PSALM 104:34

May my meditation be pleasing to Him, for I rejoice in the Lord.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Deep

"O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.  The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker"
Psalm 95:1-6


After seeing the Grand Canyon, it is hard to believe that our trip might take us to a more wondrous part of God's creation.  But, there is a small area in the northern city of Page, Arizona, that I think might be one of the most beautiful on earth.  

Just the drive on Highway 89 was enough to take our breath away.  The terrain in northern Arizona becomes mostly sandstone  and the color striping on the bluffs is gorgeous.  We got caught in traffic a couple of times along the road and really we didn't even care.  There was so much to look at!  We also saw a lot of four-wheeling trails over the smaller hills and Allen decided that someday he might just have to bring his Willy's Jeep down there and try them out.

In order to enter Page from the south, you drive up quite a large hill and then descend into the city.  I was taking my turn in the front of the truck with Terry during this part of the drive and at the top of the hill we kept catching glimpses of the the beautiful blue lake at the bottom. Everybody in the back seat didn't see or believe us.  Allen thought we were seeing mirages.  But, finally the whole lake came into view

I have grown up around Beaver Lake and it is beautiful, but this lake with its sandstone bluffs was something unlike anything I had seen before.

Our campsite in Page was one of the few that was not a KOA, but it was very nice and the sandstone bluffs and hills were not 50 feet from where we slept.  After quickly helping to set up the camper, Allen and I went exploring.

The ground was covered with a fine dusting of loose sand, but the rock was hard under our feet.  I picked up a small piece of rock and broke it into dust with hardly any effort, thinking somewhat uneasily that the ground we were walking on was made of the same thing.  It is amazing how something can be so strong yet so fragile at the same time.  
The weathered lines in the rock were beautifully symmetric and different pieces met one another at odd angles creating a masterpiece of geometric abstraction.
We climbed around on the hill discovering a small cave and some hand holds chiseled into a bluff, all the while thinking that someone from the campground would soon probably come yell at us to get down. We had crossed a small fence in our climb and knew we were most likely trespassing.  But, no one did. We kept the campsite in our view, not wanting to be lost in the barren landscape, but climbed and explored for half an hour in peace.  

When we returned to camp, Terry, Laura, and Jenae were hungry and had found a local restaurant they wanted to try.  In my opinion, this was the BEST place we ate on the whole trip.
Allen and I both had green chile burgers which were spicy, but not too hot.  We also had some amazing onion rings...but really, the best thing on the menu was their sweet potato fries!  Jenae got them and generously shared.  They were just about good enough to hop on a plane and fly in just for a snack.

After eating, our real Page, AZ adventure began:

Allen and Laura had separately read online about a place called "Antelope Canyon" and decided that our trip must include a visit.  The number of people who can visit each year is limited and the tickets were rather pricey.  But, I believe it is the most beautiful natural piece of creation that I have ever seen.  

In order to get there you have to go with a tour group.  Our group met by the Pizza Hut in Page and they loaded us into the back of a monster truck.  There were two bench seats back to back in the bed of the truck and two seat belts per bench.  Little did we know that our tour of such natural beauty would include a dare-devil monster truck ride.  We strapped ourselves in and held on for dear life as the driver sped through town.  Every time he turned a corner, the truck tipped dangerously.  We were on the side tipping toward the road on most of the turns going into the canyon and Jenae described it best by saying that Laura had to remind her to breathe during the ride. ;)

Breathe Jenae!

After the ten minute drive on the highway, we turned off onto the Navajo owned sand trail the leads to the canyon.  Here we really found out why the monster truck was essential.  The truck rocked and pitched over the deeply rutted trail and I imagined dying from sand suffocation in the event that we went ahead and actually flipped completely on our side....

Allen loved every second of the ride even when the wind stole his hat.

We had to get a picture of ourselves after that much excitement

Jerking ourselves back to the calm of nature took a second, but the canyon quickly stole all of our attention.

It is very difficult to capture the beauty that is in Antelope Canyon.  Allen refused to even try.  
Its just a small crevice cut by wind and water into the rock.

 But the sun illuminates the color on the silken walls...

 And the bed of sand underfoot mutes all sound...

 And you can imagine that God himself  takes delight in this exquisite beauty...
The walk was only a quarter mile through the whole canyon, but exploring it could take weeks.  Like the grand canyon, the color on the walls relies on light from the sun and as the day progresses, the scene is disappears and a whole new canyon forms...

The juxtaposition of this dazzling peaceful beauty to the four-wheeling monster truck  ride through the desert that brought us and took us back, was funny.  But that was the way back and back we had to go.  At least this time if we were going to land smack down with our faces planted in the sand or the asphalt, we had seen one of the beauties of the world. ;)

That night after enjoying a Mexican restaurant for dinner, we walked across the damn that makes Powell lake.  It tames the mighty Colorado river and looking on the river side we could see where rafters start down the rapids.  All along our route we had been learning about Lewis and Clarke's adventures in exploring the West and the river below reminded us of the bravery of those two.  

  Of all the adventures and beautiful places on our trip, Page, Arizona is where I would most like to return.  I think we could spend a week exploring the terrain and still be astounded.  It is one of the most beautiful on earth.


"Nature is the art of God"

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Running in Circles


Day two at the Grand Canyon started at the Williams,  AZ's "Goldie's Route 66 Diner."  We had considered attempting to make it to the canyon for sunrise, but getting five people up at 4:30 AM was impractical.  Instead we enjoyed eggs and coffee and took our time.

 We made it up to the canyon while it was still pretty early and boarded the blue bus heading to the red transfer that would take us toward the Hermit's rest.  At the transfer we realized that rather than riding the bus up, we could also walk.  Altogether, the trail that we started off on is about 9 miles, but there is a bus stop about every half mile.  We enjoyed the native flora and fauna as well as the magnificent views while walking about a mile.  

(Bright Angel Trail)

 From several points along the trail we could see the "Bright Angel Trail" that takes very adventurous canyon visitors down into the canyon and all the way to the Colorado River at the bottom.  

The warning on the website about the Bright Angel Trail says the following:

Depending on how prepared you are, your trip can be a vacation or a challenge, a revelation or an ordeal. Over 250 peeople are rescued from the canyon each year. The difference between a great adventure in Grand Canyon and a trip to the hospital (or worse) is up to YOU.

We had not planned nor were adventurous enough to risk an ordeal going down the Bright Angel this trip, but maybe sometime in the future Allen and I will plan a hike into the canyon itself.   

We explored the rim trail for a couple of hours, gradually gaining elevation as we sometimes walked, sometimes rode to the next lookout point. 

The canyon itself is hard to describe, and you might wonder why go from lookout to lookout and expend all that energy with less than half a mile between each view?

Perhaps Robert Stanton who was the National Park Service director describes it best:

"But look again! Those terrifying walls are moving, are changing! A new light is not only creeping over them, but is coming out from their very shadows. See those flattened slopes above the dark sandstone on top of granite; even at this very moment they are being colored in gorgeous stripes of horizontal layers of yellow, brown, white, green, purple. What means this wondrous change? Wherein lies this secret of the great canyon?

The canyon really is so vast that it is hard to wrap your mind around its size.  And it does change.  It is uncanny.  Every cloud, wind, and second of time changes the scene.  It is really quite spectacular and impossible to capture in a photo.  

When we got hungry for lunch, we rode the bus back down the hill and to the truck where turkey and cheese wraps were in the cooler waiting to be made.  At this point we decided to leave the main tourist area and drive along the "Desert View."  There are five or six lookout points along this trail and we stopped at each and every one.  Allen and I even descended a little way down into the canyon at Lipan Point, elevation 7360 feet.  We didn't go far since we really were not prepared for the rough trail.  Neither of us were wearing great hiking shoes and we only had plastic water bottles with us.  We were thrilled though, to at least be able to say we climbed down into the canyon.

Jenae got a picture from above of our descent.

We also explored the famous architecture of the Desert View Watchtower and I was impressed to learn that it was designed by a woman named Mary Colter and was finished in 1832.

When we left the Grand Canyon for the night we were driving east, away from our campsite in Williams.  We decided that we would loop around and check out Sunset Crater on the way home.  

It was a 200 mile journey, round trip, and we stopped at every jewelry stand that exists between the Grand Canyon and Cameron, AZ.

I didn't get any pictures of the jewelry shopping that we did.  But we did A LOT of it!  Basically, about every 1/2 mile the Navajo people had set up tents or small wooden buildings and filled them with jewelry, dream catchers, tomahawks, and arrows.  We shopped to our hearts content all the while still being amazed at the landscape and glimpses of the canyon beyond.

Sunset Crater is another of the many amazing national parks that I had little idea even existed.  

It is believed that the volcano erupted somewhere around 1100 AD and has left black cinder covering the ground for miles.  We arrived just as the sun was setting and it was really beautiful

After spending a little time at the volcano, we were tired and hungry and completed the circle that began earlier in the day at the Diner.  It was 8:30 or 9:00 by the time we made it there so the hamburgers and sweet potato fries definitely hit the spot.  Allen even ate a piece of pie before his dinner came.  


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Land of Enchantment

New Mexico's official ballad is titled "Land of enchantment" and it really has strange and wonderful terrain that is hard to describe even in pictures.  

 Ansel Adams
Ghost Ranch Hill, Chama Valley, Northern New Mexico

 Ansel Adams
Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

"Sometimes I get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter" - Ansel Adams


From Tucumcari we traveled west enjoying the wonder of nature and God's creation.  In Albuquerque we explored part of the Petroglyph National Monument where Native American's drawings on the volcanic rock are still visible after 300-700 years.

(we enjoyed the volcanic tubes and the first sand of the trip :)

Leaving Albuquerque and again heading west on I-40 found ourselves entering El Malpais which means the "badlands" in Spanish.  On either side of the road, lava covers the earth.  You can imagine the boiling molten cauldron that this area of the country must have been sometime in history.  At the visitors center a panoramic window allowed almost 180 degree views of the lava field and although there were hiking trails across it, the park rangers cautioned us against trying to explore outside in the heat.  The black rock simply absorbs too much and the hiking is apparently tricky and somewhat treacherous even when temperatures are cooler.  
Bryce Chackerian
View of El Malpais Lava Fields

Instead of exploring the lava, we decided to head back a few miles to a place that Terry, Laura, and Allen had been before.  A place called "Sky City" where people have inhabited the land continuously since somewhere around 1100AD.  

The Acoma people inhabit "Sky City" and it is truly a city in the sky.  It sits on top of a 367 foot mesa and houses approximately 13 families year round.  The rest of the Acoma people now live in the lower area surrounding the mesa.  The tribe is separated into clans and works on a matriarchal system where the youngest female always inherits the families estate.

We admired the pottery and jewelry at the visitors center and then ascended in a bus the 367 feet to the top of the pueblo.  There are no building codes here and the resulting architecture was fascinatingly odd. Bricks, clay, wood, and rock mixed brand new and centuries old.  The streets are dirt and sand and there is no electricity or running water.  However, modern cars and trucks line the streets.  It is a place where ancient history meets the 21st century.  

Legends and stories mix with modern business as the tribal people take advantage of modern curiosity and peddle their goods on every corner.  We drank our water, closed our eyes when the high wind picked up the sand and threw it into our eyes and hair, and wished we had remembered our sunscreen. 

On the way down, Allen and I wanted to experience history a little more thoroughly and decided to climb down the historic stone stair case rather than ride the bus.  This staircase is so well hidden in the rock that legend says a Spanish conquistador circled the mesa for days looking for the route that would take him to the top, with no avail.  It is quite steep and the wind whips at what must be at least 40 miles an hour.  Allen and I helped each other down and became more thankful for modern conveniences and building codes. ;)
 The wind
 Road below
Waiting our turn

After leaving the Acoma, guess where we went?????????

We had to go there for food and baby wipes.
We were COVERED in sand.  It was in our teeth, our eyes, our ears....everywhere.

We ate our chicken and potatoes from the deli in silence remembering the Acoma as we again turned West.  The goal was Gallup.  We would stay the night and then journey into Arizona the next morning.

Unfortunately, or fortunately.........the Gallup KOA was full.  We were not terribly distraught over this because the night was still young, and the Gallup KOA was rather strange.

We ended up at the Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA in Arizona.  It was nice, actually the nicest KOA we stopped at.  However, while enjoying the pool, I laid down my sunglasses and forgot to pick them back up. :<  Sad, sad... Such is life....

More adventures to come!!!  Up next GRAND CANYON!!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

America the Beautiful

O beautiful for spacious skies, 
For amber waves of grain, 
For purple mountain majesties 
Above the fruited plain! 
America! America! 
God shed his grace on thee 
And crown thy good with brotherhood 
From sea to shining sea! 

O beautiful for pilgrim feet 
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat 
Across the wilderness! 
America! America! 
God mend thine every flaw, 
Confirm thy soul in self-control, 
Thy liberty in law! 

In the past month, I have been in 11 of the 50 states and Allen has been in 10.  Allen and I joined his parents and sister in a whirlwind 4000 mile tour of the west, and then my mom, sister, and brothers joined me in exploring Indiana and Kentucky:

I plan to post about all of our vacation adventures during the next few days, so stay tuned for the stories. ;)

(Our DRIVING route.  We're hard-core, we know ;)


Allen and I started our journey on June 23rd.  He got off work early and we drove straight home to Arkansas.

Its a 10 hour drive and its the only time we have ever done it without Pepsi in our laps.  She spent the vacation having a blast with Sarah Sanders and her family.  I really hated to leave her, but she loved visiting and the sooner we get her a backyard the better.  She couldn't have been happier.

Making it to Arkansas felt good and after spending the morning of the 24th with my family, we headed off at about 9AM to the West.  

10 miles

BLOWOUT on the camper.
Luckily, Allen and Terry are expert tire changers and they had ours fixed in no time...but while we were sitting on the side of the road....SOMEONE ELSE'S TIRE BLEW and they ended up not 20 feet in front of us!  It was two ladies all alone.  So, Allen and Terry, being the  gentlemen they are, also changed her tire.  We decided there must have been something in the road and went along our merry way.  We also got to visit both the Sam's Club and Walmart in Fayetteville Arkansas in search of a replacement for our spare.  As you will see: our vacation soon becomes somewhat of a country wide WalMart tour......

Two hours after we meant to, we finally left the Natural State and headed off into Oklahoma where we saw our only wildfire.  Most of the others were well south of our route.

We stopped for the night in Elk City, Oklahoma at the KOA and quickly decided the wind outside felt like a hair dryer. It was SO HOT!  But, they had a pool and we had an air conditioned camper.  Day one was a success despite some obstacles.  

Day two found us on our way to Amarillo, TX and the home of the FREE 72 oz steak!

Its about 150 miles from Elk City to Amarillo and on the 100th...............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................BAM!!!!!!!THUD...THUD...THUD....THUD..............You guessed it...another blow-out. :<

Now the first blow-out wasn't so bad.  Remember, we had only driven 10 miles.  By this time we had driven about 400.  We were hot and tired and this was just a funny sort of way.  You have to laugh so you won't cry right?

 Apparently, the grass in TX is not very friendly.  They both had scratches all over them.  
I was just glad they didn't find any rattlesnakes.
 What can you do?

Needless to say, we were hungry by the time we arrived in Amarillo and made our way to the Big Texan.  Its quite a show in there.  We watched some poor kid try to beat the challenge and wondered how much he had to pay in money and pain for his dinner when he didn't finish.  

They make you sit all alone up on this stage and you not only have to eat the steak, but also the shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad, roll, and butter as well!!  We decided that the poor kid who was trying drank entirely too much tea while he ate.  He tried hard and probably ate 2/3 of the steak, but didn't even come close to finishing.  

Our dinner on the other hand, was finished, and though it was much less exciting, it also didn't leave us sick for days.  Terry and I had the ribeye, Laura and Allen had the prime rib, and Jenae, in true southern style opted for the chicken fried steak.  8 oz was plenty of red meat for us and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

After our meal at the Big Texan we toured the local WalMart (again) in search of another replacement spare tire.  This trip was not fast and it took them 3 hours :<  to mount our tire.  Of that, we spent about an hour in the WalMart itself (told you we toured it) and then went to the visitors center where we learned that we MUST visit Cadillac Ranch on our way out of town and also that we should buy spray paint from WalMart in order to put our own artistic touch on the piece.  

Allen was EXCITED! (He studied Cadillac Ranch in college)
(we bought Red and White spray paint in honor of the Hogs.  Especially since we were in Texas!)

Hwy 40 Exit 60:  Cadillac Ranch
(Context: Around 105 degrees, wind around 30 mph - clear as a bell and perfect for pictures)

Jenae and I wrote "Arkansas Razorbacks" of course and Allen first drew bull's eyes.  However, in true Allen form, the genius decided to be different ;)

Everyone else has been adding to this sculpture for 40 years, so Allen decided to subtract:

He dug all the way to the original paint and then again in true Allen fashion, painted it over with white, so that no one else could see his discovery ;)


That night we made it to Tucumcari, NM.  We were exhausted, but happy with our progress and experiences.  

Tomorrow or the next day, I will post more of our adventures.  Stay tuned!!