Friday, June 24, 2011

Jason's Week

Jason's week centered on mountain bike riding in various locales, but with a mix of other activities: an Isotopes baseball game followed by fireworks, movies - Kung Fu Panda 2 and Cars 2, church, another wedding (Connie Lacy's daughter, Melissa, who also married a Joey), the Rio Grande Nature Center, Putt-Putt, fast food, ice cream, and TV.  Summer vacation and retirement have a lot in common.

The best riding, we thought, was irrigation-ditch bank riding in the north valley.  You've got shade, bumps, roots, and narrow spots, but generally flat terrain, interesting backyard views, and the ever-present challenge of not riding into a tree or the ditch.

Fire danger meant that national forest trails were closed, but we rode the Arroyo del Oso trail in Albq and the foothills trail along the west side of the Sandias.  Most days started with a ride from the house to the subdivision gate to get the paper with a few loops through the neighborhood.   We had a great time.  Next year will be even better.

I'll be flying Jason home to Cary, NC this weekend, then nephew Sterling arrives Monday evening and we'll soon be off Tuzigooting to Creede and Westcliffe, CO through most of July.  Stay tuned.

Rob and Susie

El Morro

Coming home from Canyon de Chelly, we stopped at El Morro National Monument, which is about 135 miles west of Cedar Crest.  This large sandstone outcropping became known as Inscription Rock because many early explorers and travelers inscribed their names and pertinent, to them, facts noting their passage: an early-day "Waldo was here" sort of notification.  The first European explorer's inscription dates to 15 years before the Pilgrim's landing at Plymouth Rock.  We wondered whether any modern graffiti will be monument-ized 300 years from now.

One of the earliest and most significant inscriptions was done by General Don Diego de Vargas, in 1692.  He, Joey Vargas's ancestor, no doubt, proclaimed that he had "conquered for our Holy Faith and for the Royal Crown, all of New Mexico (however it was defined at the time) at his own expense (emphasis added) ... ."  Here's a picture of Don Vargas:

This particular rock was important to travelers because there was a year-round pool of water at its base.  The pool has been deepened and stabilized by the park service. 

An early trading route from the Rio Grande to Acoma Pueblo to Zuni Pueblo passed El Morro.  The railroad, Route 66, and now I-40 parallel this route about 30 miles to the north.

There are pueblo ruins on top, pre-dating the European explorers, but, late on a hot day, we did not hike up to see them.  The outcropping is U-shaped, not a mesa like Acoma and other formations in the area, and contains a grassy box canyon in its interior. 

So, now you've had your history lesson. 

Karen and Mike flew home on Saturday and Jason stayed the next week with us.  Details next.

Rob and Susie

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Canyon de Chelly

On Thursday of the post-wedding week, Mike, Karen, Jason, and I drove to Canyon de Chelly, AZ - a national monument because of its geological and historical significance.  (Chelly, which is pronounced Shay, is a Spanish/French rendering of the Navajo word for canyon.)  (Susie was a bit under the weather - post-wedding syndrome? - but the prospect of bouncing around for three hours in a jeep, peering over 800 ft. cliffs, and hiking to such opportunities wouldn't excite her in any case.)

The Canyon is in NE AZ, on the Navajo Reservation. En route we stopped at Window Rock, AZ, headquarters of the Navajo Nation, named for the window in the rock you see here:

The park adjacent to the Window Rock has this statue recognizing the Navajo Code Talkers, the Navajo soldiers who communicated battle orders and other secret information during WWII in their native tongue.  Check out the dramatic narration at the above website.  There are not many Code Talkers left.  Later, at a restaurant in Chinle, I saw an elderly Navajo gentleman wearing a cap labeled Code Talker - awesome.

We had booked a canyon jeep tour for four o'clock, so, arriving about one, we had time to check into our motel (the historic Thunderbird Lodge) and drive to the canyon overlooks on the north side of the canyon (a v-shaped pair of canyons forms Canyon de Chelly; if you have Google Earth you can get a good view of the terrain).  Some sample shots:

It's a photographer's paradise.  Here's one at work now:

Our tour-jeep driver took us a ways up both canyons, pointing out cliff-dwelling ruins and petroglyphs and other rock art along the way.  (Except for one location - the White House ruin - you cannot enter the Canyon without a Navajo-certified guide.)  Also, a substantial number of Navajo families summer in the Canyon, raising some crops and tending sheep.  Here are a few pictures from our tour:

Do you see a face in profile on this cliff face?

The next morning we drove out to the White House Ruin overlook on the south rim from where you can hike to the ruin - about 45 mins. going down.  Some views on the way down:

And some views from the canyon floor:

There are signs saying do not take pictures of the residents, so I didn't, but under that little cluster of trees in the center of this picture is a small corral with some sheep in it.  A Navajo lady was tending them as we walked by.  In the trees at the left there is a hogan, her summer residence, I presume.

A small herd of horses had the run of the canyon.

And, here is the White House Ruin:

The lower ruins were once a multi-story structure connecting to the cliff houses above.

Incidentally, at most of the overlooks and at the White House Ruin there are vendors selling jewelry, rock art, and pottery.

Back on top, we checked out the other overlooks.  This first picture is significant for this reason:  Years ago, when Mike was home from college, he and I took an Indian Country driving tour: Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley, and Acoma Pueblo (as I recall).  So, this trip was sort of a stroll down memory lane for us. At this overlook back then there was an Indian rock band out on this point being photographed for an album cover.

Probably the most known feature of the Canyon is this pair of spires called Spider Rock.  The taller spire(800 ft. tall) is regarded as the home of Spider Woman, a figure in the Navajo creation story and who is also said to be the one who taught the Navajo to weave.  We didn't have a good sun angle for pictures, but you can easily google up some great pictures.

And here Karen demonstrates how we controlled the child in our group:

Actually, at about this time I was wandering around in the background of this picture and Jason came after me.

We left Chinle in early afternoon and headed for home.  Stopped at El Morro - next posting.

June Things

Greetings, Friends and Family.  June has been, and continues to be, busy.  The big event was the marriage of Heidi Hinkle to Joey Vargas on June 11.  Susie and I escorted Heidi down the aisle and I proclaimed that "Her mother and I" supported her in this union.  (You don't give the bride away these days.) 

For wedding pictures see the Facebook page of Heidi Hinkle Vargas.

For those who don't know about this storybook romance, Joey and Heidi were friends, but not an item, from fifth grade through high school, then went separate ways and were reunited some 17 years later via facebook.  We're thrilled.  Everyone who knows them is so happy for them and has said so on Facebook.  Their story and more wedding pictures here.

Son-in-law Paul and granddaughter Kaci sang a duet at the wedding - the musical highlight for us.

The wedding was held at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort, on the bank of the Rio Grande just north of Albuquerque.  We stayed a couple of nights there and one morning I went walking along said bank.  Some pix:

There was a little of that Arizona-fire smoke in the air, but not bad at all.

Just before I took that sunrise picture, what I thought was a large log went drifting by.  Seconds later, I heard a loud Whack, and turned around.  It was a beaver, I think, or else the Rio Grande Monster, slapping its tail as it dived under the surface.  Repeated the performance a few more times.

Sunday, June 12, we had Mike and family; Jeff and family; Mandi and Paul; Matt, Suzy, Kaci, and Andrew; Kenny and Vonnie Hinkle; and Joyce and Jay Rush out for a day of visiting and chowing-down in Cedar Crest.  Kenny and Joyce are siblings of Susie's late husband, Manny.  Sorry, but I didn't get pictures all around, but here are a couple of young grandkids pictures:

The bedroom glow comes from the sun shining through maroon shades.

Jason recently re-started bicycling, having not ridden much since the training wheel stage of bicycling life, and is now really into it.  I looked into renting a bike for him to ride here - he will be with us for two weeks - but found a good used just-right mountain bike to buy for less money.  Just happens to be the same make and colors of my mountain bike.  Also is an incentive for Jason to come back and visit often.  More on bicycling adventures later.

 Tuesday, Mike, Karen, Jason, and I went rafting on the Rio Grande, a white water section between Taos and Espanola.  Here's a partial publicity shot from the rafting company.  Will post our pix later after we purchase them.

Coming next: Trip to Canyon de Chelly, AZ, and El Morro (Inscription Rock), NM.