May 3, 1997
Southern Oregon, East of LaPine, BLM Land
This is the first morning after
camping with our new gear. Chet is rearranging all of the various boxes,
bags, containers, stoves and gear several different ways trying to get
the perfect combination. I'm sitting by the campfire, listening to the
birds, soaking in the sun and wind. Last night at sunset the coyotes howled
and the robins gave us an evening serenade. We saw a herd of deer take
off over a hillside. This is our first experience on BLM land and it feels
like being a cowgirl setting up camp. This site is great. My body is beginning
to show its creakiness. The dust is getting into every pore but I feel
We left Oregon around 9:30 yesterday
and headed out for the straightest highways in the world. You can see the
line of the highway for as far as you can see and it still goes. Chet
calls this our "shake out" period and spends lots of time making
sure everything stays on top of the Jeep and keeps its proper place within.
We stop at Denio Junction--what
a pit! And get chased out by cow trucks. We see three new birds--a Western
Meadowlark, a Yellow-Headed Blackbird and some kind of wild goose. I may
have seen a Turkey Vulture in a field as well. We also saw a badger, deer
again, and rabbits running across the road. The sky was filled with fluffy
clouds during the day and massive stars at night. Chet drove for hours
and hours--I mostly felt I was along to feed him sandwiches and candy bars
while I could just enjoy the scenery.
We ended up here in southern Nevada
at 1:00 a.m. and stayed in a motel where you put your cash ($30) in a Bible
on the dresser. This morning Chet found a tick on his side. Yuck! And I
had to use our handy tick picker to remove it. I got the tick and a piece
of his flesh! Now we're getting ready for another day after a good night's
sleep and a shower.
Well, we survived the ticks and
went off on a driving adventure through Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. It's
beautiful in May with wildflowers blooming and green, green sage. We stopped
for breakfast at Woody's in Utah--about the ugliest cafe I've been to,
with red-necks talking about killing criminals and stopping folks at the
border. But the food was okay and I saw how I wouldn't want to live in
a small town. Off we went to Dixie National Forest and saw Snow Canyon--a
beautiful white and red rock spot just before St. George.
Then to our real destination, Toroweep,
Arizona in the middle of the Grand Canyon. We drove for 90 miles down a
dirt road and some rocky spots. Stopped at Mt. Trumbull School out in the
middle of nowhere. We drove through a variety of terrain and saw even more
wildflowers. At Toroweep we saw some of the most majestic canyon scenes
from our own personal life play. Chet worried about my falling off the
longest cliff we'd ever seen. We camped in a rocky site overlooking a vast
canyon scene. The site was great except for the bugs which were thick as
soup. Had to eat dinner walking around--next time we'll eat after the sun
goes down when the bugs are gone.
This was a sleepy campsite. Our neighbors
yelled at us last night at 9:30 to go to bed!
8:20 a.m. (PMT)
Zion National Park, Utah
We woke up to another warm day
and sleeping campsite neighbors so decided to walk to the edge of the Canyon
before breaking camp. Saw jackrabbits, heard lots of birds, and watched
the sun rise through clouds over the canyon. Our world is filled with wondrous
sights. This morning began with cereal and bananas and Chet was a bit grouchy
because our tent poles were causing us trouble and we were both tired of
keeping our voices down for our sensitive neighbors.
We drove to Toroweep one last time
before taking off on our day's drive. Watching the Swifts soar over the
cliffs--it gives me chills just thinking about them. If there is such a
thing as reincarnation, I think coming back as a Swift would be a lot of
fun. Then we took off down the dirt road to Fredonia, saw vast uninhabited
country, and gave our Jeep a little exercise to prepare for our Canyonlands
adventure. While Chet added air back in the tires, I found lots of quartz
rocks along the roadside.
We made it to Zion by the afternoon
and settled in to our lovely cabin with a view, even out our bathroom window,
of the majestic rock cliffs. We went on a hike to the Hidden Canyon for
a couple of hours and were treated with a rich display of wildflowers,
trees, and red rocks. It was a fun hike with lots of climbing on exposed
rock areas. The birds were singing and our bodies were getting in tune.
We ate prime rib at the lodge (delicious) and went back to our cabin for
a night's rest.
PS We both woke up itching from
bites we got at Toroweep!
10:35 p.m. (PMT)
Went to breakfast at the lodge
in Zion then on a short mile hike to the Emerald Pools. After stopping at the Visitor Center for a wildflower book, we took off for
a long drive. The trip here was very scenic--driving though many sections of Dixie National
Forest with its red cliffs and meandering streams. Both of us spent a lot
of time scratching our bug bites. Chet's bites have swollen up, turned
red in big blotches, and ooze amber fluid. My bites are smaller but they
sure do itch.
Then on to Capitol Reef where the rock cliffs are beautiful
and look like giant sculptures. This is Mormon country where fruit farms
and neat communities once prevailed and are still owned by some. I identified
my first wildflower with my new book--the Jackass Clover, which grows on
the alkaline soil outside Hanksville.
We had a shopping spree at Bryce
Canyon "shopping mall"--bought all the rest of the supplies needed
for our trip. At Boulder I bought a neat pair of purple and silver earrings
made by Santa Domingo pueblo Indians of New Mexico. We rolled into Hanksville
and found this motel, ate at Stan's (not too great!), watched a little
TV, and now it's time for sleep before taking off to Canyonlands in the
Maze Overlook, UT
We had breakfast at the Red Rock
Restaurant in Hanksville before filling our gas tanks and taking off for
our off-road adventure. We turned onto the road to the ranger station at
Hans Flat and saw many new species of wildflowers. I discovered that identifying
flowers was not going to be as easy as I imagined. There was the most beautiful
blue bird I've ever seen and I identified it as a Mountain Bluebird.
We checked in with the ranger who
told us about the Flint Trail not being in great shape--which we later
found to be an understatement.
The road (if that's what they call
it!) was unbelievably rocky and rutty. I wouldn't have believed our Jeep
could make it over many spots if I'd seen the road before trying it. I
quickly found my biggest fears were well-founded--this is a place where
you could ruin a car, if not yourself. The Flint Trail was harrowing but
the Maze Overlook Trail was also scary in many parts and we have to return
over that "road" tomorrow!
The Maze Overlook campsite is unbelievably
beautiful. I have taken many pictures but there is no way to show the intricacies
of the rock and the range of colors. It is truly awesome. We saw what I
think are Cassin's Finchs and listened to their lovely song. Beautiful
sunset and stunning sky again!
Maze Overlook, Utah
We woke up to a beautiful sunrise
over the massive Maze. I continue to be amazed by the rich color and textures
of the rocks. Back to our morning ritual of cereal and bananas and coffee.
Then preparation for our planned hike to the Harvest Scene rock art. The
hiking book warns there is a spot on the hike where you need a rope to
carry packs down and that the hike is moderately strenuous. By now you'd
think we'd be skeptical of written guides, but, no, we just fill our water
bottles (two each) and pack sun screen and gorp for lunch and head out
down the trail.
From the beginning I was a little
skeptical about how we were going to get down the side of the canyon and
my skepticism was well-founded. Right from the beginning there were rocky
crevices requiring a climb down of five to ten feet, but it got worse.
I found myself looking down a 500 foot cliff, balancing on a rock at a
steep diagonal angle. Chet just said "keep the weight on the front
of your feet and you'll be all right." I was petrified but I didn't
feel I had much choice but to obey. Then we got to the spot we think the
guide was talking about. A 10 foot drop with no footholds. Chet tried a
few ways to get down with the 20 foot rope we'd brought along but decided
we couldn't do it without his cable ladder which was back at camp. He said
"you wait here while I climb back up the mile to our site."
By now the sun was beginning to
shine and it was already getting quite warm so I said "no, I'll go
up with you and we'll see how we feel when we get back." Three quarters
of the way there we were both pretty tired but I thought we might be disappointed
if we didn't try to make it back down, so I offered to wait while Chet
went up to get the ladder. I sat and lay on a great little rock ledge overlooking
a great rock pillar, mountains, and rock cliffs, and white fluffy clouds
on the deep blue sky.
Chet came back and we retraced
our steps back down to the hard spot, slung the cable over the side, and
Chet went down and coached me through the difficult steps to reach the
bottom. I hung onto that ladder for dear life. Then the really hard parts
came. I had to climb down a 15 foot rock cliff with small hand and foot
holds on a totally exposed rock. Chet coached me the whole way but I was
petrified. From there we found two more treacherous rock climbs and several
difficult passages. Finally, we reached the valley where the hot of day
(at least 90 degrees) was in full force. We still had two miles of hiking to reach our destination.
We trudged through a sandy wash
which kept our pace quite slow, but we saw fantastic wildflowers and rock
cliffs and formations, and always the blue, blue sky. We saw two new birds
in one of the few shady sections of the trail. The Pinyon Jay, with its
bright blue feathers and Jay-like call, and the Ash-Throated Flycatcher
with its impressive crest and dusty colors. Lizards skirt out in front
of us at every juncture. Then on to the rock art--well worth the trouble
to see such amazing human expression way out in the middle of nowhere.
These early people have a lot to say about the human spirit and its relationship to the earth!
We headed back up the three miles
to the top--very tired, very hot, but proud of our accomplishment in making
it to this place. We found the journey back a little easier except for
the exhaustion and the heat. I was proud of my ability to make it back
up the various rock climbs and crevices. We met four guys who were coming
down as we climbed up--they had already hiked for 14 miles and were close
to out of water.
We made it to the top, drank a
ton of water and Gatorade, soaked our feet in the dish pan, and made a
can of chicken noodle stew for dinner as the sun set, putting a pink tone
on everything. Then we watched as the moon came out in a sliver and we
saw the comet with its headlight right next to the moon.
What a glorious day!
Standing Rock, Utah
We got up in the morning to another
beautiful sunrise, aching bodies, and lots of itching places from our bug
bites. Chet tries to toast bread on our camp stove but it doesn't really
work, so we just have a slice of bread with jam and our trusty cereal and
bananas. Breaking camp takes a very long time as Chet needs to be sure
everything is secure for our next hard day's drive. I'm afraid I'm getting
new bites from gnats as I write in my journal, but I'm beginning to feel
like there's not much I can do about the bugs except put up with them.
We take off down the same road
we came in on and I brace myself for another scary ride. If I'd known just
how scary, I might have refused to do this trip before we left. The road
around a new section called the Teapot Rock was unimaginably difficult.
It's hard to believe our Jeep is capable of going up and down rock ledges
which are 2 to 3 feet high--but it really did. I have never been so terrified.
I vacillated between being worried about whether our Jeep would be destroyed
or we would die. Neither option seemed out of the question.
We watched as a group of men tried
to get their vehicles over a particularly difficult series of rock ledges
and then Chet just forced the Jeep over the same terrain. The men waved
him on as he pushed through the area. I later commented that I became very
concerned when I realized that these guys thought Chet was the expert.
Not to say I don't think he drives well--I do. But this is really his first
trip over such treacherous territory.
While we're still traveling over
rocky passages a storm comes over and rain begins to fall. It only scares
me more, as I worry that the rain on the rocks will make the Jeep slip. By now I feel like the skid plates on the bottom of the Jeep have gotten
a tremendous workout, but Chet keeps checking the bottom to make sure it's
still there and it is.
We finally arrive in the Standing
Rocks area and I immediately begin to see why we went through the horrendous
rock ride here. Our campsite is blessed with a 200-500 foot standing rock
that soars to the sky. Our site overlooks the Maze from the other side
from the night before and gives another fantastic view from every angle.
We had spotted our first Black Throated Sparrow earlier in the day and
find our campsite has several of the beautiful little birds to sing to
us as we set up camp.
We find our food has been completely
soaked with water from ice melting and spend an hour cleaning the cooler
and rearranging the food. I decide it's time to celebrate a hard day's
adventure with a bottle of Waterbrook Chardonnay, sliced ham, broccoli
and carrots as dusk turns to night, the moon sets in the sky, the comet
shines again and both of us are pleasantly drunk as the sky fills with
PS We laughed a lot thinking about
our wild day's ride.
Standing Rock, Utah
The sun is shining again this morning
and I can tell it's going to be hot today. We've declared this a day of
rest after the last three adventurous days. Our campsite couldn't be more
beautiful. The panoramic view, the wildflowers, the singing birds, the
big rock, and the red dirt all give the eyes marvels to see.
Chet spends a lot of time making
our campsite very special. He puts the big canopy up and has to attach
ropes to several places to assure it's secure. As the sun continues to
rise and the day gets hotter this canopy shade is a real godsend. We sit
under the shade of the canopy for hours and I begin a long process of cutting
vegetables for the chili I'll make later. We both take scads of pictures
and discover many sights. Our stove acts up and Chet takes it apart--not
an easy task--and finally gets it going again. I'm relieved because we
need the heat to cook the chili. Chet discovers that we lost a mud flap
off of one side of the Jeep, which is not surprising given the road we
traveled the day before. Later he has to jack the car to take the other
mud flap off. He's rigged a system of keeping the Jeep covered with a tarp
to keep the inside cool.
We basically space out all day
and I watch the sky change from cloudless, to stormy, to cloudy, to a rich
glow. The bug bites itch like crazy and we go to bed.
PS The chili was super!
PPS Saw a brownish-black pair of birds--not sure what they are.
Standing Rock, Utah
It's hard to believe we can start
another day with the sunrise and birds chirping. The Black Throated Sparrow
sings very early in the morning. Both of us complain of not getting a fantastic
night of sleep. Chet was cold and I found the ground made my hips ache.
We start with our morning rituals,
then set off for a hike down the side of the canyon. It's a glorious morning
and we see more birds. We're pretty sure we saw a Canyon Wren making a
lovely song. The birds here fill our otherwise quiet existence with interesting
chirps, trills, and caws. We find views from every point of our journey
as we scramble over rocks.
The sun begins to shine hot on
our bodies. We both notice how rough we feel and how disgustingly dirty
we've become. This trip has included some of the most beautiful, majestic,
and unusual sites, but it has also become filled with what I call our trials.
Each day we discover new bug bites and at least one additional difficulty
to contend with. Chet mentions that we could end our trip in Canyonlands
here at Standing Rock. We'll see how we feel tomorrow.
Chet and I smell the sweetest,
freshest odor and look for the plant which causes it. It's a yellow-flowered
bush and he carries a twig of it back to the campsite--sniffing periodically
to fill his head with sweet thoughts. I continue to be amazed by the wide
variety of wildflowers and my inability to identify them. We do better
with the birds.
I take lots of pictures again of the rocks and the sky
and of us. We come back to camp and Chet sets up the other cot. Both of
us rest for awhile as a continuous breeze keeps the bugs away. Our campsite
is about as comfortable as can be.
Before we left on our walk, Chet had filled our sun showers with water
so after our lunch and our naps we each were able to take a shower in front
of God and everybody (mainly birds and trees and bugs). I have never enjoyed
a shower as much. It was like being reborn! It's amazing how small things
like showers make such joy. Here I feel like I'm learning again about the
power of the earth and the challenge of living in a harsh environment--no
running water, no modern technological conveniences, no bed in a nice warm
house, and no easy-to-use toilet and shower. Of course, there's also no
8 to 6 job, e-mail, pollution and people to contend with--maybe it's just
that the challenges are different.
We watch the sun set and leave
a glorious golden orange glow as the moon rises--it's over a quarter big
now. We decide to sleep outside on our cots and watch the stars as we fall
PS The bugs come out in force after
the wind dies down. Yuck!
Doll House, Utah
Last night we slept on cots under
the canopy, hoping to stay cool and to get a good view of the stars and
moon. It didn't work as well as we planned because the wind blew hard all
night and we were too cold. There's no easy way to get comfortable at night
but the quiet and the beauty compensate for the discomfort. Our ice ran
out yesterday so I had to mix powdered milk for my coffee and our cereal--it doesn't taste too bad in cereal. This is our last morning at Standing Rock--it's been harsh but awe-inspiring at the same time.
Packing the Jeep is a major task--especially
for Chet who has to lug our portable toilet and gas tanks up onto the roof-rack.
The "potty" has worked well but it's pretty disgusting at the
same time. The first day the pull that releases the valve to open up the
tank broke and Chet made a new rope pull using his Hedden Knot. I mended
my pants and earring case yesterday as well (my pants had torn on the trip
to the Harvest Scene). It's fun to do little domestic tasks that make our
life a little better.
After about two hours the Jeep
is packed and we leave Standing Rock for the Doll House five miles away.
I had hoped the road would be better than the one around Teapot. It is,
but not as good as I had hoped. There are several very rocky places and
lots of deep sand. We see a new bird but can't see it well enough to identify and I find a beautiful blue wildflower to try to identify.
We make it to the camping area
only to find another difficult rock challenge to drive over to get to our
site. The campsite has no shade and we wonder how we'll be able to set
up camp. We decide to check out the other sites which have more shade and
nice rock sculptures that look like giant Kachina dolls. From a rock overhang
we can see the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon.
Back at our campsite we set our
chairs in the only shady spot and begin to set up camp in slow motion.
We put things out one at a time and take shade rests in between. Somehow
getting our camp set up makes it much more inviting and we notice what
a spectacular 360 degree view we have of the area. Our site looks straight
over to the Doll House and we can see the Needles and Cataract Canyon.
We take a late afternoon hike to
avoid the bugs we anticipate will be here soon. We start down the side
of a rock and get lost in a wash trying to find the trail. We notice many
animal prints and realize that this is quite a different environment from
where we've been--much more wildlife and different varieties. We decide
to head for higher ground hoping to locate the trail from above. We finally
spot it and scramble back down to get ourselves on the trail. We hike for
a while on what we believe to be the trail to Ernie's Country and see new
varieties of wildflowers and hear new bird calls. It's very hot but it
feels good to be hiking again. We return to camp and find the end of the
trail is right at our campsite!
We slowly set our tent up and begin
preparations for the evening meal. I improvise using Swiss cheese for butter
and making more powdered milk for our noodle dish. We have corn and beans
and cranberry sauce with our noodles and feel quite satisfied. The sun
begins to set and gives a pink glow to our campsite. There are not as many
gnats, but lots of flies, bees, and moths. Chet discovers a big red ant
hill and watches the ants come out as night begins to settle in. The moon
is getting close to half full and it fills the sky with light enough to
see by. This is the clearest night we've had on the trip but we're too
tired to wait for the moon to set to see the stars in full force.
PS I have weird dreams again tonight.
We slept in the tent again last
night, after our not-so-successful sleep on cots the night before. As we
were dozing off, I heard the faint hoot, hoot, hoot of an owl. I woke Chet
for him to listen as well. The hoots became louder and more distinct--what
a haunting sound. Now I understand why owls are symbols at Halloween. Chet
begins to "hoot" himself, hoping to draw the owl closer, but
the owl never makes another sound. We sleep well and wake to a new
bird sound we don't recognize. This bird clearly marks the dawn of a new
day throughout the territory--flying from one area to another and calling
We decided last night to leave
today. The bugs finally made our stay too difficult. The task of getting
the camp stuff back in the Jeep seems particularly difficult for Chet.
He has hurt his thumb and is a little cross. I lose my patience as well
and we yell at each other--but soon kiss and realize we are fortunate to
be in such an enchanted place. We have mixed emotions about leaving.
While the trip has had some major difficulties, it has been filled with
beauty, fun, and adventure. I listen to the birds and try to identify new
ones as Chet puts the Jeep together. He mentions
that next time we'll just come to this area for three days and really explore
the wildlife. I think we might want to stay a little longer, given the
challenges in getting in and out of here.
We take off with trepidation about
the road ahead. But I immediately realize that Chet has gotten better at
avoiding disaster and the ruts seem less jarring and the rock climbs seem
a little easier. But there are many places I still can't believe the Jeep
can go over. In places it is sitting at a 45
degree angle on rock cliffs, only to have to crawl over several 2 to 3 foot
rocks and dips. I worry most now about scraping the back, front, or sides
of the Jeep. Chet grunts and groans but also seems to be enjoying this
trip. I am much more relaxed then on the way in and even get out to take
pictures of the Jeep.
We laugh as we approach a difficult
passage and notice that someone has placed our mud flap on a rock so we
could see it as we drive out. Many people on bikes began to come past on
the road. Chet finds them irritating and wishes they would stay out of
his way. I'm surprised that the bikers would find this road much fun--besides
how can they enjoy the scenery and the birds when they're working so hard
to get their bikes through the sand and rocks. We stop along the way for
me to check the wildflowers as we finally make it through the Teapot section.
The Jeep is virtually unscathed.
We take the Hite Road, which is
truly scenic, and I find many more species of wildflowers and I'm even
able to identify a few. We decide to bag camping tonight and go to Hite
Crossing to dump the potty, get drinks and ice cream, and drive on to Hanksville.
We had breakfast one last time
at the Red Rock Restaurant to fortify ourselves for our day's journey.
The scenery around Hanksville is stark but pretty as we roll on to our
next destination. Thousands of wildflowers border the highway and Chet
humors me by stopping every now and then so I can pick one to try to identify
it. I find some that I can, and that makes me happy. The flowers seem to
come in waves--first white, then orange, then yellow fields that go for
After passing through areas where
the earth was uplifted and forms sharp curved edges of earth and rocks
for miles, we climb up over mountain passes. On one of the mountain passes
Chet gets tired and we stop for a rest and I notice there are many birds.
I watch hundreds of Pine Siskins (little birds with yellow on their wings
and streaks of black on their backs), Brown Headed Cow Birds with their
hooded brown heads, and a stunning yellow American Goldfinch. We end up
stopping next in Price, Utah, which remind me of our stay at Standing Rock
where we saw someone's brand and "1934 Price Utah" carved into
Price is a cowboy town with lots of
houses with funky little objects like swans and flamingos and pinwheels
in the yards. I notice the Prehistoric Museum and suggest we stop and explore
the museum before heading out to Ogden. The museum is a find! It is filled
with Indian artifacts from the Fremont and Anazazi period as well as the
more recent Ute, Navajo, and Pueblo tribes, in a couple of rooms. In another
section they had huge dinosaur skeletons on display, with much information
about dinosaurs excavated from this area. I wish I could bring Jimmy here
to see the dinosaurs. I buy another wildflower book and a cookbook and
Chet gets a map of the area. We have lunch at a local car hop and go on
7:10 a.m. (PST)
The beginning of this day starts
early. We woke at 5:00 a.m. knowing there is a long day ahead for driving
home. I take my last "road" shower in the motel's enclosed, molded
shower stall. Our bug bites are slowly beginning to fade and the rash caused
by sunscreen is a little better. I think our fatigue reaches into every
part of our bodies. I'm ready to go home and clean up. We both wonder if
our house is still in one piece.
As we drive over our final mountain
passes in Washington, I'm struck by the dramatic difference in terrain.
The greens are so dark and dense. No spaces between trees and shrubs and
the earth takes on a heavier feel overall. The only wildflowers I see now
are hundreds of bushes of Scotch Broom, but the sun is setting over the
mountains and I realize this area is also very beautiful. I'm wondering
what it will be like to go home and to go back to work. It seems like we've
been gone for months, not just a couple of weeks. I really can't remember
much about what I do for a living, but I know it will come back all too
We drive over Snoqualmie Pass into the racing frenzy of city life. The
cars jet past us going 75 to 80 miles an hour. We realize that the city
is a truly dangerous place and our rock cliff experiences in the wild are
tame in comparison to the daily risks we take living in a busy city. At
about 9:30 we roll into our driveway at home. I notice that several Iris
plants have sprung up in my garden, but the grass is a foot deep and the
weeds are invading my flowers. The weather must have been warm while we
were gone. This has been a wonderful trip--one that we'll both remember
for years to come. Our Jeep and all our stuff is covered with red dirt
from our trip and I expect we'll spend the next three days cleaning out
our gear and settling back into our routines. I already miss the quiet
and wind in my hair.