The Solitary Hike

yellostone lower falls grand canyon of yellowstoneYellowstone National Park is one of my favorite places. With mountains, lakes, geysers, hot springs, waterfalls and wildlife it calms my spirit every time I go. In the summer time, it is one of the busiest places in the country. Somewhere between two and three million people visit the park during the months of June, July and August. Which is why I prefer to visit the park “off season;” preferably in the fall. It’s risky to visit that late in the season because the weather can go from warm days and cool nights to frigid winter in just a few hours. The quiet of the park, however, makes it worth the risk. The latest I ever visited the park was around October 15th. I was lucky. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. Bright sun and blue skies were in the forecast for next few days. I entered the park through the north east entrance and headed down toward the grand canyon area of the park. I had packed a lunch bag in the morning but I stopped by the visitor center to pick up some water. Even though the fall is a quieter time of year, there are still plenty of people at the main areas of the park. I was happy to head toward the parking lot off of the south rim of the grand canyon of Yellowstone. I stopped at one of the overlooks, and like the others, snapped a few (dozens) of photos of the falls. Moving on, I started hiking a little farther down the trail. In just a few minutes I realized something. There was no one else there. It was just me. I sat on a rock in the sun. I took out my peanut butter sandwich. I could see the falls dropping over 100 feet into the canyon. I could hear the roar or the water. Yellowstone National Park, a beautiful day, one of the most popular and beautiful sites in the park and it was just me and my sandwich. I could not believe it.

The Chat Pack Chronicles

I brought home a Chat Pack from the store the other day. It was the “story” version.  With a one line prompt, the participant is supposed to reel out a story relevant to the inquiry.  Generally, I hadn’t liked the story version of the chat pack as much as the original box of questions.  The original was created to be a stimulus for conversation and in the back of my mind I always thought it would be fun to bring one to a dinner with friends some day.

Last week at the store I was dusting the shelves and a friend of mine came in.  She was  looking to put together a package for her mother who had fallen and was in the hospital.  She purchased one of the regular chat packs for her mom, thinking she might find them fun to think about.  It got me thinking about my mother.  A writer of short family stories, I thought that she might enjoy getting prompted with new ideas from the story chat pack. And so, the saga begins.

I decided that more fun could be had if we both wrote a story off of the same prompt. So I sent her an email in the morning with a little explanation of my idea and the first prompt. She called me that evening to let me know that she had finished her story.  I had barely started thinking about mine.

One and all are more than welcome to join in.

Story Prompt Number 1: “Got a story to sharchat packe about witnessing something you still can’t believe you saw in person?”

March Madness

No, I’m not talking about basketball.  I’m talking about snow and rain, sunshine and the return of the birds to the plains.  The cranes are the start and the vultures in Hot Springs confirm the coming of spring.

It’s been a dry winter here – hopefully spring will bring more moisture – in the form of rain I hope.  Snow gets messy and sometimes slick and with work an hour away…well I’d prefer rain.

Three goldens now.  Willow, Maverick and Molly.  Lucky Charm left this world behind.  She is alive in my memories, in the fields and in the wind.

The Ugly Clock

The odd and the unusual have a supernatural pull on me, so when Lucky Charm and I noted that we weren’t far from the infamous Roswell, New Mexico, we pointed the Saturn in that direction.  After a quick trip to the visitor’s center, we decided a stop at the UFO Museum should be the first item on our agenda.

The UFO Museum is housed in an old theater building in downtown Roswell and the brightly colored marquee sports images of flying saucers.   The lobby is also bright and spacious and an alien statue holds a sign pointing to the guest register and ticket counter.  I paid for a ticket and headed down the first narrow hall.  The display area of the museum is on the dark side.  The ceiling is black and the walls are covered with pegboard painted white.  Many of the artifacts are framed newspaper articles about aliens and UFO’s.  Against this black and white background the clock was hard to miss.   Shaped like New Mexico, yellow in color, the face of the clock was bright with turquoise, coral and green stones.   Toss in a rattlesnake tail and a horseshoe and you get the idea.  This was one ugly clock.  Unless it was made by esthetically challenged aliens, why was this clock in a UFO museum?

Further investigation was in order, so I read the caption:   “This clock was donated to the International UFO Museum and Research Center …. A collector’s item decorated with Trinitite Atomic Glass from the world’s first A-bomb site, this clock also includes a rattlesnake rattle, rattlesnake ribs, turquoise and a horseshoe.”  Trinitite Atomic Glass?  This clock was not only ugly, it was also likely radioactive!

On July 16th, 1945 the first atomic bomb was tested near Almogordo, New Mexico.  The heat from the blast was so intense that the desert sands, sucked into the air by the vacuum created by the explosion, melted and rained back down on the desert.  When it cooled, it solidified into a green glass that covered the desert floor.   The test site was called the Trinity site, and the glass residue of the blast was named trinitite.  Trinitite was collected for a bit and was even turned into jewelry.  In 1952, the government bulldozed the glass under.

I never did figure out why the clock was in the museum.  Perhaps there’s some connection between intergalactic travel and nuclear energy.  Or maybe it’s there just because it was donated by people involved in or related to folks who were part of the original Roswell incident.  For whatever reason, there it sits.  An ugly clock, decorated with a man-made mineral with an ugly history.  I continued on down the hall.  At the gift shop I bought a couple of bug-eyed alien guitar picks and headed back to the car.

January 1, 2011

I’ve brushed the snow off of the car.  I’m thinking the hardest part of my trip is going to be traveling from my driveway to the road.  The weather from here to Denver to Abiquiu looks sunny and cold.  Today it is also windy.  Hopefully it will be a little warmer and a little less windy when I leave in the morning.

My mind is on getting packed for winter travel.  The sleeping bag, matches, candles, some food (peanut butter and crackers), a shovel, kitty litter, water, the swiss army knife… and then I’ll pack for me.  Winter clothes and a swimsuit for the hot tubs and hot springs I hope to encounter.  Binoculars, hiking boots and the camera.  Next, there’s Lucky Charm – dog food, dog biscuits, bowls and leashes.  She travels pretty light. 

Check the oil, fill the gas tank… and I’ll be ready.

Abiquiu was once the home of Georgia O’Keefe.  I suspect it will be beautiful.

Petrified Wood Park: Lemmon, SD

Petrified Wood Park: Lemmon, SD

There is nothing I like better than the creative works of humankind – particularly if those works lean a little to the weird side.  The Petrified Wood Park in Lemmon, SD fits the bill to a tee.  The park was created specifically to lure folks to the town for a visit.  And, for me at least, it worked.