Spring is in the Air

Spring is in the Air

March 19, 2023

It has been a busy week for me here in Escalante which is why I’m a bit late getting this written.  We had a work campers reunion get together at our local pub last weekend.  The band was jamming and everyone seemed to have a good time and was happy to see each other.  I couldn’t convince anyone to dance with me, but luckily I am happy to dance alone.  A group of us went to the Mystic Hot Springs in Monroe which was 2 & 1/2 hours away.  We had nice weather while we were there.  The springs were the perfect temperature and did not have the sulfur smell that many of them do.  There were individual tubs with options side by side or more secluded as well as some bigger pools for groups.  They also have a timed ticket system to keep it from being crowded.  Peacocks roamed the property and they had Grateful Dead themed buses that they rented out for those wishing to spend the night.  I enjoyed some solitude in my own private tub for a while and then joined my group in the big pool to splash around and be silly.  It was our last adventure with my friend Sara who has decided to move down near Zion National Park to work as a wrangler and help care for the herd of bison there.  She promises to organize a horseback trail ride for any of us who decide to visit in the spring.  

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It’s been much more peopley out here with tourists starting to return for Spring.  Utah also had their spring breaks staggered over the past couple of weeks.  The visitor center had a flurry of activity with people coming in or calling to plan their hikes.  We had to advise some to change their plans due to the abundance of snow we have had and safety concerns with slippery slick rock or muddy conditions preventing access to some trailheads.  We received an urgent message one day that canyons south of us (Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch) had experienced flash flooding with a couple of casualties.  We never discourage someone’s sense of adventure and wish to seek a challenge, but we do give advice when one’s plans appear uninformed or reckless.  I’m still trying to learn all I can and feel pretty confident on giving advice about day hikes in the area, but still send people to someone else to plan overnight backpacking trips.

Our campground, Yonder, opened back up on Wednesday so on Tuesday we all worked hard to get the place ready.  We cleaned everything, stocked shelves in the store, took inventory, and the chefs started cooking.  My body was sore after a full day of this work, but luckily the hot tub was open that night just for us to enjoy and that fixed me up.  Our initial reviews have been good and our campers seem happy to be here despite the still temperamental weather.  We had snow again, but it melted the next day.  I think many visitors to this area are expecting it to be Spring and warmer here.  I advised a Frenchman to change his plan to drive a dirt road all the way to Page, AZ in a 2 wheel drive jeep.  I’m fairly certain he would have gotten stuck out there if he tried it.  

The struggle is real to keep wilderness places wild and keep small towns small and scenic.  This past week there was a small protest in town as a Dollar Store is trying to move in.  We did not participate as we are not citizens of the town, but we did stop by to see the end of it and a kind gentleman let me take his photo.  

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We also attended an Easter concert put on by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints here in town.  The mormons we have met in this town are really kind people and personally invited us so we could not say no.  Growing up, I had to attend church every week and go to all the church events as I was the step-daughter of a minister.  Even before I ended up in a non-nuclear family, we were a family of church-goers.  I was raised primarily as a Protestant congregationalist and music was always an important part of the service.  Have you noticed anything that your parents did that embarrassed you as a child, but as an adult it made you proud?  My mother is an amazing singer.  When I was young in church she would often seem to me to be the loudest voice in the room when we sang and to my horror (at the time) she would sing in harmony to make us stand out even more so everyone would turn to look.  In later years I found her singing inspiring.  It sounded beautiful and she was unafraid to sing with her whole self and have everyone notice.  My mother’s singing began to bring me pride and awe instead of embarrassment.  As an adult, I would not attend church much, but I would usually try to go on Easter.  It is not that I maintained close relationships with anyone in the church community or that I cared about hearing the Easter stories or prayers.  I went because there is a hymn that is always sung on Easter and my mother would sing this incredible operatic aria during the chorus that nearly moved me to tears.  I didn’t realize that this was a thing I missed until I went to this Easter concert and the pianist played that song.  If you are near West Boylston, MA on a Sunday you can probably get a chance to hear my mother Laura sing in her church choir.

The Escalante River Watershed Partnership worked with other organizations to put on a symposium here in Escalante this past week which is also available via Zoom.  I was volunteering on the first two days so did not attend many of the events,  but I did go to a screening of a documentary made by Native American students about dismantling stereotypes portrayed in media about their cultures and people.  Luke and I also attended a guided nature walkabout where we saw dinosaur tracks, a cliff dwelling, pictographs, and petroglyphs.  It was a great day to be outdoors with the sun shining and we heard stories about the people who made tremendous efforts to protect the wilderness of this area by buying up parcels of land just to protect them from being developed into strip malls.  Our guide pointed out different plants and taught us about them along the way and shared stories of the history of the trail we walked as well.  Our trail is known as an old cream cellar route as early settlers would bring cream by wagon to store in the canyon.  However, they joked that the road was so bumpy that it often turned to butter on the journey.  Our guide pointed out this rock that has rusty scuff marks on it from wagon wheels.  Next to it is a dinosaur track.

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Here is a cliff dwelling we saw on our trail.  The end of our walk where we saw colorful pictographs was on private property and our guide had gained permission to bring us there.  The people who own this property have done a fine job protecting this ancient piece of art from approximately 1200 years ago.

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The views along our walk were also wonderful.  I love the swirls of red in the rock canyon.

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Some of the photography work I have been doing for locals lately has inspired me to get in a bit more practice with using Photoshop.  Photoshop is complex.  There are many helpful tools in this program, but there are also several ways to achieve similar results.  Many times when I’ve tried to use it I have felt confused and frustrated and my lack of patience has led me to move onto a tool that feels easier or more familiar to me.  Our cover photo this week is from me messing around with a photo I took of our friend’s side by side to give it different backgrounds and blend it in so it looks natural.  I first sent him the one below, but was having fun making them so I asked if there was a special scene he wanted to see his machine in.  He asked for an enchanted forest with a unicorn and that’s how we got there.  I was happy with myself being able to make his vision come true.  

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I am reading Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey as some of the guys where I volunteer encouraged me to.  At first, I was put off by this writer as he is crass and arrogant.  He suggests that national parks should not be paved as vehicles ruin the landscape and people cannot connect with nature fully from inside a car.  While his points are not totally incorrect, I think this is a drastic solution and critics argue that it would make parks inaccessible to many.  He recognized that it may be hard for an elderly person or a young child to visit a park on foot or bicycle and to that he said that young children will be able to visit later in life and older people have already had their chance.  His book was published in 1971 and I wonder if his views on this changed before his death in the late 80’s and he was able to have a perspective that was less ableist and exclusive.  Not every elderly person has had a chance to visit parks in earlier years and they paid taxes to fund these places so they have as much right to enjoy them as everyone else.  Luke and I have discussions sometimes about the tensions around protecting natural areas, but still making them accessible and available for the public to enjoy.  There is a lot of grey in this topic with varying opinions and solutions that are not guaranteed or immediate.  The best we can all do is to educate ourselves about the area and how we can enjoy it while leaving the smallest impact so as to maintain the life and beauty of the place for others.  I kept reading the book despite my frustration with the man and while I have not finished it yet, I definitely recommend it.  His prose describing the landscape is beautiful, his stories are richly told, and he always provides helpful education about wilderness survival.  For example, if you are looking for water in the desert, do not drink water that looks clean and pristine with no bugs or signs of life in it.  Some springs in the southwest desert contain arsenic and this is a tell tale sign that they are poisonous.


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