Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Painted Desert Inn, finally some pics

I keep talking about the Painted Desert Inn and have put one or two photos of it here before. It seems every time I go there, which is often because it's only two miles from where Grace is parked, I take another photo. The look of PDI, as it's abbreviated by park people because it does get tedious to spit out five syllables (as opposed to saving two by saying PDI), and the look of the desert change with the light. In that way, they're like the canal I lived on in Washington. I thought I'd never get over missing the canal desperately, and while I do miss its character and constancy, I've found another love in the desert.

I'm not going to put a lot of commentary here, but want to show you a bit of PDI and the desert immediately near it. When my sister Margaret died, this is where I headed to think. There's a real, tangible peace here. If you ever come you'll feel it too.

Here's some history from the National Park Service site that gives better information than I could.

So here we go:
I've shown this before: the front of the Inn from the road.
A side terrace.
A terrace on the opposite side.

Photo taken with my back to the desert. The entrance to the far left, barely seen here, led directly into the bar.

A dining area as it was when the Inn was in its heyday. The murals on the wall were painted by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie. Coincidentally, I took a silversmithing class from his son Michael Kabotie, also a noted artist in a variety of media, and a poet.

This is the mural seen on the wall to the right in the photo above.

One of several hammered-tin light fixtures.

Glass panels painted by CCC workers in designs created by Fred Kabotie.

The restored soda fountain and snack bar. The furniture was built by the CCC and the place is authentic down to the original gray paint on the booths. Unfortunately, this is for show only. Milkshakes and burgers are no longer served here.

In the house of long life, there I wander.
In the house of happiness, there I wander.
Beauty before me, with it I wander.
Beauty behind me, with it I wander.
Beauty below me, with it I wander.
Beauty above me, with it I wander.
Beauty all around me, with it I wander.
In old age traveling, with it I wander.
On the beautiful trail I am, with it I wander.

(Dawn Boy's song on entering White House, "Navajo Myths, Prayers, and Songs,"
University of California Publications in American Archeology and Ethnology, volume 5,
number 2, Berkeley (1907). From The Colorado Plateau / John A. Murray, 1998)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Not all who wander are lost, at least not for long

Nearly all of my internet time has been spent on a folding lawn chair outside the post office here at the park. There's an internet router inside and I could get a signal. It was slow but it was a signal. The weather, though, has turned hot, hot, hot. When I got back to Grace after work today it was 107 degrees. I don't care if it's dry heat, it's still hot heat and I'm not sitting outside in it for a couple of hours at a time. I'm a slow writer.

After six weeks of whining and complaining politely inquiring about doing something about getting internet elsewhere, today I was lent a booster that's supposed to, um, boost a signal from a newly-extended line and it appears to be working. It's slow but it's working, which lets me post now from the comfort of home. Thank you, PFMA (Petrified Forest Museum Association) and to Kymberly, for putting up with me and dogging this problem.

Sunday I hiked in the Painted Desert for a few hours as reconnaissance for a camping trip I'm doing in a couple of weeks. I've borrowed gear here and there and have enough stuff to get me through a couple of nights; I'll be limited only by the water I can carry. This is wilderness camping, no water, no electricity, no loo. This is one of my out-of-comfort-zone things I'm challenging myself to. Enough with living small. 

Here are some examples of what makes the Painted Desert so special to me:

I love this shot of a slab of petrified wood, looking almost shell-like, resting among scattered pebbles on the desert's sandy floor.

Just one of the slowly eroding formations in this spare but beautiful land.

Every turn brings new beauty in the Painted Desert.

Petrified wood scattered like rubble. It made me think of giants shooting craps against the butte reaching to the sun.

An arrowhead just lying there!
I was playing Moses in the desert after I lost sight of my beacon, the Painted Desert Inn, up on the rim somewhere. It was there and then it was not. I really must learn to read a compass and get some topo maps. So I was just tromping around, calculating how much water I had left and whether I would embarrass myself for calling for help IF I could get a cell phone signal, when I looked down and saw this arrowhead just lying there like someone tossed it down. I didn't have to dig it out. It was just there. This photo doesn't do it justice. It's a beautiful blue and green stone and nearly perfect. 

The problem I had is I couldn't take it with me. What I found had to stay where it was found until people smarter than I am can evaluate the site for other good things. I didn't have a GPS. No compass, no GPS. A boy scout I am not. All I could do is stand up from taking several shots of this gorgeous thing and take several more of the landscape as I moved in a counterclockwise rotation. 

Evidently I made my way out, avoiding public humiliation but not a good amount of personal because the Painted Desert Inn was right where I had left it, but I'd overlooked it out of stupidity, pretty much. 

Today I showed the photo above to the park's archeologist. I was so pleased with myself: "Look, Bill, look!" like an elementary school reader. If I heard him correctly and I hope I did, it's from the Archaic period, which means Old. Old like 8000 to 2000 years BC. The problem now is finding it again. I had nothing to mark it with, only the photos of the landscape circling it. I hope he recognizes the area and can send some of the many lucky summer interns out to sweep the area and bring it in. I'd like to brag a little.

Thought of the day:

Mistakes are the portals of discovery. (James Joyce)
[So I should be discovering a LOT.]

Sunday, June 2, 2013

There's gonna be some changes made *

My oldest sister, Margaret, died yesterday. Two sisters in one month. I'm so sick of loss, wasted chances, wasted life. It's been a rough six months altogether.

I don't have anything erudite to say this time. No guidance or recommendations, no pithy words of advice. All I know is that if I can't learn a lesson from my two sisters' shortened lives, I don't deserve to walk the earth.

I've never been a risk taker. I've led a pretty narrow and prescribed life, have always been a rule-follower, adhering to convention, protocol, and others' expectations of me. I plan to change that, to start poking at the edges of external expectations, to move more and more outside of my comfort zone, and to really not give a damn what people think . 

This is something I wrote when I was trying to decide what to do and where to go when my marriage was imploding, and had thought of moving to New York. I regretted not having taken any risks and another thing I'm sick of is regret:

He says, "You always wanted to live there." Well,
no. Not always, but since the day we sat in a cafe
and my eyes opened to the life of the city. I am envious
of the young ones
who haven't let life fly by them,
who haven't been afraid to risk safety
to live a life self-defined. I, on the other hand, 
have taken safety.
A steady paycheck in exchange for a life other-defined.
What would my life have been if once, just one time, I'd said

Thought of the day:

Fear is stupid. So are regrets. (Marilyn Monroe)

*with thanks to Bruce Hornsby

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Assuming the guilt

Have you ever felt yourself apologizing for something that you were just tangentially connected to, but for which you weren't in the least responsible? No? Then you weren't raised Catholic.

Today I was minding my own business, copying title pages and title page versos (the back of the title page but I had to show off) so they can be sent to the Park Service librarian in Seattle so the books can be added to the library catalog. The copies were from books that were oddly enough on the shelf, complete with spine labels and call numbers, but weren't on the shelf list, the item-by-item inventory of the library. Don't ask me how they got the labels because I don't know. The labels come from the librarian, presumably when the books are added to the catalog, but maybe I forgot something about the process since library school. In any case, the books aren't on the list.

As I say, I was at the copier, finished my stack of books, and went back to the library. A while later I went back to the copier with a couple more books where I found the Chief Ranger staring at the copier, willing it to work. He said it wasn't working and pointed to a gigantic stack of identical copies sitting off to the side. Holy crap. The stack was copies from one of the books I'd taken down earlier. There was no sense playing stupid because it was clearly a library book image.

So what's the first thing I do? I said the only thing a good Catholic-raised girl can say, "I was raised Catholic and have to assume the guilt for this but I didn't do it." I don't think anyone in the office believed in my innocence despite them all saying, "It's OK! Don't worry!" in precisely that tone that says I'd better start worrying, except I'm a volunteer and they can't do anything and that kind of pisses them off. (These are nice, nice folks and if they read this I hope they know I'm joking.) It must have been two reams of paper and when the copier finally got working again the low toner light came on. Oh, man. I had to start apologizing all over again.

Thought of the day:

Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving. (Erma Bombeck. RIP)

Everything which is infinite, which is yes

Yesterday I was lucky to go on a hike I’d been looking forward to for some time. A few weeks ago I was at a meeting where the park Superintendent talked about a trail that he said wasn’t ready for prime time, the Blue Mesa to Teepees trail. The trail follows ridge lines through the badlands and was washed out in spots, and in some places footholds had to be chopped out with a pickax. Some sections are only a foot or so wide with a pretty formidable drop on one side and a wall on the other. I talked to paleontologist Bill about going on a hike there and he said I could trail along the next time he went, which turned out to be yesterday. I toted along my hiking poles because I’d heard the horror stories and wanted to be prepared. I didn’t need them.

In the last couple of weeks a group of teenagers has been here in the park, working on that trail and at least one other that I know about. When we hiked the trail yesterday we found footholds chopped into steep sections, foot after foot leveled out, an inner curve secured with stacked rock, and a generally challenging trail, at least for me, but a navigable one. Like the trail down into the Painted Desert that I wrote about some time back, I was sucking wind in spots but it was so worth it.

I’ve posted pictures here before from Blue Mesa, the ones taken from the established loop that visitors can easily see and travel. The views from yesterday’s hike were very different, as they were taken from the top looking down, as opposed to looking up out of the valley the loop trail follows.

One of the ridge lines, where we’re walking on top of the world.

Navigating a steep hairpin turn.

Another ridge line section.

Petrified wood lying in a gully in Blue Mesa, lying where it eroded from. The only place in the park where it’s been moved is in front of the Rainbow Forest museum at the south entrance to the park, where representative samples of the different kinds to be found have been placed. The rule on wood or any other thing found in the park is to leave it where it was found.

Badlands, as seen from above.

Look at the size of the petrified wood log in the background, exactly where it eroded from the surrounding earth.

The Teepees end of the trail.

More teepees, so called because of their conical shape.

I can’t wait to go back and take some time. It might have taken us 45 minutes for this trip, but I’d like to spend at least a couple of hours there. I love this park. Everywhere I look is more and more beauty.

Thought of the day:
I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. (e.e. cummings) 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Decoration Day

I spent the weekend near Tucson with my buddy Melvin and his son Bob. They're always so gracious and generous in opening their home to me. It's about a six-hour drive from the park to their house, but it goes by so quickly because I travel the photogenic highway 60/77. I called it 60 in an earlier post but the long stretch of it is actually 77.

Saguaro cacti are in bloom everywhere down there. They were beginning to bloom when I was there in April and I was surprised to see the blooms continuing. They grow only in the Sonoran desert but not everywhere in the desert, and grow only to an elevation of about 4000 feet. That leaves us at Petrified Forest out of the loop because we're in the neighborhood of 5500 feet.

It's always so peaceful at Melvin's. No agenda, no expectations, just long conversations and pleasant, interesting, and intellectual company. We didn't leave the covered veranda all day Saturday until it was time for dinner. In the heat of Tucson it was still comfortable there in the shade. We watched hummingbirds, rabbits, flickers, quail (mom and dad and their brood of 12 chicks), and doves visit the water fountain and feeder. We watched the full moon rise and picked out Saturn. Life can be so good with the most simple things.

Highway 77 travels through the Salt River Canyon, some of the most spectacular scenery I've ever seen. This trip was the second and third time I've traveled the road and it hasn't failed to disappoint. The speed limit drops to 25 in many places as the road makes hairpin turns, there are several 7% grades, and every inch of the road offers beautiful, beautiful scenery.

On my way home to the park this afternoon I was approaching the twisty parts of the road where the speed limit drops to 55 to get you ready for the really slow speeds ahead. I'd already geared down on one of the steep grades, was riding the brake anyway, and still found myself hitting 65. You know what's coming, right? An Arizona State Trooper sitting on the other side of the road pulled out, made a u-turn, and just blended into the flow of traffic behind me. Didn't matter; I knew he was gunning for me. This was a smart guy. He waited until I was approaching a pull out before he put his lights on. Before that spot there was nowhere to pull over but I'd already been looking for a place because I knew he wasn't after anybody but me. Now here's the ironic thing. I nearly always cruise at 60, which is usually below the speed limit. I just stick to the right lane and keep it slow. I really don't like to speed because I don't want that clutch in my chest when I see lights in my rearview mirror and because I'm trying to squeeze out marginally better mileage from Grace. 

He came up to the van where I was already kind of laughing about the irony of it, and I told him what I just wrote here. He was very nice, polite, and respectful and all I got was a warning. I didn't tell him his mother would have been proud of his manners. I think that might have been pushing my luck.

Thought of the day:

On Memorial Day, I don't want to only remember the combatants. There were also those who came out of the trenches as writers and poets, who started preaching peace, men and women who have made this world a kinder place to live.

Eric Burdon

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Blue Mesa

Ask just about any volunteer who does roving what his or her favorite part of the park is, and they'll tell you Blue Mesa. The Painted Desert, at the north end of the park, is colored in warm colors of reds and oranges. Blue Mesa, about halfway down the 27-mile length of the park, is mostly on the other side of the color wheel, in blue, purple, gray, and some green. Why the difference in color? Oh, and what's roving?

Roving means putting on a uniform, checking out a car, and heading out to the field to interact with visitors. Rovers answer questions and are a presence, a face representing the park. I've done it officially once and it's fun. No one I've met so far expected me to know everything, and what they really like is personal attention from someone who looks official. I've also done it unofficially many times when I've been out for my daily walks, when I stop to take pictures so whole families can be in the same shot, to chat up bikers, or to offer information about a place, as I did a few days ago at the Painted Desert Inn. 

The Painted Desert Inn, at the rim of the Painted Desert.

Of course I'm not in uniform when I'm off duty and out walking, but I always identify myself as a volunteer. A little PR for the park can't hurt, plus I learned today that I should keep track of that time because it affects funding.

The red of the Painted Desert is due to a high amount of iron oxide in the soil. At Blue Mesa, blue, purple, black, and gray come from magnesium oxide and decayed plant and animal remains, green from chromium and unoxidized iron, and white from gypsum.

People on the Blue Mesa trail.

The trail is only about a mile long. There a few steep sections but it's mostly very walkable for anyone who's reasonably fit.

John Muir first named the area Blue Forest for the blue-gray tint of the landscape. He did some exploring and excavating, but published very little about the park.

 Blue Mesa is 3 1/2 miles off the main road. I always tell people that they're going to see that sign, go "uhhh, no," not willing to make the 7-mile round trip, but they really need to make the drive. It's such a beautiful place and nothing like you would see anywhere else in the park.

The wide blue sky is even better with cloud accents.
A big hello from the overlook.
You can see what a gorgeous day it was. I went here the second or third day I was at the park.