Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rafting the Colorado (OK, floating the Colorado)

One of the reasons to go to Page was to take a 4 hour easy float down the Colorado. Had we not gone to Antelope Canyon in the morning, this would have been the absolute highlight of the trip. As it was, it was very impressive and we enjoyed it. It starts with an underground bus ride down to the base of the Glen Canyon Dam. We had a pontoon boat that held about 25 people sitting in the middle and on the pontoons. The guide, Kyle, pointed out wildlife and explained a bit about the geology of the area, although he had trouble pronouncing the word "geologists". He also regaled the audience with tales of his wild high school days camping, swimming and sort of trashing the area. The trip ended at Lee's Ferry where the Grand Canyon officially begins. There is a line across the river with orange balls on it indicating mile zero of the canyon. Lee was a Mormon who was implicated and convicted of involvement in the Mountain Meadow massacre of Arkansan pioneers by a group of Mormons and Paiute indians. The Mormons were retaliating against anyone from Arkansas for injustices against them in Arkansas. (there was a lot going on at the time between the rest of the US and Utah). John D. Lee and a couple of his cohorts dressed as Paiute but were recognized during the seige so they decided to assasinate all the pioneers, about 120 men, women and children, except for a few very young children. They attempted to cover it up but were eventually exposed and brought to justice. But, I digress.....

Here are some pictures that either Pam or I took. In fact, some of the photos from Antelope were Pam's too.

Beautiful views of the Navajo Sandstone walls in Glen Canyon as the Colorado works its way toward the Grand Canyon.

Our intrepid guide, Kyle.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cleveland Rocks....

We are in Cleveland for a wedding. I've made a bunch of posts lately. To read them chronologically, scroll down to April 21 and read up from there.

BTW, just to prove we were actually in Cleveland, here are a couple of memories of the trip.

Russell and Christina leaving the church to a shower of bubbles and a bit of rain.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the "Mistake on the Lake" next to it. (I think they still call it that...) Anyway, they have two major league stadium in downtown and we have a beautiful waterfront in Boston with a new courthouse.

Antelope Canyon - Page, AZ

After the hike to the ruins, we decicded to take off the next morning and go to Page, AZ. Page is about 160 miles north of Sedona at the edge of Lake Powell where the Colorado river really begins to work its way through the Grand Canyon. We made a quick plan to visit Antelope Canyon and take a leisure river raft ride down the Colorado. This post will deal with the Antelope Canyon.

Antelope Canyon is defined as a slot canyon. I guess that means it has been carved out over the millions of years and can barely be seen except for a slot or slit at the top. In fact, these were not even discovered until relatively recently. There are two Antelope Canyons, the Upper and Lower. The Upper has more of an opening at the top so light can come in and bounce off the eroded walls. The Lower has a more narrow opening at the top, so briliant spots of light can come in, but only when the sun is strong and high in the sky. We visited the Upper Canyon. Below are some photos. I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.

You enter via a "slot" to get into the canyon. It's a little intimidating at first.

There are little stairways that take you from one level to another. Kind of a tight squeeze and looking into the darkness is a bit scary. But it opens up.

Sometimes you have to take a ladder to get to another level. The holes on the left of the ladder were the hand-holes used before the ladders went in during the 90's. They only had the holes and ropes to make their way through the canyon. There was a flash flood through the canyon in the 90's and about 12 tourists drowned. Now, they have ladders for quicker entry and exit.

Our guide, Curtis, brought his guitar along and sang. The sound in the canyon was mystical and sort of comforting. The evening before we had stopped at the entrance and the woman at the booth, whose name was Dixie, told us it was too late in the day to get good photos of the Lower canyon and we should just come back in the morning to visit the Upper canyon. She told us to ask for Curtis. I asked if she was related to Curtis and she said they were in the same clan. It turns out Curtis' girl friend's brother is dating Dixie's daughter. Got that?

The actual canyon is indescribable, so I won't try...at least not at this point.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

36 hours in Sedona

After dropping the Bronchuks at the shuttle for Phx, we planned how we could cram as much as possible into the next 24-36 hours for Matt, Emily and Mike and Pam. Matt and Em had plans to head to Monument Valley on the next afternoon, so decided on a hike and a couple of Jeep adventures.

We started with Soldiers Pass trail. This is a beautiful trail with several unusual features, like the Devil's Kitchen and the Seven Sacred Pools. It has great views of the canyon walls and meanders over the red rocks along a wooded path.

From there we quickly jumped into the Jeep for a ride to the Honanki ruins. These are a set of Sinaqua ruins that are maintained by the Pink Jeep tour company. There are no docents, just the guides from Pink Jeep. We had the impression that the Pink Jeep guide at the reception office thought that I was an illegal guide. (Maybe Pam saying that I was a great guide gave her that impression.) Anyway, she followed us all the way up the trail to the ruins, eavesdropping on us and pretending to sweep the path with a broom. Pretty weird.

The next morning, we got an early jump on the Pink Jeep tours that populate the Broken Arrow trail. We climbed Submarine Rock, got up to Chicken Point, went around the Carousel and then down the Staircase. We all had a great time and there was hardly any damage to the skid plates.

After Broken Arrow, Matt and Emily headed out for Monument Valley and the rest of us made a lunch to join Bill and Sarah on a search for ruins in a canyon near Honanki. It was an up and down sandy, trail for about a mile until we reached the old dead tree. This told us to go off the trail and climb to the base of the ruins, high up in the Loy Canyon walls. We stopped for lunch under a shady overhang.

After lunch a few of us tried to climb up to investigate the ruins. First we had to find the trail. After a couple of false starts we found a trail that climbed over some slick rock, then one would have to find which crevice to work through to get to the next level, etc. Needless to say we did not all make it. Mike was the only one to get to the ruins. The rest of us chickened out. Congratulations, Mike. Here is a photo of the cliff. If you click on the photo you may see the ruins beneath the overhang and just above the tree tops.

Verde Valley Railroad and the Noble Invasion

When Mike and Jane Bronchuk visited us, we were looking for something different to do. We had heard that the Verde Valley Railroad trip was fun so we decided to try it. Prior to that, our friends from Walpole, Pete and Ann Brundrett spent a couple of nights with us too. It was Pete's 60th b-day and he wanted to see the Grand Canyon. So, we invited them to use our place as a rest stop on their way up/back from the canyon. They really enjoyed the canyon and Pete and I took a nice hike in Sedona while Ann did a little shopping. When they left to spend a few days in Scottsdale we gave them a list of things they could do like visit the Desert Botanical Garden to see the variety of flora in the southwest.

Meanwhile we did a little off-roading with Mike and Jane. We took them to one of our favorite picnic areas up near Sycamore Canyon. This is the road where we saw the dead steer from a previous post. Jane was a little nervous being in the passenger seat and looking over the edge of the dirt road. She didn't want to get too close to the rim of the little canyons we enjoy. But they were blown away by the scenery.

So, we decided to take the railroad trip. This is a 4 hr train trip from Cottonwood to Perkinsville along the Verde River through the Verde River Valley. The train originally existed to get miners and ore back and forth between the two areas. It was converted into a tourist attraction a while ago and is really worth the trip. The scenery is spectacular and we were able to spot turkey vultures and golden eagles (too high for a photo). We even saw a school of fish in the clear waters of the Verde River. Here are a couple photos that may not do it justice.

Before the Bronchuks had left the building, the Nobles arrived. Mike, Pam, Matt and fiance, Emily arrived friday evening. We invited the Sullivans and had a birthday party for Mike N. A nice round number of 10 for pizza. Judy sat on Mike's cake (old story. if you don't know it, you haven't been listening.) It was a great night. Then 8 of us crashed around the house. Mike and Pam in the pullout couch, Matt and Em on an air mattress, Mike and Jane in their BR and Tony and Judy in theirs.

Mike and Pam had met Matt and Emily in Phoenix thursday afternoon. Matt and Em came from LA. After getting their luggage, they went directly to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. On their way out, they bumped into some people who sounded like they came from Boston. They started a conversation and found out a little about each other. It turns out the other couple was from Walpole. They found out that the other couple had just come from Sedona and that the Nobles were on their way to Sedona. The other couple eventually decided to take a shot at the coincidence and asked if the Nobles were going to stay with the Donovans. Mike and Pam said "Yes!", and the other couple shouted "we just left there!". Yes, folks, it was Pete and Ann Brundrett. They couldn't believe it and I'll bet all of Phoenix heard their shouts of amazement. Unblievable. It wouldn't be too much of a surprise to run into someone and have common friends, but to actually run into someone, pretty randomly, who had just occupied the bed you would sleep in that night.....now, that's an amazing coincidence.

Judy's Amazin' Coincidence

Recently, our friend Sandy visited for a week. Most of the time I was off painting with friends while Judy and Sandy tooled around in the Jeep. On one of their tours they were parked in a trail head parking lot when a couple in the next car asked how Judy liked the Rubicon. The conversation ensued and at one point the guy asked where they went to college. Judy and Sandy responded in West Virginia. The guy asked was it WVU. The ladies responded that it was a small college named Bethany. At that point the air was shattered by the cries of excitement. The other couple, about 8-10 years younger had both gone to Bethany. Harris and Barbara Bucklin knew all the same places, same professors and it turns out, Barbara was in the same sorority and Harris worked with the husband of Judy's college roommate. They had such a great time remeniscing that they decided to get together for dinner. Judy and Sandy told me that they were coming for drinks and we would go out to Casa Bonita, our favorite little store-front Mexican restaurant. I said, "Man, am I going to have to listen to Bethany stories all night?". Judy reminded me that she has put up with Weymouth stories for 44 years. Anyway, they were a great couple and we had a terrific time. Judy and Sandy are planning a road trip to visit them in VA and reconnect with other old friends. Who knows, maybe we'll look them up on our way to the Outerbanks one of these years.

Another Critter

Linda commented that she'd like to see more wildlife photos. Here's one from the rim of the Colorado high above Horseshoe Bend. It blended in with the red rock there so it was not immediately obvious to the eye. I checked my guide book but couldn't really see what kind of lizard this was. It was about 10" long, head to tail. It didn't seem too skittish as we approached it.

Also, a very interesting thing happened tonight. John and Pat Cooke, friends from high school, were passing through Sedona on their way to a conference in Anaheim. We took them for a quick ride around sunset to see the red rocks in their glory. Unfortunately, we dwelt a bit too long over margaritas to get the full effect of the sunset, but we did end up driving home on the wooded dirt road in the dark. We saw one jack rabbit, then later another jack rabbit being chased by a coyote. It veered toward the Jeep while the coyote headed in a different direction. I think we gave that jack rabbit a reprieve to live another day. It all happened quickly but it was pretty cool to see, (strictly from a "true life adventure" point of view).

BTW, if you are not familiar with Horseshoe Bend, here is a shot of it. The Colorado is 1500' below the rim where I took this photo. This is a mile or so below the Glen Canyon Dam. It is a very sandy, sluggish walk from the highway to this overview, mostly uphill on the return trip. There are no guard rails or fences at the edge. It is pretty scary trying to capture the full effect of the horseshoe. Not for the faint of heart.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Local Wildlife

There is plenty of wildlife out here in Sedona, although much of it keeps to itself during the day. We've seen coyotes, jack rabbits and deer but I thought I'd post a few photos of other critters that I, or our guests, took.

This is a photo of a Gambel Quail that Peggy Wilfong took one morning. We have a covey of quail walking around the yard every day and she chased this one down the street in her PJs to get a good picture. They come through in the morning and afternoon scrounging for seeds and leaves falling off the trees.

While on a hike near the Sacred Pools on Soldier's Pass trail with the Nobles (Mike, Pam, Matt and Emily), we heard a fairly loud noise that sounded like a sheep or goat. It was some kind of critter. We decided to investigate. As we got closer to the pools, the noise increased but as we passed the pool, it decreased. So, it had to be coming from the pool. The light wasn't great but we finally made out the source of the racket. Pam took some pictures and Matt is trying to use the noise as his ring tone. Not sure what type of frog it is, but it was noisy.

One day on one of our Jeep rides to Sycamore Canyon, we noticed what appeared to be a dead steer and a dead calf off the trail. A week or so later, we went through the same area and the steer was still there but the calf was gone. We figured the calf was either alive and kicking or was dead and dragged off by coyotes. A few weeks later we drove through again and decided to check out the steer a bit more. There is not much left after the birds and animals were through with it.

However, fear not, there are a lot of healthy steers and calves out on the range. This is the calving season in the spring, so there are plenty of them out there roaming around with their moms. I think all the calves we have seen were black. They must take after their old man.

Here is a photo of a great blue heron that Pam took on our latest excursion in a raft down the Colorado near the Glen Canyon dam. I'll post something about that trip later. There were 6 or more herons on a couple of trees along the banks of the Colorado as it cut its way through Glen Canyon. There were several nests which accomodated a number of off-spring

This is also the time when the snakes start to come out to warm themselves. This gopher snake was stretched across the road on one of our back woods trails. It was very sluggish and we couldn't get it to move off the road. It covered the whole road so I didn't want to run over it. We tossed a few small rocks at it and it finally started to slowly slither off into the brush. This photo doesn't really show it, but others show clear bulges in several places in the snake. We think it was in the process of digesting its lunch.

Lastly, we are seeing more lizards now. We have a few living under the back steps that scamper around but we see bigger ones out on the trails. The photo below is a Black-Collared lizard that we saw on a hike with the Sullivans and Nobles. It was sunning itself on the red rock. According to our Audubon Guide book this one grows to 6-13" long. So, if that includes the tail, this one is full grown.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Works in Progress (WIPs)

As usual, we are having a lot of fun with guests and other local friends and I haven't had too much time for painting. But, I have squeezed in some time and and have posted a few new works in the slide show.
When Curt, Bill and I made a trip to the Grand Canyon in late February, I was determined to try my hand at a landscape of the Canyon. The work below is from a photo I took. It was quite a challenge getting this far with it and it may be done. I will stare at it a bit for a while to see what I would need to do to complete it. I am anxious to try another one, but I think I would go with a bigger canvas. This one is 12x16.

The next painting is one I did in "plein air" along Oak Creek at Grasshopper Point. This is a spot just at the beginning of Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona. Painting outdoors has its Perils (I'll post a few other examples later). The perils for this one were crossing the creek over rocks while carrying my equipment and ferocious wind. The creek is very high now due to snow melting and flowing downhill from Flagstaff. There was a log partway across some water to a rocky island where I wanted to set up. But the log was pretty shakey and didn't go all the way across. I couldn't see myself jumping with my paints, easel, etc. So, I had to jump from rock to rock to get across. It wasn't far, but when you are carrying stuff and the rocks are shifting, it was far enough. I pictured myself crashing into the rocks in the creek and breaking a few bones. Once on the little rocky island, I had to hold the easel so it wouldn't blow over. But that's what painting outdoors is all about.
This one still needs some study. But, at least you see that I haven't thrown my paints out.