Beneath Scotts Bluff, Nebraska: We are camped at the base of a towering bluff that once stood as a major landmark to pioneers traveling west in wagon trains. My great, great grandmother would have passed this way and stared up at it in awe with the welcome knowledge that she had left the Great Plains behind. And, indeed, we too are breathing a huge sigh of relief, glad to be back in our much loved west. The bluff was named after an employee of a fur trading company who had the misfortune to die not far from where we are camped. He likely would have been glad to live on and leave the bluff with someone else’s name. I, for one, prefer the Native American name, Me-a-pa-te, which translates ‘hill that is hard to go around.’
It has been an interesting couple of weeks as we have made our way west from Virginia. This past week we kept ahead of a major storm that whipped through the Midwest with winds up to 100 MPH. We also avoided numerous motorcyclists— most with a similar look and without helmets— as they dashed around us on their way to Sturgis, South Dakota and whatever fate awaited them.
Yesterday was particularly interesting. We started our day at Buffalo Bill’s historic ranch camped out on the North Platte River and then hopped on one of America’s most historic backroads, US 30, otherwise know as the Lincoln Highway. It was America’s first cross-country road. But that’s only a small part of its history. For thousands of years it served as a major route for Native Americans. In the 1850s it was part of the Oregon Trail. Pony Express riders used it on their two year ride to glory and the nation’s first transcontinental railroad was built beside it. In 1908 it became part of the greatest road trip/road race ever, the New York to Paris Road Race, which will be the subject of my next blog.
But today, it’s time to say goodby to Arches National Park.
NEXT POST: What better place to start posts from our present journey around the US than what I consider to be one of the greatest road trip/races of all-time: The 1908 race around the world from New York to Paris. I’ve been meaning to do this blog ever since I came across the winner of the race at the National Auto Museum this time last summer. It’s epic!
“But where are the arches?” my brother-in-law John asked Peggy about my series on Arches National Park. “There is more to Arches than arches,” Peggy had responded. John readily agreed but there was still a plaintive ‘where are the arches’ tone to his voice. This post is for you, John— and for all of our other followers who have been wondering about how anyone could do a series on Arches National Park without arches.
They aren’t hard to find. There are over 2000 in the park, the highest concentration of any place in the world. Of course you would need a month to find them all plus put in a lot of miles hiking. We only had a day and the 100 degree F heat (37.7 C) discouraged much roaming in the time we had. Not to worry. The road plus a little walking took us to some of the most famous in the Park. So without further ado, I’ll start with the arch I featured at the top of the post, Turret Arch, named for its resemblance to turrets on castles.
A walk up to the Turret Arch easily includes two of the Park’s other Arches, North and South Windows.
No trip to Arches is complete without a trip to see the Delicate Arch, which many consider to be the National Park’s most scenic arch. Rather than make the gentle three mile round trip at 3 P.M. when we were both hot and tired, we took an alternative one mile trip straight up a steep slope for an overlook. Hmmm.
NEXT POST: As we drove out of Arches, I took several photos from our van that will serve as a closure to this series.
Purcellville, Virginia— outside of Washington DC: We are at our daughter’s home where she lives with her husband, Clay and her kids, Ethan and Cody. They are renting an old home that was built in 1880. The main house next door once was part of the Underground Railway for slaves escaping from the South. I’ll do a post on the houses later.
Our visit to Arches National Park today takes us back to the end of the paved road and the beginning of the Devil’s Garden trail. We hiked a way on the trail but the 100 (37.7C) degree heat encouraged us to make it a short. We then doubled back where we checked out the historic Wolfe ranch and some interesting Ute petroglyphs.
Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina: Peggy and I have now moved on from our large beach house on the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina where we were entertained by our kids and grandkids for a week. Peggy was treated royally in honor of her 70th Birthday. (Okay, I was spoiled too.) Eventually, I’ll do a post on OBX. Presently we are in an RV campground in Roanoke Rapids, not far from the Virginia border on an unexpected layover day.
When we arrived here yesterday, I noticed that we could get a mobile RV service to come by and fix the water line running to our pump from our fresh water tank. It hasn’t worked since shortly after we left home. Given that most RV repair shops are booked solid for weeks during the summer, we hadn’t had an opportunity to repair it.
Rufus and Cleve arrived at five in Rufus’s brand new ‘shop,’ a 2020 Hemi. It would be hard to find two guys more country— from their looks to their accents. But they were genuine, fun and knowledgeable. Eventually, they found the problem. The plastic water tube buried beneath the water pump in an extremely difficult place to get at was twisted and frayed. Cleve returned this morning with new tubing to finish the job.
Today, I am continuing my series on Arches National Park. So far I have done posts on Balanced Rock and the road into Arches. In this post, I will start just beyond Balanced Rock at the Garden of Eden and follow the main road on to the the Fiery Furnace and beyond.
A final view before heading on to the Fiery Furnace.
NEXT POST: Peggy and I drive to the end of the road and go for a walk along the Devil’s Garden trail.
Outer Banks, North Carolina: We have been on the road for a month now— zig zagging across the country— climbing over mountains, crossing rivers, traveling through deserts and forests, zipping through urban areas and moving more slowly through rural. We’ve traveled from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic and driven through 13 states so far.
Let me report: It’s strange out there when it comes to the pandemic. Some states are doing everything possible to reduce the the number of people catching Covid-19 and the resultant deaths. Others are like, whatever. Or they feel that restarting the economy takes precedence. Sadly, had they aggressively fought the pandemic to start with, we would now be in a much better position to get people back to work.
We drove through Atlanta a few days ago where the governor of the state was suing the mayor of the city because she wanted to implement a city-wide mask ordinance. Thankfully, more and more people are voluntarily wearing face coverings. Even the President is declaring it patriotic. My sense is if wearing a mask can save just one life, it’s worth it.
It isn’t strange, however, that Arches National Park has a lot more than arches to ooh and aww over. In fact, I find the fins and pinnacles located throughout the park equally awe-inspiring. I’ll provide some of my favorite examples over the next two to three posts. My last post on the park will be dedicated to arches.
NEXT POST: Peggy and I travel farther into Arches.
We’ve started our journey around America traveling over the country’s backroads while wearing masks like bandits. The beginning of the trip was in Fallon, Nevada, which might seem strange given that we live in Oregon. Getting to Fallon, however, involved traveling over I-5 and I-80, two of Americas busiest freeways. Freeways are to be avoided and ignored in this series— even though Peggy and I have to use them on occasion.
In Fallon, we climbed on Highway 50. Its claim to being the ‘loneliest road in America,’ gives it genuine backroad credentials. I’ll get back to it. There is much to tell about the legendary highway I grew up near. But given Covid-19, our two to three month backroads exploration is off to a rocky start— and there are few places in America rockier than Arches National Park. Peggy and I know. We took 572 photos of rocks there. Peggy promises you won’t have to look at all of them. But there will be quite a few. Grin. I love red rock country.
Today, I am going to start with just one, the famous Balanced Rock. Its total height is 128 feet. The boulder on top makes up 55 feet of its height and weighs in at 3500 tons. If you have been to Arches, the odds are you have a photo. Millions of tourists have stood and stared up at it in awe.
It stands as a testament to the fact that there is much more to see in Arches than just arches. A lot more. Geology is the reason for the park’s unique look. The rocks that make up Arches have been layed down over hundreds of millions of years under a wide range of circumstances ranging from deserts to seas. Their different makeup impacts how fast they erode and that leads to the fantastic rock sculptures and monuments seen through the park. There will be more on the geology in coming posts.
In addition to its unique look and geology, the thing that fascinates me about Balanced Rock is how its look changes drastically from different angles as you walk around it. And that is the subject of today’s photos.
NEXT POST: We’ll start at the beginning of the park with Wall Street, the Organ, and the Sheep.
I was recruiting for Peace Corps on the Davis Campus of the University of California on April 22, 1970, 50 years ago. For those of you not familiar with the date, it was Earth Day I. At the time, I was running the Peace Corps’ Public Affairs office for Northern California and Nevada out of Sacramento. Curiosity pulled me away from my recruiting duties to check out the event.
UC Davis puts on great fairs. It probably has to do with an event it calls Picnic Day, a rite of spring with roots as deep as humankind. The birds are singing, flowers are blooming, and the snow is melting in the mountains; let’s have a party! All of the departments become involved, put on shows, put up displays, and do silly things.
Earth Day at Davis was similar, but it incorporated a vitally important message.
Somehow we had forgotten where we had come from in our rush toward progress and the good life— and in the desire to maximize profits. As a result, we were chopping down our forests, polluting our streams, poisoning our air, destroying our last remaining wilderness areas, and saying goodbye forever to innumerable species whose only evolutionary mistake was to get in our way.
We had forgotten that birds can make music as beautifully as any symphony, that peace and balance can be found in the wilderness, and that somehow, in some yet unfathomable way, our fate might be tied to that of the pup fish. It seemed okay that the last brown pelican was about to fly off into the sunset forever so we could squeeze one more bushel of wheat from our crops, and that it was appropriate for the great redwoods, silent sentinels who had maintained their vigilance for over 4000 years, to die for our patio with a lifespan of 20-30 years.
Rachel Carson, in her landmark book Silent Spring, had sounded a clarion call to a Holy Crusade: saving the earth. Others, too, were raising the alarm. Earth Day I was an expression of growing concern. Its message struck a deep chord with me. The years I had spent wandering in the woods while growing up, my exploration of the rainforest around Gbarnga, Liberia during my Peace Corps assignment, and my hiking in the wilderness as a backpacker, all came together in a desire to join the environmental movement and help protect the wilderness I had come to love.
I wandered between booths on campus, talking to the representatives of various organizations and picking up materials. There was information about the redwoods, over-population, water and air pollution, land-use planning, mass transit and the protection of valuable farm lands. I learned about all the species that had become extinct because of our activities— and that many more were threatened.
I went home that night inspired, concerned, and more than a little frightened about what we were doing to our planet— the only home we have. Three weeks later, I had left the Peace Corps and become Executive Director of Sacramento’s first Ecology Education/Environmental Action Center, working 50-60 hours a week for one hundred dollars a month. I would continue to devote a significant amount of my time to supporting environmental causes for the next 20 years of my life, working beside some of the most dedicated, selfless and talented individuals I have ever known.
Our efforts, and those of hundreds, even thousands of others, made a difference. The majority of people in the US as well as in numerous other countries around the world became convinced that protecting the environment was a worthwhile endeavor. Air pollution was reduced, waterways were cleaned up, wilderness areas were saved, and a number of endangered species were brought back from near extinction. Once again, eagles soared, buffalos roamed and wolves howled.
But the progress has never been easy and the war is far from won. Nothing represents this better than our present battle against global warming, a reality that was dramatically brought home to me two years ago as I hiked down the Pacific Crest Trail dodging huge fires in Oregon and California. A drought created by climate change had killed millions of trees and those trees were burning.
The 50th Anniversary of Earth Day 1 is an excellent time to take stock of where we are in our efforts to protect the environment. The news is not good. Over the past three years we have seen our national government withdraw from international efforts to combat global warming, eliminate many of the protections that we have fought so hard to put in place over the last 50 years, back away from using science designed to measure the impact of pollution, and systematically dismantle the EPA. Continuing down this path will once again lead to air filled with pollution, waterways poisoned, wilderness areas eliminated, and species exterminated. This isn’t an exaggeration; it is reality.
But it doesn’t have to be. The time to renew our commitment to the environment is today. Each of us can take action on the personal level to reduce our negative impact on the environment, support positive efforts on the local, state, national and world level, and insist that our political leaders do the same. The future of our children, grandchildren and future generations depend on it.
I took a detour on my trip down Highway 395 from Reno to Mt. Whitney last summer to drive east on Highway 50 to the town of Fallon, Nevada. I was excited to visit the Grimes Point Archeological Area with its ancient rock art five miles east of the town. They represent some of the oldest petroglyphs in America. The oldest are located approximately 60 miles away at Pyramid Lake.
I’ve enjoyed sharing petroglyphs with you. I can guarantee there will be more if for no other reason than the fact that Peggy and I enjoy them and are always searching for new sites. There are thousands throughout the Western United States. I can’t resist a few more from the Petrified Wood National Park and Canyon de Chelly National Monument.
NEXT POST: I’ll take you on a visit to Crater Lake National Park.
My blogging friend Cindy Knoke, who also likes petroglyphs, commented on my Sego Canyon post that it is “fun to try and interpret” rock art. And she’s right. Rock art can range from being a few hundred to several thousands of years old. The best we can do is make educated guesses about what the petroglyphs mean— and this, in turn, gives us a lot of room to use our imagination. Today I am going to take even more liberties in my interpretation and go looking for humor among the rocks. Hopefully the shamans won’t zap me.
WEDNESDAY’S POST: I have been working on my backpacking book, “It’s Five AM and a Bear Is Standing on Me.” I’m to the point now where I am writing the section on the 750 mile backpack trip I did two summers ago down the PCT to celebrate my 75th birthday. I’ve been going through my photos of the journey for inspiration and as a reminder. I decided it would be fun to rerun some of the photos in categories: trees, flowers, rocks, streams and lakes, etc. The should keep us busy for a few Wednesdays.
FRIDAY’S POST: I’ll do a wrap on Three Rivers Petroglyph National Recreation Area.
The Grand Canyon is truly one of the world’s great natural wonders. It’s celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year and I am quite pleased— and a little proud— that I have been returning there on a regular basis for 50 of those years. I’ve posted on my trips into the Canyon by foot and boat many times. Today, since I am still working on Burning Man photos and don’t have another Pacific Crest Trail post ready yet, I decided to reach back into my WordPress archives and put up some Grand Canyon photos. Happy 100th Grand Canyon!
NEXT POST: Either on Burning Man or the Pacific Crest Trail. Depends on what I get done. (grin)
The Bush Devil Ate Sam is an important record and a serious story, yet told easily, and with delightful humor. This is one of the most satisfying books I have ever read, because it entertained me thoroughly AND made me feel better informed. —Hilary Custance Green: British Author... Click on the image to learn more about my book, the Bush Devil Ate Sam, and find out where it can be ordered.
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