April 2006 Archives

Fri Apr 14 6:21PM (2006)

Elderhostel Epilogue

images/2006-04-09.elderhostel-group.jpg The trip is over. Goodbyes were said, and we've all scattered back to our own little corners of the U.S. Few of us will meet again, so this is my chance to say what I really think of the Hostile Elders. And what I really think is that these are some of the kindest, warmest, most well rounded and most interesting people I've ever met or imagined meeting. Their tales include struggles and successes, heartbreak and joy, adventure and romance and action. No pirates, but maybe I just didn't listen enough.

images/2006-04-09.elderhostel-crew.jpg Some knees may not be up for long hikes, some lungs may struggle in the thin air. But every eye sparkled with so much life. The spirit, in all cases, was willing. If I ever make it to 60, that's how I'd like to be. I'm elated to have met these exquisite people, and humbled to have been accepted by them.

The trip itself was a brilliant success. Elderhostel knows how to plan and organize a tour. There were snags and snafus and changes, but Brent (at right, with the brown cap) took them all in stride and made us hardly notice. He's a good organizer and leader, and made the entire trip run smoothly. Tony (left), our geologist, has given us a foundation (no pun intended) for opening our eyes to our surroundings and learning more about them. We may not remember every single formation and its age, but we will know how to discover more. Geri (center) is a saint. Neither snow nor rain nor desert heat dimmed her radiance, nor did schlepping scores of heavy suitcases onto and off the luggage compartment. The bus seats were cramped, but we were nonetheless oblivious to the fact that we were on the road. Her driving went unnoticed, and that's the highest compliment a driver can hope for.

The trip is over. Soon life will be back to normal, but I am richer for this experience. In nine and a half years I'll be eligible to go on other Elderhostel tours. Will I? Ask me then.

Care for more photos? See Tony's picture page. His are much better than mine, and he's actually culled them into a very nice representative selection. The group photo above is Tony's, not mine.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Thu Apr 13 8:51PM (2006)

Elderhostel, Day 10+1: Home Again

images/2006-04-14.kitties2.jpg A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Today's journey was only 580 miles, so does it begin with 3/5ths of a step? I'm a rotten dancer, and don't know how to do that, so I started with a poor night's sleep instead. A poor night that followed ten short nights of sleep. Not the most auspicious way to start a long drive through the desert, but you do what you have to.

Driving alone is peaceful: I can nap at my convenience on those lonely stretches. Driving with a passenger is an immense responsibility, and it's tremendously exhausting. Even when my eyes couldn't stay open any longer, I had to force them open and force myself to keep them that way. All morning, all afternoon, all day. That's not something I want to do often.

580 miles. There's a curious symmetry to it. That's 1160 miles round trip, from here to St George and back. Geri, our indefatigably cheerful bus driver, told me yesterday that she had logged 1150 miles on the bus. So I drove 1160 miles in order to be driven 1150 miles. Do they cancel each other out? That's a no-brainer: No, no, a thousand times no. Being chauffeured was a treat. The sights I've seen and people I've met have made a deep impression on me. Would I drive those 1160 miles again? In a heartbeat.

We're back home, safe and sound. Butternut and Top Hat greeted us at the door, somewhat crankily I might add. They're miffed and not shy about letting us know. Can you tell?

And now I desperately need to get some sleep. Wake me up on Monday.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Wed Apr 12 4:12PM (2006)

Elderhostel, Day 10: Antelope Canyon

[Today's Photos] Last of the busblogs. We're on the road back to St George, wrapping up our whirlwind 1100-mile ellipse through southern Utah and northern Arizona. We'll hit the road tomorrow morning and will very much miss Geri, our effervescent chauffeur.

images/2006-04-12.upper-antelope-canyon.jpg Ever heard of Antelope Canyon? I hadn't, which made today an unexpected thrill. There is no possible way my photos or words will do it justice, but that won't stop me from trying. This is a place to see and experience.

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon, an improbably narrow winding channel through 100 feet of Navajo Sandstone. A topless cavern with shafts of light beaming down to give the walls an unearthly golden shine.

A three-mile jeep drive up a wide sandy canyon took us to the entrance, an invisible slit in a high rock wall. Legend has it that a young Navajo girl went in search of a lost sheep and ended up finding this "cave" and a hundred head of pronghorn in it. Legend also has it that in 1912, over 150 Navajos hid out from "soldiers in blue coats" for one week in the canyon. Today was a crowded day, and we probably numbered 150 or more inside. It was cramped, and would probably have made for awkward sleeping arrangements. Good thing we didn't have any soldiers chasing us.

images/2006-04-11.lower-antelope.jpg The canyon itself is cool and dim. I wore sandals, and the fine sand felt delightfully chill as it sifted through my toes. We snaked our way through the twisty canyon, pausing at the wider spots to let the return tour groups pass by. Most of the canyon is just wide enough for an Ed to walk along. Every turn brought new spectacles, more oohs and aahs. Sunlight peeks in through the narrow canyon top and is diffused by relection on the pale red sandstone walls. The effect is unlike anything I've seen: it's a beautiful -- one could almost say holy -- light.

Did I say "walls"? That's not the right word, but English (or Spanish, for that matter) has no word for these alluring curvaceous forms. The canyon is dry, its channel formed entirely by flash floods. It's easy to imagine the waters rushing and tumbling through here, reshaping the curves in minutes, sweeping away the cool sand and leaving new destructive creation behind. The rock is smooth, its protrusions and inlets voluptuously rounded. Antelope Canyon invites contemplation.

At right is the outlet of Lower Antelope Canyon into Lake Powell. This is a photo from yesterday, shown today to demonstrate the contrast. There's something obscene about Lake Powell. It's too blue, too rich, like an éclair sitting in a pool of oat bran. It's inviting yet disturbing. I can't take a moral position on it: I know the arguments against dams, and those in favor, and I know where I lean... but taken in its entirety, is it a good thing? I sure as heck can't say.

Two quick stops this afternoon: another Escalante National Monument visitor station, then the surreal Denny's Wigwam, a charming tourist trap in Kanab, Utah. Our crowd aren't big shoppers, but nearly everyone left Denny's with a bag and a smile.

And now, a personal note to Jim: I am in deep awe and reverence of you. This is hard work, harder than I ever imagined. Your daily trip reports have always been a highlight of my day; now I will see them in new light and appreciate them so much more. Thank you for your encouragement.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Tue Apr 11 3:19PM (2006)

Elderhostel, Day 9: Rainbow Bridge

[Today's Photos] images/2006-04-11.powell-clouds.jpg You knew it was coming: boatblogging. We're sitting on the top deck of the Nonne Zoshi, Navajo for Rainbow Bridge. Rainbow Bridge is was formed by running water, so it's technically not an arch... but it sure looks like one.

images/2006-04-11.rainbow-creek.jpg We boarded the Nonne Zoshi after breakfast. Sometimes it doesn't pay to be a nice guy: I brought up the tail end of the boarding line, and watched in dismay as the top deck filled up. How I wanted to be up in the sun instead of in the enclosed lower deck! "Get used to disappointment", the masked man told Iñigo. I've been working hard on that for years, but every so often the tiniest and simplest thing can be so crushing. It was a long, long three-hour trip to our destination; made ever so pleasant by the cigarette smoke wafting in from the occasional smoker at the stern. It gave me time to reflect on how much I have left to learn. "Get used to disappointment". I'll keep working on it.

On the ride up we slowed down and met a Boston Whaler from Dangling Rope Marina. That's a landlocked and isolated marina far up the lake. They meet the Nonne Zoshi once a day for mail service. Even today, even in the lower 48, there are isolated pockets.

Rainbow Bridge is a 1.25-mile hike, or so the sign says. I don't believe it, and neither does anyone else I asked. We got there in no time flat, much quicker and easier than Short Deer Trap. The formation looms into view after one bend, then reveals itself in full glory after another bend, and then you hike to its base. It's magnificent, etc etc. So many feet tall, so many wide, the U.S. Capitol would fit underneath if someone felt like moving it (not a bad idea, IMHO), and all the rest of the usual Fun Facts. Go Google for more if you're that curious.

The Canyon leading to it is beautiful: scallopped sandstone, many bushes and plants and flowers, and some marshy areas in a wide but stagnant end of the lake. I've seen photos of the bridge in 1983, and there was water right underneath it. At right is what the stream looks like today: that's probably more indicative of the canyon in its natural state. A state many would like to see again.

On the trip back, we lucked out: Ginger got back early and saved us seats on the top deck. I don't feel badly, though, because it has emptied out up here: we're moving at a good clip, and there's a cold wind, so lots of people have moved below. Carlton is probably the oldest person on our tour: he turns 79 this year. He and I were the only ones in t-shirts up here -- everyone else is wearing at least a sweater, some people coats and mittens. It got bitterly cold ten minutes ago, cold enough to make me eat the lunch sandwich that I had wanted to skip. That made me generate enough heat to handle the cold, but Carlton doesn't have the body fat that I do so he's back downstairs.

Update: 8:30PM (7:30 AZ time): the above was written on the boat, but it was too bright on the top deck for me to be able to even see the photos. I was typing blindly. I've reviewed and added today's selection of photos, and made slight adjustments to the text. And consider yourself fortunate: there was one photo I briefly considered posting, of a monster doing Urdva Dhanurasana in front of Rainbow Bridge. But no, I couldn't do that to an unsuspecting and unprepared audience.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Mon Apr 10 10:33PM (2006)

Elderhostel, Day 8: Navajoland, part II

[Today's Photos] Back on the bust for a short ride to dinner. Dinner was Navajo Tacos, and included a long presentation by sad and/or bored Navajos: dances, demonstrations, Q&A. The dances were very well done, although something is lost when performed as a short snippet to taped chanting. I've been fortunate in having seen San Ildefonso and Walatowa dances, and tonight's experience seems canned in comparison. A real dance is something you feel in your bones.

Then three sessions: a talk on Diné culture, a tour of three hogans (the "a" is long and rhymes with "dawn"), and a demonstration of weaving. I enjoyed them all, and learned a lot -- or did I? We were warned that Navajos handle some topics seasonally: there are some things they can talk about only in winter or spring or summer or fall, and when out of season, they'll just make something up but not address the topic. An interesting perspective on life. Their universe is centered around the number four: four cardinal points, four seasons, four colors, everything has a meaning and can be broken down into fours. I wonder how that shapes one's outlook on life?

Tomorrow: all-day boat ride to Rainbow Bridge. Tonight: a bare minimum of sleep. Ciao baby.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Mon Apr 10 6:34PM (2006)


Wahweap Lodge has no WiFi. Can you believe it? So I'm stranded on dialup for the next two days.

Oh, and in case you're wondering: I wasn't the only person to ask. I went to the front desk and stood in line behind three people. One of those was a motherly type in swimsuit and sandals. The other two were portly white-bearded biker dudes in full motorcycle leathers including sunglasses. All of them griped about the lack of net access. I overheard them, so there was no need for me to ask again... but I thought it might help to push the issue.

No photos and very little email or blogging until Wednesday night.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Mon Apr 10 4:21PM (2006)

Elderhostel, Day 8: Navajoland

[Today's Photos] Busblogging again: won't have a chance tonight. We're on the road again, from Moab, Utah to Page, Arizona. We'll be staying at the Wahweap Lodge right on Lake Powell.

images/2006-04-10.kokopelli.jpg The most interesting stop today was at the Edge of the Cedars museum. We had five minutes to contemplate their collection of artifacts and stories: the artifacts were all found by hikers, who (correctly) left them undisturbed and reported them to the land management agency. Utah museums tend to beat you over the head with that motif; I guess it's better than not mentioning it at all.

A lovely Navajo woman gave us a poignant presentation on Navajo life. Her family pushed her into school at age six, asking her to learn and to bring "American Ways" into their homes. School is where she learned English. She described growing up with what we would call nothing. Her playground was the great outdoors. Her toys were flowers and rocks and even dried-out sheep pellets -- and she smiled while describing how she had fun. We were also introduced to the four original Navajo clans, shown the elements of Navajo weaving, and treated to three dances.

We had a brief chance afterward to sprint through the rest of the museum. They have a preserved turkey-feather blanket, and one where the feathers have been eaten away by insects or climate. A phenomenal collection of pottery. Four fully preserved stone knives with wooden handles. Stark scenic photographs. Recreated ruins in the back. Tardislike, the inside contained much more than one could have believed from the outside. We would like to come back.

images/2006-04-10.teapot.jpg There's an interesting statue of Kokopelli outside. Kokopelli seems to be making a comeback, or perhaps it's just in Utah. And the thinking has changed: it used to be, he was considered a fertility god. Now the belief is that he's a satyr, used in morality plays to show the evils of sexual freedom. I wonder if it worked as well as the Republican abstinence propaganda works?

From there to Monument Valley, scene of Hollywood flicks galore. Is it okay if I don't write much about it? Yes, it's vast and scenic and impressive and awe-inspiring. But compared to what we've seen in the past week, it just doesn't affect me as much.

We're in Arizona now, and have shifted our clocks back an hour. More evidence of decaying mind: I thought we needed to bump an hour forward. Sigh...

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Sun Apr 09 9:31PM (2006)

Aside: Hostile Elders

"Elder" means something different in Mormon country. And "Hostel", when spoken with just the right accent, can have a homophone.

Apparently some of the folks on the tour, while chatting with the people we meet, have mentioned that we're on an Elderhostel program and received curious stares. I don't know the details -- I'll try to find out -- but the gist is, some of the tour folks have taken to going by the appellation Hostile Elders.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Sun Apr 09 8:49PM (2006)

Elderhostel, Day 7: Arches

[Today's Photos] images/2006-04-09.delicate-arch.jpg Reprieved! We got on the bus, drove to the place where we were scheduled for tonight... and found out they had screwed up. When they scheduled our tour, they forgot about the Daylight Saving Time change last weekend. The boat ride has to take place at night (it includes a light show), so we were told to go away and come back in an hour and a half. That meant 6:30 PM, instead of 5PM, which meant coming back to the hotel at 10:00 or later. Uh-uh. This old man isn't up for that. Ginger, her parents, and I decided to skip the adventure.

We walked down the main street in Moab, found a nice pasta place, and sat at an outside table. A minute or so after we sat, Tony and Gloria walked by and we asked them to join us. They did, and we had a grand time. Tony is our Elderhostel geologist, and also provides our morning dose of humor. He's a charismatic and energetic fellow, and we love his talks. Gloria is his angelic wife. She must have been busy the entire week before the trip: most days -- if we've been good -- she will treat us to homemade banana bread or brownies or cookies. We hear rumours that biscotti might be forthcoming on a later day. We're behaving.

Today was a rare joy. We got to spend the whole day, morning and afternoon, in one single place: Arches National Park. Arches is younger country than Zion, but older than Bryce. Its top layer is primarily Entrada Sandstone, and salt is involved somewhere, and water dissolves it, and the erosion of something something is what forms the arches. At least that's the way I remember it. Can you tell I'm overloaded?

We got a lot of hiking done. First thing in the morning, we did a mile-or-so hike to Delicate Arch. There was some climbing involved -- about 500 feet -- but nevertheless over a dozen Hostile Elders made it up and back. I don't remember why it's called Delicate Arch, so you'll have to make something up. Maybe Spin Dry Arch was already taken. Delicate Arch is the one at right.

images/2006-04-09.landscape-arch.jpg Then to lunch, which I managed to skip. (Deliberately. Did I mention that we get fed a lot on this trip?) From there to the Devil's Garden, which has hiking trails to lots and lots of other arches. The most spectacular of these is Landscape Arch. Landscape Arch is probably the most recognized image from Arches: it seems to be used in all their literature. In 1991 someone was videotaping a ranger talk, and without any warning a huge slab fell from under the arch. They caught it on film, and we got to see that at the visitor center this morning. Stunning. In the process of a few seconds, Landscape Arch became much thinner and weaker. It may not hang out much longer. Be sure to see it while you can.

Was that all? Oh, no. After those two hours we went to Double Arch, did a short hike, then to Balanced Rock, then back to the hotel for a few minutes -- and I leave you now, Dear Reader, for that is where this tale begins.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Sun Apr 09 4:36PM (2006)

Aside: Smiling

No time to write today. We had a full day at Arches, with only 10-minute jaunts on the bus. We now have 25 minutes to freshen up before dinner and a boat ride on the Colorado, and I've used up 15 of them. But I'll leave you with a question: Who smiles, and why?

Some of the people you meet on the trail never make eye contact. Even if you emit a "Good morning", they won't respond. Others, meanwhile, don't need to exchange words: they'll meet your smile and raise it, beaming a "Hi" better than any words.

The Hostile Elders (more on that later - it's a term of amusement) are smilers. Many are laughers. It's a pleasure to be among this gang. Even when it's overwhelming for me, crowdophobe that I am, it's a great bunch of people.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Sat Apr 08 5:53PM (2006)

Elderhostel, Day 6: On the Road

[Today's Photos] images/2006-04-08.jwpowell.jpg Today's first stop was at the John Wesley Powell River History Museum in Green River, Utah. You may know his name from Lake Powell. Powell organized and led the first expedition to map the Green and Colorado Rivers. Starting with four boats in the summer of 1869, they navigated the river all the way past the Grand Canyon; at the time, the lower part of the Colorado River was called the Grand River.

It sounds like a heck of an expotition. Brent, our tour guide, has on two occasions raved about Powell's writing, so I've added the journey memoirs to my reading pile.

From Green River to images/2006-04-08.dead-horse.jpg Dead Horse Point State Park. There are several stories about how the point got its name. One story has to do with the whitish shape on the valley floor, pictured at right. Other stories have to do with the practice of rounding up wild horses, scaring them toward the point from which there was no exit.

Then to Canyonlands National Park. Canyonlands is a vast and deep expanse of canyons and cliffs. It's an ideal example of the geology we've been seeing: there are lots of layers of rock visible here, from the Navajo Sandstone of Zion (at top), through the Chinle and Moenkope of Capitol Reef, and further below into Rico Formation from the Permian, over 250 MYA.

We had time for a short hike to a natural arch in Canyonlands, then back on the bus for a 45-minute drive to Moab. And that's where I am now, busblogging again. We hope to skip dinner tonight and catch up on sleep: we have some very busy days ahead.

Here are the rest of today's photos.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Sat Apr 08 8:07AM (2006)

Elderhostel, Day 5: Capitol Reef

[Today's Photos] images/2006-04-07.capitol.jpg Busblogging a day late: this was a busy day, and we didn't have any time free in the evening. Someone please stop me before I get old -- I don't have the energy! Elderhostel runs a packed, busy schedule, and the only one who's having a hard time with it is me. Everyone else is spry and lively despite the long days and short nights. There's a very consistent pattern in all the retired people I know: they're all busier than anything I can imagine.

Today (and from here on I'll use "Today" to mean "Friday") we visited Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef is named for the dome you see at right. The Reef part of the name is used in the sense of an obstruction to navigation: this would have been hard terrain to cross in the pioneer days, especially since U.S. 24 hadn't been discovered yet.

Capitol Reef is, as one ranger put it, an amalgam of Utah's other parks. It has hoodoos like Bryce; canyons and sandstone like Zion; arches like, well, Arches; petroglyphs; and picnic benches like Picnic Bench National Rest Area. It has more rock strata than I can keep straight, even after five days of geology cramming. Just when I think I'm starting to get a feel for the geology, I realize I don't. It's like yoga: the more you learn, the more you realize how much there is left to learn.

images/2006-04-07.flowers.jpg At Capitol Reef we took a short hike to the Hickman Bridge, a spectacular natural arch. The approach to it is delightful: the arch seems to open up with each step. On the way back down we saw two Checkered Partridge, a striking (non-native) bird. We saw petroglyphs and some striking Fremont Cottonwood trees. No photos on this page -- too much to show. I'll link to my pix website as soon as I can get them uploaded.

After our picnic lunch we hiked down Grand Wash. That was an easy hike down a steep dry canyon which I wouldn't want to be in during a thunderstorm. More pictographs, including some good ones of horses (possibly 19th century). Some of our party saw four bighorn sheep, right up close... but alas, we were in the wrong place. Then back to the hotel, where we had just enough time for Ginger's parents to see the last few days' photos. They can't do the hikes, so they're living vicariously through our photos.

Then to dinner. Boy did I want to skip that. There's too much food for too little exercise. This must be what a cruise is like! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner -- that's one more meal than I usually have. Lunch was light, but even so I didn't need dinner. Supreme Authority, though, made it clear that skipping dinner was not an option. And what Supreme Authority says is Law: I have to live with her, after all.

Then at 7:30 a presentation by Brent, our fearless and intrepid tour leader. He grew up on a ranch, and his family still has cattle. He delivered an engaging overview of the ranching year. His "How I Spent Last Summer" is untoppable: herding 1400 head for the summer, in three pastures from six to ten thousand feet high, just him and his borrowed dog Ruby. Brent is in his mid-sixties, so that might have been his last year doing that. He finished off the evening by reciting Cowboy Poetry, and had us all in stitches.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Thu Apr 06 5:28PM (2006)

Elderhostel, Day 4: Bryce, Anasazi

[Today's Photos] images/2006-04-06.bryce.jpg Wow. How to describe Bryce? I guess if you've been there you know, and if you haven't been there you might want to.

It is breathtaking. We got to do some hiking, from Sunrise Point down to the Queen's Palace. This was with a group of a dozen folks from the Elderhostel tour! These people put us to shame. The main crowd went back up the same way, while Ginger and I did the loop to Sunset Point. Turns out, the short part of the trail was closed due to conditions, so we had to take the long way. Fortunately we made it back just before the other group.

From the hike we went to Bryce Point and took yet more photos. Today's total -- excuse me, this morning's total -- is 108. One hundred and eight photos. And that's just Bryce. I won't be posting those photos for a while, but all the rest of the days are now online.

After lunch, a quick stop at Escalante National Monument. Escalante is 1.9 million acres, so we didn't quite see all of it... nor did we see all the visitor stations. Just one of (I believe) four. We did a quick visit of the museum, learned about local flora and fauna, and headed out again.

Off to Anasazi State Park in Boulder, Utah. This is a beutiful area at the base of Boulder Mountain. Ancestral Pueblo people lived here in villages in the twelfth century. We saw some ruins and enjoyed a fascinating lecture by the resident scientist, a captivating speaker. We also got to see an 11,000-year-old Clovis point recently found in the area.

I'm writing from 9,000 feet as we traverse a snowy mountain pass. We will not have time for anything tonight: very late dinner, then a bus ride to the next motel. This Elderhostel deal is exhausting!

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Wed Apr 05 9:18PM (2006)

Elderhostel, Day 3: Ruby's Inn

[Today's Photos] We're at Ruby's Inn near Bryce Canyon. Ruby's has WiFi, but I don't have time to catch up on anything! We keep a pretty tight schedule, and if you look at the timestamp of this message you know it's way, way past my bedtime.

We had some snow on the drive here, but nothing that even I would worry about. There's more coming tonight, so our hikes tomorrow may be curtailed. Maybe I'll just take a nap.

Bryce is 100 million years younger than Zion. We're basically taking a tour through time as well as space: at Snow Canyon and Zion we saw Mesozoic sandstone deposits from 165 million years ago, at Bryce we'll see Cenozoic formations from only 65 MYA. Expect photos of hoodoos tomorrow.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Wed Apr 05 7:41PM (2006)

Elderhostel, Day 3: Zion

[Today's Photos] We left St George right on time, and had an educational ride to Zion. Our resident geologist filled us in on details of the local terrain that we never would have noticed or known. We had just done this drive two days ago -- today, we learned what we missed.

images/2006-04-05.menu-falls.jpg Zion was chilly, enough for me to use my windbreaker. Ginger and I decided to depart from the crowd and hike on our own. We got to see Weeping Rock, an area of sandstone where the water seeps out. We've heard differing accounts of the time it takes water to seep through, but it's between one and four thousand years from the time rain falls on the top of a formation to the time it seeps through the side. The trail to Weeping Rock was damp but easily hiked in 5 minutes. The morning's rain had the waterfalls going strong, and we got to be behind one.

From Weeping Rock we took the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava, then hiked the river trail for 30-40 minutes, then hiked up to Menu Falls, another spot where water seeps through.

We had to skip our afternoon hike because of weather reports from Bryce. It sounded like it coult be bad, so we skedaddled early and made it to Ruby's Inn. More on that later -- it's 7:30 and time for our lecture on Geology!

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Wed Apr 05 8:24AM (2006)

Elderhostel, Day 3 (AM): Depart for Zion

images/2006-04-05.bus-in-the-rain.jpg Rain! We woke up to sprinkles. For a while it even poured -- but only for a while. A nice desert rain. Pictured at right is our bus. It is almost entirely full. About four empty seats.

We're on the bus now, leaving St George for Zion. Our resident geologist is telling us about the local terrain, so I'll sign off for now.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Tue Apr 04 4:28PM (2006)

Elderhostel, Day 2: Snow Canyon

[Today's Photos] Coffee. I miss coffee. Oh, I'm going to be missing coffee for the next week and a half.

images/2006-04-04.moki-marbles.jpg We stayed in the St. George area today, getting an overview presentation in the morning, then to Snow Canyon for some light hiking and exploring, then to a Dinosaur Tracks museum. The photo at left is of some sandstone formations called Moki Marbles. They're deposits in the sandstone: as the water flows through the sandstone, it stops and accretes into little (inch or so) round formations. These are then exposed by erosion. We were walking all through these in Snow Canyon.

The Dinosaur Tracks museum was a bit raw, but geologically fascinating. A fellow named Shelton Johnson was having fun with a backhoe in his property, slicing up rocks, picking them up, and moving them. One accidentally flipped upside down, and he noticed some unusual signs on it. He called up his son, a geologist in the town university, and his son identified them as dinosaur tracks. Well, they've found a lot more and there are people busy studying them. Many rare tracks, such as signs of a Somethingsaurus dashing down to the lakebed, sqatting down to eat his fish dinner, getting back up and popping off back home.

This afternoon we had a presentation on the history of St George and of Utah in general: from the Mormon perspective. Yeesh. Ask me about it some time.

Tomorrow it's off to Zion. As always, net access is iffy. If you don't hear from us, stay tuned.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Mon Apr 03 4:39PM (2006)

Elderhostel, Day 1: Zion Sneak Preview

[Today's Photos] images/2006-04-03.zion.jpg Breakfast today was a unique experience. The motel served a "continental" breakfast, out of which the least unappetizing item was instant oatmeal. I made sure they had hot water, took a couple of packets of oatmeal, and went to the hot water dispenser. It said Do Not Touch. That left... coffee. A word to the wise: instant oatmeal with coffee is Not Good. It is rather impressively Not Good. And it gets worse with every bite. You may have to try it to believe it!

But enough of that. We drove through Zion and stopped for a short hike up the Canyon Overlook Trail, just before the big tunnel. This is gorgeous country. And so wet! There's water seeping everywhere, and lush greenery in the most improbable places. Lots of crevices and lots of growth in them.

Today's photo was taken from the top of the trail. It's a nice overlook of Zion Canyon. Just a 15-minute hike to the top, and the vistas are oh so worth it. Click on the picture for a full version.

From Zion we drove to St George, where we meet up for Elderhostel. St. George is, in a word, nasty. That's not something I like to say, but I can't take it back. The Elderhostel people are delightful, but there are some real jerks elsewhere in town. It's a very crowded place, and traffic is almost Bay-Area bad. Rudeness is the norm. Never yield to anyone. Yellow means "go", even if it means blocking the intersection. There's a traffic circle in town, and I can understand why some people in Los Alamos are so emotionally upset at the idea of them: the traffic circle here flows well most of the time -- even with pedestrians -- but there are indeed a lot of idiots who just race through. Screeching brakes and honking horns. Not often, but enough to make an impression.

No WiFi in St George, so I don't know when or how I'll post this. Nobody even knows what WiFi is. There's a spot that claims to be an Internet Cafe, but it was closed and there was an angry lady sliding some papers under their door when I went. Her server has been down for four days, she's been trying to contact them to bring it up, and they don't respond. She's losing business because of this. I tried the library; no WiFi, and I'm not local, so I "can't use their computers anyway". How friendly.

Wow, this is sounding really negative. Sorry! I'm in good spirits, and just trying to convey some of the spirit of the day. And I'm not even going to go into the tour of the Tabernacle...

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Sun Apr 02 8:44PM (2006)

Fictions That Sustain Us

I got us lost today. Not lost, but I missed a turn and cost us over an hour.

I like to see myself as competent... but am I? What fictions sustain me? Earlier this week I found out that a close friend views me as Puertorican. I am, of course, but that's not an image I cultivate nor one that I think of as defining me. It was a shocking moment. How wrong am I in my image of self? In what other ways am I fooling myself? Am I a competent person? Am I considerate? Useful? Interesting? (no -- Ed.) Okay, not interesting. But darn, what the heck am I and how come I don't know? Am I the person I think I am? The people who know me well: what do you know that I don't?

It's been an interesting week, and the coming one will be too. I'm a bit shaken, and need to reexamine a lot of things about myself. I'll save you the boring introspection bits, but leave you with a question: Who are you?

Posted by Ed | Permanent link

Sun Apr 02 8:16PM (2006)

Elderhostel, Day 0: Los Alamos to Page, AZ

images/2006-04-02.lechee.jpg Some people would call this part of the country ugly and boring. Their point of view isn't necessarily wrong... but it's sad. This beholder sees only exquisite beauty.

We drove through some incredible terrain today. Wide vistas, deep canyons. Red rocks, light green grass, dark green shrubs. Black mesas against a deep blue Southwestern sky. The land was constantly changing; every mile was different.

The photo at left is of (we think) Leche-e Mesa near Page. It's a striking mesa, visible for a long part of our drive.

images/2006-04-03.cliff.jpg We stopped for the night in Page, Arizona, right by Lake Powell. Had a surprisingly good dinner at Fiesta Mejicana: an appetizer of sauteed mushrooms with lots (LOTS!) of garlic, then Mole Enchiladas for Ginger and a Milanesa for me. The Milanesa (basically a latin american chicken-fried steak) was exquisite, a good cut of meat with great butter flavor. The Mole was a bit sweet for us, but still tasty.

After dinner, we drove around and stopped at a vista spot right after Glen Canyon Dam. Two young ladies were showing no fear of the canyon edge. I recommend clicking on the photo for a full-scale version. Gulp!

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Sat Apr 01 8:13PM (2006)

First T-Storm of the Season

As I write this, lightning is flashing somewhere over Abiquiu. Not much, and not often, but enough to make for a pretty light show. The first of the year (that I've seen).

I love the thunderstorms here, and love sitting in the dark watching the distant and silent lightning. I also love the fierce close-up storms, the house-shaking crashes of thunder, the (very) rare sizzle that precedes a nearby strike.

The storm is dying. The flashes are about 2 minutes apart now... but sometimes that's when they're best. It can be worth waiting for the final flash, that furious yet brief climax. Not tonight, though: this one has just faded away.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link

Sat Apr 01 7:23PM (2006)

Elderhostel, Day -1: Preparations

We're off to Utah, on an Elderhostel program with Ginger's folks. It should be a decent and educational experience... but I wonder what they mean by "easy to moderate walks"? I bet their idea of "moderate" isn't the same as Ginger's.

We leave Sunday morning for St. George. Ginger has managed to catch a bug, so she hit the sack early tonight in hopes of fighting it off. St. George is about a day's drive from Los Alamos, and we have two days to get there, so we'll take it easy.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel