Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Kiss From The Cave

Usually I write about the beauty that soars above the earth. I guess there is a first time for everything...

A Kiss from the Cave

This long, ancient history
Still shrouded in mystery
There is much we do not know
Of this other world below
Lingering here is the Natives' spirit
Haunted passages; some still fear it
The endless labyrinth winding
Through the darkness so blinding
Suffocating silence; there is no sound
In this cool dampness underground
The lonely cavern; the river now gone
Leaving behind this passage of stone
The darkness is all consuming
Unknowing ahead what is looming
But when the cave walls are touched by light
Appearing out of nowhere, eyes meet a grand sight
Water drips down over delicate forms
Minerals left behind on the walls they adorn
From the high ceiling hang pointy stalagmite
From the rough floor rise jagged stalactites
Over the years they may grow to unite
Creating a column of graceful height
This subterranean world will forever expand
With formations, textures, and colorful bands
Hanging drapery and crystallized minerals
Detailed waxy figures and the whole cave in general
Still hides inside its secrets deep
While water continues to trickle and seep
Over the very formations to the cavern it gave
A drip falls on my face, a kiss from the cave

The next post will be about the Lost River Cave (for real this time! I was just too lazy tonight.)

Monday, February 27, 2006

Another sweet weekend, Another great adventure

On Saturday, I went to Kentucky's “cave country” with my friend, Germaphobe. Yes, this is another one of my “crazy” trips that left friends and family exclaiming, “You drove all the way to Kentucky just for the day?!?!” To which I responded, “Of course! Why not?”

Mammoth Cave National Park was one of the N.P.s that I had not yet made it to until this weekend so I was pretty excited to go. Germaphobe was as excited as I was. After our tour of Mammoth Cave, we would have the rest of the day free to find something else interesting to do in the area. We stopped by a Tennessee Rest Area/ Visitor Information Center and picked up a dozen or so brochures. (It’s amazing that I can still find things I want to do in TN. even after the million or so times I have visited.) However, nothing in Tennessee was along our trail this time, so we stopped at the Kentucky Visitor Center after crossing the state line. Here, Germaphobe discovered two things that made her extremely happy. One of the things was a super-powered hand dryer in the restroom. She could not only wash those germs away, but blow them away! When I tell you that this was a powerful dryer, it is an understatement. That dryer could blast the skin off your bones! I seriously believe that it is sanitary enough to stick one’s hands under the dryer without prior washing. Nothing, not even the most despicable microorganisms, could survive that blast of air! Her second important discovery was a pamphlet for the Lost River Cave. She was drawn in by the photo on the cover of a smiling group of people riding in a boat through the cave’s river. “Ooooo, I want to ride the boat!” she exclaimed. I concurred. It did look pretty cool and I had never taken a boat ride in any of the other caves I had visited. As a bonus, it was in Bowling Green, Ky. right along the way. We decided to make that our other to-do for the day.

We continued merrily on our way and decided to refuel before hitting Mammoth Cave. No most BP stations are fairly nice in my opinion and this particular BP claimed to be a “travel center” so this is where we chose to stop. I should have known by the way the pump slowly dripped gasoline into my tank, that this place might have been a bit outdated. Seriously, it should not take 15 minutes to fill up my Honda Civic’s small tank! I did not heed this foreboding warning that something culture-shocking may be awaiting me on the other side of the BP’s door. Before I continue, I must first say that I am a true, born Southerner so I don’t mean to offend. Second, it has been my experience that Kentuckians are nice, good people. With that being said, Germaphobe and I opened the door and walked into a world of every fulfilled southern stereotype imaginable. There was no travel center that I could see, but there was, instead, a restaurant that reeked of fried catfish, fried chicken, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, and other greasy, fried side dishes. The array of people dining on these heart-attack-on-a-platter meals seemed to be toothless, bearded, and dressed in overalls. I couldn’t bare to look long enough to notice if any of them were also barefoot. The only thing missing was the music of Dueling Banjos. I cut my eyes over at Germaphobe who was side-glancing right back at me. We tried to ward off our growing, pent-up laughter. And we fought off the urge to turn around and hightail it back to the car. We didn’t want to be rude, so we quickly browsed around the “travel center”, holding our breaths so we wouldn’t choke on the cigarette smoke which was thick as pea soup. I knew that we must hurry before someone tried to be friendly and introduce us to their wife and sister and we, in horror, look to see only one person standing there! We made a run for it, gasping for fresh air and bursting out our dammed-up laughter as we jumped into my car.

We arrived at Mammoth Cave shortly after leaving “Hillbilly Junction”. We had an hour before our tour began so we explored the area. We walked to the Historic/Natural Entrance to the cave. We went ahead and bought tee shirts from the gift store since we had the time. (Note to Super Villain: Yes, I did buy a souvenir thimble for you. I know how you love to collect them. haha)

We took a tour of the Frozen Niagara section of the cave. As we were sitting on the bus that would take us to that entrance of the cave, the ranger tells us about the 300+ steps we would have climb down into the cave. I can feel Germaphobe giving me the evil eye for “forgetting” to mention this part of the tour. I look down at my hands, pretending to pick at my nails and acting oblivious of the knowledge of that steep stairway. As soon as the ranger asked for questions, Germaphobe’s hand shot up in the air.

“You told us about the three-hundred and something stairs down, but you didn’t mention how we were getting out.”

The ranger reassured us that we did not come back out the same way. There would not be 300+ steps to walk up. Germaphobe sighed a breath of relief. So did I. She did not want to face a steep climb. I did not want to face an angry Germaphobe.

I never thought that we would stop descending the never-ending stairs. Were we going to the Frozen Niagara or were we going to Hell? Finally we made it to the bottom. To my relief there was no pitchfork or devil waiting at the bottom.

We were in a dry section of the cave. Without water to drip and deposit minerals, there were not any formations in this part of the cave. I had never seen a cave like this without stalagmites, stalagtites, and columns. It was interesting to be walking in solid rock under the earth. At one point, the ranger cut off the lighting and we were asked to sit in silence in the darkness to experience the natural state of the cave. I only know how to describe that feeling as “suffocating”.

Moving forward, we finally reached the wet part and highlight of the cave tour. Magnificent formations were everywhere as we walked through the Frozen Niagara and Drapery Room. These types of formations were familiar to me from my previous caving experiences, but the size of these mineral-growths were not familiar. I never had seen anything so huge! They were…well, mammoth in size! It was beautiful and colorful. I was “kissed” many times by the dripping cave as I strolled through this section.

It was a great experience and now I can say that I have been in the world’s largest cave system.

After checking out a few more things like the cemetery that allots eternal rest to the first Mammoth Cave tour guide and a couple of scenic viewpoints, we headed for our second destination down the road in Bowling Green, The Lost River Cave.

The Lost River Cave is saturated with so many levels of history! Being the huge history buff I am, I loved this place! In fact, I think that it deserves its own post. I will jot down a historical time line and pull up some of my photos for my next post. So stay tuned! (But please be careful sitting on the edge of your seat in anticipation. I would hate for you to fall!)

Anyway, to continue with the rest of our day…Germaphobe called the Lost River Cave’s office to see if we needed to book reservations for the boat ride. They had just sold out of tickets moments before. I have never seen her so broken hearted as I did at that moment. (And I have seen her broken hearted many times, as she seems to have as many letdowns with “that guy” (mentioned in my last post) as I have!)

“But I wanted to ride the boat!” she whined.

I whined along with her. Silence.

“Do you think maybe someone will get sick and cancel?” she asked hopefully.

“Anything is possible,” I say. More silence.

“Awww, I really wanted to go!” she moaned. Another pause of silence.

“Let’s go anyway. Maybe they will feel sorry for us and make room for us,” she said.

I replied that it was okay with me. So we exited the interstate into Bowling Green and found our way to the cave. We walked into the office prepared to beg and plead.

Germaphobe really sucked up to and sweet-talked the ticket seller. She finally concluded with the ticket seller,
“Are you sure you can’t kick two people off for us?”

He smiled sweetly and replied,
“I would if I could because you’ve been so nice about it.”

But…he couldn’t… so he didn’t. And as we stood there ticket-less, he told us that we were allowed to walk the trails down to and around the cave. We took advantage of this and had a blast! I have to admit that for a moment I wondered if Germaphobe might have hijacked a boat.

We found out many amazing things about the cave that I will reveal on my next post. (I know you can’t wait!)

We left Bowling Green and headed for Nashville, TN. Nashville is like a second home to me. I go there all the time, but I don’t know why. There really isn’t that much to do there and I am not a country music nut, but there is something about the city’s atmosphere that calls me back over and over again. I have a favorite restaurant in downtown called Demos’ that I was looking forward to sharing with Germaphobe. As always, it was delicious, but the wait was nearly an hour. That gave me plenty of time to take Germaphobe on my “special” Downtown Nashville Tour. I showed her the bright lights of Broadway (the main street in downtown, that is), the bar scene including the Wild Horse Saloon (Yee-haw!), Riverfront Park along the Cumberland River, Fort Nashborough ( a scaled-down replica of Nashville’s original settlement) and the Ryman Auditorium. I also made sure to make several references to the BellSouth Building a/k/a the “Devil Building” to me. Yes, I do realize that the people of Nashville refer to their oddly shaped BellSouth Tower as the “Bat Tower”. Yeah, I can see the Batman resemblance, but the first time I saw that building I asked the friend I was traveling with, “What’s up with that building? It looks like the devil!” Ever since, it has been “The Devil” to me.

After our delicious dinner at Demos’ we headed for my favorite coffee shop, Bongo Java. I needed something strong for the nearly four hour drive back home. I walked into the coffee shop and asked for the strongest thing the guy taking orders could brew up. He asked how important taste was to me. I told him that it was not very high on the totem pole at this point. He looked like a bartender as the mixed my caffeinated beverage like pro. He took a coffee blend that was already high in caffeine and then added two shots of espresso and a spoonful of caramel and a dab of whipped cream. It worked. Five hours later, well past 3:30 a.m., I was
reading my latest edition of Backpacker Magazine still shaking like a live wire and hoping for sleep to take over my exhausted body.

Enormous formations inside of Mammoth Cave.

Some formations were quite colorful.

Germaphobe and Outdoorsy Girl pose just outside of the Frozen Niagara.

An eerie shot that I converted to a black and white shot of water dripping in the cave.

Nashville's "Devil" looks down over its city.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A question for "that guy"...

I’m not in the great outdoors today. And I am about to go on one of my rare (rarely posted, at least... haha) tangents...

Why oh why, men of the world, would you tell a girl or show a girl that you really like them if you really don’t? I understand that you might think you’re interested in someone, but discover that they don’t really "do it for you" once you actually go out. Happens to me all the time. The difference? I don’t fool them into thinking I am interested in them by being affectionate and I certainly don’t tell them I am interested. Or maybe you do really like the girl initially, but upon pondering it later, you change your mind. You’re entitled. It’s your decision. But we, the girls, are entitled to know the truth. Do you really think that we are so fragile that we can’t handle the truth? Breathe a deep sigh of relief, boys. Most of us would not contemplate suicide. You’re not that special. So if you happen to be "that guy" please stop being full of yourself and stop this madness! …haha...

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a co-worker who was giddy about an upcoming date she had with this guy that she had been very interested in for a while. It seemed he was finally coming around after all this time!

Today I come across my co-worker as I was heading out the door. (Yay! Quittin’ time!) I stopped for a quick update…

“Hey, how’s it going with your guy?” I asked her.

She sighed deeply. “Well…,” she responded with a confused look on her face. Uh-oh, I know this look.

She went into her story about when they went out and what a great time they had. He even called her the next day! …And then he put her off and they haven’t talked since.

Co-worker: “Oh Outdoorsy Girl, I just don’t understand! I know I didn’t do anything to him. He said he had a great time! Hell, he even called to tell me he did. If he really didn’t like me to begin with, why did he act like he did?”

I stood in silence for a few moments. Was I talking to myself in the mirror, again? I blinked hard. No, she’s too tall and too brunette to be my own reflection. Good then, a sane conversation.

Me: “Well, if you ever figure out what happened, please fill me in. Maybe it will explain away some of my mysteries.”

Co-Worker: “But you don’t understand! He acted like he liked me. He said he liked me.”

Me: I don’t understand? You don’t understand! I am a magnet for this type of flawed men. I have even given this particular disease from which they all suffer a name!”

Co-worker: (Giggling) “So what is it?”

Me: “It’s called the Trent-Ross Syndrome. The symptoms consist of perpetual wishy-washiness, leading women on, and forgetting to call.”

Co-Worker: (Laughing louder now) “And how did you come up with that name?”

Me: “Oh, my best friend and I spliced together the names of two men we dated around the same time who had all the symptoms. There is no known cure as of date, but at least we know its name.” ...(And we all know that knowing is half the battle!)

She vowed to find the antidote and I started out the door. Man, I can’t believe that there are so many men out there like that! I felt a little bit of relief upon discovering that I am not the only one who meets these jokers. If there is a man within a fifty-mile radius who doesn’t really know what he wants out of life, is on the rebound, is wishy-washy, or suffers from full-blown Trent-Ross Syndrome, they will find their way to my door. Hmmm. Maybe Co-worker and I had dated the same guy. I ran back to the door and opened it.

“Hey, Co-worker, what is that guy’s name again?”

She tells me. I have never dated anyone by that name. I make a mental note to myself to be wary of any man I may meet by that particular name. Lord knows, I’ll probably run into him at the grocery store.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I have seen a million sunsets. Never have I seen any sunset as beautiful as the one I saw one evening over Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.

I drove out to Antelope Island with my friend, “Adam”. We were hoping to beat the dying light and catch a few great shots on film. It’s not looking too promising as the sky darkens prematurely with some furious clouds. The clouds burst open with lashing winds and slanted rain. The road quickly filled with a couple inches of water. It’s looking nasty, really nasty now.

“Be careful driving in this mess,” A. cautions me.

Puh-leez! Try driving in Georgia through the leftovers of a hurricane blowing inland. Now, that’s a storm! “I’m an expert at this,” I reassure him.

We begin down the 7 mile causeway leading to the island. As suddenly, as the sky erupted, it settled down. The storm was now behind us and the clouds were now parting. Tinges of red and orange were bursting through. I stopped the car.

Standing along the road outside of my car, we watched in amazement the bold colors bleeding through the clouds and the lake as it reflecting them in a mirror image. Behind us, in the storm, lightening bolts were zapping across the sky. My skin tingled with the electric pulse of the fading storm. We snapped our photos and watched the sunset until it was no more and we were standing in darkness.

Then we were kicked off the island because the park was closing its gates. Hahaha.

I wrote this in dedication of the beautiful moment:


Etched in memory, I cannot forget
The amazing evening of a golden sunset
The raging storm as it blew in
Bringing torrential rain and the high winds
Lightening was striking in the distance
And the earth stood still in defiant resistance
As the wind in its fury rearranged the sky
Pushing around the clouds as it passed by
Shifting and moving until it finally revealed
The vibrant beauty the clouds had concealed
The sun painted the sky in a fiery blaze
I could not look away; it held my gaze
The melting sky mirrored in the great lake
An inspiring impression it did make
I could not see if the painted sky had an end
And if it did, where did the colored water begin?
This unison created such a spectacular scene
What was once so intense was now so serene
I tried to describe the awe but I failed
To express the most gorgeous sunset I beheld

Monday, February 20, 2006

Desert Night Approaching

Red monoliths ablaze in the sunset glow
Home of the Ancients, the Hopi, the Navajo
The Colorado River in the canyon pushes through
Rapids roaring, currents carving sculpture in rich, chocolate hue
Pueblo ruins peering over the high cliff edge
Petroglyphs, pictographs painted on rock ledge
Will soon fade out in the dying light
Covered by the darkness of approaching night
The dying echo of clashing Bighorn Sheep
The coming of night, soon to put them to sleep
Cactus flowers closing up along the dusty ground
The quiet of the stars becomes the only sound
It only lasts a while, this stillness phase
Until sunrise hits red monoliths, setting them ablaze

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Snow Tubing!

Yesterday I took a little trip to Scaly Mt., North Carolina with my germaphobic friend. (She'll get dirty as long as she can washup ASAP!) We wanted to play in the snow and since it never snows here in Meto-Atlanta, we headed north to the nearest patch of snow (and although it is mostly machine-generated, it still counts!) for some snow tubing! And (real) snow fell from the sky all day.

We had a blast! We slid down the snow bank backwards, forward, on our stomachs, on our butts, spinning out, and nearly jumping the side banks. Oh yeah, and we did have one collision to speak of. (No broken bones, so no big deal!)

The sweet guy working the top of slope must have liked us. He always set us up to go spinning down the mountain or showed us a new "trick" so we would fly down even faster. One time he had Germaphobe and I linked together by having us face one another and holding on to one another's ankles and he sent us swooshing downhill, spinning like a carousel all the way to the bottom. We had built up such speed that I thought for a moment we would jump the side bank and wipe out. However, we avoided a crash that time.

Our tubular accident occurred when I plopped down on the tube on my belly and sped off. Germaphobe took off right behind me on her bottom, her feet hanging over the sides of her tube. I spun around backwards, my feet now pointed downhill and my head pointed uphill now facing Germaphobe's feet that are speeding toward my face at an alarming rate. I try to spin back around, but can't. Germaphobe taps her feet into the snow to slow down, but it doesn't brake her at all. She screamed and I screamed as we watched the gap between us close. With her feet still on track for impact with my face, we stared wide-eyed at one another in what seemed like slow-motion, our mouths still gaping wide open in screams. God, help me keep all my teeth, I prayed. Her feet swung just to the side as we collide and our tubes bounce off one another. I'm thrown off at the bottom of the slope and look up just in time to see a group of kids with their tubes linked together heading right for me! I escape unscathed but drenched and a bit muddy from waist down.

"Outdoorsy Girl!", Germaphobe called. "Are you okay?" She was laughing hysterically.

I licked my tongue across my teeth. Yep, they're all there. I answer through fits of laughter, "Yeah, just a little bit wet. My ass is soooo numb!"

In fact, my butt didn't regain consciousness again until an hour or so later, despite the fact that I changed into dry clothes. And when it did regain feeling from this cold-induced numbness, it was not a good feeling! I felt like a fire-breathing dragon had kissed my rear end.

We drove home the scenic route through Highlands, NC, through the Nantahala National Forest and through the Cullasaja River Gorge. We stopped along the way to see the waterfalls and other sights through the flurries of snow. Along the road, we found a natural spring. Someone had placed a PVC pipe in the rock to create a faucet for collecting water. I took a few sips of the refreshing, icy water. Then to my surprise, even with Germaphobe being as germaphobic as she is, she took a drink from the pipe, too! (This pipe was not clean or dirt-free, by the way!) For the second time a miracle has occurred in the life of an antimicrobial girl! Germaphobe drinks H2O straight from the rock without any microfiltering involved! (Once before Best Friend and I coaxed...okay, taunted...her until she drank water from a spring in Utah.) But this time she did it voluntarily, without any coaxing/taunting, and through an unclean pipe! And, Best Friend, if you are reading this, I have the picture to prove it!

Though I wouldn't mind going another round down on the tube, it certainly feels wonderful to be in my warm home today. But I seriously think my butt is frostbitten! I surely hope not. Now wouldn't that be a strange body part to have amputated?

Almost to the bottom! Watch out below!

Germaphobe poses near our crash site.

Hitching a ride up the slope via the cable that nearly beheaded me.(three times!)

It's a miracle! And here's the proof!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Mountain Escape

Surround me with the quiet of the forest trees
Paint a backdrop of mountains just for me
Of snowcapped ranges feeding the springs
Let me hear the Mountain Bluebird as she sings
In a grove of Aspen or the Ponderosa Pine
Stars sparkle on the water created by sunshine
I want to walk along the stream as it flows
And follow it away to wherever it goes
For now I do not think; I only feel
The warmth of the sun change into night chill
As I fall asleep under a tapestry of stars
While gazing skyward to the lights afar

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Stabber on the Trail

This story is one of my more frightening hiking tales…

One fine day in July of 2004, Best Friend and I set out of Ogden, Utah for a hike up Waterfall Canyon. It was a hot day-- way too hot for a comfortable hike. We got a late start since we were being very leisurely (lazy) and began the steep hike up the canyon around noon. It was a short hike, only about a mile one way to the waterfall. But did I mention it was steep? Oh, and did I yet mention that it was a hot day? I’m pretty sure that I didn’t mention that a greater portion of the trail was unshaded.

Not too many people were on the steep, unshaded trail on this hot day at high noon. (What a surprise!) We met two couples finishing up the trail. They were almost back to the trailhead and parking lot, as we were beginning. A few minutes later, we came across this complete weirdo. Then we met no one until we were almost to the waterfall. That's when two guys jogging down the mountain nearly bowled us over. That’s it. That’s all the people we were sharing the trail with.

Let’s go back to the weirdo…He was a weirdo because he was sweating like a pig in his grayish long pants, long sleeves, and bucket hat. (Now, I know I have mentioned it was a hot day by this point!) Not only was this nut dressed in artic clothing in July, but he was a crazy talker.

“Hey, are you going to the waterfall?” he asked. Duh! Where do you think we are going on this trail that leads to the waterfall?

“Yep,” Best Friend and I replied in unison, without slowing down.

Yet he continued to talk, though we didn’t even slow down for him. “It’s real nice up there. Nobody’s there. Usually, there are a lot of people by the waterfall but nobody’s there now. You’ll have it all to yourself.”

“Thanks,” we muttered now way past him.

Still, he continues to talk, now raising his voice so we can hear him across the growing gap between us. Best Friend and I continued to move, actually quickening our pace by this point. He says, “You can even play it in. You’ll have it all to yourselves. The water's real nice and cool. And you'll have it all to yourselves!”

You know what? We got it the first time. We will be there all alone.

We rounded a corner next to the water tower by a golf course now below us. I looked over my shoulder to make sure that he didn’t come back around the corner to follow us and tell us once again about how we would be all alone by the waterfall. He was nowhere in sight and so we pressed on discussing how creepy he was. Then we forgot about him.

Now on an important side note: I must remark that it is highly unusual for either Best Friend or I to not talk to other hikers we meet. I am constantly running into other hikers with southern accents and comparing adventure notes with them. (We Southerners like to that. It’s that Southern Hospitality thing going on.) Best Friend enjoys telling everyone she meets about the bear she once saw on a trail. However, we did not want to talk to this man. He was creepy. He was weird. And we both got a horrible vibe from him.

All was great as we forgot about him and reached a shaded section of the trail. All was perfect. I was feeling good. Then I saw it...a snake! A big, ugly, vicious-looking snake! I thought it was a Rattler. Best Friend claims it wasn’t. She said it didn’t have a rattler. I couldn’t bear to look long enough to see for myself. All I know is it looked like one, therefore in my terrified mind, it shall always remain one. (Another side note that I am sure comes as no surprise: I am terrified of snakes! I have an uncontrollable, irrational, psychotic fear of snakes.) I went into a full panic attack when I saw it. I screamed, cried, froze up, and began to shake so badly that Best Friend had to physically move me and to sit me down away from the sight of the serpent. Even after it left the trail, way beyond my sight, I still needed to sit to regain enough composure to walk again. I couldn’t breathe at all. Slowly, I began to calm down, thanks to Best Friend’s rescue. As I sat there on the rock, my sobbing finally declined to silent teardrops. Then I heard some kids screaming down the trail. They were probably playing in the stream. They didn't sound that far away.

So no one else, except Best Friend, would see just what a baby I am, I wiped my face dry and we continued up the trail. The last thing I needed was a group of kids seeing me in this fragile condition. Plus, more importantly, we needed to beat them to the waterfall so we could get some kid-free shots of the waterfall on film.

A short time later, right after being nearly knocked down by the previously mentioned joggers, we reached the cool waterfall. And just as promised, we had it all to ourselves. We took all the photos we wanted. We played in the water and cooled off. In fact, we were there for quite a while in its mist. For a moment, I wondered what happened to those kids we heard. They should have been playing in the waterfall with us by now.

We began our decent down the canyon back to the parking lot. Still, we met no one. I just figured that no one was as idiotic as we were to be in the heat on this trail and thought not much more about it…until….we saw the Utah Highway Patrol helicopter overhead.

What had happened? Did someone get lost? Did someone get hurt? Then I turned to Best Friend and asked, “Best Friend, uh, is there something you would like to confess? Are they looking for you?” She laughed, admitting she wondered the same thing of me. One thing was for sure: They were indeed looking for someone. The ‘copter went flew up-canyon and then back down again over and over, and always flying low and hovering over our heads. I could make out the pilot’s face and waved to him. He waved back and continued to follow us back down the trail.

When we reached the trailhead, a police officer was standing at the end of the trail blocking it off and apparantly, waiting for us. He called on his radio, “The last two hikers made it back down. They’re here.”

The officer explained that he needed to ask us some questions about the people we encountered on the trail today. We accounted for everyone we met, but he was most interested in the weirdo. We answered all of his questions regarding the weirdo. He radioed someone at the station, “Yeah, the girls talked with him. I’ll send them down.” Then he turned to us and told us that we had talked with a suspect to a crime who they were searching for. He instructed us to go straight down to the Ogden P.D. immediately to meet with a detective who will be waiting for us. He also instructed us to not speak with the media, who were now gathering in the parking lot like sharks in a feeding frenzy.

We did as we were told and dodged the cameras and interrogations of the media as we made for our vehicle. One news station van began to follow us. So is this what it felt like to be Nicole Kidman running from the paparazzi? (No thanks, Nicole. You can have it!) When we made it to the P.D., the detective came out to meet us. He took me to another detective for questioning and led Best Friend away for her own line of interrogation.

By this point, I am really wondering what this weirdo has done! We were told by the detectives that our questions would be answered after theirs were answered first. After our part of the deal was fulfilled, one of the detectives filled us in.

He informed us that after passing us on the trail, this weirdo scoped out the parking lot and then turned back to follow us to the waterfall. He made it past the point where we met him by the water tower and to an intersection where a side trail met our trail. It just so happened that he met a couple of other unlucky girls coming up the side trail before making it to the waterfall and he stabbed them. Golfers down on the course below, called the police. The detective told us that the girls were okay, though one had a punctured lung and was in for surgery. The screaming “kids” we heard were actually the screams of the women as they were attacked. I have never felt so guilty for not knowing to help someone in all my life. For a couple of nights I didn’t sleep well. Every time I lay in the quiet of my bed, I would hear the screams in my head.

We drove back to the house from the P.D. in shock. The detective that spoke with Best Friend thought that we were lucky. He told Best Friend that we were blessed with good instinct that he referred to as our “Spider Senses”. For if we had stopped to chat and evaluate the accent in which the weirdo spoke or to let him know that we had seen a bear on a trail, he would have stabbed us instead.

I watched the news that evening to see myself on TV. He was still at-large that night, wandering around somewhere in Ogden, free to stab another victim.

Fortunately, the stabber was captured the following day. The news reported that he had been released from a half-way house only days before. He had spent three months in the half-way house after being released from prison for….you guessed it!...stabbing a woman in Salt Lake in the 1980s. Nice.

And about the long sleeves and pants in mid-summer…We were informed by the detective that this is the type of clothing that you don over another outfit when you plan to stab and rape someone. After committing the filthy crime, you simply discard the outer layer of clothing. So be on the alert should you ever run across someone with long sleeves and pants in the hot summer! It may turn out that they are as crazy as they look!

View from the top of the trail of Ogden and beyond. You can see the Great Salt Lake right in front of the mountain range in the distance.

Best Friend almost blends in with the rock as she cools herself by the waterfall that "we had all to ourselves."

I was happy to finally cool myself in the mist, but even happier that it isn't the final thing I ever did!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Goals of a Traveling Fool...

Always the dreamer, I have lately been mulling over in my mind: What exactly is it that I would like to add to my adventure experiences? I mean there are so many things I want to do! And there are so many things that I would like to do again! What were my biggest dreams? After thinking for a while, I came up with several answers (and reasons to support the answers) and now they are my goals. These are goals that I plan to accomplish within a two year frame:

1.) I am going to hike all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, all of the nearly 80 miles (not including Approach Trails), this year. After jumping back in the hiking scene with my Super Villain hiking buddy after a long Winter break, my appetite was whetted to tackle some good trails. I was thinking back with fond memories of the sections of the AT that I have completed already. Why not do all of Georgia? I mean, to walk to Maine would be much more impressive, but I am poor and cannot afford months away form work. So what I will do is walk from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Bly Gap, North Carolina. After extensive research, I have planned a way to do it in 8 weekends on 8 hikes, with only one of them being an overnight backpacking trip... Super Villain, are you ready???

2.) I am going to snorkel in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and Mexico. I got new snorkeling gear for Christmas this year that I am itching to try out! I have snorkeled in the Keys and in Mexico before and can’t wait to return because it is so awesome! I also won a cruise to the Bahamas that Best Friend and I plan to take sometime this year. I have been reading up on the national parks and reefs there and can’t wait to swim there with Bahamian fishies.

3.) I am going to hike to the top of Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome. Ever since I left Yosemite in August of 2000, I have wanted to stand on top of that mountain and look down into the valley from its dizzying heights. The hike is challenging and the climb to the summit is at such a steep pitch that it requires the use of cables. I want to nip that fear of falling in the bud and well, if that don’t do it, I don’t know what else could!

4.) I am going to Peru to hike the Inca Trail to the Machu Picchu ruins. It has been a dream of mine to walk in the footsteps of the ancients for several years and I have wanted to hike in the Andes for even longer. So... it’s two birds to be killed with one stone (most likely) in June 2007. (As long as Best Friend gets the job with the airlines so that we can get to Lima without first having to hock everything we own! If not, then it might be the following year, but it will happen!)

Of course, these are just the four BIG goals. There are many other smaller things to be done in the meanwhile!

Monday, February 13, 2006


For my friend S., who is the closest thing to selflessness and benevolence that I have ever known, on her birthday…

In the quiet of stillness her laughter still rings
She was a living angel, not yet graced with wings
Always giving to others; for herself, never taking
Always true to her loved ones and never forsaking
To see her face again, oh, how I would rejoice
Only to talk with her again, just to hear her voice
To step back in time, I’d pay any cost
Just to have for an instant again what I’ve lost
Just for her see that she still means so much
And in her short time, how many she touched
I awake to a life moving forward each day
While in eternal slumber she rests far away
With me she lives in memories of precious things
An angel she remains, graced now with wings

February 13, 1975-August 9, 2001

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Southern Utah Trip 2004, Part 4: The Conclusion

June 25, 2004
Zion National Park
Springdale, Utah

After leaving Bryce and a quick stop at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, we arrived here at Zion.

The dunes of Coral Pink Sand Dunes reminded me of the Sahara, only pink in color with huge mountains in the background and beautiful yellow flowers clinging on the tops of the dunes. The sand felt like flour, in softness and texture and was scorching hot to the touch on top. But when I dug into the sand, it was cool underneath. I have to admit that I am grateful that I didn’t dig up some scary snake or something, though! I saw people riding dune buggies through the sandy hills and I wish that we had the time to do that, too. It looked like a blast! I will have to try riding a buggy at a later time.

Zion is great! Best Friend was looking forward to seeing this place most of all. She has memories of her childhood trips here burned into her mind and has felt Zion calling to her ever since. I can understand how beautiful impressions of this place were etched into her memory. I feel that I will leave here with the same kind of experience. Zion's scenery will no doubt become one of the many pictures that appear on the backs of my eyelids as I close my eyes at night.

This place is just a smidge reminiscent of Yosemite Valley, as we are surrounded by huge monoliths. However the temperature never soared above the 100 degree mark at Yosemite as it did here today. The heat feels like the heat I know of back in Georgia, as I can feel humidity in the air for the first time in weeks. I credit the Virgin River for this familiar stickiness in the air. The Virgin (has to be named for its pure, clear qualities) flows between the previous mentioned monoliths in a lush valley. It is host to green vegetation, which adds indescribable beauty to the rust colored rock walls.

We hiked the Riverside Walk Trail, which is only one scenic (paved) mile that ends at the Virgin River. And that was where the fun began! We then hiked in the river through the narrows, with canyon walls towering above our heads on either side. After a couple of minutes wading the river against the current through water depths varying between knee, thigh and waist deep, Goofball decided that it wasn’t her cup of tea. After a promise from Best Friend and me to return shortly, she plopped down on a beach of pebbles along the river. Best Friend and I trudged against the water, delicately balancing ourselves on slippery rock and blinking our eyes to clear them of the tricks the shallow, clear, rushing water was deluding as we carefully watched our feet step onto seemingly stable stones. My Merrell sandals were awesome but even they couldn’t help my slipping from time to time. I didn’t care when the water rode all the way up my shorts and soaked my underwear, but I was worried about protecting my precious cameras from a careless topple. Fortunately that didn’t happen and I got some great shots of watery hiking trail. I don’t even think that we traveled that far, but we must have been gone longer than Goofball expected. She was quite upset when we made it back to her. It's not like we could help it, though! We were captivated by these guys rappelling down the wall in a thin waterfall plunging into the river. I had to watch until all three made it into the river next to where I was standing. I have to try that sometime! It looks awesome. It took half the time to walk the same distance going with the flow of the river as opposed to against it. Anyway, our Goofball was in tears thinking we washed down the river. I kept behind a couple of steps as she and Best Friend had it out. I was too in tune with nature to be out of sync with people, so I muttered a “Sorry, we had you worried.” to Goofball and left the “We told you what we were doing! It’s my vacation and I am going to do what I want to on my own time schedule! And it's not like we were gone for hours! You could have come along, too, but you chose to stay here instead! Not my fault!” to Best Friend.

It was great to take advantage of the park’s free shuttle bus and give the Rodeo a rest. We even took the bus into Springdale for dinner that night. After dinner we went to a karaoke bar and Goofball sang us a song. Evidently, we were forgiven for our disappearance down the river. We had fun!

One sad thing did occur today. A thirteen year old boy fell from Angel’s Landing. One part of this trail is only 3 feet wide with a 900ft. drop on one side and a 1200ft. drop on the other. It makes me queasy just thinking about it. I don’t think that is something I could ever do. It was sad when we saw the rescue trucks searching for him and the helicopter from Grand Canyon roaring overhead. The trails in the area were closed (not that I would ever want to attempt that trail anyhow.) I feel so sad for a life cut short and the pain the parents are no doubt experiencing. What a vacation for them.

June 26, 2004

Found out that the boy who fell from Angel’s Landing was a 14 year old boy scout. All the trails were opened again today, as they found his body. This will be the length of my sad story of the day.

On to happier things…We hiked a challenging trail to Emerald Pools. It was three levels and we completed them all. The trail to the upper pool was rugged and challenging, but the end result was worth it. The view was of a green-tinted pool (hence the title “Emerald”) surrounded by soaring rock. There were plenty of nice areas to rest and reward ourselves for our success. We rested under a nice sheltering group of trees and dumped the sand out of our shoes. I wore my hiking sandals this time so I picked up quite a bit of sand. I must give my compliments to my hiking sandals as they performed awesomely and gave me just as much grip as my hiking boots and low-top hikers made by the same company…Merrell rules!!!! I will be a fan for life!

After dumping the sand, checking out the area and snapping pictures, we took our shady spot under the trees and relaxed. That’s when Best Friend and I noticed the group of hot male hikers sitting nearby. I decided to go out on a limb and talk with them despite the fact that I had been without a shower for days and without makeup for a week. It’s funny how primping and perfume become so low on the totem pole of priorities when you are having wilderness adventures. What is even funnier is the fact that I didn’t even care! (Though I did have to find a means to shave my legs every night) So I notice that they are eating freeze-dried ice cream and I figured that asking about it would be a great conversation opener. It was a good opener and after being offered a piece of strawberry ice cream from one of the guys, who had amazing eyes by the way, we began to talk a bit. He tells me that they are from California, near Sacramento and more about their adventures and I share ours with him. He tells me he had never been to Georgia and asks is it pretty. I tell him, “I used to think so until I came here.” We chatter on about beautiful Zion and all of beautiful Utah. I felt so silly flirting with him while covered in sand, other grit, and quite possibly offensive smells and wearing no makeup, but it was fun. Still, the girls and I had other hikes to make, so all good things must come to an end and I ended my chat with the California boy with eyes bluer than the Pacific. (

We hiked the Weeping Rock and Three Patriarchs Trails next. The trail to Weeping Rock was all uphill, but at least it was shaded from the hot sun. The rock did look as if it was weeping. It dripped and oozed water from all sides. Little ferns and mosses on the rock looked like a hanging garden and thrived all around this damp area. The monoliths of the Three Patriarchs—Jacob, Abraham, and Isaac--were my favorites in the park. They catch low light of the sun beautifully.

After the last of the hikes, I came to realize just how badly I needed to shower. Suddenly my mind snapped back from wilderness mode to civilized mode and once again I made cleanliness a priority. Showers were not accessible so we made a trip to the clear Virgin River to wash away our grime in a river bath. The cold water did the trick. We found a waist high section of the river and let the gentle currents carry away the loose dirt from our bodies. I watched trout hiding behind rocks near my feet. Had we not still been on National Park property with the strong possibility of someone crossing our paths, (we weren’t far from the most popular and crowded section of the park) then it would have been nice to ditch the swimsuit. Just as that thought crossed my mind, a little boy floated towards us on his donut float. Good thing I wasn’t naked!

After the refreshing bath, we took another trip into Springdale for dinner. I bought a dress from a cool, eccentric shop called the Lazy Lizard. I think most of my reasoning behind that purchase was just to feel like a woman again.

Tonight ended with a night ride in the shuttle up Zion Canyon. We were the only ones on the bus at one time and our bus driver, L., was very talkative. He told us so many stories about this place. You could tell that Zion is a place he loves dearly. Along the drive we saw the turkeys roosting in a tree that L. pointed out. We also saw a skunk crossing the road and a fox standing in the headlights of our bus as we turned around at Zion Lodge. The whole canyon was bathed in silver moonlight and I thought of Yosemite Valley again.

I am really going to miss Zion and this whole camping experience, for tomorrow it ends.

June 27, 2004

Before leaving this desert wonderland, we got tickets for the morning Ranger Shuttle Tour. It was so cool because we stopped in places that the regular shuttle did not stop and were allowed to get off the bus and walk around. I feel like I learned a lot of new things such as the fact that the white morning glory-like flowers are poisonous. And we learned a lot about porcupines. I never knew that their babies were called porcupets!

The morning light on the canyon walls was amazing. The best view was the Court of the Patriarchs. I hope that some of my 35mm pictures will look as good as the ones I took on my digital.

After reluctantly leaving the park, we passed through Springdale in search of the old ghost town of Grafton. After stopping for directions, we finally found the dusty road that lead to the vacant town. We came across the cemetery first, which had a rickety old metal gate. The graves had freshly kept dirt piles on top of them. Is this what Boot Hill looks like? (Well, minus the hill!) The town itself, of which a church, a building and a few scattered deserted homes was all that was left, was eerie standing in the quiet desert. It is just what I envisioned an authentic old western ghost town to look like. Brown dirt, shabby structures, cliffs as a backdrop, and a loud noiselessness added just the right mystique. Every time the hot wind would blow, I expected a tumble weed to roll in front of my path. And the most annoying thing I experienced was the continuous playing of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly theme in my head. I wish that I had a watergun to pull on Best Friend and Goofball.

We also saw another ghost town, Thistle, off highway 89 on our return trip to Roy. It was a more modern ruin but still quite creepy. This town was vacated because of a flood. One house still stood in a swampy remnant of the flood.

After dropping Goofball off at her house and unloading the Rodeo, Best Friend and I immediately took showers and began washing our filthy clothes. It was strange to re-enter the real world. Once again, the voices of people, television, ringing telephone, and other sounds generated in a house, have replaced the sounds of rushing water, wind blowing down-canyon, and the silence of starry nights.

The small dunes of Coral Pink Sands.

The huge dunes of Coral Pink Sands. Imagine riding a dune buggy over this bugger!

Shortly after leaving Goofball on her island of pebbles, Best Friend and I begin our watery trek through the narrows of the Virgin River. That's Best Friend to the right in the blue!

More of the Virgin River narrows.

View hiking down from the Upper Emerald Pool. Watch out for the puddles like this one or else you might take a spill over the ledge! Yikes!

The Three Patriarchs--Jacob, Abraham, and Isaac.

View from within fabulous Zion Canyon.

Beautiful morning light through the shady green of Zion.

Entering the town of ghosts...er, I mean the ghost town! Here's old Grafton Cemetery

A black and white photo I took of the church left standing in the ghost town of Grafton. Why am I still hearing that annoying The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly theme two thousand miles away?!

June 28, 2004
the day after...

A much more relaxing day had we! Already missing living among nature, Best Friend and I rode up into the Uintas via the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway in search of moose. We left without even a glimpse, but I refuse to leave the West without seeing one this time. (And I don’t mean a baby like the one I saw in Colorado last year. No, I am going to see one with huge antlers! And I shall call him “Bullwinkle”!) It was still a lovely drive. How can any ride in the Rocky Mountains not be lovely? Snow-topped mountains reflecting in lakes, deer, a marmot, wildflowers, Christmas Meadows, and a storm brewing up not so far off as evident by lightning and roaring thunder were just a few of our sites. We stopped by Provo Falls and I loved them. There were upper, middle, and lower levels to falls, all spilling their way down step-like striated rock into the Provo River. Reminds me of Minnehaha, Panther, and Angel Falls back home.

As I lie here on the bed writing this, I can still hear and see the past week’s events whizzing through my head. I have seen and experienced so much in the last 9 to 10 days. I don’t see how my life can be the same again. With everything from the feel of cold rivers, to the heat of the desert, to the hissing stars, to the soft sand, to the electric feel of a storm approaching in the desert, my senses have been stimulated so that I will never experience my world in the same bland way of my past again.

The moutains of the Uinta Range behind Christmas Meadows.

The falls of the Provo River.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Southern Utah Trip 2004, Part 3

June 24, 2004
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon, Utah

Within just a few minutes this of writing this, I will be falling asleep, though it is early for me. (9:15 p.m.) It has been yet another action-packed, beauty-filled day. After reluctantly leaving the comfort of our cabin we have resurfaced into the great wide openness of nature. It only took about 15 minutes from the time we left the cabin to become smelly and sweaty again and only about 5 minutes after that to no longer care. No shower for us today, but I feel like I had a cleansing beyond what any steamy, soapy shower (ahhh…the memories) could do for me.

We drove to Bryce via one of America’s most beautiful scenic byways, Utah Hwy. 12, and right through the heart of Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument. It wasn’t hard to see how it was named. You could see swirling, colorful layers of rock creating a grand staircase reaching Heavenward. I took hardly any photos, which is so unlike me. But anytime we stopped the car, and I put the camera to my face and stared at my surroundings through a frame, I would lower the camera to gawk at the panorama that engulfed me. No snapshot could have done it justice anyway.

We stopped at the Calf Creek Recreation area to hike the 6-miles through the hot, sandy, and hilly desert to Lower Calf Creek Falls. The hike was tiring as the sun beat upon my back and I trudged through the powdery sand. A few times we received mercy from the scorching sun under brushy trees, but not often enough. The other hikes through the Utah desert had made me accustomed to the terrain but the heat here seemed more extreme, though you would never know it by the perspiration dripping from my body, for there was none except the small pool of it that was absorbed into my shirt just beneath the small pack I carried upon my back. The rest of the perspiration had evaporated into the arid air leaving a sandy-feeling salt grit on the rest of my body. The hike was entirely worth it, though. We were rewarded at the end of the trail with an oasis. Was this what they call a mirage? No, it wasn’t! The 120 foot waterfall plunged into a clear blue pool shaded by thick trees and vegetation. A sandy beach completed this paradise. And this is where I experienced my cleansing…The water was achingly cold, but more refreshing than the water I was sucking through my hydration pack. I felt the salt dissolving from my skin and my wind-blown. My sun-burned arms and face were soothed after absorbing the shock of the temperature difference. Ahhhhh…cleansing for the body and the soul. The coldness actually caused numbness in my lower extremities so I was careful not to venture out too far. I didn’t want to sink! I was totally soaked in this freezing water (that I swear was cold enough to have icebergs floating about) when we left this oasis, but by the time we reached the trail head and then the Rodeo, I was bone dry again. I looked through my digital camera screen at the waterfall to feel the coolness again.

Now we are here at the fabulous Bryce Canyon for a couple of days of camping. We didn’t see much today, but have set up camp and are resting up for the big plans in store for tomorrow. I can’t wait to look down the golden spires from the rim and then climb down in the canyon and stare back up at them.

Also, I believe that I heard a rattlesnake on the trail and I still survived! But I was terrified! I may not have made it if I had actually seen it. So I am very glad to be alive still and here a mere few dozen yards away from the rim of Bryce, lying in the coolness of the night atop my sleeping bag, waiting for the promise of morning.

June 24, 2004

Today has been a very long day, but in a very good way! We started this morning at 7:00 with horseback riding. It was a nice one hour ride through the fir forest and then along the rim of the canyon. When I realized I was riding a horse along the rim of a famous canyon in the great wild West, I felt like a real cowgirl. It was an absolutely surreal experience. I felt like Whispering Jesse, riding in the mountains and singing in the canyons. (For you unknowing readers, Whispering Jesse is a cowgirl in an old John Denver song.) And my horse was truly an OLD Palomino! His name was Flash. He was a sweet elderly horse. I think that he even had cataracts in his eyes. Poor thing was stubborn though. He decided to go wherever he wanted to until I firmly pulled his reigns. Best Friend’s horse was Paint, who was determined to graze on grass no matter what she told him. Goofball rode Buck, a huge horse that moved rather slowly. Oh yeah, he pooped a lot, too.

I met a real cowboy named B. He was our guide and so cute! I flirted pretty heavily with him at times, but probably should have been more aggressive and got a date just to tell everyone back East that I rode off into the sunset with a real cowboy. He might have been one of those good Mormon boys in dire need of some fun, anyway. He told me he was from southern Utah when I asked. He sounded like he had a southern accent, but one like mine instead of the southwest! He said he spent some time in Kennesaw, Ga. on a mission. (Yep, a good Mormon boy…) He was a sweetie, though, and made our trip as cowgirls much more fun. After all he was an authentic cowboy!

After the horses, we needed a shower. Where’s that cabin when you need it? Though I usually wouldn’t mind, smelling like horse isn’t my forte. So we found some showers in the park before we hit the trail! You know you must stink if you feel the need to bathe prior to a desert hike!

After that, we hit the Navajo Loop Trail then felt like we never showered to begin with. It was a rough trail to the bottom of the canyon, through a slot canyon (my first slot!) and back up to the rim. Douglas Firs were surrounding us and it smelled like an alpine forest rather than a dry canyon bottom. The sun was so bright and the sky so clear blue. I felt those happy-to-be-at-Bryce-Canyon tears welling up in my eyes as I drank in the beauty. The slot canyon I mentioned, had a lone Douglas Fir reaching skywards through the narrow chasm in which the sun crept in, causing a red-orange glow all around us. I was excited as I framed it with my camera. I really had wanted to try one of those awesome photos I see in the magazines of slot canyons.

Shortly after the strenuous climb back out, clouds took over the sky and hid the sun. But the overlooks are still gorgeous even in the dull light. Bryce is amazing! It glows and radiates hues of orange and gold from every nook and cranny. It looked just as I hoped it would and it felt great to there, even standing beneath the clouds that were now beginning to gray and swell with rainwater.

Best Friend and I hiked another 1.3 miles along the rim from Bryce Point to Inspiration Point. Goofball had decided enough was enough and took the shuttle bus to Insiration Point to meet back up with us. Wow! The hike with Best Friend was breathtaking! Just as we reached Inspiration Point, the clouds released their swollen fury on us and the rain fell steadily from the sky. We hung out at the visitor center until fairer weather, and then continued to drive to the other end of the canyon to the overlooks for photos. I loved this day! Do I have to leave tomorrow?

Is this a mirage? It certainly seemed that way as the dry terrain gave way to greenery and then the tumbling Lower Calf Creek Falls.

Finally, we made it to the bottom of the falls. We have several pictures taken of us playing in the freezing water, but with the water being as cold as it was, some of the photos are too risque for posting on this site. Ha!

The "cowgirls" ride again!

The fir tree in the slot canyon on the Navajo Loop Trail. At first, I was mad that this man would not get the heck out my picture, but now I kind of like it. It gives some perception of size.

Ah, Beautiful Bryce Canyon! I took this shot as was we hiked back out of the canyon on the Navajo Loop.

Looking down the rim into Bryce.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Southern Utah Trip 2004, Part 2

June 20, 2004
Natural Bridges National Monument
Middle of nowhere, Southern Utah

We didn’t know that this is where we would be tonight, but it is, and I am happy about it!

We left Arches today and went back into Moab to see dinosaur tracks and to go into some shops. I can’t believe that I actually saw prints of beasts that are so long extinct that humans know not what exactly what they looked like! Next time I am going to put my hands inside of a dinosaur track and feel it. Next, we headed out to Four Corners to say that we stood in four states at once…the only place that you can stand in any four of the United States at once! After standing in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona at the same time, I bought some Hopi jewelry. I watched the Hopi lady making a necklace until I got bored and then chowed down on a Navajo Taco…yum! It was quite tasty. Four Corners wasn’t quite what I expected but it was cool and now I have standing in four states at once to add to my list of feats. After leaving Four Corners, we rode around on some BACK roads (one of which turned to dirt and climbed steeply up a plateau and caused us to overheat. It was even worse than the time we overheated at Brian Head on the way to Cedar Breaks because we were in the middle of NOWHERE this time!)

We finally arrived here at Natural Bridges and it so nice. You can see the bridges from a viewpoint without even hiking, though there was a short walk to one viewpoint. That really made a couple of guys unhappy that we met who were complaining about the walk and the fact that they had already seen five stinking natural bridges today. Okay, so this place is called Natural Bridges National Monument, so if you don’t want to see bridges, why are you here? Hello! One of them asked me, “How much farther is this thing?” Then when I answered, “Just down here, not much further,” he turned to his friend and said, “This is ridiculous! Does it have to be it so far? Ridiculous!” Goofball, Best Friend, and I had to try really hard to stifle our giggles. We had lots of jokes from then on about how “ridiculous” it was for God to place that bridge way out there instead of right along the road. What was He thinking? We had many other comments about other “ridiculous” things we came across such as our walk to the bathrooms and having no showers! Anyway, the bridges look awesome and huge. The canyons are breathtaking. And there are some Hopi ruins, called Horse Collar Ruins, down in a canyon. I can’t wait to take my zoom lens and photograph them tomorrow along with all three bridges. The light was bad this afternoon, but it should be just right for photography tomorrow morning.

Tonight it seems that we are really sleeping under the stars. Our campsite is all set…with no tent! Just the cots out. Why bother with a tent for only one night when it is such a beautiful night? Okay, so the real truth is that we don’t want to deal with that dastardly excuse of a tent tonight.

June 21, 2004
Capitol Reef National Park,
Torrey, Utah

We really did sleep beneath the stars last night. No tent. No rain. (whew!) No problem. Just under the stars on a chilly night, but the kind of chilly just right to be wrapped up in a sleeping bag. I gazed up at the stars as I feel asleep. I think I saw the stars for the first time in my life last night. I mean really saw them. There are so many, many more than I ever conceived in my small brain. Not that I think I am small-brained as in stupidity, but everything compared to that starry sky is small…even Texas. I think that the world might be alarmed to know just how many shooting stars pass through our atmosphere on any given night. I lost count of them. Talk about wishing upon a star…I will be rich, find a sexy rock climber husband, travel the world and basically have anything I want with all the wishes I made! The most amazing part of the starry experience was how close I felt to the stars. I know that we are at high elevation, but in that completely dark, completely silent night I could hear the meteors hiss by me.

Later, I find out through Best Friend that this place has less light pollution than any other place in the lower 48. Too bad I didn’t take out that slide film and tripod for star trail shots!

This morning we rose early and photographed the bridges in the park and the Indian ruins. Then we were off to our next destination…Capitol Reef.

We went through Capitol Reef today stopping at the pull-offs. We saw some petroglyphs and a waterfall. The Fremont River here reminds me of a familiar mountain stream I know back in Georgia.

Now we are at the Thousand Lakes Campground in a cabin…our first chance at a shower for 3 days! Couldn't wait to hit the shower! We nearly fought over it! The cabin is just outside the National Park and we have cliffs as a backdrop. Not only was I lusting for a shower, but apparently was extremely hungry, too. We went to our campground’s cookout and ate a huge steak. It was wonderful and I ate every last scrap like a starving dog. We met and dined with a nice elderly couple. Another great thing about this trip is the interesting array of people I have encountered.

On the way to the park, I saw a bit of the now nearly dry Lake Powell as we drove along the Glenn Canyon Recreation Area. We had such a discussion on the Lake Powell versus the natural unflooded Glenn Canyon debate. Lake Powell is beautiful even as it recedes to expose the very treasures it buried. Still, when I think of those lost treasures…the Anasazi Ruins, the natural arches and bridges, other geologic formations and God only knows what else…I am saddened and even a little angry about the damming of the mighty Colorado River, the very wild river I had rafted only days before. And to think that a couple hundred miles later, it is dammed again at Hoover Dam when it becomes Lake Meade. It’s no wonder that only a small percentage of the Colorado even makes it to the Pacific! Oh well, there has to be a way to power up all those lights in Las Vegas, right? Still, I can see why the Lake Powell/Glenn Canyon debate has been so heated to Utah’s people. But I digress…! It was very scenic through the recreation area but shortly afterward, we hit a boring spell that lasted until Capitol Reef National Park.

Capitol Reef has red, pink, and yellowish sands, rocks, and cliffs. What makes it unique is how the Fremont River makes host to lush green plants. Also the pioneers that settled here left behind fruit orchards that still bear fruit for visitors to pick today is quite a treat. Best Friend was mad that nothing we came across today was ripe. Maybe we will run across something tomorrow just right for picking.

June 22, 2004

Today was wonderful! We did a lot of hiking! First we walked through all the “goblins” at Goblin Valley State Park. Some of the formations were funny, some a little spooky, and others just down-right weird. I can see why it was the chosen setting for the movie “Galaxy Quest”. I could imagine the figures coming to life and chasing me like they did Tim Allen. Yikes!

Back at Capitol Reef we hiked 2 trails down the narrows. One of the narrows had pioneers’ names and the dates that they passed through carved on the canyon wall. A living part of history for me to experience. . I felt extremely short standing next to the towering walls of the narrows. All I could think of was, please don’t let there be a flash flood! We hiked a good bit when you combine the 2 trails. And obviously, since I am writing this now, there wasn't a flash flood.

We also found some cherries to pick from the orchards. I climbed a tree to get to some cherries high and out of my reach. Then I was busted by a park ranger! Ooooops! He was very nice (which, of course, means he was young and cute!) And yum! Where those cherries good! I guess it was worth the “scolding” from the ranger, though I have to admit that I am traumatized by the thought of violating a National Park rule! With my intense love of the parks, I hate to think of myself in the same category of the idiots who let their kids play by the thermal pools at Yellowstone or the buttheads who trample across the frozen tundra in Rocky Mountain N.P.! Anyway, apparently the fruit is good even if it is unripe…at least to the deer. I saw some really huge bucks on hind legs reaching for the fruit on high branches. Bet they didn’t get in trouble by the rangers! Oh well, I guess I should just go and buy the hat in the visitor center that says, I am the one the park ranger warned you about. Actually, Best Friend has bought that one already for herself!

So tomorrow we leave our cozy cabin and refreshing showers for the wilderness (or at least a campsite) of Bryce Canyon. I can’t wait to see it. Every picture I have ever seen of Bryce looks mystical and colorful. With it being somewhere I have always wanted to visit, I’ll probably cry when I get there.

So here's me, Outdoorsy Girl, posing at Four Corners. It looks like I am telling Utah and Colorado to kiss my ass. (Except that I am not.)

Here's the view of Kachina Bridge at Natural Bridges Monument. The view was great but that walk was "ridiculous"!

A distant view of the Horse Collar Hopi Ruins at Natural Bridges.

What's left of Lake Powell in the Glenn Canyon Recreation Area.

Home sweet cabin! Our little luxury along the way. We were just outside Capitol Reef National Park in lovely Torrey, Utah.

Goofball and Best Friend hiking through the narrows. (though this shot in "the narrows" wasn't as narrow as some places we squeezed through.)

This photo was taken only moments before my run-in with the park ranger. Oooops! Man, where those cherries tasty!

In Goblin Valley I found the Sphinx's cousin among the hoodoos. Guess it's as close to Egypt as I can get right now.

Southern Utah Trip 2004, Part 1

I thought I would share some of past favorite trips. Among my favorites, the summer of 2004 that I spent visiting my best friend in Utah ranks number one. We camped and hiked in all of southern Utah's National Parks as well as Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks in Wyoming. But I will begin with posting our nine day camping excursion in southern Utah. I will break it down and post one destination at a time since it is extremely lengthy. Best Friend and I were joined by another friend of ours that I shall refer to from now on as Goofball. So here it begins...Straight from my journal!

June 18, 2004
Arches National Park,
Moab, Utah

The Colorado River is the country’s greatest artist! The Grand Canyon may be its most known creation, but the color and formations around Moab should be its most appreciated!

Arches National Park is unworldly. How can I describe the red rock, spires, columns, and striations in a way to do it justice? I saw the famous Delicate Arch and realized that it was so similar to my oil painting I had finished months ago. It was a most unreal feeling that brought tears to my eyes. I felt like I stepped through my painting and into this world, which I must admit is more beautiful. We saw other arches, too…Turret, Broken Bow, and several windows to name a few.

A hike through this red rock desert was surreal. We, Best Friend and I, (Goofball hung out at the campsite) took a trail climbing rocks, sloughing through pinkish sand by cacti and gnarled Pinyon trees. I half expected Wile E. Coyote to fall from a cliff over my head or Road Runner to “beep-beep” me out of his way! We saw jack rabbits and lizards along the trail. It was awesome because the trail began right next to our campsite!

And speaking of our campsite…We have red rock fins and spires all around us! The tent sits upon a bed of pink sand. The tent, with its broken poles, proved to be quite a challenge…like an hour’s worth of challenges to get it together! It was so funny how many times we had to take it apart and start over again and then try to put the stakes in the sand! Oh, the curse words invented this day beneath the desert sun! Needless to say, we had to weigh the tent down with our stuff to keep it from blowing away. And to think this is day one, only the beginning of tent struggles to come in the next week!

But now I am in the blasted campsite underneath stars so close I can touch them. I plan to sleep beneath them tonight on a cot. What a beautiful way to end such a day.

June 19, 2004

Today was an adventurous one! Although I didn’t sleep well last night because of the wind/sand storm (Needless to say sleeping beneath the stars on my cot didn’t happen!) we still rose early to begin our exciting adventure in Moab. And our rigged up tent held up, by the way!

Our first half of the day was spent on a very bumpy, teeth rattling jeep trip through remote parts of Canyonlands National Park. Actually, it wasn’t a jeep, but a Ford Excursion. I cannot figure out how something of that size made it around such tight, cliff-hanging corners. I held my breath and hoped for the best a couple of times. We saw petroglyphs along with fantastic scenery. I never dreamed that the canyon would be so deep! I never thought that the “jeep” would ever stop going down the winding rough road to the bottom (that is, after we finally climbed our way up the top). I saw where the famous scene of Thelma and Louise was filmed. (Not at Grand Canyon, all you film buffs!) It was near Dead Horse Point where the Colorado took an oxbow bend back on itself.

The second half of the day was spent on rafting trip down the Colorado River! Our guide was a cool chick and the rafting was wonderful. I really wish that we hit more rapids but I am now a rafting fan and am ready for more! It was exciting to hear the rush of water just around the bend, knowing that in seconds you would be tossed into that rush and have the water slap you in the face and have your stomach doing flip-flops. Rafting the Grand Canyon has been on the to-do list for me for a while and, at times, when we passed towering red and brown cliffs, I could pretend that I was there already. We had a fun “battle” with the other raft from our expedition by tossing buckets of water on one another. Their group had a dude as their guide. He was cute and a little strange. I think I had a crush on him. But was it the thrill of the rapids or really him? Who knows and who cares?! I caught him giving me the eye on the bus back to Moab. Best Friend saw it, too. He gave out popsicles back in Moab and I asked him for a red one just because I knew he would give me one despite the fact that he had already given me an orange one and really wasn’t asking anyone which flavor they wanted. What can I say? The rush of an adventure leaves you acting and thinking silly things! Plus I really do like cherry flavor best! Oh yeah, and I am a brat that likes to get my way. Anyway, I know that rafting is something I really love now and I can see how Best Friend wants to be a “river rat”. Goofball liked the rafting, too, but not as much as her favorite arch that she refers to as “Turd,” though it is really called Turret. (Does Turret and Turd really sound that similar, Goofball?) And why does she keep talking about that thing anyway?

Among the other funny things that happened today…We lost our Park Pass and the keys to the Rodeo. One by one we found all we lost. But the recovery of the Park Pass was not easy. It fell behind the dashboard and after tearing the dash apart, we recovered it. But not before buying the wrong size screwdriver to take it apart with. How did we have fun today???

I don’t know, but it was a blast! After returning back to Arches we visited the petroglyphs at Wolfe Ranch. They are some of the more famous ones (thanks to their good preservation) that I really was looking forward to seeing. I had seen numerous photos of them and couldn’t wait to take my own. We are now relaxing at camp. Goofball is talking uncontrollably and making me laugh. (Of course, about “Turd” Arch again, among other crazy things no one else needs to know!) It’s time to clean up for rest now. Tomorrow morning we leave and make home elsewhere.

Our campsite, the blasted tent, and our Goofball just lounging around camp while she waited for Best Friend and I to return from our hike.

The trail next to our camp lead us through this arch and many others. See the tiny trail sign? They are a rare and welcome
sight! Much easier to follow than those rock cairns!

A most spectacular Arches N.P. view. There's famous Delicate Arch in the distance. This is like a distant image of an oil painting I created before the trip.

The much discussed Turret Arch, a.k.a. Turd Arch for our dear Goofball, after misunderstanding the name when pronounced by
Best Friend. It's okay; I think she's had her ears checked since then.

A typical scene of beauty at Arches right before sundown. This shot was taken while I was standing inside an arch that I had climbed up into.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A little about me and my blog...

I am the friend that all the other friends declare crazy! It's not because I am mentally unstable (for the most part) or because I am emotionally unbalanced (except in extreme situations) but because I am the friend who will hop into the car and drive four hours alone to Savannah to eat fresh seafood and then drive right back home. I am the friend that will tell you that during one week of vacation, I spent time hiking in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon and then decided to go to Moab, Utah to rent a Jeep Rubicon to drive across the slickrock formations of the desolate red rock desert. I am the friend that will suddenly blurt out of the blue, "I think I will plan a trip to Peru to hike the Inca Trail". I am that freak that thinks nothing of a cross-country car trip. I may be snorkeling the Florida Keys one weekend and trekking through Virginia the next.

Does this really make me crazy? Maybe to most people it does. However, there is one more freak out there that is exactly like me. That freak is my best friend who lives in Utah. No doubt anyone that reads this blog will see that at least 95% of my adventures include Best Friend and me doing something either insane, incredible, or both.

So why do I indulge myself in this insanity? I have discovered that not only do I love traveling and snapping photos in the wild off some long hiking trail, but it's truly the only time that I am completely happy and content. I find happiness in the peace and solitude I receive. I find happiness in the accomplishments I make when I push my limits. I find happiness gaining new experiences. And I, like most people, love to be happy.

I'm not planning to use this blog as my personal diary, though I am sure that I will be posting random thoughts, rantings, and the occasional whining. (I'll try to keep the whining to a minimum!) My blog's primary reason for existence is to share my life-altering experiences and adventures with friends and whoever happens to stop by. Maybe my friends will begin to understand my insanity or at the very least, see the world through my eyes for a moment. And, of course, this blog is a great way to keep my many fans posted!