The year was 1982. The date was May the 15th. And on that day Elizabeth Jane Beal took the hand of Michael Alfred Francis Breiding and said "I do". Little did either of know what that would mean.
Now 32 years later we are going back to the beginning. That beginning was Canyonlands National Park where we kicked off what was to be a Honeymoon which would last 7 weeks and cover 17 states.
During the planning of this Sentimental Journey I have thought much about what it would be like and what it would mean to us to return to this spot after so many years.
I have found the tired old phrase "You can't go home again." to be very true, especially when returning to favorite places relished once upon a time. More often than not sweet memories cannot live up to currently reality and rarely do they stand the test of time.
So, we shall see what this will be like, the "going back home" to that little campground atop Island in the Sky. Where, a newly weds and newly birders we watched the Violet-green swallows flit about at eye level and delighted in the nasal "peent" of the Nighhawks as they zoomed back and forth and shared with us that sweeping vista and the 1000 foot sheer drop at our feet.
Then there were the early mornings cuddling while we listened to the lovely call of the Gambles Quail.
Simply amazing. And all of it so very new to us.
Will these "sweet memories" stand the test of time?
We shall see...
Our third winter in Southeast Arizona was the best so far. Exceptionally warm weather and of course the predictably sunny days week in and week out. The Tucson area had the warmest February on record which meant every day basking in the late afternoon sun with our traditional beers and fresh made guacamole. Tough life.
The nice weather also meant Betsy would have a pleasant clime to recuperate from her surgery. She spent the winter taking neighborhood walks and then eased into hiking. There were also trips to the gym and line dancing classes which helped with getting her strength and stamina back. We were both very glad she did not have to make her recovery in cold and snow covered Morgantown.
So, what was that nasty little lump they cut out of her lung?
After the sample made a trip to microbiology it was determined to be blastomycosis. This a rare type of fungal pneumonia caused by breathing in the airborne spores of the Blastomyces dermatitidis fungus. The fungus is found in decaying wood/leaves and soil. It is common in the Great Lakes area. I would imagine Betsy contracted it while on one of our many hikes/bikes in MN, WI or the Upper Peninsula.
In order to get rid of the infection she was prescribed a 6 month regimen of the drug Itraconazole. The $12,000 worth of medication she is taking also works with Valley Fever which is fairly widespread in the southwest, but it is not preventative.
Ok, here comes the "Back Home..." part.
Betsy and I departed Green Valley on March 29th. Our plan was to spend the first night in Tuba City which is about 5 hours north of Tucson. An early departure saw us arriving there much earlier than planned. And the hotel where we had booked a room was closed for the afternoon and would not reopen for 3 hours. After looking around Tuba and looking at the clock we decided to push on north. But - where? We were strangers here and had no idea which of the small towns to the north had accommodations.
We had to make a pit stop so we went over to the Denny's and I asked one of the wait staff about places to stay in Kayenta which was about an hour and half to the north east. The waitress said she thought there were 4 motels there so we decided to check Kayenta out.
On order to keep Betsy happy I have delegated the hotel selection to her on all trips hence forth. This was a smart move on my part and long over due.
After a drive through, the Wetherill Inn was chosen. All was well until two families moved into the two rooms over us and it was nothing but noise until almost 10:00.
Seeing and hearing this passel of kids and remembering all the families we saw at the Sunset Point Rest Area on the way up we knew something was up.
And indeed it was - Spring Break!! Bummer, Dude...
The brats finally settled down and we got some sleep.
The next morning we were up and out at daybreak and soon on our way to one of the most famous places in the American Southwest - Monument Valley.
Click on the photos below for a larger image.
A mere 20 miles from the hotel in Kayenta and we crossed into Utah and shortly there after - Monument Valley.
This is one of several shots in Monument Valley, Utah. I call it "The Best of the Worst". The early hour and cloud cover made every shot look worse than the next. So they all went in the trash except for this one.
A web worthy photo shoot of Monument Valley will have to wait until another day.
Monument Valley is officially a large area that includes much of the area surrounding Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, a Navajo Nation equivalent to a national park. Oljato, for example, is also within the area designated as Monument Valley.
Visitors may pay an access fee and drive through the park on a 17-mile (27 km) dirt road (a 2-3 hour trip). Parts of Monument Valley are accessible only by guided tour, such as Mystery Valley and Hunts Mesa.
Navajo Name: Tse'Bii'Ndzisgaii
Elevation: 5,564' above sea level
Size: 91,696 acres
(extends into Arizona & Utah)
And here it is - the Mexican Hat. Near here is the Valley of the Gods, Fish Creek Canyon and Grand Gulch. Lots to see and do. This area is now on my list of places to revisit.
The Chuska Mts made a nice backdrop for this interesting, stand alone formation. It instantly reminded me of a painting by Mary Rodd Furbee entitled "Breiding's Fixation".
Both Mary and husband Mike knew I was great admirer of the female form and I was quite flattered and touched to have a painting named for me.
by Mary Rodd Furbee
Mary Rodd Furbee was an author, editor, television producer, and university professor. Furbee earned a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in journalism from West Virginia University. Living and working in Morgantown, West Virginia, Furbee was the PR/alumni development specialist for the West Virginia School of Journalism as well as a teacher of beat reporting in addition to writing books for children and occasional articles for periodical publication.
She has published eight books for young readers, focusing on women in Appalachia and in United States history. Her books focus on stories that inspire-ordinary people who have largely been overlooked by history. The stories she chooses tend to be about women, women who ignored society's rules about "proper" feminine behavior and managed to accomplish great things by being true to themselves.
She has written a series of books "Outrageous Women" in history, including Outrageous Women of Colonial America, Outrageous Women of the American Frontier, and Outrageous Women of the Civil War. She has also written the stories of individual women - Nancy Ward and the Cherokee Nation; Anne Bailey: Frontier Scout; Shawnee Captive: The Story of Mary Draper Ingles.
Mary Furbee has also written a travel book for adults-The Complete Guide to West Virginia Inns. In addition, Furbee wrote non-fiction columns and articles for various periodical publications, including the Washington Post, The Progressive, and Goldenseal.
Source: Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library
Mary passed away in 2004 at the tender age of 49. We miss her still...
After departing Mexican Hat we continued the 20 miles east on US 163 to its junction with US 191. This 105 mile drive would take us right into Moab which is the gateway to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.
When we arrived on the southern outskirts of Moab I was shocked by the amount of sprawl. YIKES! The downtown area looked like formerly sleepy little Moab was a wanna be Gatlinburg and doing a good job of it at that. We both shuddered to think what it must be like during high season - grid lock!
We did not dally there and headed straight up to the Willow Flats campground where we had spent several idyllic nights on our Honeymoon - now 32 years ago.
We were both getting butterflies on the drive up wondering if there would be any sites left. There were!
We were lucky to get the best of the empty sites. But as we later found, another site might have been more agreeable to us.
I found this in a box of memorabilia from our Honeymoon.
It is from Zion National Park where we camped after we left Canyonlands.
Yes, that day in May of 1982 Betsy was "Queen of the Desert"
My how that little campground had changed! When we stayed here in 1982 there were no ramadas. The access into the campground was a dirt road. Now it is paved. The old 55 gallon drum used for a garbage can had been replaced with 3 fancy new recycling containers.
And the road which used to dead end at the campground now went down to the Green River overlook where there was a huge parking lot, rest rooms, and barricades at the cliff edge. When Betsy and I were here in 1982 everyone walked down to the overlook from the campground area.
The wind was howling and the dust and debris were blowing so we decided to delay setting up camp and take a walk down to the Green River overlook.
Although the railing was not there in 1982, the view certainly had not changed. It is 1000' to the bottom!
Here is the same view on May 21st 1982.
At that time it was completely undeveloped.
As you can see, the air quality is not what it used to be. But that may change.
See: EPA Sets Final Haze Rules for Navajo Power Plant
Click on the image to read the details.
It was still unbelievably windy and there were gusts up to 50 mph. Considering this, we decided to delay setting up the tent and visit the new visitors' center and go for a short hike. This visitors' center opened in 2008, just 6 years ago.
A birds-eye view of the Island in the Sky visitors' center.
The Shafer Canyon overlook trail is directly across from the visitors' center.
When we were last here in 1982 this was a tiny cabin outpost where the part time rangers stayed. And it only had a small dirt parking lot which was along the then dirt road.
The part time rangers there helped us out with a hiking guide we did not know existed. You can download it here.
Don'tja just love that handsomely drawn cover!?
This was the guide we used in 1982 and the one which led us to the Syncline Canyon Trail hike. In 1982 we were young and fit, but new to desert hiking and the 8 mile Syncline Canyon Trail nearly did us in. We are a bit better at it now...
A quick look back...
When we left Canyonlands in 1982 the next stop on our 7 week 17 state Honeymoon was Zion National Park. We stayed there for 5 nights. We had a beautiful campsite which is pictured below.
We were lucky to find a really nice spot in the "tents only" loop back up against the rock face. The yellow tent in the center is our North Face VE-24 we are still using to this day. The car to the right of it is the Subaru DL 4 door sedan which I owned at the time. It seems tiny now but it suited our needs back then.
The site next to us was occupied by a couple from Colorado by the name of Suzanne and Bill. We never got their last names. We spent some time visiting with them and shared a campfire with them one evening. You have to remember, in 1982 our North Face VE-24 tent was cutting edge and state of the art. Not many outside the mountaineering community had them. And Suzanne and Bill sure didn't. They were both quite tall and athletic and when we saw them get into their pup tent one night we laughed - they bulged the sides out and you could see the outline of each of them. Now that's what I call too close for comfort!
At some point Bill and Suzanne mentioned they would be visiting Canyonlands and we told them about the quiet and isolated Willow Flats primitive camp site. And in spite of the ranger asking us not to, we mentioned we had been given the draft trail guide. They asked if they could borrow it so as to make a copy to take with them to Canyonlands. I agreed and they sent it back to us as promised.
When it came back there was a note inside the Trail Guide:
Over the 30 plus years I have wondered more than once whatever became of Suzanne and Bill. I am sure we will never know.
OK. Back to 2014!
The Google maps terrain view clearly shows the sharp drop off and the multiple switchbacks of the Shafer Canyon Road as it quickly falls 1,200 feet to the river below.
This is the view from the beginning of the 1/4 mile long Shafer Canyon overlook trail. Those are the La Sal Mountains in the background. Still lotsa snow up there!
We always enjoy the geology of places we visit. The layers of Jurassic Navajo Sandstone are talked about in depth along with much, much more in this NPS publication: Geologic road guide to the Shafer trail, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands NP
Here is the Shafer Canyon Road as it switchbacks off the mesa.
The Shafer Canyon road connects to the 100 mile long White Rim road which loops around and below the Island mesa top. The White Rim Road is considered moderately difficult for high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles. We saw numerous late model SUVs making their way down the dusty road.
On the right you can see White Rim Road disappearing from view.
These folks were on their way back from taking in the stupendous views of the canyons of the Colorado River.
From there we decided to head out to Upheaval Dome and hike part of the Syncline Loop Trail. The wind was picking up now and 50mph gusts nearly knocked us off our feet. We were being pelted with dust and other debris and this was wreaking havoc on Betsy's eyes and contact lenses. We finally turned around and headed back to the campground.
When we got back to our campsite at Willow Flats it was still blowing a gale. The wind chill and dust made it a bit unpleasant.
The mesa, including the campground, is populated by these ancient junipers. I am sure this one is 100s of years old.
Here is a snippet from Betsy's Journal. It picks up at the campground.
Now we are sitting in the car, drinking beer and watching things blow around, including the heavy metal trunk we scrounged from Curt and Karen (from Green Valley) which blew right off the picnic table!
The van is rocking. We feel like we're in * Kansas!
We were hoping the wind would die down so we could set up the tent, but it didn't. So we finally bit the bullet and began struggling with the tent. We had wanted to pitch it in among the junipers as we remembered doing on our honeymoon. But the soil was so hard packed that Mike couldn't get the stakes pounded in. We moved the tent out into the open where the ground seemed softer and were able to get it pitched with large stones holding down extra lines on the fly.
Too windy for the propane stove, so we sat in the van and ate cold spaghetti. Not quite what we had envisioned for our first night in Canyonlands. But tomorrow is supposed to be sunny with a high of 57 and just light winds. Sounds like we should be able to handle that!
Source: Betsy's Utah Journal
* What Betsy is referring to here is our 1997 Road Trip which took us across the midwest states. Below is a snippet from her 06 June 1997 journal entry.
By late afternoon we arrived in Marysville, Kansas, looking for a place to stay. As we approached the town, things looked more & more ominous weather wise. Lightening cracked, the skies were dark.
Suddenly all hell broke loose! Police ahead of us were waving motorists to the side of the road. As we pulled over, the wind increased.
Trees bent & things flew through the air. The rain beat down so hard we couldn't see out of the car-then it changed to hail. The car began to rock and I was afraid we would go over at any moment. Later we found that a tornado had touched down just southeast of us. I never want to be that close to a tornado again.
I got the stakes driven in with a small hand sledge but I was not convinced they would hold. The only solution I could come up with was to anchor the tent with some big rocks. This we did and then just kept our fingers crossed as we watched the tent lean in the wind.
By now the sun was setting so we hustled down to the Green Valley Overlook to take in the view.
The setting sun was really lighting things up.
Some of those distant cloud formations looked like rain makers to me.
We stayed for the last few rays of sun then headed back to the site and crawled into the tent. It was still very windy and the temperature was dropping. We had all the blankets piled on top of the sleeping bags. We were glad we had the extra blankets.
Back in 1982 were heard not a sound while cozied up in out tent. This time there was the screaming and fighting from the 4 brats in the site across from us. The parents did nothing to alleviate this racket and we laid in the tent and listened to it for a good long while.
Later that night I awoke to a sound I was sure I would not here in such a remote area - a car alarm. Now what kind of asshole would think they needed to use it way out here. Pathetic.
When we got up the next morning it was 27 degrees at 6am. Brrr...
We already had all our hiking gear in the van so we made a hasty departure and headed down to Moab and a hot breakfast.
I braved the wind and low temps only long enough to grab this sunrise shot.
After breakfast we headed over to the Arches NP visitors' center. This is just few miles north of Moab.
Here Betsy stands under a mock up of the world famous Delicate Arch which we hiked out to in 1982. It was on today's itinerary and we were both looking forward to seeing this monumental arch again.
In the center of the visitor center plaza was this al fresco diorama.
This shiny fellow was smooth as glass from the unknown thousands of caresses.
Typical raven posturing. These birds were everywhere and always on the lookout for a handout or some left behind crumbs.
The access road to Arches goes up, over and through the rock face which towers over the visitors' center.
A look back at the visitors' center from the park access road.
The cars were lining up behind us, so I pulled over to let a few pass.
The first views of the valley floor are quite dramatic. Betsy and I both remembered this view with the "Three Sisters" on the left and "Courthouse Towers" on the right.
A closer look at the 300+' tall Courthouse Towers.
The fins and columns and other shapes were getting fantastical!
Betsy got this shot on our way to the Double O Arch trailhead. How I missed this fabulous shot I do not know.
The snow covered peaks may be another view of the La Sal Mountains.
As might be expected it is difficult to convey the beauty, size and complexity of all the rock formations with these itty-bitty photos. Clicking on them to see the bigger ones might give you a better idea.
And there it is - one of the numerous arches in the park.
Arches National Park has the densest concentration of natural stone arches in the world. There are over 2,000 documented arches in the park, ranging from sliver-thin cracks to spans greater than 300 feet (97 m). How did so many arches form? More...
Stages of arch formation: Rainwater dissolves sandstone, widening cracks to form fins. An alcove eroded in the base of a fin might grow to form an arch before finally collapsing.
Here we are at the Devil's Garden Trailhead parking area. From here one can hike to several famous arches including Landscape Arch and Double O Arch.
Once again this reminded me of Mary's painting shown above.
Up until now I had been using my Canon S100 for my digi-snaps. This was the last one. Why? Because for the third time the camera failed when powering up. Twice before when powering up the lens would partially extend and then lock up which disabled the camera. Twice it was sent back for repairs. And now a third failure exhibiting the exact same problems.
The last time this happened I was shooting in Red Rock Canyon State Park near Mojave CA. On that trip I had flown, not driven. I don't pack my big Canon XTi SLR when I fly. But, when I drive - I do!
Disgruntled and very pissed off I left Betsy on the trail and hustled back to the van. I had to partially unpack it, open the floor and dig it out to get to the XTi. But I was mighty glad to have it. This process took long enough Betsy came back to the van to make sure all was well.
By now there was nearly a traffic jam in the parking lot and there was a crowd gathered at the trail head rest rooms and water fountain. Yes - we picked the perfect time to visit - the height of Spring Break. BigFatBummer!!!!!
OK. Now we are back in business! Let the shooting commence. Another of the many gorgeous views from the clotted parking area.
Since we last visited in 1982 the visitation at Arches has surpassed 1,000,000 annually. Here is the chicken-before-the-egg question: Were all the improvements like rest rooms, water fountains, parking for 100s of cars, ADA trails and facilities built before the increase in visitors, or after the increase?
This is one of the important question of our times...
Here is the obligatory shot of some of the vegetation. I did not recognize either plant.
Our first, second look at Landscape Arch.
This Arch is only .7 miles from the parking area so just about anyone can pay homage. And just about anyone did! Some of the folks we saw looked like they had just stepped off the golf course. Others looked like they had just finished their third feeding at the Shoney's buffet.
A very beautiful arch indeed.
Back in 1982 there was not fencing preventing one from exploring the base of the arch and getting a closer look. But I imaging after several morons tried to walk across the arch the NPS decided it would be a good idea to fence the area.
We talked a bit with these old folks and then I snapped a shot of them. They referred to themselves as the Robust Elderly. Cute couple...
After departing the viewing area for Lansdscape Arch (which was beginning to look like a busy bus stop in the Mission) we started the ascent up the side ridge where the views would really open up.
We had lots of company.
The shot looks back down towards the viewing area for Landscape Arch. What mountains are those in the distance? The La Sals again? It got confusing.
Beautiful! Gnarly! Ancient!
I thought this was really bizarre! It looked like someone had jammed a slice of pie into the top of the rock. Where is a geologist when you need one...?
This plant we recognized - Mormon Tea (Ephedra funerea). It grows in the Sonoran Desert so Betsy and I had seen lots of it over the winter. The stem was buried in wind blown sand and I wondered how deep.
That is the well used path in front of us. It was mostly easy going the whole way. There was one place which dropped about 10' off the fin to a lower trails section and that required a little bit of a scramble.
Fins galore! Remember, at one time that was one solid block of sandstone.
There were several unofficial trails leading down into this area. It would have been fun to explore.
It was not easy to quit shooting so I didn't.
The intrepid Miss Winky!
There was a steady procession of people all the way out and all the way back.
Our first look at the Double O Arch.
There were lots of folks taking this opportunity to have lunch and take some snaps.
This must be one of the members of the Hole in the Wall Gang.
Another snippet from Betsy's journal:
There was some rock scrambling and walking out across narrow "fins" of rock that were rather unnerving, but the ground was not so far away that I couldn't do it.
I think when we were here on our honeymoon we did the whole seven mile hike which included the Primitive Loop.
Out at the Double O Arch we had an interesting conversation with an older man (probably about our age!) who was going to train as a volunteer ranger at the Colorado National Monument. What a fun thing to do!
When we got back to the trailhead, the parking area was absolutely packed. What must this place be like in summer? Yikes!
We decided to drive over to the parking area for the ranch and Delicate Arch to sit and have a bit of lunch before we headed out on our next hike. Not nearly so many cars there.
True, there were "Not nearly so many cars there". That's because the parking lot was much smaller. It was jammed full and I was dubious about finding an empty spot. But we got lucky.
After lunch and a pit stop we started down the trail to the world famous Delicate Arch.
Just a short distance from the parking area is the remains of the old Wolfe Ranch.
This humble, one-room cabin sits near the present-day trailhead for the hike to Delicate Arch. Visitors regularly peer through the doorway and wonder aloud, "Who lived here... and how?... And why?"
In 1898, a nagging leg injury from the Civil War prompted 69-year-old John Wesley Wolfe to leave his home in Ohio and seek a drier climate. He brought his oldest son, Fred, with him out west, and the two settled a 100+-acre property along Salt Wash, just north of the sleepy little village of Moab. The property had fresh water, enough grassland to feed a few head of cattle, and plenty of peace and quiet. For nearly a decade, they lived and worked alone on the remote "Bar DX" ranch.
In'82 we picked up an interpretive brochure which I recently found. There is a copy here.
When Betsy and I were here in 1982 you could walk right into this "cold cellar". Not so now.
Betsy and I both remembered the hike to Delicate Arch as a long, hot trudge. Not so now. Like two cords of old firewood we are much more seasoned today and the hike seemed almost short.
Click on this and check out the interesting geology.
Some people just can't resist making their mark on nature. Unnecessary cairns seemed to be a popular way to do this.
How clever - someone made an arch.
There were a number of old juniper skeletons lying about, bleaching in the hot sun.
Time for a rest stop. We saw all ages, shapes and sizes on this hike. Some were nearly trotting, others looked like they were ready to collapse.
The last pitch up to the arch led up these step and along a cliff edge. The exposure freaked out Betsy.
There were kids scambling everywhere off trail. Where were the parents?
Just around the bend is one of the most amazing views anyone will see anywhere.
She made it! But Betsy was still spooked by the exposure and would go no further.
The area was crawling with people all getting shots for their fellow face-bookers.
On the way back to the campground we stopped for a snap or two. This formation is called "Balance Rock". We could not figger out why.
Just off to the right and down slope is the Garden of Eden and the Cove of Caves. Sounds inviting, doesn't it?
Back at the campground we cooked beans and onions and grilled kielbasa on a juniper campfire where we sat until dusk. Even the kids were much subdued after Mike said something to the dad.
We had decided we would not stay at the campground for the third night as we had previously planned. We would pack up in the morning, hike all day at Canyonlands, then drive up to the interstate (70) to find a motel for the night. So we packed as much as we could that night which was good, because here's what happened the next day. I guess you could say it was Mother Nature playing an April Fool trick on Mike and Betsy.
We had a really nice fire that night, much of it provided by this old juniper Betsy is working on. I never realized she was so skilled with a bow saw!
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
During the night the wind rose again. It was so strong that during some of the gusts we felt that we were the only thing keeping the VE 24 from becoming air born!
By morning there seemed to be no change in wind velocity. We decided that hiking would be impossible so we packed up as best we could and headed for the interstate.
At that point we decided we were on our way home!
Our trip through western Colorado offered more beautiful mountain scenery. There was a lot of snow through the Vail Pass and ski resort areas. I reminisced about my skiing adventures in grad school.
We drove until around 5:00 and ended up at an Econolodge in Limon. Co. Eastern Colorado is flat, flat, flat! ~Finis
And so ends the trip down memory lane. Yep, it's true - you can't go home again. But, you can get close...
'Till next time...