Gettysburg

IMG_20150802_202315788_HDR

Gettysburg will always be stuck in the past, because it will always be associated with the Civil War battle that bears its name, and the scores of dead who fell there.

Starting on July 1, 1863, Union and Confederate forces converged around the crossroads of Gettysburg and fought over the course of three sweltering summer days. Confederate General Robert E. Lee attempted to launch a second invasion of the North to divert action from Virginia and to pressure talk of peace in the North.

By the end of the battle there were 51,000 soldiers killed, wounded, captured or missing in action. It was the bloodiest battle of the war.

If it were not for the town’s bloody past, Gettysburg would be an idyllic, peaceful little town in the rolling hills of the Pennsylvania countryside. Re-enactors and guides certainly wouldn’t dress in Civil War era clothes if it were not for that fact. and  Instead, the town is a tourist attraction for visitors interested in the history of the carnage that soaked the farmland in blood 154 years ago.

Even today, there is an odd detachment from Gettysburg’s past and it’s present. Essentially, the town’s surrounding area is one huge memorial–a cemetery for the thousands of soldiers who died. But families picnic and hike in the nearby woods, and kids laugh and play on the sites of some of the battlefield’s deadliest sites, including Little Round Top.

Little Round Top

IMG_20150803_141102628
The view from Little Round Top. Note the boulders of the Devil’s Den in the center of the field of view. 

On the first day of battle, the Confederates swept Federal forces from the fields north and west of Gettysburg. However, the Confederates were unable to secure the high ground to the south of town.

On the second day, Lee’s forces launched attacks on the battlefield’s heights. The Union’s left flank lay near Little Round Top, a rocky hill that dominates the surrounding territory.

Despite it’s height and obvious tactical advantage, Union forces did not occupy it when dawn broke on the second day of battle.

Five Union regiments occupied the rough land of the Devil’s Den, a place strewn with boulders as large as twenty feet across that was less than 500 yards away from Little Round Top.

Major General Gouverneur of New York was alarmed when he found Little Round Top unoccupied, essentially exposing the Union flank.

He sent aides galloping on horseback to fetch reinforcements to take up position on the hill.

A statue of Warren is mounted on Little Round Top. He remains transfixed with eyeglasses in hand, calmly surveying the lands in front of him. I speculate the monument belies the certain near-panic Warren must have been in when he ascended Little Round Top only to find a small Union survey team.

Reinforcements arrived on Little Round Top’s peak just as the fighting got underway.

At 4 p.m. Confederate forces marched through open farmland before diving into thick woods. Advancing in pockets–the main force quickly became separated in thickets and rough ground–the Confederates encountered Northern forces at the Devil’s Den.

From Little Round Top, the large dark boulders of Devil’s Den register to a sweep of the eye, but they might not be worth noting if they hadn’t seen terrible close-quater fighting.

After a pair of counterattacks, the Union forces were forced to retreat from Devil’s Den, leaving only Little Round Top to defend the North’s flank.

The initial Union reinforcements were almost overwhelmed on the hill, but once again a rider was dispatched to find anyone who could be compelled to come to the aide of the men on tip of Little Round Top.

Once again, reinforcements came, and the line somehow held off repeated attempts to take the high ground.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain–a former school professor–held the Union’s far left flank and made one of the most recognized small-unit command in the history of the U.S. military to end the engagement.

While holding the line against two advances, he ordered his men forward down the hill.

Charging into the Confederates like a swinging gate, Chamberlain pinned the surprised southerners against another Union force who had coincidentally moved into a position perfect for completing the maneuver. The Union held.

When you visit Little Round Top you can stand and survey the land beside Warren’s lifelike statue. However, it is difficult to imagine what the scene of battle looked like, or how terrible the sound of skirmishing in Devil’s Den must have sounded to the men arriving at Little Round Top. Instead, you hear the laughter of children, who scamper up and down the stone lookout tower on Little Round Top.

They can’t comprehend the enormous loss of life yet–they’re just too young to grasp how somber a place Gettysburg is or how hallowed the ground is. Sometimes a parent pulls their son or daughter aside and points out to some distant landmark to try to help them understand the soldier’s plight–tired, thirsty, sweating, fighting, scrambling, dying, bleeding out, screaming, expiring.

Still there’s a disconnect. Bodies don’t litter the grounds of Gettysburg anymore. Instead we build granite monuments that reach to the sky, lest any man forget the consequences of war or the tragedy of America’s greatest Constitutional crisis.

 

Kolob Canyons

IMG_20160731_083457667_HDR

Kolob Canyons is Zion National Park’s less-visited far northwest corner. While the 2,000 foot cliff walls of Kolob bear a significant resemblance to the sheer cliffs of Zion, Kolob still maintains a unique identity of its own.

The narrow parallel box canyons of Kolob feel much more intimate than the grand vistas Zion offers. In Kolob, the nooks, crannies and fingers of canyons and draws feel private and personable.

Additionally, the creeks in the canyons seem greener than the arid climes of Zion. Conifers and dense vegetation crowd the banks of shallow streams.

Kolob is best viewed during the golden hours of the day, when the rising and setting sun shines its light on the high red-orange cliffs before filtering down and scattering through the green nooks of the canyon below where thin whiptail lizards scurry between rocks.

From Kolob’s visitor center, a drive through through Zion’s far corner is a short 5-mile drive, but the scenery and pulloffs make the trip feel far longer than what it actually is.

First, the road passes the Hurricane Cliffs, which are part of the 200-mile Hurricane Fault that comprises the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau. Then, there’s Taylor Creek’s piñon and juniper forests, followed by Horse Ranch Mountain,the park’s tallest point at 8,726 feet. Box Canyon and Timber Top Mountain’s fir and ponderosa pine covered heights round out the scenic views.

It’s no wonder how Kolob Canyons got their name. In Mormon scripture Kolob means “residence closest to heaven.”

You might notice a marker designating a far less tranquil historical period four miles beyond the visitor center, though.

Lee pass bears the name of John D. Lee, the only person convicted of a crime in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

In 1857 tensions were rising in southern Utah, a territory largely settled by Mormons. That year 1,500 U.S. soldiers were making their way to the territory, and that worried Mormon leaders.

In the two decades before 1857, Mormons had been driven out of both Illinois and Missouri. Once again, miscommunication and prejudice threatened to destabilize the peace. Mormons feared losing their way of life once again with the threat of approaching federal troops. To make matters worse for the Mormons, wagon trains bound for California passed through the territory they lived in. That meant competition for resources and an even greater influx of people in the region.

Tensions boiled when Lee and a force of militia men confronted and besieged a California bound wagon train from Arkansas. After days of exchanging shots, Lee entered the wagon circle and negotiated a peaceful resolution, promising safe passage.

However, when the militia men escorted the settlers from their wagons the settlers were shot and killed. Only young children who could not bear witness to the event were spared. In total, 120 people were killed in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

After the killing, the Mormon community attempted to cover up the act. Blame was passed on to Native Americans, who the Mormons reportedly joined forces with during the attack.

Ultimately, Utah militiamen and the U.S. Army never exchanged shots. Conflict and disputes were settled through peaceful negotiations. Lee was later executed for his role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and in 1870 Lee and another major conspirator were excommunicated from the Church of Latter Day Saints.

IMG_20160731_115908361

Kodachrome Basin

IMG_20160728_142256450

On a good day silence lays on Kodachrome Basin State Park like a blanket. Consider Kodachrome a quiet alternative to Bryce Canyon National Park, which is only a little more than 20 miles away.

When the scenic overlooks at Bryce get packed, you can always hop onto Utah 12 and drive towards Cannonville, past lonely ranches that sit beside fields of alfalfa. Just past Cannonville, the road spills out into Kodachrome.

Unspoiled desert surrounds visitors in Kodachrome. Your eyes sweep easily across the park’s flat basins dotted with sage scrub and juniper trees up to an unobstructed blue sky filled with cotton candy cumulus and rosy sandstone cliffs.

When the park is silent–and it often is–there is nothing to be heard, except when the wind blows.

Unique geological features called sedimentary pipes, pillars or chimneys are found throughout Kodachrome. More than 60 of these formations populate the park, and they can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Geologists still speculate how the chimneys formed–some theorize that seismic activity was involved.

The pipes reach for the sky in the flatlands and from the cliffs like huge industrial earthen chimneys.

IMG_20160728_141216068

Kodachrome got its name from National Geographic explorers who photographed the area using Kodak film of the same name in 1949.

Writer and photographer Jack Breed was on assignment searching for unknown and unnamed geographical features when he and his expedition discovered arches, colored cliffs and those weird sedimentary pipes.

Breed thought it was just the perfect place for Kodachrome film, which revolutionized color photography.

Before Kodak created the film in 1935, taking color photographs was a long and laborious process that didn’t always produce great results.

Kodachrome revolutionized color film, and gained quite a reputation for its vivid colors and saturation.

The film became a favorite of National Geographic photographers and amateur photographers alike. Kodachrome film captured the Hindenburg crash, the Kennedy assassination in Dallas and countless family outings.

Ultimately, digital killed Kodachrome, and Kodak decided to discontinue it.

However, Kodachrome Basin State Park still bears the name of the film, with the approval of Kodak, of course. The name serves as a tribute to explorers and photographers in search of a world of vivid color.

IMG_20160728_141008708_HDR

Although Kodachrome offers horse rides, hiking and camping it’s relatively easy to avoid people there.

When I visited in early August with my father we didn’t see another soul besides the park ranger that greeted us at the entrance gate. The only other vehicle we saw in the park was parked inside the campground.

Animals can be as sparse as other people in the desert sometimes, especially during the heat of the day. Long-eared and gangly-legged jackrabbits bound in between sagebrush when the day is cool. Often, raptors can be spotted in the sky.

I was fortunate enough to watch a pair of golden eagles gliding along the rim of Kodachrome’s cliff. The huge birds shone in the sun, and it was so quiet that their cries carried all the way down to where I stood watching, binoculars in hand.

Cedar Breaks

IMG_20160730_123318848
The natural amphitheater in Cedar Breaks National Monument 

Cedar Breaks National Monument is a great example of the amount of natural diversity packed into Utah’s southwestern corner.

Located between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, Cedar Breaks sits on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau at an elevation higher than both Zion and Bryce.

Since Cedar Breaks has an elevation of over 10,000 feet above sea level  it supports conditions that encourage an explosion of wildflowers in the park’s summer season.

Peaking in late July and lasting through August, the wildflowers enjoy the cool, moist conditions that elevation affords them.

When I visited Cedar Breaks in early August, the park’s forests and meadows were filled with the subdued hues of mountain bluebells, the red bristles of Indian paintbrush, the white pops of columbine, and the deep purple shades of beard tongue.

Color paints entire swaths of Cedar Breaks in the park’s meadows.

While Zion and Bryce do boast wildflowers of their own, the variety and amount of flowers that Cedar Breaks boasts provides a great contrast to the drier environments in lower lands.

More than 150 species of wildflowers grow in Cedar Breaks, and the greens of mountain meadows and forests add to the sense that the park is one huge natural garden.

IMG_20160730_112931837
Columbine along a trail in Cedar Breaks 

Spruce and aspen trees populate the park’s forests, which are currently regenerating after having been recycled by native pine beetles.

The main geological feature in Cedar Breaks is its natural amphitheater, which is more than 2,000 feet deep and more than three miles across.

Like Bryce Canyon, the amphitheater in Cedar Breaks features rocky columns and spires. However, in Cedar Breaks you get the unique impression that the park’s mountain meadows and spruce forests are eroding away into the multicolored badlands of the amphitheater.

This contrast was noted by early settlers who named the area Cedar Breaks, noting the trees–which they mistook for cedars and are actually spruce and bristlecone pine–and the badlands in the amphitheater which they called “breaks”.

Along the rim of the amphitheater fields of flowers transition into scraggly outcroppings of twisted and ancient thousand-year-old bristlecone pines that grip rocky outcroppings by way of their powerful roots.

While Cedar Breaks is worth exploring because of its unique features, it’s worth noting that the park draws less visitors than Zion and Bryce. If you’re looking for a place to get away from people it’s definitely worth trying Cedar Breaks. In 2016 Cedar Breaks attracted 899,676 people, while more than 4 million people visited Zion and more than 2 million people visited Bryce.

Bryce Canyon’s Hoodoos

IMG_20160727_191952720
Bryce Canyon’s Natural Ampitheater 

Bryce Canyon’s name is a little misleading, because it isn’t a canyon. Bryce Canyon is  actually a series of massive natural amphitheaters eroded into the Pink Cliffs of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in Utah.

Unique rock formations called hoodoos steal the show in Bryce’s amphitheaters.  Hoodoo derives from the word voodoo, and carries similar connotations. Spainards believed the rock formations held a mystical appeal to Native Americans.

Although Paiutes did not revere the hoodoos, they told tales of animals and birds living in a city that was turned to stone by Coyote, who believed he had been mistreated by the city’s residents. The product of that transformation was the creation of the hoodoos.

It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see the hoodoos as a stone city, or to see faces among the rocks. The spires of arches of these badlands look like a terrestrial city of towers and castles. Admittedly, some formations do take a bit of imagination to interpret. IMG_20160727_145541326The formation of Bryce Canyon began 60 million years ago when sediment dropped and consolidated on the bottom a body of water called Lake Flagstaff. Then, the Colorado Plateau lifted unevenly 16 million years ago creating a series of plateaus we call the Grand Staircase today.

Resulting variations in the hardness of rock layers of limestone, siltstone, dolomite and mudstone help create the hoodoos. Water flowing through the cracks of soft rock erode away from harder rock layers, creating capstones with long necks–the spires of hoodoos. The constant freezing and thawing of snowmelt, and runoff from rainwater ensure the landscape will continue to change. In fact, it’s estimated that the Pink Cliffs recede one foot every 50-65 years due to erosion.

Sometimes the hoodoos seem alive, and that’s not just because the formations undergo constant change due to erosion. During the day, it appears as if the rocks change color and even shine in the light. You can track the progression of clouds and the sun by the changing colors of the hoodoos. IMG_20160727_115050830_HDRThe shades of red, pink, brown, yellow and black that color Bryce Canyon are caused by rust. Iron oxide colors the rock because it is either found within the rock formation itself, or it is carried into the rock by groundwater. Hoodoos are also colored by bacteria that ingest dust and produces iron that sticks to the rocks creating an effect known as desert varnish. Additionally, evaporating water creates salt deposits adding streaks of white to the hoodoos. IMG_20160729_092225713

Visitors to Bryce Canyon can take in the park from several viewpoints along the park’s main road, but the best way to appreciate the hoodoos is to actually hike down in them. You can avoid the crowds on longer trails, and you get a much more intimate experience. It’s one thing to look out into the amphitheater, but it’s entirely different to be on its stage looking up at the hoodoos. The difference is like looking upon the ruins of a city melting into cliffs and dunes, and actually being in it.

That isn’t to say that the views from the Pink Cliffs’ edge isn’t impressive. They provide the best panoramas of the surrounding hills and mesas that spread out in the rolling greens of fir and ponderosa pine trees for as far as the eye can see.

IMG_20160729_081455276

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live at the Thompson House

img_3363
Local H: Ryan Harding (left) and Scott Lucas (right). The power duo that sounds like a four man band.

When I saw Local H was coming to Newport to play at the Thompson House on their Anti-Folk Revival Tour in Drop-D with Filter and Helmet, I knew I had to go.

I circled the date in my mind (8/13/14) and salivated at the thought I might actually get to see one of my favorite bands live.

That might sound crazy, but I never thought I’d get the opportunity to actually hear Local H live. The band–always a power duo and always fronted by Scott Lucas–had dropped their first album in 1995, and I didn’t know how long Lucas was going to keep at it .

I was especially concerned because Lucas had suffered a damaged vocal cord while on tour in Russia after a mugging the previous year.


To call Local H a ’90s grunge relic would be doing Lucas and his band a disservice, because his sound has evolved and matured over time.

However, most people know Local H for their single “Bound for the Floor”, a song off the 1996 album As Good as Dead with a catchy riff. The song helped the record go gold and climbed the mainstream rock charts and the alt rock charts.

The band was poised to top their performance in 1998 when they released Pack up the Cats, a seamless concept album that displayed how far the band had come in a short time.

Sonically, Pack up the Cats was more polished–the bass popped, the distortion was soaked in energy, and Joe Daniels’ drums pounded out in frenzy. It was post-grunge Cheap Trick: pop rock, served hard.

However, Local H’s label–Island Records–was in the midst of a merger, and when the merger occurred the album was put on the back burner.

The album’s story about a self-absorbed rock star making it big and going bust took a tragically ironic turn. It could just as well have been about a two man band from tiny Zion, Illinois getting dumped on by a record label (maybe?).

But Lucas survived, changing drummers twice. He’s released eight studio albums total (not including EPs and two albums consisting totally of cover songs), including Whatever Happened to PJ Soles?–an album about a mid-life crisis in ode to the actor–and Hallelujah I’m a Bum–a record about the 2012 election and economic desperation.


Only one thing gave me pause about the Thompson House show: the poster said those in attendance had to be 21 or older. I was 19.

Nevertheless, my best friend’s sister had a friend who’d played at the Thompson House before. I had a way in, and a group to go with.

When we arrived at the Thompson House I was surprised that we didn’t have any trouble getting into the red brick mansion that sits in the shadow of Newport on the Levee.

We paid our $20 and were prompted to put on bracelets indicating we were underage.

In fact, we weren’t even the youngest people there. Although most of the people in attendance were in their 20s or 30s there was one kid who couldn’t have been any older than 13 with his dad. Both were decked out in black Local H T-shirts. The kid put on a show by playing a drum kit that happened to be in the front of the house.

The Thompson House has a gutted feel to it. Its inner spaces are kept clear for crowds, save for a couple bars with limited seating space towards the front of the house and the back of the house. It’s safe to say things were probably very different when John Thompson was born here in 1860. Thompson’s claim to fame is the Thompson submachine gun, made famous by gun-toting gangsters and U.S. servicemen in World War II.

There are a few rooms to mill about in, but the main attraction is the stage area in the rear of the house. Here, Local H put on a show.

It began simply. “Hey everybody. We’re Local H,” Scott Lucas said matter of factly. And then he and his new drummer, Ryan Harding, launched into their set list.

Once they started, they didn’t stop. It began with the energetic “All Right (Oh Yeah)”, then it hopped into the blitz of “Heavy Metal Bakesale”. Unexpectedly, the Chicago power duo launched into a cover of Lorde’s hit pop song “Team”. Lucas did the song justice, while keeping true to form.

From there, they bounced between the desperation of “Another February” and favorites like “Bound for the Floor”. They nearly played songs from all of their albums, including Hey Killer, which was still several months away from release at the time.

All the while, scantily clad women passed through the darkened room offering shots while onlookers from above leaned over balcony railing with beers in hand. Basically, it felt like a frat mansion if there were such a thing.

To me it was euphoria. Watching Lucas work his footpedals, switching between his bass pickups so he could play both guitar and bass at the same time was a revelation. Even better, the band retained the same sound they record in studio. Local H was back at it.

After the show, I got to meet Harding and Lucas at their merch table. I abstained from asking questions about lyrics and song titles so as not to risk sounding desperate. Instead, I complimented the set list. I bought Local H’s new EP, asked for an autograph and was satisfied. We stuck around late into the night to see Filter and Helmet play (talk about a ’90s reunion).

When my friend Paul spotted Local H packing up, he suggested we go get a picture. We approached Lucas, and asked if he’d take a picture. At first declined. Disheartened, I thanked him anyway.

Then, with newfound energy, Lucas said “No, come here. Get over here.”

Instead, Lucas came to me and wrapped his arm around my shoulder, reached for the phone and tried to rattled off a few selfies. He’d probably had a drink or two by then, but was still amicable.

He’d grown out his mane again like he had back in ’96. There were some silver hairs in it now though. “The old guy still freaking has it,” I thought.

 

img_2089
“Hi, I’m Scott” — Lucas’ autograph on my EP.

 

Zion Panorama

img_20160726_153120
The view from Observation Point, which sits 6,507 feet above sea level

If you travel to Zion National Park you’ll probably spend most of your time looking up at the dramatic sandstone cliffs. Zion Canyon is a sight to behold; the walls of the canyon seem to rise straight up out of the ground without warning

Southern Paiutes called this area Mukuntuweap, which means “straight canyon”. The word is reflective of how Zion appears to the eye–it is a land that rises straight up from the ground.

Before being designated a national park, Zion was called Mukuntuweap National Monument from 1909-1918. The park’s current name comes from Mormon settlers who established themselves in the region in the 1860s.

The Mormons were inspired by the areas canyons and named it Zion, or “promised land”. Geographic features such as the three cliffs above Birch Creek Canyon known as the Court of the Patriarchs.

While it’s fine and good to marvel at Zion from the ground up, one of the best ways to view the canyon is from a higher elevation.

Two popular trails–Angels Landing and Observation Point–provide hikers with an opportunity to ascend to great vistas.

Angels Landing climbs 1,488 feet that travels partially over a thin trail perched on a cliff. My dad and I opted to hike to Observation Point, which climbs over 2,000 feet to the top of the Navajo Sandstone formation–a rock layer known for its contrasting colors.

The hike is an eight mile roundtrip trek that basically climbs switchbacks straight up, and then descends straight down on the way back.

After climbing the first set of switchbacks the trail goes through the smooth water-swept walls of Echo Canyon before spilling out onto slickrock slopes above.

We were lucky enough to run into a desert bighorn ram and two ewes munching on hardy shrubs. Desert bighorn live in isolation in steep and rocky areas and they can travel without water for five days or more, so the chance encounter was a treat.

Sitting across the gorge on a log, we watched the sheep mill around until another ram appeared on another slope. He spied the trio and scrambled down until he was directly across from them.

Separated by a crevice, the lone ram had no direct way to challenge his counterpart. He settled on battering a ponderosa pine for good measure. The resulting cracks were as loud as gunshots and echoed off the rocks of the canyon.

img_20160726_091155230_hdr
A desert bighorn in the shadow of a slick rock slope

In response, the ewes curiously looked up from their grazing, which prompted their compatriot to batter a tree of his own. Frustrated, the loner climbed back up his slope and disappeared. It was an interesting ritual: beating up trees for babes.

After more climbing and crossing a trail carved into the face of the canyon wall, the remainder of the hike leveled off onto the canyon rim into sand where piñon pine, juniper, and sage grows.

The climb was well worth the effort. Apparently the trek is worth it even if you’re afraid of heights. As I took in the view and watched raptors climb columns of warm air an older man plodded up the trail behind a young girl.

“Well is it worth it?” he asked before coming into view of the canyon. “I don’t like heights much,” he explained.

I imagined the poor guy clutching the wall of the cliff face. However, he seemed satisfied when he finally came into view of the expanse of canyon. He turned and said something to the girl. I’d like to think he said, “Well, that was worth it.”

 

 

Zion’s Waters

img_20160725_102306054_hdr
The Virgin River cuts a green ribbon through Zion National Park

One of the first things that struck me about Zion National Park when I was there in August was the amount of color Zion’s canyons hold.

After being lulled by the monotonous Mojave Desert and the buttes of the Colorado Plateau, the startling shock of green vegetation and the reds and pinks of the sandstone cliffs stand in stark contrast to the surrounding deserts.

At least that was my reaction when I first entered Zion — the deserts of southwest Utah are lovely in a way, and even relaxing in their quiet solitude, but the scrub and buttes become predictable after a few hours worth of driving.

Zion Canyon manages to stay relatively green, even though it averages 16 inches of rainfall per year. Water determines where and how things grow. Wherever there is a trickle of water, there is also life.

When I started hiking Zion I sought water, because that’s where nature is concentrated in the desert. According to the National Park Service, 500 times more species originate at water sources in the desert, compared to the surrounding area.

First, I hiked along the Virgin River, which cuts a ribbon of green through Zion. The Virgin isn’t much to look at on a normal day–I found a shallow and lazy river crowded by large cottonwoods with visitors swimming and wading in its shallows..

Despite lacking size, the Virgin actually packs quite a punch. The river descends sharply, dropping 7,800 feet over its 160 mile course, giving it the force to cut entire canyons (as it did in Zion).

Elsewhere, water is scarce. Luckily, trailheads point towards popular day hikes like the Emerald Pools trail.

I hiked the short trail, and to my surprise found small pools of water teeming with life that supported hanging gardens.

Hiking up through short scrub oak and aspen, I came upon the first pool on the trail. It looked like the type of pool a crazed and thirsty wanderer would stumble into. Really, it was just a place where water could collect runoff from the canyon cliffs. However, the pool was filled with sizable tadpoles. Canyon tree frogs inhabit the pools, and I found their spawn in each and every pool I came across.

img_20160725_085426394
The lower pool on the Emerald Pools trail

Up the trail, a trickle of a waterfall rained on a hanging garden filled with ferns, golden columbine and Indian paintbrush. Hummingbirds busied themselves buzzing between flowers. Moss clung to wet sandstone wherever it could.

I’d stumbled into a fairy garden in the desert. I wondered if these things were the fodder that made mirages.

The larger, and upper most pool stood at the base of the canyon’s cliff walls. Canyon wrens stopped by to take a dip while frogs chilled out on rocks, apparently unalarmed at their relative isolation in a body of water the size of a swimming pool.

The short day-hike gave me an appreciation for the power that water holds over the arid land that I was in. Not only because it determined for where things lived either; by the time I exited the park I’d seen old log jams discarded by flash floods, and I’d driven by a car-sized boulder carved away from the cliffs by water.

 

About Me

My name is Ethan Rudd. I am a fourth year journalism student studying at the University of Cincinnati. This is my second year at UC. Previously, I spent two years at Wilmington College in Clinton County where I competed in track. A foray into color commentary for local high school football games sparked my interest in communications, particularly journalism.

I’ve lived just outside of Cincinnati for all of my life on a farm set back from the road. Living on  a farm has given me a great appreciation for nature. There are always turkey and deer around, and on some nights you can hear coyotes calling. My interest in nature was a little predetermined though. Both of my parents worked as wranglers in Estes Park, Colorado before I was born. When I was old enough to tote around my parents took me to Estes and strapped me on their backs before heading into the mountains. Ever since then I have had a love for the American West’s mountains and open spaces.

Most of my traveling has been directed west, particularly to National Parks. I’ve had the opportunity to explore Utah, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, the Dakotas, and the Four Corners region.

Over the next several weeks I intend to use this blog to sharpen my writing by focusing on travel writing for a class I’m taking at UC.

When I’m not traveling or writing I’m probably caught up in a sport (playing or watching) or reading.

You can check out my writing (usually in sports) and the writing of my fellow Bearcats in UC’s student newspaper, The News Record, at www.newsrecord.org