Tag Archives: national parks

Chilly Challenge

This time, the adventure belonged to another. I was but an observer standing silently to the side, impressed but uninspired to follow.

Walking in Wellfleet, Massachusetts on pristinely beautiful Cape Cod one October, I happened upon one of the area’s many kettle ponds. These freshwater basins —Thoreau’s Walden Pond is one of the better known examples— are virtually self-contained ecosystems dependent upon precipitation for their continued existence. Formed by melted glacial ice, they receive no waterflow from a river or stream. Their clear fresh raindrop waters sparkle blue within settings of verdant evergreen forests. Striking. Captivating. Inviting.

But still…  the air temperature was struggling toward 60 degrees Fahrenheit. I was bundled and zipped into a winter coat. And as I admired the vivid crisp color of this particular pond, I saw a splash. I watched for the fish to leap again. Instead I spotted the steady stroke of a swimmer making his/her way through frigid waters. No wet suit. Warmed only by the standard insulation with which our bodies are equipped.

As one with an aversion to cold water -who always does the toe dip temperature test before diving into a lake or pool, I was awed by the swimmer’s fortitude. I watched as he/she reached shore’s edge and then began the long swim back. Methodical. Unwavering. Uncomfortably chilled by my few stationary minutes spent watching, I pulled my zipper just a little higher to my neck and finally turned away. Walking briskly across pine needles to warm myself again…

Cape Cod Things To Do on raveable

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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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