Monday, August 31, 2015

Hunter Canyon and Corona Arch

And now, after that little dog interlude, back to our stay in Moab. 

After two incredible days and two incredible hikes, we had barely scratched the surface of the wilderness trails, majestic vistas, and mysterious canyons that make up Moab so we just kept going. Near our campsite Tuesday night was Hunter Canyon, which we decided to check out. 

This was a smaller canyon but like Dragonfly Canyon it also had those cool expanses of flat rock. 

When I was 21, I had an internship with Canyonlands National Park pulling invasive weeds and revegetating with native plants whose seeds I collected. This canyon had a lot of tumbleweeds and tamarisk throughout, which bummed me out a little knowing how they mess with the native ecology. 

Tamarisk, also known as salt cedar, extrudes salt, which as you might imagine makes life even more difficult for things trying to live in a water-limited environment. 

Didn't seem to bother the many Red-spotted toads we came across though, who were in tadpole form in the many flowing parts of the stream and on the rocks and sand were hopping about in their tiny new toady bodies. 

We took this canyon all the way back to its end, 

past some more fragrant, seeping vegetative seeps, 

until we emerged, 4 hours later, ready for a break from hiking. 

That afternoon we took a nice little loop drive into the La Sal Mountains, and climbed about 5,000 feet above Moab where the view was incredible.

Then back down to Ken's Lake, which I remembered from when I first came to Moab though I hadn't remembered it being so nice. 

Cool, utterly clear water fed by water cascading down the slickrock fins from Mill Creek, and a rocky peaceful beach to relax on. 

What a full day! Time to relax in the tent under a gorgeous sky. 

The next day, for a grand finale to our stay in Moab we decided  to hike to Corona Arch and Bowtie Arch. This hike was well advertised at the Visitors Center so we thought it might be touristy and crowded, but at least at 8 in the morning, there was no one. 

This was a perfect hike to go on because after all the hikes we'd done in canyons and along water, I was ready for a hike high up on the rock above everything. 

For me there is something so magical about being up on this other level, 

that looks like it's part of another planet. 

And where you never know whether you'll be able to climb higher, or get cut off, 

or what arch or cave or ruin you'll find up above on this other plane of existence where normal rules do not constrain you. 
We stopped and had breakfast sitting on the slickrock under Bowtie Arch, 

where we could hear the voices of the first hikers to venture up after us echoing across the slickrock as they climbed up the trail.

And then we went under Corona Arch, and came to where the slickrock angled up steeply. 

We could have continued, but that was a lot of adventure for one day.

Time to hike back down, along a trail that Florian thought was full of sneeks, and finally to leave Moab.

After picking up some grapefruit Hefeweizen and stopping for one last swim in Ken's Lake, we drove back to Colorado under some great skies 

and camped in a sweet-smelling campground near Cimarron, which felt like a deeply, solidly good place. 

And finally we got to see my dear old friend Sheryl, who lives in a sweet little log cabin apartment in Carbondale that reminded me of when I lived in a studio in Santa Fe, when I was surrounded by lots of really amazing women friends but not a handsome Swiss guy in sight. 

And after spending a sweet night camped outside Sheryl's place, we headed up towards Denver and found one last chilly mountain lake to swim in 

before finding our way to the airport and finally, home to our dogs.  

We're going to have to make these trips out West a more regular thing.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Happy National Dog Day and Pit Bull Week

Well I was a little late to the game in realizing that today was National Dog Day and this week is Pit Bull Week! Let's take the opportunity to appreciate just how bloody incredible these things are.

Lately, I've been super busy with taking care of Uncle Johnny and Dad, working, and gardening, but it's hard to do any of those things when it means, for just one minute, pulling myself away from these dogs. 

I could really look at those gorgeous faces all day. 

And when they're not entertaining me with their idiotic antics 

or helping me with my workout

or being completely adorable, smart, charming, loving and sweet to my guests from Switzerland,

I really would rather be squishing their faces, kissing their noses, and holding their paws as I sniff them, with the utmost devotion, than anything else I can think of. 

Dogs are just incredible. Of course I love my dogs more than any others, and I love pit bulls because they are so darn affectionate, and physical, and demonstrative. 

But all dogs are amazing beings. When I'm biking to work, when I visit the shelter, when I'm on vacation and I see dogs I've never seen before and will never see again, they all have that ridiculous smile and those silly,happy, friendly faces that say, 

Life is good! I like you. Can I lick you? 

I don't know if there's ever a day or a week when I am not celebrating my dogs, but this week you can be sure I'll celebrate even more.

Happy National Dog Day, and Happy Pit Bull Week! Please give your furry friends an extra squish, and why not spend some time volunteering at your local shelter or rescue too?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Trip to the Southwestern Wonderland

We are back from an amazing vacation in my former home, the canyons and wilderness of the Southwest.

We thought of driving and taking the dogs, but the limited time we had and the thought of the hot sun, hot rocks, and Dahlia's pale skin made us choose the more rational course of a flight instead. 

I've wanted to take Florian to Utah for a while, to see where I lived when I was a wacky 20-something following my heart. We flew into Denver and spent one night camping at nearly 11,000 feet on public lands in Colorado with only a sheet and a sarong for warmth--chilly! 

Then it was a long drive through spooky, vast desert lands to Moab, with stops in Vail and Glenwood Springs along the way.

We arrived in Moab after driving through the canyon that contains the Colorado River, where we found a nice campsite the first night. 

Then the first day I wanted to bring Florian on a hike in the canyon that I love most in Moab, the Left Hand of Mill Creek Canyon where I lived in a cave for a summer when I was 20. That trail starts out on a flat plain that goes through the sagebrush, so already your senses are alive with that evocative smell that is so essential to the Southwest.

I love this trail because you can go along the stream and enjoy the cool sparking swimming holes, 

and then climb up on the rocks and walk above the canyon where you have absolutely spectacular views. 

And then of course there's the cave--really, an alcove or just a rock overhang--I lived in, which looks much the same. 
Except there were some Anasazi petroglyphs on the wall, which I couldn't see this time

Can't believe I used to sleep there in my sleeping bag on the sand, the bats flitting in and out of the alcove, no tent no comfy inflatable mattress, and no Ambien or valerian or Benadryl either. Youth!

Beyond the cave, there are some more caves to explore and then you come to another swimming hole, which I remember was the only way deeper in to the canyon as the walls formed a corner above the pool that you couldn't get around. I know I climbed the waterfall years ago, but even as he did his best sea lion impersonation, neither Florian nor I could scale it. 

So we turned around and hiked back, enjoying the views on the way, 

and the rock art, including the petroglyphs on the black rock in the center of the picture, 

and more sage and desert wildflowers.

And that was just the first day! 

The second day, I wanted to go back to another favorite hike from when I lived in Moab. 

Dragonfly Canyon is off the road that runs along the Colorado River. What I remember about it is these amazing flat, smooth expanses of white rock that held pools of water in most seasons. 

On the way up the canyon, there was a lot of climbing up and over rocks

so it took us a long time. 

It was fun hiking with Florian because due to who he is, it was not possible at any point to just say Wow, I'm tired! We can turn around any time now. 

Instead, when we got to what looked like the end of the canyon, we turned the corner and found a nifty box canyon, 

then climbed up on the upper level 

kept going back, and discovered an arch, 

then kept hiking back until we came to the end!

Fortunately it was a relatively cool and rainy day, which was all the more magical because Florian got to see and feel and smell what it's like to sit at the end of a box canyon, 

under an overhang, below a vegetative seep, with rain trickling down over his head. 

On the way back, Florian's ingenuity and spontaneity once again came through as he spotted a trail up high above the canyon, 

which was a much faster way back to the car and had the added bonus of affording a view I had never seen before.

That night we slept in a campground pretty much across the Colorado River from Dragonfly Canyon, next to Moonflower Canyon whose name I love. So we could get up the next morning and go on another hike--stay tuned!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Once a Foster, Always in my Heart

I got some sad news over the weekend, and really the only sad outcome I know about with any of my former foster dogs. Lady passed away. Not sure how long ago, but it was of pneumonia and by the time she went she was crippled by arthritis. 
Lady was such a sweet bear, such a kissy girl. I adopted her to my neighbor just after my mom died, and I never felt great about that adoption. I was never sure she was happy there, and it haunted me that she was just down the street and I couldn't see her as much as I longed for. 

I learned a lesson, never adopt to a neighbor unless you are absolutely certain it's a great home. It is too easy to worry, whereas with all my other former fosters I can just assume the best and enjoy my blissful ignorance.

I always thought I made a decision that wasn't the best because I was in such shock and grief from losing my mom. 

I have to comfort myself with the thought that she was already stiff with arthritis when I got her, and maybe she would have lived no longer in another home. Maybe she was happy with her quiet home, and got some nice walks. I am pretty sure her people loved her. I am glad I afforded her some months of happiness, wish I had kept her and given her more. 

Rest in peace Lady! You were a really special one.