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.

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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.

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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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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!

A Misadventure…

So we had an adventure today!

A half day for the kids means an early release for teachers.  So a group of us piled our dogs into a car and hit the road for some fun!  We had planed on a specific location, but we never did make it.

But that’s half the fun of hiking, sometimes you just don’t know where you’re going to end up.

An Attempt to Olla House

Hikers: Dave and his dog Demetrius, Jackie and her dog Lyra, and me with my dog Bentley

Temperature: 50s and 60s mostly

I think overall a favorite hike out here is to the ruins of Olla House.  It’s the remains of an Anasazi Cliff Dwelling nearby.  It’s always fun to go and explore the ancient housing, and even more fun to watch the dogs climb over the rocks.

Now to be clear, we did not make it to Olla House.  We missed the turn and started our hike a little ways, or lot of ways away from where we normally would.  It didn’t matter, as Dave put it, it was still a nice walk.

The dogs were hilarious to watch.  Demetrius is used to hikes and spent most of the evening way ahead of us.  He would run off, into any direction that caught his eye, not stopping to dig the burs out of his paws.  Bentley, the newest one to the group was shocked and pleased by this new idea  of being off the leash and took off after him.  Since she is still a baby, she came back on a semi-regular basis to make sure everything was still okay.  Lyra seemed content with running in between them and us humans.  Many times she choose one of us to follow, and we wouldn’t realize it til we almost stepped on her.

We walked along the canyons, where the slate rock met the sand.  When we paused for a water break, looked up and realized we were getting a little too close to the evening.  It was time to turn back.

Calling it a night, we stopped for a couple pictures, but overall it was time to end our little misadventure and go back to reality.

Jackie and Lyra

Jackie and Lyra

Bentley and Me

Bentley and Me

An Evening Stroll

Stepping outside of school today, it hit me pretty quickly.  I needed to get out an go for a mini hike.

This week wasn’t bad, not by a long shot.  It came pretty close to perfect almost. The seventh grade team held a shoe games competition, which was pretty cool to be  apart of and see the kids interact with their culture.  My principal came by and visited my room, and left with glowing remarks on my lesson plan and a request I write a description up for the school district.  My close friends gave birth to a healthy girl, and I survived a two day baby-sitting gig with their son.  And I had rescued a little puppy.

Despite all the good, or maybe because of it, I felt a little restless.  No need to pack food or tons of water.  Just needed a friend and some dogs and no worry about time.

Laguna Off Shoot

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Location: Off shoot of Laguna Creek

Temperature: Warm until the sun went down

Who: My friend/coworker Kate, Kate’s dog Sally, and my little stray

Difficulty: Easy

Time: About an hour

So for me, the hike started on the way over to the meet up point.  My little stray has not figured out just yet how to walk on a leash and she was kind of spinning her wheels.  Around and around she goes, always making sure I was near by as the bigger dogs barked at us.  She doesn’t realize that at the moment we are attached to each other.

I've been calling her pretty girl and Shideezhí (little sister in Navajo)

I’ve been calling her pretty girl and Shideezhí (little sister in Navajo)

When we met up with Kate and her dog Sally, all of us were just ready for a quiet walk.  Whatever restlessness I was feeling at 3:30 had slowly relaxed.

Kate is relatively new to the area and we’ve not taken her out very much for hikes just yet.  On top of that, the teacher that had taught me how to hike had moved back to the east coast, Denny, and there doesn’t seem to be a replacement for him when it comes to breaking in the new teacher about the hikes.  Hopefully as the year goes on, and we do more hikes, we’ll all become more comfortable.

Kate and Ms. Sally

Kate and Ms. Sally

Hopefully we’ll be able to show her how to enjoy her new home.  Even if there is no replacement for Denny.

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We followed the natural curves of the dried creek bed.  The sides came up around us, guiding us towards its intended destination.  It’s not impossible to climb up the sides, but I truly wouldn’t want to.  There is sense of safety and timelessness in the dried river bed.  Sound and sights are blocked, and I like to imagine what that I’m seeing what the first people in the region had seen.

Of course, I know that’s not the case since, the region’s climate has changed several times.  Laguna Creek gets it’s name from a series of pictographs featuring laguna birds that the incoming Spaniards saw when they first arrived.  Which means someone had seen Laguna when it was actually a laguna.

As we walked, me imagining I’m in a pre1492 world, we came across this…

Dumping site

Dumping site

Unfortunately, a little too common in the area.  And really, any area.  We as humans need to treat our homes better than we do.  I don’t foster any fantasies of doomsday scenarios, but I do feel that at the end of the day, this is what we have.  Even if we just use it for a pleasurable hike on a Friday evening.

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About here is where we turned around.  As the sunset, we quickly made our way back home.  We didn’t make it to the water, but we’ll get there eventually.  We have time.

New friends

New friends

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Leave only foot prints.

My poor little stray is not used to walks.  She was very tired and kept giving me her little grunting whines.  As if to say, Megan, carry me.  We dropped her off in Flagstaff this Friday.  We’re hoping that she finds a new home that will allow her plenty of hikes.

 

Good luck Shideezhí!

Good luck Shideezhí!