Friday, May 26, 2017

A Gimp's Guide to Southeastern Utah

The gold cliffs and blue skies by Grey Canyon near the Green River

Adds for Utah travel urge you to see the big five--Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef. Because I grew up in Utah and was blessed with parents willing to travel, I have seen them all--and seen them all grow more crowded especially Arches, my favorite (and apparently everyone else's). 

To avoid the crowds, my folks have become increasingly adventurous. They are always finding new wonders. Most of the beauty I saw on this trip lies outside of the national parks.

The ideal way to really see any place is to spend the time it takes to walk through it. That is the way to learn the flowers, stones, and animals. You need to see shadows move across the landscape and look at a scene from multiple perspectives. Usually my parents set up base camp and go on several long hikes.

But our itinerary was planned around my limited energy stores. We went to as many pretty places as  possible where I could enjoy redrock splendor with limited exertion. 
Street at is not limited to pavement: A sculpted metal tribute to Spanish explorers by Eldon Holmes from Cleveland, Utah
Most of the land between the Rockies and the Sierras looks dull and desolate. If you remove the artwork from the photo above and maybe turn down the red in the cliffs, it could be almost anywhere. There are huge gaps between wonders. So the truck, and my dad as driver, did a great deal of work. We drove bout 400 miles after parking the trailer in Green River.

The Green River State Park is an oasis of cottonwood trees (and mosquitoes) on the banks of the Green River. From the picnic table I could see a railroad bridge across the river. We compared how well each of us slept by comparing the number of train whistles heard in the night.

On the first evening, we drove to two nearby sights. Crystal Geyser is caused by chemical rather than geothermal forces. It was created by people who were drilling for oil, but hit carbonated water instead. No one I know has seen it erupt, but guide books claim it happens every fourteen hours and shows a picture as proof. Chemicals in the water stain the rocks in interesting colors that match the silk/wool scarf I knitted.

On the way out and back, we spotted two families of pronghorn antelope--a total of 12. We also saw two cottontail rabbits.

After that we drove out to Gray Canyon. There is a nice campground on the river at Swasey's Beach.

We enjoyed the chance to drive past some of the farms that produce famous Green River melons. Main Streets in rural towns don't show much of their stories.
Our only eating out was that first night, at the Tamarisk Restaurant. It is locally owned and top quality, though I must warn that the salads are enormous.

Tuesday was my favorite day. We first drove to Black Dragon Canyon. Dark desert varnish on the sandstone walls could easily inspire it's name. So could the shadowy twists of the canyon, but it was really inspired by pictographs we found after a gentle walk.
Natural black marks on the walls of Black Dragon Canyon.

It is easy to see the painted human shapes on the left side of the picture. If you look carefully for the same shade of red on the bottom left and use your imagination, you may see the shape of a dragon. 

If the "dragon" is a dragon, it would be the only one in known early American art.

We found even more elaborate art in BuckHorn Wash. There we found a large panel created by the Barrier Canyon Culture About two thousand years ago, vandalized by the Fremont culture 1000 years later and by modern Americans over the course of the last 100 years. It was carefully restored by Constance Silver in 1996. 

I am fascinated by mankind's universal drive to create art. I have bought a book about Utah rock art to learn more. Motifs from these panels will appear in my knitting soon.

An informational sign informed us that we were standing on rock formed in the Jurassic age and looking up at younger stone. Little wonder that we wanted to find a dinosaur footprint shown by a local guide. Directions were confusing. Dad and I scrambled up a likely-looking piece of sandstone, but directions were confusing and we had no luck dino hunting that day.
We did see two wild donkeys, not something we knew to expect from the area. Like all wild things, they were gone before we could take a picture.

The final stop on Tuesday was The Wedge, a great overlook into the Green. I adore heights and can no longer scale mountains, so overlooks are great for me. 

Tuesday's driving was mostly on dirt roads, some of them quite interesting. Wednesday was almost all highway. The first stop was Fisher Towers.

It would be a great hike for teens or young adults. It is mostly right on the redrock with ups and downs and interesting little canyons as well as a stunning view. 

I had fun and wore myself out within prescribed limits. We walked in for 15-20 minutes, then turned around and walked out. I would have loved to do more, but limits were wise. The little hike left me breathless in more ways than one.

A long drive, much of it in a red canyon right next to the Colorado River, brought us to the LaSalle mountains, quite a change of scenery. We drove up high enough to find a shady lunch spot under ponderosa pines. While there, a friendly man told us about dinosaur tracks just a little way up the road. 

These were much easier to find: big raptor tracks in an alpine setting. Amazing.

The final stop was our only National Park moment. 

Island in the Sky, in Canyonlands, is exactly how it sounds, a place of amazing views. Hikers, (like my parents  if I'm not along) find more fun in the the Needles area of the park. 

This is how I look on the edge of a cliff.

This is how I feel at the edge of a cliff.

There is more to tell, but I'm broken. I need to rest for a few more hours this afternoon before even thinking about dinner preparations.

Besides, the River Museum in Green River (highly recommended) sells a bumper sticker that says "Keep Green River Secret." So don't tell anyone that it is a better base camp than Moab.

I will show you my knitting next week.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Back to the Stone Age


I'm going camping with my parents next week.

 What that actually means has changed a lot over the years.

I went backpacking before I can remember, when I was small enough to be the backpack, but big enough to try to evict Mom from our shared sleeping bag in the middle of the night.
This looks just like our tent, and our mountains.

 I was nine or ten when my parents bought a canvas spring-bar tent (which is still entirely serviceable almost 30 years later). The tent trips have blurred into a collection of similar memories, but they are all pleasant. While camping, we kids would burn pinecones in the fire, wade in little streams, and explore nearby woods.
This trip, I prefer my parent's healthy food.

We tasted rare delicacies-- soda pop, sugar cereal, and canned stew or ravioli--junk food truly appreciated by kids used to three home-cooked meals a day with fresh ingredients from the garden.

I remember listening to rain on the canvas at night and waiting in my sleeping bag on cold mornings for Dad to get up first and restart the fire.

The memories are idyllic, but I've taken my kids on tent camping trips and have seen them from the other side--mud and soot everywhere, kids stuck in the tent all day because the rain just won't stop,  midnight walks to smelly outhouses.

 I don't have clear memories of Mom doing anything but cooking. Most of the time she was probably trying to keep my younger siblings from drowning in streams or burning themselves in fires.

 Every time I took my kids camping, I had extended family as backup. Mom didn't. I don't know how she did it, especially how she kept on doing it, but I'm grateful.
This poor kid needs a book and a flashlight.

Eventually, a tent trailer made camping easier for everyone. It was amazing. We could cook and eat indoors away from bugs and weather. If it rained, there was a table for playing cards or coloring pictures. There was enough room to spread out and not all be on top of each other. No one had to sleep on bumpy ground or walk across bedding with muddy shoes.

My parents' current trailer is even nicer. It is hard-sided and easier to set up (though not to park). There is a bathroom with shower, a tv, DVD player, microwave, and air conditioning. We will be at a state park with electrical hookups, so everything will work.

Of course this is far from stone-age living. My only "sacrifice" is to be without the internet for two whole days.
I would love to understand these stories carved onto stone.

So why did I choose a stone-age title? Part of it is tongue-in-cheek because of such cushy camping.

It also fits our destination, the Canyonlands area of the Colorado Plateau, where stone formations are  what people come to see.

Finally, we will be visiting areas long inhabited by "Stone Age" people who were clever enough to farm, hunt, and raise families in a landscape that quickly kills modern folks once we are separated from our technology.

Even with all the mod-cons, survival will be an issue for me. Though my parents are old enough to be my parents, they are super healthy. They hike three miles a day--sun, snow, or rain. I can walk a slow mile, on mostly level sidewalks, most days, if I haven't already over-exerted myself.

The schedule was planned to accommodate all of us. There will be drives to fantastic overlooks and through pretty scenery for me, then I can rest in the trailer or the back of the truck while my folks scale cliffs to chase bighorn sheep.

I'll let you know how I did in next week's blog. Hopefully with good pictures.


I finished the papaya shawl, which will become a birthday gift this fall.

I also knitted enough adoptable sheep to make an even dozen, still all Shetland, though in even more shades, and have finally listed them in my shop ($20 each).

Currently on needles is a summer scarf made of a soft silk/linen blend.

And I'm packing yarn, needles, and patterns for my (four day) camping trip. I'm not sure I have enough.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Purchases, Pledge Drives, and Profits--Showing Support

My favorite yarn shop is closing down and I am in a tizzy. There are other shops in the valley and they are lovely, but none are as close or as comfortable. I feel like I will suddenly be without a place to turn when I need bright red worsted weight merino or a new pair of 16" size two bamboo circular needles RIGHT NOW.

I also feel guilty. Vera is retiring. For the past 11+ years she spent almost every business hour in the store, so I can't begrudge her that. But I feel bad that I didn't send more business her way. I spin a lot of my own yarn and  buy a lot on-line and  can't walk into a yarn store without spending over a hundred dollars. So I never became a regular. I always intended to spend more time there and eventually become one of the ladies knitting and talking politics on the sofa.

I'm also not sure what to do about the going out of business sales. Discretionary money is tight. There is more than enough yarn here. But again, I want to be supportive.

Sadly, showing support often means spending money. Which is why I have a new pair of socks I don't know what to do with. I am a "sustainer" for my local public radio station, which means they receive a monthly amount from my bank account. A few weeks ago, a station volunteer called. She told me all the nice things I already know about public radio, then asked for $5 more a month. I agreed and chose socks over a mug.

 I have mugs, and tote bags, and magnets, and t-shirts that show financial support of various causes. There more causes, all of them good, that I would like to support, but I'm not rich and famous yet, so I mostly give to LDS Humanitarian Services (an organization that helps people in need world wide, but doesn't offer tote bags for donations.)

I also support several of my favorite bloggers. When Stephanie Pearl-McPheeJenny Lawson, or  Lene Anderson  come out with new books, I buy them. I've bought books and a hand-knit teddy bear from Gregory Patrick.

The hope is that this blog will eventually become a business. But the transition will be an awkward one for me. I have no experience in sales. My poor but proud ancestry puts a taboo on asking for money. I hope to get enough readers to justify advertisers and a book deal.

There will be no "donate" button.

Your non-financial support is what I need and appreciate most right now.  Weekly readership has grown into the hundreds thanks to your sharing on Facebook and Twitter. Please keep it up. I especially appreciate your sharing my blog directly with people you know who might be interested.

I'd love to see more support by way of comments. Rick lets me know that my blog is actually read and offers great insights. I'd love to hear from more of you. When I taught writing I emphasized Audience and Purpose. Both are still a little hazy here and your comments will help.

Of course, if you want to help enable my yarn addiction, purchases from my shop are appreciated.


Sometimes I get on a tear and start mass-producing things. For the past two weeks, I've been knitting sheep.

The idea is that they will be "cabbage patch" sheep that will be "adopted." They have ear tags with their names and will come with a card that tells a little bit about their breed. So far I've made a bunch of Shetlands. In future months I will add Finn and Icelandic.

Once I figure out packaging and shipping, they will be available in my shop.

I've also been working on a fun shawl from my Loops Club subscription. It is supposed to look like the center of a papaya. I love the colors, but think it will be a birthday gift this fall.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Time to Replenish

In our climate, Mother's Day marks the point considered safe to plant tomatoes. It is also warm enough to put in corn, beans, and squash (the wonderful trinity of vegetables domesticated by native Americans). Of course the cold-weather crops were put in weeks ago. "My" garden (worked by my dad) is plowed, planted, and beautiful.

Dad gardens full time whenever there isn't snow. Land ownership is a privilege and sacred charge. Hard work makes life worthwhile. I watched Dad clear the weeds out of a flower bed by my office window in less time than it took me to get Blogger software working.

I've always admired his work ethic, but I'm not the child who inherited it. Even healthy, I was  a doddler. If I were strong enough to manage my own yard, I would figure in time to watch bugs and clouds.

This time of year everyone is a gardener. Garden centers at the megamarts are overwhelmed with crowds every evening and weekend We all try to spruce up our yards, create personal Edens.

Though unable to garden, I can't resist the pull, so I have replenished the pots on my front porch with plants that I hope the deer won't eat.

 (In the past I've put out pansies as early as they're available, but a pot of pansies is nothing but a side salad next to the main course of my roses.)

According to the Bible, gardening is the world's oldest profession. Science would put hunting and gathering before that.  But all would agree that the beginning of agriculture, of humans managing  soil, plants, and animals to suit their needs started civilization as we know it.

When given stewardship over the earth, Adam was commanded to "be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." People have done an amazing job of multiplying. According to the world population clock, there are over 7,502,315,000 of us. And we have used our amazing brains to manipulate environments in order to live in every climate and habitat.

On the second part of the commandment, we have fallen far short.  For millennia new land and new resources always waited over the next hill or across the ocean. Few people saw a need to "replenish the earth" because it seemed boundless and abundant.  Even in Victorian times, at the heart of the industrial revolution and the pollution that accompanied it, people of faith believed God would keep renewing nature. This feeling is expressed in the following poem:

God's Grandeur 

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The world is charged with the grandeur of God. 
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; 
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil 
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod? 
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; 
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; 
    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil 
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod. 

And for all this, nature is never spent; 
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; 
And though the last lights off the black West went 
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs — 
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent 
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

But in our day, we must recognize that nature can be spent, habitats destroyed, soils exhausted, species extinct. Yet too many people of faith fail to stand up against environmental abuse.

I understand. I have been taught all my life that the Second Coming may occur at any time and that we are living in the last days.

 If the world is going to end next Tuesday, why should I care about the rainforest?

Two good reasons: 

1. We Christians have been expecting the Second Coming at any time for two thousand years already. "But that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (Matthew 24:36) We may need this planet far longer than expected.

2. (Genesis 1:28) The first commandment to Adam and Eve was to "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." We are leaving a huge part of the very first commandment undone.

People of all  Abrahamic religions should honor God by taking care of the amazing world created for us.

I am not the one to start a new environmental movement. Maybe you are, or maybe you know people with the necessary charisma and energy. Maybe others are already embracing our stewardship and working to "replenish the earth." Let me know when you find them.

In the meantime each of us should not only take good care of any land under our charge, but also consider care of the whole earth earth when we shop, when we build, and especially when we vote.


This week has been productive and energetic. (Translation: I did a lot of stuff at the beginning of the week and now I am paying big time.) I finished the wide scarf/rectangular shawl I will call Canyonlands. It reminds me of the Colorado Plateau (probably because I'm headed there at the end of this month). There are dramatic wild skies of bright blue or clouds, sunrises, sunsets, deserts, forests, towns, and farms, all held together by soft sandstone cliffs. I've already figured out several outfits it will match with, but it is heavy and the world is suddenly warm, so it will go into my shop as soon as I can muster the energy for a couple of nice outdoor pictures.

I also got two hats finished and listed. The first is very sweet with Fairisle patterns in shades of pink and a big pompom on top.

The other doesn't look as impressive in the photos, but I love it. I enjoy knitting hats, but hate wearing them. I have frizzy hair that gets squashed and then I feel claustrophobic. But this purple, green, and grey hat is so soft, squishy, and light that even I can wear it. I think it would be great for a hat hater like me or someone with sensitive skin. Both hats are already in my shop.