Point Sublime Overlook at the Grand Canyon

Yeah, the one everyone writes about, the Grand Canyon. There are several view points, I think I’ve been to all of them now except the one I most want to visit. The one where you can stand on a glass overlook and look straight down into the canyon… someday. I’d seen pictures before I actually visited the Grand Canyon, I remember thinking, “Yeah, that’s big, looks amazing.” Well, no, it’s not big, its huge! It’s breathtakingly humongous. It’s much more than amazing, it’s awe inspiring. No picture could ever really give you the full giganticness and grandeur of it. You really do have to experience it for yourself…

Here’s an excerpt from my book as my characters experienced the Grand Canyon:

“A few minutes more and the plane was showing them the vastness of the Grand Canyon. They all oohed and ahead as the glorious scene entered their view. The vast canyon seemed to go on forever, it was as though there were a whole mountain range within the canyon with deep ravines, cliffs, and a river. The beauty of it had Sarah and her parents repeatedly saying “oh look at that,” for the duration of the time they were above the Grand Canyon.”

This is a review from a friend, (Socrates) who’s visited the place a lot:
“Beyond Awesome

Reviewed May 20, 2015

Once again we returned to our favorite vantage point of this unbelievable natural wonder, Point Sublime… and once again we were amazed at the overpowering scope of its thrilling beauty. Although it requires a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle and just under two hours of slow going to reach this, the best view of the canyon, the scenery of the forest and meadows is breathtaking, wild life abundant, and only a handful of visitors to share your view… a peaceful picnic on a finger jutting out into the this awesome chasm is truly life at its most generous moment…”

As I said before pictures can’t really show the full canyon effect, but I of course took some. So here’s my feeble attempt at capturing something beyond the camera’s capacity:

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Oak Grove…

Not far from the Honeymoon Trail is another wonderful oasis in the middle of the desert, Oak Grove, it’s a part of Dixie National Forest in southern Utah, with an elevation 6800 ft. I’ve been up there a couple of times and each time there was no one else around. Just you and the beauty of the place.

It reminds me of back home with tall pine trees that reach for the sky covering the top of the mountain. It’s almost serene, a place you can go to think, have a picnic, or just write a few scenes in your book. This place has an old rustic rock gazebo, beautiful trails, and a spring that pools up along one trails creating a picturesque place that just one visit gives a person forever memories.

This scene from my book, New Parish, is set in Oak Grove:

“He’d shown her the trail that led to the gazebo he built before he ever built the cabin. He’d used very rustic materials to build it, round creek rock and rough hewn beams and poles for the open walls, with split cedar shingles for the roof. Sarah thought about sitting in there on the benches that he’d made to go around the inside along the creek rock lower walls. Then her mind turned to the other paths they walked, one led to a small waterfall stream that they had splashed each other in, Sarah smiled warmly at that memory. Another path led them through the tall ponderosas that seemed to be reaching for the distant sky, she remembered seeing little snippets of the surrounding mountains through the trees which gave them even more grandeur.”

I always try to make the settings in my books as real as possible, so, I write about places I’ve been… those places range from all over the south east to all over the south west, and a few other places. I do love to travel…

Below are a few pictures from my visit to Oak Grove:

 

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Kanab UT – The Cowboy Town

Kanab UT, ever since the first time I visited this awesome place I’ve called it The Cowboy Town. There have been some amazing real and fictional cowboys roaming the streets of Kanab and the surrounding areas throughout its history. They filmed loads of old western movies there, and around there, there’s even a museum with some of the old movie sets out back to show off the history of that era. The local restaurants have signed photos of the actors who frequented their establishments hanging on the walls, well, Nedra’s does anyways. If you go to Kanab you have to go to Nedra’s and the museum, they’ll both give you some necessary history and culture of the Cowboy Town.

Kanab is also another stop along the Honeymoon trail, which I’ve been writing about lately. The fella I mentioned in my last post, Jim Emett, (that was a guide to Zane Grey), was the marshal of Kanab for a while before he went to Lees Ferry to work there. I’m learning more and more about Jim Emett, he was quite an amazing person, the kind of person legends are made of.

Because of my interest in the area, its history and Jim Emett, I’m reading Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey, (I usually stick with Louis L’Amour) I found out that Zane Grey wrote about the areas I’ve been living in and visiting and described them in some detail in this book and a couple of other books. It’s been an interesting read so far, it’s fiction of course, and he doesn’t have too many good things to say about the Mormons and their system of plural marriage but the descriptions of the area are good. He did make at least two visits out to this area, but only met a few Mormons and never lived the religion, or as far as I know experienced it except from an outside looking in with a prejudice perspective, so his point of view on that is spurious. (I think the rest of the story needs to be told on the plural marriage issue, lots has been told on one side, it’s time for the other side to emerge.) I do love his descriptors of Pipe Springs, Lees Ferry, the Grand Canyon, and the surrounding areas, though. He used the experiences he had in this wondrous place to create an amazing setting for his book.

In my books I try to infuse my characters with the real life experiences that have been so inspiring to me, both out here and back home in Georgia and Tennessee. I think a writer should write about what they know or have experienced, it fills the story with life.  It also gives the writer some pretty great adventures…

Every year in Kanab they have what the locals call Cowboy Days. I’ve watched as the wagon train came in from the long ride. It was wonderful to watch and experience, actually going out on the trail and doing that must be so incredible, I can only imagine… The link below will show you what things are like during those Cowboy Days.

https://www.westernlegendsroundup.com/

The trail ride:

https://www.westernlegendsroundup.com/events/wagon-train-2017-4-day-3-night/

A few pictures from my adventures…

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Lees Ferry – Another stop along the Honeymoon Trail…

Not too far from the Vermillion Cliffs there’s another spot on the Honeymoon Trail, that I’ve visited, it’s called Lees Ferry. Another beautiful oasis in the middle of the desert, it’s called Lees Ferry because there was a ferry there that allowed pioneers, cowboys, Native Americans, mountain men, and even a writer or two to cross the wild Colorado River there – and the man who manned the ferry first was John D. Lee, ergo Lees Ferry.

The area was settled by Mormon families who of course were polygamous. The third man in charge of the Lees Ferry and the Lonely Dell Ranch, where the families lived, was Jim Emett. The reason I mention him is that he was a guide to Zane Grey when he was out that way hunting mountain lions. It was said that Zane Grey admired him and wrote about him both figuratively and literally. I thought that bit of information was cool… it set my mind to pondering what things would have been like when Jim Emett guided Zane Grey out into the vast wilderness and what sort of conversations they might have had…

Lees Ferry is now a part of Glen Canyon National Park and will always be preserved for everyone to enjoy and learn about. The history, the beauty, and the hardships are all there to inform and haunt visitors, permanently. Lees Ferry is honestly one of those places you really need to experience in person to get the grandeur of the whole thing. It’s truly breathtaking…

I try my best to capture the natural beauty that is all around here, in my books. I also try through my characters to show a bit of the history of the area, the plural marriage aspect, (in a positive way, because just like monogamous marriage, it’s not all bad), and the respect the people here have for the land and each other.

A snippet from my book New Parish, for you:

“Sarah sat listening to them without really listening, she peered out the wide panoramic windows of the plane. The scene below was amazing and filled with the exquisite desert landscape she was falling in love with. The rich colored mesas, the prairies filled with sage brush, cactus, and so much more than Sarah had imagined would be there, it was all becoming a part of her new life. This excited Sarah, it gave her something to explore and learn about while she was contemplating the next part of her life…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The links below will show you more, if you’re interested:

National Park page:

https://www.nps.gov/glca/planyourvisit/lees-ferry.htm

Loads of history and information about this beautiful place:

http://grandcanyonhistory.clas.asu.edu/sites_coloradorivercorridor_leesferry.html

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The Rough and Rugged Honeymoon Trail…

There’s a rough and rugged trail that meanders from Snowflake Arizona to St. George Utah. Well, the rough and rugged trail used to be the only way to get from Snowflake to St. George, now it only takes about six hours to traverse the distance, back in the 1800’s it took 4-6 weeks. There’s a nice smooth highway for most to the distance now that allows you to take in the majestic scenes along the way with ease. The original rough and rugged trail is still mostly intact, though you’d need a four-wheel drive vehicle of some kind to travel on it, (I’m sure they would’ve loved to have a four-wheel drive back in the day as well.) That rough and rugged trail was dubbed the Honeymoon Trail back in the 1800’s, and is now a part of the western history I love to visit and write about.

A sign along the Honeymoon Trail.

There’s over four hundred miles of the rough and rugged trail that holds not only beauty but many dangers for those brave enough to take on the challenge. The settlers in the 1800’s would take on that extreme challenge because they wanted to get married (plurally or monogamously, I’m not prejudice either way) in the St. George Temple, thus the naming of the trail, The Honeymoon Trail.

The Pipe Springs Monument, that I wrote about last week, is one of the stops along the Honeymoon Trail. I’ve visited several points of historic interest, to me, along this trail. Hopefully I’ll visit a few more soonish. The Vermillion Cliffs was one place I was particularly entranced with. I wrote about an experience I had there in my book New Parish:

“… They spent a few moments enjoying the rare scenes of what was like a bygone era, then the plane flew past, and Brother Michael said, “There they are, the Vermillion Cliffs.”

            He was pointing to a range of mountains that were almost completely barren of vegetation. The cliffs had a rich purple hue with some of the coral earth tones of the New Parish mesas. They were much larger and longer in range, “Wow…” thought Sarah. The plane flew closer and closer and went along the whole of the cliffs giving the passengers an incredible view of the beauty that was there.

            Sarah jumped as her dad suddenly shouted, “Oh, oh! Look! There’s one!”

            Everyone looked to see the giant bird he was so excited about. It was circling just above the top of one of the cliffs. It flew slowly around and around spiraling higher and higher. They all watched as the condor ascended into the sky, at times looking like a kite hanging on the wind, frozen in time. The condor gradually soared out of sight… Sarah had been so wrapped up in the experience that she’d almost forgotten to breathe. She thought to herself, “Wow, they’re amazing…””

Seeing that condor soaring above the Vermillion Cliffs was truly an experience I’ll never forget.

 

Below is an article from True West Magazine about the Honeymoon Trail if want to know a bit more:

http://www.truewestmagazine.com/honeymoon-trail/

Gene Autry and Ann Rutherford Singing the Honeymoon Trail… I love old westerns!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKhAtgk5Ax4

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There is Beauty All Around – Pipe Spring National Monument

Plural Wives Row House

One of the wonderful things about living in the “West” is the absolutely beautiful vistas. I’ve been awe struck almost on a daily basis at the grandorous, breathtaking murals of prairies, mesas, and mountains that are ever present. I can only guess what the early cowboys and pioneers experienced out here in this place that has retained most of its allurements.

A while back I visited an amazing place, not too far from where I live, called Pipe Springs National Monument. That place is almost like an oasis in the middle of a desert. It has tall trees and lots of green around, it kind of reminded me of back home. The reason for the green is that it has a natural spring that has been used by the Native Americans, pioneers, and many weary a traveler for as long recorded or verbal history can tell. There’s a large house/fort that covers the spring, which was built in the 1800’s, they used the spring to keep things cool out here in the middle of the desert. There are also some outbuildings and rustic corrals along with covered wagons. They keep a few animals, a couple of horses, a donkey, and a long-horned bull with horns longer than I am tall.

This place also holds a special bit of western history, it was a hideout for some unique outlaws, these outlaws weren’t bank robbers, murderers, nor did they ride with the “James” gang. They were plural wives who needed a place to go so their husbands (or themselves) wouldn’t get put in jail for polygamy. Many of them came there while pregnant, and had small children with them. One of the out buildings was a sort of plural wife row house. I could just imagine how they lived next to each other with their own little one room, dirt floor, apartment. This must have been a very difficult time for them, one can only imagine…

In my books the women have it so much better, and also have the freedom to live their lives the way they choose… in loving, safe, encouraging, environments.

I’m providing links so that if you’re curious you can see what it’s like there and read some of the history for yourself. There’s even a quote from one of the lady’s journal that I thought showed a since of humor and an incredible snapshot of what things were like in that time period. “One plural wife said of her move to Pipe Spring, “So about the year 1886, I moved to Pipe Spring. In other words, I went to prison to keep my husband out.””

Pipe Spring National Monument link:

https://www.nps.gov/pisp/index.htm

The virtual tour is really good, they provide loads of information and pictures.

Virtual Tour of Pipe Spring National Monument:

https://www.nps.gov/pisp/learn/photosmultimedia/virtualtour.htm

YouTube also has some pretty good videos of Pipe Spring:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Pipe+Spring+National+Monument+

This is a link to some pictures that were taken back in the 1940’s.

Link to old pictures of Pipe Springs:

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/search/?q=Photograph:%20az0047&fi=number&op=PHRASE&va=exact&co%20=hh&st=gallery&sg%20=%20true

Long Horn Bull at Pipe Spring

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Freedoms and Rights

I’ve never been a preachy person, I believe what I believe and don’t mind sharing that if someone wants to know about it, but I don’t try to judge others by what I believe or by what they believe.

The recent legalized discrimination bill HB99 is simply a way to judge a group of people by someone else’s religion. We have laws in our country to prosecute people who assault, abuse, or illegally use others. In most parts of our country these laws work just fine, in Utah, there are some who feel the need to persecute others because they don’t believe the same way they do, so they create laws to legalize their discrimination of people who don’t believe the same exact way they do.

Recently Utah Representative Mike Noel said, “They’ve hijacked my religion and I actually resent that.” This is the man who sponsored the HB99 bill, exhibiting his prejudice against others who believe differently than he does, even though, they believe the same way as Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church.

It appears that he thinks his religion is a tool to judge others by and that others don’t have a right to believe anything else than what he believes. Our Constitution states, in the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

When asked what he believed, Joseph Smith wrote 13 Articles of Faith, in the eleventh one he wrote, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” Think what you want about Joseph Smith, and I’ll think what I want. But, I believe vehemently in our constitutional right to have a belief system of our own choosing and conscience, and in respecting the rights of others to have that same right.

There’s no pretense here, I believe that everyone, (consenting adults), has the right to believe what they choose. I believe everyone, (consenting adults), has the right to choose how they want to live their lives, raise their families, and whom they will love. I also believe that no one has the right to discriminate against them for those choices… It’s my hope that when my books get published, a more favorable light can be shown on this lifestyle and the people who live it.

These men, Theral Ray Dockstader and Virgel Y. Jessop along with many others were charged as felons in 1944, and put in prison for doing nothing more than being a husband and father. They were living their religion, each had more than one wife, all of whom they loved and took care of, along with the children that love brought into the world. They never hurt anyone, or robbed a bank, or even broke any laws, except the ones put in place by those who were discriminating against them because of their religion.

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Honeysuckle and Sagebrush… again…

This week I’ve been thinking about the culture and traditions of my youth, in the “South”. Back in those days families stayed close, not just in the heart, but in proximity. The only time my grandmother ever left the state of Georgia was when I took her to Florida to see the ocean one year, other than that she never did. It was a culture of, you were born here, so you live here, and stay close to your family. It was like the “place” was not just a town, city, or a state, it was part of who you were. There were rich traditions of cooking, hunting, and manners that were carried out and respected. Everyone knew what to expect from everyone else, what was accepted and what wasn’t. I have one brother who still lives in my old hometown, the rest of us have ventured out to other places, I’m the only one who’s moved to another state. We still keep in touch, but probably not as much as we should. Our grandparents would be appalled at our distance. Things have changed…

Out here in “cowboy land” where I live now things have changed too. There are still wide open incredibly amazing scenes of prairies, mesas, and the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see, but… there are towns and cities, along with all sorts of development that has changed the way things are. The lonesome cowboy days, where you could ride a horse for days and not see anyone are just about gone. That culture is still celebrated, there are activities and celebrations of what things were like… but it’s not like that anymore.

It’s good to remember the good about the past, there are very rich cultures out here and back home… I love to remember mine and learn about these. It helps me infuse that rich culture into my stories and characters. It also helps me stay true to who I am, and where I’m from.

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Honeysuckle and Sagebrush Continued…

I’ve been pondering Spring time this week. Spring in the South and Spring in the Western desert have their differences and similarities. Spring time in the south always seemed to be very sudden, things could change literally overnight from cold and blustery to warm and green. I’ve known years when Spring got skipped altogether, the seasons would just go from winter to hot sticky summer in just a few days.

Out here in the desert Spring happens slowly, you get little subtle signs that things are changing. I think the doves are one of the first signs I’ve noticed out here, of spring. They get an early start on their work. Each year I’ve lived here, there have been a pair of doves that try to build their nest between a drainpipe and the house. Each year they fail, there’s nothing there to actually hold the sticks they bring to build with, so they leave a pile of sticks on the deck to be swept off for a few weeks, till they finally, once again, figure out that it won’t work.

It’s funny to me that they try so hard, for so long to accomplish something that just isn’t possible. And, that they repeat the same error in judgement in the same place every year. I suppose it’s the proving of the old saying, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.”

I do laugh at their futile efforts, but I also ponder the meanings for us “other birds” who have learned or are learning the next part of the lesson. The doves eventually go off and build a nest somewhere else and raise their family. Us “other birds” need to remember to try something different when what we’ve been doing isn’t working.

That’s what the characters in my books do… they try something very different when what they’d been doing didn’t work…

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More Honeysuckle and Sagebrush

One thing I’ve found to be a certainty, is that things always change. The honeysuckle of my youth has become the sagebrush of my now… but in my mind, they both have a special place. I look at them a bit metaphorically, the sweet smell of the honeysuckle has become the useful wisdom of the sagebrush.

In quiet moments of pondering and staring off into the distance, memories of growing up in the “South” invade my mind. I remember my grandmother teaching me how to make biscuits, and teaching me to never devalue myself. She would tell me, “You’re just as good as anyone else, not better than them, but just as good.” We’ve all had someone in our lives who’s built us up and encouraged us. You know that voice that stays with us, the voice we hear repeating what was said, long after it’s said…

I’m drawn to that sage wisdom that sticks with you, and have found it in different places and people throughout my life. This is something I try to infuse into my characters as I write. Everything from “Don’t sit on your spurs,” to, “Don’t let a bad situation define who you are,” are included. With loads of humor of course!

We all have a journey to take, mine has been full of challenges that have helped me to become the person I am now. There have always been ways for me to find happiness on this journey, even if it was to stop and smell the honeysuckle or ponder the uses of sagebrush.

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