Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sri Lanka Favorite Photos

Back now at the frosty kitchen table again, muddled by the 12 hour jet lag numbing my brain, trying to recapture the rain soaked warmth, humidity, history, comradeship, and wonder experienced on the tropical island of Sri Lanka - an island steeped in religion, indigenous history, conquest, and the simplicity of existence in an agrarian society. The country struggles with a balance between preservation and advancement, and for the time being we seemed to pass effortlessly between worlds of lowland forest wild game land, cultivated rice fields, tea plantations, cloud forest, overgrown canals where sand is still harvested by hand in wooden scows to ancient temples, memorials, and mosques for the Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim faiths. The big cities bustle with the street side efforts of small entrepreneurs operating out of garage sized stalls crammed up tight against the curb as well as gleaming new buildings sprouting up on top of crumbling old ones. We spent quite a bit of timee touring (and staying in) the hotels, villas, gardens and workshops of the famed Bowa brothers - well regarded architect and landscape architect for this monsoon soaked Asian region. Everywhere we went there is significant road improvement work going on - most of it by hand with very small machinery - as well as a notably major super highway being carved through the jungle, paddies, and villages running north south across the island. The people were so warm and inviting and the group we traveled with had lots of energy for exploration, uncertainty, and adventure. This trip is highly recommended.

Slide show embedded below. Float over the image and click on the play button.

More writings, poetry, and a group journal can be found at the Sri Lanka Group Blog

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Cinnamon Peeler - by Michael Ondaaje (who writes about Sri Lanka)


If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
and leave the yellow bark dust
on your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
you could never walk through the markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you.  The blind
would stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at the smooth pasture
neighbor to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back.  This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler's wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
- your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers...

When we swam once
I touched you in the water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
You climbed the bank and said

       this is how you touch other women
and the grass cutter's wife, the lime burner's daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume

              and knew

                  what good is it
to be the lime burner's daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in the act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler's wife.  Smell me.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Diane and sculpture at Bowa Hotel

Hotel guard

Tea Country Explorations

Staying at a converted tea factory in central Sri Lanka. Elevation around 6,500 feet with conditions not unlike San Francisco - cool, wet and windy. The surrounding countryside is a sea of tea plants, small villages and patches of native cloud forest.

Today, we took an early morning hike before a sumptuous breakfast,,,

Morning Hike:

Floating in a rolling sea of tea plants, with distant train whistle sounding like a foghorn, we search in the swells for nature's clues. Bear Monkey jumps in the canopy above to get a view of the bipeds below before leaping away for another breakfast course in the treetops. Tracks of Sampa Deer, Mouse Deer and leavings of porcupine are clear in the muddy trail we follow. A tiny spider decends from far above on a single gosimer thread, holding tight to his parachute leaf, looking to cast a net for some smaller prey. Wild boars have routed in the soft earth, rearranging the forest floor in search of grubs and mushrooms.

Grey Tea factory walls merge with the grey sky while clouds weep, and ground seeps. Tamil women picking tea by hand - a work of endless toil, Tamil men weeding rows with well worn ageless hoes. Barefoot children laugh and chase us pushing, pulling, rolling a rubber hoop with a hooked stick - a game known round the world. One boy runs past, with small hand clasping a crumbled bill - on his way to the village market to pick up something from the store. We leave the village below and ascend the stone steps through the tea plants to return to our windy castle on the knoll, enshrouded in fog to be pampered with padded seats, and silver covered serving dishes, served delicacies and endless hot tea.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Morning drizzle and bird song

The crickets serenade with the percussion and subtle castanets of morning drizzle on the forest canopy.

Myriad of bird song greets the dawn and I can barely imagine the vast diversity of the animal community which surrounds us on our hillside perch overlooking Sigiriya's rock across the lake.

Monkey's whoop joins in and we must remember to latch our deck door to prevent the prying fingers of inquisitive primates from sharing in our luxury.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sri Lanka kick-off

Exhausted! What a great kick-off to our trip. I have become accustomed to the heat and humidity which at first felt like a steamy towel when we first arrived. We are staying at a luxurious hotel in the Sri Lanka highlands for a few days, surrounded by ancient ruins, rice paddies, and an illustrious population of local farmers. The birdlife is astounding and the short list of sightings include, in order of appearance bee eater, painted stork, white necked stork, king fisher, black headed ibis, hornbill, crane billed king fisher, barn owl, flames back woodpecker and many more.

Today we mountain biked through the ruins of an ancient capital city stopping often to explore the carved stone Buddahs and other special religious sites. The are groups of wild lemurs about providing entertainment. Our progress is halting as we stop many times along the way to admire the birds.

Along the way we've seen wild elephants, monitor lizards, a gray mongoose, and a 4" Giant wood spider. Really glad I did not walk into that web unexpectantly.

The group has bonded well and we are all enjoying each others company. Our minibus has large windows and the driver stops often along the shoulder of the narrow roadways when we spy interesting distractions.

Hard to tap out more prosaic text on my iPhone but I am looking to more prodigious posts later.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Packing for the tropics on the coldest day of the year

It seems odd to be bustling about the house, rounding up last minute items for our journey to the tropics on the coldest day of the year. An Arctic blast of frigid air has descended upon the Bay Area, yet I'm considering the merits of one swimming suit over another and debating the patterns on loud Hawaiian print short sleeved shirts trying to pick the one I'll wear for three weeks straight. I'm weighing one pair of sandals against another while wearing thick wool socks and insulted slippers. The wood stove is crackling away, but my mind is on the balmy breezes blowing on-shore from a clear blue sea. My mind is on the swaying palm trees and lush tea plantation forests but I am watching the local news telling of snow bound highways and airport delays, and watching the mid-west weather radar to anticipate how delays in flights heading east may affect my imminent departure from the damp but cozy east bay redwoods to the crazed holiday crush of airport travel and the warm desert air of the middle east. I've posted an away message on the e-mail, disconnected the internet service, pulled the plugs on all my various electronic gizmos, and have been voraciously consuming every last bit of fresh food in the fridge so that when I come home I will not be surprised by any exploding containers oozing slime. Ahh, the joys of preparing for an extended tropical vacation. Now, back to my packing list....

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ski-In/ Ski Out Condo available for short term rental at Donner Ski Ranch - minutes from Sugarbowl and Royal Gorge

My friend Jim is offering his Condo for weekend and holiday rentals on Donner Summit. Super convenient for skiers visiting Donner Ski Ranch, Sugarbowl, Royal Gorge, and the amazing backcountry at Donner Summit. No shoveling, no hassle!! Follow this link to see all the details.

10150 Ski Ranch Lane #209, Norden, CA 95724 | Powered by ZingDing

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Family Cookbook is published in Blog format

After years of enjoyment, I collaborated with my sister-in-law Jessie to bring the much loved family cookbook to the internet in blog format. There are over 200 recipes on this blog, all which have been tested and recommended by a Galson Family member. I'd love to get your feedback on any recipes (you can post comments and improvements), or if you want to submit a recipe to add to the compendium, feel free to send them my way. Here is the link:

Galson Family Cookbook

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November 2010 Distractions, Kayak Assembly and Sailing with Stu

New folding kayak, bird watching, sailboat trip with Stu to Horseshoe Cove. Two short slides shows below plus a movie.




Thursday, November 4, 2010

15% Off Photo products between now and November 14th

Friends, family, and blog readers,

Between now and November 14th, I am offering 15% off the price of any photo product from my portfolio. Just use the code dkgalson_is_on_sale_1840 when you check out from my Photo sales site which has a link below. You can choose from 2011 Photo Calendars, postcards, greeting cards with envelopes, matted and unmatted wall art, and canvas prints.

Click here to view my Portfolio

Saturday, October 16, 2010

San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers

Great place to go visit on a cold foggy San Francisco afternoon. (Slideshow embedded below. Click on the play button to initiate...)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

2011 Calenders are prepared and ready for you.

I've assembled two new calenders for the holiday season. You can see them if you click on the link below. They are ready now for shipping. Allow 10-15 days for delivery.

Click here to view available stock Calenders and pricing

I'd be happy to make up a custom calender just for you using any of the images from my RedBubble portfolio. The available images for custom calenders can be found at David Galson Photography. Please be aware for any custom calender orders to be shipped in time for the holiday, I need to receive your request by November 5th.

FilemakerPro writes up the EMT Flashcard Program for iPhone

FileMaker writes up the story of the EMT Flashcard program for iPhone and iPad.

Click here to read the full text...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Owens Valley Summary Trip Report

If you have a hankering for wide open spaces, love to fish, hike, take pictures, or sit in a chair with stupendous views and you want to make some really good use of shoulder season time, consider an extended tour in the Owens Valley of California on the eastern side of the Sierras.

Away from any big metropolitan areas, this valley is surrounded by mountains - the Sierras to the west and the White mountains to the east offering amazing photographic opportunities at both sunrise and sunset. With Reno at one end and Los Angeles on the other end, the 395 corridor gives you a good start and end destinations - none of which are a gamble.

My wife and I are avid hikers, but we met plenty of fishing folks, soaking folks (in the natural hot springs), and just plain sight seers along the way. Bring some good windex to keep your windshield clean and plan on cooking lots of meals in - because there are some big open spaces here. Even though there are a plethora of Federal, State, BLM, and private campgrounds to be had at most destinations, we opted to bushwack most nights - looking for manageable dirt roads off the main routes that lead invariably to isolated and peaceful camping spots away from the generators, music players, and late night campfire singers.

Starting in mid-April to view the wildflowers, and ending in early October (to avoid the snow at high elevations) you have 6 months to explore this place - although the summer months can get pretty hot unless you stay over 8,500 feet.

Starting in the north and listed going south here are the cheap or free dump station options - not including all the dump stations at the National forest campgrounds which you can use for free if you spend the night.

Mono Village at Twin Lakes 760-932-7071 April-October $10.00
Texaco Mo-Mart 760-932-7266 April-October Free with 10+ gallons of fuel - otherwise $7.00

Lee Vining
Mobil Mo-Mart at the intersection of 120 and 395 - -free dump with fuel - they have water there too an great fish tacos

June Lake:
Fern Creek Lodge/Store April-October 760-648-7741 Free sani-dump

Mammoth Lakes
Community Water District 760-934-2596 - Free San-dump

Convict Lake
Convict Lake Campground April-October - free sani-dump

Highlands Trailer Park year-round 760-873-7616 $5.00
Four Jeffrey Forest Service Campground - free dump with camping or $7.00 without

Death Valley
Most of the larger campgrounds with water have free sani-dump with park entrance fee

If you go - contact the Inyo National Forest and get the newsprint visitor guide which is chock full of great information. This publication can be picked up at any of the National Forest visitor centers listed below:
Mono Basin Scenic Visitor Center 760-873-2408 near Lee Vining
Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center 760-924-5500, Main Street Mammoth
White Mountain Ranger Station (gateway to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest) 760-873-2500 in Bishop
Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor Center 760-876-6200 in Lone Pine, CA

Things to consider doing in the Owens Valley (from north to south)

Reno - avoid Street vibrations motorcycle rally in late September
Bodie (Ghost Town) on rt 167
Virginia Lake - great hiking and pack station
Yosemite Nationa;l Park - Tolumne Meadows (Rt 120)
Saddlebag lake (great hiker ferry in summer) off 120 east of Yosemite gate
June Lake loop - scenic, and great day hikes
Mammoth Lakes - mountain biking, spring skiing, scenic hiking
Red's Meadow - Devil's Postpile
Tom's Place, Lake Basin, Little Lakes Valley - amazing hiking, great fishing
Convict Lake - good restaurant, good day hike, nice fishing, scenic
Buttermilks Climbing area - scenic and fun
North Lake - hiking/fishing
Lake Sabrina - hiking/fishing
South Lake - hiking/fishing
Mt. Whitney - lots of easier hiking opportunities too
White Mountains and the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest at 11,000 (can drive there)
Death Valley - that's a whole separate story...

Invest in a Natural Hot Springs of the Eastern Sierra book and explore - most of the springs are free, accessible via dirt road, clean, and very enjoyable after a day on the trail or behind the wheel. There are also a handful of commercial hot springs if you prefer concrete pools and adjacent locker rooms.

Happy Travels!!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Keough Hot Springs, CA (south of Bishop)

Here are photos from Keough Hot Springs, south of Bishop, CA. These are open air, natural hot springs created by users who have piled up rocks in the creek bed to form very private feeling cascading pools of different temperatures downstream from the commercial resort. The natural pools have clean sandy bottoms and have almost no odor so prevalant in the other Owen's Valley hot springs we've visited. Drive south from Bishop and keep your eyes open for the Keough Hot Springs road (there is a sign). Drive up the hill and just before reaching the commercial resort turn right on the wide dirt road. Follow this road just less than 1/4 mile and turn left (uphill) to park beside any one of the many available pools. Typically one party occupies one pool, but approach slowly and inquire if you might join a resident party of all the pools are occupied when you arrive. These are open all year long and are free.

Monday, October 4, 2010

South Lake and Treasure Lake Fall Colors Video

Treasure Lake, South Lake and Home from David Galson on Vimeo.

South Lake and Treasure Lake Fall Colors

On Rt. 169 west of Bishop, take the south fork to South Lake. All along the roadway a beautiful mountain stream cascades down the canyon surrounded by these amazing fall colored aspens. We hiked up to the high country to Treasure Lake, and indeed the colors followed us, but by far the most dramatic displays were in the canyon bottom, at lower elevations where the larger aspens have made their home.

It is going to take me weeks to fully process and complete the work on many of these images but I am really exited to show you the drafts in this post..

There is a slide show embedded below. Click anywhere on the frame to expose the slide controls then click on the play button to run the images automatically. ..

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Forest

Spent a few days exploring the Ancient Bristle Cone Pine forest high up in the White Mountains of Eastern California. I hope this video invokes some of the magic, and wonder of this remote, desolate, and timeless landscape...

Click on the play button to view embedded video...

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest from David Galson on Vimeo.

Bristlecone Pine Forest - Methusila Grove from David Galson on Vimeo.

Eastern Sierra Wanderings September 2010

We explore the eastern Sierra, Ancient Bristlecone Pine forest, Convict Lake, Whitney Portal and more.

(Slideshow embedded below. Click on photo frame to expose the slide show controls...)

Monday, September 20, 2010

San Francisco Arboretum

Incredibly warm day for San Francisco. Fog all burned off and wearing only shirt sleeves. A real treat. Wandered around the arboretum for an afternoon.

Slide show embedded below. Click on the picture frame to expose the slide show controls, then click on the play button...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pumpkin Island Take 6

The wind howls, the storm clouds scuttle overhead, shortly after sunset an amazing lightening storm swirled down from Lake Ontario and engulfed the islands. It seemed like the sky was exploding all around as the rain pelted down from the west. Large distinct bolts of lightening reached down from the heavens right to the river, and the air seemed charged and thick with negative ions recently misplaced. Happy to be on a island, however small, covered with moss, but with a firm granite foundation and shielded by large trees rather than bobbing at anchor on a boat.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pumpkin Island - Storm moves in

I catch up on photo uploads and take some stills of the storm weather as it passes through.

Click on image to enlarge...

Here is a slide show with some still images. Really hard to capture the high dynamic range of the light and the broad vista between river and sky. Click on the frame of cover photo to expose slide show control, then click on the play button to watch slide show...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pumpkin Island - Take 3

The hot weather persists with 10 knot breezes in the afternoon. Multiple swim sessions in the comfortably cool river water make all activities possible. We paddle, hike,relax, read, cook, and eat. The bird life swirls around us, even sitting on the deck relaxing, so gazing off into the distance is usually a well rewarded activity when all else has been exhausted with osprey, heron, kingfisher, hummingbird, ducks and geese all sampling the culinary fare which floats by on this fluid smorgasbord which drains the great lakes.

In the threaded Canadian channel of the St. Lawrence River, Pumpkin Island sits amidst a collection of smaller and larger islands just north of the border where Interstate 81 crosses the border from New York State. With broad views upriver to the West, and an intimate archipeligo to the east, the island is the perfect place to escape the stress of normal life.

View Larger Map

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Summer in Oakland has finaly arrived

I feel like summer has finally arrived. The fog was missing when we awoke early, and its warm enough to tramp around the house without slippers and a robe. We leave renovations behind for a few weeks and go exploring to points east. Testing the new macro mode on the small camera....

From Vacation Images

Friday, August 20, 2010

McGee Creek -

Starting to expand my working knowledge of Photoshop. Here is an example of a composite image I captured and assembled from McGee Creek in the Eastern Sierra. Click on thumbnail image to view larger version.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Poem - Goin' to the depot

Goin' to the depot
and I'm
Goin' to spend money, honey

Goin' to the depot
one more time
Goin' to the depot
to stand in line

Goin' to the depot
cause I'm short one small part
goin' to the depot
knew it from the start

Goin' to the depot
cause the color just aint right
goin' to the depot
my house is such a sight

Goin' to the dept
cause Ikea left me dry
can't make a day without it
no matter how hard I try

The lady in returns
knows me by my damm first name
The guy in hardware knows
that I am just so lame

The kid in paints
with pants all splattered
just shakes his head,
his patience shattered

The special order desk
keeps mine on top
cause they have learned
each day I shop
I'll stop by to say hello
to find out if
my order's slow

I'm struggling hard
to stay on track
to finish projects
in my stack

My wallet's thin
from such abuse
the guy in hardware's so obtuse

But soldier on
add Visa's bill
to depot's lot
my dream to fill

Goin' to the depot
and I'm
Goin' to spend money, honey

Goin' to the depot
one more time
Goin' to the depot
to stand in line

Friday, August 13, 2010

Speed is...

"Speed is irrelevant if you are traveling in the wrong direction"

- David Wann from "Simple Prosperity - Finding real wealth is a sustainable lifestyle"

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pasta Salad (Entree)

(From Beth Yurman)
Serves 4

1 pound angel hair pasta
Sun dried tomatoes in oil, cut in bite sized pieces
Feta cheese, crumbled
Olives of your choice, cut in pieces
cherry tomatoes
sugar snap peas
small amount of finely chopped red onion (optional)
Some oil from the tomatoes
Chopped fresh basil

Cook pasta, al dente
Mix with above ingredients, amounts depending on preference
Add salt/pepper to taste

May serve at room temperature or cold

Sauteed chicken, in bite size pieces may be added, if desired

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Margaret's BBQ corn recipe - yummy twist on summer staple

fresh corn - take off husk
put butter, salt, and lime on corn
wrap in tin foil and
put on barbecue and cook for 30 minutes turning regularly

it will turn golden and have a wonderfully nutty flavor.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Updated the EMT Flashcard program to run on PC and MAC

Following up on requests from our community, considering the budget limitations of many EMT-B students, and recognizing that there are many computing platforms besides the iPhone and iPad, I am exited to announce the release of a version of the populated EMT Flashcard program for both the MAC and the PC.

These programs both come included with a runtime version of FilemakerPro, so no additional software is required to operate the over 650 index cards chock full of EMT vocabulary, anatomy, and medical emergency assessment background. (You may recall that the iPhone/iPad app requires that you also purchase the Filemaker Go program for $20.00)

For the introductory price of just $9.95 you'll get the whole application, over 650 populated cards with questions, and answers, with no additional membership fees, registration fees or hidden costs. You can add your own cards to the deck, modify or delete our questions and answers. Just look for the platform appropriate Buy Now button on the right side of the page.

Follow this link to learn more...

The MAC version will run on any MAC with OS 10.4 and beyond.
The PC version will run on any windows version from XP and beyond.
No extraordinary hardware requirements.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pt. Reyes National Seashore - Elk Preserve

At the far tip of Point Reyes National Seashore, when the fog is burned away by the late summer sunshine, a magic domain of the elk is exposed....
From 2010 Pt Reyes Elk preserve
Groups of elk forage undisturbed by roads, or cars, or cattle and separate into "harems" - each managed by a single dominant male animal.

From 2010 Pt Reyes Elk preserve
At the peripheral areas, more juvenile males look on in envy, but if they venture too close, the dominant male moves the harem, or drives the other males away.

From 2010 Pt Reyes Elk preserve

From 2010 Pt Reyes Elk preserve
Sharing the coastal grassy hillsides are Great blue herons, egrets, golden eagles, gulls, and turkey vultures. We even saw what we think is a Foxote - a genetic cross between a coyote and a fox that seems to be growing is domain on the west coast.

From 2010 Pt Reyes Elk preserve
Some of the vintage 1850's diary farms still operate on National Seashore property, but some of the structures are in disuse and are being recolonized by the native plants.

From 2010 Pt Reyes Elk preserve
If you want to go - be sure to watch the weather carefully - especially the fog forecast. When it is clear, it tends to be very windy. If a sunny spell is called for, head on out to the very end of the road on the north tip of Point Reyes National Seashore, and don't forget your binoculars. There is lots of poison oak in the grasses, so bring something to protect yourself if you plan to sit and watch the wildlife. National Seashore web site

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chicken Papaya/Mango Spring Rolls Recipe

Just made this recipe last night with company and it's a great meal for entertaining. Easy to prepare everything in advance and the actual spring roll assembly happens at the table. You can mix and match filling ingredients.

This recipe works for four people with some leftovers. Everyone can eat about three rolls. Serve with a cucumber or Israeli salad of green and red tomatoes and cucumbers.

Prepare in Advance:
One roasted chicken or rotisserie chicken ripped into little shreds - could use tofu
one small bowl chopped mint
one small bowl hydrated shitake mushrooms, sliced thin
medium bowl chopped green onions
one mango, skin removed, sliced thinly
one papaya skin removed sliced thinly
prepare spicy peanut sauce - or buy a jar - look for organic
circular rice paper spring roll wrappers (rice paper) - Whole Foods
one small bowl chopped dry roasted peanuts
wedged limes

Lay out all these ingredients minus wrappers on a large platter
Boil water and keep on simmer
Find a ceramic pie pan or shallow dish large enough to hold one rice paper disk flat when submerged in boiling water

Now, when ready to serve:

put large platter in the center of the table
pour thin layer of boiling water into shallow pan
dip rice paper wrapper (one at a time) into the hot water.
Let sit no more than 10 seconds, carefully pull out with tongs and hand to first guest.
repeat until full....

To wrap a spring roll wrapper full of ingredients:
a) lay out wrapper flat on a plate large enough to hold it
b) pile ingredients in the CENTER filling about 1/2 the area of the whole wrapper about 1" tall in a slightly longer than wider mound - be sure to include plenty of peanut sauce, chicken, onions, mint, mushrooms, peanuts and papaya/mango - squeeze fresh lime juice over mound
c) now fold two opposite sides of the wrapper up and over the mound from the ends of the long side - be sure the flaps overlap the food by at least 1/3
d) Now fold up a third side - overlapping the first two
e) next roll the assembly towards the open side making sure to tuck in the loose ends as you roll
f) lift whole assembly carefully to your mouth and take a bite - Yummy!!!

Spicy peanut sauce - f you buy prepared look at ingredients - some sauces are better than others.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

* 1 cup fresh crunchy peanut butter
* 1/2 cup hot water - adjust this for consistency
* 2 cloves garlic, mashed
* 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder or cock(hot) sauce to taste
* 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
* 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice - or lime juice

In the blender, whisk peanut butter, hot water, garlic, soy sauce, cumin, cayenne, curry powder, and lemon juice together to form a smooth paste. Cover and set aside for several hours to allow the flavors to mix well. Turn into jars and seal; store in the refrigerator.

Serve Sauce at room temperature

Yield: 1-1/2 to 2 cups - need only about 1 cup for the spring roll recipe above for 4 people


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Granola Recipe

My daughter Maya gave me this recipe. Works everytime!!!

4 C Rolled Oats ( not the quick kind)
1 C Nuts ( Chopped pecans, walnuts almonds, diced to a size of your liking)
1/3 Brown Sugar (I usually cut this in half)
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Cinnamon (go lighter)

Combine the above ingredients until well mixed. Then stir in -

2/3 C Maple Syrup ( Grade B is actually stronger flavored)
1/3 Canola Oil
1 tsp vanilla

Bake at 325F in a shallow baking dish ( thinner you spread it, faster it cooks) for 20-30 minutes. Take it out to mix it once or twice during this time. Then take out and mix in:

1 C slivered almonds
1 C some sort of dried fruit ( golden raisins, cranberries, currants, cherries....)

Put back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. Take it out to mix it once during this time. Don't leave it in too long or the dried fruit will get too hard.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Launched new EMT Flashcard program for iPhone and iPad

I took a day off from house chores and leveraged the study materials I prepared last winter for my EMT class to create a new app for the iPhone and iPad. The program is a stack of over 600 questions and answers in over 20 categories to help study for the EMT-B exam. I hope people get the program early in the semester and use it as they complete different sections of the EMT-B course - using cumulative sets of questions as their training progresses. Some answers are text, and some are diagrams.

Once I saw the advertisements for the release of Filemaker Go - a database client for the iPhone and iPad I could not help myself from digging in to see what I could do with it.

Jump over to the Flashcard web site now....Click here

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Five days on the Rogue River

(Slideshow embedded below. Click on the frame to expose slide controls...)

The sun's warmth stays in my skin
long after sundown.

The hiss, rumble and click of submerged river stones
troubled by the current
flows below the Ospreys call.

The pale blue sky at ridge's overlooking treeline
just after sunset
that fades to black overhead
and transforms blistering day into cooling night.

The water carved
basement basalt hugs turbulent river's edge
mixing water with air and swirls my path
through Mule Creek canyon.

Deep whirlpools
swim downriver with us
then retreat magically to form

a mama bear and cub
swimming across the river
for better berries
on the sunny side.

An osprey stops for lunch
across the river from us -
she eats sushi, we don't.
With her back turned toward us
she pulls the morsels from the bones.
We watch
with the buzzards and the crows
for what will be left behind.

Too hot for my own skin,
I leap into the cool boiling cauldron
and float downstream
while one current tugs my arms
and another at my feet.

The water stacks up and flows around
everything in its path.
It carves the right path,

And it only gathers a few items
to move downstream today.

The river's gorge is deep and hidden,
but well tree'd and dripping with side streams.
Oak canopy shading the forest mysteries
and dark quiet pools.

I stroke hard for the eddy and climb ashore
released from the water
for now.

Hot rounded stones at water's edge warm and welcoming,
but ready to release us with no more than a slight tug.
We travel down at the pleasure of the stream
and tarry
where the current slows.

The small tribe gathers at the edge of the forest,
a harmonica wails and pails tapped rhythmically drum in the
preparation of another tasty meal
and we sit in a circle - all facing one another
and bring melodic memories up from the deep eddies of our minds
and laughter bubbles like the water overflowing the fencing boulders at Blossom Rock

All the rest and more remains waiting for us there
but we roll up our tents for now and retreat back over
the protective mountains and the canyon's rim
at the far, far end of a long highway.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Dorothy Lake and Tamarack Bench

Hiked round trip up the Tamarack Bench to Dorothy Lake. Saw only one other couple the whole day. The meadows are just emerging from their snow covered winter quilt. Osprey chirping up high and all alone. The soft meadow grass offered a fine bed for afternoon's nap.

(Slide show below. Click on frame to expose controls...)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Little Lakes Valley

42 degrees upon awakening at 9,000 feet just below the shores of Rook Creek Lake. The drainage stream is flowing mightily and the sun angles in between the sparsely spaced trees like white hot laser beams. My foggy brain is brought to full operational rotations as I crack the door for some fresh air and I let the hot sun beams fall on my face like the pelting drops of a streaming shower. All is wonder and magic until I see the campground host's bumper sticker: "Palin 2012" and II am brought back to reality of us and "them", of political scrabbles, of fairness and criminality in the highest halls of hallowed justice. At least we can all agree on this thing here in the woods on this fine morning - the peace and beauty of an early Sierra sunrise. Perhaps if we can just start there we can build from that...

Hiked into Little Lakes Valley today towards Mono and Morgan Pass. Hit the snow at just above 10,500 feet at Chickenfoot Lake - well below the passes.

(Click on the frame to display slide show controls...)

Tucked up almost at the end of the road leading to Rock Creek Lake is the Rock Creek Lake Resort, which offers an amazing assortment of fresh baked pies daily. You need to go early most days, because by the end of your hike, don't expect there to be a full selection left. Our sampling indicated the strawberry was a it sweet, but the rhubarb was superb.
From Little Lakes Valley

Mono Lake

(Slide show embedded below. Click on the frame of the phote to expose the slide show controls...)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lee Vining to Devil's Postpile and Rainbow Falls

Babbling brook's water with the towee's call awaken us in Lower Horse Meadow on the alluvial apron of Mt. Gibbs south and west of Mono Lake. From our campsite we are close enough to see the rising sun's reflection off autos running north and south on Rt. 395 but far enough away that we cannot hear their drone. The meadow bird song mingles symphonically with the deep notes of the brook which runs across the roadway barring our further progress up the canyon to slowly rock us awake after a night's slumber and it brings us alert into another fine day in the eastern Sierra.

Hiked in Devil's Postpile National Monument to Rainbow Falls

(Slide show embedded below. Click on frame and expose controls...)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Yosemite Valley June 2010

(Slideshow embedded below. Click anywhere on the border to expose the show controls...)

We visited Yosemite to experience the power and magnificence of the early summer snowmelt waterfalls. Sam and his wife Jeanne met us there on their summer tour of western states and we explored the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoia trees and hiked the 8 mile panorama trail from Glacier point to the valley floor. The park concession is now charging $25 one way for the Glacier Point shuttle, so if you are on a budget, its best to arrange your own shuttle.

Almost any view of the valley walls revealed one or more waterfalls - many of which dry up completely later in the summer. The big falls were BOOMING - literally pounding our soft bodies with powerful low frequency energy when we closely approached. The localized wind created by these massive cascades was enough to tear off hats, glasses, and any loose pack attachments.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pacific Grove and Point Lobos

A mere 2.5 hours drive south of our house in Oakland lies this exquisite jewel of a park along the pacific coast. Just south of the hustle and bustle of Monterey and its fabled aquarium lies this outcropping of ancient rock that battles the ocean for control of the coast. In the protected bays we saw incredible wildflowers, dramatic surf breaking on rocks, southern sea otters at play and tied up to the kelp, sea lions, fleets of pelicans skimming the wave tops, nesting cormorants on bird island, and found plenty of reflective moments to consider the juxtaposition of land, air sea, day, night, life and death. On our unseasonably warm day, we scampered among the rock protected tide pools and hunted for interesting sea life in the tidal zone. The nearest camping is in Veteran's Memorial State Park just on the edge of the City n Monterey - no reservations accepted. Get there early on weekends.

Point Lobos State Reserve

Camping on the Coast

(Slide Show embedded below. Click anywhere on the balck border to expose slide controls, then clivk the play button...)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend, originally uploaded by dkgalson.

Outside of Moab, the Colorado River takes a more than 180 degree turn around the 1,000 fat pillar it has carved from the soft sandstone. This images was created by compositing three vertical shots, and I STILL could not fit it all in. The drop down to the river at my feet was wild exposure and with a strong wind blowing, I was not comfortable getting any closer to the edge.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

red desert flowers

red desert flowers, originally uploaded by dkgalson.

Can anyone help me to identify this plant?

Desert Flower Blooming

Desert Flower Blooming, originally uploaded by dkgalson.

Here is one of Diane's favorites. All around was hot dry red dirt and sand, with a howling wind blowing. Behind this one rock, these delicate blossoms were flashing to us saying - look, look, LOOK!

Prickly Pear Bloom

Prickly Pear Bloom, originally uploaded by dkgalson.

We hit the southwest desert with everything blooming. The juxtaposition of the delicate blooms with the self defensive other plant structures was fascinating.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

This Journey's End - posted from Winnemucca NV

We have left the two-lane gravel and dirt roads of the high Utah mesa behind and have opted for efficiency and speed as we drive westward across Nevada on the 4 lane interstate and towards home. The Bonneville Salt Flats just outside of Salt Lake City are eerie as the hot, ultra flat and highly reflective white plain creates mirages of shimmering water between us and the mountains easily 20 miles distant. Mile markers tick away and we cross into Nevada. Refueling puts another 350 miles under the chassis and we stumble into Winnemucca, NV on High School Graduation weekend here. There are decorated cars dragging streamers with tinted windows multicolored with congratulations and messages, like" Stop me if you like, I've graduated today and am still sober". We find a gravel tent site in an almost vacant RV park near the edge of town and try to calm our jangled driving nerves.

We finish off the open wine in the cabinet by 4:00 pm, crack a new bottle, and play meditative native Indian flute music on the stereo while we tell each other stories of our fond and recent memories - reviewing photos and catching up on e-mail (our first internet connection for the computer for over a week)

Tomorrow we will reach Reno by lunch - a familiar stomping ground. Once we've taken care of a few shopping errands at Trader Joe's we'll head up to Donner Summit to catch up with Jim K. who is still writing us and telling of deep snows and impassable hiking trails. Too bad we did not bring skis on this lap.

( Here are some photos from the last week. A slide show is embedded. Click anywhere on the black border, and the slide controls will be exposed at the bottom of the frame...)

Once I get back, I'll prepare a selective group of these photos for sale as Greeting Cards, post cards, matted wall art or posters and if you are interested you'll be able to go to my Red Bubble site (link on left of page) to select and purchase items you like.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Windmills taping Salt Lake air - Antelope Island State Park

Windmills taping Salt Lake air dropping into the desert. We climb out of the desert and approach Salt Lake. The temperatures cool and we leave the land of National Parks and oversized camper vans behind. In four hours we have made it to Antelope Island State Park in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. With prong horn antelope out the window and the air punctuated by the colorful trill of song birds, we relax in the sanctuary of the camper with windows open and screens drawn to keep out the bothersome midges which otherwise would drive us crazy. Just three hours until the light show of sunset begins so we rest for now.

Evening hours award us with fine views of the antelope herd, many jack rabbits, a family of quail and an amazing light show by the setting sun(see photos posted above). After our evening photo shoot, we return to our campsite and find a very large bison grazing not 20 feet away in the dusk. He uses a large rack there to rub and itch - undoubtedly bothered at some level by the same midges we are as well as his winter coat, which appears to be coming off in sheets. We watch him until it is too dark to distinguish between the bison and the shadows, then turn our attention inward and prepare for bed.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Dead Horse Point State Park, UT

Another bluebird day with temperatures in the mid-80's mid day. We get an early start from camp on our bikes and then return for the hot hours to read, write, and otherwise rest until the early evening when we go out once again to scout for photographs. Life is good.

We have spent the past few days here in the high mesa country north of Moab. The landscape is dry and sparse, with each plant taking advantage of the recent late season snow melt to show it's colors and bloom. The trees are all pygmy sized, but these hearty desert survivors are no doubt old - some over a hundred years. We see dwarf pinion pine, juniper and in the shaded, well watered draws of canyon folds, relic Douglas fir - hold outs from a time when there was more water. The prickly pear are all in bloom as well as lupines, and some orange colored leggy flower we have not yet identified. The slick rock protrudes in rolls at the high points and is subverted by muddy sand in the low spots. Today while riding I am startled by a rattle snake moving across the trail.. Now, every stick I see gives me pause, and I slow down on the blind corners while riding. A few varieties of lizard dart back for cover as we peddle by, but some, seem to be more curious, and stay perched, doing push-ups on their sunny perches while we observe one another. Our riding improves and as gain confidence it's as if the bikes themselves are becoming more familiar with the type of terrain we encounter and we roll over sandstone drops, hop up onto small ledges, and let the full-suspension absorb the general unevenness of the single track slick rock and wash near the mesa's edge.

Yesterday we explored "Island in the sky" by foot, walking well over 10 miles along the mesa's rim. This part of Canyonlands National Park is aptly named because it is a high, rounded mesa surrounded on 360 degrees by canyon walls dropping down to both the Colorado and Green river gorges over 2,000 feet. The mesa is connected to the surrounding land mass by a single, 30 yard wide neck of land that has served to provide access to and control over these fertile lands as long they have been occupied by humans. In the early days, the Indians herded big horn sheep towards the neck, where they harvested what they needed before letting the others return to the mesa. Later, cattle men used the neck to collect open range grazers that had been at large and roaring freely for the feeding season. Now, there is a roadway across the neck, and tourists like us it to access the incredible views beyond. There is a hair raising dirt road here, that switchbacks down the canyon wall to the white rim elevation where it joins with the famous white rim trail (really a dirt road) that skirts the park and the canyon of the Colorado river at a fairly constant elevation for over 100 miles.

Hiking on the "island" I am reminded of the floating islands imagined in the movie"Avatar" where there is a self contained eco-system, floating suspended in the air. I practice walking meditation as we pass through this landscape, breathing in the dry and roasted desert air and letting it infuse me with calm and peace. I imagine myself floating over the surface, and somehow, my reptilian brain manages the logistics unconsciously of stepping up, over, around, on top of, and down the red rocks and sand. When I look out, above my immediate surroundings, the closest horizon is easily 20 miles away in the blue hazed snow covered La Sal mountains, and looking down from the crumbling mesa edge, as if on a mountaintop I see the dark brown, gray, red, and tan striations of the tortured and eroded mountainsides that have been shaped by the river's million year land shaping efforts and the sands of time carried by the strong local winds. Once away from the parking areas, it is quiet and peaceful, and very transformative as I mindfully pass through my surroundings. When sitting at the mesa's edge we soon begin to see the large bird community that call this special are home. The ravens seem to glide effortlessly by on the updrafts, with occasional flaps to adjust pitch and direction. When they pass close by, we can hear the wind on their wing tips as a deep whoosh. If they are flapping we can hear the whomp, whomp, whomp of the compressed pillow of air they force downwards with each stroke. The swallows and swifts on the other hand are moving at mach speed, required undoubtedly to catch the insects they subsist on. Their wings are swept back and their tails are sharp and forked, like a fighter jet and they literally seem to rip the air as they accelerate by, always turning, arcing, rolling, or diving - never seeming to fly straight and level. When they choose to come close to inspect us for hitchhiking bugs the sound we hear is more like a high pitched "zing" as they roll away just before impact. Perhaps our older ancestors attracted more of a colony of insects in their hair or clothes so the birds have learned to look at us for a take-out snack when we approached.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mill creek loop outside Moab.

We get up very early to beat the heat and also are treated to a very private experience. Route finding can be challenging with the poor trail descriptions we have and no topo maps. Next time, we'll definitely bring topos. The riding is fantastic. Any of you who are mtn. Bikers and like it a bit rough should get this place in your vacation queue.

Moab slick rock riding. This is like powder skiing for mtn. Bikes

Friday, May 28, 2010

Great bike shop in Moab

Lee Bridger helped us out with some bike parts and advise. Highly
recommended. Lee wrote a comprehensive guide to mountain biking around
Moab and has a great perspective. Being a transplant from SF we have
similar political views. If you are in Moab look Him up. He offers
guided bike rides and sells a US made line of mountain bikes.

Fisher Towers Moab UT

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mesa Verde Petraglyphs

Great hiking today by smaller cliff dwellings and other structures capped off by this great petroglyphs wall. The plants are all blooming so we see yucca, penstamin, Mormon tea, irises, paintbrush, and pygmy junipers. Doug Fir exist at the head of many canyons in the relic groves

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Canyon de Chelly - amazing experience despite the pounding sandstorm. Skin feels blasted. Eyes are gritty. Adds to the sense of power in the place.

Canyon de Chelly - Spider Rock Camping Ground

Sunday May 23, Canyon de Chelly hike with Indian Guide Benjamin

We meet Howard Smith, the Navajo owner of the campground and he introduces us to his nephew Benjamin who takes us on a five hour hiking tour down to White House ruin, then up canyon to Sliding House Ruin via Benjamin's family's land on the canyon bottom. Heard many stories of growing up in the Canyon, and changes he's seen since the mid 50's. Saw many petroglyphs (carved) and pictographs (painted) rock art on the canyon walls, and pottery shards 1,000's of year old - still holding their glaze and color. The wind continues to howl, but in the canyon most of the day we are protected from it's abuse. We see Benjamin's family goat herd, his two horses, and the land his family has cultivated continuously for generations(except for the period of the long walk and internment at Fort Sumner). Following our hike, we sight see to Spider Rock, a 1,000 free standing pillar at a bifurcation of the canyon. This pillar plays strongly in the Navajo spider woman story how weaving was brought to the people. We retreat back to the camping ground to escape the wind and the blowing sand and spend our evening "indoors" in the camper napping, reading, and reviewing photos.

I strongly recommend this campsite and this guide (Benjamin) for hiking, horse riding, jeep tours, and multi-day camping trips into the canyon. Make arrangements through:

Spider Rock Camping Ground
PO Box 3797
Chinle, AZ 86503

(Slideshow embedded below. Click on the black frame to expose the slide show controls, then press the play button at the bottom of the frame...)

May 22 - Canyon de Chelly

Saturday May 22, Canyon de Chelly

We leave Hovenweep National Monument this morning. The stunning stone towers of Little Ruin Canyon are astounding - guarding over the springs and narrow canyon access. The holes in the walls of the ruined towers are at many different angles and archeologists are not sure of they were viewing ports for spying intruders, for making astronomical observatories (to better anticipate the coming of the spring, summer, fall, and winter solstices, or to support some part of the interior architecture that has since collapsed.

This canyon sits within the larger Cajon Mesa, a sage strewn bit of high land over 5,000 feet above sea level and 500 square miles in bredth. The Mesa, in turn sits within the even larger Great Sage Plain that dominates the bulk of this part of the Navajo reservation. Over 700 years ago, this area had a thriving system of settlements all within a days walk of one another. But now, they are all deserted - except for the scattered Navajo family settlements up on the mesa tops where oil pumping, sheep, cattle, and horse ranching still occur in the open range land.

The wind had subsided briefly in the wee hours of the morning, but it has returned with some punch this morning. WE are hoping that below the rim of Canyon de Chelly we may find some relieve in a few hours.

We push southward through a driving sandstorm on weathered two-lane roads with rounded and crumbling shoulders across the reservation. No real "towns" per se here except for the occasional gas station at a cross roads.. People live primarily in scattered family groups, often multi-generational with one house structure per family, plus a shared hogan for ceremonial and healing purposes, a coral built from native materials and a scattering of abandoned locomotive technology. The road traverses open range land for horses, cows, and sheep. No one family "owns" the land they are using - the land is all owned by the Indian Corporation, but family groups have long standing territorial claims to the resources in one area or another and these are rarely challenged.

A strong win blows all day and kicks up a dust cloud that stretches from horizon to horizon. At times the roadway is completely obscured by the brown penetrating haze and we must slow to a crawl to continue forward progress. We fire up the emergency flashers and hope whomever is behind us is not so foolhardy as to pay any attention to the speed limit signs. Drifting sand begins to encroach on the roadway in places, seeping in from the shoulders and leaving residual wisps behind. The heavier gusts are not just felt by the sudden pressure on the side of the camper, but seen as well as a visual wave of sand races by - thicker and darker than the surrounding haze at 50 mph. The camper rocks and bucks, but ultimately keeps its feet well adhered to the roadway and we keep moving. At some point today the windshield cracks just below the windshield wipers under the withering disparate pressures of blazing heat, pumping air conditioning, and pounding pressure from the wind that at times must double our virtual velocity pressure. Yesterday a decorative plastic side panel 3' x 5' blew off as Diane was careening down a mountainside. I looked back and saw the part cart-wheeling backwards across the roadway before it came to a sliding halt in the middle of the road. We pulled over and recovered our severed payload imaging al the while where on earth we would stow it on board until we could determine what else to do. Now that side of the camper sports an ugly gash of black rubbery construction adhesive applied in sloppy bands where previously a sporty textured panel had been installed. We hop back inside, tossing the ungainly panel into the galley and slam the side door before more sand blows in, and keep moving.

At last we've reached Canyon de Chelly, the original stimulus for our entire journey. After watching the visitor center video (very informative), taking the south rim dirve and stopping a all the look-outs, and hiking down and back out again from the white house ruin, we have camped at a primitive site in the Spider Rock campground near the end of the south rim road. ($10 per night). Even tucked up tight along side of a sturdy spreading juniper tree on the windward side, our snug camper sings a variety of tunes depending on the wind strength. A fine patina of dust has settled on all the surfaces and underfoot and our skin and eyes feel gritty - like how you feel after a day at the beach. There is the general roar as gusts howl overhead and around the tree, and the hiss of wind of varying frequency as it passes over and around the galley vent - even though we have it snugged down to reduce dust intrusion at the moment.

The sky to windward is a brown haze but even now at 8:00 pm to leeward the sky is showing shades of blue - perhaps there is hope after all for tomorrow's excursions.

The campsite's office is a dirt floored covered porch attached to a ramshackle plywood structure that is the proprietor's house. A similarly unfinished structure sits adjacent and across the covered breezeway offering solar showers for $2.00. A marine style wind power generator is turning frantically in the wind, even though it's mast has fallen over and is tipped 45 degrees and leaning up against the house. A sign says $2.00 internet 6-9 pm and I see a computer on a small table in the corner of the room. We'll live without that for now.

A deeply tanned woman transplanted from Washington state in a sun-dress and flip-flops with matching ringed Navajo tattoos on each upper arm offers to help us as we wander about looking for the campground host. She gives us a brief orientation, tells us about a local Indian who will stop by in the morning and offer guide services to anyone interested. She apologizes for Howard, the campground's proprietor absence, and informs us he is preparing for a "sweat" just now and won't be out of the hogan for a few more hours. We retreat to our camp site behind the juniper tress and prepare a simple dinner.

We take shelter in the camper as if its raining outside to make a respite from the relentless wind and biting flying sand. The juniper sways with the gusts and the western sky turns bright yellow, then orange, then brown as the distant sun settles below the horizon.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bike Riding - Monument Valley, AZ Surealistic landscape and reasonable temperatures. Every direction is otherworldly . Had to change flat tire on camper today. Tomorrow in search of a garage to fix flat.

(Slide show embedded below. Click on picture frame to display slide controls..)

May 20 - Monument Valley

Thursday May 20th, Monument Valley

We depart our isolated campsite on a 7,000 foot ridge covered with ancient pinion pine, juniper, and Mormon tea in Navajo National Monument and head for Monument Valley. Somewhere along the way, probably while crossing some unanticipated cattle grate we damage a tire and begin loosing air.. but that's a story for later.

We arrive and are astounded. When we return from the visitor center, formulating a plan for the remainder of the day, we find a note on our windshield alerting us to a rear tire low on air. Sure enough, one of our four sturdy tires looks like its in trouble and we begin to problem solve our way out of this dilemma. Diane calls AAA and they agree to come help us - albiet in about 1 1/2 hours as they need to dispatch from Blanding, 90 miles away and across the Utah state line.

We use the time for lunch, a brief siesta, and to catch up on reading and soon enough a SUV pulls up along side and we begin to protest, holding the space for our expected yellow and blue rescue truck, but the young mane emerging from the driver seat has on a blue uniform and a name tag, and he asks, "you the guys who called?". He struggles for a bit to find a jack in the back of his cramped truck beefy enough to handle the task of hoisting the rear end of our camper off it's damaged tire - that being no small feat with semi-full tanks for fresh water, grey water, black water, and the mountain of food, clothes, and equipment we have packed on board. We debate the finer points of the jacking point, referencing the instructions in our trusty manual, and comparing that to his years of experience lifting vehicles for this very purpose. But ultimately the task was completed and we were again sitting on an inflated spare tire, the damaged original bolted to our back door in the spare's place for transport to a tire shop tomorrow 60 miles away. We move the camper to an amazing camping spot on a bluff overlooking the monument valley proper, unrack the bikes and spend the remainder of the afternoon on a 17 mile loop ride around this end of the valley.

Here is a quote from M. Scott Momaday, author of the Pulitzer prize winning novel "House made of Dawn" describing Monument Valley:

"The valley is vast. When you look out over itm it does not occur to you that there is an end to it. You see the monoliths that stand away in space, and you imagine that you have come upon eternity. They do not appear to exist in time. You think: I see that time comes to an end on THIS end of the rock, but on the other side, there is nothing but forever. I believe that only in the dine bizard, the Navajo language, which is endless, can this place be properly described, or even indicated in its true character. Just there is the center of an intricate geology, a whole and unique landscape which include Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. The most brilliant colors in the earth are ther, I believe, and the most beautiful and extraordinary land forms - and surely the coldest, clearest air, which is run through with pure light."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lower Antelope Canyon - cool place

Lower Antelope Canton - Navajo Nation near Page, AZ

May 19 - Antelope Canyon

Wednesday May 19th, Antelope Canyon, AZ

We start at a dirt lot in the high desert off highway 98 within spitting distance of the Navajo coal fired power plant, and after passing through a simple gate in the cattle fence, we walk 50 yards down a sandy trail and stop at a serpentine crack in the red brown sandstone earth. Looking up and down stream, the narrow opening with rounded edges heads off endlessly. I wonder, where is the canyon? Then, the indian guide simply motions downward and says "watch your step" and disappears down step by step into a crack no wider than his body - as if the earth just swallowed him up. When its my turn to descend, I just make out the narrow steel ladder that forms the entrance to Antelope Canyon.

To call it a canyon is misleading. It is a slot canyon to be specific. The bottom is formed by an off camber undulating sandy deck usually no wider than your two feet side by side - but sometimes narrower. From that narrow sandy wash, the walls rise up and swell outward in wavy patterns, never parallel, and rejoin again closer together overhead in a close embrace - as if in a delicate tango - teasing a touch, but never really connecting. The undulating and warm rose colored walls flow evenly from one bend to another, forming arches, tunnels, ridges, and bowls.

The bright sky overhead provides the soft light that has filtered down to where we stand, bouncing like a mad fuzzy pinball from one surface to another. As my watch hands rotate,at twice their normal speed, an occasional beam of direct hot white light flashes down and illuminates the floating sand particles that have been kicked up by our passage. They sparkle like diamonds - a temporal illusion, a translucent apparition, dissipating as gravity calls the wisp to earth, or a soft down slope breeze reorganizes everything as the sunbeam swings out of position.

The eyes, ears, skin, and brain are stimulated as an integrated organ while your consciousness tries to make sense of this magical place. Eyes scan around in any direction to gain a fundamental horizon and give up, left swirling like the sandstone layers. The harder and softer layers of stone have left signature lines that follow the wall's curve like topographic lines on a map. The ancient seabed gives up season by season of its story from wet years to dry years and the walls are painted with the pulverized remains of the eroded mountains upstream. The fingers touch canyon walls, often no more than shoulder length apart, first one side then the other as we tip toe down the narrow bottom of the canyon, performing some odd dance that only the river and winds of time could choreograph. Trying to use normal walking skills to navigate the terrain is useless so we resort to more of a crab-walk push-up, hop, skip, and slide maneuver to move around the sinuous path. The fine grit on the surface clings to our fingers as we first touch, then release the handholds.

It's quiet, except for a raven's nest of fledglings. This pair of imposing birds have chosen this section of the canyon for a nest. The twiggy perch is over our heads, but below the canyon rim above, affording protection from a predator coming from either direction. The chicks complain as the parent bird flaps once and lifts off their perch and seems to float effortlessly away into the light and blue and sky above.

In places the canyon widens, carved by a swirling eddy at the base of a now-dry falls, leaving an oddly symmetrical cylindrical chamber with more breathing room for us and a place to gather different types of reflected light. In one such chamber, a Navajo guide passes us walking downstream. He offers a simple greeting and then begins to sign a harmonious melody as soon as he rounds the next corner away from us. The tune fits right in, folding in and on itself and finding the harmonies we've so associated with native American music - a fluted tune that sounds as old as these rocks and one which throws us back in time 1,000 years and back again once it subsides. The singer and his music are swallowed by the canyon and both disappear in short order. Was he real? We never saw him again for the rest of our tour.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesday May 18 - Lake Powell

Today we had a long hike up Paria Canyon - a tributary to the mighty Colorado River, that joins the Colorado at Lee's Ferry. The hike involved many river crossings which we gladly did to keep our feet cool and comfortable. There is a trail that heads north here for 46 miles, so we just really scratched the surface on our out and back excursion. This river has carved a wide canyon with a flat fertile bottom. At this time of year there are many flowering plants - actually it seemed like EVERY plant was flowering in its own special way if you looked closely.

As the river swings from one side of the valley to the other we got chance to explore some interesting side canyons. One was especially nice as it started as a narrow slot and ended at a cylindrical tower 300 feet overhead. We lay in the flat sandy deposit at the base of the cylinder, and it seemed like we were in a multicolored sandstone barrel wave tipped on its side, with the sky and occasional soaring birds passing over the opening at one end. We sat quietly and listened to the canyon sounds as they percolated into this special grotto. A dove's call drifted in, then some sort of special cricket we had never heard before.

Along the river's bank, in the soft mud we could easily read the tracks of a multitude of desert creatures that must have come down to the water's edge at night for refreshment. As we hiked the bushes often rustled with the scurrying of a lizard.

On to Lake Powell and some canyons further north.

From Lake Powell

Lee's Ferry - Paria Canyon

( Side show embedded below. Click on the black border to expose the show controls, then click on the play button to view all photos..)

Camped by the shore of the Colorado River at Lee's Ferry. The river is running cold, and swift, and deep blue/green.  There is a small riffle here where the Paria River joins the Colorado and judging from the color of the river, it has not rained for many days.  Our plan had been to hike tomorrow up the Paria River canyon, but thunderstorms in the forecast may change all that.  We'll check with the ranger in the morning.

We left a cool 7,000 foot campsite this morning and drove east along the base of the Vermillian Cliffs National Monument on our way towards the Colorado River.  As we drove, and dropped elevation, the temperature rose so that by the time we stopped at the trailhead for the Cathedral Wash trail we had stripped our long pants, and jackets and were back ins shorts and tee, with big brimmed sunhats and plenty of water.  The wash starts as a dry gravel streambed below a culvert on the side of the road and quickly deepens into a meandering canyon with towering sandstone walls, layered in colors and textures/  Swallows dart overhead using the rounded natural hollows as nesting holes.  There are all sorts of flowering plants in the base of the wash.  Most of the hike is easy terrain, but in several places we need to resort to rock scrambling and ledge crawiling to find ways over  smooth eroded spill overs that offer no purchase for climbng either up or down.  There are minimal cairns that mark where the trail deviates from the streambed and climbs up one wall or another to surmount some downstream obstacle.  About half way down, a strong breeze picks up and we can smell the river. Around a few more bends and we can hear its' roar echoing off the tall walls that now crowd out the bright sky overhead. Within an 1.5 hours of leaving the car we have reached the banks of the Colorado river. It is about 200 feet wide here with a small sandy beach.  Across the river, a tall sandstone cliff rises over 1,000 feet and as we look both up and downstream things look about the same.  We both immediately wade right into the river without looking at each other and discussing a plan - our parched and dusty feet are crying for some relieve. 

The trip back up the canyon to our car was faster, since we deliberated less about the route, but by the time we got there, we were both exhausted from the oppressive heat which grabbed us like a vice once the breeze from the river subsided.  We had a "euro-snack" lunch of salami and hard cheese and moved the camper to our overnight spot at Lee's Ferry before taking a few hour siesta while we waited for the temperatures to drop.

The wind is up and it is warm, and invigorating, and seems to get into everything.  The skylight has pooped open on its own during one gust, so now I can see why all the campsites come with metal wind barriers near the tables.  I take the Yoga mat out and spend an hour meditating on the incredible landscape and the scents on the wind.  I enjoy the wind blowing at me as I hold a balanced pose with feet and toes gripping the rubber mat over the rough stone surface like a suction cup.  All I can hear is the wind, and the rushing of the river and as I scan around for a focus point for my breathing as my eyes bounce between the scuttling storm clouds and towering vermillian cliffs across the river gorge. I see a small lizard running between shading spots, I see yellow flowers atop spindly stalks buffeted by the swirling wind, I see the sparkling flakes in the multitude of colors of crushed rock that makes up the  rough surface of our campsite.