Flightseeing….

Sunshine, cloud-freckled blue skies, and amazing sculpted rocks from 10,000 feet!
My husband’s birthday was this week, so his sister decided to fly up from Texas to help him celebrate.  Her husband used to train F16 pilots in the Air National Guard; now, in their retirement, they like to do some of their traveling in a little four-seater prop plane.

We had taken short scenic flights with them in years past, but Earth Day shaped up to be the best day for an extended flightseeing tour of red rock country in southern Utah and northern Arizona.  And what a day it was!

We climbed above familiar valley terrain and the carved edges of the Colorado Plateau as we followed the Colorado River west into Utah.

Snow lingered at the top of Glade Park and glistened on the La Sals in the distance.

River rapids below and rock pillars pointing skyward… we wove our way through the sky towards the splendor of national parks in Utah and Arizona.

Soon we could see the road below, leading through “Park Avenue” and the ridges outlining mounds of arches in Arches National Park.

The landscape is a maze of erosion.

Past Moab and beyond the rock fins that rise to the west….

We enter into the expanse of Canyonlands

and encounter the upper reaches of Lake Powell

Red rock ridges rimmed in blue water and sky….

We pass the Glen Canyon dam and head past the Vermillion cliffs, over Lee’s Ferry and into Marble Canyon

Lenticular clouds indicate strong winds above us as we climb to soar above the north rim of the Grand Canyon

… and over the edge to cross this expanse of the Grand Canyon near Fossil Bay…

waterfalls spilling from the canyon walls are dwarfed by the landscape….

We skirt the south rim, enjoying the view of the San Francisco Peaks on the horizon to the south… then climb 1000 feet higher to return to the north rim and head back toward Page, AZ.

Lunch in town and then we take off again, heading northeast ….

Past Navajo Mountain….

… Monument Valley….

The goosenecks on the San Juan and Valley of the Gods ….

Sleeping Ute Mountain…..

Comb Ridge and Butler Wash near Bluff, Utah….

We were going to follow the Dolores River north but the weather looked threatening in that direction….

So we head back toward Moab and retrace our path along the Colorado … past Arches NP

and the Colorado National Monument…

… and into the Grand Valley we call home.

AMAZING DAY of Flightseeing. . . Thanks Gary and Dona!

Familiar places from an amazing vantage… ready for adventure?! Sure… Let’s Go!

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Exploring CNM… Liberty Cap and Otto’s Bathtub

My favorite wilderness begins almost in my backyard.  The Colorado National Monument is often overlooked by visitors to our area, apparently due to its misleading name.  Not a roadside plaque, this Monument is a scenic red rock playground.  Several trails lead across cap rock ledges or through remote sandstone canyons lined with Precambrian bedrock and speckled with freestanding monoliths.

So far this week I have enjoyed hiking over 15 miles along two of my favorite CNM trails. . .

The Liberty Cap trail begins at over 6000 feet.  We traversed patches of snow and mud in the first half mile, before emerging into more exposed areas where the trail was moist but solid…. eventually becoming totally dry.

About three miles into the hike we diverted onto a side trail that led to the edge of a sandstone ridge.  Here, overlooking the length of Monument Canyon, a large pothole pours off through a small opening and down the sandstone cliff.  The park’s first promoter, John Otto, once modified this natural feature to collect water for his own purposes.  The small opening was plugged and steps carved into the rock wall to allow access from the ledge above.

A strong handle of juniper, embedded into the sandstone,  provides for a stable grip.  This landmark appears on park maps labeled as “Otto’s Bathtub”.

The path is about a mile each way off the main trail and the views are well worth the trip.  Along the route is also one of my favorite capstone ledge walks leading across a narrow section of sculpted rock.

Continuing east on the main trail leads to the namesake rock feature, Liberty Cap.  Here the view of the valley opens completely unobstructed in front of you.  Follow the cairns over the rim to begin a steep descent into the valley.  The trail is carved dramatically into the cliff walls for much of the final two miles.

Since the Liberty Cap trail is listed at seven miles in length… adding the side trip to Otto’s Bathtub will bring your day’s mileage to about nine if you travel from the upper trailhead to the lower (or visa versa)… a perfect spring day’s outing!

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Solitude

Walking, Hiking, Riding, Geocaching, Sketching, Exploring…. intentionally by myself… alone.

 

To experience time alone in nature can be an opportunity to enjoy solitude and peaceful freedom. An opportunity to travel at your own pace,  entertain your own thoughts… examine your own perspective.  It might take a bit more planning, but less coordination.  Solitude replaces conversation with contemplation.  For me… it is rejuvenating – something I plan for regularly and accept as an option when plans with other people fall through.

In the warm summer months I like to rise quietly before dawn and slip into the still of the desert.  Sometimes I plug in headphones and listen to NPR programs or audiobooks while I walk.   I stop frequently to take photos – the detail in a flower, brilliance of the sunrise or animals along the trail.  Deciding which branch of the path to take becomes a matter of where I turn my attention – each corner brings a new view- the best are those unexpected…. the trail turns eventually toward home and I wrap up my thoughts to tend to the day ahead.

Yesterday I rode my bike along Rim Rock Road on the Colorado National Monument.  It is a popular ride for avid bikers… even when the narrow road is crowded with cars and bicyclists.  But for a few more days the road remains closed to motorized vehicles while they clear snow – reducing the typical danger, stress and noise of this route. Sunshine illuminated the sandstone cliffs above and below me.  The quiet of the landscape around me was my only companion.   I wallowed in my freedom, stopping on narrow shoulders to gaze at the cliffs below, weaving my way back and forth to enjoy the scenery.

The road reopens to cars on Monday. So glad I took the time to experience the solitude today. How about you? Ready for a little time alone?