Journal and photos of our travels in the West.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Nancy: We're on the road again, with Cookie! We're in Bluff, Utah, one of our favorite places in the world. Already this morning we thought Cookie escaped when I couldn't find her, so we drove back to where we last had the truck door open, thinking she jumped out in to the desert. Terrified, of course, driving those few miles back to our camp site... and as we drove I tore the camper apart and found her hiding in a little crack safe and sound in the camper. Sheesh. This will be an interesting trip, caring for the beloved cat and still trying somehow to get some hiking in. We're not quite sure how it will all play out. Here comes a woman with a little white dog and Cookie is in her carrier at my feet at the restaurant; will she go balistic and tear the crrier apart?
Camped last night in the desert and watched shooting stars by the campfire. We're so lucky.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Nancy: Drove through Utah on the way home and got a quick but glorious fix of red rock and dramatic vistas.

Back in Santa Fe last night, arriving to meadows rather than desert. Since we left 2 months ago, it's rained, rained, and rained some more, and there are grasses and flowers everywhere. No one has ever seen it like this. Our little courtyard was a mass of weeds, popping out of the stone ground cover we put down just before we left. Jack has allergies to some of this, and he's not alone I guess.

Cookie is obviously happy to see us and full of purrs and cuddles.
We'll be here maybe a week, long enough to add some more storage to the camper so that I feel a little more organized, get the sleeping bags cleaned, catch up on mail and friends, etc.... then off again.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Leaving the green coasts of Washington and Oregon, asserted Wallace Stegner, you travel east to reach The West. So now we follow his trail, taken many years ago, along highway 50, toward Utah. We hope to spend tonight near one of our favorite towns, Torrey, Utah, which is at the west entrance to Capitol Reef National Park, one of our favorite national parks.

We camped last night somewhere in the high desert north of Ely, Nevada, in an area that has seen little use. There is still an intact crust of cryptogrammic soil over much of the earth. We were surrounded by low mountain ranges in a landscape dotted with old junipers. I feel myself continue to relax as I enjoy the clear air, vast distances, and lack of population.

Much of the desert is blooming now, covered with a low, yellow-flowered bush that resembles chamisa, but has a sweeter scent. Yesterday, while searching a dusty road for a campsite, we came upon a number of apiaries in the middle of hundreds of acres of these flowers. The yellow expanse was vivid against a background of hazy, blue mountains in the distance.

“We are fortunate that we both love places like this,” Nancy says to me. She reminds me of how many times we both have been together in the desert, and how, each time, we are reacquainted with one of the important things that hold us together.


Tonight we are camping in the National Forest outside Torrey, having had a snack at the El Diablo Café, a bit of an upscale menu, locally renowned for its rattlesnake cakes. Torrey is the quintessential little Mormon town, small, yet with broad streets with familiar names: Main, Center, and the numbers. The streets or their rights-of-way are broad and straight...enough to land a small airplane, and lined, of course, with poplars and cottonwoods. Torrey has a full acequia flowing through the middle of town, and most houses have large gardens.

All the national parks in Utah have their accompanying towns: Moab for Arches and Canyonlands, Springdale for Zion, Tropic for Bryce, and Torrey for Capitol Reef. Of all these, Torrey is the quietest, and most agreeable. You can actually find a room here for $28. Capitol Reef is the least-visited of all the Utah parks, and often, the overseas visitors seem to outnumber the American visitors. A couple of years ago I lost my wallet outside the visitor’s center, and didn’t notice until later that day. After searching several of the places I had visited, I finally returned to the visitor’s center. My wallet had been turned in by a tourist from Japan.
In his story written over 50 years ago, Wallace Stegner lamented the impending development of this area, including the possible building of a “super highway” through what was then known as Capitol Wash. Staying in Fruita, a little settlement just down the road from Torrey known locally for its orchards , Stegner feared that a highway would bring “..entrepreneurs with gas stations and lodges and sad little fly-blown cafes.” The super highway was never built; instead, a national park has preserved the little settlement of Fruita, adding to it the park visitor’s center. (We will go down to the orchards tomorrow to pick fruit.) And, for some reason, the fly-blown cafes haven’t materialized, either, although there are plenty of motels and gas stations on the east side of Torrey. Which is all right, actually, considering that the only other decent lodging to be found in the area is quite a distance in any direction.

But what could eventually happen here is a repetition of something that is occurring all over the American West: a sort of gentrification, or as some might say, Californication. Moab was a harbinger; more recently, St. George. What the Mormon pioneers feared long ago might now be coming to pass: an invasion of Gentiles. In this case, Gentiles with cash from IRA’s, home sales on either coast, and a heavy jones for high-priced coffee drinks.

I like to imagine that Torrey will escape this fate, perhaps because of its remoteness from major highways, airports, and healthcare centers, perhaps because of its long, isolated winters. But my fantasy is tempered by the awareness that places like this that I have loved in the past have eventually become “discovered” and developed.

In a day or so we will continue back to Santa Fe. And I will have plenty of time to meditate on the fact that, of all the places we have visited so far, I am happiest here.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/7/06 Nancy
5 days in Oregon, and we are creeping along like Roadsnails. It’s so beautiful here on the coast that everyplace we find is hard to leave. We’ve been walking on endless long, sandy, sunny beaches, not rocky dramatic painful ones as I thought were here for some reason. Tonight is our first Oregon cloudy night; it might rain. Up until now it’s been sunny every day, sometimes windy, sometimes not. This campground called Cape Lookout is a great one, right on the ocean so we hear it all night, for $16.00, which includes free showers. I’m happy.

However, we’re missing Cookie so much we may head home and get her, then continue. It’s crazy, but it’s getting harder and harder to be without her, now that we’re on our 7th week.

A couple of days ago we found a great little winery a bit inland in a green paradise south of Astoria, (Nehalem Bay Winery) and the very nice folks there also told us a good place to camp “off the grid” – (free, unofficial, no services, which Jack loves) nearby, so we drove up in to the hills and sure enough, a beautiful river, then another, then another; so we settled in for the night in a forest… only to be awakened all night by the very industrial sounds of a little gravel quarry’s trucks, all night. Erghh. We barely slept, but it was a good excuse for napping on the beach the next day.

I was interested in the Tillamook Cheese Factory which quickly dissolved once we saw thousands of RV’s in the 50-acre parking lot; our Tourist Trap Radar went off loudly so we zipped away to less-crowded venues.

9/11 (Jack)

So, we have pulled the plug, temporarily, on the road trip. We decided that we couldn't live without our kitty any longer, plus we need to make some serious changes to the camper to have it more livable. So, we headed inland toward Bend, OR, via the Three sisters. What a beautiful drive. We camped in a nearly deserted natiolnal forest CG the night before last, then last night camped in the desert north of winemucca, NV. I am basking in silence and lack of crowds. I love the ocean and the whole green beautiful coast, but the crowds were gettting to me. I feel much more relaxed. The nearly full moon rose last night, and we watched out the window until we fell asleep as the jackrabbits and coyotes wnet about their business in the desert.

I am posting a few of nancy's photos.
she has made some beautiful images at the beach and at the Cape Meares lighhouse over the last few days.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Nancy: Labor Day weekend., Olympic National Park in Washington. They say they are having record crowds here due to the warm sunny weather, but there are far fewer people here than the other 5-6 we've been in so far this summer.... which of course makes us think highly of this park.
The rain forests are amazing; moss on everything, even phone booths. It's wonderful here, and what a surprise to see that Washington has so many long, beautiful beaches. So for us it's been pick and eat blackberries, buy and eat salmon and halibut, and walk on beaches and in rain forests.
We went to the Hoh Rain Forest and marveled at the moss-covered trees... some of those old trees can have up to 30 different kinds of mosses and lichens growing on them. I learned a new word: mouldering is when a tree starts turning in to dusty powder, blending back in to the soil and becoming mulch for the new cute little spritely green babies that are sucking the moisture and nutrients out of you. Don't want to think about that too much, but you can't help but notice all these incredibly strong nubile healthy rock-climbing, surfing, backpacking kids (are they models?) around here.
Some of these beaches aren't sandy but are river-rock beaches for miles and miles, with gigantic driftwood trees that I wish could talk. How did they get here, when, from where? Some are over ten feet in diameter. Cedars? Redwoods? From Japan, California, or just 50 feet from where they are now? Did they wash up last week or 50 or 250 years ago?
Today we also went to an amazing museum and learned a lot about the Makah tribe who lived here for thousands of years. 500 years ago a mudslide buried part of their village, and 30 years ago a team of scientists started gently uncovering everything, revealing perfectly preserved pieces of every part of the way they lived here on the sea. So, they created the museum to house, display and learn from what they recovered. Beautiful large canoes carved from gigantic cedar logs which they used for whale and seal hunting. Clothing from softened cedar fibers, and from wool from the dogs they raised for their fur. Tools, games, cooking utensils, blankets, cedar boxes that were ingenious, fishing spears, nets and hooks, incredibly beautiful baskets; artwork on everything. the museum even has an entire long house that housed many families,

Since we've been here we've been very grateful to the native people descended from the Makah, because they happily support our love of salmon. Yum!!!! We bought a bunch of smoked salmon from a sweet 19-year old kid in a little fishing village here; he catches it on the river, smokes it and sells it in his driveway. Every restaurant no matter how small or large serves it in everything. I eat salmon all day every day, and plan to all the way through Washington, Oregon, and longer if possible. Heaven! This is enough salmon for even me. Espresso is almost as common here; hand-painted "espresso" or "mocha" signs everywhere. I do love the Pacific Northwest!
A great beach walk today, photos attached.