Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Connection Among Mothers

When I first met up with a group of vandwellers in the Spring of 2010, I felt a connection with these fellow wanderers that was unexpected.  Our common loves -- of nature, experiencing new places, freedom of the road, and a simple lifestyle -- all contributed to my knowing that I had found my tribe, a group of like-minded people.

One connection was extra meaningful.  Katie and I had both lost a child, her "Princess" and my Elise. Together we talked, cried, and hugged.  I was comforted to connect with another mother who knew the pain.

Jasper kissing his Mama Elise (1978-2008).
(Photo from husband and dad, Cameron's blog, 2007)

After a few days, I was leaving the group to continue on my journey.  I said my good byes and started to drive off when Katie signaled me to wait.  She ran up to my car and gifted me with one of her precious knives, a mini skean dhu in a beautiful beaded necklace sheath in the Native American tradition.

Some of Katie's smaller knives.  In the upper right are her
mini skean dhu and necklace sheath.  (photo from Katie's blog 2/8/08)  

To be honest, I was so overwhelmed at the time, I can't remember what she said. But, I clearly remember the love I felt from her. I have carried that knife and sheath with me ever since, remembering Elise, Katie and her Princess, as I've traveled the open roads.

A few months back, I knew in my heart it was time to pass that gift to another mother, another vandweller, a dear friend.  Debra had lost Christopher.  I'd seen her pain and knew that she was to be next in the chain of mothers to wear the sheath and knife.

When Debra's travels unexpectedly took her within 6 hours of me earlier this month, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see her; and, the opportunity to pass along Katie's knife and necklace sheath.

So, deep in a pine forest, sitting in Debra's cozy van, with the pitter-patter of rain on the roof, I told Debra the story of Katie's gift.  Then, I gave it to her, most appropriately on Indigenous People's Day. We both cried, hugged, and cried some more. Then, I was honored to hear more of Christopher and Debra's story, a true love story that ends with unbelievable sacrifice and loss.


I am humbled to have been both the recipient and giver of this poignant symbol of love, loss and connection.  And I am so grateful to be bonded on either side with these amazingly strong women.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Unusualness in March

I love being in nature and experiencing some of the more unusual occurring phenomenon. Sometimes that unusualness is fleeting, a moment in time.  Other times it's stationary, and designated as a landmark or, if truly spectacular, as a National Park.  Rare is it that one experiences a fleeting bit of unusualness within a spectacular landmark of unusualness.  But, such was the case with the super bloom within Death Valley National Park in March.  The super bloom happens, on average, about every 10 years when Autumn rains reach Death Valley, typically one of the driest and hottest places on earth.

Desert Gold wildflowers in Death Valley National Park.  3/5/16  

A single Desert Gold wildflower.  Death Valley, 3/5/16.  

More Desert Gold surrounded by a bleached dead bush,
and other blue and white wildflowers.  3/5/16  

But, beyond the super bloom of wild flowers, Death Valley is simply spectacular in and of itself, with incomparable vistas.

Sand dunes in the distance.  Death Valley, 3/5/16.  

Harmony Borax Works, and Mustard Canyon, Death Valley.  3/8/16  

Salt Creek.  Home of the Salt Creek Pupfish.
Pupfish are amazing -- able to live in very salty water between temperatures
that are almost freezing to almost boiling.
They are called "Pup" fish because they scurry around like little 1.5" puppies,
the males protecting their territory and harem.  3/8/16  

Dante's View at 5500 feet over salt flats, Death Valley NP, 3/9/16.  

Unusual formations in 21 Mule Team Canyon.  3/9/16  

Colors, textures, and shapes amaze in Death Valley.  3/9/16  

Multiple colors on the hillsides, Artists Pallet, Death Valley, 3/9/16.  

Joshua Trees look other worldly.  Not a tree at all, but a yuca.
Although there's a National Park named after them in California,
These blooming specimens call Pahrump, NV home.  3/15/16  

Between Pahrump, NV and Death Valley National Park is Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada at the California border.  Ash Meadows is as significant water-based preserve as the Everglades National Park in Florida.  Ash Meadows has more endemic species than any other place in the US.  Endemic = found no other place in the world.   Of the 26 endemic species in Ash Meadows, 5 are endangered.

Ash Meadows is an oasis in the desert.  Thousands of years ago, it use to be connected with a large water way, originating at Mono Lake.  Over time that water way dried up, leaving Ash Meadows an evolutionary island supplied by springs and seeps.  Species within Ash Meadows evolved independently from their originals.  This place is truly unusual.


Devils Hole is an evolutionary isolated area within Ash Meadows
that's managed by Death Valley National Park.  It's a secured area due to
it's scientific importance.  It's home to the Devils Hole Pupfish.  3/20/16  

An overlook to Devils Hole is accessed through a caged tunnel.  3/20/16  

Devils Hole.  Not much to see, not even with binoculars.  But, here are two interesting
facts.  Exploration has gone as deep as 500', but they've not found the bottom.  When
there's an earthquake in other parts of the world, it creates waves in Devils Hole
up to 6' in height.  3/20/16  

The access to Kings Spring within Ash Meadows was great with boardwalks and
artful bridges over the creek that flowed from the spring.  3/20/16  

Kings Spring, a spiritual location and historic meeting place for the
local native nations.  3/20/16 

Looking into Kings Spring, home of the Ash Meadows Armagosa Pupfish.
The male pupfish here are electric blue, the females were green.  3/20/16 

The Kings Spring boardwalk back to a covered picnic area, pit toilets
and parking lot.  Nice facilities, but some roads were washboard.  3/20/16  

Another super bloom just outside of the refuge.  I'm not sure if this is
the Desert Gold wildflower, or the endemic Ash Meadows Sunray.  3/20/16 

"Unusually picturesque" is a good description for the Alabama Hills; so
much so that many movies have been shot here
among the granite outcroppings, under the Sierra Escarpment,
featuring Mount Whitney.  3/21/16 

Globemallow wildflowers and brush cling within the granite crevices.  3/20/16 

And I find a crevice, an alcove for myself
among all this spectacular unusualness.  3/21/16.  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sunrise, Sunset

I love the sunrises and sunsets in the desert southwest.  Here are some photos of a few during my last 3 months on the road, with a couple moon rises thrown in (in chronological order).

Sunrise at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) campfire, still smoldering
from the evening's festivities.  Quartzsite, AZ 1/16/16 

Sunset toward the end of the RTR.  Quartzsite, AZ, 1/18/16 

Sunset during my first night in Ehrenberg, AZ.  1/19/16 

Sunset's long shadows and alpen glow.  Ehrenberg, AZ 1/23/16 

Sunset in Ehrenberg, AZ.  1/23/16  

Last of sunset's color.  Ehrenberg, AZ 1/29/16  

Sunset through a dust storm.  Ehrenberg, AZ 1/30/16  

Watching the sunset with friends Debra, Colvin and Ray.
Lake Havasu City, AZ  2/14/16  

Moon Rise at Craggy Wash.
Lake Havasu City, AZ,  2/19/16 

Moon Rise over Mt. Charleston.
Pahrump, NV, 2/21/16  

Alpen glow at sunset, highlighting Mt. Charleston, the Joshua Trees
and other desert plants at the foothills in Pahrump, NV.  3/19/16  

Sunset over a Joshua Tree forest, last night in Pahrump, NV.  3/19/16  

At sunset, the Sierra Mountain Range casts their shadow over the
Alabama Hills and the Owens Valley.  Lone Pine, CA, 3/20/16 

Rock formations in the Alabama Hills at sunset.
Lone Pine, CA  3/20/16 

Road into the Alabama Hills after sunrise.  Lone Pine, CA, 3/21/16 

The Sierras at sunrise.  BLM's Pleasant Valley Pit Campground,
Bishop, CA  3/22/16