Bryce Canyon National Park

After our short trip to Page with Tom and Ellen, we headed up into Utah, to re-visit one of our favorite National Parks, Bryce Canyon.  The park contains the largest concentration of hoodoos, which are irregular columns of rock.  The hoodoos are formed through erosion of the cliffs from the wind, rain and snow.   As some of the rock formations erode away, new ones are created.  The park is always changing.  As we arrived in the park on May 1, just in time for what seems to be our annual May snowfall!

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Left Yuma too soon??

Given the snow, and our limited time in the park (2 days), we were not able to do any hiking in the park.  We stayed at Ruby’s Inn campground, in their brand new pull-thru section.  It’s pricey, but very nice.  The family that owns Ruby’s Campground, owns the majority of the businesses in the area.  And they hire a lot of work campers for the season.

 

We were able to meet up with our friend Bob, that we worked with at Amazon a few years ago.  Bob decided to get his commercial drivers license, with a passenger endorsement.  This has opened up a lot of high-paying work camping opportunities for him.  In order to ease up on overcrowding, and the pollution that goes along with it, the National Park service is using shuttle buses in many of the parks.  Bryce Canyon has a free shuttle service taking visitors to most of the viewpoints in the park.  Bob was able to get a job as a shuttle bus driver.  For those interested, it pays $24/hour, with a discounted RV site.

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Bob, Dan, Ellen, Tom and Jonell

When we told Bob that we were coming, he booked us on a free shuttle tour of the park, as he wanted to check out the tour as well.  If you plan on visiting Bryce, I would highly recommend the free tour.  This is separate from the regular shuttle that just takes you to the overlooks. It is called the Rainbow Point tour, and lasts three hours.

This is the view from Rainbow Point, elevation 9115 feet.  The park borders Dixie National Forest, and off into the distance is Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument.

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This is the view at Agua Canyon, elevation 8800 feet.  Can you see the “face” in the rock formation on the left?

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The Natural Bridge is at elevation 8627 feet.

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The view at Bryce Point, elevation 8296 feet, is one of the prettiest in the park, containing many hoodoos.  You can hike down into the canyon to get a better view of the rock formations.

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More views at Bryce Point…

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There are over 60 miles of hiking trails in the park, and someday we will return to hike down into the canyon for a closer look at these amazing hoodoo formations.

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One thing I want to point out for anyone traveling to Bryce Canyon in an RV, they have two arches that you have to drive through to get to the park.  For whatever reason, they have signs stating 13 feet, 6 inches.  This would give pause to anyone driving an RV, particularly a fifth wheel.  The height of our 5th wheel is 13-3.  I’m not sure who did the measuring, but as you can see from Tom and Ellen’s fifth wheel going through the arch, there is plenty of room.

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If you are interested in Astronomy, they have special programs at the park in June; and in July, they have programs for those interested in Geology.  We plan on coming back to the park someday to hike down into the canyon.

Quote for the Day:  “Stepping out onto any lookout, you are invited to connect with an amazing example of some of the most unusual terrain on this planet, making you feel as though you are stepping foot on the edge of another world.” – Stefanie Payne

 

 

 

A quick trip to Page, Arizona

We had a one-day stop in Page, Arizona, with our friends Tom and Ellen, and certainly made the best of a rainy day, with a quick trip between storms to see Horseshoe Bend Overlook and tour Lower Antelope Canyon.  The scenery was spectacular, even if the weather was not co-operating.

HORSESHOE BEND OVERLOOK

Horseshoe Bend Overlook is where the Colorado River makes a 270 degree bend around the rocks in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.  I’ve seen many photographs of this area, but never really knew where it was.  The orange rock is Navajo Sandstone.

After you park and walk up a small hill, you are greeted with this view.  If you look closely, you can see dozens of people in the middle right of the picture.

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All those people were looking at this:

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Horseshoe Bend Overlook

If you look really close at the above picture, down at the bottom of the middle, you may notice a couple of yellow kayaks.  Here is a zoomed in photo:

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Yes, there were people tent camping right on the bend.  And, there is even an outhouse down there (not sure who gets to clean that!).  I think this would be an amazing spot to kayak and tent camp overnight at.  Not sure if this requires a special permit or not.

Even though they charge $11.00 for parking, it is definitely worth a stop to see this overlook…even in the rain!

LOWER ANTELOPE CANYON TOUR

We were scheduled for a late afternoon tour of Lower Antelope Canyon, but it was cancelled due to the rain.  Flash flooding is a serious concern, and several people were killed a few years ago when the canyon flooded before they could get out.  This is why the only way to enter the canyon now, is with a guided tour.  Fortunately, we were able to reschedule the next morning.

Lower Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon, made out of Navajo Sandstone.  The tour takes about one hour, and you will walk approximately one mile.  There are stairs leading down into the canyon, and back out of the canyon.  In between, you have many slots to pass through.  It’s not recommended for people who are claustrophobic, but the beauty of the canyon may keep your mind off the fact that you are in a small space.  My photos really do not do justice to the colors of the sandstone.

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Going down into the canyon

There are many narrow passages…

 

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Lots of different formations made over time by the wind and water coming through the canyon…

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The light shining down from above, creates different shades of color throughout the day…

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Canyon Arch

Before they added stairs, visitors would climb up the rocks using the gouges in the rocks shown below.

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We had a great time during our all too brief visit to Page.  There are many things to do in the area, and we are considering stopping back in the fall on our way back to Arizona.  But work beckons, so we had to keep going on our journey.  Stay tuned…

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Dan, Jonell, Ellen and Tom

Quote for the Day:  “All the lessons are in nature.  You look at the way rocks are formed – the wind and the water hitting them, shaping them, making them what they are.  Things take time, you know?” – Diane Lane

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring the national forests

While Grand Teton National Park offers many excellent hiking trails for all levels of abilities, we have decided this summer to spend more time away from the crowds on the trails of the US Forest Service.  The trails, while still being well-maintained and most have vault toilets near the trail head (something that I prefer), are seldom used by the tourists.  If you only have a limited amount of time in the park, most visitors will do the “popular” park trails.  But if you have more time in an area, or want a more “serene” experience, then check out the forest service trails.

Our first hike, with our co-workers Shawn and Erin, was a trailhead behind Togwotee Mountain Lodge, at an elevation of 8654 feet.  Brad, our boss and life-long resident in this area, recommended this trail to us, and said it’s “about 6 miles,” and “all downhill.”  Since this was going to be a one-way, downhill  hike, we left one vehicle down near Turpin Meadows, and took the other car up to Togwotee.

The wildflowers were in full bloom, which made the hike extra special.  Even the vault toilet at the trailhead was surrounded by flowers.

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The Grand Tetons, about 45 miles away, are peeking out over the forest, with wildflowers covering the hills.

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Erin, Shawn and Dan, on our “downhill” hike…

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We made it down to the river.  You can see where we started, by the red X in the photo.  Dan checked his elevation app that he has on his phone, and it said we were down to 6800 feet, from the 8600 feet when we started.

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But once we made it down to the river, we realized the trail did not follow along the river, but instead went straight up a hill.  Brad and Joanne don’t go hiking, they take their horses and go riding in the forest.  That should have been our clue when he said it was all downhill…..!

So off we went up a steep hill, only to realize once we were at the top, there was another one we had to climb as well!  It was a bit of a struggle, as I checked my Fitbit, and we had already hiked over 6 miles.  Once we made it to the top of the second hill, Dan’s app read 7800 feet.  But we could finally see the end in sight.  In the photo below, our car is where the red mark is.  Only a few more miles…

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All together, the “6 mile, all downhill” hike that Brad recommended, was 8 1/4 miles, with 1800 feet downhill, followed by 1000 feet uphill and another 1000 feet downhill.  When we mentioned to Brad about the uphill portion, he said “oh yeah, but it’s only 20 minutes,” to which we replied “if you’re on a horse!”  But the spectacular views, and seeing the wildflowers in full bloom, was well worth it.  And we were the only ones on this hike.  We had the forest to ourselves!

BROOKS LAKE/JADE LAKE HIKE

Dan and I spent another one of our off days taking advantage of another forest service hike, at Brooks Lake, which is part of the Continental Divide Trail.

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The loop trail starts at an elevation of 9100 feet, and is relatively flat for the first 1/2 mile.  Then you climb 700 feet in one mile, which may not sound like much, but when you are starting out at such a high elevation to begin with, it really gets your heart rate elevated. We had to go up and over the tree line in the photo below.

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We took it slow, and stopped several times.  Dan asked if I wanted to turn around, but this time we knew that once we made it to the top, the remaining five miles would be relatively easy.  After 40 minutes, we finally made it to the top.  Then it was just a another mile until we got our first view of Upper Jade Lake, which was spectacular.

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The trail gradually descended down to the lake.  The wildflowers were just past their peak, but still pretty.

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We had to cross over the river between upper and lower Jade Lake, and the trail wound around lower Jade Lake.

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The trail crossed over the river two more times, before going out into a meadow for the last mile of the trail.  I managed to make three of the four river crossings without a problem.  On the last crossing, one of the rocks that I stepped on moved, and down I went into the river!  The water was cold, but it was so hot out, it was actually refreshing.  And on a positive note, I discovered the hiking “fanny pack” that I use, is waterproof, as everything inside the bag was dry.

Since the last mile was out in the open, I was able to dry out a little on the way back to the truck.  We had a nice view of Brooks Lake on the way back.  Our truck was parked on the other side of the lake.  I usually bring a change of shoes/socks when we hike, but from now on, it will include a complete change of clothes!

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WORK UPDATE

We continue to be busy at Luton’s Teton Cabins, at least for another week.  Then we enter the “change-over” of the summer, when kids are back to school, so the family vacations end, and the “newlyweds and nearly deads” begin their vacations.  We will have about one week when our occupancy is light.  It will be a much appreciated break, as our cabins are full for the month of September.  The downtime will give us time to clean and prepare the truck and fifth wheel for our trip to Arizona for the winter.

Quote for the Day:  “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir

The Little Rock Nine

Prior to our arrival in Little Rock, Arkansas, I had made a reservation with the National Park Service to visit Little Rock Central High School, which is both a historical landmark and an operating high school.  During the school year, tours are only offered twice a day, and only while the school is in session.  Reservations are required.  Across the street from the school, the Park Service has a visitor center with exhibits, and many audio recordings to listen to from the students, teachers, and residents of Little Rock that give first hand stories about the events that happened in 1957.  For us, this was one of the most impressive and informative National Park Service tours we have ever attended.

Little Rock Central High School was built-in 1928 at a cost of $1.2 million (yes, that’s million…in 1928!)  It is the most impressive high school we have ever seen.  At the time our of tour, there was a group of students from Chicago on a field trip, and they were amazed at the school.  Since it is an operating school, the tour is very limited to the main entrance, the auditorium and the cafeteria.  We would have loved to roam the halls of the building.  You could just feel the history.  Other than security cameras and elevators, it seems to have been left in its original state.  The staircases had wooden banisters, and the auditorium still had the original wooden seats.  It has a current enrollment of 2422 students for grades 9 – 12.  The school continues to thrive today, and is considered one of the 16 best schools to prepare students for college with over 177 different courses offered, 30 advanced placement classes, and five foreign languages taught.

The school is so big, I had to do a panoramic shot to get the entire front of the building in the photo.  There are over 100 classrooms in the building.  There were about 60 people in our tour group, and I think all of us said “wow” when we first saw the school, except for the one student from Chicago who remarked ‘our school is trash compared to this!’

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Here is a close-up of the middle section of the school, where the main entrance is.

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So why is this the only high school in America designated as a National Park?  Time for a brief history lesson.

“We the people” are the first three words of the Constitution as it was written in 1787.  But who does “we” represent?   White male landowners.  Over time, through amendments to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights,  the definition of “we” has expanded.   Some of these rights came as a result of protest, and the visitors center has details about how the rights of people have expanded as a result of individuals protesting.   Through protest, comes change.

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In 1954, the US Supreme Court outlawed segregation in elementary and secondary schools in the Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case.  The schools in the Southern states were slow to begin the process of integrating schools, which would allow students to go to the school in their own neighborhood, instead of getting bused across town.

The Little Rock school board quietly discussed how to integrate students at the high school level, and announced it would accept African-American students at Central High School.  But they only wanted a limited number of students, and would only accept those who had straight A’s and perfect attendance.  Over 200 students applied, and the school board realized that was too many.  So they continued to raise the bar on the standards.  No African American student would be allowed to participate in any athletic or club event.  No after school activities.  The students were only allowed to attend school, and must leave immediately at the end of the school day.  Eventually only 10 students were left.

This integration did not sit well with Arkansas Governor Faubus, and he ordered the National Guard to bar the African-American students from school.  On September 3, 1957, a mob gathered outside the school, along with the National Guard.  One of the parents of the 10 students, after seeing the angry mob, decided against sending their daughter to that school.  Nine students were left, but they did not attend the first day of school.

On the second day of school, the Arkansas National Guard barred the students from entering the school.  These 9 students were harassed, spit upon, and shoved around as they walked towards school.  Not by fellow students, but by the parents and community members that gathered daily around the school.  By September 20, a Federal judge rules against the use of the National Guard, and the Little Rock Police were responsible for the students safety.   On September 23, the Little Rock Nine (Terrence Roberts, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Minnijean Brown, Jefferson  Thomas, Carlotta Walls, Gloria Ray and Melba Pattillo) finally entered the high school.  But the local police were overwhelmed by the angry mob and a riot broke out.  The police removed the students from the school.

By this time, media from around the country were broadcasting multiple times a day from the school.  A local gas station, which had a pay telephone, was set up for the reporters.  That gas station, across from the school, has been preserved as part of the history. (gas was 22 cents a gallon, by the way!)

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People around the country were both horrified and supportive of what they were seeing coming out of Little Rock.  But President Eisenhower had seen enough, and federalized the Arkansas National Guard.  In addition, he sent in 1200 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division to restore order and protect the students.  The soldiers escorted students into the school, and remained inside the hallways of the school to protect the nine students.  The soldiers were not allowed inside the classrooms or bathrooms of the school.  As a result, the nine students were physically and verbally abused in the classrooms and bathrooms by fellow students.

In 1957, there were around 2000 students attending the high school.  About 200 of the students were constantly harassing the nine students.  In listening to the audio recordings of the Little Rock Nine detailing their experiences, it wasn’t the action of the 200 students that bothered them, as much as the inaction of the 1800 students that just stood by and did nothing.  They called them the silent majority.

One of the nine students was expelled, after she was physically assaulted by a group of female students.  She did not physically retaliate, but called them “white trash.”  After her expulsion, students passed out cards stating ‘one down, eight to go.’  By November, the Airborne Division leaves, and the nine students continue to endure verbal and physical assaults for the remainder of the school year.

On May 25, 1958, Ernest Green became the first African-American student to graduate from Central High School.  In attendance at his graduation, was a man who wanted to watch this historical event, Dr. Martin Luther King.

But that’s not the end of this fight for integration.  Governor Faubus shut down all the schools in Little Rock for the 1958-59 school year, in order to block the integration of the school district.  A Federal Court ruled the closing of the schools was unconstitutional, and the schools reopened in August 1959.

All of the Little Rock Nine not only graduated from high school (not all from Central), but went on to college and had very successful careers.  Jefferson Thomas passed away in 2010 from cancer, but the other eight are still alive.

If you are ever in the Little Rock, Arkansas area, please try to do this tour.  Even if you only have time to look at the exhibits in the visitors center, it is worth the time.  What these students had to endure was truly heartbreaking, but their will to persevere is inspirational.

 

Quote for the day:  “Any time it takes 11,500 soldiers to assure nine Negro children their constitutional rights in a democratic society, I can’t be happy.”  – Daisy L. Gatson Bates

 

 

 

Cousins come a callin’

First off, thank you for all the wonderful comments, e-mails and telephone calls from our last blog post.  It really meant a lot.

Dan’s cousins, Roni and Jodi, made a long road trip from the Twin Cities to come out and visit with us for two days.  We tried to pack as much as we could in the short amount of time they had, and we think we succeeded.  The only thing they were not able to check off their list was seeing a grizzly bear.

We spent the first day on a quick tour of Grand Teton National Park, trying to stop at some of  the highlights: Colter Bay, Jackson Lake Lodge, Signal Mountain, String Lake, Jenny Lake, Lupine Meadows, The Chapel of Transfiguration, Schwabacher Landing, etc…

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Dan, Jodi, Roni

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After seeing some of  the highlights, we stopped in Moose for a little pizza at Dornan’s.  While sitting outside we were briefly entertained by a fox walking near the deck.

DSC04474 (2)The next morning we headed up to Yellowstone, making a few stops in the Tetons to view a herd of Elk,

P1000307 (2)followed by a mama and baby moose!

P1000363 (2)And no morning is complete without a stop at Oxbow Bend, with the low-lying clouds covering parts of Mt Moran.

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Yellowstone was pretty busy, but Roni said she had “positive vibes”, especially after our wonderful start to the day.  She was right, and we never had issues finding parking spots!  Our wildlife sightings continued, with an Osprey in a nest,

P1000516 (2)and a lone buffalo taking a nap along the side of the road!

P1000500 (2)The cousins were impressed with the view of the Lower Falls.

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I think Roni and Jodi may have a new future career in the park service!

P1000472 (2)No stop to Yellowstone is complete without a visit to Old Faithful.  It was Roni’s first time seeing the geyser go off.  Despite its name, it did not erupt until 25 minutes after its scheduled time.  The crowd of thousands was growing very restless, and a lot of cheers erupted when it finally went off.  Roni said it was worth the wait!

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Although their visit was very short, we had a wonderful time and are thankful Roni and Jodi decided to venture out west to see us!  Our door is always open for our family and friends to visit!

Quote for the day:  “Nobody will understand the craziness of your family better than your cousins.” – unknown