The Big Clean Living With Royalty

When we returned from our Utah vacation, we unpacked and found a guest living in our house—a stealthy guest. We never saw him and only concluded that he was there because of his rude eating habits. Whenever he decided to have a snack, he chewed holes in food bags. He chewed through a bag of raisins, our pancake mix, and the last straw was a lemon Larabar that Queen Anne had brought home from the store the day before. We guessed that we had a rodent in our house and he had to go.

Monday morning we took action. Our first step was to tear apart the pantry to find and seal off all the exits. Anne emptied the shelves and I moved the freezer away from the wall. We got a flashlight and examined the back of the cabinets but never found the black half-circle hole cartoons lead you to expect. Instead, we found droppings—especially behind and in the freezer’s mechanics.

I made a bucket of detergent and bleach in hot water and began cleaning. The area behind the freezer came first and when that was done, I shoved the heavy white box back in its cubby, so I could start on the rest of the pantry floor. Before I started, I had to move all the crap that was in my way. That included the recycle bin, the can bin, the paper bin, a step stool, and two gallon-sized paint cans in plastic bags. Her Majesty had just finished painting the kitchen and hall and stored the leftover paint in the pantry for when she needed it for touch-ups. I grabbed the two bags of paint cans and moved them into the kitchen.

“Be careful carrying those cans like that,” she admonished.

As if it was the period to her sentence, one of the bags broke and the half-full can of paint slammed to the floor. It didn’t fall over, but—in a way that only a thick liquid can do when it rapidly accelerates then immediately stops—the can’s contents popped the lid and with a big gaaalooop the sand colored paint recoiled out of the can reaching the top of the white upper cabinet door. I saw the wave go past my nose and immediately remembered that I was wearing a brand new tee-shirt. I looked down, but it wasn’t covered with paint splatter, but the white cabinet, the black granite counter top, the stainless steel range, and the oak flooring were. I’m still amazed that so much of it got everywhere, but not one drop of paint landed on the wall of that color.

You know those moments when you know you’re going to die or be seriously injured? I didn’t have anything to say for myself because I already knew that I had just cocked a loaded gun and it was pointed at my head, so I did what any sensible man would do. I turned to her and with the most sincere voice that I could muster, just asked, “Why?”

It took another hour to clean up. It was lucky that I had a bucket of wash-water at hand. By keeping everything wet, we were able to keep the paint from setting. After getting it all up, I made a rinse bucket of vinegar and warm water and that cleared the remaining haze. The moral of this lesson is that you should listen to your wife … before she tells you what to do.

What about Mickey? Well … let’s just say that he’s moved on to that great magic kingdom in the sky. It serves him right—the little bastard started this.

Until next time—jw

Kodachrome Pipe Picture of the Week

When exploring Utah’s State Route 12, you really must take time for a side trip to Utah’s Kodachrome Basin State Park—20 miles east of the Bryce Canyon entrance road. Kodachrome Road runs among the cattle pastures from Cannonville to where the pavement ends and the park entrance. There is a small entry fee which you pay at the visitor’s center. If you’re camping, the park’s sites are coveted and the restrooms have flush toilets, hot and cold water, and they’re heated in winter.

Kodachrome Pipe
Kodachrome Pipe – Sand pipes are unique to Kodachrome Basin State Park and there are over sixty of them to photograph. All you have to do is find them all.

I’ve written about Kodachrome Basin in my newsletters before because it’s a favorite destination of ours. Located on the valley floor below Bryce Canyon, the elevation is three-thousand feet lower, so in winter it doesn’t have a bitter cold you’ll find back up on the hill. But it also means that summers are warmer and the temperature can crack the century mark.

Surrounding the park are tri-colored cliffs—red, white, and gray—the same colors that make up the middle three stairs of the Escalante Grand Staircase. Unique to Kodachrome Basin is its sand pipes. It’s thought that millions of years ago, this area was like Yellowstone with geysers and hot springs and as the basin sank into a shallow sea it was covered with layers of sand. The geyser’s immense pressure forced fractures in the hardening sandstone and drilled vents. Then, as the plateau rose, rivers cut into the soft sandstone leaving the hard stone pipes behind. There are over sixty pipes in the park for you to find and photograph (hmm, sounds like a book idea). The one in this month’s featured image is on a shelf overlooking the campground like a trophy on display.

Our Kodachrome visit on this trip was by accident. Each day, afternoon thunderstorms kept us off the dirt roads we’d planned to explore. Because the park roads are paved, we changed plans and wasted some electrons photographing Kodachrome Basin in the rain. My first observation is that the colors are duller when they’re wet. My second was that the trails were muddy and the washes were running so we stayed near the roads. I’ve photographed this pipe before but wasn’t happy with the result. This time, I think I have an interesting shot for you. I call this image Kodachrome Pipe, but I may have to begin numbering them in the future. Because it was so overcast, I wasn’t aware that I was shooting directly at the sun—the bright area in the photograph’s sky. While I processed the image, I tried forcing the clouds to be darker, and when I did, the sun’s disk began to show including a rainbow ring around it. The results didn’t look natural, so I dialed it back to this version.

You can see a larger version of Kodachrome Pipe on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and come back next week—a new month—when we’ll start a new series from a different place.

Until next time — jw

Teasdale Cock’s Comb Picture of the Week

The geological roller coaster ride that is Utah State Route 12 ends on its east side in Torrey, Utah, and as the road descends Boulder Mountain’s north slope into town, there is a jagged uplift called the Cock’s Comb (Google Earth spelling) that you can get to via the side road to Teasdale. From Highway 12, it looks like a miter—a bishop’s hat, but when viewed from the south it’s a quarter-mile long section of crust ripped from the earth’s surface and stood on end. When I did some research for this post, I found that there’s something interesting about the Cock’s Comb besides being a big old hunk of rock. There are a road and trail—Fish Creek Cove—that lead to a very large panel of Fremont Era Rock Art. I wish I knew about that while we were shooting, but now I have a reason to go back.

Teasdale Cock's Comb
Teasdale Cock’s Comb-A quarter-mile uplift found outside of Teasdale, Utah is threatened by afternoon thunderstorms.

Of all the shots I took at the site, I selected this one to be this week’s featured image because of the layers. The thunderstorm was moving north from Boulder Mountain rapidly and the main part of the rift is in shade, but the smaller ridge is still in the sun. I also thought the clump of juniper trees in the foreground added to the sense of depth. I call this image Teasdale Cock’s Comb.

You can see a larger version of Teasdale Cock’s Comb on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and come back next week when we show more of the dramatic landscapes along Utah’s State Route 12.

Until next time — jw

Embarrassment Pie 2018 Utah Photo Shoot

On the road, you’re forced to try new restaurants. Some of them are good, a few are poor, but most of them are blah. Most restaurant owners don’t have an interest in food and they have little imagination. They are just trying to make a buck and so the profit and loss statement dictates the menu. I mean, my mom used to put more lunch meat on our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when she packed our school lunches than they serve at roadside dives. That’s why, when I find a place that has great food, I like to tell you about it.

Happy Couple
Happy Couple – On the grounds of the Burr Trail Grill are a pair of gas pumps as yard-art. They’re of little use for anything else now because the largest price is 99 cents.

There are eight little communities along Utah’s State Route 12. Most of them barely have a post office much less a coffee shop. Boulder is one of those small towns. It’s wedged between the—terrifying to drive over—petrified sand dunes and Boulder Mountain. If you’re not going to see the ruins at the Anasazi State Park or to drive the Burr Trail, there’s no good reason to visit Boulder … other than they—inexplicably—have two outstanding restaurants, the Hell’s Backbone Grill and—our favorite—the Burr Trail Grill. Truthfully, we don’t know about Hell’s Backbone because we stopped at Burr Trail first and keep returning each time we pass this way.

Burr Trail Grill
Burr Trail Grill – Located at the intersection of SR 12 and Burr Trail the grill is only open during the season but the food is good.

The grill is on SR 12, right at the Burr Trail—an interesting side trip that we’ll talk about another time. It’s a small wooden shack-like building that has more seating outside than in, which is good because the parking lot is usually full at lunch. It is only open during the summer—May to October—after which, the staff return to their day jobs at the ski resorts near Salt Lake City. The menu features burgers and sandwiches which doesn’t sound exotic, but I’ve had the Thai Burger and their Ruben. Each of my choices favorably impressed me. The food at the Burr Grill is good, but we dream of their pies.

Mixed-Berry-Ginger Pie
Mixed-Berry-Ginger Pie – Warm from the oven with a scoop of home-made ice cream and fresh whipped cream is guaranteed to make you forget about decorum.

This pie will embarrass you. It has the kind of crust that explodes all over the table when you put a fork to it, just like Aunt Clara made. After your first taste, you scoop up the table-crumbs and eat them. Pies are baked fresh each day and served with home-made vanilla ice cream and fresh whipped cream. There’s a changing variety each day. Anne loved the chocolate-bourbon and she had to settle for peach on our second visit.  When you order a slice, it takes a minute because they warm it in the oven. I ordered a slice of cherry-cayenne, which sounds weird, but was tangy and not hot—like a sour cherry. On our second visit, I went for the mixed-berry-ginger and that made my taste buds explode. It was the taste of berry tartness at the beginning followed by a bright splash of ginger. As you dig in, the warm pie melts the ice cream resulting in a pool of fruit-cream on the saucer. As I devoured mine, I looked across the table and saw Anne’s eyes peering over her plate while she licked it. “What!” was all she had to say for herself—queen indeed. I told you it was embarrassing pie.

When you come to explore SR 12, be sure to plan a stop in Boulder for at least a slice of pie. You may come away embarrassed, but you’ll be better off for it—recommended.

Until next time — jw

Bryce Canyon 2018 Utah Photo Shoot

Thor's Hammer And Sunset Point
Thor’s Hammer And Sunset Point – As the Navajo Trail descends, it passes by Thor’s Hammer, Bryce Canyon’s most iconic hoodoo.

Of all the sights to see along Utah’s State Route 12, Bryce Canyon is the crown jewel. All of the other stops along the way are sideshows. The park draws people worldwide and they have to use SR 12 to get to it. I, however, am a weirdo that stops at Bryce because it’s part of the highway. Interestingly, Route 12 cuts through Bryce’s north-east corner, so you get a taste of the Bryce Canyon without leaving your car.

We’ve been to Bryce a handful of times and it’s one of our favorite national parks. With elevations exceeding 9,000 ft, it’s always cooler than home. It has alpine meadows and forests of spruce, fir, and aspen, which are a definite change from cacti. There are great views from the overlooks dotting its 38-mile road and you get an understanding of the Escalante Grand Staircase when you look down from the top. Finally, there’s wildlife—if you don’t see at least one deer while in the park, well … you’re just asleep at the wheel.

Leaning Tree
Leaning Tree – At the canyon’s bottom are amazingly tall fir trees growing between formations like they were stretching to reach the light.

Like most visitors, Anne and I stopped at the overlooks on our previous visits, but I wanted to do something different this time. While we were in the visitor’s center, I asked the ranger about the trails and she recommended the Navajo Trail to get the photographs that I was looking for. It’s a loop trail that’s less than a mile and a half long. On their chart, it was a moderate hike because of its 500 ft elevation change. I thought to myself, “Piece of cake, sign me up.”

Before tackling the Navajo, Anne and I drove to the road’s end—Rainbow Point. That’s the park’s highest elevation, and in addition to the great view, there’s a flat trail—for Bryce Canyon—that loops through a grove of bristlecone pines. After completing the loop, we concluded that the bristlecone grove at Cedar Breaks was healthier, larger, and a better experience if you like walking among these ancient trees.

Wall Street
Wall Street – The Navajo Trail passes through a section called Wall Street where you’re dwarfed by the cliffs like a ‘Lord of the Rings’ setting.

As we drove back to Sunset Point where the Navajo Trail is, Anne called our insurance agent and demanded that he increase my life insurance policy—she of so little faith. When we arrived, we couldn’t find a parking space and I questioned if anyone was still at home in Europe. All of the spaces were full and a queue of three cars waited for each potential empty spot. We decided that I should go and Anne would circle the parking lot—like you do at the airport—until she found an open parking spot. With a kiss for good luck, I grabbed my camera and backpack—with water—which burst open and emptied before I made it to the rim—and set off on my great adventure.

Let me describe the Navajo Trail. On the map, it’s a 1.3-mile loop with a 500 ft elevation change. I hiked down 500 ft on switchbacks for three-quarters of a mile. At the bottom was a log-bench that felt good to sit on. Then I walked around a column and began the trek up another set of switchbacks climbing 2,000 ft in under three miles. If I went in the other direction, the numbers would have been the same. It was one of the most exhilarating things I have done in my life. I didn’t understand Bryce Canyon until it swallowed me.

Navajo Emerging
Navajo Emerging – As the trail begins to emerge, it feels like breaking the water surface after a dive.

I made my journey in 1½ hours, but I was taking photos as I plodded along the trail. I resented the kids and a young man who ran up the hill wearing flip-flops. George Bernard Shaw was right when he observed, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I’m glad that I made the effort because I got a different perspective of Bryce Canyon in a mental sense and in my work, which I hope you enjoy viewing.

Until next time — jw

Hoodoo Windows Picture of the Week

I photographed the second featured image in our Utah series on the west rim of the Paunsaugunt Plateau north of Utah SR 12. This is the plateau where Bryce Canyon is located, but this is on the opposite side. Before entering Red Canyon, there’s a dirt road that heads north to Losee Canyon (not misspelled) and the trailhead located there. In the parking lot, with a little searching, you’ll see a sign for the Arch Trail—it’s a short loop that climbs up and around the plateau’s edge. Like most trails in Utah, the Arch Trail goes up or comes down. It’s anything but level.

The Arch Trail wanders among interesting rock formations including a couple sets of hoodoos—like the ones in this week’s photo. If you’re lucky enough to wander off the trail at the right spot, you’ll find the arch that the trail is named for. At the summit, you’ll enjoy a great view of the Panguitch Valley and the Markagunt Plateau in the west. It’s not a well-maintained trail like you find in national parks, but it’s easy to follow once you’ve found it, and rangers built several flights of stairs in the difficult spots.

Hoodoo Windows
There are places outside of the Utah Parks where you can hike among the hoodoos and arches. Arch Trail near Red Canyon is one of the easier ones.

I chose this image because hoodoos always seem distant things. In this case, the trail goes right up to them. You can touch them, pose your kids in them, walk through them, and unfortunately, you can deface them with “Kilroy was here – 2018” as some people have. In this shot named Hoodoo Windows, I tried to show a feeling of intimacy with the structures. I was lucky that the light was good when I arrived at the scene—it was dinner time and the sun was on its way down.

You can see a larger version of Hoodoo Windows on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and come back next week when we present another image from a different Utah site.

Until next time — jw

Red Canyon 2018 Utah Photo Shoot

Mother Nature is ruthless. It’s not that she has a vendetta against humans, after all, we’re natural too. We have a place in her scheme of things, but to her, we’re just ants on her sidewalk and stepping—or not stepping—on us doesn’t cross her mind. She has more important things to worry about. It’s our job to stay out of her way.

Gnome Garden
Gnome Garden – Red Canyon has spires, hoodoos, and ridges like Bryce Canyon, but the sandstone is redder and the site is not as extensive. It’s the first and a worthy stop when traveling Utah’s SR 12.

For the last couple of days we’ve hiked in Red Canyon—the first natural feature you pass when traveling east on Utah’s State Route 12. Red Canyon isn’t an official national or state park, but because it’s in the Dixie National Forest, the Department of Agriculture maintains a visitor center there. It’s Bryce Canyon’s foyer. The rocks are slightly redder and tourists traveling to Bryce stop to gawk and take pictures. When they built the road, the crews drilled two tunnels through the sandstone cliffs and that’s another cool thing about the canyon.

The Forest Service also maintains trails that wander through the pinnacles, and on our visit, Anne and I stopped at the center to select a trail that was suitable for a couple of old codgers. “Oh the trails have all been wiped out by the big thunderstorm we had last week,” the ranger told us. Well … she wasn’t really a ranger, but she had a yellow uniform on and sat behind the information counter. The storm that she referred to dumped 1.75 inches in 20 minutes resulting in flash floods that ripped up the parking lot, bike path, and some of the road. The rushing water threatened to damage the visitor center and restrooms but didn’t. When we drove in, the parking lot was stained red from the mud that a Bobcat scraped off, so we knew we missed the big mess.

Flood Path and Debris Field
Flood Path and Debris Field – With a rain rate of three inches an hour, rainwater rushes through the canyons with a vengeance.

With persistence, we asked what options we had to hike among the rocks and take some photographs before she finally relented and provided us with a trail map. “This is the Pink Cliffs trail. It’s mostly intact on the east side, but people are getting lost on the west section of the loop. If you have trouble finding the trail, turn around and retrace your steps.” With that Anne and I set off for a short half-mile hike among the hoodoos.

Following the trail wasn’t our problem. We had trouble finding the trail’s beginning. We walked across the parking lot to where the trailhead was and found the flood’s debris field. We made a couple of attempted starts. We walked up paths that could have been a trail including the debris field—which was fun because the field was one-inch sandstone chips. They were triangular and gave way as you stepped on them—like walking on a sand dune. I fell once when the loose rock gave way but as I fell I managed to grab a dead tree branch to stop my slide.

Anne found the trail and she called for me to come down and showed another group of lost hikers where it was. When I met up with her, we started along the real trail. There were places where water interrupted the trail, but you could pick out the other side once you understood what to look for. We spent an hour hiking with me happily snapping pictures and Anne grumbling the whole time. We even managed to navigate the dreaded west side although Anne fell on her butt once. It was when we got back to the parking lot that I realized that my lens hood fell off, and I knew where. This time Anne waited in the truck while I returned to the site where I fell on the talus slope. I managed to find my hood and while I was there, I gave the tree a hug.

Salt and Pepper
Salt and Pepper – The two most iconic hoodoos in Red Canyon. They’re visible from the highway and cause congestion when tourists stop to photograph the pair. They’re named for the dinnerware they resemble.

Did I mention that I did the hike twice? I had to because when we got back to camp, there was nothing on my memory card. No photos at all. I was upset but decided to go back for a re-shoot. I did that yesterday and had no problem finding or following the trail at all. I finished the hike in 45 minutes and that’s stopping to shoot everything again. I even took a picture of the spot where Anne fell and dented the ground. After I got back to the truck, I put the memory card in place for safekeeping. And that’s how the dog ate my homework and this blog is late.

Until next time — jw