Arizona Here We Come – December 2018

Sunday December 30: Snow and forecast for snow storms delay our departure from Monticello, Utah, but we finally make our get-away on December 30th. We finish packing, say good-bye to our place, and by mid-morning we are on our way. It is 13 degrees and the landscape is snowy, but the highways are clear.

Good-bye to snow-covered Abajo Mountains
Heading south
Rugged Arizona mesas

Due to the forecast for a big snow storm in region of Flagstaff, Arizona, we push on through Flagstaff and make it all the way to Seligman, Arizona, along I-40.

Last view of the San Francisco Peaks at Flagstaff

It was a super long day’s drive for us – 350 miles, but we needed to get far enough west to be out of the storm.

A truck stop in Seligman provides a place for us to set up for the night. It is chilly enough that we use the furnace for the first time to warm Cougar up a bit, but we are dismayed that we can’t get the fridge to light. Maybe too cold? I wanted to play viola and write in the journal, but I am too tired. Since the bed is cold, I nap on the couch until Clifford, the night owl, is ready to go to bed.

Monday December 31: I wake up about 7:00, don warm clothing, and walk across the dark parking lot to the restroom at the truck stop. When I get back to Cougar, I am too awake to go back to bed, so start making tea for the thermoses. By time Clifford gets up a short while later, it has started to snow here. That was not part of our plan! So Clifford skips his shower and we pull out as soon as we can.

Mountain in the background, west of Seligman, obscured by falling snow

For the next 50 miles we are driving in a snow storm, which wouldn’t have been so bad except for towing a trailer. Certainly not ideal conditions, but Clifford is steady, and I don’t make any moves that might distract him. We are nearly out of the storm before I feel okay about taking a few photos of this rather scenic drive.

This is when it starts to get better!
Snowy but scenic drive

As we near Kingman, the snow lets up and we stop at a Petro truck stop for gas; the gas in Seligman was highway robbery, which we decided not to give in to, but it did mean running a bit closer than comfortable to the empty mark. In Kingman, lunch at Cracker Barrel is a treat and then we stop at Walmart for supplies. What a zoo! We could hardly find a spot big enough to park our rig so we could go in to shop.

Heading south out of Kingman, still on I-40, at the junction to highway 95, we pull into a Love’s truck stop for the night. It is cold out, but with the furnace and burners on, we are quite comfortable. We have a restful night here, glad to be out of the snow and eager to reach our destination tomorrow.

Life is a Journey – December 2018

I try to start each day with quiet time at the slide-out door, candles lit to provide light as I watch for the dawn and the rising of the sun turning the naked tree golden.

First rays of the sun on naked winter trees

I read poems by Mary Oliver and other inspirational works, write in the Gratitude Journal and the main journal, make coffee in the French press, always filled with gratitude at what it takes to have this cup of coffee – the trees grown on another continent, the workers who tend the trees and harvest the beans, the process by which beans are packaged and transported to the continent, the state, the town where I live. And the process by which a French press is made and how it has come to be in my kitchen. And coconut milk from coconuts grown on trees thousands of miles away. And what about the honey – the bees, the flowers, the beekeepers, and those who are responsible for packaging and delivering honey to my location. I could go on about the water and the device used to heat the water, the skill of the potter who made the coffee cup, and so on. I am indebted to possibly hundreds of people, as well as the earth, the sun, and the rain. Having a good cup of coffee is not something to be taken lightly.

A chilly start to December

Newly fallen snow provides a few opportunities for photos, and it is good to get out for a few minutes, to tromp around and feed the wild birds, mostly juncos and doves, but also ravens, finches, and the occasional flicker. A walk takes us to the old church, which doubled as the community center in the 1890’s (if I have my dates correct).

Every day I try to discard something – give it away, take it to 2nd hand store, or toss it into the trash. Often it is just something small like an old cassette tape that I know I won’t listen to again. It is more about the process of letting things go, which has always been hard for me, but it gets easier with a steady practice of it.

Morning view from the sliding glass doors

I edit, send agent queries for Princes and Priests, write blogs, send texts with photos to family and friends… The days slide by so quickly I can scarcely capture them in a journal or with a few cell pics.

As the days go by, Clifford spends hours and hours in the lab. We also get the CI quarterly newsletter out, which is a big item to take care of before leaving.

The lab is a busy place

The snow melts and preparations are made for travel, including a storage rack on the back of Cougar.

I have decided to write a 2018 letter and make greeting cards this year. Our move to Utah and our travels this past year might be of interest to family and friends. I use old prints for the cards, some taken with film camera as far back 1995. It is a big job getting the software and printer in action again, but I hope recipients enjoy getting a real card in the mail.

And then more snow. It is fun to decorate the bush outside our front door, but we had not expected this much snow in December,

Snowy days in Monticello
Decorating the bush in our front area

We watch the weather closely, and our departure is delayed as we see storms forecast that will cross our route making travel unsafe. We had thought we’d be in Arizona for Christmas, but the day is spent quietly at home, lighting a candle for Christmas Eve and watching the snow falling, wondering if we might not make it out of Monticello.

Christmas Eve
View from the sliding glass door on the evening of Christmas Day

In the morning, I am enchanted with the loveliness of snow-laden trees before the breeze comes up, but wondering when (or if) we are going to find our way clear to leave this winter.

It is December 30th before we finally make our get-away. It is 13 degrees and the landscape is snowy, but the highways are clear. We finish packing, say good-bye to our place, and by mid-morning we are on our way to Arizona where winter is more tolerable.

Life is a Journey – November 2018 (Part 2)

After our two-day trip to Farmington, New Mexico, I spend several days thoroughly cleaning Cougar and packing for the next outing. We have thoughts of going to Canyonlands for a week, but it doesn’t happen, as there is just too much to do here before we leave for the winter.

View from the sliding-glass door

As part of his research, Clifford needs some pond water, so one day we go up Abajo Mountain to Monticello Lake, which really is just a pond. It is a nice enough day that we could have had a picnic, but we didn’t plan for it and Clifford is eager to get back to his research. I am happy to have another outing to the mountain; I feel altogether better when I am here. I submit one of the photos to the San Juan Reporter and am quite delighted when they print it for the featured photo of the week.

Monticello Lake

A highlight of these weeks is receiving the hand-crafted knife that my son Tye has made for me. He has made and sold a number of knives this past year, each one distinctly unique. The beautiful knife made for me fits my hand perfectly and is a pleasure to use.

Our projects continue as the weather becomes more late-fallish. Clifford is spending hours and hours in the lab. Moss balls are sent for and added to the pond aquarium for research. I even get a couple of these “plant pets” for the kitchen. Even though my head and hearing are still not quite right, I begin playing my cello and viola again. Blog and journal writing continue, as well as agent research and a few other home projects.

Thanksgiving: I send texts to family and friends, feeling quite grateful for these people in my life. How I would love to be sharing the day with them. Since we aren’t out camping this Thanksgiving, I fix a turkey dinner, which I haven’t done for years and years.

The weather is turning colder and I am excited to get a photo of falling snow.

Mother Nature is happy to oblige the last day of November, and now we will see what December brings.

Always Changing

Sitting on the same rock with the same river below, the same red cliffs before me, the same trees, the wind as before. But not really the same – the water in the river has now reached the ocean. New leaves have come and gone. The wind, where does it go? Still windy, but not the same wind at all. Even the red cliff, solid and unchanging as it seems, has weathered away a bit under the forces of nature. How am I like the river, the trees, the wind, and the rock. Life moves on – no moment is repeated, new experiences come and go, some things about me that are unseen are the most powerful, and even that which seems most solid and stable is ever-changing with the forces of nature.

 

Life is a Journey – November 2018 (Part 1)

Life is a journey. Even when Clifford and I are not on the road (the outer journey), the inner journey continues. Being back at our home base in southeast Utah, the lab for Carnicom Institute, we appreciate its conveniences. We have power and internet, not to be taken for granted, and Clifford will have the full lab to work in.

We take care of business, I do a lot of photo editing, blog writing/posting, finish editing and begin doing agent research for Ang’s fantasy novel Princes and Priests. Clifford is deeply immersed in his lab work.

Although being in town is not very inspiring for me as a photographer, there are moments that are worth documenting and remembering, even if only in their ordinariness that is part of the fabric of life.

Morning is a special time for me. The rising of the sun is the daily miracle that I delight in. The first rays of the sun bring a glow to the naked trees that I see from our east-facing sliding-glass door.

This is the time when I write in my journal and in the smaller Gratitude Journal, read inspirational writings, most especially resonating with poems by Mary Oliver, “…. and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine” and “My work is to love the world” and “be astonished,” (excerpts from the collection “Thirst”). As I write and read, I savor the aroma and flavor of fresh French press organic coffee.

We have had a bit of a rough start to our return to Monticello, as we discover that the hot water heater has been leaking while we were gone, and now the bathroom/laundry area has an unpleasant odor. A neighbor helps us cap off the leaking pipe, and after the mop-up operation, we run a fan and ozone to dry things out and deal with the odor. I begin having serious head ringing and auditory issues. From the ozone? I start spending time out in Cougar to get away from the source of the problem, whatever it is.

November 5th is a sunny fall day, so we go up Abajo Mountain to the Buckhorn campground for a picnic. I do a walkabout for photos, happy to have a blue sky day, rather rare nowadays. Because of the chilly breeze, we end up sitting in the car to have our picnic. A year ago we came up here and had a picnic sitting at the picnic table in spite of the breeze. Guess we were tougher last year. Haha… We then drive out to Pine Flats where we camped last June for the Amateur Radio Field Day. We are pleased to see that the roads have been improved, so we may able to come here with Cougar next spring.

Abajo Mountain, Utah
Aspens in November

As the days go by, my head and hearing continue to be “off” and I don’t know if it is the ozone, which is being run less or something about the house itself that is causing this toxic reaction. In spite of the head issues, I continue with photo editing, blog writing, and agent research, while Clifford works in the lab. We take breaks to run errands, walking to the post office, the hardware store, or the market. Because of the auditory problems I am experiencing, I don’t play cello or viola much, and Clifford does not take time for his music, either. He is focused on the lab and the work that needs to be in place before we leave for Arizona next month.

In mid-November we make a trip to Farmington, New Mexico, a drive that takes us through the reservations of the Four Corners region. It seems to me to be a rather harsh environment.

Ute Mountain Reservation, Colorado

We are meeting with CI associate, Gary S., who has been on our unofficial staff for many years. He is exceedingly talented at fixing electronic devices and has repaired an important lab instrument, an osmometer, for us. Once we all arrive in Farmington, we go out to dinner before Gary and Clifford run tests on the repaired instrument. Everything is looking good! Hooray! This is an important addition to the lab work that Clifford is involved in.

Gary and Clifford run tests with the osmometer

We spend the night in Farmington and the next morning, after saying good-bye to Gary, we head back to Monticello. We have many things to accomplish in the upcoming weeks.

Hiking to Rim Overlook: Dead Horse Point State Park – October 2018

Sunday October 28: Clifford and I are camped at the Dead Horse Point Utah State Park, thanks to our Colorado friends who are in the site next to us. First thing this morning I call my daughter Katie to wish her Happy Birthday and then head out to Rim Overlook on the west rim trail. I hike by myself, enjoying the solitude and beauty of my surroundings this morning.

The trail to the Rim Overlook

Back at camp, I continue editing Emperors and Exiles, eat left-over pizza for lunch– not my usual, but sure tasty. In the later afternoon, we – Clifford, our friends, and I – hike to the same Rim Overlook where I was this morning. It does feel different hiking with others, with companionship replacing solitude.

Hiking with friends

Later, Clifford and I join our friends for dinner at their camp. Afterward, Dave and Clifford go out to use the night vision goggles, which is a lot of fun for them. We ladies are ready to turn in; I write in my planner and then head to bed, feeling a bit weary from the day’s activities, and knowing that tomorrow is another travel day. Only 3 1/2 months on the road this time, but it seems like a long time ago that we left for Montana and here we are, nearly back to our home-base in Monticello, Utah.

Hiking in Dead Horse Point State Park – October 2018

Saturday October 27: Today Clifford and I hike with our Colorado friends who are camped next to us at Dead Horse Point Utah State Park. We start from the Visitor Center and walk the canyon east rim trail out to the point that gives the park its name. The story is that wild mustangs were corralled here at the point, the best picked out to be kept as riding stock, and the rest turned loose, except for the time that they were left corralled and died of thirst. Not a pretty story, but the name remains.

It is a scenic hike with deep canyons on all sides and the Colorado River far below. Back at camp, we all rest up a bit and then head to Moab to have dinner together at Eddie McStiff’s. This is a fun outing for us and after we return to the park, we have tea and visit until midnight.

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah – October 2018

Thursday October 25: I take photos as soon as I get up, watching the play of sunlight on the desert scene. This is our last morning here on Mineral Point Road outside Canyonlands National Park. After breakfast, we begin packing up for our move to nearby Dead Horse Point State Park, where we are meeting Colorado Friends.

Desert view from Mineral Point Road
Beneficial soil microbe colonies

The spot reserved for us at the state park is small, and although not quite as challenging as our set-up on Mineral Point Road, it is tricky because of a culvert that does not allow for an adequate turning radius to back into the small site. But eventually we are set up and have 110 electricity for the first time since leaving Monticello in July. That certainly is a convenience! And we did save some time and trouble not having to set up the solar panel.

Our site at Dead Horse Point State Park

Now the odd thing about being here is that, while the electricity and the nearby flush toilets are quite the treat, we have gone from being surround by acres and acres of sage brush with seldom another camper or person in sight to being in a fishbowl surrounded by campers and people in every direction. I guess that is fine; it just sort of feels weird to me.

Our friends arrive and set up in the site next to us, which makes it easy to visit. We haven’t seen them for awhile and enjoy their company, so end up going to bed quite late.

Friday October 26: Frost on the grass this morning. Looks like fall is upon us.

This morning, I walk to the new campground, which is not far way, to check it out for future reference. It is flat and much more suited to RV’s, but not nearly as pretty.

Walking to the new campground

Back at camp, Clifford is up, but still in his pj’s. I sit outside in the sunshine to write in the journal with my little thermos of French press coffee.

Clifford in his pj’s

A half-mile trail takes me from the campground to the Visitor Center where I look at the displays and follow the nearby Nature Trail. There is no cell service at the campground, but I can send texts to kids and siblings from the Visitor Center.

A view of the La Sal Mountains from the trail to the Visitor Center
Walking on the Nature Trail at the Visitor Center
Nature Trail as seen from the Visitor Center

Back at camp, after lunch, I do more editing of Emperors and Exiles, my daughter Ang’s epic fantasy. Clifford works on his projects, also. When our friends return from their Moab outing, we all walk down to the Visitor Center again before dinner and more visiting.

Views from the Dead Horse Point State Park Visitor Center
Views from the Dead Horse Point State Park Visitor Center

Later, by time I finish my bedtime routine, it is nearly midnight – way past my bedtime.

Last Days on Mineral Point Road – October 2018

Tuesday October 23: I walk in the fog again this morning at our camping spot on Mineral Point Road outside Canyonlands National Park. So strange to see the fog in the desert when there is not even a river nearby.

Fog on Mineral Point Road

After breakfast, I play viola and write in my journal in turns so as to get more out of each, send texts with pics to my kids, finish the blog I started yesterday, and do some editing on the next book of the Novels of Shannon series, Emperors and Exiles. Clifford is working on the next animation video for the CI website, introducing some aspects of the research in a way that is easy for folks to understand.

Looking west after sunset on Mineral Point Road

Wednesday October 24: Today features many of the same activities as yesterday, but no day is exactly the same. More fog, but not the same fog; more editing and journal writing, but different words; check texts and FB, sending and receiving messages different than yesterday’s messages; and play viola for awhile, but different vibrations than yesterday. Like the wind, never the same wind from one moment to the next, so it is with the stream of activities that are not necessarily noteworthy, but have value anyway.

Another morning and different fog
Boondocking on Mineral Point Road

Today is our last day here. Tomorrow we will be moving to nearby Dead Horse State Park to meet up with friends from Colorado. We have liked being here, but life on the road means moving where the weather and the situation takes one.

Boondocking on Mineral Point Road

A Trip to Canyonlands National Park – October 2018

Sunday October 21: Clifford and I are boondocking with Cougar on Mineral Point Road outside Canyonlands National Park. Even though our original intention was to find a spot in Horsethief Campground, we are liking the view and the quiet of being further out on the road away from the busyness of the campground.

Morning View from Mineral Point Road

Today is spent at camp taking care of things that we need or want to do. I take photos, post photos for friends and family, and finish editing the revised Princes and Priests for my daughter, Ang. This is a big deal, as we are preparing her novel to be presented to a literary agent.

It is nice enough that I am able to play viola outside in the afternoon, alternating it with writing in the journal so as to play longer.

Clifford works on the animation video for CI for a good part of the day, but we also walk up the road to explore a campsite, now vacant, that we had seen from the road. It does, indeed, look like a good spot for a future trip.

The night time view from Mineral Point Road

Monday October 22: It is a pleasant temperature outdoors in the sunshine this morning, so after breakfast, I play viola and write in the journal on the sunny side of Cougar.

Warm enough to sit outside

Clifford is working on the animation video for the CI website, but in the afternoon he takes a break and we go for a drive to nearby Canyonlands National Park. Even though it was nice outdoors earlier, by time we leave for the park, it is windy and jet trails mar the sky. But we go anyway, visiting the Visitor Center and then walking to the viewing point across the road from the Visitor Center. The view of the canyons with the La Sal Mountains in the background is quite spectacular.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Back at camp, we get the Suburban in place to tow Cougar out, as thunderheads are forming and the weather forecast shows the possibility of rain. The set up here was awkward and challenging, and getting out will have its own set of problems, particularly if it rains. Getting Suburban situated while the ground is still dry is a smart move under the circumstances. And indeed, there is rain in the evening hours.