Quick Stop between Santa Fe and Pine Top

It’s mostly a long, lonely, two-lane, no-shoulder road to Pine Top, Arizona, in the White Mountains after leaving Albuquerque. Beautiful and desolate. And then these beautiful cliffs with mesas above start showing up. “This looks like Zane Gray country” I told Terri. Reminds me of “The Hole in the Rock Gang”. Maybe I meant Hole-in- the-wall.

Then we started skirting between the cliffs and massive lava flows. Could this be El Malpais? In Douglas Preston’s book Cities of Gold, he retraces Coronado’s epic trek to discover the Seven Cities of Gold. Historians had always thought that he had skirted El Malpais, thousands of square miles of razor-sharp lava, but Preston thought otherwise. By shear luck, he met a Native American who showed him a secret entrance to a hidden trail through this area. Check out his book at https://www.prestonchild.com/books/preston/gold/

It was so fun and amazing to actually be at this historic place! Then I saw a sign for Scenic Bluffs Overlook on a dirt, washboard road. Luckily, it was only a mile or so away. Once we got there, we found our favorite, a nice chunk of slick rock that begged to be explored.

Photo’s don’t adequately capture the scope and beauty of this place. Please try and enlarge these for a better image. Besides the immense view, these bluffs also had several tinajas, or water pockets that can save water for days or even weeks. Besides providing water for local wildlife, they often have their own unique ecosystem that comes to life after a rainfall. But El Malpais had more to offer.

You may have guessed from previous posts that we love the natural stone arches of the Southwest. so when I saw a sign for a short walk to an arch, I had to go check it out. Totally worth it! As we were close to leaving the park, I found another sign that may tempt me to return to this very remote area. Okay, you get to see it twice, but now you k ow why 😂.


Snippets of Santa Fe

We come up with various numbers when we try and determine how many times we’ve been to Santa Fe. Somewhere between 6 and 12 😂. It’s charm is irresistible.


On the Road to Santa Fe

This is the first time we’ve come to Santa Fe via Moab, so this longggg stretch of road was all new to us. We typically listen to audiobooks when we have hours in the car, but was one lonely highway with no cell service, so we were forced to just watch the scenery. And what’s a blog about road trips without some photos of the road?

Fortunately, we were able to restore ourselves a bit at the Plaza at Santa Fe, including some live music in the square.

Oops, forgot to take any Instagram-worthy photos of the square, so these will have to do.

What could be better? Being joined by family to share the adventure!


Moab Slickrock and Alternate Arches

We got a tip from SUWA (Southern Utah Wilderness Association) about some hikes near Moab that weren’t in the National Park. One had multiple water crossings, for which we weren’t prepared. The other one had two areas with challenges for someone with vertigo. We decided to check that one out.

Lots of wildflowers on the way up gave us enough reason to stop and catch our breath. And the rock formations are always so intriguing!

Then we got our first glimpse of Bow tie and Corona Arch, which spurred us on. But first challenge: ascend a near vertical wall with the help of a chain to cling to, and then climb a steel ladder to get over a truly vertical face. Facing her fears, Terri was able to get past both hurdles!

Went off trail a bit to check out the hanging garden at Bow Tie Arch. Plants spring up wherever water passes through occasionally. God’s own little garden!

We made it! So much fun, so much beauty, and such a feeling of accomplishment.


Moab, with a Side of Arches

Taking a day off from driving, and hit the town like tourists. Up one side of the street, and down the other. Mostly not tempted by the t-shirts and trinkets, but Terri found a great outfit that will be perfect for the trip, and a cool, small, artistic cross inlaid with turquoise. Stopped for lunch at Spokes on Center, and it was great! Highly recommended.

We weren’t going to go to Arches National Park – it’s so crowded nowadays that you have to have reservations to get in! Unless you arrive after 4:00pm. So that’s what we did. We’ve been there a couple of times, so we just headed out to get in a nice little hike.

Somehow we missed the trailhead for the hike we wanted, and ended up at Devil’s Garden, so that’s what we did to see how far we could get. First up, Landscape Arch.

That’s where the easier, packed trail stopped, and the dust-like sand started, but we kept on going, with the trail eventually turning into gravel and even some slick rock .

The trail eventually turned into a scramble that seemed easy a few years ago, but seemed like a good place to turn around. Just another gorgeous day at Arches.


Eden to Moab

What a glorious morning for the next leg of our road trip! When we were here before. We drove all around to explore these beautiful mountains, and discovered several ski areas that had been used when Utah hosted the Winter Olympics.

The road back to Ogden was much less harrowing than the drive up. Still, almost never a shoulder to pull out and snap a photo or two. Terri grabbed a couple of shots of this huge and beautiful waterfall.

I’m a sucker for old, and especially abandoned buildings, so when I saw this off the highway coming into Helper, Utah, we took a side road to check it out. The town got its name from where freight trains traveling west stopped to add four or five extra locomotives to make it over the mountain pass. Located across the “street” from this building was a very old motel that apparently had been on the old highway, and is now a private “residence”.

Arriving at Moab, we checked in, loaded up our two tons of gear (we travel heavy), opened the door to our room … only to find it hadn’t been cleaned yet. They gave us a new “upgraded” room with a view. From here we can see “The Notch” and to the left, the LaSal Mountains. We try to ignore the industrial building right in front of us.


McCall to Eden, Utah

Today was always going to be just a driving day. An easy 250 miles, no more than five hours. So we were surprised when the GPS said it was going to be six and a half hours. What? We rechecked, and yep, somehow I had misconstrued the trip. So, off we went.

Leaving McCall, we soon started following the Payette River. Starting off as a decent stream, it soon turns into a turbulent, boisterous river. The road is a twisting, sinuous, treacherous and incredibly scenic drive. By the time I found a safe place to pull over and snap a photo, it had mellowed out.

About an hour south of Boise, we ran into one heck of a storm. We used to watch Storm Chasers, and I thought the cloud formations resembled a tornadic system. Sheet lightning, cloud-to-cloud lightning, and LOTS of cloud-to-ground lightning. And hail. And then a huge, crazy blast of wind that made the previous 30-40 mph gusts seem like whispers. Finally, after several harrowing minutes, we were through the worst of it.

Finally, after heading east from Provo, we find an extremely steep, twisty, narrow road with no shoulders and few barriers to a cliff like drop off. With a final sigh of relief, we pulled into our parking spot to find the welcoming committee literally on our doorstep. Gobbling their displeasure, they ambled off to greener pastures.


Exploring McCall, Idaho

“Want to walk to town?” “Sure!” So we headed out on the one mile walk, starting off on the Wooley boardwalk. Built over a wetland, it offers interpretive signage about the importance of these areas.

We had noticed that it looked like there was ice on the lake, so we turned to the north of town to a small park we saw. Yep, the lake was almost completely covered with ice! It gets so thick they have pickup truck races on it midwinter.

The park is located on the previous site of a lumber mill, the last of 6 in this area. It burned down; they salvaged just a few items that are now featured in the park. This photo shows a sculpture of an old “wigwam” burner, with one of the mills old steam whistles on top.

The town itself is cute, if touristy, but fun to check out. The food photo is at Bistro 45, highly recommended. There is also a great brewery we love! Hope you got a bit of a taste of McCall!


Insects Against Violence

Editor’s Note: I woke up about 2:30 AM the other day, with the phrase “Insects Against Violence” in my head. Slowly, something like a manifesto emerged. The following doesn’t quite do it justice, as there may have been some data errors in the transmission I received.

Insects Against Violence

No one has it worse than us. We get smacked by rolled up newspapers (well, back when they were still a thing); stepped on accidentally or stomped on purposefully; zapped by beautiful blue lights, sprayed with that can of poison in your hand, or even by low-flying planes and helicopters. Baited, trapped, netted, drowned and burned. And don’t get me started on vehicle windshields! Our only revenge is when you try and scrape us off your windows after our guts have been spilled and dried.

Okay, some of us may pack a small defensive sting, others may have developed a taste for human blood, and others have strangely found people food appetizing – especially yellow jackets at an outdoor grill, or ants following the sweet scent of sugar to your kitchen, even some grub buddies curled up in your flour. Still, after all we do for you, and you can’t spare us a micro-gram of food?

Sure, there may be 10 quintillion of us compared to only 8 billion humans, but just look at the size difference! And look at all we do for you – over 75% of all flowering plants and 75% of the crops you harvest to eat exist only because some of us are pollinators. Wipe us out, and most of you will starve! Not to mention the $15 billion in crops.

That’s the pretty picture, bees buzzing around beautiful flowers. But what about the garbageman bugs? You think all those leaves and dog poo you didn’t pick up just evaporate? Nosiree bug! We’re there, hard at work, breaking them down and turning them into food and soil. But that’s not all – and I’m dead serious – but all them dead bodies, yours, your pets and the dead skunk in the middle of the road – would still be there, taking up space if it weren’t for all our hard work. I think we deserve some kind of environmental award, don’t you?

If you are getting sick of all this, rejoice! Insect therapy – just from bee venom – is being studied for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Gout, Osteoarthritis, Bursitis, Tendinitis, MS, Fibromyalgia, and more. And surgical maggots have been used for centuries to get rid of dead cells around wounds. Some cultures even used big biting ants as stitches!

Maybe all this talk about insects have left a bad taste in your mouth. Great news! The Giant Water Bug tastes exactly like a salty, fruity, flowery Jolly Rancher. Sweet! Got the munchies? Dry-toasted crickets taste like sunflower seeds, and Katydids like toasted avocado. There are actually over 1,400 edible insects, so if you’re looking for payback for us snacking on your food, well here’s your opportunity for revenge.

So, what do you think. We can live without you, but you probably can’t live without us. Can we declare a truce? I mean, we’re all stuck on this little rock, just trying to get by. Join the movement, Insects Against Violence. Yep, we accept human supporters.


Blue Jeans Blues

I went to put on a pair of my favorite jeans the other day, and as I pulled them up, one of my fingers slipped through a hole by the back pocket. What the heck? This was one of my newer pair, probably only 10 years old or so! My old pairs, 20 or more years old, I keep for painting and yard work. I was stunned. And bummed, only 10 years old, and headed for recycling. I guess they don’t make them like they used to.

And then I had to laugh to myself, thinking about how most of the jeans sold today look like they’ve been through a paper shredder. Curmudgeon alert! I had always thought that jeans were supposed to cover you up and keep you warm in the winter, but not so much anymore.

We didn’t have much money growing up. I was the oldest of five siblings; one of our grandpas took a liking to me (there’s actually a lot more to that story, maybe some day …) and each year right before school started, a large box would come in the mail for me. There would be new underwear, sock, shirts – and new jeans! How I’d love to get them, and see the blue denim, unbleached by sun and wash; feel the almost uncomfortable stiffness of the unworn fabric.

And then, of course, I’d ruin them. I don’t know exactly how as I look back, but I was an active kid. “Playing cars” on my knees, inside with my friends when it was raining, outside on the sidewalk when it was sunny. Hiding in neighbors bushes in the dark playing Kick the Can. Building extremely rustic versions of the beautiful Soap Box Derby cars whose races I got to see once or twice. The “ brakes” even worked occasionally. Climbing small trees. Working with my buddies to build an underground clubhouse in one of their back yards. I don’t know how deep we got, but when we stood up in the hole, I remember the top being over our heads, maybe. Once we got that deep, we started tunneling sideways until we could excavate a room big enough to hold 4-6 of us. And then my friends neighbor, who also happened to be their insurance agent, discovered our secret, and we had to fill in the hole.

I remember getting dressed for church, and grabbing my skateboard, my mom warning me … but I went out to my neighbors steepish driveway, skated down, hit a rock and launched, landing on my hands and … knees. I will admit I was always distraught when I got a hole – okay, holes, in the knees of my blue jeans. While I may not have been weeping, I’m pretty sure I was wailing to my mom that I couldn’t possibly wear those old jeans to school. Like I said, we didn’t have much money, and with five kids, new blue jeans weren’t in the budget. Plus my younger brother could wear out a pair of shoes in weeks, and replacing those seemed to be a higher priority.

Back in the day, some evil genius came up with the idea to extend the life of jeans with holes by using an iron-on patch. Even worse, the patches were the same color as NEW blue jeans, not the worn and faded ones that developed holes, so the patch stood out like a sore thumb. So obvious, and so tacky, so gauche. I hated them with every ounce of my skinny little body.

Fifty years later (okay, maybe more like 60 or so), I’ll bet they don’t even make those patches any more. Now, anyone under 50 years old would be embarrassed to wear jeans WITHOUT holes! As I pondered this, I had to laugh to myself. Not only had I been a trendsetter decades before, but I put the holes in my jeans myself!Nowadays, people pay other people big bucks to wear their jeans out for them! As I ruminated on that thought for a moment, I realized it’s because (glittering generality alert) no one actually plays anymore. Everyone is on their phones, texting and posting to social media. Or playing violent games on their devices. None of that involves getting on your knees and interacting face-to-face with another human being.

So now I’m in the market for a new pair of jeans. Without holes. And made with environmentally friendly dye. That only cost twice as much as my previously favorite brand. Then the songs start going through my head. (Click the links to listen). Blue Jeans Blues by ZZ Top. I Put My Old Blue Jeans On by Keith Urban. Not so much, but still apropos, Forever In Blue Jeans by Neil Diamond. And I start cruising the internet, looking for what may well be my last pair of new blue jeans. And if you see me wearing them with holes in them, you know I made those holes all by myself.