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.

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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.

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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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!

A New Year…

Written 01-12-2014

And it’s time for some New Years Resolutions.  I have three.

1.) Keep my desk at school clean and clear of stray papers.  (Already Failed)

2.) To be more conscious of what I’m eating.  (So far so good, unless I have the opportunity to eat fry bread.  Then it’s a fail.)

3.) To take advantage of this amazing place I’m living in/travel more.

So while 1 and 2 might seem very generic, I’m really looking forward to number 3!  And what a way to start out the new years resolution!  I went with a small group and had no real plans other than to enjoy the local scenery.

The Toes

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Location: A local hiking area called the Toes

Temperature: Was in the range of the 50s.  So while the rest of the country freezes, we are enjoying an uncommonly warm winter.

Who: My friend/coworker Jackie, my boyfriend Marshall, and the dog Diesel Dan

Difficulty: Moderate to  strenuous

Time: 1.5 hours

We started off with no real intention, and we were throwing ideas around as to where we might go first.  The Toes are full of possibilities and I’ve never done the same hike twice.  There are multiple sites of pictographs and remains of native housing.  Though you can’t see it in this picture, there is a giant K tagged on the rocks that you can go to.  There are some formal ceremonial points that make you wonder if the ceremony was about bravery.  Plus some awesome look out points that give you a good view of the local scenery: Black Mesa, Skeleton Mesa, Laguna Creek, and El Capitan.

To get to the rock formation, first we had to climb in and out of an off shoot of Laguna Creek.  Since the weather has been so wonderful, most of the snow has already melted and had begun to run off to join the larger body of water.

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Diesel stands poised, ready to jump in

With Diesel, it’s not a matter of IF he will find water and get dirty, it’s WHEN he will find water and get dirty.  His vote is to always go to Laguna Creek, where he is able to splash and play in the water, and potentially get all of us wet and muddy too.

To much of his dismay, the three humans vetoed Diesel’s desire to continue getting wet and muddy.  Instead we headed towards the actual rock formation.  Before we got to it, we had to first treck over some sand dunes.  Thankfully it’s just cold enough to keep the ground frozen, and make the hiking a little easier.

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Our trail blazer

Diesel seemed unconcerned and unhampered by the sand.  He spent most of the time running ahead of us and then running back to us.

As we neared the base of the rock, we saw we were not the only ones who were enjoying the nice weather.  There are usually people who enjoy the toes.  Some just enjoy the hiking and exploring.  Some use it for their horses, and others use it as part of their exercise routine.  Many times the athletes or service men and women home on leave will run up and down that 45* face.  Which was Jackie’s plan too.

ImageImageSo up the slate rock, my least favorite part of the Toes.

ImageOur goal was to get to the very top and enjoy our lunches and take in the view.  It was a little stop and go, but eventually all three of us made it to the top.  Diesel made it to the top a couple of times.

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More than one close calls with this dog

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While the girl’s talked, the boys explored

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The views made the hike worth it.

Then it was back down the slate slightly, to come down the other side of the Toes.

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I always seem to forget what is on the other side of the actual Toes, and it seems to forget that the rest of the word exists as well.  It is dead silent.   Which is weird to think about, since 163 is not that far away.  I grew up around noise: cars, music, tv, people.  It’s nice to find a place that is silent almost all of the time.

The scenery might seem out of place too.  Being a desert, you’d expect more sand and less green.  But thanks to a heavy rainy season, we were able to enjoy some more vegetation.  There are a variety of shrubs and trees, along with different types of cactus.  I tend to get myself poked with them at least once on every trip.

And if this is here, waiting to be explored, what else is waiting for me? Over the next few hills.  I haven’t done much exploring beyond the Toes, but I’m thinking I might have to go see more as time allows me to.

Overall it was a nice hike to start off the new year.  A little old, mixed with a little new.  As Jackie put it, it’s hard to imagine that we live here.  We live in this little corner of the world that is so beautiful, it’s no stretch of the imagination why the local tribe considered it sacred.  I’m looking forward to the  next few adventures that await us!

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Timer fail

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Marshall, Myself, and Jackie