Zion National Park

November 8, 2016

 

We are headed to Zion. We couldn’t get reservations for the wave, but Zion has a lot more to offer. Ideally, I would love to do the narrows, but we may not have enough time, plus we need to rent out gear. Back in day, I have walked through and up several of streams, and never did I need river sandals and a hiking stick. Tops, a sturdy broken branch was used. Mostly, we just held hands for stability (think human chain).

 

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We lost an hour since we forgot to allow to daylight savings and reached the Visitor’s Centre only around 2 p.m. Wanting to make the most of our limited time, we did as the ranger suggested. We took the park bus all the way to the last stop, and worked our way back based on time and interest. Since we really wanted to do a hike and there was no time for the harder ones, we choose to start with the Riverside Walk – a simple walk on paved paths along the river. We are now down in the canyon. How different it is down here! Just as the landscape at the top is bare and barren, at the bottom it exudes life. The gurgling sound of water, the heavy green of the dense foliage, the dappled light, the gentle moisture in the air – life. The feeling is so palpable, that if you stick your tongue out you could probably taste it. The tall mountains that felt claustrophobic in the vast expanse of Badwater Basin, give a sense of protection in the narrow canyon.

dsc_0933Did you know, that the bottom layer of rock at Bryce Canyon is the top layer at Zion, and the bottom layer at Zion is the top layer at the Grand Canyon?

dsc_0949As we made our way back, we spotted little families of deer. The other walk we took was to the Emerald Pools. Here we found that Fall had followed us all the way across the continent to make an evening of it. The ranger had warned us that there was not much water in the falls, and there was just a trickle at the Lower Falls. The light was close to fading out completely. We decided to turn around as skip the chance of a moonlit stroll, as we didn’t want to miss the last bus back to the Visitor’s Centre.

Waiting for the bus, we browsed the gift shop and found out all about Kokopelli and more. Before we knew it, we were on our way to Vegas!!! The original plan was to hit the casinos, play some roulette (me) and some black jack (the husband), and end our trip city style. By the time, we got to Vegas we were knackered. After two days of sleeping on the ground all the husband wanted was to rest his back on the comfortable mattress. Also, after our last trip to Vegas, we didn’t feel like we were missing much.

A good night’s sleep and we were so ready for our long flight home.

Sunrise at Death Valley

November 8, 2016

dsc_0728If you wake up sometime a little before dawn, you can hear the coyotes howl. I unzip our window just a little bit a go back to sleep. When we step out of our tent the next morning, there is one constellation looming large over us, piercing bright stars on an electric blue sky – the Big Dipper*. In Hindu mythology, these stars represent seven (7) great sages. There is however, an eight star in this constellation. Hindu mythology calls her Arundhati, she is the wife of the star-sage Vashista. Together these two stars form their own twin star-system. This binary star has long been considered by Hindus, as the symbol of a perfect marriage. Unlike other twin star systems where one star revolves around the other, both these stars move around each other in synchrony. They stand for complete devotion, steadfast loyalty, and a union where two entities shine together as one for all eternity.  As part of the wedding, Hindu couples gaze upon this binary star (interestingly called Arundhati-Vashista and not Vashista-Arundhathi) and pray for a similar union.  The husband and I got married in broad daylight, so our priest asked us to spot it ourselves at night. All these years later, we finally got to it. We do not have the time to gaze and contemplate. We have a sunrise to catch. We hurry on to Zabriskie Point.

dsc_0780I opt to set up on the mound suggested by pamphotography below the view point, much to the annoyance of a few spectators up there. Hey, it’s not a perfect world and nobody stopped them from coming down. Just prior to sunrise, we see a pink glow above the tips of the Panamits. As the sun starts to rise behind us we see the mountains slowly wake up. As the golden light spreads across the valley floor, more rocks shake off the shadows. The red cathedral seems to glow, as though from within. This play of light and shadow is what all the early risers are here for. Once again, we breakfast on bread and cheese in the parking lot and this time head back to the campsite to pack up.

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* This is also the only constellation I can identify without help.

Sunset at Death Valley

November 7, 2016

dsc_0664We made it to the Badwater Basin in time for sunset. We opted to drive up further from the parking lot and then walk across the salt flats, as suggested by pamphotography. Walking across the salt flats is tricky because you don’t want to break the ridges, at the same time there is something deeply satisfying about crunching salt underfoot. We’ve set up our cameras and we have nothing to do except wait. If you forget to bring a mat, like we did, you can take your shoes off and use them as a cushion. Getting up is harder as the crystals will hurt your hand as you try to lift off. The Basin is at a much lower altitude than the mountains that surround it. Therefore, the sun sets ten (10) minutes earlier here. The drama begins around ten (10) minutes after sunset. We see an orange-pink cloud starting to form. Slowing it grows bigger and starts moving. More clouds form. One shaped like a dragon too. When we turn around and look behind us, we see long pink fingers ripping the grey clouds to shreds. I have seen many spectacular sunsets with blood red skies, mixed with turmeric yellow, but this crazy pink and grey is a first. While the sunset is far from what we expected, it most certainly does not disappoint.

dsc_0679As the light starts to fade, we move towards the parking lot. The Badwater Basin is also a great place to stargaze, we stay there a little longer. There is a bottle of wine and two steel glasses in the car.  The clouds take over and we head back to our camp site.

file_001Tonight’s dinner is rice and pasta cooked in an open pan over coal. This really feels like camping. Despite his protests and reluctance, I can see that the husband is enjoying the experience. The skies have cleared and we can see the stars shining brightly overhead. After a few attempts to identify constellations we call it a night. We must be up early tomorrow to catch the sunrise.

An Afternoon in Death Valley

November 7, 2016

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We head back to the Mesquite Sand dunes because we didn’t really see them last night. It never occurred to us to venture out on to the dunes. On a starry night, how gorgeous it would have been – sand, stars and a scorpion! We reach the dunes soon enough. It’s a gorgeous morning; bright but not hot. The sky is the perfect light blue that complements the soft warm colour of the sand. The sand is carved in stark, graceful curves and shadowed ripples. This dune field includes three types of dunes: crescent, linear, and star shaped. Someday we will traverse the Sahara Desert on camels, but till then, this will have to suffice. Afreen!Afreen!!

dsc_0528A short drive later, we are at the Mosaic canyons. Mosaic Canyon is part of the north-western mountain face of the valley and is named after a stream-derived breccia sediment. Breccia is the Italian word meaning “fragments”. This formation is composed of angular fragments of different kinds of parent rock, and it can be seen on the floor of the canyon in certain areas.

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wildlife spotting

The canyon follows faults that formed a few million years ago, when the rocky crust of the Death Valley region began stretching. Running water scoured away at the fault-weakened rock, gradually carving Mosaic canyon. The entrance to Mosaic Canyon appears deceptively ordinary and a short and  easy walk leads into the canyon narrows, where the surrounding rock walls are composed of smooth, water-polished marble. We didn’t go too far, as the husband forgot his shoes in the car (he was wearing sandals). The smooth ledges and narrow passages woke up my long dormant and rusty cat personality. I tried a few jumps. Nothing big, little leaps.

Death Valley Camping and Zion.jpgAfter a leisurely lunch at the Badwater Saloon, we decided to take a break and pick up souvenirs at the Furnace Creek resort gift shop.Before we knew it, we were running short of time again. We had to cut short our hike at the Red Cathedral, and drop the Devil’s Golf Course so that we could make it in time for sunset to Badwater Basin. We did not want to miss it two days in a row.

Flashback 2016

December 31, 2016

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This year has been very eventful in many ways.So eventful that travel had to take somewhat of a backseat. The first half of the year feels like it happened in another lifetime, but we did go enjoy cherry blossoms locally and camping in summer. We saw a snow leopard at the Binghamton zoo. We even saw bald eagles and flocks of migratory waterfowl at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. This was the trip of spectacular sunsets. This was actual the year of gorgeous sunsets, we were blessed with some soul stirring sunset vistas this year.  There was the trip to Montreal. So many people – so much fun! Sometime in between, we spent a week in India, flight tickets courtesy Etihad. Yours truly won those tickets in a contest last year. Soon after, life caught up with us and a million things happened, including a new house and a new job.  We spent almost all our spring weekends looking at houses. Most of our flower viewing this year was checked off outside prospective homes. Between jobs, I spent a few days with the family at San Diego. I didn’t go to Tijuana, instead I took the kids to the park where we rode a train, went on a carousel and splashed in the fountain. Best time off ever. The husband’s parents visited and we took them on a disastrous bus tour of the West Coast. I call it disastrous, but I think they had a good time. I got highlights – first time ever. Mum visited us for a few weeks and made our first Navratri and Diwali in our new house truly special. I completed my Masters (in Sustainability Management) this year. Working around the school calendar and both our work schedules left us with very little travel time, but it is not so easy to beat us. We still managed to squeeze in a trip to Death Valley and Zion. We even threw a couple of (oh wth!) fabulous house parties, made it to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and shopped over Thanksgiving. We set up our first full size Christmas tree and had a blast decorating it. We browsed the Christmas markets and bought ourselves one of the many/few things I have been eyeing for the past three (3) years. I never got around to baking that cake, but we did fire up the oven and make lasagna.  I tried my hand at making apple cider (non-fermented).I discovered Buddha’s Hand and made Buddha-Cello.  I finally pulled an all-nighter – we stayed up playing board games till 5 a.m. I made it to the ice rink. I am by no means a great skater, but just being on the ice makes me so happy. We will ring the old year out and the new year in, surrounded by friends in our own home, in this far away land.

So much more was supposed to happen in 2016, but that year is gone.

January 1, 2017

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For 2017,

I want make a trip to London, Scotland, and continental Europe

I want to go to the Yellowstone National Park

I want to go back to Kashmir, our first post-wedding destination to celebrate five (5) years of togetherness

I want to go to South America

I want to see gorillas in the wild

I want to ride a camel in the Sahara Desert

I want to invest in a telescope and a good book on astronomy, and stargaze

 

2017, be kind!