Monthly Archives: June 2016

2016 Trip Five, North Shore of Lake Superior, June 12-17

Little Marais, MN. June 16 Thursday

Finally, clear skies. Luckily we have one full day plus our return trip to enjoy nicer weather. Not that we haven’t enjoyed our time up here, it is just better when it is sunny.

View of Lake Superior from Palisade Head near Tettegouche State Park on MN North Shore

View of Lake Superior from Palisade Head near Tettegouche State Park on MN North Shore

“Here” is the North Shore of Lake Superior, a 151 mile drive from Duluth, Minnesota to Grand Portage, Minnesota at the Ontario border.  This is called the North Shore, but the road generally goes northeast, although with curves it meanders in most directions except south, and frequently you are driving true eastward. Technically, that would mean one is on the west shore of Lake Superior, but rationality and logic don’t always win out over popular tradition. This has been called the North Shore for decades, we won’t fight it. So it is the North Shore.

Chris and Kathy at Tuesday night's bonfire at Lakeside Cottages

Chris and Kathy at Tuesday night’s bonfire at Lakeside Cottages

Our cabin at Lakeside Cottages, Little Marais MN

Our cabin at Lakeside Cottages, Little Marais MN

Chris, her sister Kathy, and I, are spending five nights and six days at Lakeside Cottages at Little Marais MN. Little it is, population 30. This is an independent, small operation, similar to the ones that used to line Highway 61 along the North Shore for decades. Many of those old-fashioned places have gone out of business in favor of newer, fancier resorts. Lakeside Cottages  suits us just fine; no TV, clean and comfortable, gracious hosts, and a picture window that looks out at the lake. Our hot spot provides Internet service and a portable boom box plays NPR and CDs. Our plans are to read, do puzzles, relax, and do some hiking and minor touristy type activities. Plus, some knitting for Kathy.

View from Shovel Point at Tettegouche State Park

View from Shovel Point at Tettegouche State Park

On the hiking side, two of the mornings, Chris and I left Kathy behind to work on her knitting, puzzling and reading while we headed off for some longer hikes. Tettegouche State Park is just 10 minutes south of Little Marais with a new visitor center and several nice hikes. Tuesday morning we drove down and made our first hike be one out to Shovel Point. There are several overlooks along the path providing great views of Lake Superior, although this day was cloudy and foggy. The path has been improved by the installation of numerous wooden steps to ease the way up, and down, the bluffs. I counted 655 such steps on the return, that makes over 1300 steps for that hike. Good exercise.

The geology of the North Shore includes ages old igneous rocks that have weathered very slowly. The Sawtooth Mountains and Superior National Forest are to the west of the lake, and the entire path of Highway 61 takes one along bluffs, green pine and deciduous trees, and blue lake water. Because of the igneous rock and mountains, numerous waterfalls line the shores and are frequently located in state parks. After the hike to Shovel Point along Lake Superior, we hiked to the High Falls of the Baptism River in Tettegouche.

Due to the rain, all of the rivers have been running strong. High Falls on the Baptism was no exception. The hike through the woods was not too bad, a few muddy spots but generally just wet and slippery. Picture taking was not the best with the clouds and with the location of the river crossing not being over the falls themselves. But we did the best conditions would allow.

Temperance River above the falls, MN North Shore

Temperance River above the falls, MN North Shore

Better pictures came on Thursday. This morning Chris and I drove about 20 minutes northeast to Temperance River State Park. We skipped the lower pools that are located between Highway 61 and Lake Superior and headed upriver. The Temperance is named because unlike the other rivers running into Lake Superior, there is no sandbar at the mouth of the river where it meets the Lake. (No bar, temperance, get it??) The trail follows the river through the gorge, then reaches the flat plains before continuing on up to Carlton Peak. Chris and I  had climbed the Peak previously and turned back after hiking out for about 45 minutes.

Temperance River on MN North Shore

Temperance River on MN North Shore

The rock formations of these rivers make for interesting cascades, waterfalls, potholes, gorges, etc. And unlike the Southwest which we just visited, there are forests of green trees surrounding the rivers. The combination of blue skies, green trees, gray and red rocks, and the blue/tan river water makes for pleasant viewing. Most of the rivers have a brownish color. This originates from the iron deposits and from decaying organic materials that create humid acid. Frequently the tumbling action of the water going over the rocks creates a foam. Unlike some other rivers, this is not pollution since there is no industrial development along these short rivers running into the lake. Most of the mining in northeastern Minnesota is located farther west in the Iron Range, not along the North Shore. ( I am trying to upload a video of the Temperance River which I think is quite good but either WordPress or my home Internet is not cooperating. Not sure if you will get to see the video or not.)

Both parks allowed us to continue our efforts to complete the MN DNR State Parks Passport Club. This is an program encouraging people to visit all of the Minnesota State Parks, stamping the name of the park in a “passport” book to prove you made it to the park. We started this in April of 2015 and the program has induced us to visit portions of Minneosta we might not otherwise visit.

Our historic/cultural activities included introducing Kathy to the Finland Historic Society and its guided tour at a recreated village outside of the town of Finland, MN. Yes, most of the founders of the town came over from Finland, taking ships that brought them to Duluth and them small ships or trails that brought them to this remote area. There were no roads connecting the North Shore to the rest of Minnesota until 1929 when Highway 61 was completed. Until that time, ships dropped off supplies to small villages along the shore and immigrants hiked further inland to claim their 160 acres of homestead land.

Logging was the major industrial activity in this area. Logging would occur in the winter; at spring time, cut logs would be sent down the rivers to the lake where they would be towed over to Ashland WI for processing. Eventually local logging railroads were built to replace the rivers and allow for year round lumbering. Most of those trees were sent to Cloquet MN for processing. Farming was not profitable, the soil was too rocky. The Finland museum had a nice exhibit. Excellent actually for a town of its size.

Dinner at Naniboujou Lodge with the fireplace and Cree Indian design in background

Dinner at Naniboujou Lodge with the fireplace and Cree Indian design in background

We spent an afternoon in Grand Marais, MN. GM is the local hub of the area farther north of Duluth. It markets itself on artistic endeavors and wilderness experiences. We traversed the floors of several galleries and stores, making a few small purchases. Dinner was at Naniboujou Lodge; an inn founded in 1929 by a group of wealthy Easterners. As you might expect, the Great Depression put an end to its grand pretensions but it continued as a hunting club and now it is a rustic inn and restaurant, just 25 miles from the Canadian border.

The interior of the dining room at Naniboujou is exquisite. There is a huge fireplace, created out of native Minnesota stone. Supposedly it is the tallest native rock fireplace in MN. The colors in the dining room are vibrant, with the decorations in the designs of Cree Indians. The walls and ceiling have not been repainted since it was first applied in the 1920s. It still looks spectacular 90 years later.

Our other meals have been created in the cabin. Our trusty Crock Pot made pork roast one night and chicken another. Leftovers filled in the other days. Homemade granola for breakfast along with eggs and toast kept us away from restaurant food and, of course, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are always good for lunch. Dessert was pretty much brought along with us, homemade oatmeal cookies and brownies although we did stop at Betty’s Pies in Two Harbors for a slice to go for each of us on Sunday.

One afternoon we visited the Cross River Heritage Center at Schroeder MN. This small museum featured displays on the lost resorts of the North Shore and on Taconite Harbor. Taconite Harbor is now ghost town, having gone from boom to bust in 50 years. In 1950, Erie Mining created a harbor out of scratch to transport taconite pellets from its mines and processing site in Hoyt Lakes. Erie built the mine, the taconite center (which takes low-grade iron ore and through crushing, milling, heating and pelletizing, makes a high concentrate pellet of iron for use in steel mills. Erie then transported the pellets on its own railroad to Taconite Harbor, 80 miles away on the shores of Lake Superior. Erie built the company town of Taconite Harbor with its homes, ball fields, stores, etc. As steel making needs changed, the plant, the town and the harbor fell into disuse. The company sold the homes and now the former town site sits empty. (We drove by it.) The three bridges that crossed Highway 61 as the coal trains descended to the harbor still  cross the road, although unused. The coal-burning power plant which created electricity for Taconite Harbor and Hoyt Lakes continued; although now scheduled to close this fall due to  changing energy needs and generation modes. Again, for a small town, the displays are excellent, and there is a variety of local crafts for sale.

Sunset at Lake Superior with our fire Thursday night

Sunset at Lake Superior with our fire Thursday night

Relaxing might have gotten a boost from the cloudy and rainy weather. 1550 puzzle pieces were assembled. One hat knitted, second one started and likely to be finished by the end of the car ride Friday. Numerous crossword puzzles. Two books down already, another likely to be knocked off. (Your Ridley Pearson author, Jude) Soft music in the background, lapping waves watched and listened to. Well, Tuesday and Wednesday nights it was crashing waves listened to; luckily we were on dry land and not on a houseboat on the lake. Two campfires lit, one on a cloudy, crash wave night, one on a sunny, quiet wave night.

St. Louis RIver at Jay Cooke State Park Friday noon

St. Louis RIver at Jay Cooke State Park Friday noon

On the way home Friday we stopped at Jay Cooke State Park for lunch. It is located on the St. Louis River which courses from the Iron Range south to the Duluth harbor.

Chris and Ed, Friday June 17

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2016 Trip Four, Southwest Discoveries, June 5-6

Las Vegas, June 6, 2016

Hoover Dam as viewed from Black Canyon of the Colorado River

Hoover Dam as viewed from Black Canyon of the Colorado River

Last full day in Vegas and we celebrated it by taking a rafting trip down the Black Canyon of the Colorado River just below Hoover Dam.

A view of the boats loading up

A view of the boats loading up

The gathering spot is a RV park on Lake Mead where we meet at 9:15 AM, get organized, wait for late arrivals, take a shuttle through security gates, wind our way down a steep, narrow road, and finish up at the bottom of Hoover Dam-downstream side. There are three raft type boats, capable of holding about 40-50 people. We have maybe 35 on ours-after 4 people from Paris decided, 10 minutes into the trip, that they changed their minds and did not want to go on the raft trip. We were still in the general area of the take-off point discussing Hoover Dam so we brought them back to the dock and they were able to catch one of the shuttles which had not yet returned to the RV park. Never did get a reason from them and it did not appear to be a normal occurrence.

Looking south down the Black Canyon

Looking south down the Black Canyon

Anyway, back to the journey. Jeff from Wisconsin was our captain and tour guide. He emphasized the need to keep safe and cool. The temperature was over 100 again. Jeff and Chris and I were the only ones wearing long sleeved shirts and pants. Besides plenty of water and sun screen, Jeff passed out towels after soaking them in buckets of cool water. Just about everyone had one or two of them, usually around their neck.

Chris on the boat

Chris on the boat

Yes, Joyce, it is a dry heat but it is still hot. The towels dry out quickly but we re-wetted them in the bucket or just in the Colorado River water. The water below the dam comes through a pipe from the bottom of Lake Mead, up stream of the dam. Thus, sediment has settled out and the water temperature is around 50-55 degrees. Part of the time the boat is going fast enough to generate spray that lands on you and also helps to keep you cool. At faster speed also, the river water slops over the front of the boat and runs down the aisle by your feet so you can dunk your feet in the water and keep them cool.

Jeff told us some history on the construction of Hoover Dam and the geology of the canyon; pointed out rock formations that if you were imaginative looked like something other than just rocks; and steered the boat. He demonstrated the art of recovering hats that went over the side of the boat, helped by a little girl who lost her hat. We saw the small carts suspended above the river that two people had to use to transport themselves across the river to reach a gauge station that recorded water level and quality until finally technology made obsolete the daily one hour, one way trek along and across the river and canyons to work. That made rush hour seem easy.

One of the passengers checking out the hot springs along the Black Canyon

One of the passengers checking out the hot springs along the Black Canyon

We saw a mountain goat in a cave high on the cliff side. We passed hot springs. Water that seeps into the ground is heated and comes out various cracks at about 130 degrees. One such spring we stopped at and everyone got out and felt the water. Yup, it was hot. We passed two spots where rainfall, when it comes, generates tremendous, although short-lived, waterfalls. Lunch was eaten at a small cove, an insulated lunch cooler with sandwich, water, apple, cookie and snack are provided. We get to keep the cooler. Not sure we have space in our luggage for them though.

Black Canyon of the Colorado River

Black Canyon of the Colorado River

All in all, a very enjoyable day. We left our hotel at 8 AM and returned around 4 PM with a stop for a cold A & W in a frosted mug in Boulder City. Life is good. Tomorrow we will probably sleep late and arrive back in St. Paul in the evening.

Ed and Chris

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2016 Trip Four, Southwest Discoveries, June 3-4

Las Vegas,Nevada, June 5

Sunrise at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Sunrise at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Heat Advisory to Snow. Friday and Saturday were days of contrast. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is higher in elevation than the South Rim with greater precipitation, more trees, and cooler temperatures. It did get into the high 80s both days on the North Rim but the temperature on the canyon floor was to reach between 115-120 degrees F. When we arrived in Las Vegas Saturday evening, the temperature was 107 degrees. But let me back up a bit on the story line.

Friday morning we were scheduled to go on a rim top mule ride. Only one hour, and not the ride down to the bottom and back up again. However, on this trip I began to experience problems with altitude headaches and shortness of breath. I have been at higher elevations than the 8000 feet or so at the North Rim in the past and have not experienced those problems. Second, I have some vertigo issues but again, on this trip, it was worse than usual. In fact, I was getting nervous Thursday night while trying to sleep just thinking about Friday’s rim ride. Finally, I was getting a sinus headache and my eyes were watering. I told Chris Friday morning we were not going to do the mule ride; I did not want to be on a mule, my eyes watering and getting dizzy from looking over the edge. We canceled the ride. One has to accept one’s limitations, even if they are increasing.

Sunrise at north rim

Sunrise at north rim

Seeing the sunrise on Friday was still on the agenda. We were up at 4:30 AM but Chris took many of the pictures. I stayed back from the edge. There were fewer people out for the sunrise than had been out Thursday night for the sunset. The sunrise, and sunset, would have been enhanced by more clouds and more color but still it was a unique experience to watch it over the huge canyons below us.

Reflecting now on our visit, I think the vastness of the Grand Canyon reduced its pleasure for us. Driving the roads along the many mountain cliffs, where the cliffs are closer, change color, and contrast with the valley floors provided a more intimate and more visually rewarding experience. Even the drive down I-15 is impressive through the mountain valleys in that stretch of Utah, Arizona, and Nevada (as long as you ignore the haze/pollution).

We did take a morning ranger talk about the Grand Canyon. He explained how the geology contributes to the heavier rainfall that flows southward from the Kaibab Plateau to the north of the canyon edge down here to its edge. The north gets 15 feet of snow per year and that melting water creates more erosion on the north rim. More erosion equates to more visually stimulating gorges, rocks, etc for viewing compared to the steep drop-off of the South Rim. The 400 bison here are one of the more genetically pure herds in the U.S. Many herds have some cattle genes intermixed.

The North Rim has greater variety in vegetation. One can walk a few hundred feet and the juniper and pinyon pines of the desert change to Ponderosa pines of the forest. The south facing canyon wall provides for up drafts of warm air from the canyon floor 5500 feet below that limit the vegetation along the edge. Roaring Springs Canyon which runs just east of our cabin provides all of the water for the North and South Rims from the springs in its gorge. The vast majority of the park’s electric bill is for pumping water.

Chris on front porch of our cabin

Chris on front porch of our cabin

After the ranger talk, we took most of the day easy. We enjoyed the views, watched people, did our laundry, and listened to a second ranger talk. It was more relaxing for me to not feel the pressure to go on long walks or look over the edge. With the trees and the breeze, it was a comfortable day. We had our meals in the Grand Canyon Lodge; there are few options and the food was tasty. Our evening dinner was a buffet with a wide-screen showing a variety of National Park films. All of the accommodations are in cabins, the lodge is for meals, gift shop, etc.

Saturday we drove to Las Vegas via two National Park units; Pipe Spring and Cedar Breaks National Monument. Quite a difference between the two. Pipe Spring is in the northern strip of Arizona, just south of the Utah border. It proved handy for the early days of the Mormons when they could cross over the border to avoid prosecution for polygamy.

The fort at Pipe Spring National Monument

The fort at Pipe Spring National Monument

Pipe Spring had been a long time habitation for the Kaibab Paiute Indians. It has a spring sufficient to support wildlife or some grazing and growing of crops. A Mormon missionary came across the spring, passed the word up the chain of command, and the inevitable conflict over land use and water rights began. Grassland was more abundant then and Mormons established a ranch here. During the building of their temple in St. George, Utah, this ranch provided meat, dairy and cheese to the workers. In order to provide protection against raiding Navajos (the Paiute here were peaceful) and to support the early Mormon desire to establish their own kingdom of Deseret, a small fort was built at Pipe Spring. The fort was built right over the spring; Indian access to the water was denied.

Interior court yard at Pipe Spring National Monument

Interior court yard at Pipe Spring National Monument [/caption

Pipe Spring has a video of the conflict of values that existed here. In addition, the park rangers provide a 45 minute tour of the fort designed to show how the fort operated. It was less a US Army style fort as a walled in ranch house with enclosed courtyard. The Mormons even had their our telegraph system to connect their far-flung outposts with the headquarters and main temple in Salt Lake City.

From the over 100 degree temperature at Pipe Spring, we drove scenic Highway 89 in Utah in the area between Zion and Bryce National Parks. We continued through the Dixie National Forest on Highway 14, a road normally closed in winter due to snow. Our destination was Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Cedar Breaks National Monument Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks is another of the mis-identification by early settlers. The trees here are not cedars as they thought but junipers. Breaks refers to the steep, heavily eroded terrain. The road winds through forest and climbs up to a 10,400 foot elevation. As we approached the visitor center, snow appeared on the side of the road and the car gauge indicated the outside temperature was 68 degrees. Heavenly.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks does not have many trails and the two we attempted still had snow blocking much of the trail. At this altitude, I was not inclined to do a long walk anyway. The main feature here is to observe the rocks in “The Amphitheater”, which we did from several locations. The rangers here were all young and enthusiastic about being assigned to such a scenic location. I can’t blame them. The sight was amazing and quite unexpected. We enjoyed our “lunch” of granola bars overlooking “The Amphitheater”.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks might be a great place to return to in late summer when the wildflower are out. For now, it will remain a great memory of wonderful vistas. For once the time differences among these states proved to our advantage. We were in Utah, an hour later than Nevada and Arizona so we had an early dinner at a steakhouse in Cedar City. Cedar City is also the home of the Utah Shakespeare Festival which begins here in late June with an expansive schedule of plays.

After dinner, it was a quick 2.5 hour drive down the Interstate to Las Vegas. We are here for three nights with a timeshare spiel tossed in Sunday.

Chris and Ed at Cedar Breaks National Monument

Chris and Ed at Cedar Breaks National Monument

Ed and Chris

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2016 Trip Four, Southwest Discoveries, June 2

North Rim, Grand Canyon, Arizona. June 2

Grand Canyon close to dusk

Grand Canyon close to dusk

Heresy. That’s what it is. After you look at the Grand Canyon for a while, you (us, anyway) say what’s next? Yes, it is deep and wide and has varied colors of rock. But we have seen so many great sights, that the hype of the Grand Canyon seems greater than its reality. Are we really so jaundiced in our view?

We will hold off on a full decision to determine how sunset and sunrise light affect the color of the rocks. I think, with no proof, that much of the color grandeur shown in photographs comes from varied lenses and filters used by the photographers.

Driving to Navajo Bridge at the Colorado River

Driving to Navajo Bridge at the Colorado River

Vermillion Cliffs

Vermillion Cliffs

We left Page AZ early this morning, on the road with breakfast by 8 AM. We wanted to fully enjoy the Grand Canyon views. The drive went down and around steep, high, dramatically red cliffs leading to the Colorado River crossing at Navajo Bridge (3500 feet above sea level); along the equally steep and colorful Vermillion Cliffs National Monument; climbing up to almost 9000 feet on the Kaibab Plateau and National Forest (ponderosa pine trees!); before finally descending to about 8000 feet at the various north rim overlooks.

Walking the 1929 Navajo Bridge

Walking the 1929 Navajo Bridge

Navajo Bridge crosses the Colorado River near Lee’s Crossing; the only place for hundreds of miles where the banks on both sides of the river allowed for relatively easy crossing. A ferry was operated by a Mormon settler fleeing the law for his role in the Mormon massacre of a non-Mormon wagon train in 1857. The ferry operated until the first Navajo bridge was completed in 1929. That first bridge is still in existence today for pedestrians and was the location for our pictures of the Colorado River here. A new bridge was completed in 1995 to allow for greater traffic and heavier loads.

After crossing the river on the bridge, we drove along and up the Vermillion Cliffs, a national wilderness area whose rocks show hues of red, white and blue. The road continued up into the Kaibab Plateau where we suddenly crossed a transition zone and were presented with larger juniper trees and then Ponderosa pine. The temperature cooled down (Page was to reach a high of 100 degrees).

Showing new growth in Kaibab Forest

Showing new growth in Kaibab Forest

When we reached the entrance station for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, it was only 11 AM. Our first viewing point was going to be at the end of the park drive at Cape Royal. We passed through areas burnt by the fire of 2006; new growth shows as a bright green contrast. At Cape Royal and again at Roosevelt Point, we went hiking along the rim and had our first views of the Canyon from this angle.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

As noted in the first paragraph, the views are fine. Grand Canyon is amazing, just not our first preference for overwhelming. I am sure all of you have at least seen pictures of it. We are tossing in a few more.

View from Cape Royal at Grand Canyon

View from Cape Royal at Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon from Cape Royal

Grand Canyon from Cape Royal

Grand Canyon view from Roosevelt Trail

Grand Canyon view from Roosevelt Trail

Chris and Ed at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Chris and Ed at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

The park is full, but it is a very manageable size. Many of the visitors here had come from Zion previously and talked of the crowds at that park. We are in a “western” style cabin near the visitor center and Lodge. The Lodge is a gathering and feeding place, no accommodations are offered there. We had dinner in the main dining room with a window table providing views of the canyon below. A ranger gave a talk about the re-emergence of California condors and then sunset viewing wrapped up our day.

Ed and Chris

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2016 Trip Four, Southwest Discoveries, May 31-June 1

Page, AZ. June 1

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is all that it is cracked up to be-and more. Antelope Canyon is within the Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park and features slot canyons with amazing views. All of the reviews raved about its beauty-and its lines and crowds and how certain times (usually mid-day) are best, certain tours are reserved for photographers with tripods, etc. And there are two canyons. You must visit the canyons through a Navajo Nation tour guide. It all seemed a little daunting.

The noon time tours were booked when we went online for Upper Canyon. We made a reservation for 5 PM. For Lower Antelope, there appeared to be plenty of openings just about whenever you showed up. Seemed like it would be a faint cousin of Upper ANtelope given the fewer number of people taking the tour. We decided to take our chances and just check in when we arrived there after driving up from Moenkopi.

At 9:45 AM we arrived in Page and checked in with Ken’s Lower Antelope Tours. We were told there would be openings at 9:00 AM, in 15 minutes. Oops. we had the time zones mixed up again. Anyway, we signed up for the 9 AM tour. John was our tour guide and had only been doing this for two months. Not a big deal, there is some history and geology involved but the real task for John was to: a. make sure our camera settings were adjusted; and b.) take some photos of us; and c.) show us some of the best views. After that, the canyon takes over and does all of the work.

And yes, there are a lot of people. There are stairs to climb. Not all people followed all of the rules exactly. But even for me, with my fussy attitude about people obeying the rules, it was a relaxing and stupendous time clicking away. Boy, if I still had Kodak rolls of film, we would have spent a fortune of film and processing.

The canyon is carved primarily by flash floods from water flowing off the mesas into the Colorado River and now, Lake Powell. Heavy rains can fill the canyon 1/2 to 2/3 full. Last major flash flood was in 2013. ANtelope Canyon was named because the Indians found pronghorn deer in here.

Enough history. Enjoy the pictures of Lower Antelope Canyon.

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon was a 5 PM tour. It has good and bad points. At 5 PM, the light is not as sharp. Upper Antelope is a deeper canyon than Lower and thus more direct light is beneficial. A good part of the time we were in shadows and 30-40% of our pictures did not turn out. THere are still plenty of good ones though. At 5 PM, we were the last tour and there was less pressure to hurry up and get done. Upper Canyon is shorter and you go out and return the same way. During mid-day, making way for returning groups could be a real hassle.

Personally I would suggest doing both tours; Lower Antelope Canyon early or late; Upper Antelope during mid-day.

Our lodging this evening is the Lake Powell Resort, located on the shores of Lake Powell in Page Arizona. Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River creates this lake over 150 miles long. A beautiful sight.

Upper Antelope Canyon pictures. May 31 details follow the pictures.

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

Ed and Chris at Upper Antelope Canyon

Ed and Chris at Upper Antelope Canyon

May 31.

First Mesa is a Hopi community continuously inhabited for more 1100 years. It is 70 miles from Moenkopi and Tuba City. We called and made reservations for a 10 AM tour. No pictures are allowed of First Mesa or its landscape. We have a few photos of the drive that went through Navajo Nation land but that is it.

Driving to First Mesa

Driving to First Mesa

First Mesa is 1000 feet above the valley floor, about 6000 feet compared to the town of Polacca at 5,000 feet. Most of the Hopi now live in Polacca. There are three villages up on First Mesa, our tour was of the oldest portion. This section now is reserved for use only during weekends and ceremonial activities. Each clan, there are about 100 Hopi clans, may maintain a clan house there. Our guide was Coyote clan and she pointed her house out to us. Hopi is a matriarchal society and the property will pass on to her oldest daughter.

On weekends and for ceremonies, each house is open and clan members come and partake of food and activities all day long. On weekends during the summer, there are ceremonial dances which visitors may watch-but no pictures. The clan homes open on to one main street. Communal break baking is undertaken by the women in a special oven. There are nine kivas and the Chief of the village will lead the men in the ceremonial dances from his kiva along the street, with several plaza openings where members gather and watch.

The clans are responsible for their own home upkeep, the Hopi people as a whole will work to maintain plazas, kivas, etc. The homes in First Mesa are still constructed of stones quarried from rocks at the base of the mesa. In the other two villages, some homes are made of concrete block. One of the two villages is reserved for members of the Tiwa tribe, who came over from New Mexico at the time of the Pueblo Revolt (1680) at the request of the Hopi to help protect the Hopi.

Views from on top of First Mesa offer a 360 degree view of the valley floor and neighboring mesas. Our guide oriented out her clan’s agricultural plot which looked to be a good mile or more away. The Hopi are known for their skill at dry farming; they do not irrigate but grow crops based on yearly rainfall and skill. At this altitude, snow comes late and early. The crops are just about to be planted. The Hopi can still see snow on the San Francisco Peaks by Flagstaff. When the snow is gone, then they plant. On our drive to First Mesa, we passed a small plot of land where a Hopi man was preparing the field by hand.

Our guide talked of the pressures facing the Hopi. Lack of jobs to keep the young, drugs and alcohol, land issues with the Navajo. During our tour there were several stops where Hopi were marketing their hand-made crafts. We also stopped for lunch at Second Mesa where there is a cultural center with a museum, restaurant and gift shop. The material for sale is always remarkable but it seems the Navajo have out-marketed the Hopi. Maybe it is just due to sheer numbers, but the Navajo shops seemed larger and better organized. It made us root for the Hopi who seem to be the underdog in the area.

Next we stopped at a roadside tourist trap marketing “dinosaur tracks”. We had read about this, arguments on both sides. Frankly to our eye, they are pleasant little erosions that faintly resemble tracks. Dinosaurs? I doubt it. The biggest hassle was the effort of some young men to be “our guides” to show us the tracks for a donation. We managed, with difficulty, to ignore them.

Our final stop on Tuesday was back at a Navajo museum; the Navajo Code Talkers museum. It case you are unaware, about 400 Navajo served in WWII in the Pacific with the Marines. The Navajo set up a code in the Navajo language. The Navajo Code Talkers then relayed information, by speaking this code in Navajo, from the front lines back to the commanders. The code was never broken by the Japanese and provided a quicker communication link than using code machines.

Like many other governmental and military situations, this was not made public until 25 years after WWII. The museum described their efforts and their willingness to serve the US despite our governmental history of abuse and neglect.

Ed and Chris

Two notes: First, we visited Lake Powell in May of 2014 and pictures of the Lake Powell and Glen Canyon can be viewed in the archives. Second, I do not recall if the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, our lodging for the next two nights, has any Internet service. We might be out of touch for a few days.

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