Sunday, April 29, 2012

Season Premier

Today begins a New Season Premier for us.  We've all grown up with two kinds of seasons--natural seasons like spring, summer, fall and winter--and TV seasons.  Back in the day, TV seasons renewed themselves around the same time each year.  Now TV seasons can begin anytime a network or cable producer decides to declare a Season Premier.

So, in that spirit, we are declaring a Season Premier today, April 29th.  Today's the day we return to Idaho after a long and eventful Arizona Season.  Our Arizona Season Finale sure has been fun.  We've taken longer to get north than all but two other such trips and they were way back in 2004 and 2006.  Since we started the annual yo-yo between Idaho Falls and Rimrock, we've typically taken two days each way, sometimes three.  So this casual trip is a real treat.  We will have been out 9 nights before crossing the line back into Tater Nation.  We fully expect a Royal Welcome from Tater Nation Ruler King Tot and Queen Curly Fry as we roll out our Idaho Season Premier.

We are really looking forward to our Sunday Drive through the gauntlet they call Salt Lake City.  It's a full 100 miles through that gauntlet.  We can't remember the last time we drove it on a Sunday morning.  Maybe we never have but we think we did at least once.  That's where we got the idea that it was a good thing to do.

We're still not sure what we are doing once we get through the tough parts of the metro area.  Right now we are talking about driving back to 12th Street today to camp in our own back yard.  That would be a fitting touch for our Idaho Season Premier, don't you think?

Have a great day & Many Cheers!  jp

Saturday, April 28, 2012


So, how's THIS for a WINCO view?  This has to be THE BEST view of a WINCO in their entire chain.  Plus, when you walk out the door, you see Utah Lake spread out in front of you. It's actually one of the best views we have seen of Utah Lake.  This store is located in Orem, Utah, which is basically the Sister City to Provo.  They are literally joined at the hip.

Well, so after we left the campground we decided to scout out our return to I-15.  You just can't drive back on Center Street and jump on the freeway.  Nope, the exit/on-ramp is under construction.  Highways here have been under construction since Brigham Young came over the hill and declared "This Is The Place."  Highways here will be under construction for the rest of All Eternity.  It's The Utah Way.  There has never been a year when I-15 has NOT been under construction.  The mere concept is unthinkable.

Anyway, we digress.  So, we decided to scout the complex multi-mile detour to get back on I-15 northbound and then we got on the freeway and exited at the first exit which was 800 North in Orem and, VOILA, there was this WINCO sitting right there in plain sight.  We were so overjoyed.  If you don't know WINCO, you just don't know how much fun you can have on the cheap in that place.

Speaking of on the cheap, after we left WINCO we decided to drive down State Street which is Old 89.  Lo and behold in Provo we discovered the biggest and best Deseret Industries on Earth.  It's HUGE.  It's like going into a Wal-Mart or a Costco.  I found a real leather Boy Scout Belt and Susun found a new matching ensemble she's been looking for a long time.  You never know you've been looking for something a long time until you find it in a thrift store.

It was great.  Well, we are back in camp, so to speak, and enjoying Happy Hour and waiting for our chili supper to simmer together all those fine flavors we picked up in the WINCO bulk section.  They even sell Cajun and Jamacian spices at the WINCO here in Orem.  We're going to have to have a talk with the Idaho Falls WINCO people.

Well, Susun got a great road trip photo of us approaching Mount Nebo this morning, Here it is.

Many Cheers, jp

Positively Provo

Greetings from 4000 West Center Street in Provo, Utah.  We arrived here at 1:30 pm, five hours almost to the minute after leaving Sunset Campground in Bryce Canyon NP. It was a very casual, slow-paced trip here today, very enjoyable.  Even the 40 miles of I-15 we drove were downright "bearable," construction zones and all included.

Susun's pet plants survived two hard freezes at Bryce.
The ivy and the coleus are enjoying Provo sunshine!
We are at the Lakeside RV Park.  We camped here 10 days in May 2006.  The RV park mgmt. still has our name on file almost six years later.  For a mere $33 we have full hookups and free WIFI right in our poptop camper, plus really deluxe showers and a laundry, too.  We love this little place.  We tried to camp here last year on the way north but arrived after they closed so had to stay in the nearby Utah Lake State Park.  This RV park is definitely our first choice over the state park.

The drive up the Sevier River is so awesome.  The cottonwoods are just leafing out and the morning light was superb.  We received a call from DF & LBR Terry M. regarding Big News concerning the Parks & Recreation scene and the overall Idaho Falls local political scene.  VERY interesting stuff we will recount here when it is kosher to do so.  THANKS, Terry.

We also received a call from Gary.  He hiked 24.5 miles round trip yesterday to go to and from the Center of The State.  Amazing but true.  He left home at 5 am and got back at 11:30 pm.  He lost 3350 feet going down into the canyon and then had to climb back out those grueling 3350 feet on the way back.  He found the register box we left at the Center and inscribed a comment.  He is the first person to reach the Center on foot (and not via a river trip).

Well, what a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  Lots of time remains in the day to poke around Provo.

Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp
Susun now gets to check here Facebook INSIDE the poptop without having to go anywhere!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The (Near) Perfect Cribbage Hand

Susun and I have quite the cribbage history.  We carry cribbage boards in every vehicles, back pack and piece of luggage we own.  We started playing cribbage again on this road trip.  Last night I came as close to perfect as possible in cribbage.  Everyone says that 29 points is the most you can get out of a cribbage hand.  Well, I got 28 points out of a hand so that's only one point from being at the top of the cribbage food chain.  Since I gained five points in the play of the hand, I actually pegged 33 points for that hand.  Naturally, I kicked Susun's anatomy and so far have won all but one game we've played on this road trip.  Cribbage works in cycle's like that.  Susun once won 100 straight cribbage games before I could gain a victory.

Well, here are photos of the cards I received in the original hand as well as the crib.  The Ace was the crib card.  I am not sure if we counted this hand correctly, so please let me know.  I discarded the pair of three's from the six cards that were received in the deal.

The Tomato Tale

Welcome to the first installment of The Tomato Tale.  Hopefully, it will be a TALL Tomato Tale.  DF & LBR Maggie fights the Good Fight each year in high elevation Flagstaff, a mountain town where growing fat red tomatoes is akin to The Red Badge of Courage.  It is so difficult to grow decent tomatoes up there at 7,000 feet most people give up and just buy them in the stores.  Maggie is one of the courageous few who dare the elements, pests, ice, sleet, snow, pelting monsoon rain and other unknown factors to attempt to harvest the Gardener's Delight--Big Fat Red Ripe Tomatoes.  Maggies throws caution to the wind and spares no expense in her quest.  Money? Not a problem.  Time? Not a problem.  Space? Not a problem.  Whatever it takes, Maggie is willing to provide.  Her tomatoes are spared nothing in the lofty crusade to produce genuine PRODUCE!

This year Maggie is going exotic with a tomato that's supposedly of Siberian genetics.  You've heard about Siberia, it's almost as cold as Flagstaff.

Here's what Maggie had to say about this international newcomer:

"I read about a Russian variety of tomato -- Stupice (stew-peach-ka), in our local paper's gardening column.  It is touted to germinate more quickly and taste much better than Early Girl as well as some other varieties.  It is an indeterminate variety or cherry-sized tomatoes that continue to bear fruit well into the fall.  The columnist claimed to get tomatoes all through September.  He subsequently picked the green ones and kept them in a paper bag and says he was eating tomatoes at Thanksgiving. So far, they are proving to be fast growing -- germinating in several days."

Last year it was such a hoot following Maggie gardening exploits that we decided to publish The Tomato Tale this year here on our blog.  THANKS, Maggie, for sharing your exploits with our readers.  We will all be at the edge of our tables waiting for the next installment.  Keep 'em comin'!

Many Cheers, jp

Friday Potpourri

Greetings once again from Bryce Canyon.  Our storm-ette is finally gone.  It rained from about noon yesterday until just before sunrise this morning.  Susun rallied up to go to the Rim today and enjoyed the light show.  She sure put the Su"sun" in the sunrise! We're waiting for the remaining stray clouds to burn off before heading 13 miles south to the highest point in the park--Yovimpa Point.

They say on a clear day such as we are certain to have today one can see all the way to New Mexico.  Where in New Mexico is a mystery to us so we will go to the Visitor Center to quiz them about this dubious claim.

We hard an interesting story while here.  Susun talk with two different campers who had fled Zion National Park because it was "raining caterpillars." Honest.  They said the caterpillars were dropping out of trees like rain and became so annoying they packed up in a real hurry.  Luckily, it hasn't been raining caterpillars here.

Yesterday was a typical rainy day.  We spent a lot of time in the Lodge lobby.  These people are great here.  They don't care how long WIFI junkies hang out.  One pair of people spent the entire day online yesterday.  We weren't that bad.  It sure was fun with the great big fire and all.

We plan to leave here tomorrow mid-morning.  The idea is to head up to Utah Lake near Provo and camp Saturday night.  That way we can get on the road real early Sunday morning.  By far the vast majority of the Salt Lake area residents will be in church all morning.  Sunday mornings in Salt Lake the I-15 corridor seems almost deserted.  It's MUCH safer to drive through the gauntlet then than any other time.  We ought to be well north of the worst areas by the time everyone leaves church.

We're not sure about the remainder of the day.  We might camp on the north side of the metro area and then head home Monday morning.  On the other hand, we might drive on up Sunday.  There are a lot of options, of course.  The leading options at this point are:

1) Camp at either Willard Bay or Brigham City Sunday so we can drive out to the Golden Spike National Monument Sunday.  That place is a real gem.  We were last there in 2004 and would like to see it again.

2) Camp at Devil Creek Reservoir near Malad.  We have fond memories of that place.  It's the only place on earth we have had a giant steaming baked potato delivered to our camper by someone in a golf cart.

3) Camp at the North Bingham County campground near Shelley.  That's a real sweet spot and would give us a leisure 30 minute drive into home on Monday.

There might be someplace near Pocatello we could camp.  We will check into it.  The main reason for camping someplace Sunday night is that we won't have electricity and water until Monday.  Too many choices.

Our sympathies go out to Wayne Ranney this morning.  Not only did he receive the news about Marilyn yesterday but he also learned of the death of a cherished colleague, Larry Newby, in a Dark Canyon plane crash.  Wayne's photo is featured front and center on a KSL story about the tragic event.  You can click here to read the story.

We will probably check in here at least once more today before going offline until we are home.

Have a great day & Many Cheers!  jp

Here's a three more hiking photos.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Marilyn Lives Forever in Our Hearts

Our Dear Friend Marilyn is dead.  We went to the Visitor Center today to see her.  They told us the news. Words can't describe the shock we felt.  Our hearts ached and our spirits numbed.  We sat in tears on a half sawn ponderosa log there in the lobby of the Visitor Center.  How could such a vibrant, amazing, awesome, incredible, unique, special, fantastic, person perish at the young age of 59?  Marilyn went in for minor knee surgery and contracted an infection.  She passed away December 4th, 2011, sending shock waves through the Soul of Color Country.  They say the line for her viewing stretched on for three and a half hours, so great was the outpouring of community grief.

We tweeted our sweet wishes to Marilyn from the Visitor Center and then we began to talk about Marilyn's Legacy as we walked in sadness back to our vehicle.  Somehow the leaden gray skies of the day seemed even heavier above our heads.  As we walked we told ourselves that Marilyn would be scolding us for sulking in our sadness.  She would be saying, "Life is for the Living!"  Her radiant smile would be turning night into day, parting those clouds with rays of spiritual sunshine.  Marilyn, of all people, would want us to rededicate ourselves to enjoying the gift of today.

You know that old parable, right?  They call yesterday the past.  They call tomorrow the future.  Today's a gift.  That's why they call it The Present.

Yes, Marilyn would have us unwrap a new Present every day and she would be delighted no matter what the contents of that precious gift.  That was the essence of Marilyn.  Even though the reality that she is gone is beginning to set in on our brains, we feel her Spirit infusing everything we see.  As we drove away from the Visitor Center, a beautiful blue bird swooped low in front of the Samurai.  "There goes Marilyn," Susun said.  Of course, there was no doubt the bird was Marilyn's spirit.  We walked out to the rim and held hands in a moment of silence for Marilyn.  As we gazed across the infinity of Kodachrome Basin and Escalante Country beyond, we thought of Marilyn ascending up The Grand Staircase one final time to meet Her Maker and enjoy the Eternal Beauty of God's Grace Forever.

As I sit here in the Bryce Canyon Lodge writing these words, my heart is very heavy and a mist in my eyes makes it difficult to see the QWERTY keyboard below.  The daily banter of Lodge guests fills the air and a fire flickers yonder in the stone hearth.

We we drove toward the Lodge this morning we talked of the Challenge that Marilyn's passing puts into our lives.  Marilyn shared so many incredible gifts with us back in 2001.  She taught us lessons then that have helped shape who we are today. She always gave far more than she ever asked in return or expected to receive.  Therein lies our Challenge to Honor Marilyn as we stride forward to our own destiny.  It is our Challenge to appreciate, honor and celebrate every single day, to do our best to live our lives to their fullest and best.  We can honor our Dear Friend with nothing less than our best.  We know that would make Marilyn proud of us and that she would smile down from Heaven.

You may click here for Marilyn's obituary.

Click here for our July 31st, 2010 "Ode to Marilyn."

Click here for Wayne Ranney's July 2010 post from which we obtained her photo shown above.  THANKS, Wayne!

Ah, Marilyn!  We miss you.  Happy Trails Forever and God Speed!

With Great Respect & Love from Susun and John

Sunrise at Sunset

Ah, sunrise at Bryce is guaranteed to get a guy outta bed real early. Yesterday's sunrise wasn't much to write home about. We didn't think today's was gonna be much either. Once again we watched sunrise at Sunset. As we noted yesterday, the Sunrise viewpoint was sardine packed with people while virtually no one was at Sunset viewpoint. So odd. So true. We put captions below each photo.
At first glance we didn't think the sunrise was going to amount to much.  How wrong we were.
The sun is rising right smack dab over Powell Point on the Table Cliff Plateau.  We sure have a hankering to go to Powell Point.  We did so only once in 2001.  "One of these days" we will get back there again.

Well, I literally saw the light when the sun popped up over Powell Point.  HA!  The proverbial light bulb went off.

I looked to my right and realized the deserted area of Sunset Point was alive with the rays of first light.  That's the Navajo Trail switchbacks you see in the photo.

So I hot-footed it over that-a-way to the back recesses of Bryce Amphitheater.

What a wonderland awaited.  It was very hard to believe there was one one else there but me.

All types of light at all times of day make great viewing at Bryce.  In our opinion the first light of sunrise offers some of the best views.  It's such a precious few fleeting moments.

No matter where you look, there they are--those hoodoos--silent sentries for the centuries.

The Paiute Indians believe that their early ancestors all lived in Bryce but they were bad and Coyote turned them to stone.

Nobody knows how many hoodoos populate Bryce.

Believe it or not, this is Sunset Point at sunrise.  Check it out.  One solitary photographer.  We will take a better camera tomorrow so we can show you the mass of people clustered at Sunrise Point.  Apparently, they all unaware (with apologies to Ernest Hemingway) that "The Sun Also Rises" at Sunset Point.

No Fear Here

"No Fear" is a popular bumper sticker and slogan.  Talk and bumper stickers are cheap.  Walking the "No Fear" talk is always a little trickier than slapping a bumper sticker on your bubba truck.

Yesterday we got to see a bunch of guys working in a total "no fear" situation.  They are the Bryce Trail Maintenance Crew.  Too bad it's illegal to put "No Fear" bumper stickers on their trail toys.  They were definitely walking the talk!

As we've said, the day hiking here at Bryce is wonderful. The pathways wind around like snakes would travel through the hoodoos.  The trail tread twist and turn; go up and down; and traverse tunnels, too.  Sometimes the drop offs are really abrupt and one slip could send an unwary walker head over heels one or two hundred feet down a real steep cliff-like slope.

Sometimes it's difficult to walk these smooth trail treads because your head is spinning like a top trying to take in the hoodoo magic light show.  The Bryce Trails are kept smooth as a bowling ball by the trail crews.

The Claron Formation is disintegrating like the proverbial crumb cake at a church potluck picnic.  Wind, rain, freezing ice and"just because" are reasons why the Claron sheds bits and pieces of itself on a daily basis.

All of this geology-in-action keeps the National Park trail crew busier than the legendary one-arm paper hanger.  We captured them in action on the Navajo Trail yesterday and thought you'd like to see just how far these guys really "hang it out" with absolutely "no fear" on that steep, heavily-populated thoroughfare.

It appears they have fabricated special machinery just for the Bryce trails.  The little Cat is smaller than we've ever seen.  The dump device is a real piece of mechanical genius.  The guy running the dump thing had to be a combination traffic cop and diplomat to get the tourists to move out of his way.  He threaded a real high wire needle act with this thing.  One slip of the controls and it could have gone tumbling down into a real crowd of tourist hikers.  Meanwhile, the Cat operator stood by perched on the edge of gravity.  If ever we saw a guy living the "No Fear" mantra, it was this guy.  He must have been doing it so long he has either ice water for blood or just totally understands the "stickyness" of the Claron rubble that underlies the trail tread.

We thanked the guys for maintaining the trail and they thanked us for using the trail.  You see, if it wasn't for the profusion of day hikers here, there would be no trail crew.  Trails that get heavily used also get heavily maintained in the National Park Service.  No use=no maintenance.

Way to Go, Bryce Trail Crew!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hoo Doo Dis? Hoo Doo Dat?

Hoodoos are a way of life here at Bryce.  Humans throng to answer The Call of The Claron.  That's the geologic voodoo mud puddle layer that makes all dem hoo doo thangs. People (ourselves included) get spellbound over the hoodoos here.  They are everywhere and in such profusion that it would be impossible even for a professional photographer to capture their essence. Here's a few photos of our hike today.  It's supposed to rain tomorrow so we will do a road trip of some sort.  This WIFI is awesome.  It's hard to believe it's free right here in the main lobby of the Lodge.  Normally, Lodge managers don't want riff raff hanging out in the lobby. All of Bryce is a sweet deal.  We're camping for a mere $7.50 a night and there's no extra charge for  our extra vehicles  So, we're getting three vehicles here for the $7.50.  Life is good.

This Rain Thing actually started right after we finished our hike.  The weather radio robot voice says it might even snow on us here at 8,000 feet.  If it does it will only be a short photo op and nothing serious.  Should be real interesting to see how it all shakes out and falls to earth.  Maybe it will sprinkle the hoodoos with powdered  sugar and make them even more appetizing!

Well, it's five o'clock here and, can you believe it, some guy from the lodge just walked in with an armload of firewood and he's building a white man fire in the imposing stone fireplace here in the lobby.  Heck, we don't even have to break a sweat building our own campfire at Bryce.  WIFI next to a big fire--how good is that?  Good thing we have lots of stuff on our plate in Idaho Falls or we might not leave this wonderful park.

Mom's House Lives Again

Angel Lynn took this photo today of Mom's house back in Lafayette, Indiana.  The people who bought it on Groundhog Day have finished all their work and it looks magnificent.  We have no doubt they will make a "pretty penny" for all their efforts.  What a credit to the neighborhood and to the memory of my Dear Dad and Mom who built the place 55 years ago.  Thanks for sending the photo, Lynn!  It sure is great to see the place look so good.  YEA!

Beautiful Bryce Beckons

Greetings from Bryce Canyon National Park.  We arrived here Tuesday about 2 pm, roughly 5 hours after we left Vermilion Cliffs. (Most of the blog post below was written yesterday with some narrative added this morning.)

Bryce holds special memories for us.  We didn't know diddly 'bout Bryce prior to 2001.  That's the summer that changed our life when we became US Forest Service volunteers.  That's when we "discovered" Bryce Canyon.  It's not really a canyon--far from it.  There's nothing canyonesque about this place.  It's a plateau with a wildly eroded flank pock-marked with geologic voodoo and peppered with hoodoos.

The plateau itself sticks up in the sky like an outfielder's baseball mitt.  Just like an All-Star outfielder, the plateau to which Bryce has brought worldwide fame sits here and snags a big slug of snow from every passing storm.  Storms can's seem to dodge Bryce's skillful catcher's mitt.  Nope, if a storm is passing through, it's going to either rain or snow on the slopes of this plateau.  Consequently, the easily erodible rock has been shaped into all sorts of wildly weird and wonderful shapes and sizes.  People see all sorts of anthropomorphic stuff at Bryce.  Heck, now two people see the same things when they look out across this geologic Disneyland.  Bryce's rocks are on one hand purely definable by some sort of measurement.  On the other hand, Bryce's rocks are like snowflakes and no two are the same.  The time of day, time of year, perspective of the beholder and much, much more combine to make the total of Bryce far greater than the sum of its bizarre parts.  That's why this place captivates people.  It's a small and personal National Park.  People can feel like they can get a grasp on this place.  Everyone knows that NO one can get a true grasp of the Grand Canyon.  It's too vast, too truly out there for anyone to walk away from a casual visit to the Grand Canyon thinking they have a handle on the place.  Well, Bryce at least gives you the illusion that you can get a grip on the.  Tourists love that illusion and they leave here plum satisfied, kind of like purring kittens who just finished sipping fresh cow's milk.  That's the warm and fuzzy feeling Bryce imparts on its millions of visitors.  That's one of the many reasons we fell in love with Bryce way back when in 2001.

We love the tent campground.  Oh, how that tent campground taught us so many lessons.  We're not in the tent campground today--we're in the RV campground.  Susun thinks we ought to be allowed in the tent area but she will have to do her own research to find out.  Me?  I'm content to sit here in Space #245 and bang away at this netbook.  Who knows?  Maybe we will find some WIFI here and get to post up some blog stuff soon.  Wouldn't that be a novel idea? (We discovered later yesterday afternoon that there is free WIFI here--hence this post exists.)

Well, one thing we know for certain here at the Sunset Campground--we can walk to the Bryce Rim in a short, casual stroll.  Back in the day when we spent many a night here, we learned we could walk to the venerable old historic Bryce Lodge before sunrise and get a free cup of delicious coffee and then take the coffee out on the Rim to watch the sunrise.  Talk about romantic.  They don't do free coffee any more.  It's strictly BYOC. Man, I'm here to tell ya that you haven't seen a sunrise until you've seen a sunrise at Bryce.  Yeah, I know that sunrise at Grand Canyon can be great, too, but it's a tad bit overwhelming.  Bryce?  Not so much.  You can feel like you are a real participant in the sunrise here.

You can bet we will be out on the prowl tomorrow morning well before sunrise.  The sun was coming up at Vermilion Cliffs at 6 am sharp.  It will surely be earlier there so we will have to rally up and be out and about by no later than 5:30 am.

We went out to watch the sunrise today.  All the people were crowded cheek-to-jowl at Sunrise Point.  Meanwhile, at Sunset Point there was no one.  Funny how people think they have to go to Sunrise Point to watch the sun rise.

The 50 miles of trails at Bryce are about as good as day-hiking trails can possibly get.  Sedona has THE best day hiking trail system in America.  Hands down, case closed.  But Bryce is running neck and neck with Sedona.  Bryce lacks the sheer magnitude of mileage found in Sedona and doesn't have the geologic variety either.  Plus, Sedona has trails near water.  Water at Bryce only exists in your mind.  You have to visualize water and wind eroding the fantastic shapes here.  But Bryce's trails are pretty danged amazing.  We love them. We've often said that we don't think you could get tired of hiking the same trails here because the way the light changes you're going to see something new each time you travel the same route.  It's that snowflake thing again.

We have a Dear Friend who works here and with any luck, we will get to see Marilyn during this long, leisurely visit.  We have already talked about Marilyn on this blog but it's going on two years ago now.  I guess we will simply reference the earlier post rather than make this one too long.

There's lot of cool stuff here in Bryce.  Have we told you we love this place?  Let's see, here are some of the other reasons: heated bathrooms with flush toilets and running water; hot showers for two bucks a pop; a laundromat; free WIFI at the Lodge; a great store with cheap prices on everything; friendly campground hosts who tell you they want you to be happy; no bear nazis; very strict rules on generator usage; an awesome visitor center; forever views supposedly stretching to New Mexico; recycling bins everywhere; a healthy ponderosa forest; tidy, spacious campsites with brand new fire rings; and so much more.

Well, it's great to finally eddy out in Bryce on one of our semi-annual migratory trips. It feels great.

Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp
Camp--Space #245

Marble Memories

(We wrote the narrative below Sunday while sitting in Susan Kliewer's cottage on Badger Creek Road.  It's a rambling narrative, that's for danged sure!  er place is a real "memory maker."  You can't go there and leave without a cranium full of memories.)

A panorama from the boat ramp at Lees Ferry
Greetings from Marble Canyon, Arizona.  It's Earth Day.  It's also Susan Kliewer's birthday.  We've been having quite a party here since our arrival at 6 pm Friday evening.  This morning a neighbor pronounced, "This is the biggest and best party we've sene in this town in years."  The "this town" to which he referred is a fly spleck place called Vermilion Cliffs.  It's there's 50 people who live here that's probably an exaggeration.

Clayton, Idaho, loves its little highway sign that says Population 26.  Heck, Clayton actually has an extended population of over 1,000 people up there in East Fork Country.  Well, Vermilion Cliffs might have 50 people and there is no such thing as an "extended population."  Marble Canyon is the official US Post Office.  Marble can't possibly count 20 permanent residents.  Down the road a piece there's a place called Cliff Dwellers.  They probably can't count 15 people who lives there.  That makes Vermilion Cliffs the main "town" in this neck of no woods.  There's not a tree in sight here.  It's a Desert Lover's Desert.  Even the sage runs scared here and barely grows knee high.  Rabbits arefew and far between because there's nothing for them to eat.  Even the pack rats have to pack their grub stake on their back when they pass through these parts.  Dry is a way of life here in Marble Canyon.

It's ironic that the mighty Colorado River runs full and free deep in Marble Canyon a mile or two away.  It wouldn't be possile to get any water out of it even if it was legal to do so.  The Californians long ago laid claim to every drop of that big river.

Even though they can't drink it, the people of Marble Canyon Country make their living from the Colorado River.  Yep, everyone one of them survives because of life-giving waters of the fabled river.

Most of the lives of people here revolve around making money from river runners, trout fishermen and tourists passing through on the way to or from the Grand Canyon.
The COlorado River is like a giant magnet for money.  People pay thousands of dollars for a river trip and hundreds of dollars to catch big, fat fish who prowl the cold, dim eddies of the tail waters of Glen Canyon Dam a few miles upstream from legendary Lees Ferry.

You've all heard of Lees Ferry.  It is to the Southwest what Grand Central Station is to New York City.  Life as we know it here sincethe white people showed up has revolved around Lees Ferry.  Not far away up here in Marble Canyon, that's where a few hardy people hang out and harvest dollars from river runners, fishermen and the ever-present pipeline of tourists.

Susan Kliewer worked as a waitress at Marble Canyon Lodge from 1974-1979.  She fell in love with the place.  Uncounted thousands of people fall in love with this place but they don't stay.  They move on down the road.  Susan moved on but her heart stayed here, deeply in love with Marble Canyon.  As soon as she could, she bought a house in Vermilion Cliffs and has continued to carry on her affair with the landscape here.

Friday night when we showed up, we started reading "Finding Evertt Reuss" by Dave Roberts.  If you know The Cult of Reuss, you know why it's perfectly poetic to read Ruess here.  Well, imagine this: When Susan was a toddler her grandmother had a first edition copy of "A Vagabond for Beauty" on her coffee table.  Little Susan fell in love with Everett at the tender age of 5 years.  Everett became her hero then and continues in her pantheon of heroes today.  This whole country is interwoven with the Life and Times of Evertt Reuss.

It's aways sunch a delightful interlude to layover here at Susan's Place in Vermilion Cliffs.  We partied into the dark skies Friday night. We spent almost 6 hours roaming the truly deserted nooks and crannies of House Rock Valley yesterday while a half dozen endangered condors soared overhead.  We hiked back into a mysterious spring that would have made Evertt's heart leap for joy.  We used our GPS to drive to the invisible Utah Line that only high tech satellites can see.  Once again everyone got their Party Faces on and the mirth and merriment continued well past midnight.

As people leave other partiers arrive.  The party goes on.  Susan's 72 but her Party Self seems to be a mere 27 years old.

Laughter is the rule of the party.  Laughter rolls live waves over the old sandstone homestead.  Fat collared lizard sit on the wrinkled cottonwood bark and cast a wary eye as the party rolls on.

We haven't been down to the river yet.  There's too much current and flow happening here to bother going there.  Oh, for sure, we will take our obligatory pilgramage to wiggle our toes in the Colorado River.

In the meantime, all the action's happening here at Vermilion Cliffs.  It's Earth Day and Susan's Birthday.  What more can we ask?

Postscript Note: Sunday and Monday kind of blended into a pleasant blur of memories as well.  What a great place.  THANKS, Susan & Jeff for your awesome hospitality and kindness.
Susan & Susun

Friday, April 20, 2012

Finally leaving

Our semi-annual trips make us wonder how the ancient migratory people handled their ambulations across the pre-historic landscapes.  Even in modern times with all sorts of conveniences, it's danged difficult getting everything together to migrate.  We should be outta here by 2 pm.  That's a a day and a few hours longer than we had planned to stay but, hey, at least we're getting on the road.  WHEW!

Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp

We're still here

We are hoping to leave today....sometime.  There's no chance we will be able to get out of here before noon at the earliest.  We've spent 12 hours each day trying to get all our stuff together.  However, teh river tirp, Susun's trip and other factors have precluded an early getaway.  We will move the Twitter back to the top and use our cell phones to make periodic reports between here and Idaho Falls.  We enjoyed a great big campfire last night.  Robin and Gary were here and then Maria, Tim and Claudia appeared to put a real exclamation point on our last evening at Second Chance Ranch.

Well, there's still a million things to do so we best get moving here at 6 am.

Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Susun's Back Home

Everything worked out perfect for Susun's trip to San Diego for Gage's 4th birthday.  About 50 people attended the Big Party.  Susun and her grand sons were also able to enjoy two visits to the beach.  Susun says the boys tell her she is "fun."  We told Susun they say that because she probably is more "kid-at-heart" than they are!  As Susun's daughters like to say, "She's in her element" in the photo above.  This was her fourth and final trip of our winter season here.  Her next trip might be sometime during the summer.  If not, she will be heading back there via Salt Lake in September for Van's third birthday.

After picking up Susun at the airport yesterday, we arrived back at Second Chance Ranch at 6 pm sharp last night. We had a great big white man campfire.  There's only one or two campfires left before we head out of here.  The next two days are going to be a real struggle to get it all together.  We might even have to leave Saturday morning instead of Friday if we can't "git 'er dun."

Were in for some hot times up in Marble Canyon at Susun Kliewer's Place.  No, not the partying type of hot times, we're talking REAL hot times.  Temps are progged to be 12-16 degrees above normal.  Since the normal high there is 79, that means we will be "enjoying" temps in the 91-95 degrees range.  It was 93 in Phoenix yesterday so it's definitely time to head back to cooler climes in Idaho.  When the thermometer says anything with a NINE in it, we're outta here.

Life is good.  Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp

PS--Thanks, Sarah, for your Great Photo!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mid April update

Sunday Greetings!  As usual for April, things have been pretty crazy around these parts.  Susun is off in San Diego.  Last night was Gage's 4th birthday party.  About three dozen adults and a dozen kids were expected to attend.  She will be coming back to Arizona Tuesday afternoon.

As for the blog author?  Well, we are currently at a very low energy ebb.  Here's our story for the first half of April.

We don't nap. Susun naps.  She's a Pro Napper.  We're a Non Napper.  Naps R Not Us.  In spite of our No Nap Policy, something odd happened today: we had a 3.5 hour nap!  That's a personal new World Record Nap for us.  We can't remember when we have taken a nap that long in our modern life on earth.  Sure, we've slept a lot when we've been sick.  Everyone does.  That's not napping.  That's what doctors call "bed rest."  The Docs don't say do home and take your medicine and get a good nap.  No, The Docs say, "get plenty of bed rest."  So, even though we've slept for hours during days when we've been ill, we can't recall a nap as long as this one.  We didn't even know we could nap for 3.5 hours in a row.

So what happened that caused this epic nap?  In a nutshell: total exhaustion.  We've been running hard, long, far and fast for days and days and our pace finally took its toll in the form of going comatose during the precious daytime.  It all started early last week, prior to the JTCAZ river trip.  We were on the fast track Monday, April 2, when we spent 7 am-4:30 pm on shooting match stuff  Then we had to be at Jodi and Dex's Place by 5 pm and returned here at 9 pm.  Tuesday was yet another fast-paced day that continued without letup well into the dark.  Ditto Wednesday & Thursday.  We had to get up at 5 am Friday in order to be driving by 7 am to make the JTCAZ river trip assembly by 7:30 pm. Each of the days that followed began no later than 6 am and finished well after dark.  Each day was a thoroughly physical workout in the rock-studded, low water of the Verde River.  The final day was a tiring paddle across the mudflats and remnant lake of Horseshoe Reservoir.  The trip really wore us out. After our arrival home about 5 pm Tuesday, we barely got unpacked before bedtime.

The following day, Wednesday, April 11th, we had to be up and at 'em again by 6 am because we had to rush out of here to get to Mesa as early as possible.  We left at 9:20 AM and kept up such a fast pace all day I finally fell asleep with a newspaper in my hands.  Thursday, we had to get going at 4:45 am in order to get packed up and have Susun at the airport by 6:30 am.  Thence began a very long day that involved all sorts of errands in Phoenix and a very busy afternoon prepping our place for a visitor.

Dear Friend Meg L. arrived at 6 pm and we stayed up talking until almost 10 pm.  We hadn't visited with Meg in person since perhaps 1984 or 1985.  Friday was yet another busy day.  We arose at 5 am to tidy up the house the Thursday dinner and were off on the tourist loop by early morning.  We visited Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, Montezuma Well Nat'l Monument, V Bar V petroglyphs, Montezuma Castle, Fort Verde and the Verde River.  Then we fixed another dinner and had a break in the weather and squeezed in a campfire, too.

We got back up at 6 am Saturday morning to clean up the house and fix breakfast.  Meg took off not long after 9 am.  It was a great visit, THANKS, Meg! Our hike with Wayne was cancelled due to weather so we went into Camp Verde to listen to Marshall Trimble tell stories at Fort Verde.  We finally arrived back here a little after noon-ish Saturday.  About  1 pm, we fell flat onto the bed and logged an amazingly long nap.  Trust me, a three and a half hour nap for this guy is definitely a New World Record!

Whew, we might not be totally caught up on our rest but that nap sure did make a dent in our sleep and energy deficit.

Hopefully, we will soon post up a big backlog of photos.

Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


We made it to The Center of Arizona at 2 pm on Saturday, April 7. The exact center is in the prickly pear cactus to the right in the photo.  That's where we put the register box after we all signed in with our thoughts.  We celebrated the concept of JTCAZ and even did a little mime act at the take out along side the defunct Horseshoe Reservoir this morning.  You have to think a little mirror image to get the JTCAZ but, trust me, it's there.
Life is Good.  We're home safe & sound.  Many Cheers, jp

Thursday, April 5, 2012

JTCAZ begins Good Friday

The Journey To The Center of Arizona (JTCAZ) begins on Good Friday. The intrepid Argonauts have received orders to report for duty at 0730 at the USDA Forest Service Verde Ranger District Boat House.  Departure for the ghost town of Childs, Arizona, will take place at 0900.  The launch target time is 1300 hours.  The Argonauts will face a tough paddle downstream to the East Verde River.  Four treacherous rapid lie in wait for them as they navigate to their Base Camp.  After the Expedition Camp has been established, the Argonauts will plot and plan their final push to the Center of Arizona on Saturday morning.  Their first attempt to reach Center of State will be their only attempt.  It's all or nothing for them on Saturday.  The Expedition Leader, Captain Dexter Allen, Esq., has decreed that all Argonauts must be back onboard and fully resurrected to be able to head downstream Easter Sunday morning.  Whatever libation(s) may flow and whatever celebration(s) may take place on Saturday night must be put quickly into the past as the Argonauts paddle into the hottest temperatures of the year so far.  Will they make it to the Center of State?  How well will they fare during the five day trip?  Tune in again next week for another thrilling episode of JTCAZ!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Center of State A Go

The on-off, on-again, off-again Journey To The Center of The State is on again.  This time it looks and acts like the real deal.  When it was truly "off" we made a lot of plans for the period from April 5-10th including a day with Wayne and lunch with Maggie and Steve.

Last Saturday evening we were camped out over at Chip & Kathy's Place when Ace Reporter Steve Ayers stated, "You ARE going on the river trip aren't you?"  We said, "Huh, what river trip?"  Well, we came under the full court press that night from Steve, Chip, Tony and Dex and how we "had" to go.  At that time, we said there was no way as we had already made too many plans.

We polled Wayne about our Play Day and, once he understood the stakes involved he basically said we had to do the trip.  Maggie was an awesome gracious understanding Angel and told us to go, too.  THANKS, Maggie & Wayne!

Then Monday evening at Jodi & Dexter's Place, we learned the dates of the trip had changed.  What next?
Anyway, Dex assured us that the trip definitely would launch on Good Friday and return on Tuesday after the Easter weekend.  Those of you who know how river trip planning ebbs and flows probably aren't too surprised at the twists and turns this trip has taken.  After the dust settled on the Tuesday Shoot yesterday, we decided to hunt down all our camping and river-related stuff to see if we had the right stuff.  Surprise!  We have enough stuff to actually rig out our bivvy for such a trip.  We decided to give it one more "sleep test" last night and woke up this morning feeling 100% all in.

We're going to have to hustle the next couple of days to get all the various things done that need to be done around the house and land, as well as continuing to rig and pack for the trip itself.  It should be a real interesting trip.  The moon goes full Thursday at 12:18 pm Arizona Time.  That means Friday is going to be a slow-moving molasses kind of day.  Not only that, there promises to be some real stiff upstream headwinds Friday.  It should be real interesting to see if we can make it down to the East Verde to get in position for a hike to the Center of State on Saturday morning, especially since we will have at least two novice paddlers along--Steve & Tony.

That's our story this morning and we're sticking to it.  Honest.

Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp