Vultures of Culture

‘Mature’ sorority sisters travel around the Pennsylvania region to devour culture and the great outdoors. From Philly's Museum of Art and the rockin' Martin Guitar factory in Nazareth to bike trips in God’s Country up north, we tour and taste, sightsee and sample, learn, lunch and laugh. Just a bunch of old birds? Not us!

Month: October, 2012

Sedona Trivia

According to our Enchantment Ranch red rocks hike leader, two objects from this photo have a strong Walt Disney connection. Can you find them?

Kim, our Sedona trailblazer, claimed that the prickly pear cactus in the foreground inspired Walt’s iconic Mickey Mouse cartoon character. I can certainly see the resemblance but have been unable to verify it with online fact-checking. So I’m not sure about that one even though it’s tempting to believe that something so sharp and potentially menacing could have ignited Disney to create one of the sweetest images of American childhood.

The other Disney connection I have found to be true. If you’ve ever ridden on Thunder Mountain Railroad while visiting a Disney park,  Sedona’s own Thunder Mountain must have planted the seed in Walt’s mind for that popular coaster ride.  The two are strikingly similiar.

Being Brave or She Made Me Do It

Good friends sometimes have to push. As in push you down a hiking trail at the Grand Canyon.

Now I don’t mean shoving, more emotional urging. Encouragement. Wendy believed we had to make an appearance on a Canyon hiking trail. Just because we were there and the canyon is a place to see on foot rather than atop a scenic overlook. We had gazed upon the Canyon at sunset and as the backdrop during a history walk and a geology walk. We learned all about Mary Jane Elizabeth Colter, architect and designer who created several buildings along and inside the Canyon; we got the scoop on all the sandstone, mudstone and limestone layered inside the Canyon walls and the uplift that forged the majestic crags, crevices and rugged rocks that stretch for miles. Now it was time to take a look-see inside.

Yea, she had a point, but was this really a place for me, a walker? Cliffs, skimpy rock borders, hairpin turns? I felt a bit out of place. Seriously outfitted hikers were  treading everywhere. They had sturdy walking sticks and water tubes snaking out of their backpacks and  handkerchiefs knotted around their necks.  They exchanged friendly hellos with bright smiles beaming from sun-browned skin. Their legs were taut and muscled. Cheekbones were chiseled as sharply as rock formations along the trail walls.

Again I wondered. Is this really the right place for a woman wearing a Talbot’s scarf and a Penn State hat? I had a Columbia vest and wore some Merrill hikers, but really, I was way outside my comfort zone. At least that’s what I was thinking as I picked my way over small rocks, packed dirt and mule poo.

But I kept going. The scenery was worth the internal battle I was waging and really, going down was pretty easy. On our first encounter with the trail we went down perhaps a quarter mile. Wendy was absolutely hooked and lobbied for a return trip the next day. I conceded because, well, it was pretty awesome, even though you could feel your lungs screaming on the return climb.

Next day we went down even further. Wendy was hoping to make it down a mile or so before we had to hike out and check out of El Tovar, but both of us turned back before it got too late. You’ve got to respect the effort to climb out of that beautful hole. It’s tough, although Wendy reports the trail levels off further down. She went much farther into the canyon than I did and got back just a few seconds after I arrived at the trailhead. I took lots of breaks for photos and oxygen but was proud of both our efforts.

Again, this was unplanned. Perhaps the west does that to you. The grandness of it coaxes a bit of grandness out of you too. I didn’t hike all that far–maybe a half-mile down–but it was a place I never imagined myself to be. I’m feelin’ good about that.

Two More States

We continue our very serious quest to kayak in each of the 50 states. With this trip to Lake Powell we actually snagged two–Utah AND Arizona–in a single paddling trip.  Don’t you love when that happens?

The guides at Hidden Canyon Kayak met us at Stateline Launch in Wahweap Marina last Saturday morning and provided a memorable tour through Labyrinth Canyon off Padre Bay. The green-blue waters were calm; the kayaking was relaxing, and the scenery breathtaking.  We glided by smooth Navajo sandstone that had an other-worldly feel. Instead of reaching these slot canyons by catamaran, it felt as if a space ship carried us there. Was this Mars or Arizona?

Wendy and I now have eight states notched in our kayaking “belts,” but this ranks as  my personal favorite. Glassy water lapped against slot canyon walls. A gentle Indian summer sun warmed our backs. The sky overhead couldn’t have been bluer.

The butte in the background? That’s Boundary Butte, which marks the exact place where Utah and Arizona meet.  We sailed right by it, moving effortlessly from one state to the next.  Lake Powell is part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, a spot I had never heard of before planning the trip. My expectations were vague and low, I suppose, because I knew so very little about this part of the world. We went to Lake Powell to scratch a state off our list, but we got so much more in the bargain. I had a day on the water I’ll never forget. This was picture postcard beautiful. Unusual and foreign and so unlike our East Coast kayak outings.

This 50-state project is no longer something I tell folks about with a wink and a smile. Sure it sounds good, but are we too old to see it through? Will our knees and backs hold up?  It just doesn’t matter because the journey, the effort, is the destination. Every state brings with it a new achievement, a new memory, a new glimpse of this grand country.  And every moment on the water brings  peace and beauty to our souls and time with treasured friends. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The Wild, Wild West

No matter how much you plan for a vacation, it’s sometimes wise to stay fast and loose and saddle up with serendipity when it comes trotting along.  You grab it by the reins and climb aboard, just like Wendy did in Monument Valley during the long-awaited, two-vulture swing through the Southwest last week. As much as I relish trip research and itinerary planning, one thing I now recognize: the best times in life are often unscripted and happen in spite of you.

We were vacation day +3,  about an hour into the MV tour with Harry, our Navajo Spirit Tours guide, when we rolled by John Ford Point, an outcropping of rock perfectly positioned in front of West Mitten and Merrick buttes that the old-Hollywood director used in many of his classic John Wayne westerns. It’s a great place to pose and play cowboy or cowgirl. The scene is vintage American west and an iconic location for a photo op.

Just a few sticky details though. It’s up pretty high, and that docile horse is just a few feet from the edge. No thanks, I said to myself. I’ll just watch these chumps from afar.

So imagine my shock, my awe when Wendy jumped at the $5 photo op to climb atop this horse. Who did she think she was, Annie Oakley or something? Me, Calamity Jane, wanted to say, “Darn tootin’. You sure are loco, pardner.”

Instead I bawled, “Nooooooooo way.” I know my limitations. What about an unexpected “Hi-yo Silver” horse-stand moment? What then? What if the horse suddenly got tired of posing and wanted to gallop away? WHAT THEN, WENDY?

But she insisted. She bravely, gamely, enthusiastically put that foot in the stirrup and yanked herself tall in the saddle. The horse handler took her camera for photos while I stood off to the side to document this moment for my scrapbook. He took about three quality clicks and was readying to usher her down to earth when Wendy suddenly gets the urge for more. Sort of like John Ford wanting one more take of the Duke riding high. She blew off the horse guy and started directing the next shot.

For as long as I live I will remember her saying, “Hey, how about this?” and thrusting her right hand out into the dry desert air. Dialogue ran through my head. Something like, “Boys, I think that’s a water hole out yonder.”

Check it out:

 At that point I doubled over and lost it.  Helpless with laughter. I mean, look at this!!!!! That girl’s got gumption!

Sofa Update

The sofa lives. Where? Not sure. But we pocketed $1 from its sale. And right before vacation, too. Extra spending money!!!!