Thursday, September 29, 2011

First encounter

I finally met my newest grand-daughter, Gabriella.

And I have the Grammy photos to prove it. 

That first cuddle with a new grandbaby is always a thrill.  Of course, Gabby seems pretty unexcited about the whole thing...

Until she opens her eyes and, then: "Whoa! this isn't Mom!"

She'll never be this little again.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Visiting on the porch

I've missed a couple of chats and I've been looking forward to getting together again.  All (well, most) of my chores are done and I can stroll over and sit a while.  Patrice has a few new questions to ask, so here goes.

  1. Would you rather cook or clean house?   Definitely cook.  And that's not my favorite job, so you can see how much I hate to clean house.  Both were necessary evils of raising a family.  Luckily, nowadays, the cooking is less constantly required and the housework isn't as huge, either.
  2. Who do you resemble in your family? Oh, I look like my Dad.  But I have the blue eyes of my mother's family.  I also resemble my sister.  When my younger son was a baby, he would get a very puzzled look on his face whenever she spoke.  Our voices were almost exactly the same.  But hey!  Mommy's over there- who's talking?
  3. Have you tried e-books yet? No.  Not sure that I ever will.  I like having a book in my hands.  I get the convenience when travelling but that's the only time I would even consider using it.  And, this last trip was so action-packed that I only managed to read one book the whole time.  And it was a skinny one!
  4. Do you collect anything? Oh, I collect yarn LOL  I''ve made a pledge to not collect any until the new year and then I'll try to be more selective.  No guarantees on that.  I have a pretty big Santa collection that I like to put out at Christmas.  It's a 'closed' collection now and not growing. 
  5. What's your favorite fall tradition? The only fall tradition I have is getting out the winter rain jacket.  And you couldn't call that a favorite.  Fall isn't my best season and I seem to have jumped right into fall from summer this year so  maybe I'm a little wary right now.  
It's lovely just sitting here with my knitting and my tea.   Thanks for the invitation, Patrice.  If you'd like to visit too, just hop over to Everyday Rurality.  There's some nice folks visiting today.

Last days of the journey

OK.  The bags are unpacked, the laundry is all done,  two weeks' worth of emails read, if not answered, and I've finally gotten around to looking at the photos of our last day on this amazing journey.

Our first stop was the town of Window Rock, the home of the Navajo Nation's government.  This nifty rock isn't one of the biggest we've seen but it sure has loomed large in our reading.  Some of us were keen to go back and re-enjoy those Tony Hillerman novels now that we had a picture of what the place - and the surrounding area - looked like.

We went on to El Morro (which means 'bluff' or 'headland') and found this one of the most interesting places.  There's a great diversity of plant and animal life here.  We saw things we'd seen nowhere else and some readers may not enjoy all the photos today.  It was a nature tour, though, and we were glad to have found  them.

At the end of the path above, there is a big surprise.  A deep pool surrounded with bulrushes and home to at least one tiger salamander.  This pool is created completely by runoff from rain and snow-melt - there is no spring here. 

We met a tarantula wasp who was in the process of hunting down a big woolly caterpillar.  It was fascinating to see how it could pick up the stunned animal which was much bigger than itself and drag it off.  Sort of of like a log loader, it straddled the caterpillar and held it up while walking.  Their name comes from the fact that they hunt tarantulas which are pretty big spiders! That caterpillar is about 2.5 inches long.

The historic significance of this site are the many inscriptions on the rock face.  It seems that everyone who passed by added to the writings on the wall.  This is a message left by a Spanish explorer in the 1500's.  Unlike today's graffiti artists, these writers left their names for us.  Many settlers and railway workers also left their mark as they travelled though.  It's like a timeline of the waves of people who braved the desert for their various reasons. 

The flowers were many and varied.  I took lots of flower shots here.  This is the scarlet bugler...

And this is what we call Spiderwort (tradescantia) which we planted in our garden at home -  intentionally.  I was surprised to see it all around our picnic area.  A little research tells me that it is a native plant to this area.  Lucky folks to have such a pretty bloomer in their landscape.

On our way back along the path, a shout went up ahead that there was a rattlesnake on the trail.  Since we weren't too sure exactly where the snake was, we crept gingerly by the open land to our left.  But, all the hue and cry had driven poor rattler under a tree.  He was frightened and kept warning everyone off with furious rattling.  I'd never heard this sound before - it's pretty loud. 

The trip is now almost a dream.  We travelled with some wonderful and interesting people and learned lots about the history, culture and natural beauties of these deserts and canyons.   We have over 1000 photos to edit and I'm sure they will pop up here over the next while. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I am in love...with Canyon de Chelly (pronounced de-shay).  This has to be the best place we've been to yet.

One morning at the beginning of our journey, I heard a young local man say that we had to see Canyon de Chelly.  It was the most wonderful place, he said.  And with some wonder in his voice, he explained that it 'made you feel so small'.

I can tell you that it does do that.  The rocks that we drove under , through and beside were huge.  They went straight up from the canyon floor.

It's not all huge rocks, though.  Nature, beauty and hard work come together on this Rocky Mountain  Bee-balm. I think this might be representative of the people who live and work here.

There is so much variety here.  Huge rock formations, desert, green trees and sweet flowers.There are Navajo families living here amid this grandeur, growing corn, squash and beans much as their ancestors had done. They raise horses and cattle under these cliffs. 

This is part of the roadway that we drove along.  The overhang was very low and our truck was very big.  Not the biggest but still pretty big.  Private vehicles are not allowed in the canyon.  Nor are you allowed to hike or ride horses without a guide.  But I think those would be excellent ways to experience this beautiful canyon land.

One of the canyon dwellers: a Western Whiptail lizard.   We have seen a lot of lizards this trip - as you would imagine in this climate.  This fellow is one of the best.

The solidity of this rock wall soars up and up to that glorious blue sky.  It's so hard to capture the colors and sense of proportion. How could any people not be in awe of this?

But maybe this shot will help.  We are now standing on the south rim high above where we have been earlier in the day.  When I turned the corner on the lookout path, my jaw did really drop.  In the center are two enormous spires of rock - Spider Rock.  To the left of these two towers, you can see a thin trail which had two vehicles on it which gives you an idea of the scale.  What looks like a path down the middle is really an almost dry riverbed.  There was rain three or four days ago.

If I had seen nothing else this trip,  it would still have been worthwhile. But I did see so much more.  With another day to come.  Hard to believe that it's almost over.

Painted Desert

Still recovering today from our trek through the Petrified Forest and then the Painted Desert.  I guess I'm a rain forest kind of girl.  The desert is so beautiful but, of course, it is also hot and dry.  It takes a lot of getting used to.

This was our environment...and I want to share some of the beauty today.

 A sage thrasher sits high up in a juniper tree.  This is in an oasis where there are some trees.

Grasses grow.  This one had such an interesting seed head.  

Everywhere you look in the Petrified Forest part of this desert are pieces of what once were ancient trees.  And are now transformed into jewels that gleam like rainbows in the sun.

The globe mallow has tiny orange flowers which glow against the sand.

A yucca seed pod waiting for animals or birds to eat the seeds.

The earth is so parched but it makes interesting patterns when it cracks.

There  are a lot of ravens in the park and they are protected.  With their black plumage they are terribly unsuited to live here and find it very hot.  Most of the time the are trying to find any shade they can where they sit with open beaks and pant.  Apparently, they usually travel with their mates.  We  found one lonely one in a parking lot whose mate had died.  He hung around for the company and shade - not the food.  There was  none.

And, I found this quite beautiful, too, although I know most won't.  This beetle (around1.5 in) has just died.  There are many ants salvaging what they can to survive in this harsh world.

This is called Blue Mesa (colors are so hard  to capture in photos here with the bright sun) and those brown logs are actually totally rock now. 

Time to renew the lip balm, drink some cool water and find a shady spot.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is truly grand.  It's overwhelming in its scope.  When I first saw it, I felt a little disappointed and I think that was because it's impossible to take it all in.

 There's no way to see it all at once.  It's almost alien in its lack of human scale. 

Not that there is any lack of humanity.  It's a pretty crowded place - and this is almost the off-season.

We walked about 4 km along the rim trail.  Everywhere we looked were  views.

This house fascinated me.  It was the home and studio of photographer brothers.  Looks like pretty nice digs, doesn't it?

 Now look very closely - just above the trees, right of center.  This house is perched right on the edge of the canyon.  Wouldn't it be great to have your studio here?  With all that color and grandeur around you all the time?

Looking down from a lookout point, we could see the hiking trails which snake everywhere along the canyon floor.  Of course, you have to get down there - and back up!  You   can follow  the switchbacks on the side of the canyon.  They look kind of like terraces but they are a constant zig-zag of trail.  It takes more than one day to hike down and up again.

One more look at this magnificent place and we have to move on.

A complete change of location brings us to Holbrook, Arizona.  I leave you with the Wigwam Motel which is listed on the Arizona Historical Register .  These are 15 cement tipis built in 1950.  You can still rent one for a night or two.  The vintage cars are  all part of the ambience.  All around the lot are old cars in varying stages of restoration and/or decrepitude. The best part is that this  motel is on Route 66 - and I walked across it, twice!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Another day, another amazing scene

So much to see...this place is BIG.  For the past couple of days we've been on the move going from cultural  history to  scenery. 

Here we are playing Twister in four states.  

This is an old ruin of a watchtower in Hovenweep which wasn ancient a community spread out along two sides of this canyon.  It was hot, hot, hot walking along the canyon rim on these rocks.

A view from above.  Gooseneck Park has been  caused by the steady wearing away of the rocks by the river far below.  It's very hard to show the depth in a photo.  It's a long way down.

The sunrise view from our hotel window in Monument Valley.

 This is Lucy.  She weaves rugs in traditional patterns.  Her loom is made as it would have been long ago.  Here she is carding the sheep wool which she spins on a knee spindle.  The man in the red shirt is Erwin, our driver.

If this scenery looks familiar, it means you've seen a lot of John Wayne movies.  Almost every one was filmed here.  Again, it's hard to get the feeling of this place in pictures.  You really do have to be here.  There is so much few people.  Every rock is huge.  Nature has created the most fantastic shapes which the Navajo people have woven into their legends and belief system.

This is known as the Ear of the Wind.  The tree is right in front of the camera - the hole in the rock is far away and very large.  The stunning blue sky contrasts with the red rock.

After another long day, it's great to shower, pick up the knitting and relax with a cold one on the balcony.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cliff dwelling

Today began with a gorgeous was going to be a beautiful day.

We were off to experience the perils of living in a village built under a cave just below the mesa.  This one is called Cliff Palace and is dated about 1265AD. Looks like a model, I think, so far below us. There are many, big and small, around this canyon.

 Up through narrow passages in the rocks...

Down steep stone staircases cut into the side of the cliff...

Along the path beside the cliff...

Right to the village...

Then we climbed three 10 foot wooden ladders to get back to the top.  The ancient people would have just climbed up the rock with toe- and hand-holds. 

After all that work, a picnic lunch was welcome.

We had some bird friends come to see what we had to offer.  The scrub jays liked the peanuts we bought just for them.

The white-breasted nuthatch didn't really pay much attention to us.   Isn't he pretty?

We saw more ancient houses and even walked around in one.  Good thing the roof was missing - I wouldn't have been standing up like tis.

Last view for today: a lovely mountain aster.They are so pretty growing in clumps among the trees and the grasses.  Like ittle purple clouds.  It's impossible to capture the colors except in a close-up.  Imagine lots and lots of them.

And now I'm off to bed.  It's been a long day.


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