Sunday Sermon

“There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary, and we’ll doubt our abilities to make our way through the uncertainty. Someone, somewhere, will say, ‘Don’t do it. You don’t have what it takes to survive the wilderness.’ This is when you reach up deep inside your heart and remind yourself. ‘I am the wilderness.'”

 

 

 

 

 

–Brené Brown

Thanksgiving 2017: Sunset Crater

After heading north from Montezuma Castle, newly armed with an America the Beautiful Pass, I headed for Sunset Crater National Monument. I knew I was running a bit short on daylight for making both Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments (they’re located on the same loop road).

Because I was short on time (and because Sprocket wasn’t allowed on the trails), I just hiked the really short A’a trail. It was super short but it did get down into the lava flow and was pretty darn cool.

The views across the expansive lava fields was really cool though. The landscape was definitely one worlds away from what I see in Colorado! Unfortunately, the summit of Sunset Crater is closed to the public (too much erosion was occurring so it is now off limits).

Shortly after passing by Sunset Crater, the view to the east opens up. There was a really nice overlook and Sprocket and I pulled over to take some photos in the stiff breeze. I love this old boy.

From there, we wound a little more east and then to the north to enter Wupatki National Monument.

Thanksgiving 2017: Montezuma Castle National Monument

This is a continuation of my adventures from Thanksgiving last year. I got distracted with moving into my house sooooo not much got blogged from the trip. 

After having visited Casa Grande National Monument, I gave into the prehistory ruins compulsion and visited Montezuma Castle National Monument in Camp Verde. By this time, I’d decided to just pay for my national parks pass and get on with it.

Montezuma Castle actually allows dogs on the trail! There is just a single paved path that goes along the base of the cliff with the structure but because it is just the one path and because of the extreme temperatures, they allow dogs! It was a touch hot for Sprocket to wait so I was super excited.

The visitors center was smaller than the one at Casa Grande and I was left with a lot of questions about just how the people further north on the Verde were related to the people who had been to their north (ancient Puebloans) and south (ancient Sonorans). This bookstore didn’t have anything I could impulse buy to bolster my knowledge of the Sinagua people so I’m currently accepting suggestions for books about ancient cultures in central Arizona.

It was a super short walk out to the Castle; the toughest part was dodging people on the trail! Apparently it’s part of the post Thanksgiving trek to the Grand Canyon.

We wandered down to Castle A. Apparently, Castle A was even larger than Montezuma Castle during its occupation. The vigas that supported beams to the rock are still visible. However, this castle’s upper floors collapsed and the structure suffered a fire after the end of its occupation.

The National Monument has a second unit at Montezuma Well but I decided to continue north because I had a breakfast date in Moab the next day and I had another few stops in mind.

Thanksgiving 2017: Casa Grande Ruins

So upon perusal of photos uploaded to this site but not attached to posts, I realized that I hadn’t finished blogging about Thanksgiving. (Something about moving into a house?) Thinking way back to my exploration of Bisbee and Tombstone and hike of Chihuahua Peak… 

After a quick stop in Tucson, I headed north towards Phoenix. Along the way I saw a sign for Casa Grande Ruins. I have no idea how many times I’ve gone past the exit near the I-10 and I-17 interchange but this time I was actually wasn’t only not on a schedule but I had some time to kill. I pulled into the visitor center parking lot with the late afternoon sunlight bathing the ruins outside.

My curiosity about these ruins was sort of piqued by having learned more about the history of Native Americans in the southwest (and in the US more generally) over the past year. I basically knew nothing about the ancient Sonoran people and their culture and it seemed like the right time to check it out.

I had a good time chatting with the Ranger inside the visitors center. He’d worked at Bent’s Fort and I’d learned a fair amount about Bent’s Old Fort when I read Blood And Thunder. It’s definitely on my “to visit” list. I spent a chunk of time in the visitors center.

I’ve spent enough time in the greater Phoenix area that maps of the Gila canals and other Hohokam sites really grabbed my attention.

Outside, I walked around the plaza surrounding the Great House and took a look at it from several angles. (The Great House is not open to the public.) Casa Grande was the first prehistoric and cultural reserve set aside in the US (it was established in 1892 by Benjamin Harrison). The Great House seems like an improbably large structure to have survived for over 600 years.

Never one to just be content with a “sort of” understanding, I meandered my way back to the visitors center to make a stop in the bookstore. I picked up some “light” reading to connect what little I knew about ancestral Puebloan people to the ancient Sonoran people.

In my last days in the shed, I read this pretty raptly considering its all academic papers from a conference about ancient cultures in the Southwest. I’m sure a lot of the information is a little bit dated as far as current archaeological info goes but I learned a lot and developed a rather burning desire to make it down to Aztec Ruins and Chaco Canyon in the very near future.

As I left, the nice ranger reminded me that if I bought an America the Beautiful pass in the next month that they’d apply my entry fee and I thanked him before heading west to find In-N-Out and a place to get some sleep.

 

The Tale of a Stubborn Dog, or a Dominguez Canyon Run

One of the best things about living in Ridgway is the access to the mountains right along side desert access. After exploring Alta, Katie and I wrapped up her trip to the Western Slope with a visit to Big Dominguez Canyon.

Big Dominguez is one of my favorite spring escapes a little more than an hour north but it is a glorious escape from lingering winter at higher elevations.

Funny story about these Sprocket photos: I tried to leave him in the car. He’d done nine miles with some elevation gain the day before so I thought I probably shouldn’t push old dog too hard. The day was definitely cool so I cracked all the windows and started to run away from the car when he totally lost his cool.

If you’ve met my dog, he’s kind of a mute. He might whine a little when he is excited but he definitely doesn’t yelp, bark, cry, and make a giant fuss. Except, apparently when you try to leave him behind when going for a run next to a river. Just like the wrapped around his paw dog mom I am, I relented and let him come. I figured if he lost steam, I’d turn around and let Katie finish the run without me.

He never lost steam. I underestimated the invigorating effects of a river bath followed by a sand roll for my old pup.

Katie, bless her heart, didn’t judge me (at least audibly) for giving in to him and commented that I’m the chillest dog mom for just letting him be dirty. What can I say, I’m a sucker for the old boy. ♥

Photos courtesy Katie Sealer. (Sprocks also made several appearances on her Instagram, including in her profile picture because he’s the best.)

Alta Lakes Road

Thanks to a combination of exhaustion, minor injury, and EMT class, I wound up staying home for most of Spring Break. Fortunately for me, my break overlapped with Instagram friend Katie’s break. Katie and I have known each other on Instagram for a long time (in fact, I can’t remember exactly what permutation of events actually lead to us connecting) but we’ve never met on person. That didn’t stop Katie from reaching out and seeing if we could hang out for a few days.

We were short a pair of snowshoes and I have an old dog in tow who hasn’t had much exercise lately so after some early spring trail brainstorming, I decided we should go up to Alta Lakes road near Telluride. Katie had never been to Telluride and because the road is used for snowmobiles I figured that it would make for easy walking (it did).

As is usual when you’re hiking south of Telluride, the mountains in front of you are gorgeous but then you turn around and see the Wilsons. (I don’t know, that turn around suprise just gets me every time.)

The lakes were buried under snow so I think the highlight was checking out the ghost town of Alta. (Alta was the first industrial site to receive AC power!) We didn’t end up checking out much of town because the post holing off of the main snowmobile track was real—I tried to get off the road a little bit for a better photo and ended up buried to my hips…

After the hike, we headed into Telluride and had lunch at the Phoenix Bean. Sprocks was exhausted but he gamely walked to the restaurant with us and slept under the table dreaming of cheese falling from our plates. (Katie made sure his dream came true.) Back in Ridgway we chilled out and watched the light change as the sunset before getting to bed early. (I got lots of sleep over break.)

Labrador Joy

Sprocket and I visited the river on a chilly late winter day with my friend and her pup. We hung out and Sprocket swam and snow fell all around us.

(All photos courtesy Nadia.) 

What Have I Been Up To?

Since moving into my house just before New Years, I’ve almost as equally moved into my car. In addition to a healthy commute, I’ve added a commute to an EMT class two to three days a week. Long time readers of this blog might remember that in spring 2012 I took an EMT course. Unfortunately, in all of my travels and tumult, my NREMT certification lapsed long enough that to get it back, I had to re-take the course. I figured, at once wisely and dumbly, that it would be easiest to just keep pushing forward with my crazy life and get it done with before returning to regularly scheduled hiking and exploring programming.

This has meant very little time for running or relaxing. (Twice a week, I leave home at 6:20am and get home about 10:15pm.) When I am home, I have homework to take care of and sleep to have. On top of class and teaching, I’ve still been pulling some shifts at my side hustle for that extra cash infusion.

Winter was kind of non-existent around these parts but Sprocket and I did get to do one really cool thing: one evening when we got about 8-10″ of snow, we left to do a 5 mile cross country skiing from our front door!

Having a house to come back and shower at has made it easier to grab those chances to run when they arise. Sprocket certainly appreciates having a warm place to wait for me to come home but even more I think he likes having a warm place to recover from snowy swims in the river.

I have another three weeks left of class and we’re both pumped to have a summer full of adventure!

Ute Indian Museum

Way back in January, I visited the recently renovated Ute Indian Museum. With my recent readings about exploration of the Western Slope (and the rest of the West) by Europeans and later Americans, I decided it was time to check out the history of the people that they’d displaced. The museum was renovated over the winter of 2016-2107 with what I understand to be extensive input from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Southern Ute Tribe, and the Ute Tribe of the Unitah and Ouray Reservation. The Ute Indian Museum is part of the History Colorado museum network. The museum is located near the site of Ouray and Chipeta’s ranch just south of Montrose.

The museum isn’t particularly large but it does contain a lot of information and the new exhibits are really well done. I learned a lot as the museum moved from how the Ute tribe interacted with the physical environment and more about their historic range to artifacts of the tribe. In these early sections of the museum I was really struck by the use of “we” and “our” in the text to accompany exhibits. It served to really emphasize to me how a whole people was affected by the arrival of explorers in the area.

Seeing some of the historical artifacts was really exciting. The museum has several pieces of clothing worn by Ouray and Chipeta which I found really cool. That sinking sober feeling I’d gotten earlier, really struck home when I got to the section of the museum highlighting how the reservations of the Ute bands were splintered and made smaller over the years. I was familiar with the history from Ouray: Chief of the Utes and other books that I’ve read but seeing it laid out in graphic form was really striking.

The final section of the museum featured contemporary exhibits from the various Ute tribal groups. They were very positive in nature and talked about traditions that are preserved by the tribe.

After a quick pit stop in the gift shop, I headed out to the grounds of the museum. Chipeta, had been buried in Utah where she had died on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation but in 1924, her remains were moved to the museum grounds. (Chief Ouray’s remains are buried near Ignatio, Colorado.) I also checked out the interpretive signs about the Domniguez-Escalante expedition of 1776 down closer to the river.

I’m really glad that I visited the museum. I live on land that used to belong to the Utes and was glad to learn more about the tribes, especially their current situations. I’ve been in Colorado for five years now (and delightedly, all out on the Western Slope) and deepening my understanding of history here is always something I value.

As of this writing, the museum is $6 for adults (but if you’re a member of History Colorado it’s included) and well worth the visit!

On The Page: Pure Land

You know those books that you read breathlessly, hanging on each word but yet rushing on to the next one? Pure Land  was one of those books. I don’t have a whole lot of time to read these days so I got some reading in Thursday night, and then Saturday after I got home from EMT class, I dove into it intending fully to relish the rest of the book.

This is not to say that Pure Land is a happy story. Or a story where you don’t know the ending. It is the intersecting story of Tomomi Hanamure, a Japanese woman deeply in love with America’s West, a young Havasupai man named Randy Wescogame, and the story of the story teller, author Annette McGivney.

Tomomi was murdered on hike to Havasupai Falls in the Grand Canyon in May of 2006. A regular solo traveler of the United States, Hanamure was lured off the trail by Wescogame and brutally stabbed to death. McGivney entered the story when she wrote “Freefall” for Backpacker in 2007.

Through this deeper telling of the tale of intersecting lives we meet Tomomi’s father, Randy’s father, the woman who compassionately helped Randy come to a confession, and others who have insight into the people involved in this tragic story. It was no surprise what the ending of the story was but yet, it felt necessary to read.

For me personally, however, McGivney’s weaving of her own family story of abuse and recovery into the book was the most astounding. It seemed a part of the story alone until she mentioned the idea of a trauma bond with an abuser. I finished the book and put it down on my makeshift nightstand. I did what any self respecting Millennial would do and I unlocked my phone and turned to Google. The idea of a bond that pulls the abused tighter to the abuser made my breath catch in my throat. Unlike I would have years ago, I locked the phone, buried my head in Sprocket and went to sleep. The gut punch of years of isolation has finally started to fade with the salve of community, achievement, and progress.

I almost feel like I need to re-read Pure Land. I identified so much with Tomomi and Annette that I feel like I ignored Randy, perhaps the least surface sympathetic character but yet one affected by the deepest, multi-generational traumas. McGivney does an excellent job of making all of the people in the book real and complex.

Pure Land is not just a book about the outdoors, although it is, it’s also about the struggles of the Havasupai tribe and its individual members. It’s also about creating your own life and balancing it with family. It’s about living. A lot of times when I give you an “On The Page” report, I talk about who would enjoy this book. Whoever you are, reading this, go read it.