Happy Anniversary to me! Twenty-nine years ago today (February 7), I started BeanFit Health & Fitness Services. At the onset of my business, I offered personal fitness training, nutrition counseling, swimming lessons, roller skating lessons, and health education for children. Over the years, BeanFit evolved a lot, including becoming my brand of books. Now BeanFit is just my brand of books. Although I now identify as a storyteller and no longer offer health and fitness services, I perceive that every BeanFit service had an aspect of storytelling—and definitely comedy. Thanks for being along for the ride. Let me know how I can assist you in the future.
I power-toured Big Bend National Park, which I don’t recommend. It is a big park and is in the boonies. If you want to spend more than one day sight-seeing, then camp or stay at Chisos Mountains Lodge in the park.
When I was done driving all over and the sun had set, I turned onto Old Maverick Road to exit the park. It was a dirt road with a big sign that stated “4-wheel drive only.” Crap. I didn’t want to turn around and drive all the way back to where I started. What’s 14 miles of dirt anyway? As I drove white-knuckled in pitch black, I reviewed the positives: 1) I have extensive off-roading experience, 2) This road is child’s play compared to what I’ve driven, 3) I know how to change a flat tire, and 4) I know where I am. It was difficult to block out the negatives: 1) I’m in a compact Hyundai (don’t tell the rental company), 2) I have extensive off-roading experience—in big trucks, 3) It’s about to rain and I’m screwed if it does, and 4) I’m driving in a wash so big that the wash has washes. After I made it to pavement, my hands felt like I had just worked a jack hammer.
I do quite well in traveling when not a lot of people are out and about. I love having a town or park all to myself. Sometimes where I am is eerily quiet. Carlsbad Caverns was the eeriest of places I seemingly had to myself. I entered the cavern by walking into the gigantic opening where the caves enter and exit like clockwork—except in January, when I was there. Darn. I walked down into the cavern an equivalent of 75 stories and then through to the Big Room. For the first half hour there was just the dark and me. I admit I was a little scared. Let’s just say in 30 minutes I walked a distance that normally takes an hour. At one point it was so dark that I could barely see the path and I couldn’t see what was on either side of me. Cave wall? Drop off into abyss? Lone bat? Scary man? The irony is that when I finally did come upon someone I scared her. Anyway, the city of Carlsbad, New Mexico, has an airport. I recommend flying in just to see the caverns. They were magical, mysterious, beautiful, peaceful, and a true wonder of the world.
I was tired by the time I reached the trailhead for Devil’s Hall. I didn’t realize that I was starting at 5,000 feet. I train at sea level! Plus, it was extremely windy and chilly. I had a blast (of wind?) on the four-mile-round-trip hike anyway. Half of the hike was in a dry wash that was filled with rocks, rather than sand; from pebbles to boulders, they were all very slippery. The most thrilling part of the hike was climbing a rock face that is a waterfall during the few days per year that the area gets rain.
I was excited to see the cliff dwellings until the park ranger told me that there is a beaver building a damn in the river at the base of the trail to the cliffs. Although I saw proof of the beaver’s work (first picture), I didn’t get to see the beaver in action. I so wanted to. Beaver is one of my favorite animals. Anyway, I was thrilled to walk through the cliff dwellings and get a sense of how the Indians lived there 700 years ago and their beautiful “picture window.”
This was the first time that I had flown since masks were required. This rule breaker and expert in health and fitness became grumpy after hearing repetitive announcements on the plane and in airports about wearing a mask.
When I was driving from El Paso to White Sands, I stopped at a Border Patrol Checkpoint. After the officer asked if I were a citizen of the United States, I paused as though I had been asked a trick question and then I answered Yes!
White Sands was absolutely glorious: clear blue sky, no wind, white sand dunes for miles, warm. There weren’t a lot of people there, but those who were there were happy. Everyone was happy: adults, kids, dogs. How can you not be happy at a huge playground? I went on a hike up and down sand dunes—for five miles, out in the middle of nowhere by myself for the first half and then I walked back with an older couple.
Wow. What a trip. I spent two months, mostly in Utah, driving a loop that went as far north as Sacramento and went as far east as Moab, Utah. Then, I headed as far south as Sedona, Arizona, and then back home. I met a lot of amazing people with whom I exchanged notes on our passion for traveling. I travel because it’s my biggest passion. Others travel to practice their biggest passion, such as photography or surfing (not in Utah).
Sedona is one of the most spiritual places on Earth, which you can experience by hiking or hiring a healer, for example, both of which I did. Thank you, Christiane Ashline, master healer and facilitator in the arts of subtle energetics and sacred alignments in co-creation with the divine.
So, now that my trip is over and you’ve perused the photos, which one would you like to order on canvas? Or, do you want to talk me into a more economical, paper print?
The red rock of Utah dramatically changed to a bright coral hue when I approached Bryce Canyon National Park. Traveling from park to park, I was continually reminded that where I was standing had been under water. Was Bryce a dense starfish habitat?
I didn’t get to hike in Bryce, but I could see trails below the overlooks. Where Lassen National Park looked like the moon (minus water), Bryce looked like Mars. I could imagine hiking on a trail with Mars rover nearby.
I showed up at my campsite in Zion and my space was occupied. I don’t like that. Get the hell out! I like to get right into relaxing when I arrive at a campground. One time I had to wait AN HOUR for people to move all of their stuff out of my site to their correct site. In Zion, the occupant was a deer (pictured below).
The day that I arrived in Zion I saw flyers all over about a missing female hiker. From the first story, I suspected that she had a mental illness. The story didn’t add up, and that’s besides the bad journalism. After the hiker was found, and a few more bad articles later, it was reported that she was taken right from the trail to a “facility.” Does the forensic industry need a writer?
It’s been interesting spending time on Navajo land. I asked a native in Page, Arizona, for directions to downtown. When I arrived I found that downtown was just a strip mall. I asked another native if he had been to Moab, Utah, in a while. He said, “No, I don’t like going to big cities.” Ha. So endearing. The police car sirens sound like a roadrunner. Below are pictures of Glen Canyon Dam and Horseshoe Bend.
I want to give a big thank you to ACT Campground in Moab, Utah, for hosting me for five weeks. I appreciate the owners’ hospitality, respect for their guests, and amenities. From Moab I headed south to Natural Bridges National Monument. It was a small park with similar topography as what I had seen around Moab. I took a few photos and then continued south toward Monument Valley. I was hoping that the road I chose was a good choice. It looked freshly paved, but there was hardly anyone on it. After being on the road for a while, I hit dirt. Crap! I saw a sign that stated there was a steep downhill grade for three miles. Considering that there was nowhere else to go but back, I didn’t want to start over. I convinced myself that since I had seen road work signs there were only three miles of dirt road. In other words, the road curved and I couldn’t see what it looked like miles ahead. I slowly rolled further and then my eyes popped out of my head. I was on a mesa and I didn’t know it!! My car was pointing toward the edge of a cliff with a very big drop-off. I kept my cool and drove the three-mile switch back while admiring the view of Mexican Hat, Utah, (bottom-right pix.) and pavement! I drove through Monument Valley, which was picturesque—as advertised—but I wasn’t feelin’ it. I didn’t take a picture.
My travel book is a guide left behind by dinosaurs and mammoths. I go where they’ve been, including Mammoth Site (Hot Springs, SD), La Brea Tar Pits (CA), and Moab (UT), among other places. Below are images of real dinosaur foot prints and petrified dinosaur bones that are in a time capsule in Moab.
After I set out on a six-mile hike I saw storm clouds. Was I prepared? No. Why would I prepare for rain in the middle of the desert when it is 90 degrees? I figured I’d be fine; I wasn’t hiking toward the storm. An hour later, the trail headed me toward the storm. At least there isn’t any rock climbing on this trail, I thought. Another half-hour later I was at a point in the trail where it was time to hike out of the canyon—straight up (it seemed) a rock wall. Then the rain caught up with me. Crap. When I neared the mesa I thought: At least there’s no thunder [CRASH]. Great. The storm passed over me and was lovely, actually. It was nice to be cooled off and hiking in my favorite—tropical—weather . . . in the middle of the desert.
Canyonlands offered one jaw-dropping view after another. I kept hearing myself say, “Oh, my gosh.” One of the many good things about being in shape is that I can hike far enough and on difficult enough trails to be away from the crowd and have views all to myself.
Seen one arch you’ve seen them all? Seen one desert you’ve seen them all? I think not. I have already visited all of the states and I think Utah will end up in my top favorite five states. So far, I have California, Hawaii, Alaska, . . .
I heard my phone beep when I was on a hike. The good news is that I had cell reception. The bad news is that it was FEMA telling me that I shouldn’t be hiking eight miles in 90-degree weather and that I should have put on more sunscreen. That trail was called Devil’s Garden. I can understand why. It kicked my ass. There was a lot of scrambling up, down, and around boulders and “fins.” There were some really scary parts to the hike, including not having enough energy to take a wrong turn and not knowing where the right turn was. Fortunately, there were enough people on the trail to help me along. Hikers tend to be cool like that. The next day, a former park ranger told me that I hiked the loop in the opposite direction from the designed intention.
I almost didn’t go to Dead Horse, which is just a short drive from Moab, Utah. The views of the canyons and the Colorado River were beautiful. I definitely thought that I was looking at The Grand Canyon. Moab is a great place to be based, where you can also visit Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. I’m excited to show you those pictures, also. Moab in and of itself is a cute town, but not quiet. There is a a lot of traffic and construction. You don’t have to go far, though, for peace and serenity. Nearby is also a dinosaur park, but don’t waste your money like I did. Grrr.
Not far from the Nevada border and into Utah, I saw a hill named Mormon Peak. It was the first time that I had seen a high Mormon.
The photos below are of Capitol Reef National Park. It’s huge. I was concerned that I wouldn’t get good photos or good hikes, because the first day the air quality was bad from wildfires. In a couple of the photos I captured the park’s smoky look.
The first time I went spelunking I learned: 1) never go alone, 2) tell two people where you’re going and when you expect to return, 3) bring three sources of light, and 4) go in a group of a minimum of four people. These are good rules to follow when exploring outside of a cave, also. What’s worse than following only one rule? Hiking in a gorge or wash with rain clouds above. That was a fast hike and I seemed to be the only one concerned.
You’ll see a photo of petroglyphs, which Indians have been creating for thousands of years. Since they have understood the importance of history, whether or not the truth hurt, I highly doubt any tribe or generation came along and crossed out the images.
It only took me a few days into my long camping trip to fall in love with a park ranger. Ah, men in dirt.
The photos below are of Great Basin National Park, known for its starry sky and Lehman Caves, neither of which I saw much of. The former was muted by a nearly full moon and the other muted by a virus. Grr. I had to watch a video to see inside the cave. Grr.
Hiking 5 1/2 miles up at 10,000 feet kicked my ass. I train at sea level. I train at sea level! I hiked part way with two bad-ass women, about my age, from western Pennsylvania. They served in the military, worked corrections, and patrolled the US-Mexico border, among other achievements. I learned a lot from them.
One of my favorite aspects of traveling is meeting other world travelers, with whom I can relate better than with anyone else. Of course I love meeting the locals, too. There’s nothing like being a guest on other people’s turf and learning their culture and how they overcome challenges. It’s the best way to understand why people are the way they are and of course the best way to learn acceptance, sympathy, and empathy, traits world travelers tend to have.
On September 1 I embarked on a road trip that will take place mostly in the southern half of Utah. I started in Paso Robles, California, and went to Sacramento to visit friends and family. My dinner at Revolution Restaurant in Sacramento was so good that I want to tell you all about it. But, this isn’t a food blog–bo-ring. In Carson City, Nevada, I saw wild horses, which I had heard about but never seen. I was so excited; it was as though I had never seen a horse before. No, I didn’t get a picture. I made my way east on Nevada’s Highway 50–Loneliest Road in America–which is so beautiful. I drove over a hill/mountain pass and then across the basin to the next pass, over and over all the way to Baker, Nevada, by the Utah border. I passed a lot of BLM signs. It’s interesting that Black Lives Matter has the same initials as Bureau of Land Management. On my way to Austin, which is about half-way across Nevada, I stopped to photograph desert graffiti (Fig. 1). I was so hot after spending only a few minutes in the sun that I saw a mirage. Along miles (?) of highway, the rocks spell out the US Constitution’s Preamble—no cancel culture in the Nevada Basin. Scorpions are still patriotic. The rest of the images were taken in or near Austin, including Stokes Castle (Fig. 4), Toquima Cave (Fig. 7-9), and Hickison Summit (Fig. 10-11). In Fig. 7 & 11 you can see petroglyphs/pictographs. While taking Fig. 10 I was thinking: I love having planet Earth all to myself. Where’s my next stop? Stay tuned to find out.