Summer Plans

Where does the time go?  The last time I wrote it was spring of 2016, and we had big plans.  And now we’re at the summer of 2017….

Okay, so clearly we’re going to have to do some goal planning if we’re going to make this all work.  And om true Megan fashion, I’m late in planning what my goals are for the summer.  We’re one week in, but I think I can still make these goals happen.

Summer of Fun 2017 Goals

1.) 100 Miles: I’ll be returning to Navajo N.M. for work this summer again.  Last summer I got into the system a bit late, so I missed some of the challenges that my fellow park rangers created.  One of the challenges was to see who could hike 100 miles first.  It really isn’t that far of a stretch for us, and one that I’m looking forward to beginning right after the kids for the summer.

2.) Go Camping More: I didn’t camp enough last summer.  It’s a hobby that I’ve grown to adore and I just got super busy with life last summer.

3.) Backpack with Marshall at least once: In 2015 I made the goal to try backpacking for the first time in 2016 and I actually met that goal.  I did an overnight trip to Keet Seel to stay at the ranger cabin.  I went with the park so no Marshall and no dogs.  We’ll see if we can find some time to squeeze it in.

4.) Record More Memories: Flagstaff is town that easy to wander through and just enjoy the little shops and small town people.  While doing this last weekend as I was waiting for Marshall to come home from Montana, I saw a little hiking journal while walking through the Old Town Shops.  I was instantly struck by how much I like the idea of keeping a journal but I did not like the layout of the journal.

So this past year I tried my hand at bullet journaling, and it went okay… Mainly, I got used to being able to make whatever layout suited my fancy.  This mean I’m too used to having my own way to be able to work with a pre-made journal.  However, I don’t want to use the bullet journal I use to track my normal life to record the hikes and camping trips I’m going to go on this summer and beyond.  So, I’m going to create a new one to keep by my hiking and camping gear.   This way I can grab it quickly when we’re packing to go somewhere.

I found a sketch journal that was small enough and light enough for my pack and I spent a few hours looking up different hiking journals and hiking layouts.  And found that there weren’t too many up and around on pinterest.  And besides, most people wanted to make sure that there was plenty of room to sketch and jot down ideas.  So I’m going to keep the layout minimal so I do just that.

 

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Itching for Spring

Flagstaff has decided that spring is going to come early, though I’m sure Flagstaff will decide it still wants it to be winter soon enough.   As I write this I’m sitting outside in the sun while Bentley rolls around in the grass that is already sprouted back.  Before moving to her favorite shady spot.  Then going back to roll in the dirt.

The good weather has made her very happy.

Quick Bentley update.  She won’t be in the next few blog posts.  She had a second knee surgery on her left hind leg to remove some gears that were jabbing painfully into her muscles.  Everything went well and her knee is thankfully stable and recovering very nicely.  However, while she recovers, she is not aloud on long walks or off the leash.  So Bentley has been a little bit of a home body this past month.

Despite Bentley’s set back, the rest of us met up with some friends for a little bit of a picnic.

We agreed to meet up at Bud Tank, a place that holds a lot of memories for the foresters.   They’ve been going to that specific location since their college days.

The weather was warm, which meant we could hang out with having to wear a ton of winter gear.  It was also muddy, making moving around the campsite limited.  However we were able to get a little fire going.  We used the fire to cook our meals.

So picnicking, with fire!

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Also, the dogs were in heaven, for the most part.  They had free reign to run around in the mud, snow, and water.

Sadly, this limited the shooting the boys were hoping to do.  While some dogs don’t care about gunfire, Bentley; and others actually enjoy the idea of hunting, Diesel; other are absolutely terrified of it.

And any camping trip requires at least some form of a good card game.

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Phase 10 has become more popular with our group.  We got through a few rounds in before our inability to focus set in.

Sadly, as it got darker, it was time to return home.  Despite the weather being in the 60s through out the day, it would get below freezing that night.  Plus it was time to go see Bentley had been up to during the picnic.

Outside my Comfort Zone

Sometimes you get a lucky break, and something awesome happens!  Unfortunately it came at the expense of a friend.  Marshall and I have friends, Mark and Mary, that were supposed to go to Pegosa Spring, CO for a romantic Valentine day weekend.  (#vdayweekend)  However Mary’s germy elementary students made her too sick to go, so they asked if we would like their reservations.

And they would watch the dogs for us.

So Marshall and I dropped Diesel and Bentley off for an extended play weekend with their best friend and hit the road.  I was particularly excited since we got to drive through Kayenta.

Though quickly Arizona’s desert  gave way to Colorado’s mountains.

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We had never been to Pegosa Spring, and we were excited to explore the town, but Marshall had one goal in mind, to get to Wolf Creek for a day of skiing.  Marshall had grown up going on ski trips with his family.  Marshall in fact can both ski and snow board, and  had taken me on one trip before.

He snowboard, I fell while sledding…

From what I can tell, two things need to occur in nature for skiing: mountains and snow.  Chicago had plenty of the second, not so much of the first.  Plus, my mom was not a fan of heights, meaning skiing was not something that she very interested in.

I did go twice while a kid with my girl scout troop.  And one of those times I came back with a broken wrist and spent a part of 4th grade in a purple cast.  And my mom’s fear of heights seem to be setting in for me as well

However, Marshall managed to convince me, and took me to a mountain that was larger than anything I had ever experienced with boards strapped to my feet.

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Not Wolf Creek btw.

I had climbed them, but not ski them.  And it was a little bit of a trial by fire…snow, sorry.  And I just about inched down the mountain that first time, after barely missing a tree.  To my dismay, all of the little kids just seemed to zip past me in their little slice  formation.  One of them actually passed me and said hi to me twice in the time it took me to get down the mountain once.

Marshall showed a lot of patience, staying with me (mostly) as I panicked and inched my way to the bottom, stopping every few minutes to catch the breath I didn’t realize I was holding.  I pretty sure the staff would see me and wonder how I was still alive.

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Please leave me here in the ski lodge…

Ultimately, I’m glad I went.  I don’t think I will ever become that person that goes skiing every winter month, or every winter for that matter, but it’s something Marshall enjoys doing.  A lot of our free time has revolved around outdoor activities that we both enjoy, and I know this is one that he is particularly passionate about.

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Not to mention we live very close to Snow Bowl, and Marshall has made it his mission in life to get me to ski again before the end of skiing season.

Either way, I should only get better.  At least that’s what Marshall keeps telling me.

Happy Valentine’s Day Love!

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Not taken on the actual V-day btw.

Camping Review of 2015

“You’re going camping again, aren’t you,”  for most of spring, summer, and fall these are the words that my dad would use to describe what I did this summer.

Camping is a moment where you can leave behind anything that doesn’t allow you to sink into the moment and the surrounding.  Facebook, tomorrow.  Phone, off.  Uh, where did Bentley go?

It’s also a moment to slow down and rework the nonsense that is in my brain.  Something going wrong at school?  It’s on the back burner.  Cabin fever setting in to soon?  Out of the house.  Dog’s getting restless?  Seriously, where’s my dog, I don’t see her?! Or I try to catch up on reading.

Camping is a time not only for the physical aspects of one’s self, but also the emotional.  In a world that stresses on  getting the most likes on instagram, we forget to take care of that inner part of ourselves.  Almost daily.

And as I write this and reflect on the fun I’ve had this year outside.  As I put the finishing touches on the pages in my scrapbook.  The desire to go camping is driving me insane.  Literally that’s all I want to do.

So here’s my prescription…

Most camping experiences have revolved around a similar story.  Beautiful scenery.  Amazing starry sky.  Close friends catching up.  However, each one could stand alone as the high light of the summer.  Or early spring or late fall when it’s obviously too cold to be sleeping outside.

April 4th, 2015

Cedar Mesa, Art’s Point

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The Group: Marshall, Dakota, Michael, Diesel, Bentley, and Mocha

Memorable Moments: The camping began when it became somewhat warm enough to explain why I was sleeping outside.  Poor Mocha had to watch as Bentley and Diesel ran around free as little birds.

 

July 12th, 2015

Fire Road 171

The Group: Marshall, Bentley, Diesel, Kelley, Mike, Freya, Odin, Gaya, Erika, Basil, Mark, Bella, Violet, Chris, Heather, Jordan, Skyler

Memorable Moments:Violet’s friend brought a didoredue….an Australian instrument, and a bunch of fun toys that the boys enjoyed immensely.  The boys throwing hatchets at trees….  It’s actually surprising that we all got out of there with all of our limbs intact.  Violet’s going away camping trip!

August 23rd, 2015

Ashurst Lake

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The Group: Marshal, Bentley, Diesel, Kelley, Mike, Freya, Odin

Memorable Moments:Marshal and Mike not drowning and not catching any fish.  The seeds of book club planted.

September 6th, 2015

Cedar Mesa, Art’s Point

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The Group: Marshall, Bentley, Diesel, Kate, Geoff, Sally

Memorable Moments: It rained off and on for the set up.  Catching up with Kate and Geoff.  Awesome hike in the afternoon and then a morning hike to Birthing Panel.

September 12th, 2015

The Aspen Grove

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The Group: Marshall, Bentley, Diesel, Tammy, Corey, Payton

Memorable Moments: We got our summer shot of our aspen tree.  Marshall and I spent most of the time bonding on our own.  Corey became the dog whisperer when he fell asleep. Fireside morning jokes.

October 11th, 2015

The Colosseum

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The Group: Marshal, Bentley, Diesel, Kelley, Mike, Freya, Odin, Roxanne, Nico, Jordan, Skylar, Mike 2

Memorable Moments: The successful first batch of komboocha.  Over eating.  Rushing to Sunday night football.

2016 Camping Resolutions: Complete a backpacking trip.

“I want to hike there…”

When driving towards Flagstaff, two mesas come up on either side, Black Mesa (so named for the coal and the darkish color of the mesa) and Skeleton Mesa (so named for…let me get back to you on that).  I hiked Black Mesa early on in my first year in Kayenta, but I had never hiked Skeleton Mesa.  And Skeleton Mesa is begging to be hiked, with the number of ridges, canyons, ruins, and streams that you get only a glimpse of as you zip past it down U.S. 160. Then one day back in October, it dawned on me.  I had a coworker who’s family owned land off of Skeleton Mesa, and perhaps we had the connection we needed to go and explore the tempting Mesa.

Long House Valley

Hidden from the rest of the world.

Hidden from the rest of the world.

Now like I said, this is somebody’s land, somebody’s home, somebody’s livelihood.  When anywhere that looks interesting, you need to ask permission to access the land and the sights.  Be polite, what ever the answer is.  Some families are open to letting people hike on their land, others you need to build a relationship with before you set out.

  • Who: Josh, Sage (the littlest hiker), Jamie, Charlie, Edwin, and myself
  • Where: Skeleton Mesa
  • Difficulty:Easy
  • Time:About 4 hours
Josh and Sage, Edwin, Jamie, and Charlie

Josh and Sage, Edwin, Jamie, and Charlie

Spring Break came and went way too quickly.  Though somehow it timed itself perfectly with some beautiful Arizona weather.  The sky was a clear turquoise blue, the wind was nonexistent, and the sun warmed the earth enough so that we were comfortable.   With no school to entertain us and the beautiful weather calling us out of our homes, it was time to go for a hike.

Edwin was our guide, as the Mesa had been his playground in his youth.  When I originally approached him about hiking in Skeleton Mesa, I thought I would be given an okay and directions.  Instead, he smiled and said of course he would take us.  He had spent a lot of time on the Mesa, helping out with his family’s heard and had stories about the Mesa as well as information.

So up the slate rock we went to go see the ruins, hidden from the highway, and hidden from the Valley as well.

The wear and tear of time.

The wear and tear of time.

But this slate rock was a little different from the Toes.  The slate rock had been pocketed with little pools over time.  And the little pools actually contained water.  We had been hit by a series of snow storms, cancelling six days of school in the two weeks before spring break.  Though it’s been quickly disappearing, and you can barely tell that we were hit at all. Edwin wanted to give Charlie a bath.  It’s a part of Navajo culture for children to bath in spring where they were born.  Preferably the children would return to the area where they were born.  This will help you live to a 100.

The other thing Navajos will do is roll in the snow.  Infants are rolled in the first snowfall of their lifetime.  It is supposed to help  keep you from becoming cold in the winter months through out their lives.  It’s the reason my students give me for wearing shorts in the middle of a snow storm.

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Edwin kept teasing Charlie, telling the five year old (who has seen many snowfalls) to go roll in the snow.    Charlie might have considered it, but ultimately decided he would rather stay dry.

As we continued our climb up the slate rock, or the child friendly version of the hike, Edwin pointed out  a set of bricks on top of each other.

Anasazi Damn

Anasazi Damn

It was a former water damn for the Anasazi.  (If you want to know more about the Anasazi, visit the Butler Wash Hike).  There are some theories about Long House Valley.  The damn, or rather serious of damns, points to an idea that the Anasazi were farming extensively in the area.  The slate rock assisted in directing the water to where the Anasazi were planting.  Another theory is that the early people of Long House Valley were pottery makers, since the area his made up of clay soil.  A deep, rich red color clay.  Also, there are multiple housing sites, an indication that this was a large communtiy filled with many people.

Speaking of which, the ruins.

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Long House sneaks up on you.  You’ll be chatting away, staring at something else when you realize that ruin is right in front of you.  Or in our case, to the side of us.  It really is it’s own little world, safe and hidden from our modern society.

The Anasazi were Charlie sized.

The Anasazi were Charlie sized.

There is evidence that Long House was probably two stories, as indicated by the wooden rafter still in place.   It was more likely the newest house in the settlement, as it was the furthest away from the planting fields.  However, Long House is tiny.  Thank goodness the second story is gone, I would have come out with several head bruises.  While I had some struggle getting through the tiny door, Charlie walked on through.  Proof that as human beings we have been getting taller.

While Long House is a historical marker for the Anasazi, it has become something of a guest book for the area.

Relatives?  Did I follow in their foot steps?

Relatives? Did I follow in their foot steps?

People carved their names into the sandstone of the bricks, telling us who the people were that visited the site, and when.  Soldiers in the American Army from the mid-1800s had some of the most beautiful handwriting.  Some of the individuals left artwork, rather than a name.  I found some members of the Murphy family, possible relatives of mine.  And there were a few famous individuals as well, mainly Zane Gray.

Once we spent our time poking around the ruins, it was down the Mesa to go and visit the nearby box canyon.  However, we were faced with a little probelm…

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No the problem was not Jamie’s fear of heights.

The area is literally littered with pottery chard.  In some places you could not help but step on them.  Edwin mentioned that in the 60s, people would come to Long House Valley to pick up some of the pottery.  It’s amazing to hear that since there is still so much of it left in the area.

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Now, keep in mind that it is technically illegal to take the pottery away from the ruin.  Since Longhouse is on the reservation, and the reservation is federal land; removing the pottery becomes a federal crime.  Which is very difficult to follow from time to time. So much of the pottery chard retain their bright colors, handles, lips, and patterns.  Many of the pottery pieces are huge (relatively speaking) and some pieces were clearly apart of the same pot.

Though that was nothing compared to what Josh found.

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A full pot!  Protected from destruction by the very sand that hid it from us.

Then through the sand dunes to the box canyon.  The box canyon held pictographs, a small stream, wild horses, and a water spring.  We had seen the horses the last time we had hiked in the area, and I was hoping to see them again, without Diesel trying to charge them.    Though, they must not have liked the idea of approaching the noisy group.

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So through the box canyon, with no horse spotting.  In general we were following the small stream that wove its ways within the walls of the canyon.  It created a small lush area, that would be green once spring began to take root in the area.

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We were forced to cross the stream in several spots, and I was very thankful to have the water proof boots.

On the sides of the canyon were some pictographs, that transcended time, literally.  Some of the pictographs are possibly from the when the Anasazi created them.  They were faded, and hard to see.  They were almost gone, threatening extinction if unprotected.  The deeper ones were clearly modern artwork.  It’s either that or the Anasazi liked the Bulls before Michael Jordan made them cool.

How Hipster of them.

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The Old

The Old

The New

The New

As we continued into the canyon, the water became greater.  Definitely some of it came from the recent snow fall.  However, a lot of it came from getting closer to the main water source, a series of bubbling wells.  The wells were modernized, and cemented, protecting the drinking water in a time from before modern plumbing.

Kayenta’s name in Navajo, Tó Dínéeshzheeʼ, means the “Place where water is”.  So while the area is a desert, its a desert with water.  No doubt the early people of the area knew that this was a good place to create a home.  It is clear from the number of ruins they left behind.

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Looking for Salamanders

Soon, we came to the time that is was time to head home before the cold and the dark set in.  Following the stream through the box canyon and the sand dunes to the car.  It was time to return to our own time, and relive the past through the pictures on our cameras.  Though I don’t bump my head on the ceiling, there are no reminders that people had been in the area for hundreds of years.  But mostly, it was time for a Navajo Burger.

Continuing on with the hopes that hot chocolate would be waiting for him.

Continuing on with the hopes that hot chocolate would be waiting for him.

Getting Lost, One Last Time

I’m back in Illinois for the summer, and I’m sure I’ll have many more adventures here. Before I left my adopted home, I had to go exploring one more time.  I had never wandered far beyond the Toes, so now was as good a time as any.

And I’ll be back in Kayenta soon.  Plenty more places to explore in the great southwest.

Metallica Rock

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Who: Marshall, the dogs, and I

Where: The Toes and beyond..

Difficulty:Moderate

Time: Four hours, there and back

Now, I’ve talked about the Toes, that’s my normal hiking ground.  And when I look at it, normally this is what I see, and what I show.

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However, on this hike, I got to see a very different perspective of the dominate landscape of Kayenta.

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The backside of the Toes

As always, I’m shocked by how photogenic my home is, almost always.

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I hate climbing up the slate rock, so instead we decided to go around the base.  Much more enjoyable, as we scrambled up several sand rocks.  We would take breaks along the way.    Typically we would go for a place shaded by the trees.  The dogs would get drinks of water, and so would we.

Diesel almost caught a lizard.  Marshall had pointed it out, and Diesel launched himself at it.  For a second, the tail was underneath the paw.  Slightly panicked at what would happen, Marshall got Diesel  to let him go.  For the rest of the hike, Diesel was convinced that he would catch one.

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Once we got over the sand rocks, we reached a very different portion of the Toes.  One that has more vegetation and a few more trees.  And rocks, lots and lots of rocks.  That Marshall insists on collecting.  The joke between us is that typically during a hike, one’s pack grows lighter as they drink their water and eat their snacks.  Marshall’s grows heavier as he finds chert and other rocks he wants to make into arrowheads.

I let him go on, and I took a break.   I’m not the only one who has used the area as a place to rest.  Or enjoy our beautiful weather.  I don’t know who put the stone their, but I’m thankful to them.

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We all did something interesting.  Diesel continued to look for lizards while Bentley played spider dog.  For a dog that hates heights, she likes to run up sandstone, and run back down it again.

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Also, I fell in love with these trees, they smell like cinnamon.  Marshall told me it’s name.  I forgot it already.

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After we were done playing in the ravine, we began hiking up to the top of the rock.  Originally, I did not know it’s name.  A friend had promised that the view was spectacular.  Josh, told us the name once we were back with the rest of the civilization.  However, we could have guessed.

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Don’t they look pretty?

This slate rock was not much different than the slate rock up to the Toes.  But on we climbed.  We had fun doing it.  Getting to the top felt like a huge accomplishment.

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And we found out how Metallica rock received its name.  Most of the structure is sand stone.  Very easy to dig into.  People felt the need to carve in their accomplishments, so that everyone else knew that they had gotten there.  One man left a lengthy message, that he had travel from California, and dated it before the creation of the state of Arizona.  Families carved in their initials.  Locals, who have had practice in carving in the stone got a little more creative.  The Metallica carving is the highest carving, giving the rock it’s name.

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We left our own mark.  Just our initials, no date.  Leaving a date would mean I could never go back.  I’m going back if just for the view.

There is a lot to see in the area, and it’s absolutely beautiful.   Obviously the Toes can be seen, but also a few others as well.  You can see El Capitan, the exact central location of the Navajo Nation.  You can also see Owl Rock, way out there.  I love to see both on my drives to Monument Valley.  Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of accidents.

Toes

Toes

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Owl Rock on the left and El Cap on the right

Owl Rock on the left and El Cap on the right

There is just a slight problem.  Diesel loves climbing, he’s a little bit of a mountain goat.  He’s spent some time in California running after a pack of dogs on Marshall’s family farm.  Bentley still hates heights.  Literally, we are enjoying the view, carving our initials in, and Bentley spent the entire time freaking out.

When it was time to start climbing down, Diesel would launch himself off the rocks.  Bentley, we had to drag her off.  I would push her, and Marshall would lift her up.  Then my little, nervous dog would wrap her legs around his neck.  Then she would whine, whine, whine, as if she was saying “Daddy, I’m scared.  Take care of me please!”

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When it was time to go home, we took another way out that we’ve never tried before.  It worked, until we realized we were not very close to the bottom and had to slide down the side of some sand stone.  Bentley and Diesel had fun running up and down.  Marshall had an easy enough time sliding down, me not so much.  Marshall has some better pictures, but I haven’t gotten them yet.

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Of course we took our usual couple picture.

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At the end of the day, this is what I got from my hike.  A very tired puppy.  I love my puppy

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Navajo National Monument

http://www.nps.gov/nava/index.htm

It’s amazing how time flies, but I’ve been in Kayenta for almost a year and a half.  To celebrate, Marshall and I went and recreated one of my earlier hikes.

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One of the first pictures Marshall saw of me.

Haha, not really.  To get to Kayenta, Marshall always passes the sign to Navajo National Monument.  Hoping that the ruins were open for the season, and looking for a short hike, we piled in to go visit.

Upon arriving, we learned that the guided tours to Betatakin were not opening for another month or so.  Still, we hiked around, having fun looking at the ruins from a distance.  One of my favorite trails, hands down, is Aspen Trail

Aspen Trail

DSC00756Who: Marshall and I

Where: Navajo National Monument

Difficulty: Depends on who you ask

Time: About half an hour

Navajo National Monument is worth the drive.  For one, it’s FREE!  (We love free in my family.) Secondly, they’ve done a good job building a museum to learn more about the area.  Third, they have some great books about the area, people, and wild life to buy.

Overall, the park has done a great job blending in how the natural scenery influenced the local people, from the Ancient Publoneans (to learn more about them visit the Butler Wash Hike) to the current Navajo people.

Overall the trail is a little more than a quarter mile long and starts off like this.

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Every trail I seem to go on starts like this.  It’s wonderfully smooth.  Blessedly level.  Then it becomes this.

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Though this time I knew what I was getting myself into.  I’ve been to Navajo National Monument before, and I’ve hiked the Aspen Trail all the way down to the bottom of the canyon.  Due to seasonal closers, we would only be hiking about half way.

We couldn’t see the ruins at the bottom, but we did get a look at the Aspen relict forest.

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The relict forest is a left over from glacier days.  Within the desert of the surrounding area, it looks like an oasis.  The forest provided many resources for the local peoples.

Overall, a fun hike.  I’m looking forward to hiking all the way to the bottom once the trail opens.  Stay tune!

Look familiar?

Look familiar?

BTW:  Marshall wants me to note that there are few inaccuracies about the plant labeling within the park.  Douglas-fir’s scientific name is Pseudotsuga menziesi, not whatever they have written down on the sign.

Butler Wash Hike

It’s been a while since I’ve been on a hike with Josh and Jamie.  In fact, the last hike I had gone on with them Sophia (the littlest hiker) was about five months from being born.

This family picture looked a little different back in August for the trip to the twin falls.

This family picture looked a little different back in August for the trip to the twin falls.

So Josh had a place he wanted to go see, we loaded up the cars with the kids and dogs.  Before you know it, we were on our way for a beautiful Sunday hike.

Butler Wash

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Location: Off of Highway 163, past Mexican Hat

Temperature: 60-70s (Never moving back to Illinois!)

Who: Josh, Jamie, Sophia (the littlest hiker), Charlie, Kate, Marshall, Diesel, Bentley, and Me

Difficulty: Down one side of a canyon and back up the other.

Time: 1-2 hours

It’s no doubt that Arizona has been left out of the winter storm vortex that the rest of the country has been enjoying, not that we are complaining.  The good weather has brought the best out of us and makes us want to get out and move.

The Crew: Myself, Marshall, Josh and Sophia, Jamie, Charlie, and Kate

The Crew: Myself, Marshall, Josh and Sophia, Jamie, Charlie, and Kate

After we parked the car, we got going, heading straight towards an old wash.  We knew of some pictographs and an old cliff dwelling.  Marshall had recently taken a course about archeology for his job, and was anxious to test his new skills.

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Diesel and Charlie rock skipping

Some of us moved faster than others… Now over all the goal was to get to the Anasazi ruins pictured a little above.  A little history of the region: In early American history, a cultural group settled the four corners region.  Their communities varied in size, but there is no doubt that the society was complex.  They farmed extensively in the area.  A huge distinction is the pueblos and the cliff dwelling they left behind. And we’re not quite sure why they were left.  Over farming, over hunting, drought, and group conflict are all possibilities.  We know that the migration was slow, but eventually final. They left their cliff dwellings and settled more of the region, their descendants became the Zuni, Hopi, Pueblo, and about ten other cultural groups. Anasazi is actually a term given to the Ancient Pueblo people by the Navajo tribe, who had moved in the area after the final migration. The term is reference to the Ancient One or Ancient Enemies.  Which is pretty much how the tribe views those who came before them.  Tradition says that you shouldn’t go to the Ancient Dwellings or Pueblos, for that’s when bad things happen.  When I have gone hiking with Navajos, many will hike with us to a point and then wait for the white people to be done poking around where we shouldn’t be. If you like the cliff dwelling, I would suggest starting at Mesa Verde.  It’s a National Park that has preserved some of what came before and the rangers are very knowledgeable about the Ancient Pueblos and the structures. Plus the dwellings at Mesa Verde are much easier to get to.  This is what we had to do to get to the Butler Wash. 1601576_976507430969_798898528_n DSC00644 Of course the four legged ones find it easier to get down then us humans. And after our little rock climbing adventure, we got to the pictographs.  Images left behind from those who had enjoyed this land before us.  Hand prints are popular, as are figures of people, sheep, and dogs.  The sad thing is that the images have used for target practice. DSC00651 DSC00654 DSC00655 We continued further down, following Josh who was figuring out how to get us closer to the cliff dwelling structure.  At the very bottom of the canyon, we found some cool surprises.

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One was some wild sage plants.  Sage is used in cooking and medicine for the tribes in the region.  My Native coworkers tell me that drinking sage tea is one of the best things you can do when you are sick.  We picked some to dry and take home.  It’s still hanging off my hiking backpack.  My coworker and friend, Marsha, was excited to see it.  I’m saving it for the next time I’m sick.

And of course, Diesel found his water.

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I had never seen a dog so happy to get wet, but in he flew to be the first and only in the water.  Bentley, who is much more reserved than Diesel and afraid of water, hung back.  I’m okay with a dog that doesn’t need to get wet on every hike we go on.

Bentley overall stayed close to the humans.  She’s only been with me for a month, and still being a puppy prefers to stay close to her mama.  It’s the stray mentality that is still in the back of her mind, I’m her source of food.  And while she likes to go on hikes, but she’s not always sure about how to climb, or rather climb down just yet.

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Bentley: “I think I might be stuck.”

Though it’s not like she doesn’t try really hard to be a big dog.

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We walked the bottom of the wash and up the other side.  Bentley got stuck, not able to jump up the smaller boulders that we had to climb both up and down.  She watched Diesel do it, she watch the humans do it.  But in the end we had to lift her up.  But it was all worth it.  The ruins were worth it.

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The handsome archeologist

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And then we did it all backwards.   Including Bentley getting stuck within the same spot.  I’m looking forward to her being a bigger dog and getting used to our hiking adventures.  We passed by the  pictographs again, and Marshall found some more evidence of the Ancient Pueblos.  A grinding stone, he’s got the official name.  I don’t.

Finally we got back to the car.  We pulled out our picnic lunches.  Fruit, nuts, and OkeeDokee popcorn.  At the end of the day, this is what I got…

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Bentley: “I’m tired, but don’t tell Diesel.”

A tired puppy!

Weekend in Sedona Part 2…

Do you know how many people from the Chicago land area were in Sedona a couple weekends ago?  Wear some Bears gear and you will find out.  I couldn’t go anywhere without some sort of comment or excited remark.

All you have to remember is that there was a blizzard in Chicago, and no one was in a rush to go back to the winter vortex.

By the way, did you ever notice how the longer vacation goes on the less photos you take?  I’m waiting for Margaret to send me her batch.

Our first stop was the Church in the rock, The Chapel of the Holy Cross.  Quiet breathtaking and very spiritually moving.

Notice the rock formation in the background?  Called the Lovers... among other things.

Notice the rock formation in the background? Called the Lovers… among other things.

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In the gift shop, Baba bought me a second hiking book.  Different hikes, different ideas.  It has different details about the hikes and we had fun comparing the two.  Take a look if you are interested.

http://www.amazon.com/Great-Sedona-Revised-Second-Edition-ebook/dp/B0063KUJR0

Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte

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Bell Rock

Location: Off of highway 179.  (I hate round abouts)

Temperature: Low 70s

Who: Grace, Margaret, Baba, and myself

Difficulty: Nice and even

Time: 1-2 hours

My family is full of one liners.  Things that get said and repeated again and again because the memory of the moment  is priceless.  Those stories get passed on through the extended family again and again, until we forget who was actually their when the original line was said.

I will not forget the details of Margaret’s newest one liner.

The trail we took to get closer to the bell rock and courthouse was a combination of the Big Park Loop and the Courthouse Butte Loop.  We weren’t so concerned about distance, we just took whatever turn caught our fancy.  The trails are well used and well marked, several signs and map trails are through out the paths.  Not to mention there were a lot of people.

Courthouse Butte

Courthouse Butte

On purpose, my cousins steered us closer and closer to Courthouse Butte.  We let them get ahead of us, and my grandmother and I chatted about my job, things back in Illinois, and our family.  When we got to the girls, they had made a plan.

They found a little side trail.  They found a rock for Baba to relax on.  They were ready to go for a climb.

I went a little ways up with them before coming back down.  When I got back to Baba, I saw that she was looking at someone who had climbed further up the Butte.  All we can say is that we were happy to say that the girls did not get any ideas to keep climbing.

So we continued on the trail, saying hi to people.  Taking pictures, until we got tired of Gracie always being in the picture.

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Gracie conveniently forgot her camera, and of course Margaret and I could more than make up for her.  But sometimes you have to make the little one do the work.

After making Gracie take the picture, I thought we could try taking a group one.  And got a little to close to a cactus.  My family was kind enough to try and get them out for me.  Que Margaret: “Isn’t this supposed to be Marshall’s job?”

Yes…

No…

Can I pretend that I had a clever and witty tort back?

After getting the stickers out, we continued on.

Now I’ve claimed about crowded trails before, but this one was especially crowded.  We were passed by multiple bicycle groups and families.  Now supposedly there is a vortex nearby, but we never really got near it.  But that’s doesn’t mean we didn’t get to at least one vortex on our trip.

Airport Vortex

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Location: Nearby the Sedona Airport

Temperature: Low 70s

Who: Grace, Margaret, and myself

Difficulty: Slight decline to get to the vortex trail head, and a major scramble to get to the top

Time: 1-2 hours

When we got to where the trailhead was supposed to be, we found another crowded parking lot.  With no good place to turn around, I continued up and got to the scenic overlook at Airport Vista.  Slightly frustrated, the girls and I went to go see the views, take the pictures.  On the way back I noticed a trail that promised to take us down to the vortex.

Sedona View Trail

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We were going to get to it yet!

Baba, by this point, was ready for a break.  She told us to go ahead while she stayed behind and read in the car.   So that’s where I get that annoying habit from.  Good to know.

So off Margaret, Grace and I went.  Along with a family.  It was hard not to laugh, as they seemed to have left their filters at home.  We learned a little more about their desire to urinate than I think we really wanted to know.

The trail was narrow, with some rocks within it, but overall it was a nice walk down, and I mean down.  On the way to the vortex, we almost at a decline the entire time.  The trail however was less than a mile and lived up to it’s name.

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The trail itself was worth it.

Now the Vortex, the mystery around Sedona… I don’t know how much I want to comment on this.  My new hiking guide suggested that we go to the vortex with an open mind.  If you went up their just expecting to see the cool view and be able to say you climbed it, you’re going to have an awesome hike.  You feel something wonderful, that’s cool too.

The climb up to the vortex was tricky, but not impossible.  We did not take the marked path, but not too many people were following it.  Take it slow plan where you are going to put your hands and feet, you’ll be fine.

I did not feel anything from the vortex, though the view of the surrounding and the adrenaline of climbing it took my breath away.  It was fun to get to the top and see who else was there.

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Then it was back down, and we did follow the recommended trail.  We ran into who looked like a medicine man, or someone who visited the site often with musical instruments.  He kindly pointed out the trail markers for us to follow, and the climb down was easier than expected.

And then it was the uphill hike back to Baba and the car.  On our way back, we ran in to some more groups who asked us about the trail, the hike, and the vortex.  Since we were booking it back up the trail, we were winded and they always seemed a little skeptical when we promised them the hike was easier than it looked.

When we got back to our Baba, and told her about the hike, she took a closer look at original trail to Airport Vortex.  Her comment, “It was probably a good thing that I didn’t go, you girls up there would have made me nervous.”

Sedona Weekend Part 1

Last weekend, my two cousins and my grandma (Baba) came out for their annual Arizona vacation.

Last year they came out to Flagstaff, beginning our yearly tradition.  And I had a lot to live up to.  We had gone to Wupatki, Sun Set Crater, the Grand Canyon, and the downtown Flag area.  I wasn’t sure if I could plan as great of a weekend as I did last year.

Allen’s Bend

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Location: Outside of Sedona, AZ, within Oakcreek Canyon

Temperature: 70s

Who: Grace, Margaret, Baba, and myself

Difficulty: Nice and even

Time: 1-2 hours

We left Flagstaff early Saturday morning for Sedona, AZ, taking route 89.  Now our country is blessed with many beautiful drives, in the many location the vast land has to offer.  Route 89 has got to be top ten, at minimum.  It’s full of switch backs, variety of trees, canyon views, and

Though I would beware, this is not the easiest drive.  Firstly, the switch backs.  You need to take your time and not feel rushed by the others around you.  Secondly, you will lose reception at the bottom of a canyon.  Thirdly, there are parked cars along the road as people pull off and enjoy the lesser known trails of Oak Creek Canyon.

Right before 89 pulls into Sedona, we pulled off onto the Grasshopper Trails.  There are a variety of trails, but the one we were looking for was Allen’s Bend.  We chose the trail for a few reasons, the main one being the minimal elevation gain.  (Do you realize how impossible it is to find a trail with little elevation gain in Sedona, Arizona in general?)

Now, while the trail was somewhat level, the girls found plenty of places to climb.

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DSC00559 Before they came out, everyone got their first pair of hiking boots, except for me.  And Margaret (pink) and Gracie (grey) were having lots of fun breaking them in.  I was very jealous.  I’m still hiking in my gym shoes, and spend most hiking trying not to slip down the side of whatever I’m hiking.

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DSC00575And when I say they were climbing on everything, I mean everything!  My aunts and uncles are going to kill me after they see some of these photos.

That’s what’s nice about this trail. There were parts that they could enjoy climbing while the rest of us could keep our feet on the ground.

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Now the trail is varied.  We enjoyed walking through the forested areas on a level trail.

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Other parts were a little rocky.  Which made Baba a little nervous.  Not surprising though.

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And of course you there are always the views of the Red Rocks.  It’s no wonder this area was so popular to visit.

DSC00582 DSC00583And then it was back into the car, and back onto 89.  We were driving into the Sedona area, looking forward to the next adventure.

Fay Canyon

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Location: Outside of Sedona, AZ. Trailhead is clearly marked

Temperature: Low 70s

Who: Margaret, Grace, Baba, and Me

Difficulty: Maintained trail was easy, past that it was big climb

Time: 2 hours

So after lunch in Uptown Sedona, we went for a second hike last week Saturday.  By the way, Uptown Sedona is a lot of fun to go to.  We got some delicious pizza.  Went shopping in some cool downtown shops.  Picked up some dog treats for Bentley who was left behind at her best friend Sally’s.

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The trail was nice and flat, very little elevation gain.  Thank goodness.  However, our two adventurers were a little stir fry.  I was more than looking forward to a nice calm walk.  To compromise, the adventurers went off the trail (a big trail no-no)  and went to walk along the dried river bed.

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By the way, this was the scenery almost the entire hike.

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Now the reason why we had chosen the hike was the possibility of a arch at the end of the hike. Now what I read about was that if you didn’t know you were looking for it, you might not see. And they were right, compared to Devil’s Bridge Fay Bridge was hard to see.  We never got close to it really.  You’re supposed to take a side trail, that we completely missed.

We missed it on purpose.  Silly us.

see the arch?

see the arch?

As we met other hikers, we found that they had not seen the bridge either.  We hiked until we came to this…

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Baba chose to hang back from the portion of the unmaintained trail while myself and the adventurers ran, or climbed, up the side of a butte.  We were promised Native ruins, but we enjoyed watching the view.

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We gave our Baba a bit of a heart attack, she saw how high up we were and must have resisted yelling at us to come down.  And Gracie said her one liner for the weekend: “I just realized we have to climb down this.”

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But the hike was totally worth it, look at those views.

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And then it was back down again.  No pictures of that.  A little too tricky.  Once we got our scolding it was time to go home.  Everyone was tired and looking forward to going back to the hotel and rest.

By the way, my favorite rock formation of Sedona…

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I might drink too much wine.