largest man-made lake in the United States. Major inflow sources are the waters of the North and Canadian Rivers and the Deep Fork River. The shoreline ranges from sandy beaches to rocky cliffs. After hiking some short trails at Lake Eufaula State Park, we drove over to the lake's dam. Currently the gates are wide open to receive the heavy flow of water from spring rains. We were there at sunset, which explains the golden glow over the dam in the picture below. Today we are continuing our trip east.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bandelier National Monument

One of our goals for Tuesday was to see Jemez Falls. Here the Jemez River drops 70 feet through a spectacular series of falls.  Unfortunately the trail from the road to the falls was covered with snow and, as we kept loosing the trail, we gave up on that idea. We drove on to Valles Caldera, called the  "Super Volcano of New Mexico".  It's eruption was ten times bigger than Mount St.Helens and it is the third largest volcano in our nation. The one at Yellowstone comes in second. We stopped at Valle Grande, largest of the numerous valleys within the crater. It is now mainly a preserve for elk and cattle who graze here during the summer months. Unfortunately the road into the preserve was closed for the winter. We do need to come back during warmer weather! I would love to hike some of the trails within this caldera.
It was fortunate that we did not get to do all the things we had planned to do Tuesday, because then we would not have had the opportunity to tour Bandelier National Monument. There are over 1,000 archeological sites here, and evidence of human activity dating back 10,000 years.  The pueblo sits in a beautiful valley within the Frijoles Canyon. A creek of the same name flows nearby year-round. In this idyllic setting Ancestral Ancient Pueblo people planted crops and built large communities.
The pink rock of the canyon wall is volcanic ash which has become compacted over time into a soft crumbly rock called tuff, which is easily eroded by wind and water. Over time the exposed rock takes on a Swiss cheese appearance. Ancestral Pueblo People used stone tools to enlarge the small openings in the cliff face.
What a thrill it was for us to walk the ancient footpaths, climb the ladders and peer into the homes and kivas of Native Americans who had once lived here! There are also stone houses built next to some of the natural openings.The soft rock also made excellent building material. The homes of the ancient people were  not confined only to the canyon. The ruins of an ancient village dating from the 13th century sits near the cliffs. It is one of several large pueblos located within the park. One last picture I have here is that of a petroglyph, one of many which are painted on the rock walls. This particular one was found on a part of a back wall of a second-story dwelling. It had been uncovered from a layer of plaster and preserved for display purposes. We took a paved trail to see the main archeological sites, which was all we had time for as it was getting late in the day. There is a lot more to explore at this national monument, it has over 70 miles of trails.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Jemez Mountain Scenic Byway

The weather here had taken a turn for the worse on Sunday. A cold front had come through with winds up to 70 miles per hour. That horrible wind blew sand and dirt into the air, it was difficult to be outside for any long period of time. Add to that mix a little splatter of rain and soon mud covered one side of our home as well as our little car. It looked like we had been driving off road in the back country! Consequently on Sunday we decided that it was about time to visit a museum. The Albuquerque Museum of Art proved to be an excellent choice- presently eighty sketches of Francisco de Goya, which are currently on a national museum tour, are at the museum. While at the museum we were also fortunate that a concert was being performed which featured chamber music of two of Goya's Spanish contemporaries. By Monday the wind had died down, but it remained cold. On Tuesday the weather had not warmed up as the weather man had predicted, but we thought that we should still venture out. If we could not be outside, then at least we could sit in our warm car and look at some scenic sights. We chose one of New Mexico's most scenic drives which is Highway 4. Our first stop was at the Pueblo Jemez Walatowa Visitor Center. We were informed  there that pictures could only be taken of the rock formations, as we were on tribal land. It had been cloudy and cool up to this time, but the sun now shone brightly over the red rocks.
 From there we took a connecting road off the scenic byway to the Gilman Tunnels. In the 1920s the tunnels had been blasted through solid rock mountains to construct a rail line for hauling logs out of the mountains. 
Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, the road was blocked off shortly beyond the tunnels. It still was a beautiful side trip along a canyon which has the Guadalupe River flowing through it. Further down the road we stopped at the town of Jemez Springs. It was selected as the smallest All-American city in 1995. We splashed our hands in the hot springs located there. I sure wished I had my swimming suit along, I could have spent the rest of the day in those warm waters! Our next stop was at Soda Dam. Here water from underground hot springs has flowed for centuries and has formed a rather strange-looking dam. It is pictured below. The rest of our day on the scenic byway will be in the next posting.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

The Pueblo de Cochiti (the town closest to this area) has always considered this area a significant place. "Kasha-Katuwe means "white cliffs" in the traditional Keresan language of the pueblo. In 2001 it was designated a national monument. This park was the highlight of our week. We had been looking for a place to hike and we found it at the Tent Rocks. We took the more difficult Slot Canyon Trail which is a 1.5-mile trek up a narrow canyon with a steep (630-ft.) climb to the mesa top. It was a challenging hike for sure.We sometimes had to twist our bodies to get between the slots of the canyon or do a bit of climbing do get around boulders, sometimes our acrobatic skills on the trail also included doing the splits!
The original material of the rock formations was volcanic ash and pumice deposits. Over time it became sedimentary rock which wind and water eroded into the hoodoos and rock tents now seen in the park.
 At the mesa top we had great vistas of the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, Sandia mountains as well as the Rio Grande Valley. It was also interesting to look down at the large rock formations which filled the canyon.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Hard to believe that we have been here almost a week and I have not written one posting. So I consequently have a bit of catching up to do here to let you all know what we have been seeing and doing. This is about the third time we have been in this city so we have not been too busy sight seeing. As we drove along Interstate 40 last week, leaving Arizona and entering New Mexico, we saw beautiful red rock formations. In this northern part of Arizona we drove through a corner of the Painted Desert as well as the Petrified Forest.
Weather-wise we have had a great week with the temperatures in the low 80s. Friday we decided to revisit the Sandia Mountains. We drove to the top and watched skiers on the slopes. We had hoped to do some hiking in the lower elevations but snow and ice blocked our path on every trail we attempted.
Saturday morning we had an entirely different experience hiking through desert land along the Rio Grande River at Coronado State Monument. This park was once the site of an ancient Indian village dating back to the early 1300s. Archeologists found the ruins of this village in the 1930s.
The ancient Native Indian village, called Kuaua, was discovered by Captain-General Francisco Coronado  in 1540. At the time there were about 20,000 people living in 12-14 villages along the Rio Grande. According to the chroniclers of  Coronado's expedition, the members of this farming community were living fairly healthy and peaceful lives. By October of 1540 Coronado occupied one of the villages, after first rousting the natives out of it. According to one park brochure the actions of the Spaniards "kindled the first spark of Indian hatred for the white man". There is not much now to see in this park, except restored ruins of the ancient village. However, in the visitor's center there is a museum which contain some of the the original murals from the walls of a kiva in the ancient village. In 1935 archeologists found the ruins of a subterranean chamber which had walls painted with murals depicting some aspects of the Indian religion. The murals were removed from their original base and mounted on large sheets of masonite to be later carefully preserved on pieces of commercial pressboard. The murals, along with other findings in the ruins (as skeletons,tools, weapons,seeds,etc.)  have given anthropologists a fairly clear picture of how those ancient people lived.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon

Most everyone has been to the Grand Canyon, in fact it was the honeymoon destination of my parents. However, I still feel a compulsion to give some basic information on it. The Grand canyon is one large canyon with two rims. The rims are 10 miles apart as a raven flies, but 215 miles by road. South Rim elevation is 7,000 feet, the North Rim is 1,000 feet higher. The South Rim is open all year round. North Rim services are open mid-May to mid-October. When we were there Tuesday the South Rim was heavily populated with people from all over the world. The most likely reason that many people were there, especially families, was that children are out of school for spring break. Our first stop at the South Rim was at the Watchtower. Mary Coulter was the  architect of the building when it was constructed in 1932. She did a lot of research before building it. It is a re-creation of strange prehistoric towers found scattered over large areas of the southwest.
The first room which we stepped into is called the Kiva or Sacred Ceremonial Chamber. It, as well as the other floors of the Watchtower, are replete with Native American art. Some of the wall decorations are the work of a Hopi artist. Pictured below is a large circular painting which tells of the Snake Legend- the story of the beginning of snake dances. It is also the story of the first man to navigate the Colorado River.
In the Kiva room large picture windows frame spectacular views of the Grand Canyon Region.
John and I have been to the Grand Canyon before, however we just had to see it again. It is such an awe-inspiring landscape of rugged cliffs, buttes, pinnacles and slopes that it has drawn many people to its grandeur over the years. It speaks of time, the millions of  years it took for its numerous geological layers to form. And it also speaks of continuing erosion by the Colorado River and its tributaries which cuts down and deepens the canyon as well as creating smaller canyons. As a park brochure has noted, "with enough time and gravity water dominates rock". We attempted to walk down into the canyon via the Grandview Trail, but it soon became treacherous because of the presence of snow and ice. We then had to satisfy ourselves with the Rim Trail which is paved and offers some beautiful view of the canyon and the Colorado River. By late afternoon the sun was setting and the canyon had a softer look to it with contrasting light and shadows.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sunset Crater and Waupatki National Monuments

John was not completely correct about the squirrel I saw two days ago. The Kaibab squirrel is a distant relative of the Abert squirrel- I found out from a national park ranger yesterday that he was the one I saw. He can be identified from his relative by his lighter colored fur. Both squirrels are entirely dependent upon the ponderosa pines for food and habitat. Yesterday we took a side trip to Sunset Crater and Waupatki National Monuments before driving over to the Grand Canyon. There is a 35 mile loop road off of Highway 89 which connects both sites. I mentioned, in a previous posting, the presence of the San Francisco Mountains in the Flagstaff area. We discovered yesterday that the mountains are a large volcanic field with more than 600 hills and mountains. The volcanism has migrated from nearby Williams, Arizona during the past 6 million years.
 We walked the Lava Trail at Sunset Crater, which erupted sometime between 1040 and 1100. It is the most recent in the long history of volcanic activity in the Flagstaff area. The field has been inactive since the eruption of Sunset Crater. Large lava rocks and sparse vegetation is mostly what we saw along the trail. Unlike Hawaii, which has lush vegetation in its volcanic areas, plant life here does not as readily return after an eruption. The dry Arizona climate makes weathering of the ashes and cinders too slow for significant release of nutrients into the soil.
It is thought that people living in the area during the last eruption had time to leave. Pithouses found under the volcanic debris were discovered to be empty of personal possessions. A few generations later families returned to grow crops in the shadow of the crater. Slowly plants and animals returned too, some specially adapted to living on the lava. At the Wupatki National Monument there are the remains of masonry pueblos.
 People gathered in this village during the 1100s; what began as family housing grew into this 100-room-pueblo with a tower, community room and ceremonial ballcourt. By 1190, as many as 2,000 people lived within a day's walk and Wupatki Pueblo was the largest building for at least 50 miles. Other people have come and gone since the original occupants. During the late 1800s Basque sheepherders stayed here briefly.  In 1924 the village came under the protection of the national government. In the 1930s park rangers lived in the pueblo. The government, of course, charged them rent- $10.00 per month. There is a self-guided tour of the pueblo, which we enjoyed. It is possible to enter a couple of the reconstructed rooms and get an insight of how the people lived, adapted and even survived in this dwelling. Sections of the pueblo remain unexcavated.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Northwestern Arizona to Flagstaff

It was a long day today traveling from Hurricane, Utah. It was the mountainous areas which slowed us down. John had a choice of two highways, and he chose the scenic road because it looked like the shorter route to Flagstaff. We ended up on narrow winding mountain roads, and for awhile I questioned his judgment. John claimed it was scenic because of the snowy pine forests. After that we were back in flat desert land and began seeing high reddish colored cliffs off in the distance. I did not question the scenic drive anymore.  "These are the Vermillion Cliffs!", John exclaimed. He remembered reading about them in National Geographic a few months back. They were quite beautiful and we followed them for miles.
Our next surprise on the scenic drive of Highway 89 was near the town of Cliff Dwellers. We drove by some big boulders and what looked like a cabin built into the rocks. A number of people were walking around the site. We stopped as soon as we could and walked back down the road to that area.
A sign there explained the stone house. In 1927 Blanche Russel's car broke down as she was traveling through the area. She camped there for the night and decided that she liked the scenery so well that she bought the property and stayed. Her home, pictured above, is quite interesting. It has two rooms, separated from each other by the large rock which serves as part of her roof. Her outhouse also stands on the site. Close to the road there is a large balancing rock. A Navajo woman sat under its shade selling jewelry.
After this stop we drove through Marble Canyon. It sits at the northeast end of the Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon (Highway 64 through the Northern Rim is currently closed for the winter). Continuing on Highway 89, we crossed  the Navajo Bridge over the Colorado River. The river here lies in a 500-foot-gorge that cuts across a level plain on which the highway sits.
 The rest of our trip to Flagstaff took us through the Navajo Reservation. I found out later that their land includes parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. The sovereign nation is the largest Native American nation in the country.
Before reaching Flagstaff we had more elevations to climb. Pictured above are the San Francisco Mountains. The peaks of those mountains attain the highest elevation in Arizona. After we had arrived at our destination I had one more surprise for the day. As I stepped out of our home the strangest creature ran out in front of me. His fur was colored gray and white, he had a very long bushy tail, and he ran like a squirrel. He had also had large pointy ears- jack rabbit, maybe a squirrel?  John saw him too and said he was a Kaibab squirrel. It amazes me what that man knows! Reading the AAA Tour Book later I discovered that John was right. The animal lives mainly in the Kaibab Forest, an area north of the Grand Canyon.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bryce Canyon, Part Two

After visiting Bryce Amphitheater we took the 37 mile round trip through the park. The one main park road has outstanding views of the canyons and southern Utah scenery. There are a total of 13 viewpoints where one may stop and take in additional features of the  park. Our first stop was at Sheep Creek Swamp Canyon.
Natural Bridge is one of the more popular spots of the park. A sign at its overlook stresses that it was not formed by a gully as most natural bridges. More accurately an arch, it was carved by rain and frost erosion.
 At Agua Canyon there is a famous hoodoo who has been called The Hunter. He can be seen on the left side of the picture below. By now the sun was setting and creating beautiful contrasts of light and color.
Our last stop in the park was at Yovimpa and Rainbow points. Both offer expansive views of southern Utah. At the Rainbow overlook there was an interpretive sign explaining that we were standing on the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Thirty miles away was the Aquarius Plateau which was once connected to Paunsaugunt. When the entire Rocky Mountain region years ago began rising, north and south faults split the entire tableland in front of us into seven separate plateaus. Recent seismographic readings indicate minute but ongoing activity still in the area today. By this time the sun was fading fast and the air became quite cool, it was time to head for home. On the way home we found a wonderful restaurant, the Cactus Cowboy, in Hatch, Utah.  There we had a very delicious bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup- even the noodles in it were handmade!  As we were the only customers, the owner was quite ready to sit and chat with us.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bryce Canyon, Part One

Friday morning we got the pleasant surprise of warmer temperatures and no blowing wind. Unfortunately we still wanted to see Bryce Canyon, which at the highest elevation is about 9,000 feet above sea level. We were sure to encounter cold temperatures and snow. Bryce Canyon is 76 miles northeast of Zion Park, which we drove through on the first leg of our journey yesterday. We then left the high rock walled canyons and drove on Highway 12 over some rather flat land dotted before reaching Red Canyon. We learned at a rest stop along the way that the Mormons settled in this valley in the 1870s. It was one of those settlers, Ebenezer Bryce, for whom the canyon is named.  At  Red Canyon, located in Dixie National Forest, we got a foretaste of what we were to soon see at Bryce Canyon- hoodoos in all different kinds of configurations.
We learned at the Bryce Canyon Visitor's Center that the canyon is an ideal place for hoodoos. It has freezing temperatures more than 200 days of the year. We were lucky to have a warm day in March to see the park. A constant cycle of freezing and thawing widens cracks in the cliff. Water run-off scours the frost-wedged debris and cuts narrow gullies between the canyon walls. Eventually pinnacles are isolated which are exposed to more weathering. Our second stop at the park was to view Bryce's natural amphitheater where we walked around its' rim. Here there are many colorful intricate spires and formations - an awesome view to behold.
 We took a trail down into canyon to get a closer look at the formations.When a ledge off the path presented itself, I could not resist the urge to walk onto it.The plateau was a lot safer than it looks!
The trail down into the canyon was a little treacherous with snow and mud covering the path in several places. We did not get very far on it before heading back up. A sign along the way pretty much aptly described the scenery, it was a quotation from a surveyor back in 1876: "there are deep caverns, and rooms resembling ruins of castles, churches with guarded walls, battlements and steeples, niches and recesses, presenting the wild wonderful scene that the eye of man has ever seen". More on Bryce Canyon in my next posting.