Devils Tower

Yesterday Bill and I traveled to Wyoming to visit Devils Tower, America’s first National Monument! What an amazing place. We learned so much, and came away with a powerful respect for the area, the Native American people, their culture, and their history connected to the Tower.

 

We learned that “Native Americans are active stakeholders in the use and management of Devils Tower National Monument. Over two dozen federally recognized tribes are associated with the Tower. Much focus has been given to the oral histories these tribes have about their connections to the Tower. Words such and “myth” and “legend” are frequently used to describe these stories, but the appropriate term is sacred narrative-stories which explain how the world and people came to be.

American Indian oral histories are only a part of tribal connections to the Tower site. In the simplest terms, this is viewed as a place where the physical and spiritual worlds connect. Native people visit this place not only to connect with their past, but to perpetuate their culture today and into the future. The summer solstice in mid-June is a common time for indigenous groups to practice their cultural traditions. Prayer and purification ceremonies, as well as other rites of passage, frequently occurs here.” For that reason, a voluntary closure to the area inside the Tower Trail occurs every June out of respect to American Indian cultural practices.

The most visible element of native connections to the Tower are prayer bundles.

“As you walk the trails of the park, you may notice colorful cloths attached to the trees. These are offerings left by native people which represent prayers. The colors, placement, and contents have significance for the person who made them.”. You are asked to be respectful of the artifacts and to not disturb them in any way, and do not leave other items behind, as prayer bundles are a part of the cultural landscape of this site.

I loved learning what N. Scott Momaday wrote. “at the top of the ridge I caught sight of Devil’s Tower upthrust against the gray sky as if in the birth of time the core of the earth had broken through its crust and the motion of the world was begun. There are things in nature that engender an awful quiet in the heart of man; Devil’s Tower is one of them.”

 

As Bill and I hiked the base of the Tower, we were amazed at how the colors changed depending on how the light and shadows fell upon it. On the backside of the Tower are rocks at the base of the Tower that are not visible from the front side of the Tower.

We learned that several Indian nations share similar legends on the origin of this prominent butte. The Kiowa people say: “Eight children were there at play, seven sisters and their brother. Suddenly the boy was struck dumb; he trembled and began to run upon his hands and feet. His fingers became claws, and his body was covered with fur. Directly there was a bear where the boy had been. The sisters were terrified; they ran, and the bear after them. They came to the stump of a great tree, and the tree spoke to them. It bade them climb upon it , and as they did so it began to rise into the air. The bear came to kill them, but they were just beyond its reach. It reared against the tree and scored the bark all around with its claws. The seven sisters were borne into the sky, and they became the stars of the Pleiades.”

As we continued our hike around the Tower, we had ample opportunities to take in all the beautiful views.

Every curve in the trail exposed something new and exciting to explore.

I couldn’t help but feel the presence of the spirits of the people that lived and died here.

And I admire the people who come to pay their respect to their loved ones, and leave their prayer offerings for them.

I’m so glad we made the trip to Wyoming to visit this sacred place. So much history, culture, and beauty to learn about.

Bill and I both agreed we could spend hours in this peaceful place, and just gaze upon the mighty Devils Tower.

Stay Tuned!

Lovers Leap Trail

This past Friday, Bill and I hiked Lovers Leap Trail here in Custer State Park. We get lots of questions about this trail from visitors who come in to our Visitor Centers, and I wanted to be able to speak about the trail from first hand experience, so off we went.

We’re not really sure how long of a hike lovers leap is or the degree of difficulty. One map shows it as a three mile loop and describes it a a moderate to strenuous hike. Yet another map shows it as a four mile loop and describes it as difficult to strenuous. All I can say is it was a beautiful hike, that felt like at least seven miles, and very, very, strenuous..!

And those “seven miles” were mostly straight up, up, up! When we reached what we thought was the highest point, as we stood there looking out over the lovely view way down below, I asked Bill if he thought this was the point where they decided to call this trail Lovers Leap? He said “yes, because at about this point, you are ready to throw yourselves over the edge just to get down faster…”

When we gained our composure, from laughing so hard, we continued along our way through an area that shows some the damage from a large fire two years ago.

As we paused to ponder on this sign, I was thinking to myself, these words might ring true, if we weren’t exhausted, and faced with the fact that we had no idea where we were, or how close, or far, we were from getting off this mountain… 🙂

We couldn’t find a log to sit on to “get our sanity back,” so Bill took a moment to lean on a boulder.

We noticed the pine trees in this area have really long needles, we had to try to find something to focus on besides how exhausted we were…

After about an hour and a half of steady climbing up, up, up, we finally started downhill,

and came upon a creek that had foot bridges allowing us to cross without getting wet. We thought that was nice of the park to put these bridges in as a small convenance to their visitors… We crossed five of these nice foot bridges along our way.

Now we find ourselves down in a canyon, hiking along the creek.

Beautiful wildflowers seem to grow right out of the rocks.

And just as we were thinking we might finally be nearing the end of this very long, strenuous hike, with the lovely foot bridges.. we came upon a wide area of the creek where the foot bridge was washed out, and all that was left to get us across the creek was this pile of fallen tree limbs. Not easy when your worried about falling in with your cell phone in your pocket… We had to cross two areas like this where the foot bridge was washed out…

Then we came to yet another area where we had to start climbing up, up, up again…

Finally, after almost three hours of steady climbing up mountains, and over creeks, we came upon an area where we saw buildings. Then we realized they were dorms where the seasonal workers live. We were exhausted, and nearly out of water, so we decided we needed to go down and see if we could get someone to give us a ride back to where we left our car at the trailhead. Lucky for us, one of the workers was just pulling our of her parking space. So I ran up to her car, introduced myself, told her of our ordeal, and all but begged her to give us a ride to our car… She hesitated at first (probably thinking I was some crazy woman), but then she unlocked the back doors and told us to get in. I said a quick prayer to thank Jesus for getting us off that mountain safely. Little did we know (because the map we had didn’t show any landmarks to indicate where we were on the trail), we were actually only about a half mile from the end of the hike. However, that last half mile was yet another climb up, and over, yet another mountain…

Aside from the fact that the trail was not marked well, and the map wasn’t of much help at all…, it was a beautiful hike and I’m glad we did it. But you can be sure that when I talk to folks about that hike, I will tell them it is beautiful, and well worth the effort, but I will also make sure they know it is very strenuous, and longer than what the information sheet indicates.

When I got back to work the next day, I told the lead person what we thought about the hike, and the misinformation, and/or lack of information on the information sheet, and the map, regarding the Lovers Leap Trail. She smiled and said “I’ll look into it.”

Stay Tuned!

Needles Highway And Sylvan Lake

Yesterday Bill and I took a lovely drive on the Needles Highway in Custer State Park. The visitor information sheet says “Driving along South Dakota Highway 87 will bring you to a 14-mile stretch fondly called the Needles Highway.

 

The road will lead you through a maze of granite spires,

a popular destination for climbing enthusiasts from all over the world.

Marked by narrow tunnels and sharp turns,

the road is a favorite for many motorcyclists, too.” You have to be careful going through these tunnels, because they are a one way vehicle passage.

Bill,

and I both enjoyed stopping along the scenic Needles Highway to just pause, and take it all in.

After passing through the last tunnel on the Needles Highway, you can either turn around and go back the way you came, or continue on to visit other equally beautiful, and scenic, places.

Places like Sylvan Lake. The visitor information sheet says that “Sylvan Lake is arguably the most picturesque of all Black Hills Lakes.

Surrounded by pine and spruce trees,

Sylvan Lake is the starting point for challenging trails that lead to Harney Peak, the highest point east of the Rocky Mountain Range. Sylvan Lake offers rock climbing, camping, watercraft rentals, fishing and a swimming beach.”

Bill and I didn’t take the most challenging hikes, but we did hike the trail that takes you all around the lake. It was a moderate hike that took us up and over hills, and up lots of steps that took us through walking tunnels,

and both Bill,

and I enjoyed the experience.

After our hike, Bill and I enjoyed a picnic lunch beside the lake. We spent the afternoon talking and laughing with each other, and giving thanks that we are blessed to be able to live this retirement life we dreamed of living.

Tomorrow, it’s back to work for three days, then we will have another four days to get out and play again, and explore this amazing state of South Dakota.

Stay Tuned!

Winding Down

Lots of things are starting to wind down in our world right now.

Our time here at McDowell Mountain Regional Park is winding down. We only have two more weeks until we head out to spend a week in Cottonwood at my brother, Danny’s place, before we make our way to South Dakota, where we will host in Visitor Centers in Custer State Park. Neither Bill nor I have ever been to South Dakota, so we are super excited to find out what all that state has to offer. We will be there from May through September, so we will have plenty of time to get out and hike, fish, and explore… all the things Bill and I love to do.

A few weeks ago I posted pictures of all the beautiful wildflowers that were in full bloom throughout the park,

but even they are starting to wind down in anticipation of the upcoming hot summer months.

And sadly, our time we get to spend with our precious daughter (baby girl) Shantel, is winding down as well. With her work schedule and ours, we really only get to see her every other Sunday while we are here from October through April. So with only one more  Sunday (Easter Sunday) left to spend time with her, we decided to bring her out to the park today to meet any of the hosts and friends that were home, and take her on a little hike to find out if any wild flowers were still blooming in abundance within the park. Even though Shantel can’t see, she still loves to go out on hikes, and enjoys having me be her sighted guide to explain what I’m seeing as we hike the trails.

We weren’t far into the hike before we discovered that the wildflowers were not near as abundant as they were a few weeks ago, but the various cactus were in various stages of bloom.

 

I asked Bill and Shantel to stand in front of this Ocotillo plant for a picture. They stood there looking at me and never smiled until I said “ready, set, now look like you love each other” , then they busted out laughing, and I got a great picture. Did you know the Ocotillo plant is not a cactus? No, it is a desert shrub. But, shhhhh, it doesn’t know that it isn’t a cactus…

As I said, we didn’t find an abundance of beautiful wildflowers on our hike, but I stopped to take a picture of this cactus skeleton just because I found it interesting to look at.

Just like I found the contrast of this dead tree, with a flowering bush blooming beneath it ,interesting to look at.

We didn’t do the full hike we intended because Shantel said she was getting too hot. I said “I thought you loved to hike” and she said “I do mom, but not when it’s this hot out at 9:30 in the morning. So we made a plan to go for early morning hikes when we come back next season.

After our short hike, we took Shantel out to lunch, then made our way back to Phoenix to take her home. In the car on the way to take her home, Shantel said she was surprised at how long a drive it is from her home to the park(this being the first time she has been to our park and it is an hour from her house to the park and back), and said she felt like she was back in dail-a-ride mode because it takes at least two hours to get from place to place with dail-a-ride when she is trying to get to work. I told her it is a long drive, but papa and I don’t mind it at all as long as we get to spend time with her. She smiled that beautiful smile at me that always lets me know she feels well-loved when she is with us.

We love you Shantel, and are looking forward to our traditional Easter lunch at Joe’s Crab Shack.

Stay Tuned!

 

A Lovely Day For A Hike

And it was made even better with the beautiful wildflowers that can be found everywhere now in the park.

We are starting to get a lot of calls, when we work in the Visitor Center at McDowell Mountain Regional Park, asking us if the wildflowers are blooming within the park. With the recent rains, we thought we would have a spectacular wildflower season, but then we were hit with eight inches of snow on the desert floor throughout the park, and our fear was that the wildflowers might not survive that degree of cold. So today, Bill and I took a lovely hike out on the Granite, Bluff, and Stoneman Wash trails in search of wildflowers in bloom. I posted a few pictures in my last blog post showing some wildflowers that were scattered here and there around our campsite, but today, we wanted to see for ourselves, if there were plenty of wildflowers to be seen throughout the park so we can make the right recommendations to visitors that want to know what trails they can hike to find the most wildflowers.

We started out on the Granite trail and immediately began to see Mexican poppies in bloom.

As we made our way out along the Bluff trail, of course there are always plenty of the mighty Saguaro cactus, and Palo Verde trees to see. Sadly, we lost a lot of Palo Verde tress, and several Saguaro’s, when we had the snow in the park.

The further we went along the trails, and into Stoneman Wash, the more wildflowers we saw,

as well as trees that look to be dead at first glance, but as you get closer, you can see signs of new growth within it. Like this interesting tree, that creates an arch over the trail, within the Stoneman Wash.

The desert floor is lush with colors of green and purple,

as well as the brilliant reds and golds from the poppies that we found in large patches along our hike today, but I don’t think they are as abundant as they will be over the next week or so…

Even the cactus are showing pretty little buds, with the promise of future blooms.

It was a fun-filled way to spend the morning, and we enjoyed exploring the trails in search of wildflowers. Now we can give our visitors several options of trails to hike when they are looking to see some wildflowers over the next few weeks.

Stay Tuned!

 

 

 

Canyonlands And Arches National Parks

Yesterday our son, Pat, and daughter-in-law, Celina, took us to visit Canyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park in Utah.

We left Fruita, Colorado and took a beautiful scenic drive to Moab.

For our daughter, Shantel, I will do my best to describe the beautiful scenery we saw. The scenic drive took us through an amazing canyon that follows the Colorado river. The mountain colors are almost beyond what I have words for, because they have multiple shades of color. Shades of red, blue, white and hues of everything in between. And, in some areas, they stand majestic against the deep blue sky, green grass, and trees that surround them.

 

From Moab, we made our way to Canyonlands National Park. The information we received when we entered this National Park says “Canyonlands National Park preserves 337,598 acres of colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires in the heart of southeast desert. Water and gravity have been the prime architects of this land, sculpting layers of rock into the rugged landscape it is today”. It reminded me a lot of our Grand Canyon in Arizona, but on a smaller scale.

Pat, Celina, and Papa like to stand on rocks too near the edge for my taste. But they don’t have a fear of heights like I do… 🙂

At one stop, while we were at a very high point in our visit of the park, Pat pointed out a dirt road below us that goes around a mountain. He told me we were going to go on that road when we left the area we were at. I looked down at what looked like a one lane dirt road to me, looked back at Pat and said “we are?” But I was thinking to myself “not this girl, I’ll stay right here and you can pick me up on the way back.” Then Pat laughed and said no, that road was only for the off-road vehicles. Well better them than me!

One of the things that always amazes me when I visit areas like this, is how some trees seem to be growing right out of solid rocks. I captured a picture of a tree that was doing just that. There is a huge rock/cliff and a tree is growing right out of the rock. These particular trees don’t seem to need much soil to grow, and they are beautiful.

As we made our way around the scenic drive of Canyonlands National Park, each stop we made to take in the view was more spectacular than the last. It was truly hard to say what part of the park was my favorite. The next picture shows high spires that start wide at the bottom of the canyon we were looking down into, and they taper off into pillar shapes at the top.

We didn’t go all the way through the park, because Pat and Celina also wanted to show us as much of Arches National Park as we had time for. They needed to get back home at a reasonable time and get the kids from the sitter. So we left Canyonlands National Park, went to lunch at the brewery in Moab (thanks for the tip Mary) and made our way to Arches National Park.

One of the first things we saw as we entered Arches National Park was the courthouse towers, which are tall stone columns that in this case, look like what would be on the front entrance of a real courthouse.. Just amazing.

There are hundreds of unique rock formations throughout the park. Some of them form walls, while others look like balancing rocks,

and still others have windows, or arches, carved into them from years of wind carving holes into the rock.

As time was running short, we didn’t get to go through all of Arches National Park either. Pat said we went through about half of both Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park, but it was enough for us to get a good idea of what both parks offer. Both parks are amazingly beautiful while being very different.

We did get to see on of the larger arches or windows, and Celina and I did climb up and into the hole that makes the arch or window.

Then we made our way down from that arch, and on to the next one that had one large arch or window and another much smaller one carved out of the same rock.

The next arch formation had a rock sitting to the side of it at the entrance of the arch, and that rock had three other rocks on it that to me made it look like people who might be the gatekeepers of that arch.

As we made our way back to the parking lot, from a distance, you can see several more arches carved into a huge rock formation making it look the entrance to several caves.

And just to the side of that was one last rock formation with two small arches or windows, but to papa and I, the large rock formation looked like two big elephants. One laying down with its trunk up in the air, and one standing behind that one with its trunk pointed down towards the ground.

It was a beautiful fun-filled day, and we so appreciate Pat and Celina spending the day showing us around these two amazing National Parks.

Stay Tuned!

Devils Canyon Trail

This morning Papa/Bill and I visited the McInnis Canyons National Conservation, Kodels and Devils Canyon area. Today we hiked the Devils Canyon Trail. A beautiful hike filled with amazing views around every curve.

This was the perfect hike for us today, because I had already taken my two-mile morning walk, so I wasn’t looking for a long, strenuous hike.

The hike started out with luscious green shade trees at the beginning of the trail.

Then, the further you went along the trail, the more you are drawn in towards the amazing huge rock formations.

Some people love to watch clouds and see what they remind them of, we love looking at unique rock formations and try to decide what figures, faces, or scenes, they look like to us. And even if you don’t see any faces, figures, or scenes, the beautiful multi-colors within the rocks are amazing.

If you look closely, almost every rock tells its own story. Some look like they have eyes or faces watching you.

Papa/Bill named this rock “the village people” because of the long white strips it has flowing down, formed by years of wind and water. He said it looks to him like a bunch of people, and I agreed.

This rock formation Papa/Bill named “the whole village”.  He said it looks like it would be where the village people lived…

We  didn’t come up with a name for this next rock formation, but we both thought it was very cool looking with its multi-layers at the top. It sort of looks like the top of the rock collapsed down on itself creating four separate levels.

But my absolute favorite rock formation of the day, was this one that I named “rock horse”. It looks to me like the side view of a horse in a sitting position. It’s head is bent down, I can see one of its eyes, and at the top of its head, I see an ear. I just think it is the coolest rock formation I’ve seen yet!

Just another fabulous day, in our temporary neighborhood, here in Fruita, Colorado.

Stay Tuned!

Previous Older Entries

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On the Road Since 2010, Traveling Across USA & Europe With 12 Paws

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In the eyes of the law, we reach adulthood the day we turn 18 years old. God help anyone who actually believes that.

the next few years

family life..with a unique perspective of motherhood

Gotham Girl Chronicles

a mixture of random musings...life in NYC...travel...photography...cycling

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Living An Active Full Life

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