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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jeff

Jeff was an on-air personality at a Christian radio station in our area. And he exemplified the word “personality.”

His was the morning show which aired weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and included a variety of Christian music interspersed with weather updates (in which beautiful days were always declared to be “screamers”), reminders of the correct time (usually accompanied by a reminder to “simonize your watches”), school closings, bantering with Jim in the newsroom, a myriad of voices that seemed to come as naturally to Jeff as his own, and lots of highly infectious laughter.

Jeff was also the station’s sound engineer, so he served in that capacity for the talk show which was hosted by the station manager, Char, and aired during the next hour. That show often involved interviews with Christian authors or speakers or other folks of interest to the listeners., but just as often it was a time for the on-air personalities to chat and share stories of their families and maybe take some calls from listeners.

When Jeff participated in those chats, no one ever knew where his nimble mind might take the conversation, least of all Char. It was never clear what would set him off and send him into the telling of a hilarious story, often using one of the many character voices he had developed. He loved it when he could get Char laughing so hard that she couldn’t even breathe, let alone talk. And that happened often.

In addition to the morning show and the mid-morning talk show, Jeff also participated with Char in a noontime cooking show, in which Char would give a recipe which would then be repeated by Jeff as he wrote it down, giving listeners time to do the same. During the giving of those recipes, Jeff's mind would often take off down a rabbit trail, with the result that listeners were encouraged to write in for a copy of the recipe that Char was unable to get through that day.

Over the course of his many years at the radio station, Jeff shared his life with the listening audience. Most listeners felt as if he was a personal friend, even if they’d never met him. They rejoiced with him and his wife, Cheri, when they announced the adoption of their baby daughter, Darci.  They laughed with him as he told about getting a puppy for Darci, a wire-haired fox terrier named Raggs. They looked forward to stories about Darci and Raggs growing up together, stories of Darci dressing Raggs up in little girl clothes and referring to the dog as her sister.

And they grieved with Jeff when he told of his wife’s cancer, the terrible progression of the disease, and her ultimate passing from this life. The joy that bubbled up from within Jeff was tempered with sorrow.

In the aftermath of Cheri’s death, there were poignant but funny stories from Jeff about how he and Darci and Raggs were learning to cope without her.

One such story occurred during the noontime cooking show, triggered by Char's mention of ground beef to be used in the recipe she was giving that day. Following is an audio clip of Jeff derailing yet another recipe.





Friday, November 25, 2011

Amish Neighbors

Doug and I went for a walk one August morning, deciding to walk down to the end of the road and back. As we were on our way back, we could see a team of Amish draft horses coming toward us. An Amish woman was walking down the middle of the road, kind of behind and to the side of the horses; but we couldn't see anyone handling the reins on the team.

When we got close enough, though, we could see a little tow-headed boy, probably about four years old, walking behind the horses and holding the reins. His dad was cutting hay in the field with a team of horses, and the boy and his mom were bringing another team to give the first team a rest.

We stopped to talk with them, and the woman said that she told the boy she was going to take another team to Dad, and he could come along. She said his response was to say, as if in awe, "Gee, I'm a lucky boy." And he really meant it. She said he loves to do anything with the horses. The dad was pretty proud, too, pointing to his boy and saying he was a little farmer in the making.

I so wished I could have snapped a photo of the little guy driving the team of draft horses, but the Amish really don't like to have their pictures taken.  I did manage to catch the following one with a zoom lens and from behind, though.
 
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You'll just have to use your imagination to replace the young man in the picture with the little tow-headed boy that we saw.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving

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As is the case with so many of our holidays, the true significance of Thanksgiving is often lost in the trappings of the day. There is more to the day than getting together with friends and family to gorge ourselves on turkey and all the trimmings. It is a day we set aside to remember and express thanks for our many blessings.

As important as it is to remember all the things we have to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving holiday, it's equally important to remember to Whom we owe that thanks.

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Ephesians 5:20)

There is a God Who has created all things, visible and invisible. He gives and sustains life. He loves us enough that He entered our world in the form of a man named Jesus, Who took upon Himself the punishment that each of us deserves, in order to purchase our redemption and give us eternal life.

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

So, topping my list of things I'm thanking God for is the gift of eternal life that He purchased for me. His presence in my life brings joy every day, regardless of circumstances.

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (II Corinthians 9:15)

Next, I'm thankful for the husband that God has given me. Doug is the only man I could ever imagine myself married to. He puts up with my less-than-enthusiastic approach to domestic chores like housekeeping and cooking. He takes care of our house and yard and vehicles. He's an avid student of the Bible and takes his relationship with our Lord more seriously than anyone I know. He loves me more than I could ever have imagined anyone doing. He's a little boy at heart and as ornery as all get out sometimes, and I hope that never changes.

As happy as I am to be married, I'm grateful for the 42 years I spent as a single. I'm especially glad for the eight years after coming to know the Lord as my Savior, before entering into marriage. God taught me so much about Himself, myself, His will, and human relationships during those years that I was much better prepared for marriage by the time Doug came along. And God was doing the same thing with Doug during that time. The closeness that we have with each other is in direct correlation to the closeness each of us has with the Savior.

I'm thankful, too, for the wonderful friends I've been blessed to know throughout my life.

There were special friends in school...Connie in elementary school and Bernie in high school. Both live far away now, but we still maintain some contact through Facebook or Christmas cards.

After high school, I met and became fast friends with Mary Ann. It was the closest friendship I'd ever had and lasted 16 years. Unfortunately, when I became a Christian, my enthusiasm over my new-found faith, drove Mary Ann away. We were never able to repair the damage to our relationship.

But God provided a new friend in a dear little Ethopian lady named Etse, who, though tiny in stature, was a spiritual giant, at least in my eyes. She was a wonderful influence during the early years of my walk with Christ and stood with me as my Maid of Honor at our wedding. Etse continues to be a special friend, although we aren't able to spend much time together these days.

Then there's Sandra, who many of you know from her wonderful blog, Add Humor and Faith...Mix Well. We met in the mid-1970s, when we worked for the same company. Over the years, our friendship has grown and continues to grow even today.

There are so many other special friends that I've known through the years. I won't try to name them all. They know who they are. And I'm grateful to God for every one of them and for the enrichment they have brought into my life.

And I would be remiss if I didn't also express thanks for you, my blogging friends. You have added to my life, and I'm grateful.

May you all have a blessed Thanksgiving.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (I Thessalonians 5:18)

Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. (Psalm 106:1)

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. (Jeremiah 33:3)

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23)


Monday, November 21, 2011

Ordering at the Dairy Queen Drive-Thru

Some of you may remember my post about an experience we had ordering at a McDonald's drive-thru. If not, you can read about it here.

Following is another drive-thru tale:

We went through the drive-thru at Dairy Queen a couple of weeks ago. I wanted aTriple Chocoholic Mini-Blizzard. Doug had gotten fairly used to ordering the Chocolate Xtreme Mini-Blizzard that I USED to get, but he hasn't yet mastered "Triple Chocoholic Mini-Blizzard" and always gets his tongue twisted trying to say that phrase. Since he was driving, though, and since the ordering microphone was on his side of the car, he was going to have to place the order. It didn't go well. I giggled when I heard the words that came out of his mouth. He said he wanted a "Triple Chocolate Alcoholic Mini-Blizzard."

When we drove around to the pickup window, the guy inside said, "You ordered a Triple Chocolate Alcoholic Mini-Blizzard? I'm going to have to check your ID."

We laughed so hard that I almost had trouble eating my Blizzard.

A couple of days later, we returned to the same Dairy Queen; and the same guy was on duty. Again, we went through the drive-thru. This time, Doug managed to get the correct phrase out with barely a stutter. When we pulled up to the window, Doug asked the DQ man if he wanted to check his ID. The response was, "No. You didn't order anything with alcohol in it this time."

DQ man is not only funny, but he has a good memory.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Surprise Encounter

I had an appointment for a routine mammogram recently. Not my favorite thing to do. In fact, it was about three months overdue because I had kept putting it off. After checking in and updating my paperwork at the front desk, I was advised to be seated in the waiting area and that the woman who would be doing the mammogram would call me when she was ready.

It wasn't long until I was called back and shown to a dressing room (shouldn't they call them UNdressing rooms?). I was told to just step into the torture chamber X-ray room when I was ready. When I did, the woman who was to take the X-rays asked me a question I'd never been asked at a mammogram appointment: "Do you have a blog?"

"Yes," I said, surprised.

"Are you a friend of Sandy's?" she asked.

"Yes," I said, even more surprised.

She told me that she had gone to school with my friend, Sandra, whose wonderful blog is Add Humor and Faith...mix well.

Curious, I asked how she had made the connection between me and Sandra. She told me that she reads Sandra's blog and had found my blog through that. She said that, when she first saw me, I looked familiar to her. Between the time she showed me to the UNdressing room and the time we met again in the X-ray room, she realized that I looked like the picture on Sandy's friend's blog.

When I got over my initial surprise at the direction the conversation had taken, I found myself pleased to meet a friend of Sandy's and to know that she also read my blog from time to time. It's always a bit of a surprise to me to learn that someone besides those who regularly leave comments are reading what I write. A pleasant surprise, at that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Yosemite National Park

Our final destination on our recent trip west was Yosemite National Park in California. Unfortunately, it appeared that we had used up all our allotted sunshine before we reached Yosemite. It was overcast and drizzling the day we arrived. But Yosemite is a beautiful place in any kind of weather.

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The above picture was taken at Tunnel View, so called because it's the view that awaits park visitors as they exit the Wawona Tunnel when entering Yosemite from the south. If you look closely, you can see Bridalveil Falls a little to the right of center in the photograph.

There wasn't a lot of water flowing over the falls on the day of our arrival. However, it rained that night. Things looked a little different the next day.

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This is basically the same view as above, but with more water flowing over Bridalveil Falls.

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Bridalveil Falls

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El Capitan

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Bridalveil Falls

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That's Bridalveil Falls again in the background.

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Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls consists of Upper Falls, Middle Cascades (which are not visible from the valley floor), and Lower Falls. In the above picture, you can see Lower Falls slightly left of center, just above the trees. At 2,425 feet (739 m), Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America and one of the highest waterfalls in the world. The Upper Fall alone, plunging 1,430 feet (440 m), is numbered among the twenty highest waterfalls in the world.

On our first day in the park, there was very little water coming over Yosemite Falls. The above picture was taken on our second day, after a good rain. My nephew and his family were out there in the early summer, though, and the flow of water at that time was just awesome. The best time to go, to see Yosemite Falls at its finest, is late spring or early summer.

There is so much more to see at Yosemite than we were able to see on this trip. Several inches of snow fell in the upper elevations while we were there, closing Glacier Point Road and Tioga Road. So our visit was limited to the valley. But the valley alone is worth a visit to this national park.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

After leaving the Grand Canyon on our recent western adventure, we headed west, spending that night in Barstow, California. The next morning, we drove to Three Rivers, California, where we stayed while visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The two parks adjoin each other, and you hardly know when you leave one and enter the other.

It was a little too late in the day to begin a tour of the parks, but we did drive to the entrance, just to be sure we knew how to get there the next morning.

That next morning, we drove The Generals Road, which took us to the General Sherman Tree parking area. From there, we had to hike about four tenths of a mile to the tree itself, all downhill. The General Sherman Tree is reported to be the largest living tree in the world. It was pretty impressive, but there were lots of impressive trees along the trail. The hike back to the car was a little harder since it was all uphill and we were at an altitude of 7,000 feet; but we made it.

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Doug, standing between two trees on the Sherman Tree Trail

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The General Sherman Tree

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A little closer look at the base of the General Sherman Tree

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Look at the size of these pinecones!

After huffing and puffing back to the parking lot at the start of the trail to the General Sherman Tree, we ate the lunch we had brought with us. Then we continued north on the Generals Road, which was very winding as it climbed the mountain by way of many switchbacks. Near the top, there was construction going on, with delays of up to an hour. We timed it so that our wait was only 20 minutes. It was comfortable sitting in the van...more so than out of the van. The sun was very intense at that altitude, making it very hot even with the cool air temperature.

We drove on north to the Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park. There, we hiked another trail of similar length but without the significant grade that the Sherman Tree Trail had. The General Grant Tree is reported to be the second largest living tree in the world. It was also very impressive. And, again, there were many impressive trees along the trail. Maybe even more than on the Sherman Tree Trail.

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These giants stand along one edge of the parking area at Grant Grove.

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This one stands near the beginning of the walk to the General Grant Tree.

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The General Grant Tree

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Fire scar on one side of the General Grant Tree

The bark of the Giant Sequoias is resistant to fire. Many of these trees (maybe most) bear significant fire scars, but the fire rarely kills the tree. The biggest risk to these trees is lightning, which can split a tree in two.

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The Fallen Monarch (with Doug standing next to it for perspective)

A sign at the site of the Fallen Monarch in Grant Grove states that a high tannin content makes Sequoia wood indigestible to fungi, bacteria, insects, and other decay organisms. Thus, the decay of this wood takes place very slowly. The Fallen Monarch has remained virtually unchanged for well over 100 years, and who knows how much longer.

The sign goes on to say that, after the Grove was set apart as General Grant National Park in 1890, the log was used for awhile as an employee camp. It has been used as a house, a saloon, a stable for U. S. Cavalry horses; and early day visitors to the Big Trees were served meals and liquid refreshment here.

A note of explanation here: General Grant National Park was established in 1890, to protect the grove of Giant Sequoias now known as Grant Grove. Kings Canyon National Park was established in 1940, and incorporated the smaller General Grant National Park.

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This is a picture of Doug inside the Fallen Monarch

Near a stump, known as Centennial Stump, which is 24 feet in diameter, there is a sign that says, in part: "This tree was cut in 1875, and a 16 ft. section sent to the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876. Only the outer shell was was exhibited, the parts being reassembled after shipment. Eastern people refused to accept the exhibit as part of a single tree and called it a 'California hoax.' It took 2 men 9 days to chop down the tree."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Grand Canyon National Park

The morning after our float trip down the Colorado River a few weeks ago, we were on our way out of Page, Arizona, heading for the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It wasn't a long drive, but it was a beautiful one.

We entered the park at the Desert View entrance, which is the east entrance, located about 25 miles from our lodging for that night at the Yavapai Lodge. The primary feature at Desert View is the Watchtower, a structure built to provide the widest possible view of Grand Canyon while harmonizing with its setting.

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The Watchtower at Desert View

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Inside the Watchtower, looking down from an upper level.

We took our time traveling that 25 miles to our lodging in Grand Canyon Village, stopping at every scenic overlook.

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A view from Navajo Point

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And another view from Navajo Point

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Above is a "stitched" panorama shot, also taken at Navajo Point

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This one was shot at Lipan Point.

The next morning, after we had eaten breakfast at the cafeteria, we decided to drive back down to one of the main viewing points that we had seen the day before, Grandview Point, in hopes of having better lighting in the canyon on this day. It had been really hazy the day before, and the sun was shining brightly the next morning. The plan was that we would then use the free shuttles to see areas of the park where private vehicles aren't permitted.

But, on our way back to Canyon Village from Grandview Point, we decided to see if the Yavapai Lodge would let us out of our second night's reservation. They were very nice about it and said it would be no problem if we wanted to leave a day early. So we scurried back to the room and got everything packed and loaded into the van, pulling out with about five minutes to spare before the established checkout time.

We headed west for California, staying that night in Barstow. The next stop on our national parks tour was Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Colorado River Float Trip

After visiting Zion National Park on our western travels a few weeks ago, the next stop was Page, Arizona, where we took a float trip down the Colorado River through Glen Canyon. Thanks go out to Elizabeth Grimes of Magical Moments for suggesting that activity to us.

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Glen Canyon Dam

The Glen Canyon Dam, at 710 feet high and 1,560 feet long, is one of the world's largest concrete dams. Lake Powell, formed by the dam, extends 186 miles upstream into southern Utah.

We met with our fellow rafters at the Colorado River Discovery office in downtown Page for a brief orientation meeting, after which we boarded buses for the ride to the Colorado River and the start of our raft trip.

The buses took us through a two-mile-long tunnel which descended to the bottom of the Glen Canyon Dam. When we exited the bus, we were given hard hats to wear as we walked under the Glen Canyon Dam Bridge and down to where the rafts were waiting for us at the river's edge.

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Glen Canyon Dam Bridge

If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the parking area where the buses exited the tunnel. To the right of that is the walkway down to the river's edge and the rafts we were to board.

The Glen Canyon Dam Bridge is 700 feet high and 1,271 feet long. At the time of its completion in 1959, it was the highest arch bridge in the world and the second highest bridge of any type. Fifty years later it seems hard to believe that it no longer ranks even among the top twenty-five.

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A picture of the dam from down on the river.

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And a picture of the bridge from underneath.

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The above photo shows one of the pontoon rafts.

Each raft carried about 22 people, and there were at least four or five of the rafts. The trip took us 15 miles down the Colorado River, from the Glen Canyon Dam to Lee's Ferry, which marks the beginning of the Grand Canyon and also the beginning of whitewater rapids on the river.

Following are a few pictures of some of the scenery along the river trip:

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Our guide was an enthusiastic and energetic young woman, a senior at the University of Arizona, majoring in biology. She pointed out an Osprey, flying over the water, but I wasn't able to get a very clear picture of it. We also saw three Great Blue Herons. At the end of the trip, when we were almost to Lee's Ferry, some mountain sheep were spotted on the hillside, and we pulled over to watch them for awhile. A previous post included a photo of one of the herons and another of the mountain sheep. Click here if you missed that one.

Midway through the trip, the rafts docked at a sandy beach. Those who wanted to could wade or swim in the river. There were toilets available there, too, and some Indian rock art a short walk away. Doug and I didn't do any exploring or swimming at the stop. We had bought a sack lunch from the rafting company and ate that while we were at the beach area. It was just too hot to do much else. The heat wasn't bad while we were moving along on the water, but stopping was another matter.

We were met by buses at Lee's Ferry and were transported about an hour's ride from there back to Page, Arizona.

Next stop: the Grand Canyon.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Zion National Park

Zion National Park was next on our tour of national parks in Utah during our trip West a few weeks ago. Although it was the last national park we visited in Utah, it was the first national park to be established in that state. Most of our previous experiences in viewing canyons involved looking down into them from the rim. Zion National Park is different in that visitors drive through it at the bottom of the canyon, looking up at the canyon walls towering over them.

Actually, it was a bit frustrating at times, because we couldn't see the tops of the cliffs without stopping and getting out of the car to do so. Our necks and backs were getting tired from leaning forward and cocking our heads in an attempt to not miss anything.

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Zion National Park

My camera has this neat "stitching" feature that allows me to take multiple photos and then stitch them together to make one "panorama" image. The above photo is an example of that.

We drove from the south entrance of the park to the east entrance, a distance of about 10 miles, on Utah Highway 9. The scenery was, of course, beautiful. Following is another photo from that drive:

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Since private vehicles are not permitted on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, we returned to the Visitor Center at the South Entrance and caught one of the free shuttles for that part of the park.

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The Court of the Patriarchs...Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

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I took this shot as we walked along a trail to the Emerald Pools. The destination of the hike was a bit disappointing, but the scenery along the trail made it worthwhile.

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The sheer rock walls of the canyon attract rock climbers.

As the day wound down and sunset was nearing, we drove to another section of the park known as Kolob Canyons. Park literature recommended seeing this area at sunset because of the effect of the setting sun on the rock walls of the canyon. It proved to be good advice, as you will see in the following images.

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The road through Kolob Canyons is only about five miles, but it proved to be the highlight of our visit to Zion National Park. Compared to the busyness of the main section of the park, Kolob Canyons was so peaceful. There were very few people there. I think we saw only about a half-dozen other vehicles...if that many. It was a wonderful way to end our day of sightseeing.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon has to be seen to be believed. It is one of five national parks in Utah, and we visited it during our recent trip out West. I can't imagine that there's any other place like it on earth. We stopped at every scenic view and took way too many pictures. Don't worry. I won't try to show you all of them.

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The temperatures were much more tolerable during our visit to this park than they had been elsewhere in Utah, partly because of the higher elevation of Bryce Canyon, but mostly because we had some cloud cover to protect us from that intense Utah sun.

At the parking area for Inspiration Point, a sign said that there was a Lower Inspiration Point and an Upper Inspiration Point. We decided to walk up to the higher one.

Now, I should mention that the elevation where we live is 750 feet above sea level. The elevation at Inspiration Point is 8,100 feet above sea level. People who live at 750 feet have trouble breathing at 8,100 feet...standing still. Add being overweight and hiking uphill to that equation, and...well...it's HARD!

We came to the next viewing area on our uphill climb, and I was sure that had to be Upper Inspiration Point. But it wasn't. There was one that was higher yet. Now, don't you think that sign should have said there was a Lower, a Middle, and an Upper? A person likes to know what to expect before he (she) embarks on a trail like this.

I was struggling for air, but I had to keep going because my niece, Beckie, had done this hike earlier this year. I couldn't let that young whippersnapper show me up. So she probably deserves some of the credit for my making it to the goal. And I have to say...the view was worth it. The following photos were taken at Upper Inspiration Point.

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We wrapped up our tour at Fairyland Point, which is down a short paved road between the main highway and the Visitor Center. Park literature said that a short hike from that point would take you right out among the hoodoos. We had planned to do it, but the hike didn't look short; and the sign at the beginning of it said that it was steep and had loose rocks and that boots were recommended.

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View from Fairyland Point. If you look closely, you can see hikers down among the hoodoos.

We walked just a few feet down the path, but it made me very nervous. It was narrow and sloped a bit down toward the canyon. I turned around and returned to the car. Doug walked on down a little further, but it was too much for him, too. Besides, a few drops of rain were falling, and that trail would have become slicker than nasal discharge if it had gotten wet.

Here's one last shot from Fairyland Point:
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These photos do not do justice to the awesome beauty of this national park. If you ever have the opportunity to see it for yourself, you really should do it.

Monday, November 07, 2011

From Torrey, Utah to Bryce Canyon National Park

It just seemed as if there was some new photo opportunity around virtually every turn in Utah. Utah Highway 12, from Torrey to Bryce Canyon, also called "Highway 12 — A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway," was yet another example of this. The scenery along this stretch of road is a perfect complement to the two national parks it connects: Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon. Following are a few images taken along that 120-mile route:

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A sign near the location pictured above said that this was a major area for dinosaur fossils.

As we entered Bryce Canyon from the east on Highway 12, we pulled into a scenic turnout and saw a sign for a hike to Mossy Cave. Well, Mossy Cave didn't turn out to be very photogenic, but we found a waterfall along the trail that was beautiful.

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Waterfall on Trail to Mossy Cave at Bryce Canyon

IMG_3578_Utah_12_from_Torrey_to_Bryce_Canyon
This was another scene along Highway 12, as we neared our lodging for the night in Hatch, Utah.

The day after we took this drive, we spent the whole day at Bryce Canyon. What an amazing place. My next post will feature photos from there.
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