The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek (Bell Trail Hike), Sedona, AZ

March 2016 – We really enjoyed mountain biking the Bell Rock Pathway during our RV travels to Sedona, Arizona, and one day we got chatting with young neighbors in an RV nearby about where the good mountain biking and hiking spots were around Sedona. They knew the area really well and asked if we’d ever been to The Crack at Wet Beaver.

Mark raised an eyebrow.

“No, no, not that!” They said. “It’s a really cool gorge on Wet Beaver Creek. It’s a great hike, and if you take your bathing suits you can swim there!”

Bell Trail Hike to Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona Arizona

“The Crack” at Wet Beaver Creek

The next morning dawned sunny and warm, so we took off on the Bell Trail to hike into the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness to find this infamous Crack.

Beginning Bell Trail Hike Sedona AZ

The beginning of the Bell Trail hike into the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness goes through open grassland.

The Bell Trail is named for Charles Bell who built the trail in 1932 for moving cattle, and a sign at the trailhead indicates it is still used for that purpose today. It is about 3.5 miles from the trailhead to The Crack. The trail goes deeper into the Wilderness, but we figured 7 miles out and back was plenty for one day.

At the beginning, we hiked through open grasslands and under a canopy of trees alongside Wet Beaver Creek. After about two miles, we came across a red rock cliff soaring into the sky with a tree on top.

Hiking the Bell Trail Hike Sedona AZ

A red rock cliff with a tree on top juts into the sky

For the next mile or so we walked through gorgeous red rock scenery as the trail hung onto the edges of bright orange hillsides and zig-zagged under exotic red rock formations.

Hiking Bell Trail Sedona Arizona

How’s that for a cool trail?!

We were hiking in the morning, and the sun felt good on our skin, but later in the day this desert landscape would become very hot.

Bell Trail Hike Sedona Arizona

Desert plants, like ocotillo cactus and prickly pear, abound.

We could hear the sound of rushing water ahead of us, and soon we saw the creek splashing noisily over river rocks to our right. What a nice spot for a picnic!

Bell Trail Hike to Wet Beaver Creek Sedona Arizona

We stopped for lunch in a quiet spot where the water rushed over river rocks.

The whole area was filled with leafless deciduous trees that must bring true magic to the landscape in the fall. And what a great spot to do some flowing water photography!

Bell Trail Wet Beaver Creek Sedona Arizona

Wet Beaver Creek polishes the rocks in its path.

We hiked just a little futher on and suddenly the landscape opened up to massive shelves of boulders stepping down to sheer cliffs that plunged into the water below. This was The Crack!

View Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona Arizona

“The Crack” is like a red rock quarry with huge flat slabs of sandstone and water far below.

Our friends had described crystal clear water that was a lovely shade of blue, but the creek was running fast from the snow melt and had swelled so much that lots of debris had been stirred up as the water tumbled down from the mountains. The water was murky and filled with foam from the crashing waterfalls upstream.

This made for some neat slo-mo photos!

Swirls Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona Arizona

The fast moving water from the snow melt created cool foam swirls

The Crack is a stunning spot that is so unexpected in the dry dusty desert.

Hike to Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona AZ

The canyon walls were steep and the surface of the water was foamy!

The huge flat boulders are really inviting, and we scrambled around on them for quite a while.

Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona AZ

I just love that tree growing out of the crack in the rocks.

Photography at Wet Beaver Creek The Crack

This little oasis was such a surprise after the dusty, dry hike to get here.

We had the place to ourselves. Other than the distant sound of rushing water, it was quiet and still.

Hike to Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona Arizona

We had the place to ourselves…for the moment!

I ventured out onto a cool looking precipice hanging out over the water and Mark got my photo.

Diving platform Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona Arizona

Little did I know that this is a favorite diving platform!

Suddenly, we heard voices coming down the trail. Two young couples appeared and set up beach towels right on that same rock precipice I’d been standing on and then stripped down to their bathing suits to get a tan.

“Are you going to jump in?” One girl in a bikini asked me.

I looked down at the murky water doubtfully. Diving into the its depths had not been on my agenda today!

Sunbathing Wet Beaver Creak The Crack Sedona Arizona

Sunbathers stretch out on the diving rock.

Then, I watched in amazement as she made her way down to a lower rock and jumped in. Brrr!! Then the other girl did the same.

“The water’s great!” They yelled out to me.

Well, I was happier taking photos of them than swimming, so I let them have all the fun in the water while I stayed warm and dry on shore.

They debated jumping off the rock precipice where they’d laid their beach towels, but because they couldn’t see the bottom — which they said you usually can — they decided not to. You never know what kind of submerged log might be lurking just below the surface.

Flying leap Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona AZ

The water was too murky to dive from the upper rock, but this intrepid gal jumped in from lower down.

The bathing beauties climbed out of the water using a rope that someone had secured in the rock, and they settled in on their beach towels for a while.

We left them and began to make our way back along Bell Trail. The trail had gotten really busy, and we were amazed that the silence of the early morning was completely gone now, shattered by the continual voices and footsteps of other hikers making their way to The Crack on this warm Friday afternoon.

A snort and a whinny up ahead alerted us to horseback riders coming down the trail. What a neat sighting at the end of a very enjoyable hike.

Horseback riding Bell Trail Sedona Arizona

A pair of horseback riders greeted us on the trail going back.

If you spend some time in Sedona, whether you travel there by RV or some other means, a hike on Bell Trail to The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek is a really nice change of pace. More info and links below.

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Acadia National Park’s Carriage Roads in Maine – Thanks, Rockefeller!

June 2015 – One of the great treasures of Acadia National Park is the Carriage Road system. These roads, which are open only to non-motorized traffic, run all through the interior of the park for a total of nearly 50 miles, traveling through the woods, passing by lakes and ponds, and skipping over streams on beautiful old stone bridges.

We loved taking our bikes out on these roads during our RV travels to Maine.

Bicycling the Carriage Roads in Acadia National Park Maine

Heading onto the Carriage Roads in Acadia National Park

While we were there, we discovered that, like many of America’s national parks, we have the Rockefeller family to thank for this unusual road system. It turns out that the history behind the Carriage Roads is quite a tale.

Back at the turn of the 20th century when cars were first coming into use, the folks that lived on Maine’s Mt. Desert Island had a bit of a class war over whether or not automobiles would be allowed on the island’s roads.

The wealthy people who owned the summer estates (Pulitzers, Vanderbilts and others of their ilk) wanted Mt. Desert Island to be a rural getaway where they could travel about by horse and carriage and leave the hustle and bustle of the city and its newfangled automobiles behind.

The locals who called the island home all year long wanted the ability to get from town to town easily, and these newfangled automobiles were just the ticket.

Riding the Acadia National Park carriage roads in Maine

These wonderful roads pass several ponds and lakes.

The state of Maine left it up to the local communities to decide for themselves whether or not automobiles would be legal on each town’s roads. The upscale towns of Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor, where the summer residents socialized and moored their yachts, voted to outlaw automobiles on their roads. The more working class towns, like fishing village Southwest Harbor, voted to allow automobiles on their roads.

In the end, after some human road blocks and a few arrests of automobile drivers caught flamboyantly breaking the law and driving on the wrong roads, by 1913 all the towns had agreed that cars were okay.

Biking under a stone bridge Carriage Road Acadia National Park Maine

Rockefeller hired masons to construct beautiful stone bridges.

I’m not sure where the Rockefellers stood on this issue — they lived in Seal Harbor at the south end — but John D. Rockefeller, Jr., decided to build a Carriage Road system just for horses and buggies. These roads went around the interior of the island and were available for everyone to use. This gave all visitors and residents of Mt. Desert a way to enjoy the peaceful inland forests up close, without a car.

John D., Jr., was an expert horseman and an experienced road builder, and he built lots of lovely roads and beautiful stone bridges. He kept buying up parcels of land and extending his road system until he had almost 50 miles of roads throughout the island.

Carriage Road signs Acadia National Park Maine

The trails are extremely well marked,
but carrying a map is a good idea!

In the 1930’s, the National Park Service began putting together the foundations of what would become Acadia National Park, and Rockefeller ultimately donated all of these land holdings — with their new road system — to the National Park Service to become part of the new park.

Riding bikes on Acadia National Park carriage roads in maine

What a wonderful way to experience the Maine woods.

I never knew much about the Rockefellers, but they are an incredible family. John D. Rockefeller, Sr., founded Standard Oil in 1870. By the end of his life in 1937 he had created a staggering personal net worth of $339 billion (in 2007 dollars).

It is impossible to compare wealth across the centuries accurately, but to try to put his riches in perspective, he was worth a whole lot more than the top 3 of the world’s wealthiest people today combined.

Bill Gates ($79 billion), Carlos Slim ($73 billion and Warren Buffet ($72 billion) are worth $224 billion all together. That’s $115 billion short of Mr. John D! Even adding in Mark Zuckerberg ($35 billion) leaves a gap of $56 billion.

To think of it another way, Rockefeller was worth 4.3 times what Bill Gates is worth. Imagine someone with assets and/or income 4.3 times more than yours. Or imagine someone with assets and/or income that is one quarter of yours. That’s the difference between John D. Rockefeller, Sr., and Bill Gates. Nevermind the difference between Rockefeller and the rest of us!

Horse drawn wagon on the Carriage Roads at Acadia National Park Maine

If you’re not into biking, there are other ways to experience the Carriage Roads!

What is more, somehow John D. Rockefeller managed to pass on an incredible sense of personal motivation and high standards to his children. And they somehow passed that on to their children too.

How common it is for the people who make the deepest impact on the world to have kids who flake out. Nevermind the flakey kids — who ever hears from the grandkids? In so many cases, the kids, grandkids and great-grandkids of the biggest movers and shakers of this world all float on their predecessor’s money with little motivation or interest in doing something remarkable.

Large turtle by the bike path

There’s lots of wildlife out here — this female turtle was busy laying eggs.

However, while John D. Rockefeller, Sr., was a ruthless, cut-throat, and not necessarily fair playing owner of a total monopoly in the skyrocketing oil industry, at the end of his life he turned his efforts towards philanthropy, and that is where his kids picked up the ball and where his grandkids carried it forward.

A snake next to a shoe

Just after seeing the turtle, we rode past a small snake.

John D. Rockefeller had seven grandkids, five boys and two girls. One of these grandchildren, David, is still alive. Reading a little bit about David Rockefeller, I learned he was a highly accomplished man who stepped out of the shadow of his dad and granddad and made his own indelible mark on the world.

He celebrated his 100th birthday a week before our visit to Acadia National Park, and the Park Service rangers were all abuzz with excitement because he had just donated a huge parcel of land adjacent to the park for public use in perpetuity.

Apparently David Rockefeller is quite a spry 100-year-old. A ranger told me she’d seen him cruising around on these Carriage Roads his father built in a horse drawn carriage!

Acadia National Park bridge on a carriage road

This bridge was a fun spot to take a short break.

The Rockefellers acquired and gave away massive tracts of land all over the place to preserve the most beautiful landscapes and make them available for everyone to enjoy.

When we were in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we learned that half of the land that was donated and half of the money that was raised to create that park had come from the Rockefellers. The other half was provided by local landowners, residents and the National Park Service.

Half! That’s incredible!

The Rockefellers had a major role in the creation or growth of many other national parks too, including Shenandoah, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Mesa Verde, Redwoods and the Virgin Islands.

Bike riding over a carriage road bridge in Acadia National Park Maine

We just loved these old stone bridges.

It is really easy to bash the ultra rich, or be envious, or question how they got their money, and on and on. But if it weren’t for the Rockefeller family using their staggering wealth to preserve these unique tracts of land, they would have fallen prey to development.

And the amazing thing is that the Rockefellers didn’t have to do any of it.

In the case of the Tetons, John D. Sr., had to put up quite a fight to get the National Park Service to take his land. The process was a bit of a nightmare, and he could have thrown up his hands and quit. But he didn’t.

So, we have the Rockefellers to thank for choosing (and sometimes fighting) to spend their money on us and on future generations of humanity.

Kayak on Jordan Pond Acadia National Park Maine

A kayaker at Jordan Pond.

David Rockefeller, who just gave away all that land on Mt. Desert Island a few weeks ago, is worth only $3 billion now, a mere fraction of what Bill Gates, Carlos Slim and Warren Buffet are worth. Obviously, he could be worth a lot more if the family had kept their money to themselves.

Perhaps with a nod to the example set by the Rockefellers, Bill Gates is busy giving away his fortune to fight disease and poverty in third world countries,. Three years ago, Warren Buffet gave each of his kids $1 billion with the requirement that they, in turn, give it away.

Lunch at Jordan House Acadia National Park Maine

The Jordan House is a great place to stop for lunch.

This is all very heady stuff, but the Rockefellers have been on my mind a lot since we started traveling, because their name keeps coming up at so many of the national parks we visit. The depth of caring in that family for the beautiful places in America seems to have extended through the generations.

Bicycling in Acadia National Park Maine

A wonderful spot for a bike ride!

We recently watched a thought provoking movie called America: Imagine The World Without Her. It’s a documentary made by a man who was born and raised in India, and it is fascinating to see this country through the eyes of someone who is not a product of it.

It’s a highly political film. However, it is well worth watching, because it makes you think about the origins and spirit of this country.

One of the most interesting points it makes is that after the American Revolution ended, and after General George Washington managed to wrest control of the locals away from the Brits, he broke with historical tradition.

Unlike all the leaders in human history up until that very moment, he did not proclaim himself King of this new country and give himself and his heirs absolute power and authority over the populace until the next overthrow.

He could have.

Jordan Pond Acadia National Park Maine

Jordan Pond is such a nice surprise in the middle of all these woods.

Since then, America has been a place of many kinds of firsts. Setting aside public land in the form of national parks was one, and the very first national park in the world was Yellowstone, created in 1872. Countries around the world have followed suit and preserved their natural treasures with gorgeous national parks that are open to the public. What a blessing for everyone alive today and for all that follow in the future, worldwide.

Bicycle at Bubble Pond Acadia National Park Maine

The Carriage Road at Bubble Pond.

It is highly ironic that the polluting combustion engine, fueled by oil drilled from nasty, dirty wells, created the fabulous wealth of the Rockefellers who then turned around a generation and more later and poured their profits into the national parks.

It’s ironic, too, that the family that benefited the most by the invention of cars and the related explosion in demand for oil was behind the creation of the unique Carriage Road system at Acadia National Park where the only legal traffic is human or horse powered.

Bicycling carriage roads under a stone bridge at Acadia National Park Maine

The Carriage Roads are very special!

I guess a leisurely ride or stroll on this special road system through the woods inspires a bit of reflection. It did for me.

If you do some RV travel in Maine, or if you visit Acadia National Park by some other means, make sure you spend a little time out on the Carriage Roads in Mt Desert Island’s forests. You may find new thoughts, ideas and musings stirring within you.

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New River Trail State Park – Galax, VA – Pizza, Beer and Biking!

May, 2015 – After seeking out the waterfalls of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, our RV travels took us over the border into Virginia to the town of Galax (pronounced “Gay-lax”) where we planned to see two famous Parkway attractions: the Mabry Mill and the Blue Ridge Music Center. However, when Mark spotted a microbrew pub in town — Creek Bottom Brews — our truck automatically steered itself right to the front door!

Creek Bottom Brews Galax Virginia

Creek Bottom Brews welcomes us in.

Inside, Mark found himself in craft beer heaven. The walls at one end of the brewpub were lined from floor to ceiling with individual craft beers from every brewery he’d ever heard of, and even a few more. What’s better, the bartenders were pouring pints of unusual craft beers from around the country as fast as the tap handles could go. The place was filled with very happy looking customers.

We ordered a pizza to go along with the Thunder Bay Brewing pale ale they had on tap. I don’t know if we were starving or what, but that was by far the best beer and the best pizza we’d had in a really long time. What a great place!

We never ever do this, but we went back again the next night for the same exact thing, and then we went again for a third time the night after that! We became Creek Bottom Brews regulars in just three days!

Beer selection Creek Bottom Brews Galax Virginia

Is this beer heaven or what?

As we happily sat there enjoying this truly awesome pizza and beer each afternoon, we noticed that lots of the folks around us were dressed in cycling duds. What was going on? Many of them just buzzed in to get their growlers filled or to pick up a six pack of something exotic. Apparently this was how these Virginia folks rehydrated after their rides!

It dawned on us that there must be a trail or something nearby, so I asked the next gal I saw in a cycling jersey where she’d been riding. “On the New River Trail,” she told me. “It’s a really great Rails-to-Trails ride that starts right across the street from here in Galax”

The next morning we hit the trail!

New River Trail State Park Galax Virginia

The New River Trail is wide and flat and easy to ride on.

Oh my, what a terrific Rails-to-Trails system this New River Trail is. We were blown away. It was one of the best Rails-to-Trails rides we’ve done, right up there with the 72-mile Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes in Idaho. It is wide and flat and winds along the New River for 57 miles. And for such a great trail, we were amazed that on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend there weren’t all that many people on it.

The fun thing about this really scenic trail is that it passes by all kinds of interesting things. We came across a small waterfall and stopped to take pics.

Riding the New River Trail State Park bike path

We enjoyed a small waterfall along the way.

And we stopped at the old Cliffview Station depot building.

Cliffview Station New River Trail Galax Virginia

Cliffview Station is an old depot that makes a fun stop.

There was also a very cool wooden bridge that was fun to ride across.

Bridge on New River Trail State Park Galax Virginia

We loved this curved wooden bridge.

Much of the trail went along under a canopy of trees, but there were lots of open areas too where we saw horses grazing in the fields.

Horses in fields Galax Virginia

There was lots of interesting stuff to see along the way.

What I loved is that this is a trail for everyone. We saw families out biking on cruiser bikes and we saw more serious folks on fancy mountains bikes. Some people were even out there on road bikes. The trail was wide and flat and smooth enough for any kind of bike. And of course there were walkers and joggers too.

Bicycles on New River Trail State Park Galax Virginia

We saw families and old folks alike out on the trail.

The New River Trail is part of the Virginia State Parks system, and we got talking with a ranger and learned that this trail was actually donated to the state by the Norfolk Southern Railroad back in 1986. Political wrangling got in the way of its management for a while, but now it is a true jewel in Virginia’s state park system.

Bikes on the New River Trail in Galax Virginia

Every kind of bike rolls well on this trail.

We were amazed to learn from him that even though they operate on a shoestring budget compared to other states, Virginia State Parks has been rated the top state park system in the country. The care with which this trail is maintained is proof of why.

Wildflowers New River Trail State Park

I can never resist the wildflowers!

The trail has several campgrounds along its length, and we passed one of the campgrounds on our ride. What a fun place to pitch a tent! We saw quite a few cyclists who were touring with panniers on their bikes, and we met one couple who was doing a three day, two night ride out and back on the trail!

Cliffview Campground New River Trail Galax Virginia

Tents set up at Cliffview Campground, one of several campgrounds on the trail system.

We did about 20 miles round trip and then we just had to go back to Creek Bottom Brews. After all, that’s how the cyclists around here rehydrate after their rides, and we needed to rehydrate too!

As we sat there enjoying their out-of-this-world pizza, we joked that Galax, Virginia, needs a motto:

Come for the Blue Ridge Parkway, Stay for the Pizza, Biking and Brews!

Mountain bike on New River Trail Galax Virginia

We sure were glad we stopped in for a beer — what better way to discover a cool bike trail?!!

If you take your RV along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the vicinity of Mabry Mill and the Blue Ridge Music Center, take a little time out for a bike ride and a brew in Galax!

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The Wind Cave Hike in Phoenix AZ – The Hills are Alive!

Wind Cave Trail Arizona

An ocotillo greets us at the start of the hike.

Early March, 2014 – We had been enjoying the rivers and waterways and Saguaro Lake in Phoenix, Arizona, but the cactus filled desert was never far away.

Mark at the Wind Cave trail bottom

Ready for hiking!

Cactus looking down towards brittlebush

Usery Mountain Regional Park has a beautiful campground and some great hiking.

One hike in particular, the Wind Cave Trail, came highly recommended by our friends, Mike and Donna (FlyingTheKoop.com). They once called this area home and have hiked it many times.

Brittlebush blooming with cactus

The yellow brittlebush were in bloom all around us.

This is an uphill hike that climbs straight up for a mile and a half, making lots of switchbacks on the way.

The bright yellow brittlebush flowers had just started to bloom, and there were sprays of golden flowers everywhere.

Emily poses with brittlebush

There’s nothing like getting out on a warm, sunny, early spring day!

And the saguaros were standing around having their usual conversations too.

One cactus looked like it was whispering in the ear of another!

Two saguaros on Windy Cave hiking trail

“Psssst…can you keep a secret??”

Wind Cave is a popular hike, and we met a lot of other hikers on the trail.

A large group came up behind us, walking sticks and cameras in hand.  It was a beautiful day to be out.

Busy day on Usery Mountain Wind Cave Hiking Trail

We had lots of company on the trail.

What sets this hike apart is the lichen that covers the sides of the cliffs in a broad band along the top of the mountain.

The faces of the cliffs are shaded in the morning, though, so when we started up the switchbacks, the color on the cliff faces was muted at first.

Saguaro cactus looks down from top

Waving “hi” to his buddy down below.

Saguaro cactus looks up the mountain

The rising sun lit up one saguaro

In the shadowed lighting, it seemed like a rather ordinary, though lovely, Sonoran desert hike.

Then the sun began to peek around the edges of the mountain.

Its warm rays lit up a solitary cactus that stood away from the cliffs.

This guy seemed to be looking up at his saguaro buddy who was staning on a little higher ground above him and waving.

 

Saguaro cactus with valley below

An ancient, pock-marked cactus has enjoyed this view for over a century.

As we climbed higher and higher, the views across the valley begame bigger and bigger.

Saguaro cactus in the lichen

The sun and shadows played hide and seek with the cactus among the rocks.

 

 

Lizard on hiking path

A lizard scurried past…

At our feet, we saw lizards scampering across the trail.

We listened to the Gambel’s quails and cactus wrens calling all their friends.

The Phoenix area is known as the “Valley of the Sun,” but as you travel around town, it doesn’t feel like a traditional v-shaped valley. Instead, it is a vast, flat, desert floor that stretches to eternity in all directions, broken up here and there by little pyramid peaks.

 

Brittlebush and palo verde on hiking trail

We were hiking up a pretty tall peak, and the trail didn’t take a break anywhere — it was up, up, up. We progressed very slowly.  It was just too pretty to rush, and we ended up taking photos with every step.

People at the Wind Cave

There was a crowd waiting for us at the Wind Cave

When we finally reached the top, all the hikers who had passed us were taking a load off in the cool shade of the Wind Cave itself. It isn’t really a “cave” but is more of a sheltered spot that’s perfect for enjoying the views.

Chipmunk peeks around corner

A little chipmunk peeks over a rock at us.

The rocky cliff has an inward curving wall, providing welcome shade and inviting people to sit for a spell, eat a little something, and catch their breath.

Lots of chipmunks live up here, and they have learned that hikers carry yummy snacks like granola bars.

Chipmunk stops momentarily

The chipmunks kept us entertained as we ate a snack.

Lichen covered rocks on Windy Cave Hiking Trail

The beauty of the Wind Cave trail unfolds
as the sun rises.

These little guys were very brazen, and walked right up to all of us to see if we were had something to share.

Of course, who can resist a cute little furry face looking up at you hopefully? We all gave in and found a few crumbs to spare.

The chipmunks eagerly grabbed their snacks and ran off a few paces to nibble away, holding the treats in their little hands as they ate.

By the time we started down, the sun was hitting the lichen covered cliffs beautifully.

Lichen on cliffs Wind Cave Trail Arizona

The cliffs are clad in orange and yellow lichen.

Three saguaros and lichen on cliffs on Usery Wind Cave hiking trail

The craggy rock faces seemed to be showing off their bright yellow and orange wardrobe, and the vivid colors made a wonderful backdrop for the saguaro cactuses along the trail.

We wandered down the trail to the valley floor and noticed the clouds were moving very quickly across the sky.

Looking over valley on Wind Cave hiking trail

A hiker takes in the view of the valley, but the backdrop behind him is just as stunning.

Triplet saguaro cactuses

Fast moving clouds frame a trio of saguaros

Mark took out his neutral density filter and let the moving clouds create a kind of crown around a trio of saguaros.

While he was busy setting up the shot, he noticed a tiny hummingbird sitting on a wee little nest behind a thick veil of branches and leaves in a small tree.

He approached the hummer and she didn’t move.  She just sat tight, watching his every move.

He hurried away to find me, because I had a long lens with me, and I rushed back to see if I could catch the little bird.

 

Hummingbird on nest

A hummingbird sits on her nest deep inside a tree.

Gosh, she was buried way back deep inside those branches.  I moved closer and she flew off her nest.

Inside were two miniature little eggs.

They were so tiny, I was afraid they would get chilled really quickly while mom was off the nest. So I stepped away, and she returned and wiggled her tail end a bit as she settled back down on her eggs.

Yellow wildflower

An early sign of spring!

 

 

Purple wildflower

The wildflowers are starting!

Then more hikers came down the trail and she flew off again.

Her nest site was well protected, but lordy, she could have chosen a spot a little further from the trail!

Oh well.  I managed to fire off a few shots of her sitting on her soon-to-be family, and then left her in peace.

Spring was definitely in the air.

Not only were a few birds starting their families, but some wildflowers were beginning to show their colorful little faces too.

We were really excited by the early arrival of spring, and we were hopeful that soon the whole Sonoran desert would be alive with flowers.

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Natural Bridges National Monument & Utah’s Bicentennial Highway

Early June, 2012 - We left Mesa Verde and drove the dramatic Bicentennial Highway to Utah's unique Natural Bridges National Monument.

At the top of Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

A wwoden ladder on the Sipapu Bridge trail.

Some folks were put off by the

trail's wooden ladders.

Looking down a wooden ladder on the Sipapu Bridge trail of Natural Bridges National Monument.

Looking down is a bit unnerving!

climbing a wooden ladder at Natural Bridges. On the trail at Natural Bridges NM.

The trail hugs a sheer canyon wall.

Hiking behind a barefoot person at Natural Bridges National Monument.

Barefoot tracks...

Exotic rock formations along the trail. Dramatic cliffs line the walls along the Sipapu Bridge Hike in Natural Bridges National Monument.

Dramatic cliffs and rock

formations everywhere

Down by Sipapu Bridge. Natural Bridge Nat'l Monument Natural Bridges National Monment

Full sized trees at the base of the cliffs.

Stiped cayon wall at Natural Bridges NM.

Massive leaning walls are painted in vivid stripes.

Sipapu Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument

Sipapu Bridge

Ladders are central to the hike to Sipapu Brige.

Ladders...

The NPS has carved stairs in the sandstone on the trail at Natural Bridges National Monument.

…and carved stairs.

Cactus flower, Natural Bridges National Monument Striped cliff walls, Natural Bridges National Monument.

Striped cliff walls.

Kachina Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument.

Kachina Bridge

Kachina Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument.

Mark is dwarfed by Kachina Bridge.

More ladders and steep hiking at Natural Bridges National Monument. Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument.

Owachomo Bridge - delicate and soaring.

Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument.

Owachomo Bridge.

Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument.

The base of Owachomo Bridge.

"Bears Ears"

The Cheesebox, Bicentennial Highway, Utah.

The Cheesebox.

Jacob's Chair, Bicentennial Highway, Utah.

Jacob's Chair.

Scenic Bicentennial Highway.

Scenic Bicentennial Highway

Driving through Glen Canyon on the Bicentennial Highway, Route 95 Utah. Bridge over the Colorado River, Bicentennial Highway, Route 95 Utah.

Bridge over the Colorado.

Colorado River, Bicentennial Highway, Route 95 Utah.

Colorado River.

Bicentennial Highway, Route 95 Utah. Scenic overlook along the Bicentennial Highway, Route 95 Utah.

Scenic Overlook on the

Bicentennial Highway.

Ghost town Hite City was buried by Lake Powell.

Ghost town Hite City lies underwater here.

SR-95 Bicentennial Highway. Rock formations along State Route 95, the Bicentennial Highway, Utah.

The gods were messing with finger paints.

Scenic Route 24, Utah.

Fruita in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

Driving along Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

Natural Bridges and Utah's Bicentennial Highway

Early June, 2012 - After leaving Mesa Verde National Park we were

totally enthralled by the scenery that surrounded us on Utah's

Bicentennial Highway.  This area is rich with exotic rock formations, and

three special ones are clustered at Natural Bridges National Monument.

While getting our hitch extension fabricated in Blanding we had learned

that our welder, Jack, had grown up playing among the bridge

formations before the modern park rules became so strict.  "It was in

our backyard and we could camp anywhere in those days.  I grew up

climbing all over those bridges."

Now it is a formal tourist attraction,

set aside and protected by the

government, with signs telling you all

the things you shouldn't do.

However, rather than having to scramble down scary drop-offs and wondering how the heck all

these formations got here, the National Park Service has built beautiful trails to the bridges and

offers all kinds of literature and books that explain everything about the geology, the wildlife, and

nature in general at their terrific visitors center.

Just like Canyon de Chelly where the canyons

are equally as stunning as the cliff dwellings, we

found the setting, the vistas and the hikes as

thrilling here as the bridges themselves.  There

are only three natural rock bridges, but there is

an infinite number of spectacular views.

All together it's just four miles of hiking, but you

can skip doing your stair stepping workout on

the day you go.  Each bridge hike is a nearly

vertical descent to the base of the bridge, and

then, after admiring it, you've gotta climb out.  We quizzed

everyone we passed whether each hike was worth the

effort.  Most said "Yes!"  But one couple was put off by the

rickety looking wooden ladders.  We found the ladders were

actually really fun!  They're rock solid and shiny smooth

from thousands of hands and feet using them.

The trail to Sipapu bridge is

sandy and hugs a sheer canyon

wall.  There are all kinds of

footprints from previous hikers,

but the ones that caught my eye

were the barefoot ones.  I felt like

I was following an Indian.  But it

was just someone wearing those

newfangled Vibram FiveFingers

shoes!

We scampered all over the place, soaking

up the towering cliffs and basking in the

silence.  It is hard to imagine that the

immense natural force of flowing water

created these formations.

Many of the rocks are beautifully striped,

carefully painted in vibrant hues by

mother nature.

The size and scale was hard to

capture with the cameras,

especially trying to draw into the

lens that sensation of being

embraced by soaring cliffs and very

hot sun.

Mark got to the

Sipapu bridge

first, and when

he called back

to me his voice

echoed

wonderfully

between the

rocks.  He let

out a few extra hoots

and whistles, enjoying

the effect.  I hooted

and whistled back and

marveled at hearing

the sound perfectly

duplicated.

Climbing back out we noticed

how the Park Service has not

only installed fantastic Navajo

looking wooden ladders, but

has carefully sculpted out lots

of stairs in the rocks as well.

And we learned these bridges

were first found by Cass Hite in

1884 when he was searching for gold.

Kachina Bridge was up next, and

again we descended on a nearly

vertical path into a vibrant green

wash filled with trees and refreshingly

cool shade.  The rocks here had

been painted in stripes too, and bird

songs echoed off the canyon walls as

they flitted from tree to tree.

We staggered around in the sandy wash at the base of the bridge, craning

our necks as we tried to take it all in.  This bridge is thick and squat, and the

underside is decorated with scraggly petroglyphs.  People have lived here

off-and-on for 9,000 years, including a few Mesa Verde cliff dwellers who

moved over here for a few generations around 1200 AD.  This must have

been a great spot to while away the hottest summer hours back in the days

when air conditioning was unavailable and people entertained themselves

by pecking out images on rock walls.

The steep climbs and descents began to blend together in a

haze of sweaty huffing and puffing as we put one foot in front of

the other and hiked up and down the canyons.

The last bridge in the trio is

Owachomo Bridge.  Where

Kachina Bridge had been thick

and massive, Owachomo was

thin and delicate.

Still mighty at its base, from a

distance the narrow stone

seemed almost wispy as it

soared across the expanse.

As we left Natural Bridges National

Monument we caught a glimpse of the

twin peaks the Indians called "Bears

Ears."   What a perfect name!

Many rock formations, cliffs and mesas

around here often beg to be named

because their shapes are just so

familiar.  The Bicentennial Highway

took us past the Cheesebox and

Jacob's Chair.

Back on the scenic Bicentennial Highway the views really got us excited as we

approached Glen Canyon and the Colorado River.  I was practically jumping up

and down in my seat with excitement as the truck swept around one gorgeous

curve after another.

Mark just puttered along, patiently driving, while I whirled around from side to

side snapping hundreds of photos out the windows.  I even climbed up to sit in

the truck window a few times to get pics over the roof.  It is just that gorgeous!

This section of the road must have

been a huge challenge to construct,

and I kept thinking of Ferd Johnson

from the visitors center back in

Blanding who described living out in

these canyons for over two years

while building the highway and the

bridges across the river.

What a place to work!

We stopped at a scenic overlook after

crossing the river and learned that

when the river was dammed back in the

1960's, the new Lake Powell flooded

not only countless ancient Indian

settlements complete with artifacts,

petroglyphs and other priceless

treasures of humankind, but it flooded

an old mining ghost town as well.  Hite

City had boomed when local miners got

"uranium on the cranium" and started

searching the area for "hot rocks."  Now

the entire town lies underwater.

Back in Blanding, both our welder, Jack, and highway builder Ferd

told us they remembered this canyon vividly from the days before it

was filled with water.  What an event it must have been when the

dam was completed to see the water rise against the cliffs and

transform the landscape.

Eventually the scenery along the Bicentennial Highway simmered

down to downright boring, and I settled down in my seat.  From

Route 95 we turned west onto Route 24, and then the views began

to build yet again.

Swirling patterns filled

the rock landscape.  It

seemed the gods had

gotten their hands

colorfully dirty, messing

around with finger

paints, and then had

smeared their prints

across the rocks.

We approached some

towering pale cliffs and

then found ourselves

deep in the heart of red

rock country.

We had arrived at Capitol Reef National Park.  What a

spot!  The bright green trees, burnt orange rocks and crisp

blue sky made a vivid feast for the eyes.  We happily

agreed to settle in here and explore the area for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Northern Idaho – Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes Idaho

The Trail passes lakes, streams, farmland and cute towns.

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes Idaho

The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes is 72 miles of paved

cycling bliss.

Rails-to-trails Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes Idaho

The Trail crosses old train bridges.

We started getting into cycling when we

arrived in Idaho.

Kellogg Idaho

Kellogg, Idaho is a special town that has an eclectic feeling.

St. George is popular in Kellogg, ID.

One of Kellogg's chalet homes.

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes Idaho

It winds through the woods.

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes Idaho

Plaques describe the ecology and history of the area.

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes Idaho

Portions of the Trail flank a wide lake.

Moose tracks on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes Idaho

Muddy moose tracks!

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes bike trail Idaho

Beautifully maintained by Union Pacific, there are rest areas

and restrooms along the trail.

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes bicycle path Idaho

The scenery is stunning.

Riverview along the bike path Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes Idaho

The water is blue-green because of the high mineral

content.

Bicycle trail Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes Idaho

We will be back.

Northern Idaho

August 26-September 2, 2007 - Leaving the North Cascades, we visited Coeur

d'Alene briefly and headed east towards Montana.  In the town of Smelterville, 30

miles east of Coeur d'Alene we stopped overnight at Walmart.  We noticed a paved

bike path next to the

parking lot and took out

our bikes to explore.

We soon discovered

that we were in the

middle of the charming

72-mile-long Trail of the

Coeur d'Alenes rails-to-trails bike path.  We found a campground and

stayed a week so we could explore the bike path more fully.  Each day

we drove the truck to a trailhead, unloaded the bikes and rode a ten

mile segment, out and back.

The valley area 30 miles east of Coeur d'Alene is one of the

richest mineral deposits in the world, and the town of Kellogg is

the heart of this area.  In the 1940's it was poisoned by the toxic

silver mining process.  In the 1980's the mine closed, the

railroad shut down and everyone lost their jobs.  As one woman

put it, it looked like an atom bomb had gone off. A fellow who

grew up here in the 1940's said you could taste the sulphur

dioxide in your mouth all the time and the air was always hazy

blue from the smoke stacks and smelters. Rather than flee

when their world crashed in the 1980's, many townspeople

stayed.  Declared an EPA superfund site, Union Pacific cleaned

up their mess by burying their toxic waste along the tracks and creating the 72-mile long paved bike path.  The high school

students planted a million trees on the barren hills surrounding town in the 1980's, and today those hills are lush, the air is clear,

and the town is optimistic.

There is an artsy

flair to the town.

Someone in town

loves St. George

and the dragon: we

found them in a

sculpture and a

mural.  Several

homes had an

alpine look to them,

and nearby there is

a ski area complete

with gondola and chair lifts.  There is something upbeat and

offbeat about Kellogg that really appealed to us.

The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes is a gem.  There are

trailheads along its length, each with display maps showing

the highlights.  It passes through the historic town of Wallace,

the simple mobile home town of Osburn, the former mining

towns of Smelterville and Kellogg, and through the lakeside

town of Harrison.  Some parts of the trail are busy and others

are very quiet.  Mostly alone on the trail, there were times

when we shared it with cyclists, dog walkers, and inline

skaters, but there was never any congestion.

In one lonely area, far from civilization, we discovered

some moose tracks.  I had been reading a book that talked

about how moose like to eat the roots of lilies, and this part

of the Trail passed a large lily pond.  Some workers

painting a train trestle further down told us a moose had

been in the area for several weeks.

After a week in this

charming part of the world

we ventured on eastwards

to northern Montana and

the stunning Glacier

National Park.