Category Archives: LIFESTYLE

Hoodoo Heaven

Bryce Canyon has lingered as a treasured still-shot in my memory for some thirty years. One of those “perfect moments” from childhood that somehow attaches itself to your life and becomes a trailing accessory to it… So as we pried ourselves from our beloved Zion National Park and drove eastward on Highway 12 a few years ago, I quietly wondered how my mental snapshot, and our next destination, had fared over all these years. The heavy smoke that billowing just beyond the park entrance was unexpected. Usually, you just get a park map and friendly smile upon arrival. Not a forest fire…UTAH: Bryce Canyon National Park;

Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Information and Map

But, it turned out to be a “controlled burn,” unheard of in our generally saturated Ohio but a practical necessity out in the parched western US. My kids could comment more on the details of flames and flying ash. I was fairly focused on keeping to the road amidst the fog of smoke and fire fighters.

UTAH: Bryce Canyon National Park; View from Queen's Garden Trail

Bryce is a eerie odd sort of place, and there was no gradual habituation to its wonder.

UTAH: Bryce Canyon National Park; People

Water is the predominant force behind the forests of rock spires and quirky formations. Freezing, thawing and persistent rainrops have created this wonderland for the imagination -and will one day be its end, as recently illustrated by the collapse of “Wall Arch” in nearby Arches National Park. The towering pillars, “hoodoos,” are whims of erosion, captivating works of art as unique as individual snowflakes. Many have names:UTAH: Bryce Canyon National Park;  Thor’s Hammer, Sinking Ship, The Hunter. Others stand as in a many-acred art gallery, anonymous statues fashioned from Claron limestones, mudstones and sandstones.

Yes, the imagination can run a little wild at Bryce, and each visitor’s unique vision will personalize the Bryce experience. My vivid childhood memories of spired castles rising above pink, red and orange people brought me back, with my own children this time.UTAH: Bryce Canyon National Park; Horses But, intermittent rumbling soon lent a deeper hue to the sky as we hiked the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Trails. Eventually, I shoved the camera into our dry bag, and we raced for cover from a pelting storm!

Even this unforeseen event was a lively adventure at Bryce. We huddled on almost-dry dirt under tall rock totems with strangers from all over the globe. Our favorite new friend from the Netherlands UTAH: Bryce Canyon National Park; Navajo Trail; Approaching Stormjoked that, when it rained in his country, they simply built dams. And he then proceeded to do so, channeling a rippling stream of red water away from our feet by aligning rocks and mud with his walking stick and a muddy boot.

When it began to hail with some intensity we leaned back into the sticky rock walls, found drier spots for the damp ones amongst us and shared our recent adventures. The downpour was steady and included cold cold rain, hail and occasional falling rocks, released from above as part of the continual cycle of erosion.

A faint lull in the deluge finally prompted a few of us to run and slide up the slippery red slopes that would lead us out of the soaking canyon. The uphill run though driving rain was a little longer than expected, and we emerged a little further from our car than we had planned. But, theUTAH: Bryce Canyon National Park; Pronghorn wild hail storm only enhanced our Bryce Canyon adventure.

Completely saturated and splattered with red mud, we sipped steaming hot chocolate and watched for pronghorn deer on our drive out and on to our next night’s stay. The steady rain made Bryce a brief stop, but those mystical hoodoos enfolded by dramatic stormy skies also made it a one-of-a-kind memory.

 

Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Information and Map

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah Park Website

“Hoodoo Heaven” – Quirky formations and whims of erosion in striking shades of red, orange and pink…

PO Box 640201; Bryce Canyon UT 84764-0201

435-835-5322Park Hours: 24 hours/day all year (Call for Visitor Center hours and weather-related road closings)

Entrance Fee: $25/vehicle permit (valid for 7 days) Annual Pass available View Larger Map

Updated from August 22, 2008.


Bryce Things To Do

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Sinagua Style Sky-Boxes

Narrow ledges served as both pathways and playgrounds for the Sinagua people during their 100 year stay in Walnut Canyon.  Walking to the neighbors on a starless night would have been quite an adventure as would have been managing a tottering toddler, but their homes, built into the recesses of Walnut Canyon’s cliffs, provided both protection (from the elements, wildlife and enemies) as well as access to essential food and water. From their cave homes, the Sinaguas could monitor and prepare for approaching strangers. Yet directly above them was the flatter land of the canyon rim where they could grow beans, squash and drought-resistant corn and hunt deer. Six hundred feet below, Walnut Creek provided precious water for part of the year. Good water conservation and storage, supplemented by snow melt in the winter allowed the Sinaguas to live in relative comfort in the semi-arid climate.

The cramped cliff residences brought to mind primitive arena style sky-boxes -minus the plush seating and catered meals. Built by the Sinagua women from limestone rocks and gold clay, the walled cave homes were finished with a clay plaster. Situated to insulate, shelter and shade, the rooms had differing purposes. The larger rooms were most likely housing, and the many smaller rooms would have been used for storage. Children probably didn’t need much prompting to “go outside and play” with such cramped living quarters.

Within 100 years of their arrival, the Sinaguas moved on, eventually integrating, it is thought, into the Hopi tribe. Why they left is addressed by theories ranging from the ecological to the religious. What they left behind is more tangible: it is essentially a cliff side memorial to the men, women and children who once made Walnut Canyon their home.

Updated from May 19, 2010.

 

Flagstaff Things To Do

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Missing in the Mangroves


Because the route is generally within view, it’s hard to get lost in a kayak. On a lake, a river or in the ocean —there’s always a landmark or watery path to guide the paddler. While surprise thunderstorms and hail can be problematic (yet another story), to actually lose one’s way seems almost impossible. But it can be done.

When we paddled out from Islamorada last month, we had two destinations. The second one was visible to the northeast under and beyond the Overseas Highway: Indian Key State Park. First however, we planned to explore the extensive mangroves to the southwest of our launch point. Slathered with sunscreen, armed with an old map (the rental shop had run out of the updated ones) and prepared to make a day of it with drinks and a picnic lunch, we launched.

Stingrays, horseshoe crabs and schools of fish danced freely beneath us in clear cyan blue water. Sea birds perched on weathered posts, and mangrove shoots dotted the placid surface. We rechecked the map frequently to be sure we didn’t overshoot the entry points for the water trails and aimed carefully for an orange trail on the furthest western side of the mangrove map.

 

After a few false turns (which were just as fascinating and enjoyable as the correct ones), we found what had to be our orange trail. It looked a little too easy though. No overhead canopy, no leaning in or ducking down to avoid entanglement with branches and vines. We couldn’t see fish anymore either as the water appeared to have dramatically deepened. The chief navigator (me) looked at the map again and finally deciphered the orange trail to be a blurred sentence: DO NOT ENTER! There were more slurry indecipherable words, but by then as double deck ocean cruisers approached from both sides, abruptly cutting their motors to chug on by our diminutive kayaks, we figured out that we’d wandered into a boat channel. None of the boaters said a word. But we got the message and quickly pulled ourselves back into the twisting mangroves just as the fourth boat cranked up its speed to make up for lost time. Embarrassing? A little. Funny? Uh huh.

Since I had painstakingly aimed for the one place forbidden to us, I’m not sure that we were actually “lost.” It was more like we were missing from the correct path. And since it was all within the same ocean, I’ve simply filed it all as a minor technicality —and a great adventure.

More album photos at Heather Dugan Creative on Facebook and on Google+

 

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