Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Snow Canyon State Park_feistyharriet_InstaMeet St George_May 2017 (13)

A couple of weeks ago Blue Eyes and I spent a not-nearly-long-enough weekend in St. George, Utah as part of an Instameet. While our main event was some hiking in Zion National Park, we spent some time at sunset in Snow Canyon State Park, and despite it being a weekend at the beginning of the summer, this park was essentially empty. I could snap away to my heart’s content, capturing soaring red cliffs and tiny lichen clinging to the rocks.

Snow Canyon State Park_feistyharriet_InstaMeet St George_May 2017 (10)

I love the many colors of lichen, I’ve seen minty green, lavender, orangey-red, a deep inky blue, and this bright lemon-lime. Lichen is one of the oldest and slowest growing plants on earth. Most species grow 1mm-2mm per year, some grow as little as .5 mm per year! Point five! That’s something like 4 inches in 100 years. There are some lichen in the arctic that are thousands of years old. Dah, I just love these hardy plants so much!

Snow Canyon State Park_feistyharriet_InstaMeet St George_May 2017 (20)

Right before our trip to Southern Utah I finally splurged on a new camera, and I am so glad I did. My old Canon was 10 years old and just didn’t have enough oomph for the photos I wanted to take. Thirty seconds with my new Canon and I am in-love with photography all over again.

Snow Canyon State Park_feistyharriet_InstaMeet St George_May 2017 (16)

Honestly, I just don’t see how I’ll ever get tired of those blazing red walls, part of my heart will forever belong in the Rocky Mountains where I grew up, and the other part lives in these fiery canyons and cliffs.

Snow Canyon State Park_feistyharriet_InstaMeet St George_May 2017 (11)

Can we talk about this Instameet for a minute? I’ve never been to one, but have seen photos for years of various events in a number of locations. The idea is that a bunch of internet friends and strangers descend on one location for a day or a weekend, the itinerary was pretty loosey-goosey, with a few planned activities and a whole lotta time to explore on your own. Blue Eyes and I met up with old friends (Hi, Kristin!) and made a whole pile of new ones (Hi, friends!). I learned so much about the industry of travel blogging, which I wasn’t expecting and found quite intriguing. Now, I’m not a travel blogger, far from it. I love to travel, and I love to take photos, and I love to blog, but that does not a travel blogger make. However, it was really interesting to learn about how so many of these Instameet-ers make a living by traveling around the world, this was all very informal, there wasn’t, like, a break-out session on it or anything. Just by chatting with people on our hikes and such I learned so much about their lives, their travels, and their business of blogging. I’m still ruminating on all of that.

Snow Canyon State Park_feistyharriet_InstaMeet St George_May 2017 (6)

See? More lichen. It’s my favorite.

Snow Canyon State Park_feistyharriet_InstaMeet St George_May 2017 (5)

The sun was sinking fast, and I was scrambling to get a few more shots in before the light was too low for even my tripod. But breathing in the piney-sagey scent, and feeling the warmth and heart of red rock country…this trip was so good for my soul!

Snow Canyon State Park_feistyharriet_InstaMeet St George_May 2017 (9)

Dah! New camera love!

Snow Canyon State Park_feistyharriet_InstaMeetStGeorge_May 2017 (2)

All of these photos were taken at the Petrified Sand Dunes in Snow Canyon, a super easy-peasy walk from the parking area with plenty of places to scramble and vistas and views that will take your breath away.

Snow Canyon State Park_feistyharriet_InstaMeet St George_May 2017 (18)

This little aloe-cactus-thing was, maybe, 5 inches tall. Yup, totes in love with my new camera. I can’t believe how long I’ve survived on 12 megapixels, suddenly 24 seems like I’ve been unknowingly blind for YEARS and am finally able to see again. The detail! It’s flawless and stunning and has very little to do with me, that’s just mother nature and a proper camera.

Snow Canyon State Park_feistyharriet_InstaMeet St George_May 2017 (12)

I would love to go exploring some more in Snow Canyon. Hopefully my next trip to St. George will have some more time among these glorious (and EMPTY) formations!

Confessions of a Bookaholic: Book reviews about red rock country

Capitol Reef Fruit Orchard_feistyharriet_March 2015 (7)

This year I decided to write my book reviews a little differently instead of focusing on what I read chronologically, I want to group similar books together by topic and write about them that way.

Mormon Country, by Wallace Stegner (5 stars). Stegner spent a lot of time in Utah during his formative years, and his grasp of Mormon culture and idiosyncrasies while still respecting their faith is, frankly, refreshing. This was published in the early 1940’s and while there have been some big changes in many aspects of Mormon culture since then as the LDS church has grown exponentially, some of the idiosyncrasies are now just bigger issues, and some have disappeared completely.

In addition to describing the people and culture of Utah, however, Stegner spends many chapters discussing the land, the settlement (small agricultural towns based on community and irrigation, not the stand-alone ranches of the Midwest), the working with the natural resources instead of exploiting them (Mormons did not mine, despite settling in mineral and oil rich country), history of native tribes and people, history of battles (actual and political) with the federal government in the early days of the Utah Territory, Spanish explorers, Butch Cassidy’s outlaws, legends and stories from the Colorado Strip, dinosaur hunters, and the “colonizing” Mormons who settled from Idaho to Mexico, from the Rockies to the Sierra and even outposts at San Francisco, San Bernadino, and San Diego, California.

Mostly, this book just made me homesick. Stegner’s descriptions of the wildest places of the Wasatch mountains and south-eastern Utah’s red rock country made me long desperately for home. Stegner’s predictions for Utah have almost all come true, which was really interesting to read about.

Petrified Forest NP 2_feistyharriet_March 2016

Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West, by Wallace Stegner (4 stars). The high desert, red rock canyon country of south-east Utah was the last part of the contiguous United States to be mapped, and with good reason. That country is harsh, blistering, and difficult to navigate by foot, horse, boat, or, frankly, jeep. Terry Tempest Williams says Utah has “a spine like a stegosaurus” and I think that’s quite apt. Powell is the first (white) explorer to attempt this country and try to map the rivers and mountains and plateaus. This book is that history and follows Powell’s political career for several decades as he tries to convince Congress and the public, so hot for the Homestead Act, that agricultural farming just will not work in vast areas of the arid, desert West. He failed, and it wasn’t until decades later that the US Government started to understand his points. The subsequent water war that has lasted and heightened in the last 15 or 20 years was predicted by Powell over 150 years ago, he knew exactly what would happen to the lands of the West if farming and ranching were left unchecked and the water resources were not protected.

The most exciting part of this book is the first 150 pages where Powell and a small group of adventurers run the Green River from Wyoming down through the Uintas and eastern Utah, finally meeting up with the Grand/Colorado River and continuing on through southeast Utah and northern Arizona, running the Grand Canyon, and ending up in the tip of Nevada. His descriptions are fantastic and, in many ways, a love letter to the red rock country I hold so dear. The rest of the book is more political and details the history of homesteading and immigration through the western United States, bits of the wars and treaties and decimation of the Native American tribes, and a lot of congressional arguments and acts and vetoes that led to the “opening” and settlement of the West. Stegner wrote this in the 1950’s and it is fascinating how much still holds true 75 years later on the fight for water and other sustaining resources in the hot desert mesas and mountains.

Utah Hwy 95_feistyharriet

High Tide in Tucson: Essays From Now or Never, by Barbara Kingsolver (4 stars). When I picked this book up I thought it would be include essays about Kingsolver’s life in Arizona, experiences in and around Tucson. It does not. The essays are well written and thought invoking, but only one or two has any direct ties to living in an arid desert. Just shows you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. Kingsolver discusses politics, environment protection, family, travel, and many of her own childhood experiences. Excellent read.

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, by Terry Tempest Williams (4 stars). This book is part environmental treatise, and part family history. While I sometimes did not identify with the connection Tempest Williams feels to the women in her family, I certainly felt in my bones her love for the Salt Lake valley and the Great Salt Lake herself (yes, the lake is a woman). Tempest Williams is a gifted storyteller and writes beautiful, poetic descriptions full of emotion and feeling.

Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert, by Terry Tempest Williams (3 stars). This collection of essays about red rock and canyon country was a little hit and miss. Some of them I *loved* and re-read immediately. Other essays didn’t really affect me much, or even made me angry; but, in most ways, this book is a series of love letters to the wild, rocky country I call home.

Other Reading Recommendations:

Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey

The Anthropology of Turquoise, by Ellen Meloy


Harriet sig

Horseshoe Bend and Highway 89

Highway 89 2_feistyharriet_March 2016

For the first part of March I was lucky enough to be back in Salt Lake for some work-stuff, but also to spend some much needed time with my mountains, the city that holds my heart, and dear friends and family. The road to my northern home is approximately 700 miles long, and it’s primarily desert. But, the desert is, in ways both figurative and literal, my other home. I was driving by myself, which meant I could stop as often as I wanted to for pictures and little hikes. Frankly, I don’t know why I don’t do that EVERY time I make this drive!

Highway 89_feistyharriet_March 2016

There are several places in Utah and Arizona with these stripey hills and cliffs. Most are red, but the ones here are a greenish-gray with purple-y stripes and I have always loved them. They kind of look like enormous elephants taking a nap, and you know how much I like elephants. As you near Page on the Utah-Arizona border you wind your way to the top of the plateau that towers over Lake Powell and instead of looking up at the cliffs and formations you have the somewhat-stomach-dropping opportunity to (lay flat on your belly, inch towards the edge and) look down into the beginnings of the Grand Canyon at the famous Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River.

Horseshoe Bend 2_feistyharriet_March 2016

I really wish that I had a lens to capture the enormity of this view, a major wide-angle or something so you can comprehend the vastness of the space, but also, comparatively how this tremendous bend doesn’t seem enormous when compared to the horizon and the knowledge that this is the northern end of the Grand Canyon plateau.

Horseshoe Bend 1_feistyharriet_March 2016

I mean, yes, it’s huge. Those are scrubby trees down there on the shore, not sage brush. But to think about how small this one particular place is on a river almost 1,500 miles long. This water started as snow in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and winds it’s way through the deserts of Utah and Arizona, supplying power for Las Vegas and Southern California, before emptying into the Baja and on to the Pacific. And this is just one, tiny little bend of that river.

Horseshoe Bend 3_feistyharriet_March 2016

You can see a tiny smidge of white on the river, that is the wake of a pretty massive speed boat, the kind that could easily hold a party of water skiers without feeling crowded.

Goodness, this earth is gorgeous. I realize I’m biased, but I just cannot imagine how anywhere else can give you the thrill of redrock country. The cliffs, the scale, the colors, and the knowledge that a river of melted snow created hundreds and hundreds of miles of stuff like this. It’s the kind of thought that makes you feel incredibly small and unimportant, yet also determined to protect these spaces.

Harriet sig