moving   no comments

Posted at 7:30 am in Uncategorized

Sage helping out with packing up for our move

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

This is the short version of an account of the trouble that I’ve been having with this blog. Read on and you’ll find information about what I’ve done to get around this problem.

About a week ago, I noticed that the “comments” feature on my blog wasn’t working properly. The most recent post that had a dozen comments, was now showing “0 comments” and even posts that did show that they had comments, could not be accessed. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy about this. Further, navigation between posts was almost impossible. I spent all of my spare time on a couple of days trying to fix the problem, but I don’t seem to be able to get everything working again. I came up with a less-than-wonderful solution. I started up a new blog at a new URL, and migrated all of the Journey to the Center files to that location. It’s up and running now, so I’m going to direct you to head over there to read the longer version of this post which explains this problem in a bit more detail, and also provides an update on how things have been going since my arrival back at the farm in early April. So, use either of the following links, OR, just click on the above photo to access the entire post at its new location.

Written by bev on May 17th, 2009

Tagged with

calf creek, utah   no comments

Posted at 8:34 am in geology,Utah

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

As promised, I’ll be writing a few more posts about Arizona and the time spent in southern Utah as we made our trek homeward to Ontario. I’d meant to finish this in time to submit to Carnival of the Arid #4, but have been so busy getting the house ready to sell, that it didn’t happen. However, please do wander over to Coyote Crossing to check out the latest edition. Now, back to our journey.

Enroute through Utah, the region between Escalante and Boulder totally blew me away. This map depicts the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Capitol Reef areas of southern Utah through which we passed.

From Escalante, route 12 winds downward into an area of immense, soft yellow domes of Navajo sandstone. The above image (click on it for a larger version), doesn’t even begin to convey the view and how this place feels when you’re above or moving through.

In places, the high domes are deeply cut by canyons through which meandering creeks flow. One of these is Calf Creek where Sabrina and I stopped to camp and hike (see above).

We arrived late in the afternoon, snagging the second-to-last site at this small BLM campground. Something should probably be said about my crappy timing for the return trip home. I had chosen to depart from Bisbee on March 15th, not realizing that we would be continously mobbed by crowds of campers during March Break. Needless to say, next year, I plan to at least look at a calendar from time to time.

My plan was to make dinner, retire early, then get up and hike the Lower Falls Trail to see the pictographs that are about half way to the falls. Sabrina had been doing fairly well on our day hikes, so I felt she would be up to the walk.

Our campsite and the next were backed by a redrock wall with many circular or oval cavities. While cooking our dinner, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation going on at the next site. The last camper to arrive wandered over to bother the lone male camper at the next site. I guess that’s the best way to describe what went on. In a booming voice, the late arrival asked if the fellow had ever camped at Calf Creek before, then went on to warn him that, after dark, droves of some kind of small rodents would pour out of the holes in the rock wall behind our campsites and swarm over everything looking for food crumbs. Next, he launched into a description of how dangerous our sites would be if a flash flood were to occur. He said he’d been camped here a couple of years ago when a flood hit and that it got real nasty. I listened to what was mainly a one-way conversation and wondered whether the late arrival was just trying to scare the lone male camper so that he would pack up and vacate his site, making way for the late comer who was stuck with a small and not-very-nice site even closer to the creek. Fortunately, he didn’t come over to bother me. Perhaps the sight of Sabrina tethered to the picnic table was enough to keep him away. All the more reason to travel with my dog, and a reminder of one of the many advantages to camping at dispersed sites in the back country.

Early the next morning, Sabrina and I set out on the Lower Falls Trail. Much of the way is winding but relatively easy walking, but with plenty of ups and downs. The hardest walking was over some patches of soft sand which Sabrina did not enjoy crossing. A few days before at Coral Pink Sand Dunes S.P., I had discovered that she really does not like to walk on any sand that gives way beneath her feet — no doubt, it bothers her arthritis at least a little. Fortunately, most of the sandy spots along this trail were short.

There were a few small scrambles, but most of the trail has been well constructed, with stone steps here and there. In the above photo, a set of these can be seen just behind Sabrina.

We took our time walking the trail, stopping many times to study the rock formations under the shifting light of early morning. The taller walls of rock are banded with yellow and red, but deeper in the canyon along the trail, the rock is predominantly red.

Water and wind have eroded the red rock into fantastic shapes and textures.

Of course, we had to stop at this formation to take the almost obligatory “Fred Flintsone” shot.

After about a mile and a half or so, we arrived at the spot where pictographs can be spotted on a high rock wall on the opposite shore of the creek. A set of binoculars would be a good thing to bring along if you want to study the rock paintings. With my cameras, I was able to zoom in to get a couple of decent shots. These pictographs are of the Fremont type in which human figures are trapezoidal in shape with elaborate decorations on the heads. Rock paintings of this type are seen throughout the Great Basin region and are dated to about 1000 years ago.

Our hike to the pictographs took us about two hours round trip. We could have gone on to see the falls, but I didn’t want to push Sabrina too much as she was still in the process of building up strength after the hardships of last year. We returned to our site at just about the time that the other campers were rising. I’d packed the van before leaving, so we headed off on our way toward Capitol Reef. I’ll write more about our travels in Utah in a further post or two.

Written by bev on May 5th, 2009

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meet Sage   no comments

Posted at 8:23 am in loss,sabrina,sage

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

As you might have guessed after reading my last post, Sabrina and I arrived home over a week ago. We’re busy every day as there’s a lot happening in our lives, not the least of which is the arrival of Sage, who is now part of what I guess you could refer to as our “family unit”. She’s a blue merle Rough Collie who came to us from Caralan and Bob Dams of Kars, Ont (Forestree Collies). The manner in which she arrived was a little unscheduled, but the search for a young collie has been more or less underway for quite some time. However, it was put on hold after Don became ill in 2007 as we knew I probably couldn’t deal with starting a young dog while also caring for him during the following months. Although Sabrina seems to be in good condition now, her deterioration during Don’s illness was a strong reminder that she won’t be with me forever and that this might be a good time to find an apprentice who can absorb some of her wisdom. That’s pretty much how Sabrina learned — by acquiring the wisdom passed along by my previous collie, Maggie. We’ve always had two collies at any given time, so I’m just attempting to return to the usual way that we did things around here in the past.

She’s only been here about a week, but Sage is fitting in well. She’s just a little over 3 months old and seems bright and quick to learn. We go for about 4 or 5 walks on the trails in our fields and woods each day. She has already learned which paths to take and likes to show off by racing ahead and hiding in the dry grass, waiting for Sabrina and I to catch up so that she can spring out and scare us (or so she believes). I’ve put up a short video clip in case anyone wants to see part of a walk from my point of view. Not that much happens, but what seems interesting to me is how Sabrina walks ahead, then stops to make sure that everyone is coming along.

In other news, it is with some sadness that I report on what is probably the demise of my trusty Windstar van. Last Sunday, while returning from the city after spending an evening with my mom and brothers, I heard a loud BANG and instantly felt the van lurching out of control. Although I had very little steering, I was able to swing the van onto the roadside. When the tow truck driver winched the van up onto the bed of his ramp truck, we could see that the steering parts – tie rod, etc.. had come apart and the right front drive axle had actually fallen out of the transmission. The right front wheel was turned out to the side at a crazy angle (see below – click on all images for larger views). A mechanic friend dropped by to look at the damage this week and we pretty much came to the conclusion that the van is probably not worth repairing. So, for now I’m driving a rental car and looking around for a replacement van — something appropriate as a home to a gypsy traveling with her two dogs — a van that is up to the challenge of being both a “camper” and a “construction workhorse” as we move into the next phase of our lives.

Although I probably haven’t written much about this on the blog, I’ll be putting my farm for sale very soon. In fact, I’ve spent the past week packing up all of the belongings I’d like to take with me as I move on. The rest, I’ll be disposing of, mainly using The Great Matter Transporter (putting things at the roadside with a big FREE sign set up beside — it works almost instantly to move objects out of my universe and into someone else’s). After I get all of the work done that needs to be taken care of, and I leave the farm in someone else’s hands to sell, my plan is to head east to Nova Scotia for awhile. At the moment, my intention is to look around for a place where we could spend spring through fall. In winter, we would return to southeast Arizona, to the region that I now like to think of as our “other home”. No doubt, there will be plenty of wandering in between points A and B as I’m restless and find it next to impossible to stay in one place for any length of time. Most days, I’d rather be off wandering around in the forests, deserts or along rivers or the ocean. However, I’m hopeful that I can find a place that will make me want to settle down for a time – or at least to plant a vegetable garden and do some hiking or canoeing around each summer. Also, to get back to my writing, photography and art — all of which I’ve largely abandoned over the past few months. But more about all of this a little later on. For now, I’m just busy packing and spending as much time as possible working with Sage so that she’ll be ready to go on the road with us when it comes time to depart for points as yet unknown.

One other note — a little belated as I’ve been without a net connection so much of the time for the past few weeks. The third edition of “Carnival of the Arid” has been up at Chris Clarke’s Coyote Crossing for a couple of weeks. You’ll find some nice things to see and read. Also, Chris invites anyone to submit posts or other material having to do with arid regions, so give that some consideration if you have something you would like to share.

Written by bev on April 19th, 2009

the return   11 comments

Posted at 7:45 am in being alone,loss,ontario

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

As most of you will know, events and places I have been, are described at least a few weeks later. Often, I haven’t had a net connection, or am so busy trying to “carry on”, that I can’t post until I find the time or a good connection. This morning, I don’t really have time, but am making a little for this post before continuing on my way.

This may surprise a few of you, but I’m now back in Ontario. Yesterday, I drove the northern route around Lake Superior between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie. It was a very long day. This morning, as soon as I finish this post, I’ll be continuing eastwards. With luck, I may be “home” tonight. I left Utah about a week ago, traveled west and north, up into B.C., then east along the trans-canada highway, pretty much following the route that took me west last October. It’s been a difficult trip — colder than I had hoped for. Yesterday, as I stopped at a few spots along Superior, the lake was still frozen in many places, especially at the western end near Thunder Bay. The ice looked unbroken out to Sleeping Giant and beyond.

I have more to write about the time spent in Arizona and Utah, but today, I wanted to write about “real time” events — things that have happened over the past couple of days.

Two days ago (April 5) was Don’s birthday. Had he not died on September 6, 2008, he would have been 57 years old. A life cut short. Seven months later, I am still learning to deal with that reality. The journey, to this point, has been difficult. I’ve found that many of the things that once meant something to me, are now meaningless: time, distance, the future, the past, home, among others. The map by which I navigated over the past 52 years, doesn’t exist anymore. In the space of a few months, it was destroyed and replaced with a new one that looks more like a map of a galaxy that is being drawn as I go. Many changes in direction are and will be happening soon. More about this in the coming weeks.

Yesterday, while traveling the north shore of Lake Superior, I stopped at Old Woman Bay to take a few photos. A week ago, my friend, Paul, met me in Utah to bring me this box made by a mutual friend, Ken Altman, a maker of bows for musical instruments. Last autumn, after Don’s death, the idea of making a special container for his ashes began to form as I drove westwards. I wanted to make a box that would be somewhat similar to a west coast bentwood box in shape but not construction — a box which could be carved and then painted or inlaid with abalone shell in a design which I have been contemplating over the winter. Initially, I had intended to make the box myself, but Paul suggested that we talk to Ken as he is a master craftsman and had the skills to make a box that would suit the intended purpose. We met with Ken and I described the box which I envisioned while he made careful notes and suggested ideas for possible construction. I left to continue on my way to Arizona.

Over the winter, Ken worked on the box between other projects. The box which you see in the photos above and below is the result. It is a thing of great beauty. I’m sorry that my photographs from yesterday can’t begin to illustrate just how wonderful this creation is “in person”. Further, there are things about it that a photograph can’t express. The scent of the wood which is Yellow Cedar from Alaska. Ken made the box from a slab which had been under his work bench for more than 20 years. It was brought to him by a friend named Don, who died several years ago. Ken so generously contributed this precious piece of wood for this project. I wish to take this moment to thank him for all that he has done to make this project possible. Thank you, Ken. The box is all that I hoped it would be, and more. Its smooth, fine grain is a pleasure to touch and hold.

The lid of the box is constructed in such a way that it lifts to reveal a small compartment in the top of the container — a place to store a few photos and other keepsakes. When I have time, I’ll work on the outside of the box and hopefully do justice to a blank canvas that is, in fact, so perfect that I wonder whether it should even be altered. Perhaps that is something I will know in time. This isn’t the gift I would have ever have imagined, or wished to give, to Don for his fifty-seventh birthday. However, it is such a wonderful piece and I know just how much he would have loved and appreciated this final gift to him.

Well, it is morning and I must be on my way. Another long day of driving — hopefully to that place which is “home” to us for a short while longer. I believe I can speak for Sabrina when saying that we’re both tired from many days on the road. It will be nice to rest awhile before continuing on the new path which forms before us.

Written by bev on April 7th, 2009

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Whitewater Draw   5 comments

Posted at 11:54 am in Arizona,birds

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

We now return to my intended post after last night’s unscheduled entry.

I can’t write about my winter in Bisbee without mentioning Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area as Sabrina and I spent quite a few days there with and without house guests. It’s a great spot for birders, especially because it is one of the main wintering areas for Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis). From around the beginning of December through to some time in March, the Sulphur Springs Valley is home to something like 30,000 of these cranes. On any day, you can usually find hundreds of cranes feeding in the dry winter pastures surrounding Whitewater Draw and the Willcox Playa which lies further north in the valley. A couple of times a day, thousands of birds can be seen as they fly out from these shallow lakes to feed on the range, and then return around sunset, but with many making a return trip around noon. I’ve posted a few photos below to give you some idea of the landscape surrounding Whitewater Draw. It’s a very flat plain surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides (Mule, Swisshelm, Pedregosa, Dragoons, Chiricahua, Dos Cabezas ranges, and the Charleston hills).

The wildlife area consists of two more or less year-round ponds surrounded by high levees with a trail system that you can walk over. Here is a map of the area that I found online. It will give you some idea of the lay of the land. The above photo is of the Cattail Pond indicated on the map.

As mentioned, a couple of times a day, the Sandhill Cranes fly in from the grasslands by the hundreds, forming wave after wave of birds. Generally, you hear them before you see them. I had hoped to put up a videotape to accompany this post, but I’m a bit pressed for time this morning. As you might have guessed by my previous post, I’m “on the road” now – more or less headed for home – so don’t have time to prepare a video clip right now. If I get a few spare moments in the next few days, I’ll post a clip in a separate post. Suffice to say that the sight and sound of hundreds of cranes flying overhead is awesome. Sometimes there are so many circling and flying in straight lines back and forth in strange formations, that I find myself thinking that the sky looks like a slide under a microscope, with hundreds of some type of organism swirling in random ways from side to side. It’s almost impossible to get your head around the sight of so many huge birds swirling around above you, never seeming to collide.

After awhile, a few will begin to drop to the earth, followed by more and more. Eventually, most will be on the ground, but from time to time, a flock will rise up and fly around for a bit before resettling somewhere else.

Stray flocks flying around just at sunset is a truly beautiful sight, so it’s well worth staying around for awhile even after most of the action seems to be over for the day.

Over the winter, a large flock of Snow Geese hung out around Whitewater Draw. They would put on quite a show with low passes back and forth over the water. Often, a few Sandhill Cranes would join their formation which was always entertaining to watch as they tried to keep pace.

At least one Vermillion Flycatcher could be counted upon to make an appearance. He hangs out on the willows at the south end of the Cattail Pond. Sometimes others could be found in the tall grass to the south of the ponds.

Over winter, hawks are also plentiful in the Sulphur Springs Valley. I think I saw more Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers and Kestrels this winter than (collectively) in my entire life. When I’d drive to Whitewater Draw or Chiricahua National Monument, I would see at least one or two dozen (or more) perched on powerline poles, fence posts, or coursing over the grasslands. From a birding perspective, southeastern Arizona is an incredible place to spend a few weeks in winter.