Portal, Arizona

September 20th to 23rd

The community of Portal, where my friend Dirk lives a good part of the year, is located in the extreme southeast of Arizona. It’s a small place, but it’s big on scenery. This is Portal Road, that leads from Highway 80 to the Chiricauhua Montains…

1_road to Chiricauhua Mts and Portal from Hiway 80

…where we find the mouth of Cave Creek Canyon:

2b_bis

 

I’ve mentioned that Cave Creek Canyon, Portal and its surrounding areas have been very hard hit by the recent heavy rains in the southwest. This is one of the National Forest Service buildings in the Portal area, just a short way up the canyon:

3_NFS building near Portal

 

And this is the view today just across the road, where the rains created a raging torrent a few days ago:

4_view of Cave Creek from road

 

A nearby road is closed…

4b_nearby road is out

…and doesn’t look like it’ll be open again soon, to the great concern of the community:

4c_and not likely to soon be repaired

 

Upstream and down, the same devastation…

4c_upstream 4d_and  down, the same devastation

…under continually menacing skies:

4e_under ever menacing skies

 

A ranger allows us to drive up to Sunny Flat Campground. I say “allows” because this road, too, will soon be closed to traffic…

5_Sunny Flat campground up canyon; will save the...

At first glance, things don’t look too bad. Notice the heavy vegetation below the rock formations, the tall trees in particular:

6_notice the heavy vegetation... 7_birding...

The vegetation here, and the shelter of the canyon, make this area one of the most attractive bird watching areas in the world. Indeed, “birding” brings people here from everywhere. Scientists too, come here to study the riparian habitat of this very unique canyon.

 

But let’s leave the devastation for further investigation tomorrow. Here’s the sunset from Dirk’s house:

9_sunset from Dirk's 10_sunset bis

 

The eastern sky this evening is nice too:

11_eastern sky in evening over vegetable garden

 

The same eastern sky the next morning:

12_eastern sky morning from Dirk's

 

Here’s the house Dirk is building. The morning light hasn’t quite reached it yet:

13_Dirk's house under construction and other house

 

A short distance way we see the house of Dirk’s neighbor. This house, though situated at some distance from the creek, was nevertheless flooded.

15_neighbor's house, flooded

 

The western sky this morning:

17_and rises further 18_mysterious canyon mouth

I have to admit that Cave Creek Canyon is starting to exert a certain power over me.

 

This morning we decide to go for a hike to assess the damage. We park only a short way up the canyon…

20_we drive up the canyon for a hike...

 

…the view across the road is not encouraging:

21_view across the road

 

Dirk sets out on the trail:

22_Dirk sets out along the trail

We’re on the Cave Creek Nature Trail, that will take us up the canyon along the creek to Sunny Flat Campground and further:

In some places the trail and its surroundings seem to be untouched…

23_in some places the trail is untouched

23b_untouched trail

…and we see the normal vegetation…

24_an we see the normal vegetation

…like this cholla and this prickly pear…

25_this cholla

26_prickly pear

…these flowers…

26c_flowers2 26d_flowers3

…a prickly poppy…

26e_sacred datura

…and this wild morning glory. I told you I’d find one, didn’t I?

26f_told you I'd find a wild morning glory

 

But suddenly the flood damage becomes apparent…

27_then suddenly, the flood damage is there

…the creek has cut new channels…

28_the creek has cut new channels

…we see just how high the water level rose…

29b_water level

…and the extent of the damage across the canyon floor.

30_and now wide across the canyon floor

 

The grass has been flattened…

31_everywhere the grass has been...

…like this yucca…

31b_as has this yucca

The trail, too, became a channel in some places…

32_the trail itself became a channel

…much debris has been deposited…

35_and much debris deposited

…and this bench was under water…

36_this bench along the trail was under water

 

Above Sunny Flat Campground the rock formations remain serene…

38_ rock formations above are superb 38b_another rock formation

 

We follow the road back down the canyon towards Portal…

39_the road is covered with sand and silt

…silt and sand have been deposited all across the canyon floor.

40_as is the forest floor

This road has been partially washed out…

42_part of the road has been washed out

…and isn’t likely to be repaired soon.

43_and won't soon be repaired

 

Dirk wades through a still-flooded part of the road:

44_Dirk walks through a still-flooded part of the road

 

In some places the road is now part of the creek:

44b_in some place the water over the road is still deep

 

This camprgound was completely flooded…

45_one of the many campgrounds...

…and nearby a new spring has appeared…

46_nearby a new spring has appeared

…which continues to pour water onto the grounds.

47_and pours water into the campground

 

Later, back in Portal and on a lighter note, these javelinas, or peccaries, roam the village.

49_back in Portal...javalinas

They’re a wild new world pig and not related to swine. I say “on a lighter note”, but in fact javelinas can be real pests.

50_javalina bis

You can learn more about them here.

The people of Portal are understandably concerned about how and when the infrastructure on which they all depend will be repaired. They’re also concerned about the canyon itself. As one of Dirk’s friends said to us, “This canyon is why we’re here.”

Mother Nature will likely find a way to take care of the canyon, though it will take time.

As I said ealier, Cave Creek Canyon is starting to exert a certain power over me. Here’s the canyon sky at the end of the day:

48_canyon sky at the end of the day

 

And in the evening of the following day…

55_evening sky

56_canyon sky evening, in fact...

 

The eastern sky at the same moment…

55b_evening sky

 

Early the next morning at Dirk’s house…

59_cars, house, trailer & mountain morning light

…both east…

58_eastern sky morning

…and west…

57b_western...bis

The Cave Creek Canyon area is, as they say, a hidden gem, or, one of the unknown ends of the earth.

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Silver City…en fête

September 12th & 13th

Friday evening Pickamania begins. You can read more about it here and here.

It starts of with an Irish folk music group from Tucson called the Out of Kilters:

1_Pickamania kicks off with...

 

Captain learns some Irish folk dancing…

2_Captain learns Irish folk dancing

…while Star calls out the steps…

2b_while Star calls out...

 

The next day at the farmer’s market…

3_The next day at the farmer's market...

…the Loose Blues play music for us while we shop…

4...the Loose Blues play while we...

 

A little later, after a lunch of tacos in the park, we listen to another very good group called the Littlest Bird:

5_A little later The Littlest Birds...

 

And then another group comes on, the Higher Ground…

7_Higher Ground 2

6_...followed by Higher Ground... 8_Higher Ground 3

…really very, very good.

 

In the meantime Captain and I…

9_While...

…have a beer in the nearby beer garden:

12_...have a beer...

You’ll notice that I’m wearing my jacket. It is a little cool today as tropical storm Odile moves into the area for several days of rain. I’ve mentioned these rains in some of my previous posts. They will have serious consequences for the little community of Portal, Arizona where Dirk is now and where I’m soon to be going.

Pickamania continues the rest of the day and tomorrow. Unfortunately I don’t see a whole lot of it. I have work to do on my computer. And tomorrow I’m off for Gila Hot Springs again, already reported in a previous post. The rain will drive me out of Gila, though, and send me back to Faywood, also recounted in a previous post. Sorry for the confusing chronology.

Gila River Hot Springs

September 10th & 11th, 2014

This morning Captain and I load up Van and head north into the Gila Mountains to camp overnight…

2_Gila forest...

…at Gila Hot Springs Ranch:

3_Gila Hot Springs Ranch

The Gila Hot Springs Ranch is located on one of the upper forks of the Gila River, where the water flows year round. Unfortunately, I seem to have neglected to take a photo of the river itself. The ranch is located below these rock formations:

4_below this rock formation

5_rock formation_different angle

In addition to its semi-developped hot springs and campground (a wonderful place to soak and camp), GHSR is a real working ranch of some importance, with horses, goats and probably other animals too.

6_is a working ranch 6b_of some importance

Horses go by from time to time:

6c_horses go by

Located on this meadow, …

7_near this meadow

…Gila is a veritable village, with some nearby houses…

8_is a veritable village 8b_house

…including this one, with a small secondary dwelling, which is for sale:

8c_this house is for sale 8d_including this small guest house

Gila is a place with a spirit, and humor…

9_a village with a spirit 9b_and a certain humor

…that we see espcially when we drive out:

10_especially on driving out

As said in the previous post about the cliff dwellings, we meet up with our friend Dirk. We find a campsite just next to his:

11_we find a camp site

Dirk has been here since the previous day and his camp is already set up…

12_next to Dirk's who's already here

…and he’s very well equipped for camping:

13_Dirk is well equipped, glimpse of river...

If you look hard, on the left side of the picture, you can catch a glimpse of the Gila River.

Of course, the best thing about a hot springs resort is the soaking pools…

14_...but the best part is the springs

…which, at Gila, are relatively natural…

15_...which are quite natural...

… for such a semi-developed facility…

16_...for a developed resort

…and are clean and well maintained…

17_...with water which is very hot...

Set under the many cottonwood trees that grow along the river, Gila is a wonderful place.  We talk and soak and get caught up. Dirk makes a terrific fish curry for dinner, and we soak and talk and drink beer and wine and tequila (all in moderation, of course).

The grounds at Gila are lovely and many flowers grow here. Some are wild, like these wild sunflowers that I first saw at Pott’s Ranch hot springs in Nevada…

19_...both wild...

…and these too whose name I don’t know (but I’m glad to see that the Occupy Movement has come this far)

21_...glad to see the occupy movement...

…and some not so wild…

18_Many flowers grow on the grounds... 18b_...bis...

22_...and not so wild... 23_...in fact the proprietor told me...

In fact, the proprietor confirms that these morning glories are domestic. Wild morning glories can be found, though, in these desert regions.  I’ll try to take some pictures.

The following day, after a leisurely morning of soaking and talking and an early lunch of mushroom omelettes, we get ready to leave.

Captain washes the dishes:

25_Captain cleaning up

Dirk packs up his truck:

24_Dirk packs his truck

Dirk is leaving for the small community of Portal in southeastern Arizona where he has some land and is building a house.  We’ll meet up with him again there.

I decide that I’ll come back to Gila on my own in the coming days.  See the previous posts about that.

Right now, though, Captain and I are on our way back to Silver City, where the music festival Pickamania is about to begin.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

September 10th, 2014

I’ve promised you a more detailed visit of cliff dwellings.  About two hours north of Silver City, in the Gila Mountains, lies the Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument. Captain and I drove up there in Van to camp over night with Dirk, another friend from our days at Sonoma State University in California. We meet up at Gila River Hot Springs where we set up camp and then drive a short way to the cliff dwellings.

Captain and Dirk head up the trail towards the dwellings:

1_Captain and Dirk head up...

We’re very careful as we walk. At the trailhead they tell us that many black-tailed rattlesnakes have been sighted lately.

 

It’s a pleasant trail through a green forest along side a creek:

2_the trail...

 

Our destination…

3_...towards the cliff dwellings

…and in a close up.

4_...cliff dwellings zoom

 

After a short walk we arrive at the dwellings. The caves are in fact a series of alcoves carved by the action of water on the stone.

5_We approach the dwellings

 

In some cases only the barest foundations remain…

6_In some of the alcoves... 7_only the most foundations remain

…whereas in others the structures are quite intact…

8_...but in others... 9_the structures are quite intact...

…though sometimes reinforced for safety and equipped for accessibility…

11_...and equipped for accessability...

 

The view from within:

12_accessability2

13_from inside an alcove

 

Information panels help us to understand both the dwellings…

16...and the reconstruction...

…and the numerous pictographs found here:

15_...as to the mural paintings...

 

Some of the wall paintings… The one on the right isn’t very clear, but it’s a hand.  We’ll see this again later:

16b_a wall painting 16c_another wall painting_hand

 

An inscription from more recent times:

16d_inscription from a much later period

 

One of the big mysteries in these cliff dwellings is the exact use of the different structures. The smaller rooms were likely used for food storage.

17_one big mystery is the use of...

 

Smoke traces on the ceiling are evidence that these caves were occupied for thousands of years:

18_signs show inhabitation going way back...

 

But the remaining wooden beams in the houses are from trees felled between 1276 and 1287. The inhabitants of these cliff dwellings were only here for about thirty years.

There is much speculation as to why the inhabitants of these impressive structures stayed for such a short time:

19_but these dwellings were only...  22_there is speculation that it was an outpost

23_of more southerly tribes for...  24_agricultural purposes...

20_inhabited about 30 years...  21_about 700 years ago...

Some have advanced the theory that this was an agricultural outpost for a more southerly tribe and that when drought made it no longer viable the people move elsewhere.

 

The view across the canyon from the dwellings:

25_across the canyon from the dwellings

 

Down canyon:

26_down canyon

 

Up canyon:

27_up canyon

 

Later in the afternoon Captain shows us some other pictographs at another site on the way back to camp:

30_...some pictographs at another site...

30b_pictograph, where we also find a diamondback

We also stumble upon a rattlesnake here, but a diamondback and not a black-tailed.  We have surprised it and it begins to coil, but we back off and luckily the snake decides to move on. They don’t like us any more than we like them.

 

And we locate this depression in the rock, likely used for grinding corn:

31_...where we find this...

 

At yet another site Captain shows us this little-known structure:

32_...near this little known dwelling...

 

Dirk inspects the workmanship:

33_Dirk inspects the workmanship 34_workmanship2

 

At a last stop Captain shows us more pictographs…

35_at yet another site we find... 36_more pictographs

Here the hand is much clearer.

 

I had to crawl on my hands and knees to get these:

39_...these bis

40_...these ter

 

It’s late now and we head back to our camp at the hot springs.

City of Rocks and Faywood Hot Springs

September 9th

One afternoon during my stay in Silver City, Captain and I drove out to the City of Rocks State Park and also visited the nearby Faywood Hot Springs.

From a distance City of Rocks looks like this:

1_City of Rocks

 

An island of rocks surrounded by desert:

2_City...closer up

 

This partial view gives a better impression of what City of Rocks is all about:

September_8-9_trip_down_180_and_day1_in_Silver_City 114

There is also a campground and a picnic area.

 

We wander about the many passages…

3_We wandered about

…to be found among this haphazard “city” of rocks.

4_...among these rocks...

 

Here’s Captain walking along one of the “streets”:

5_Here's Captain on one of the main streets

 

Here we are in the very center of the city:

6_from the center of CoR

 

Captain tries to decide which way to go:

7_Captain trying to decide which way...

 

Maybe this way?

8_...maybe this way...

 

A view of the desert from the city center:

9_...view onto the desert

 

 

Here’s another part of town:

10_...another part of town

 

Some of the local vegetation, yuccas, with their blossoms (somewhat faded here) which are the New Mexico state flower:

14_yuccas...

 

After that we went to the nearby Faywood Hot Springs resort which…

15_then we went to...

…on a hot day in the desert may seem a bit strange…

16_Faywood hot springs...

…but it’s really a very nice place and I’d like to give the owners some help and encouragement.

 

I confess that I took these next few pictures a few days later when, on my own, I went back to Faywood on a rainy day and camped over night. The skies are now grey and the canopy has been drawn back:

17_these next few pictures...

18_...I took at Faywood a few days later...

 

I was driven out of the Gila Mountains by some of the remnants of tropical storm Odile…

19b_Gila Mountains as I drive back

…which brought a lot of rain, several days running, to Arizona and New Mexico.  I’m not complaining. These states need the water and I won’t begrudge them whatever rainfall they get. More about Odile in the next few posts.

 

So I camped at Faywood…

21_under equally gray skies

…under grey skies…

20_I camped at Faywood for a night...

21b_grey skies bis

…and had the campground to myself.

During the night it rained heavily. I was awake very early and had a long soak as the rain came down.  I even went back to my campsite and took a shower in the rain. Luckily neither the air nor the rain were cold.

In Silver City

September 8th to 13th

I’ve arrived in Silver City, home of my friend Richard, aka Captain. You’ll have to wait until the next post to see a photo of him. I’ve known Captain since our student days. In fact, he’s part of this crowd here…

Sebastopol-my college classmates

…that you met in Sebastopol a few weeks ago.

 

Captain lives here:

1_Captain's house

 

The back yard…

2_Captain's back yard

Among the many plants there is a prickly pear…

7_Prickly pear, but... 8_...this one has flowered...

…that has flowered.

 

Silver City is a pleasant town. These are some shots of the main street, Bullard:

9_Silver City is a pleasant town 10_here's Bullard Street, the main street

The town has a lot of period buildings:

11_that has a lot of period buildings

 

For example, this bank, and the now-closed Buffalo Bar next door:

12_like this bank

And some nicely restored buildings too, in both Anglo-Victorian and Hispanic styles:

14_Nice building...

15_...another nice building...

16_This downtown building's been nicely rendered

 

The restored Murray Hotel…

18_Restored Murray Hotel

…with its art deco interior:

17_...and its interior

 

There are some interesting and colorful side streets…

13_and colorful side streets

…where we find some murals representing different periods in the history of New Mexico:

25_Silver also has these murals representing...

…the historic Mimbres peoples…

26_...the historic Mimbres peoples...

…the Apaches…

27_...the Apache...

…the Spanish and Mexicans…

28_...the Spanish and Mexican period

…the Anglos…

29_the Anglos

…and the makings of modern New Mexico…

30_...and modern New Mexico

 

Silver City has a good farmer’s market…

19_Silver has a nice farmer's market...

…with some colorful…

20_...with some colorful...

…and plentiful stands…

21_...and plentiful stands...

22_...stands 2...

23_...stands 3

24_stands 4

 

Further along we find more murals, representing both history…

31_This other mural...artistic town...

…and more recent phenomena, such this one on the site of a former automobile dealership:

32_...and yet another mural...automobiles...

 

We find these tiles made by local school children…

33_...Tiles made by local children

…and this sculpture in front of the local library…

34_...Sculpture in front of library

 

One last feature of Silver City is this log cabin…

35_One last feature of Silver...

…a replica of the cabin where Billy the Kid is said to have lived…

37...the home of Billy the kid 38...the Kid

39...though not the original... 40_...is still a reasonable model of...

It was built as a movie set and then later presented to the city by film director Ron Howard.

See more photos of Silver City here. And see the town’s official website here.

Into New Mexico

September 8th, 2014

On leaving Chinlé yesterday I started falling asleep at the wheel so I took a motel room on Interstate Highway 40 as soon as I got that far.  I wanted to drive further, but it just wasn’t wise.

Today I’m refreshed and ready to travel again. This morning the sun greets me at the door:

1_sunrise looking east

 

Due east of here, New Mexico is calling.

I set off down highways 191…

2_down highways 191 and...

…and 180…

3_and 180

…into New Mexico…

4_into New Mexico

…with its sumptuous vistas and…

5_with its sumptuous vistas and skies

and skies…

8_of course, rainbows mean...

…full of promise.

6_full of promise...

 

Sometimes twofold, if you look hard:

7_sometimes twofold, if you look hard

Of course, we all know what rainbows mean.

 

It’s a day of lakes…

9_it was a day of lakes, Lyman...

… Lyman Lake at Lyman State Park, Arizona, where I eat lunch and take a nap, and…

… Luna Lake, near Alpine, Arizona, in a cool and green region of mountains…

10_Luna Lake

…and Bill Evans Reservoir, as I near Silver City, my destination:

11_Bill Evans

 

It’s a day of forests…

12_forests...

Apache National Forest, near the Arizon-New Mexico border…

… and Gila National Forest:

13_more forests...

 

It’s a day of flowers:

14_and flowers

 

I know I’m not very good about the names of flowers.  I promise to work on that.

15_flowers2 17_flowers4

16_flowers3

18_flowers5

20_flowers7

 

This one, I’ve been told, is an Indian Paintbrush:

21b_Indian bis

And these are called Blanket Flowers

22_Blanket flower1 22b_blanket flower2

23_flowers9

24_flowers10

I’ve seen this one before; I’d like to get a picture of it fully flowered.

 

And now it’s on to Silver City.

Canyon de Chelly

September 6th & 7th

I drive from Page across the Navajo Indian Reservation to the town of Chinlé, gateway to the Canyon de Chelly National Monument which is home to some of the best known cliff dwellings of the Pueblo peoples. The next morning I drive along the rim roads above the network of canyons, stopping at the many overlooks that provide views onto the farmlands and cliff dwelling sites below. Visitors aren’t allowed access to the dwellings except on special visits accompanied by Navajo guides.

The views of the canyon floor are beautiful:

1b_canyon floor

 

Like the other canyons we’ve seen, these, too, are vast…

2_like the other canyons...long

…but they are privately owned and contain working farms:

3_but this one...working farms

 

The ancient cliff dwellings here  are numerous:

4b_closeup

A good view of the surrounding fields:

5_good view of fields

Road access within the canyon is restricted to the farmers and to guided visits:

6_road access in the canyon...

Some of the dwellings haven’t survived so well:

7_some ruins better preserved than others

And some are easier to photograph that others:

8_some easier to photo than others

This formation is known as the Spider Grandmother, who taught the Navajo how to weave:

9_formation known as spiderwoman, who...

Another dwelling, quite high above the canyon floor…

10_yet another dwelling

…and this is one of the better preserved:

11_one of the better preserved...

The canyons go on and on…

12_the canyons continue

13_and continue

Do you see the face on the cliff wall:

14_do you see the face

 

Learn more about the Pueblo peoples here:

The Pueblo peoples disappeared by about 1350 A.D. I meet a woman at one of the overlooks who holds forth quite knowledgeably about this mysterious disappearance. Apparently they were aliens and their Cosmic relatives came to take them home.  I find that hard to believe and lean more towards the theory of climate change that brought about a great drought in these regions. I remember that the Fremont people in Utah also disappeared about this time.

It would have been fun to see the cliff dwellings more closely, but I didn’t have much time.  I’ll make up for this in New Mexico.

 

Lake Powell

September 5th & 6th

I continue eastward from Colorado City via Fredonia, Arizona and Kanab, Utah and finally make my way to Lake Powell near the town of Page, Arizona.

I met some people at Zion who told me about a campground in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area called Lone Rock and where you can drive practically down to the beach. Just be careful of the deep sand on the roads, they say; it may be difficult to get back up to the parking area. So I park up top to have lunch and then I walk down to have a swim. I tell myself that it would be a good place to camp for the night, but I want to see about a motel in Page first. Page, I find, is busy and very expensive. Even a shabby motel costs more than a 100$ per night. And internet connections aren’t necessarily ensured. Since my main concern is to have a good internet connection, I decide to camp instead.

And thus I go back to Lone Rock. It is aptly named for this lone rock sticking up in the middle of an arm off of the main part of the lake:

1b_Lone Rock close up afternoon

To the left we see…

1d_to my left

…and across the lake:

1c_to my right

 

So this is my new swimming hole:

2_so this is my swimming hole 2b_my swimming hole

I’ll take full advantage of it while I’m here.

 

I’ve parked at some distance from the main campground:

3_I've parked some ways from the main beach

 

My campsite, in the waning light of the afternoon:

4_my campsite in the waning light

Making dinner:

4b_campsite 4cbis_dinner

 

 

As the light changes in the late afternoon…

…Lone Rock…

5_waning light lone rock

the trail down to the beach.

5c_trail down to swimming hole

 

Lone Rock at dusk…

9_lone rock at dusk

… and with the sunset the campground settles down…

8_the campground settles down

…which means no more motor boats or water skiers, no more OHVs…silence descends upon us.

 

And the show in the western sky begins:

7_evening light clouds gather

7b_clouds at sunset

7c_more clouds at sunset

7d_and more clouds

 

Finally, the moon rises over the lake:

10_moon rise

It isn’t yet the full moon, though you wouldn’t think so from the picture.  Notice the reflection of the moon in the water at the bottom left of the picture.  Here I have to admit that a better photographer than I am would no doubt have noticed it and caught it on camera.  Some of you readers out there have complimented me on my photography. I’m flattered, but I realize that I have a long way to go before my photos are  really good.  I’m taking all my pictures on a small but very good Canon A3100 IS that Maureen and Norris gave me for Christmas three years ago and for which I am very grateful.

You can see some excellent pictures of Lake Powell here.

And while I’m giving out links:

– you can learn more about the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area at the National Park Service site here.

– more about the Glen Canyon Dam here.

– more about Lake Powell here.

 

Moving right along… of course the clouds bring rain during the night. Not a lot, but the thirsty earth got a welcome drink.

I spend the evening sipping my wine and watching the sky. The next morning, I’m up at dawn. Coffee ready, I take a few pictures of the sunrise…

11_sunrise 11b_I take a picture...

…every few minutes:

11c_every few...

 

Lone Rock in the first light of dawn:

12b_lone rock first light

 

The cliffs to the west; my neighbor walks her dog:

13_cliffs to the west, my neighbor

 

To the north of my swimming hole:

14b_north...further

 

The night’s rain appears to have brought out a few wildflowers. Or perhaps these just close up later in the day:

15b_flowers 15c_flowers closeup

In any case the low-lying vegetation seems to have appreciated the rain:

16_low lying vegetation 16b_more vegetation

 

I pack up to leave and then have one last swim and also take a picture of the beach in the morning light:

17_beach in morning light

 

Now, will Van make it up the hill to the park entrance on these sandy beach roads? I cross my fingers and he makes it, hands down. Good old Van.

As I drive away from the park I stop to take pictures of two rock formations, unimpressive compared to what we’ve already seen…

18_as I drive out, some... 18b_formations catch my eye...

…but they serve to remind us that we haven’t yet finished with red rock.

Through Colorado City, Arizona

September 4th & 5th

As I leave Zion Park this morning I see a cavalcade of vintage cars driving through the town of Springdale, Utah, the port of entry, so to speak, for Zion Park. I’m in the Café Soleil, having breakfast as they go by, with my computer set up, busy with an article, and I’ve left my camera in the car.  I content myself with watching the cars go by. I suspect they’ll join the people I met the other day as I left Bryce, perhaps at the Zion Canyon Lodge.

I leave early and drive all the way to the town of St. George, the biggest city in southern Utah and whose name has nothing to do with the Saint George of dragon fame. No, the town was named after a saint (in other words a Mormon) whose name happened to be George. That’s the story they tell here.

I spend a few hours this morning at the visitor’s center of the St. George Mormon temple…

3_St. George Temple

4_not so photogenic as Manti

…which is not nearly so photogenic as the Manti temple.

I also drive by the local tabernacle:

5_St. George Tabernacle

At the visitor center they show me a film and answer a few questions. I really just want to be polite and learn something about what I see as a local institution. I openly tell them that I’m not a potential convert. If you want to learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints you can go here. If you simply google Mormon Church you’ll come upon a vast bank of resources, both sympathetic and antipathetic towards the Church. I maintain my position that the Mormon migration to Utah is a fascinating chapter in United States history.

I return east that afternoon to the town of Hurricane on Highway 59 where I spend the night in a motel in order to have an internet connection and to get some work done.

The next morning I take a few photos from the parking lot:

1_leaving Zion...Hurricane

The desert is never far, nor are the mountains.

And then I head east and south towards the Arizona border and the towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona.  These two towns, formerly known as Short Creek, are the stronghold of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). The highway passes outside of the two towns. I drive by Hildale, but I turn off the main road and drive around Colorado City for a while.

Since 2006 this community has frequently been in the news for many reasons in relation to the FLDS practices. I won’t go into it here, but the town’s residents are wary of and hostile to outsiders. What I see largely confirms everything I’ve read about these communities. The streets are empty, the few women I see are indeed wearing those pastel prairie dresses and the children run inside. The houses are enormous, some of them apparently unfinished and are often surrounded by high fences or brick walls. There are few shops or offices.

I get a certain sense of forboding, of being watched. Of course, I’ve been noticed. An unknown Dodge Grand Caravan with a flashy yellow mountain bike strapped to its back will not go unnoticed here.

I take no pictures, I don’t need to. You will find many on the internet.  For more information I suggest that you google:

Colorado City

Hildale

Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS)

Warren Jeffs (the FLDS prophet)

the book Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

the documentary film Banking on Heaven (the trailer is particularly interesting)

the Lost Boys

 

You’ll find many photos and resources that merit attention but that need to be studied carefully. You’ll see why, in Utah and Arizona (and in many other communities in the US and Canada too), polygamy is no laughing matter.

And now I want to get out of here.