Hola from sunny Arizona!
We started out from Boise Monday morning in mist and snow, and roamed near Hagerman, Idaho, looking for cottonwood trees chock full of Bald Eagles. We found the tree, or the grove and yes, the limbs were festooned with Bald Eagles, looking to me like those Christmas cards painted with conifers decorated with candles. No, the eagles weren’t red and yellow—they were brown and white-headed—but the way they sat in those trees was ornamental.
The snow spit and the mist and fog shrouded everything south until we hit Jackpot on the Nevada-Idaho border and then the sun peeped out from behind sailing clouds and the farther south we drove under an ever more dazzling sun, the more snow we encountered on the ground. At Ely, the fresh snow was five or six inches deep.
From Ely we turned west over the edge of Great Basin National Park and then southeast through Baker and into Utah, across one valley after another, only three or four cars besides us in over eighty miles of big country. The wide, flat spaces between the mountain ranges reminded us of tundra and we must not have been too far wrong because on one road marker after another, the Rough-legged Hawks sat watching for prey, only to be alarmed by our coming, lifting off just before we arrived. Their escapes afforded glimpses of the black and white bands on their tails. We could see the white under-parts of the wings with the dark spots that reminded me of elbows. In winter, Rough-legged Hawks come south from the tundra of the north country.
The southwestern part of Utah has a lot of these big tundra-like flats and the snow cover made the sage look like it might collapse beneath the wet of the last storm. We passed juniper-dotted hills and line shacks and cattle, Ravens, Prairie Falcons and occasionally a Golden Eagle.
Yesterday we went through the southern part of Zion National Park on our way south from St. George to Phoenix. We hit the red cliffs as the sun came up and the colors were like tints pilfered from a painter’s palette.
Fresh snow was captured on the sheer cliffs of the cold sides. Once, we saw the winds sweep snow off a cliff, reminding me of gossamer garlands twisting in a breeze. It took us quite a while to drive the s-curves and tunnels of Utah Route 9 from the southwestern entrance to the eastern entrance of Zion. We snapped a lot of photos.
Up top, a bison herd filed by as we headed east. They rambled west below a pine-crested ridge foregrounded by a meadow full of fresh snow.
Just before Kanab on US Highway 89 we encountered a road closure so we had to turn a one-eighty north through the small communities of the upper Virgin River Valley, and at Glendale learned we could take a detour around that road closure. I had my doubts, but the folks at the local post office assured Betty that we could conquer whatever obstacles the road threw at us. It was rough and unpaved and luckily frozen or we’d have hauled a load of Utah red mud all the way to Arizona.
We motored by the Vermilion Cliffs in the Arizona Strip. We have been there many times before but “can’t not” come and stop if we are anywhere close. As Betty says, “They are majestic.” And yes they are vermilion, and red and rust and yellow and purple depending on light and the rocks’ mineral content. We also stopped at nearby Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon looking for California Condors, but the wind was feisty and nothing moved except the humans, what few passed by pulling livestock trailers. The Navajo ladies at the bridge selling painted gourds and turquoise bracelets braved the lusty lashes of the winds inside the cabs of their pickups, Led Zeppelin pulsing through the floorboards.
We then turned south towards Phoenix, and saguaro and ocotillo and jumping cactus. On Interstate 17 just north of Phoenix at New River, a familiar mountain reared up just to the west. I said to Betty, “I can remember looking at that mountain as a kid and thinking we had so far to go.”
That was when my mother and I went south from Flagstaff, where my older sister went to college, towards our home in Casa Grande, south of the Valley of the Sun.
But now the years have sped up and the trips have too, what was long and arduous and never ending passes by us almost before we can enjoy it.