One Last Look Back….Aaaah, to be Twelve Again!

By now, news of my Dad has come from home, and I need to get to an airport and find a place to stow the Winnie to fly back to Texas.  Phoenix seems to be the most logical option, so as not to have to winterize the Winnie (pay no attention to that recent snow covering on the saguaros!)  So I head for McDowell Mountain Regional Park, a place I have been before, so I am familiar with the area.   I will make this my base for a couple of days while I scout out suitable storage areas.

After two days of rain in Valley of Fire, I arrive at McDowell to a rainbow!

After two days of rain in Valley of Fire, I arrive at McDowell to a rainbow!

But McDowell also offers an added bonus.  My friends Jim and Gayle are there!  They left Zion a bit suddenly, leaving me with nothing but a mournful “Goodbye, Peterman! man…man…man” echoing across the canyon.  So I would have a chance to see them one more time, and bid them a proper goodbye.

But also, I had another motive.  After having traveled, hiked, and biked with the Red Rocks Gang for a couple of months, I had become intrigued by their love of mountain biking.   We had talked several times about my coming to McDowell, renting a mountain bike, and test driving some of the easier trails with them to see if it was a sport in which I wanted to invest.  And “invest,” one must as comfort comes at a price in this sport!

Jim and Gayle scored the best spot in the park!

Jim and Gayle scored the best spot in the park!

My current Trek hybrid is over 15 years old, so after hundreds of miles from Niagara to the Pacific Northwest, I feel like I have gotten my money’s worth, and am entitled to consider a new bike.  The question is, which kind of biking do I want to do?   How could I make this decision never even having sat on a mountain bike before?

Get ready to roll!

Get ready to roll!

Peterman, who is on hiatus while waiting for his Xarelto to kick in, has generously offered up the use of his bike for a test drive.  I accept reluctantly after inquiring as to the need to “lawyer up.”  ;-)   The first thing I notice when I sit down?  “It’s SPRINGY!”   Instantly, I see what all the suspension fuss is about.  Like sitting down on a Tempurpedic for the first time after a lifetime on a futon.  But oh, just you wait!

The "magic carpet" of bicycles.

The “magic carpet” of bicycles.

Gayle asks, “How far are you up to?”  She rattles off some choices, but I am lured in by the one that carries the distinction of being her favorite loop.  “LET’S DO IT!”  I say!

I have ridden over some pretty rough dirt roads in my past, but never ones with three to four foot dips and rises.  Gayle gives me a few pointers, and we are off and rolling.   As we come to the first ditch, I brace for impact, holding on, clenching my teeth, and preparing to be pitched over the handle bars.  But instead, the bike glides over dips, ruts, rocks, and obstacles with nary a bump.  This must be what it feels like to ride on a cloud!   I am “yippie-ing and yahooing” all the way down the canyon!

As we approach the downhill stretch of the Pemberton Trail, Gayle tells me we are now at her favorite stretch along the loop.  She speeds up, and I am pedaling as fast as I can to catch her.  She shouts out the hazards up ahead “Deep sand!  Don’t slow down! Keep pedaling!”  She occasionally stops to wait for me to catch up, throwing a sly smile over her shoulder, telling me what lies ahead.  “Just one more uphill stretch” said with a tone that sounds a little too much like Dr. Evil’s extortion threat of “One meeellion dollars!”

Soon, we have completed the ten mile loop.  I have broken Peterman’s seat not once but twice, run through several thorny cactus plants, splashed through a slurry of mud, and stripped the gears a couple of times, but I don’t think it is damage he will notice…at least not until the Xarelto takes effect.  ;-)

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Love this park!  Where else do they sweep your campsite?

Love this park! Where else do they sweep your campsite?

Back to the Wash to Wash My Spirit Clean

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” ~ John Muir

When I asked Mark and Bobbie for recommendations on Valley of Fire hikes, both stressed emphatically, “You’ve got to hike the wash!”   Of course, this means an unofficial, unmarked, unmaintained trail, which makes me a bit uneasy as a solo hiker, not having done much exploring of unofficial trails.  But the great thing about hiking a wash is that the trail has been marked by nature.  Just follow the gully, and you can’t go wrong.  Well, you can’t go wrong as long as there are no flash floods in the forecast, that is!   It is still raining on my second day in the park, but I decide to hike it regardless of weather.  (I guess “come hell or high water” would be a bad choice of cliche’s here.)

At one time, the Scenic Road from the Visitor’s Center to its end at White Domes trail head must have offered a plethora of free form hiking.  What were once frequent turn-outs along the road have since been cordoned off with large boulders punctuated by “NO PARKING” signs.   All traffic is now directed to designated parking areas near landmarks (Rainbow Vista, White Dome, etc.) or one of three parking lots toward the end of the road.   There is no parking along the road itself…with one exception, the Wash!IMG_3177 IMG_3176

There are five marked washes along the Scenic Road, each with a concrete shoulder on each side of the road.  As long as one is able to park their car off to the road, parking is allowed on this concrete shoulder.IMG_3179 IMG_3180 IMG_3182

The Park Ranger tells me Nbr 5 is the most scenic, leading to a place called “Pastel Canyon.”  As far as I know, it is also the only one that has an official name, “Kaolin Wash.”   Though the name is not visible from the road, each wash has a small sign indicating the number, visible in front of my Tracker in the photo below.

Parking on the shoulder at Wash Nbr 5.

Parking on the shoulder at Wash Nbr 5.

IMG_3170The drizzle and rain have continued throughout the night, and my “Dark Skies” app says rain will not stop until 10:00am.   But the park has a 2:00pm check out, and I want to allow time for one last hot shower before I hit the road.   So I just decide to go for it, rain or no rain.  I stow the Winnie for departure and lay out my shower bag and dry clothes.  In case I come back soaked, all I have to do is open the door, grab the clothes, and head straight for the showers.  It’s still raining steadily when I head out for the hike, but given the entire desert is perfumed from the creosote bushes, I really don’t mind.   Good time to test out my rain gear I bought back at the Columbia outlet back in Portland! IMG_3134 IMG_3146 IMG_3163

Right out of the car, I am blown away.  I haven’t gone but a few steps when I find myself walking through a waist-high slot canyon with beautiful shades of mauve, peach, mustard and dusty rose billowing out on both sides of me.   Since the rocks are wet, they are almost psychedelic in swirling patterns and variegated hues.   Anyone who has ever “spit on a rock” to get the colors to intensify knows what I mean here!IMG_3113 IMG_3114 IMG_3117

I find the connecting path that leads up to the Fire Wave.  According to my trusty pedometer, it is exactly 1,000 paces into the wash.  Watch to your left for this rock formation…it is the back side of the Fire Wave, offering a less traveled, more scenic alternative to the designated Fire Wave trail.

This formation 1,000 steps into the wash on the left is the back side of the Fire Wave dome.

This formation 1,000 steps into the wash on the left is the back side of the Fire Wave dome.

IMG_3118 IMG_3144A half an hour in, I think I must have reached the Pastel Canyon, as hues become more muted.  Once I pass the Fire Wave connection, I see no other footprints but my own in the sandy wash.  Soon, I am walking through what I nicknamed “Conglomerate Canyon” as the rocks are all a mass of conglomerate of tiny stones of many different colors.  If I had all day, I could spend longer here marveling at such huge boulders made up of tiny stones.

I called this "Conglomerate Canyon," because all the rocks and boulders are conglomerates.

I called this “Conglomerate Canyon,” because all the rocks and boulders are conglomerates.

IMG_3151 IMG_3148Conglomerate Canyon stops just as suddenly as it begins, and I find myself in the most brilliant red rock I have ever seen, made more so by the “wash being washed” by the rain.  It has all but stopped now, but the rocks are still wet, making the walls almost glow a deep red.  I feel like one of those microscopic cameras traveling through the arteries of Mother Earth.IMG_3160 IMG_3155 IMG_3157

Kaolin Wash makes several sharp turns before I must turn back.  I can see there is no end to the beauty up ahead, but I have timed myself – two hours in, two hours out, in order to make check-out time.  The hours have flown, as I feel like I have been through at least three different canyons, just by following one wash. I reluctantly turn based on time alone, otherwise I would love to have kept going to find the end of this rainbow!IMG_3175

Happy in the Jardin

From Thanksgiving amidst the red rocks of the great Southwest to the Jardin at midnight in San Miguel de Allende in one blog post, I have some ‘splainin’ to do.   One of my intentions after retiring was to finally get the blog into “real time,” and we see how that has gone.  I can’t seem to get caught up, no matter how hard I try.  Do I dare make this a resolution? Continue reading

Fare Thee Well, Dear Zion…

I am the last of “the Red Rocks Gang” to leave Zion.  Like the last leaf dangling precariously from the bare bones limbs of the cottonwoods long after they have dropped their brilliant golden color for the season, I am reluctant to let go.

Each goodbye has taken a piece of me.  It is like pulling the bandaid off one hair at a time.  But none stung as badly as the “final goodbye” because it signifies Continue reading

Where Not Just Angels Fear to Tread

It’s my last day in Zion National Park, and I still haven’t done the one hike I came to do.  I had my sights set on the Angel’s Landing hike since last August, when I made plans to join the Red Rocks Gang in Southern Utah.   But I psyched myself out that I “wasn’t ready.”   For one reason or another, I haven’t been in the right frame of mind to attempt this hike since I arrived.   Conditions need be just right….weather that is cool but not rainy, a mid-week day with light crowds, and an opening when the rest of the gang is taking a day off or riding their mountain bikes, so I won’t miss out on a hike with the gang to a destination I have not yet seen.    But once I realize time is running out, it’s already too late… Continue reading

Realities and Reflections…

It was with an extreme mixture of emotions that I checked Dad out of the rehab center this past week.  He seemed to be doing so well mentally, but limited exercise was rapidly becoming a pitfall.  Although he had both a Physical Therapist and an Occupational Therapist, neither seemed to be working him to the extent he worked himself, just the weeks leading up to his pneumonia.   And no therapy on the weekends made me feel like we were losing ground. Continue reading

Don’t Sleep in the Subway, Darlin’

Zion has three extremely popular, highly sought out hikes in the park.   The Trifecta includes The Narrows, wading up the Virgin River between 1,000 ft walls, Angel’s Landing, climbing a sliver of a 1,500 ft high backbone, and The Subway.   Of these three, only the Subway requires a permit from the Zion Wilderness Center to enter.    They only allow 80 hikers into this area on any given day, sometimes requiring a lottery to manage the demand.  This hike is, according to NPS, “a strenuous 9-mile round-trip that requires route finding, creek crossing, and scrambling over boulders.”  No joke. Continue reading

I’ve Been Through the Canyon on a Trail With No Name

Zion National Park is “the gift that keeps on giving.”  Although there are so many notorious destination hikes, such as the Narrows and Angel’s Landing, it seems as if one could drop down into any canyon in the park and find equally stunning scenery.  Maybe not the adrenalin rush of guide rails of chains or special water boots required, but no less of a feast for the eyes. Continue reading

Real Time Bytes

I am typically running behind on blog posts. I find it challenging to be a “real time blogger.” Like many areas of my life, I tend to procrastinate. Just like one of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs, “I’m always running behind the time…just like this train.  Shakin’ into town with the brakes complaining.” 

It’s even tougher to stay current when hiking with the Red Rocks Gang.    Although I often “journal” a post in a timely manner, it takes me several days to do the photo downloading and selection.   So when in a place like Zion where every single day offers a hike worthy of its own blog post, it’s really easy to fall behind in a hurry.

But not this blog post.  It is coming to you “real time” Continue reading