Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lots of rocks: Part 3

After a late picnic lunch in Arches National Park, we headed up the road and across the highway to Canyonlands National Park.  The entry to the park looked very similar to where we had just been, but I did like the huge battleship formation: I was tickled to get out of the car and see that it is actually called The Monitor, and its neighbor (not in the picture) is The Merrimac!

Again, words fail to capture and fail to describe, so this post will be mostly pictures.  The clouds were moving in again, and they provided some very dramatic lighting and backdrops.

Have I told you that I really liked the texture and contours of the rocks?


My next post will have words.

Lots of rocks: Part 2

Our day at Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park left me looking for superlatives. Since I ran out of descriptive words there, I won't try to use any here. Just pictures ... Well, mostly just pictures!

The entrance to Arches National Park: I love the contrasting shapes and colors

Archways on their way to becoming arches
Arches and archways and caves
Zooming in to show the people and give a sense of scale
Twin Arches
Turret Arch, from the north arch of Twin Arches
A happy rock climber
I wasn't prepared for the beautiful expanse of the area -- and yes, I did hire an 18th-century romantic painter to add the clouds.
Delicate Arch: I love the cloud pattern in this shot
Cropped to zoom and show the other-worldliness of Delicate Arch's environs
I was shooting the upthrust of the rocks and the gathering clouds: I was tickled to see the bird that flew into the shot
Balanced Rock, with Turret Arch in the background

I had to take a picture of this exhibit in the Visitors Center.

One thing that left me speechless through this part of the trip was realizing how all these marvels were formed: First all the layers of dirt and sediment and rock had to be deposited on the ocean floor over time. THEN, after the sea was gone, they all had to be eroded away by wind and sand and rain and time to leave what we see today.  Awe. Nothing but awe.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lots of rocks: Part 1

Monument Valley is a sweeping area in northwest Arizona and southeast Utah. I've driven through it a number of times, but even so, I couldn't take in enough of it this time.

I think that some of the more dramatic "monuments" are familiar even to non-Americans, thanks in no small part to the films of director John Ford (1894 - 1973). He loved the landscape so much and made so many movies there that the region became known as "Ford country," and at least one of the rock formations is named after him.

The clouds were moving in quickly, but I still had to stop the car one more time to take a last look backward, even though the rain had started falling.

We turned north from Monument Valley and headed toward Natural Bridges National Monument in southern Utah. After a while, I asked my mother, Do you suppose we're going to be going up THAT?

The road seemed to disappear in front of us, but we soon came to a pair of signs that left us no doubt:

10% grades / 5 mph switchbacks / narrow gravel road / 1 mile

And so we began our ascent of the Moki Dugway.

About one-third of the way up, looking south toward Monument Valley.

Nearly at the top, looking east over the Valley of the Gods

Mother is not happy with this last photo stop, because we're still trying to outrun the rain, and we're not at the top yet.

And here is the road that stretched before us at the top of the Moki Dugway: Long, straight, and empty. Just beautiful.

The cliffs and canyons of Natural Bridges are so very different from Monument Valley and from the red mesas that surround it.

I loved the strange, rounded shapes of the rocks and canyons.

Sipapu Bridge

I really wanted to get into those little canyons, but I had to content myself with gazing from above. The boys and I did hike halfway down one canyon so that we could be level with the bridge.

Owachomo Bridge

The guys liked clambering and climbing.

I liked watching.

But I really just liked the shapes and contours of the rocks themselves.

It was a great day; long and exhausting, but great!

Click on any photo to enlarge it and get a better view.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A side note

The collaborative blog that I've been writing for since November, 50-Something Moms, is shutting down at the end of this month. Actually, the whole network of affiliated blogs operated by the Silicon Valley Moms Group is closing. The administrators assure us that the sites will remain live and that we won't lose our posts, however, I'm not going to take any chances.

I don't have very many posts there -- maybe a dozen or so -- so it's not a major undertaking to copy them over to this blog. I'll be putting them up with the original publication date. If you subscribe to my blog, you'll be getting notices of new posts; you can ignore them -- or you can revisit my deathless prose! I'll also be copying the comments to the original posts over here to the re-posting. I value the "conversation" with readers, and I don't want to lose that.

I am not privy to any of the reasons behind the decision, but I'm feeling in the minority in my response to the closing.  There have been many emotional emails and "farewell posts."  I, on the other hand, feel relief.  I often felt like I was betraying my regular readers by saving the "interesting" stuff for 50-Something, even though I always directed folks over there with a related post here.

Anyway, I don't have a lot to say on the topic, but I did want to let you know why you'll be seeing a lot of "new" posts here that aren't new at all.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vacation recap

We had a simply marvelous vacation, but there was a lot of driving and not enough time. Part of the driving simply cannot be helped, because there are vast stretches of the West where there's just not a lot to see and there are no places to stop (more on that in another post).

We left Tucson on June 11 and returned on June 21. In that 10-day period, we went to
  • Monument Valley
  • Natural Bridges National Monument
  • Arches National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Zion National Park
  • Bryce Canyon
  • Grand Canyon

    Our primary destination was Yellowstone, and it made perfect sense to visit all the other places because they were "on the way." But I needed more time to appreciate where I was. The haste can be attributed to my mom's role in the planning: Arches is just a big loop, you can see it all in half a day. Canyonlands, you drive in and out. Same thing with Zion and Bryce.  Ummm... really?  I forgot that my mom just wants to SEE it. I, on the other hand, want to walk it, breathe it, feel it, photograph it, experience it.  I wanted a few more hours in Natural Bridges, a full day in Arches, two full days in Zion.  I even wanted another day or two in Yellowstone, where we stayed for three nights.  I needed more time almost everywhere we went.

    As the boys would say, we saw a lot of rocks. Because we couldn't give them as much time as they wanted to climb on all the rocks and explore the canyons and crevices, Rock and HardPlace got bored. I gave them as much time as I could before my mom would start tapping her fingers or before I would start fretting about how far away our next hotel was.  I took as many photos as I could before my mom would roll her eyes in exasperation; I stopped as often as I could to capture a particular image without driving the boys insane.  More on the photography thing in another post.

    Overall, though, it was simply wonderful. The boys got along as well as you would expect two brothers to, when they are in the back seat of a car for 6 to 8 hours a day, for 10 days. My mom and I got along as well as you would expect a mother-daughter traveling team to, when they have different ideas of what traveling should be like.  Seriously: The boys were fine for the most part, and my mom and I are great together.

    Over the next week or so, I'll be posting pictures and stories and observations.  In the meantime, I do have one thing to say: Next time, I'm going by myself.