Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Escalante - Your Destination Now

Yesterday we discovered new large Hoodoos down Hole-in-the-Rock road. There are millions of acres in the Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument waiting to be discovered during all the seasons. The winter sun starts shining at 7am and doesn't stop for ten hours. That's 600 minutes of wild hiking and exploring time. The golden light is soft but clear, allowing photos to become more picturesque. We saw no other souls when we found the pinnacles in the EGSNM, only the pinnacle family of five: dad, mom. two kids, and grandpa who presided over the clan.
Escalante is between two National Parks, three state parks and a monument worthy of exploration. Why not take a winter vacation and investigate our natural wonders that has been perserved for us? Wake up to flaming sunrises, spend your waking time in the wilderness and rest while the stars fall overhead.
I understand why the general population does not travel in the wintertime. Most of the country is seized with icy roads and freezing temperatures. Not Escalante - we keep on hking in the desert year round.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Fall Reflection

I wore heavy eye-liner last night under my Scream costume. It's been over a year since I've even applied make-up. I'm noticing patterns or developing them since moving to Escalante full-time. Our guests are booking fall and springtime reservations for La Luz Desert Retreat months or a year in advance. Sometimes the weather isn't as predictable. Last October the rains came at the end of the month. This October the warm Indian summer is happening now. I'm still shaving my legs so I can wear shorts in the daytime. Frost hasn't softened the outside pumpkins. I am waking up before sunrise and witness the sky change colors.

Our garden has gone from bare ground to a jungle of produce. The remaining dry corn stalks rustle in the breeze, scaring up some thoughts of the upcoming Day of the Dead, Halloween, evening. We have more local friends to celebrate seasonal closures.

We've explored new wild areas where no trails exist, places we want to remain untrampled by the masses, territories where I've wondered if anyone else has dared (or want) to venture. There is 1.7 million acres of National Monument to roam and few identifiable trails for tourists to explore. Only the brave and foolish get off the well-marked paths. Not knowing where you are can lead to discovering who you are--one with all.

When I leave the city of Escalante, I'm excited to purchase luxuries, see a movie, eat someone else's cooking, see new sights. The crowds and the tainted air can be challenging to tolerate. I come back home with my goodies and no cosmetics.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Escalante Arts Festival

Last week we had three artists, painters, who stayed at our desert retreat, competing in the Plein Air competition here in Escalante. Bruce was particularly excited, since he was a winner in last year's contest. The other two women recognized the painter of my framed artwork in their bedroom. Anticipation sparked the house as they scuttled about preparing for painting outside. Plein Air means painting out-of-doors.

The first two days were rainy in the mornings but the sun burst out in the afternoons. Our group chose a location off the Burr Trail in Boulder. Peggy, a watercolorist, painted her paint brushes stuck in a tree trunk. Oils were the medium of choice for Bruce and Lee to color their blank canvases. I loved how Lee captured the vastness, all the way to the Henry Mountains.

We had major rain storms the rest of the week. Our guests persevered and painted under the eaves of La Luz. Clouds became focal points as well as the view from La Luz. Peggy drew a detailed picture of our garden and watercolored over her detailed drawing. These are painters who create art in any circumstance.

The artists had to choose one of their new paintings to enter the competition by last Friday. Lee selected her cloudy Full Moon picture, Bruce his landscape of slickrock, and Peggy entered her paintbrushes. The Gala and silent auction was Saturday night. The artists voted for their favorite painting and the local choice was announced that night. The appetizers and drinks were devoured during the intense bidding on esteemed paintings. Peggy won a Honorable Mention award and sold her framed picture for a fist full of money. Lee and Bruce left with promises of returning next year, no matter the conditions.

I want to give special thanks to Peggy for giving me the "unfinished" painting of our garden. It's artwork to me.

Rocquette, my dog, wants the artists to come back too.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Weight of Comfort

When I'm backpacking in the wilderness there are certain extravagances I must have. The weight factor is a consideration I take into account when choosing and hauling my personal pleasures. Thus a small pack is preferred due to less weight that can be carried. I always have space for my chair that encases my sleeping pad; the ounces are worth the back support. Lately we've been using a GPS unit and debated whether the decreased anxiety out weighed the bulk. I have since made room in my pack for the unit, easing our anxiety.
A mind-candy type of paperback book is another necessity. Once in camp, I've often wondered, "now what?" I kick back in my chair, delve into my mystery, and sip a cocktail from my lexan plastic bottle. Another luxury I bring is hard alcohol: tequila, whiskey, vodka, or rum. More bang for the buck. If a lexan is used it won't absorb the smell from the booze.
These are weighty matters as one decides how to luxuriate in the wild.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Flamboyant Flashes in the Night

I woke up last night to a rumbling noise and wondered if a train was coming down the tracks into town. No, I live in Escalante, where no trains can venture. But the loud boom had the same intensity as a train's horn: it rattled the windows and my teeth. Flashes of brightness, like disjointed strobe lights, made me realized this was one crazy lightening storm. A calmness descended, then, Kaboom! The flashes and blasts were coincided. I fantasized if this was like the bombings in Baghdad. Could the lightening pierce through the window glass and strike me?
The thought of my computer being struck got me out of bed to unplug it. Rocquette, my dog, was whimpering and shaking. She found her refuge under our claw-foot bathtub as I watched the flamboyant flashes while I disabled my computer. I didn't feel any safer walking around nude, so I snuggled close to my husband in bed. The thunderstorm seemed directly over us. I cringed as the turbulence erupted inside our small bedroom. Rain pounded on the roof. Wind streaked through unknown cracks. Gradually, the thunder became fainter and the flashes more occasional. I rolled over to my side of the bed and listened to the steady pitter-patter of the rain and fell asleep.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dabbling Dilettante

Warning to readers: this blog my contain grammar errors. I do not claim to be a professional author. I see this blog forum as a glorified journal. There are never ending possibilities of ideas to explore and if I get hung up on being perfect in my execution, I wouldn't be able to give birth to my perceptions. I don't want to be self-conscious that I'm not fitting into the collective norm of writing standards. Perfectionism can also hinder the listener to a musician who can not read music but who is singing or playing his heart out. Or the simple painting not seen for its orginal beauty. Flawlessness is a curse. I want the freedom to write my opinions without the fear of being criticized by the "superior" writers.
So excuse my mess. I hope you get my point.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Birding in my Backyard

I inherited my Dad's Peterson Western Birds Field Guide and my grandma's hand-sewn parrot cloth pocket-sling to carry it in. His "RLH" initials are inked on the top edge of the book. I use my husband's heavy cumbersome binoculars to spy anything that flies and lands in my view.
When Escalante becomes hot we head up into the mountains. Posey Lake is a favorite lake full of fish and lively birds. The lake's surface had the typical swimmers: wigeons, coots, grebes, mallards, a red bodied duck with a blue bill. My field guide said he was a ruddy duck with it's plain brown mate. As my mate fished I took a trek around Posey Lake with the binoculars tugging down my neck. Finches flitted by and robins bobbed under pine trees. A yellow bellied, red headed bird flew onto a Ponderosa branch. A western tanager!
I watched my dog Rocquette do her own birding. She swam franticly toward the ducks with long strands of grasses stringing along her body, like a streaking comet. The mallards were unfazed by the dog's pursuits, their web feet glided smoothly away from the persistent dog.
My girlfriend, Melanie, saw a pygmy-owl flying down her lane one night last May. She's a practiced birder after our annual Audubon Christmas Bird count. What a treat for her.
A freak spring snowstorm pushed a few exotic smaller waders to our local Wide Hollow reservoir. We witnessed an avocet, royal terns, and a couple of black bellied plovers hung out along the shore. Gulls darted around the uncommon flock of birds.
Our neighborhood female northern harrier swoops low near our house, usually daily, searching for the exposed cottontail rabbits. Hopefully, she won't mistake my little Jack Russell Terrier as easy prey. We have a pair of golden eagles breeding up the road where I have found their aerie in the rock band in the face of the Kaiparowitis plateau.
Birds come and go as they migrate through our area. I sometimes wonder if my Dad encourages the birds to cross my path from his position in heaven or if it's me just waking up to the world of birds. Whatever. I'm glad I'm alive and alert to any birds that I may see or hear in my world.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I'm confronting my fear of hunger. This is my 3rd day of my 10 day juice fast. I'm hungry. I have to leave the room when my husband eats. The smells of the cooking food drives my stomach juices crazy. I leave and take a walk. The critters I see are wanting for food too. The ruthless turkey vulture flying over head wants to eat the fly encrusted dead rabbit on the side of the road. My dog wants the foul smelling meat too (didn't I just feed her?). Is that lizard scurrying by ever have its appetite satisfied? I've never come across a wild obese creature. I tell my self to ignore the ravenousness emptiness and get nourishment from other elements. The sun warms my body. Ever changing cloud formations distract my cravings for food. Sage scents engulfs my senses. I hope this odor will fill my belly.
Being a Hedonist I love to eat well. My fear of moving to a small rural town was the inaccessibility to good varied food. Our local grocery store has the basics and will try and get organics whenever available. We have a few restaurants, one that even serves alcohol with meals. I've learned to make my own gourmet meals. The fresh farm eggs are a treat and now our garden is full of organic veggies. I belong to a food co-op. I appreciate the abundance of food here in Escalante.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Eating Aesthetics

Wilderness is all around us, even outside of Escalante.
I finally noticed an old bumper sticker in town that reads: "Wilderness. Land of the Useless," on a local's old truck. That sticker and attitude has been around a long time. At least it makes me think of why wilderness is important to me.
I could be at the ocean watching the subtle tides ebbing and flowing or wondering if a flash flood could sweep through the canyon I'm hiking in. The sandy washes and beaches don't care if I'm trudging through sand to reach my destination. I'm a thief to the blue herons or turkey vultures by taking their coveted sea food or carrion. Rockslides and earthquakes happen whether I'm present or not.
I'm the useless entity. I don't produce coal. Or wood for my house. The wilderness does not want to consume me.
Solitude and silence soothes my soul. To hear nothing is a treat or a threat to some. What would happen if you can only hear your thoughts? Maybe the voice of a bird will bring you to the moment and not to your destination or memories. Imagine waking up in the morning to the sun versus the alarm clock. See no man-made structures or signs for a day and get a glimpse of your spirit conversing with wilderness. It may be useful.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Real Estate in Escalante

Since moving to Escalante full time, in September 2005, more friends and guests of our La Luz Desert Retreat have asked us about real estate here. When I returned the question of why would you want to live or retire to Escalante I've received different answers: "The golden light- it highlights certain areas." or "I'd buy a slice of land just to breath the clean air" or "Because there are no people here." Whatever the reason people are constantly looking to buy that cheap piece of property.
Quite a few "newbies" have relocated to Escalante in the last few years. They bring their own money and usually don't need a job to survive in Escalante. Yes, the property values are still considerably lower here than in cities or suburbs. The newbies want to "shut the door" and not let others proliferate their big city ideas. The long-time locals don't want any changes. Both parties may get their wishes come true because of the moratorium on water taps, in town and a mile outside of the town's radius (drilling for wells). Yes, there are plenty of good deals for land without water. One must gamble that the city will get more water allocated or a second city well will be drilled in the future. Why would the city council hussle for more water when they truly don't want the town to grow?
There are a few houses in Escalante for sale if you want to raze the dwelling to build your own perfect home. I know of a cute gear store on Main street for sale, which includes a paid-up water tap. You may have to work for a living though. I'm grateful we have found the end of the rainbow in Escalante. We'll share it with you.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Conquering Fears in the Wilderness

I usually have the confidence to handle whatever comes my way while backpacking in the canyons until this last trip. My smaller backpack contained all my essentials (food, water, party favors, etc) and I realized I forgot my Phels Naptha soap to rid poison ivy oils off my skin and dog, Rocquette. A steep trail laden with poison ivy lead to our creek-canyon. No one else have had any reactions to poison ivy and there was no more petting Roc because she ran right through the offending plants. I donned my pants and long sleeve shirt in the blazing heat while the sweat dripped off my face. It's now been over 36 hours and no blisters have erupted on my skin. I think I've dodged this bullet.
I stripped down to my quick-drying shorts and cotton tee shirt and slowly waded out in a deep pool to rock-trough, a narrow tube of fast moving of spring water. I assumed it was spring fresh water. I gulped down the cool soothing water. No? We needed to filter this creek water? How long is the gestation period for giardia? I think I have 2-3 weeks until I have symptoms. Keep in touch.
Quicksand was my next fear as the slimy fine sand that sucked my Crocs off my feet under the waist-high water. I wanted to keep my Croc shoes. Barefoot was the way to handle the deep silt, even though the mud stayed slathered on my feet as I slurped and suctioned through the mud. One short section I had the choice to plow through "Poison Ivy," my husband had declared or wade the bottomless sludge pool. I'd given up my backpack to forge the deep pool. What happens if it is quicksand and I get sucked under? "Oops, there's no poison ivy," my husband, Ricki, yelled before I could take the plunge. I chose to slash through the high foliage wondering why I didn't I just swim?
I'm ready to call it quits after 8 hours of negotiate the slick wet rocks with a 35 pound pack on. I don't normally question my endurance but it's time to camp. I'll sleep anywhere. The sand near the creek looked good. Just one more push up a tower of boulders to an ancient granary site and bugless steep streaked U-shaped wall which gave some shade. I was a captive on an exclusive ancient bench, no way to get down without assistance. Morning turned into a traumatic, "no, I can't go down there," event. A rounded boulder dropped off and the higher boulder jutted out to make me swerve the 12 feet down to my freedom. I opted to slither down on my belly, held onto a crack and scraped my thighs raw until I found my footing, a flat rock.
We waited in the heat of the day under Broken Bow Arch before pushing up and out. It was still hot. There wasn't anymore water to filter for the trudge up a sandy, relentless hill to the truck and I couldn't drink enough to quench my thirst anyway. I got over my fear of failure when I reached the truck. I did it!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Roc Against Rock

The Starship Enterprise floated overhead as I jogged home on the dusty road. Home, where I'll be forever young. I saw no one on the ATV made roads through the pinion and Juniper trees. I was grateful for the small water bottle I carried in my hands and the sweet breezes that licked my sweaty body.
Just returned from the big city of Lost Wages. Las Vegas has become an extension to Southern California. Cars, people talking on cell phones, track houses, strip malls, and I was ready to go home before I arrived.
My trail runs are even more precious after being around cement and hordes of cars and people. Rocquette, my Jack Russell Terrier, is a good dog while running on a leash. Otherwise, she'd be chowing down on carrion, dead meat full of who-knows-what. I change my routes to break up the routine. One favorite route is around Rattlesnake Butte which has short and steep ups and downs and takes only fifty minutes from my house. I roll up my shorts to get those white thighs a chance to tan like my calves. Even though most of thoughts are of the recent past and near future, I catch myself in the moment. A bird song will bring me to the now or a breeze graces my senses.
The weather has been warm with light breezes to gusts of wind churning small spindly dart grass ends in circles. Weather is big topic of conversation in Escalante. When will it rain again?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Popcorn clouds

I woke up to a sky full of popcorn clouds and a wide deep-pink streak of color along the horizon. Another day of beauty and adventure. I'm driving over Boulder Mountain this morning to a little town called Bicknell to have my teeth cleaned.
Our rain barrel is full from yesterday's rain. The dust has settled down and so have my allergies. All is quiet except for the persistent hum from my Mac. A crow caws as it flies over the house. A new bird is hanging around the garden- kee, kee is its song. I hope to identify it soon.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Weather or Not

Escalante's weather has been/is nice and cool. The grey low clouds are lingering over and the sun hasn't peeked out once this morning.
It was a treat to ride my mountain bike down a gravel road through the Firs and Aspens while being sprinkled from the light rain. Burnt, gnarly tree trunks reminded me of dark ghosts clinging to the transit present. What was amazing we were totally alone during our 4 hour bike, hike, and 4-wheel drive wilderness adventure. I understand how a Floridian couple was blown away from sight-seeing all day in this beautiful area because they saw "no one."
The hike we found is called Stump Springs. It winds under a coral color cliff and clings to a ridge overlooking the Blues. Only a horse rider had been there before us. An avalanche or flood had cut through the spring and we bush-whacked our way around the debris. The vista were panoramic, albeit smoky from local controlled burns on Boulder Mountain. Biking seven miles to Stump Springs trailhead would be uphill an uphill grunt but with a screaming downhill to Highway 12.
My Pioneer spirit was happy yesterday exploring fresh territory and mapping out our next outing in Dixie National Forest.
I'm off for a trail run, probably on an illegal ATV road, with my dog, a Jack Russell terrier.
The sunset last night reminded me of whipped egg whites with a little pink coloring added.

Life is grand.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Just start writing. I pulled the "Student" in from my Caroline Myss archetype cards. I'm always learning something new. My "Pioneer" intimate archetype and the student will be friends today. My husband (he's not an archetype) and I are planning to drive up Main Canyon to scope out a mountain bike loop. I'll bring my bike and at least ride down-hill home.
Main Canyon leads up over Barney Top through Dixie National Forest to Bryce Canyon. We won't go to Bryce today but will cut over on 4-wheel drive roads and to our potential bike rides.
The sky is somewhat overcast; the sun is burning to get out. The air is still sweet from the cleansing guts last night. We had a spectacular sunset, albeit without much colors. The grey clouds continually transformed into galactic messages with their mother ships and alien shapes.
More on what we discover on our outing and tonight's sunset.