Thursday, August 31, 2017

Jesse Ventura Talks About Colin Kaepernick

Mr. Ventura is a pretty fascinating man. Sometimes, he comes out of left field to advocate an issue that you might not think a muscleheaded former professional wrestler, or a man who used to be governor of a state, would advocate.

Remember when he called religion a crutch for the weak-minded? And then, he turned around and said that he would likely be going to church for services.

Indeed, Ventura is very candid. You might not agree with everything that he says or thinks, but you sure have to respect the fact that he puts some serious thought into what he believes and/or does not believe. That said, one of the major issues on which he and I would definitely differ would be climate change. 

Now, before jumping to conclusions, it is unclear what he personally actually thinks about it. He seems uncertain about whether or not it is real, but strangely, he believes that certain people are profiting from it on both sides, both in advocating for it, and denying it. Also, he has suggested that snowstorms disprove the theory, which surprised me, because he usually puts a little bit more thought into subject matter than to come up with something that seems, quite frankly, a childish understanding or interpretation of climate change. 

Okay, so his position on climate change seems almost surreal and confused, and it seems that he is on shaky ground. Again, I do not agree with everything that he believes, and that seems fitting when you are talking about a man who obviously makes a living, quite literally, in exploring and endorsing, as well as hyping up, conspiracy theories. 

However, there are times when he starts talking about issues that are relevant to our society today, when the guy just makes perfect sense, and when I find myself agreeing with him.

Case in point, look at his advocacy for legalization of marijuana. This is a divisive and obviously active issue in the United States today, and he is all in favor of ending the prohibition of marijuana, having even devoted an entire book to the subject.

Well now, Ventura has discussed the whole controversy regarding Colin Kaepernick. He was the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, who led that team to the Super Bowl a few years ago. Anyway, Kaepernick was blasted last year when he began to kneel down, refusing to stand during the national anthem before the games. Obviously, people noticed. Before long, the protest had spread, and there were members of several teams who also refused to stand, protesting against the violent deaths of blacks at the hands of police, which seemed to be almost an epidemic, particularly around that time.

Sales of Kaepernick's jerseys went through the roof, as he became, at least for a while, the most sold jersey. But that was only part of the reaction. Some others burned their Kaepernick jerseys, and there was an almost violent counter-reaction to the controversy. Many blasted him, and Kaepernick donated one million dollars to aid communities in need. Then, November came, specifically Election Day, and the news reported that Kaepernick had not even bothered to vote. He spoke out about that, suggesting that the two parties did not offer enticing choices, but perhaps feeling the heat, Kaepernick decided that his protest in refusing to stand for the flag would end. 

However, the protests themselves spread to other athletes and other sports, and it can all be traced to Kaepernick, originally. Some suggested that he was like a modern version of Muhammad Ali.

Maybe, but there is one very significant difference, and that is that Kaepernick did not dominate his sport like Ali did his. Kaepernick was seen as the quarterback of the future for a while, particularly during the 2011 and 2012 seasons and, to a lesser extent, the 2013 season. However, his performance began to suffer after that, as defenses began to catch on. Once his deadly scrambling abilities were largely contained and he had to rely on his arm, his stock sort of went down. He was not a bad quarterback, but no longer was anyone suggesting that he was the model for quarterbacks in the future.

Long story short, the 49ers lost some talent. A lot of it. You might recall that in one offseason, the San Francisco 49ers lost their head coach, their star running back, and tons of other major names and talents. The only major excdeption was Kaepernick, who was basically the only major name that the team was able to retain. They had been among the favorites to contend for the Super Bowl one season, and then were widely expected to completely drop out of relevance the next season. Indeed, that is where the 49ers have been since. And Kaepernick's struggles at quarterback continued. Now, without nearly as much talent around him, his struggles became glaring. He lost his starting position,  although he won it back. Then, during this past offseason, he found himself no longer a quarterback in the NFL.

Some suggested that it was because he did not have the talent, although it should be noted that many other quarterbacks with far less impressive credentials than him remained in the NFL for far longer after losing their starting positions. That suggested that his not being hired by any of the NFL teams was motivated by not wanting to deal with the controversy surrounding him, and that smacked of seemingly being silenced. Many feel that his not getting a job had less to do with what he could offer teams in terms of talent and capabilities, and much more to do with his refusal to stand, and his fearlessness in speaking out on issues that matter to him. 

Kaepernick has remained a controversial figure, with some supporting him, and others condemning him and crying foul at what they saw as his hypocrisies. Some say that he blew a promising career that would have given him a fortune, because of his stupidity, or stubbornness. Other suggest that this is an example of institutional racism by the NFL, that they just do not want someone speaking out so publicly on things like Black Lives Matter. They feel that Kaepernick should be held up as  hero, for being brave enough and selfless enough to essentially sacrifice what again had been an impressive and obviously lucrative career so that he could speak out about issues that mattered to him.

And that is where Ventura steps in. In this video clip, he outright endorses Kapernick's right to speak out. Ventura does not say whether or not he agrees with Kaepernick, and says this is besides the point, which I think is a fair point itself. Kapernick has every right to speak out, and those people who get so riled up need to stop taking such easy offense to things. 

Indeed, Ventura makes sense in this regard, I think. 

He recalls one time, while serving as Governor of Minnesota, that both Democrats and Republicans tried to force him to sign a bill requiring that public school children would have to do the Pledge of Allegiance.

Ventura then recounts how he reacted:

"I immediately vetoed it. You know why? Because governments should not mandate patriotism."


Whatever your position is on the Pledge of Allegiance, you have to give Ventura a huge amount of credit for the courage it took to stand up on this issue, which clearly will get many people up in arms. 

Frankly, I agree with him. There are so many people who seem to want to force patriotism on everyone, and there has in turn grown a deathly fear of speaking out against anything that this country does sometimes, for fear of being labeled as someone who hates this country. Anytime that certain politicians, or their policies, are criticized, they can lash out against their opponents for not being patriotic enough. That was George W. Bush's tactic with the invasion of Iraq, and look how well that worked out. We now again have a president who is criticizing anyone who criticizes him for not being patriotic enough, and look at how completely unimpressive that man is. 

So, I agree with former Governor Jesse Ventura on this issue.

How about you, the reader? 

Anyone want to weigh in, and share your thoughts? 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

In the Face of Crises Like Hurricane Harvey, Recent American Leaders Have Tradition of Being Part of the Problem

Parts of Texas have received more rain in the last four to five days than has any other part of the contiguous United States ever has. 

That's right. That is how enormous and unprecedented this storm is.

And yet, it somehow feels familiar, does it not? We saw it in New Orleans and in some other Gulf region areas in 2005. And we saw it in New York and New Jersey in 2012. 

Indeed, it all seems a bit too familiar to us as a nation. Strange weather, and the frequent occurrence of these strange, "once in a century" or "once in a generation" weather phenomenon makes you wonder if we are not seeing climate change right before our eyes. But I am not a scientist, and cannot say definitively if there is a clear link between these storms and climate change.

However, what I can say with absolute certainty is that our reaction politically as a nation has been absurd. 

Case is point, Senator Ted Cruz, who was Trump's last and strongest opponent during the Republican presidential primary last year.  Most of us can see Cruz for what he is, and it is certainly not impressive, although there are clearly some people who cannot see, and think that this guy has some real answers. But his hypocrisy was thrown into the spotlight recently. 

Cruz is asking for money for relief efforts in his home state of Texas, although he was reminded by MSNBC's Katy Tur that he himself opposed funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy five years ago.

Cruz answered:

“Well, you know, look. There’s time for political sniping later. I think our focus needs to be on this crisis.”

Tur was not dissuaded, and did not let Cruz off the hook that easily:

“It’s not really political sniping, Senator. These are people who needed money and who needed funding right after that storm. I covered those people. Many of them, just like those in Houston, lost absolutely everything they owned.” 

Cruz answered back, saying that he did support a bill for Sandy relief efforts, and that disaster relief has always been a vital role for the federal government, although he did not delve into his own role in delaying that relief because of what he described as "political unnecessary pork spending.”

He also conveniently left out the fact that politicians from some states, like Texas, wanted some of that money for themselves at the time. Forbes reported at the time:

“Why, you might ask, would the Senate be packing billions of taxpayer dollars for these areas of the country that are nowhere near the devastation brought about by superstorm Sandy into a bill designed to bring relief to those suffering from the storm that ripped the northeastern part of the nation? The answer can be found in a quick review of the states that are set to benefit from the Senate’s extra-special benevolence—states including Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana.”

And whether or not these super storms, or this particular super storm, can or cannot be definitively linked to climate change, it should be part of the discussion. But the climate in this country right now is that all environmental issues are basically under gag order, so long as President Trump is in office. This is, after all, the only world leader who pulled his nation out of the Paris Accord because he does not believe in climate change, and has called it a hoax invented by the Chinese. 

Because frankly, it is not a laughable notion that these kinds of storms, or the massive drought experienced out West until earlier this year when precipitation finally came, or the record heat experienced in the desert southwest earlier this summer. And let us remember that there were other heat records established in Australia and the Arabian peninsula in the last couple of years, and record heat in blazing hot deserts like these is saying something! All of that is not even mentioning the other disasters of epic proportions that we seem to be seeing with an alarming regularity in recent years, and that this is exactly what scientists warning about climate change have predicted. 

Right now, the city of Houston is under water, and boats have to traverse streets that, at least for the moment, look more like streams or rivers. There are cars floating. 

Of course, this is the product of a hurricane, and this hurricane will go away, eventually. However, there are parts of Louisiana that have already largely disappeared because of flooding, and Miami seems to have regular problems with flooding. and we have seen other regions near the Gulf and along the Mississippi River have problems with flooding fairly regularly, as well. 

In short, this is not a problem that is likely to go away, and the reason, regardless of whether Trump or other "leaders" want it to be true or not, is quite possibly, even likely, related to climate change. That is why trying to silence anyone who speaks about climate change is so wrong, as to be nearly criminal, frankly. This was a trend started by Florida Governor Rick Scott, and which President Trump has now emulated on a national level. But having the power to do this, to essentially silence free speech about a pressing topic, does not make it right.  

So, on top of the problems caused by super storms like Harvey, we also seem to have a problem with our "leaders" attempting to silence any debate. And here I should note that, on this subject, there really is no debate, because scientists have, for decades, consistently warned of the dangers of climate change. It has been politicians in this country in particular who continue to challenge the legitimacy of what these scientists are arguing, and watering down their message, turning their warnings into a political mockery. We have supposedly responsible Congressmen, even leading figures like Boehner and Inhofe, openly mocking climate change and environmental issues. we had President George W. Bush undermine climate change by citing "new evidence" as the basis to get rid of the cap on carbon emissions within a couple of months of taking office. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney mocked President Obama's emphasis on tackling climate change during the closing moments of his acceptance speech in 2012. And now, we have President Trump, who outright does not believe in climate change, and apparently thinks he knows better than experts in the field. 

The problem is not Trump, or these other politicians. The problem is us. The problem is we Americans as a nation, for continuing to engage in practices that accelerate climate change, such as driving oversized SUV's and claiming expertise on this issue that we have no right to claim, and generally mocking this issue. The problem is in our acceptance of "leaders" like Governor Scott and President Trump, who outright have taken the fascist light approach by placing a gag order on anyone who wants to address climate change issues as a real threat to our nation, and something which we should do something about. 

In short, the problem is us. 

That said, I need to mention that the response from regular Americans - not politicians - has been typically impressive. Rescue workers have flocked fearlessly into the storm to help out. There is video footage of trucks with boats lined up on the highways, heading towards Houston. There is video footage of people helping out other people, and yes, rescuing animals, as well. People who care are coming out in droves, and doing their part.

The problem is not in an unwillingness to help. Hell, it is not even with duplicitous and, frankly, despicable politicians like Cruz or Trump. The problem is in why we collectively continually allow these kinds of politicians to represent us, and to disgrace and embarrass us internationally. The rest of the world understands that we have a problem, that we seem to be addicted to petty and scornful politicians with narrow minds and even narrower agendas, who shrewdly manipulate those who, let's face it, are willing to be manipulated into believing things that they should know better than to believe. Whether it's the legendary liar with every hair and every word in place like Bill Clinton, or the grimacing Dick Cheney and his Halliburton ties leading us into invading a sovereign nation and destabilizing a whole volatile region in the process, or whether it's the poster child for con artists who managed to lie his way into the Oval Office, we have to start growing serious about those we call our leaders. 

Ted Cruz Falls Apart As MSNBC’s Katy Tur Calls Out His Disaster Relief Hypocrisy By Jason Easley on Mon, Aug 28th, 2017:

We've Failed Houston Because We've Failed Our Democracy by Charles P. Pierce, Aug. 28, 2017:

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Texas Slammed by Hurricane Harvey

This storm was every bit as bad as the forecasters had been predicting. Indeed, parts of Texas have gotten rain that can be most accurately measured in feet, rather than inches. It has already been the cause of over half a dozen deaths, and there are more missing.

There are rescue efforts now underway to help the victims of this hurricane. Supplies, including medical gear, food, and drinks, and rescue workers are all heading to Texas.

On the news, we see images of people stranded on rooftops, and streets completely flooded, submerged under water to such an extent that you might be forgiven if you initially assumed that these lanes were originally rivers.

People are suffering. Many surely still need rescuing. Others have lost everything. Relief efforts are underway, but will it be enough?

From what we have heard and seen, this storm might devastate some parts of Texas at least as much as storms did in New Orleans and the New York and New Jersey shores years ago.

It should be noted that not long ago, we would have considered this a storm of the century, or at least one storm that might come every 50 years, or once a generation. Yet, we have seen at least three of these devastating kinds of storms in the last dozen years, just here in the United States. We had Katrina, which completely devastated New Orleans and the areas around the Mississippi Delta. It is safe to say that New Orleans has never fully recovered from that storm. Then, we had Sandy, which laid waste to the Jersey Shore, and parts of coastal New York. And now, we have this storm, which hit Texas as a Category 4, and which has just stuck around, pouring literally feet of rain over the course of several days, and which has not yet left, either. It is possible that it will go back to the Gulf of Mexico, and slam New Orleans, or other regions, as well. 

I really hate to say things like our thoughts are with them, mostly because it sounds like such a cop out, like something a politician might say, because it is expected. 

However, we have to keep affected Texans in our thoughts today, while Harvey continues to pound still more rain, and the damages continue to mount. 

There are so many things that we all disagree on, so many things that divide us. But if there is a silver lining in moments like this, it is the unity that we feel by trying to brunt some of the shock and pain that the victims of this storm are feeling, and in wanting to help, in hoping that the storm finally moves away and gives them some breathing room, and in wishing them a speedy recovery. 

Amazing Late Summer Sunset at Wawayanda

Over the weekend, I took my to Wawayanda State Park, right on New Jersey's border with the state of New York, and a wonderful, beautiful park offering plenty of hiking and camping. Here, I have found a few of New Jersey's black bears, as well as deer, snapping turtles, turkey vultures, and woodpeckers. There are streams and ponds, even some small waterfalls and a small portion of white water rushes. All of it is more or less centered around on sizable lake, where you can go swimming, ride boats, or simply just take in the peace and beauty of the place.

This place holds some memories for me. My family used to come here on weekends, as a kind of getaway. My father, in particular, used to take my brother and I here during summer evenings to go swimming - a tradition that I have kept alive with my own son nowadays. There were some places that figured prominently in my son's learning how to swim, and Wawayanda's lake is definitely one of those places. 

There were other times, before my son was born, when I used to come here, often on my own, and just unwind after a hard day's work. More often than not, this was during the summer time, and I would both swim and either hike or take a walk. On the grounds of the park, there are some stone ruins of old foundries, which nowadays sort of resemble the ruins of castles, almost. There is a small section of wetlands, and of course, throughout, there are many trees and woods. 

Also, I would bring some books with me, and just read, sometimes for hours, often looking up during short breaks to take in the view, and admire the tranquility and beauty. It felt like a miniature vacation, truth be told. I was thankful for this place back then, and if anything, have grown even more thankful for it now, as a father myself.

Obviously, this place has been a blessing for my family for at least a couple of generations. 

It is still one of the go to places for us, and when I am up north to visit and take care of my son, this is one of the main places where we can get a for an afternoon, or even possibly a day. As described above, it offers some good, healthy fun. My son obviously has swam there numerous times, and he also has enjoyed building sand castles and, when younger, he really enjoyed playing in the sand box. Sometimes, he just likes to climb up on the tall lifeguard chairs standing empty on the small beach after 6pm, once the lifeguards have left for the day.

Back when my father used to take us swimming here, the lifeguards would blow there whistles and order everyone out of the lake, but then they would tell us that we could swim at our own risk. Unfortunately, these days, they blow their whistles and tell everyone to get out of the water, that swimming is not allowed for the remainder of the day, but that the lake would pen up for more swimming tomorrow at 10am. No longer can you officially go swimming after 6pm, although on many a summer evening, once the lifeguards and the park rangers have gone, many people still do exactly that. You risk being reprimanded if the park rangers come back, of course. But it is still pleasant and tempting enough to risk, every now and then. My son regularly goes back in after the rangers have left, and usually, he is far from alone. Sometimes, I even go back in, although usually, I like to sit and read and dry off a bit.

That was what I was doing yesterday, while my son was still in the lake, when I noticed a rainbow near the setting sun on the western end of the lake. It was beautiful, and I pointed it out to my son, then thought it would be nice to snap a picture of the scene. Then, it seemed like a good idea to add these pictures to a blog entry, just to show an appreciation for the moment, to enjoy a late summer's evening, to be in the moment, to show appreciation for life's blessings.

And so, that is why I am posting this. Initially, it was supposed to just be a picture, with a brief description of where we were and why we were there. Instead, I kind of went off on a tangent, didn't I?

Still, Wawayanda is a beautiful little park, one of those charmed corners tucked away and hidden from most people, who usually think of the ugly factories and plants and warehouses next to towns with congested, shoulder to shoulder housing that line the New Jersey Turnpike when they think of the Garden State. But there is more to this place than that, and this seemed like an opportunity to prove it.

Wawayanda is a very nice park, a pleasant surprise for any who hold those more sobering and depressing impressions of the Garden State. And as mentioned earlier, we have had some incredible memories there. Underneath the pictures of the sunset (where you can just see the miniature rainbow a little left of center) below are a couple of previously published blog entries involving some fun times at Wawayanda.

Hiking Trails Review: Around the Lake at Wawayanda State Park - originally published on May 10, 2012:

So, I decided finally to do something that was long overdue, and to take a hike on some of the trails around Wawayanda, a beautiful wooded park with a large lake at the center, which my family used to go swimming in regularly back in my grade school days, dating back to the 1980's. I still go there fairly frequently, and even take my son swimming there at times during the summer, although such occasions have grown more and more scarce, with the price of gas going up. 

But it really is a wonderful park, and very family friendly, with a nice playground, some boating and biking available, and walking trails and routes of varying degrees.  There are some stone structures, the last remnants of the local iron ore industry that used to dominate, and these structures sometimes look vaguely reminiscent of old castle ruins set within the woods. In short, it is a nice place. 

With my new schedule now providing me with a relatively stable and predictable schedule for the first time in years, really, I wanted to take advantage of this first day off (on a Wednesday, that is) by catching up on sleep and taking a rather longer than normal hike someplace that would be new. For once, both of these goals were achieved, and it was a good thing, too, because I needed one to get past the other, and then needed the hike to be tired enough later on to catch another nap before work. So it worked out, it seems! 

Here's the thing: way, way back in the nineties, and I'm talking the early nineties at that, back when I was a prominent and rising member of the Environmental Club at Bergen Community College, a few of us had gotten together to have a hike and picnic at Wawayanda. Much to my shame, that marked the last time that I ever had gone hiking here, and it really is not only a shame, but it was quite ridiculous, because I would go walking here all of the time. You see, Wawayanda is a park that offers extensive opportunities for walking, if that is what you like (and obviously, it is for me). For whatever reason, even though I have long loved hiking in the woods at other places, at Wawayanda, it was always, systematically, walking what I referred to as "the loop", about a two mile walk along the lake, and then down past the stone ruins of the iron/ore facility that used to be there, and then down a road along a stream emptying out to a swamp, and finally along the main road. It is a nice, healthy walk, and on energetic days, I sometimes did this three or more times, often with the old Ipod and headphones on my person. 

Yet, hiking remained something that always seemed outside of Wawayanda to me, and the paradox was not lost on me at the time, either. It really is strange. For a long time, I meant to change that, and expand my horizons at this park, but that remained more a theory than a practice. 

Until today, that is. I was determined to finally explore the hiking trails that I had only gone on a handful of times. Since I had so much time, and have wanted my father, who is ridden with rheumatoid arthritis and other medical conditions, and has been urged by the doctors not to remain statuary, but to go out and walk and move, to go out and get some fresh air, I took him along as well. We stopped at a local thrift shop along the way, then finally got to the park. It was a quarter to three. 

I decided to go towards the area I had last gone hiking in, to the right of the beach on the lake. Foolishly, I had gone without first picking up a map, and the folly of this decision would become clear soon enough. But with some vague notion that surely I could take a trail that would wrap around the lake, I headed towards what would surely be the trail. Before long, there was no trail, and it became a difficult hike, that was actually less hiking and more jumping from rock to rock over a stream, and up a hill, trying to avoid shrubbery and the ticks that seemed determined to plant themselves on my body. Three ticks in a day, including two in a span of five, maybe ten minutes, both new personal records! I was on the verge of turning back after such a rough start, but my day in the woods had only begun, really. I climbed a hill, and the day seemed hotter than expected. Stealing glances back from where I came, and not relishing the idea of going through some tall and unkempt shrubbery and constantly checking for ticks, I kept trying to find something to indicate that other human beings had been where I was in the last…say, ten years or so. That persistence paid off, fortunately, as I found the orange trail, marked Pump House Trail. It was one of two orange trails that I would get to explore on this day, although I did not know it at that time. 

Good, I thought. Things are looking up. 

I was going to head back to the beach, and to then call it a day for "hiking", and get some reading done. One of the true pleasures with Wawayanda is the chance to just plop a folding chair or a blanket or simply your butt down on the ground and open up a book to get engrossed in, looking up on occasion to take in the beautiful view, to listen to the sounds of geese or other birds, or even the waves. It is truly a beautiful park with a lot to offer! 

But instead of heading back, I plowed forth, figuring (wrongly, as it turns out), that this trail just had to hug the boundaries of the large lake and, if I just persisted in the trail, it would wrap around it, and I could finally say that I hiked around Wawayanda Lake – something that I had never done before!

The Pump House Trail is a wide and well-maintained trail. It offers some nice glimpses of the lake, although it does not actually seem to go right up by it – although there was at least one side trail that offered this. Still, all in all, it felt wonderful to be out of the shrubs and ticks, and onto more level and clear ground. The birds were singing, and the wildlife was out! There were nine bright orange lizards or salamanders that I spotted, as well as other things, too. I saw just about the most monstrous sized millipede that I have ever seen before, and it was fascinating to see it curl up in it's way, as a means of defense. The trail was very nice, although at some point, on the other side of the lake, it straddles some suburban homes. That was a bit of a surprise, since almost all of the rest of it seemed completely isolated. But it did not detract to much from the walk that the trail offered.

Of course, predictably, the trail did not simply wrap around the lake. It went to the very end of it- and it takes a long time indeed- but then abruptly ends in a mysterious dirt road. This was, I later discovered, the Cherry Ridge Road. I had the idea that I could negotiate my way back, finding my way to another trail, since my sense of direction often has been relatively strong in such situations, and since I knew the lake was not far, and neither were other trails. Still, it was a bit stressful. If not for reminders that I was still on park grounds, indeed, I might just have turned around and gone back. 

But I found some new trails, and took them. The first of these was Laurel Pond Trail. It was clearly marked, although it seemed much more like another road, than a hiking trail. 

Eventually, however, I found another actual trail, and this was Sitting Bull Trail – the other orange trail, on the other side of the lake. Not that I knew that, yet, either. However, instinctively, it seemed encouraging that the color matched that of the trail on the other side of the lake, it just felt right. Also, I had the sense that it was more or less in the right direction, and decided to take the chance. 

The Sitting Bear Trail was very nice. It did not take long before I knew I was on the right path again, once it offered glimpses of the lake. Eventually, it went right along the lake, and there were some wonderful views along small rocky cliffs. The trail itself was well-tended to. It was also very muddy, but that was because it had been raining quite a bit in the days leading up to my surprise visit.  

Ultimately, the Sitting Bear Trail emptied out into the Iron Mountain Trail, which at first seemed like yet another roadway. Of course, by this time, the lake was plainly in view, so it was not like earlier, where I was initially wondering if I had somehow hiked right out of the park, until finding the markers indicating it was all still part of it. Here, the lake was very much in view, and there had been glimpses of the beach and other parts of the park on the side of the lake that I was most familiar with. So, there was no nervousness. 

There were waterfalls, which were very nice and which were unfamiliar, unfortunately. I had never seen them before, to my knowledge, and so this came as a pleasant surprise. 

Finally, the trail emptied out into more familiar terrain, and I knew my hike for the day was done.

My Son and I Enjoy The Last Weekend of Summer Before School Resumes - originally published on September 7, 2015:

Before you know it, summer comes and summer goes.

So it was this year, as well. A long winter finally melted away, and a new and energetic spring burst into summer.

It was an eventful summer, for that matter. Thankfully, this was especially true for my son.

He spent much of his time at Camp YawPaw, for the second year in a row, and still loves it there.

We also got to visit the Camden Aquarium with a friend, and of course, we took that trip out west, to Arizona, with a side excursion into Nogales, Mexico, for one afternoon/evening. While out there, we got to visit the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, the southwestern desert in general, and of course, my son's personal favorite - Tombstone.

I took him to see a couple of preseason games, which was nice. I could not really bring him last year, since it was a tough year for me, having lost one job of almost 11 years. So, it was nice to take him this year, and the summer preseason games generally tend to be much more affordable.

Now, this weekend, it was time to wrap the summer up. However, it was also a weekend when I had to start regular weekend shifts at a new job. That means a lot less freedom, and a lot less time to do things.

Still, my son is starting school on Wednesday, which meant that we both had Monday, Labor Day, off. I needed to sleep a bit after working the overnight shift, but got up early in the afternoon, and went looking for a barber that might be open, so that he could start the school year with a fresh, new haircut.

Nobody was open, which was not a terrible surprise, or anything.

So, we headed for Wawayanda no long after that, and got to spend a good few hours enjoying the outdoors. We swam, and then enjoyed time at the makeshift beach. I read a bit, and he played in the sand. After a while, he came up to me and asked if I would like to bury him in the sand, and although it would get his swimming trunks dirty, it seemed harmless enough, and a fun way to close out the summer.

That is what we did, and here are some pictures from one last, fun summer weekend, before we both get too caught up in the grind once again:

We enjoy a bit of silliness here. I kind of had a tradition in recent years of taking seaweed and placing it on my son's head, then proclaiming "Hail, Caesar!" He sometimes did the same to me, and at first, it bothered him. But by the end of this summer, he seemed to actually be enjoying it. It seemed like something worth getting pictures of, so here they are. He looks more like a reggae guy, though, then a Roman Emperor. But it's all good, mon. 

My son and I built sandcastles at Wawayanda.  

The sun was going down on a fun day at Wawayanda. We stayed until it was pretty much almost dark, and bats were flying around. We were among the last ones at the park. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Grand Canyon Was Once Nearly Destroyed By Private Interests

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed."

~Mahatma Gandhi

Today, I would like to take some time out to honor a couple of true heroes, who's work can be seen and appreciated today, in a very real, physical way. These men were indeed heroes, although it is not because of bravery or glory won on the battlefield. Neither of them served as president, or even as a member of Congress. To my knowledge, they did not hold any titles or military distinctions that traditionally are almost mandatory for Americans to receive recognition as heroes. Nor were they rock stars, or celebrated athletes with records or rings or medals. They were not even actors, and neither man ever made a fortune or put his own name up on skyscrapers, like the demagogue currently residing in the White House.

Yet, undeniably, a hero each of these two men were. And their work left a legacy that we can and should all strive for and benefit from today.

One man's name is David Brower, and he wound up being the first executive director of the Sierra Club. But prior to the time that we are going to talk about, the Sierra Club was still a small, private club of people who were fond of hiking, and not the strong environmental advocacy group that we know it to be these days. All of that changed with the events that allowed these men to be heroes. The other man's name is Martin Litton, and it is okay if you never heard of either of them before. Neither had I, admittedly. But we should have. Their story should be celebrated every bit as much as the heroes that we now celebrate in our culture. The contributions by these two men were almost beyond measure, and far exceeded the vast fortunes gained by this or that billionaire, or the championships won by this or that star athlete. Indeed, they did something that had an impact that we all can and should appreciate, and for the most part, they did these things selflessly, not for their own personal profit or glory, but so that future generations could benefit and enjoy this land's immense natural beauty to the fullest extent possible.

I mentioned a couple of days or so ago that some friends have been posting about their recent trips (separate, to be sure) to the Grand Canyon, and that this got me in the mood to think back to my own trips there with my son over the summers of 2015 and again in 2016 (the South Rim first, then the North Rim last year).  

However, one of those friends posted an interesting tidbit in history that I was not familiar with.

As it turns out, the Grand Canyon came close to being wiped out, and I am not talking about an impossibly long time ago, or through natural means. 

No, I am talking about all too human activity. Activity much like we still see very much of in the present world.

And the men who stopped it was - yes, you guessed it - were David Brower and Martin Litton.

You see, the government, in it's infinite wisdom, had many dam projects scattered throughout the American west - particularly the Southwest. That included one at Marble Canyon, which is very near the Grand Canyon. Trust me, it was not a far drive from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which we visited last year, to the Marble Canyon. It most certainly would have affected the Grand Canyon, if it had gone through. But Brower and Litton saw what was coming, and they stopped it.

This marked the first time that American citizens had managed to stop a proposed dam project by big government. This success catapulted the Sierra Club into prominence. If it is now known as a major environmental advocacy group with some history of successes behind it, then these two men were the major players to help make it so. The first victory was largely due to their efforts, and their vision. They took on big power and big money in their day, and they won. Indeed, this is almost like a real life David and Goliath story.

For the most part, it was Litton who saw the dangers of these proposed dam projects. Brewer felt that Litton served as his conscience, and indeed, Litton was the man most uncompromising in regards to the environmental battles that they waged. He stopped that proposed Marble Canyon dam from destroying the Grand Canyon, but he also saw other dangers and stopped them, too. He recognized that the U.S. Forest Service was mishandling the giant sequoias in California, and he was the one who traveled on foot to find the best grounds for Redwood National Park. He also saw what had happened at Kings Canyon National Park, and correctly diagnosed what the problem was there.

It was in large part due to this vision, and the efforts of these men, that the modern environmental movement was born. As Kenneth Brower, the son of the aforementioned David Brower, suggests in his National Geographic article (see link below):

"Litton's generation brought us the Wilderness Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Environmental Protection Act, a great expansion of national parks, and a raft of other good environmental legislation. We could use that sort of explosion again."

Yes, indeed.

And their efforts reminded me of another prominent American figure who went quite far in introducing Americans to the concept of setting aside land and natural wonders for national parks, with an eye towards preserving the natural beauty, and conserving the land for future generations. This man did hold a title, though, and you have surely heard of him.

Of course, I am speaking of none other than Theodore Roosevelt.

And so, I will close this particular post with a quote that I have used before here, but which never seemed more fitting to conclude a blog entry with than right now, as we remember and honor the work of two visionary men, and the hard work and tenacity on their end that just might have preserved some of the beauty and integrity of these natural wonders for us to enjoy today:

"There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children's children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred."

"I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."

"In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it."

Please take a moment to look at this article by Kenneth Brower, who not only delves into the history behind the actions taken by his father and Litton, which likely preserved the Grand Canyon as we know it, as well as his unique perspective and diagnosis of the modern environmental movement, and his diagnosis of why it seems more ineffective than ever before:

Appreciation: Lessons From the Man Who Stopped Grand Canyon Dams Martin Litton, who died this week, was passionate, combative—and effective. By Kenneth Brower, for National Geographic PUBLISHED December 2, 2014

Take a look at this, too! Here are links to newspaper from decades ago, while these environmental battles were being waged. The threat was very real then, as it is now. And yes, by all means, we can take lessons from the past and apply them to our own situation today:


Sunday, August 27, 2017

50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love

Yes, I know that this is actually an image of Woodstock, which took place in 1969, and not in the "Summer of Love" in 1967. However, it still carried the best of the spirit of the summer of '67, being a peaceful assembly of nearly half a million people, and the brilliance and creativity of those two days, both on the stage and off of it, has lived on and grown legendary, even almost to mythic levels. Plus, the whole anti-war and anti-establishment spirit, mixed with the music and artistry, as well as the drugs, all were present throughout both the summer of '67 (the summer of love) and Woodstock, and of course the years in between. So, yes, it seemed fitting to the spirit of that age to use this image as an illustration of the prevailing spirit of that age.

I was watching Decades for August 25th on the Decades channel recently, and they had something on this being the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, which was the summer of 1967.

That was the year when hippies peacefully invaded television screens and popular culture, and brought the message of "peace, love, and understanding" to the mainstream. They added a splash of color to what had largely been a black and white world, almost quite literally, to my understanding.

A lot of people take the hippies as a joke, and imitate the overly relaxed style that they are supposed to represent. But the counterculture youth movement of the 1960's nevertheless managed to wake up many strands of thought that the nation as a whole rarely ever thought about at the time. Remember, it was a strong response to the conformist and largely colorless, black and white way of life that had existed before. The 1950's were a time of serious bordering on irrational fears regarding communism, and when racist laws were not only officially on the books, but were strongly enforced by both the law and social norms, as well. These were some of the aspects of the darker underbelly of the United States that many people who have nostalgia for this period tend to conveniently overlook.

The United States was already a changing place, and the 1960's already a turbulent time, by the time that the Summer of Love added the hippie counterculture movement into the mix. After all, the world had witnessed the horrors of the Kennedy assassination, and then the violent reactions to nonviolent protests during the civil rights movement. And, of course, there was the Vietnam War, which was likely fought under false pretenses under the umbrella that a tiny nation had attacked the military of the world's greatest superpower at the time.

So, perhaps a reaction to all of this was not only needed, but was indeed seriously overdue.

I know a lot of people dismiss that generation for turning their backs on that counterculture movement, and the hopes that many of them had to produce a better world with greater peace, love, and understanding. And I also will not deny that surely some people who were into the music and experimentation with drugs, and maybe who protested against the Vietnam War for self-serving reasons, wound up turning their backs on those values and grew up to become yuppies who voted for Reagan and two Bushes and, perhaps later on, Trump.

However, most of the people who truly believed in the counterculture hopes and aspirations back then were probably legitimately wanting to create a better world, and to my understanding, most of them held true. Most of them still feel that maybe there was something to it, that an opportunity had come and, unfortunately, gone, with the door slamming shut. Many of them, including my own parents, were alarmed to see the country take a strong turn in exactly the opposite direction, and to come to mock those very values that the hippies stood for.

Indeed, I still maintain that there probably was a glimpse to some other truths than what the country had known prior to that whole era, and to the counterculture movement, which the hippies were a part of. If the sixties were anything, they were a time when there was constantly increased illumination of the imperfections of American society as it existed then, and of extreme analysis and criticism of all of these imperfections. It was bound to get people upset, and some narrow-minded people who took criticism of these things as hatred for the country. However, change never comes easily or painlessly, and I for one am thankful for the counterculture of the 1960's. No, I was not yet around, and by the time that I was born, let alone had even an inkling of what the 1960's were and meant to the country and to many people still, that era was long, long gone.

Still, there were some positives. Many positives, in fact - more probably than most people are willing to admit. Ultimately, the unpopularity of that war, and the strong reactions to it, as well as the demonizing of what had been racist norms, sprung from there.

Not everything was good, of course. They went too far with the drugs, surely. Also, as stated before, likely many anti-war people held that position because it was self-serving, because they personally did not want to go off and possibly die in a faraway land. Indeed, some of those people perhaps became the chickenhawks who came to support militarism under George W. Bush and now Donald Trump (and let us not forget that those two men in particular, who seem so willing to send young soldiers off to foreign lands to fight and die for their country - themselves went to extraordinary lengths to avoid serving and fighting in the Vietnam War when it was their time to go and fight). And frankly, while I think skepticism of government and institutions was a welcome change for the 1960's, it has gone too far these days, with far too many people condemning anything that has to do with government, to the point of allowing other institutions, like corporations, to essentially set the pace, with their own narrow and obviously self-serving agenda, which has served to quickly deteriorate the standard of living in the United States. Many people now embrace the craziest conspiracy theories, and a lot of this can be traced back to that early skepticism of the 1960's.

But you cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater. Again, there had to be a reaction to the  overly conformist days of the 1950's and early 1960's, as surely as there will be a response to the present extremism and narcissism of this era of Trump. And there were a lot fo good things, even wonderful things, that came out of that era, which the hippies, the people who brought the country the Summer of Love, helped to create.

The level of creativity in art - perhaps especially music - has indeed had a lasting effect. Maybe rock 'n roll had somewhat of a rebellious nature before, with Chuck Berry skipping on one leg while playing the guitar, or Elvis swinging his pelvis, and which shocked parents before. But it was in the sixties that many artists - and again, especially musicians - started to have focus. They started experimenting with different intellectual, philosophical, spiritual, and ideological approaches, and they also started to get more focused on politics, on what they felt was demonstrably wrong in American society. The Beatles seemed at first to be a largely benign threat, but in time, their experimentation and activism grew sharper. This was helped along by Bob Dylan, who was the ultimate example of an activist musician shocking people by taking a stand and incorporating powerful, thought-provoking lyrics meant to challenge people. In time, the music itself would sound radically different, and really, all of this happened with amazing speed, when you think about it.

I think that there was more of some things because of the activism that emerged in the 1960's that have served American society well, and which spread to other countries, as well. That includes more colorful clothes and good, experimental music. That also includes less tolerance for intolerance, which we see still as very relevant in this day and age, when Nazis marching in the streets and giving fascist, straight arm salutes are almost universally condemned, even in the traditional Deep South, where sympathizers of white supremacy certainly used to hold sway. And again, there is more skepticism of the lines that institutions try to feed people. More and more, we can recognize the patterns of this forced, processed thought that serves narrow purposes.

On many levels, San Francisco, and perhaps to a lesser extent, New York City and other cities, were greatly impacted by that era, and have never been the same since. I have been to San Francisco, and it still has a lot of artists who seem to sometimes be throwbacks to that earlier period. Indeed, San Francisco in particularly seems to symbolize a modern city where those kinds of values are often championed far more than they are elsewhere in the country.

The Summer of Love woke many Americans to the presence of something radically different, something new that had not been seen before. And it did not end merely with the passing of that summer. As I mentioned before, and in earlier posts over the years, the best example of this counterculture of the hippies would come actually two summers later, with Woodstock. The brilliance of the creativity there, as well as the nonviolent approach - and let me remind everyone that there were no reports of violence during that whole weekend, despite the tight circumstances of nearly half a million people being squeezed together in an incredibly small space - continues to speak well for that era, for the hippies, and what they represented and believed in.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Visiting the Grand Canyon: What I Would Have Done Differently If I Had Known These Things in Advance

In the last few days, I have been noticing that a few of my Facebook friends have taken trips to the Grand Canyon. Having gone there the two previous summers, it made me miss the trips out west that my son and I took together, and made the desire to go back that much stronger.

Now, many people likely have not yet been to the Grand Canyon, and these people might rightly roll their eyes at me seeming to feel a little bit jealous of people taking trips out to the Grand Canyon. After all, my son and I took two separate trips out there, the first to the more popular and known South Rim two summers ago, and then last year, visiting the much less traveled North Rim. However, all I can say is that the grandeur of the Grand Canyon is indeed one of those things that likely exceeds all of the billing, and it makes you feel appreciative to have seen such a place, but also makes the desire to explore it further all the stronger, to boot. My son was a bit too young, and seemed a bit too cocky and sure of himself, for me to feel comfortable taking a serious hike down to the bottom, for example. But seeing some of the incredible sites and the tremendous beauty of what is down there has made me feel that truly exploring it thoroughly requires several days, and a serious hike up and down these cliffs.

Still, I do not want to seem ungrateful, because believe me, I feel blessed to have at least seen this amazing site, and to have shared these experiences with my son! It is hard to believe that the first trip out there was already two full years ago, and that the last trip out there was already fully a ago!

Perhaps I am also sharing this because, on some level, visiting articles about the Grand Canyon allows me to relive these amazing experiences. Some of the happiest recent memories that both my son and I have were of the two trips out west in the summer of 2015 and again in the summer of 2016. Looking at some of these articles both allows me to remember our own experiences more clearly and vividly, but also fosters the desire for a return trip at some point, one that might be made all the more thorough because of it.

One way or another, though, all of these recent online pictures of the Grand Canyon got me reminiscing about that place, and so I went searching for more information on it, which is of course one of the ways that I usually respond to such things. And here are some articles that seem especially helpful and relevant to anyone who might be planning to make just such a trip to the Grand Canyon themselves in the near future.

Included are articles about what at least some people feel is the best view of the Grand Canyon, and I was pleased to know that I was actually at one of those places. One of them is known as the Havasupai Cliffs, and features five waterfalls, and where people can dive off cliffs into welcoming waters. Or, near the Grand Canyon, perhaps you would like to explore the incredible looking Antelop Canyon, which pictures reveal is strikingly beautiful, and would be worth it, but which require expert level hiking and climbing to get to, to my understanding. Personally, I would also recommend visiting the area that is sometimes referred to as "Grand Canyon East, which includes the beautiful Vermillion Cliffs, which are cliffs exactly like those that you see at the Grand Canyon, with clear layers and varying colors. We were just passing through, but I was struck with the tremendous beauty of the place, and found myself wanting to visit it far more extensively. Nearby is where we crossed over the Colorado River and the Marble Canyon area. And once we got to Page, Arizona, my son and I were blessed to see the beautiful Horseshoe Bend, which was simply incredible!

If I were to do it again, and had more time to work with, those are some of the things that I would really make a point of visiting again in the area. So, if you are on the verge of visiting it, perhaps these articles and the video which I posted below might whet your appetite, or allow you to plan something particularly special for your visit:

This is, hands down, the best view of the Grand Canyon by Anna Hider, 15 September, 2015:

Travelers Are Hiking Miles to Get to the Grand Canyon's Incredible Hidden Waterfalls by Talia Avakian  March 13, 2017:

Antelope Canyon Ultras:


It seemed fitting to republish the two old blog entries from our visit to the Grand Canyon, including the pictures, and the original content, which I have kept here unaltered. Those were my first true impressions, back when these visits were brand new and still obviously fresh on my mind. They both still feel fresh, yet again, I have to remind myself that slightly more than a year has passed since the most recent trip there, and two years have passed since that first trip, when we drove from Flagstaff. So here, without further ado, are the old blog entries, complete with pictures:

The Grand Canyon - Day Three - Originally published on September 1, 2015:

This was it! The main reason that we went to Arizona to begin with! One of the truly biggest and most inspiring natural wonders in the world!

I had always wanted to see the Grand Canyon, but had begun to wonder when, or even if, it was going to ever happen.

Now, it was happening!

It was really getting exciting now!

I do not want to get into just how this particular trip came about. At first, I was supposed to spend my vacation time in Poland with my girlfriend. But when we could not find anyone to watch the diabetic dog, that trip fell through (for me, not for her). Strike one. Then, I began to flirt with the idea of going somewhere entirely new, and St. Petersberg seemed a great option. I had a friend who was a Russophile, and he seemed interested. But he also did not have a job, and could not do it. Strike two. I began to look at domestic trips, and it seemed like maybe it would be a good idea to capitalize on my son's still strong interest in geology, particularly in rocks and minerals. So, a trip out west began to be the leading candidate. A trip that combined two of the biggest natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park, began to look more realistic. But such a trip would require a lot of time and money, and when I found out that the days that I was looking for were not open, and that, on top of it, my vacation time expired a week earlier than expected (it goes by anniversary date, which happens to fall in August), I really hesitated in using all of that vacation time almost immediately after obtaining it.

Strike three.

Crap, thought I.

So, it would have to be one or the other, not both.

The trip to Yellowstone as I imagined it would look like this: take a flight out to Denver, visit Pike's Peak, drive along Rocky Mountain National Park, and then make our way to Yellowstone National Park, stopping at the Grand Tetons along the way. It would be at least a week, but that, too, took up probably more vacation time then I felt comfortable with right now. Also, the drive from Denver to Yellowstone was a full day there, and a full day back. Assuming the first day was no good because of the flight out there, and the last day was no good because of the flight back, four days would be wasted, just like that. That was too much.

So, the Grand Canyon seemed like the best option remaining, and this was hardly a consolation prize. I always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, and this would be great for my son!

Plus, a trip out to Arizona would allow us to see the southwestern desert, a first for both of us. Add to that the possibility of traveling to the Mexican border (see the blog entry a few days ago on our trip out to Nogales), and the mountains of Flagstaff, and it was looking like one hell of a trip! On top of it, as I was doing research on the trip, I discovered that we could visit the Petrified Forest, and when my son heard about these fossilized trees that had turned to crystalized stones over the course of millions of years, he definitely wanted to go. 

But it all centered around the Grand Canyon, first and foremost. And now, it was here!

What can I (or anybody, really) say about the Grand Canyon in words that do justice to what you are looking at? 

Really, you cannot. It is beyond words.

The Grand Canyon is more, far more, than simply some "big, damn hole in the ground," as one fellow hotel goer in Flagstaff tried to put it.

Regard the colors, and the enormity of it. Contemplate how these layers of rocks are essentially the closest thing to a recorded natural history of the planet that we have, as you are looking on billions of years of geological history.

In our modern society, we often regard the inevitable lines on our face indicating age with some measure of horror. But here, the lines of age etched into stone are beautiful, inspiring, and allow us to gain better perspective on our own smallness, and the tiny fragment of time that our lives actually occupy. Like when we regard the countless stars and galaxies in the sky, and recognize just how small we are, you come to this place and recognize that you are only one among millions of visitors per year, and you cannot help but wonder how many visitors this place has had, and will have. Lives briefly pass through here, but this place, by contrast, feels eternal. It is not, but it is one of the places here on Earth that feels eternal. 

This is beyond words, indeed.

So, let the pictures do the talking. And I promise that the pictures from the better camera will go up on this blog page sometime in the near future. It will happen. 

But for now, here are some of the many, many pictures taken from the old cell phone:

I mentioned that words cannot do justice to a site such as the Grand Canyon.

True enough. But that said, one man in particular was instrumental in allowing this, and many other sites, to be preserved for future generations (that means us!).

Of course, I am speaking of none other than Theodore Roosevelt.

So, here are some quote from the man himself that seemed appropriate:

"There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children's children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred."

"I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."

"In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it."

Summary of the 2016 Western Trip - Part Seven - Grand Canyon North Rim & the Horseshoe Bend - originally published on September 15, 2016:

Okay, so, I took a bit of time to focus on other kinds of blog entries over the last three days. After all, it was the 15th anniversary of September 11th several days ago, and this past weekend proved to be a very busy weekend in sports, as well as for my son and I, who enjoyed a trip to the beach when we went to Sandy Hook on the Jersey Shore for one final swim of the warm weather season. Besides, it is still officially summer anyway, right? 

However, I do want to return back to documenting the recent trip out west again. So, here goes with the day where we got to visit the other side of the Grand Canyon then what we did last year, when we went to the . This year, we instead went to the more remote and generally less visited North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Here is how that day went:

Saturday, August 20 - Our stay in St. George was great. We enjoyed it immensely. Everyone at the hotel, guests and management alike, seemed incredibly friendly. Trust me, coming from New Jersey, which by comparisons, feels like the rudeness capital of the world, it was hard not to notice. Not for the first or second or fifth or tenth time, I wondered what we were still doing living in New Jersey. We got a nice continental breakfast, which refreshed us. We got a decent swim in, and then showered and went on our way. Then, we drove out of town and through southwestern Utah, climbing in elevation before long. Gone were the palm trees and cactus and, at some point, there were green pine forests and cowboy ranches. Again, not what we expected from Utah. We drove for a while, and suddenly, we entered Arizona again. Before long, we took our turn to reach the Grand Canyon North Ridge. First, we had to reach a little place called Jacob's Lake, which from what I could gather from what was online about it, was not even a real town. Indeed, when we finally arrived there, it seemed like little more than an all-purpose souvenir shop, restaurant and inn, where you could also obtain some gas. Not surprisingly, the gas was quite a bit more expensive than anywhere else, although having anticipated this, I had made a point of filling up on gas beforehand. We arrived at the Grand Canyon's North Ridge was not much later on, although the gates (where you have to pay the entrance fee, which was $30 in both 2015 and 2016) were there well before you could actually see the canyon. In fact, on the North Ridge, it was quite a bit before you could really see much of anything, whereas on the South Ridge the year before, it seemed like just a few minutes later that we got to see the Grand Canyon for the first time. Of course, the North Ridge Grand Canyon was amazing as well, offering some spectacular views. The one thing that surprised me, however, was that the North Ridge seemed so much smaller, at least in terms of the areas that you could access by car, where there were paved roads and parking lots. So, this is why it was considered far more remote! Now, it was a lot more obvious. The visit was still nice, although last summer, we had driving maybe forty-five minutes to an hour into the South Rim part, and there were still many, many miles to go, and there had been numerous spots to view the Grand Canyon from. The North Rim felt a lot smaller, and with significantly less spots from which to view the Grand Canyon, although it was nonetheless quite spectacular. The fact that there were notably fewer cars and people served as actually an advantage of many levels. We took some pictures, naturally, and we soaked it all in. However, after it got to be fairly late in the afternoon, and knowing that there was a full drive ahead of us (we were going to try to reach Durango, Colorado by that evening), it was time to go, and I was happy to reach the final point. Some of the points were very spectacular, although personally, my favorite was Cape Royal, which was really just spectacular! That was pretty much right at the end of the road for the Grand Canyon North Ridge, although it was a great way to end it! We then drove back towards the entrance to the park and then to Jacob's Lake, although we took a different way out. Along the way, we saw the Vermilion Cliffs, and drove through a region known as Marble Canyon, where we traversed over the Colorado River on the Navajo Bridge, which to my understanding, is viewed as really the beginning of the Grand Canyon, and which some recognize as the East Rim. Just for anyone's personal information, there is also Grand Canyon West, which we did not visit either last year or this year, and this offers a  glass horseshoe, if you will, that must offer some incredible views, although it has also received criticism for being an unnatural and not entirely welcome addition to the Grand Canyon, which of course needs nothing in terms of improvement. In any case, the drive around the cliffs was longer than it might seem. We could see, only a few miles distant, where we had passed not long before, although you have to drive the lengths of the cliffs on both sides, before you make a turn and finally begin to climb in order to go in the direction of Page. As the bird flies, it is not particularly long, and perhaps twenty miles out, I thought I could still make out the area not far outside of Grand Canyon North Ridge where we had stopped, and I had gotten my son an arrow, and my girlfriend some jewelry for when we returned home. Once we reached the top of the cliffs, however, all of that basically disappeared, and you might never know we were anywhere near cliffs or mountains. But then, as we were fast approaching Page, I noticed off to the side a parking lot jam packed with cars, and people - a lot of people! - going up and down an adjacent hill. Initially, I passed it, but turned around and went, suspecting that this would be the famous Horseshoe Bend that I had wanted to see for a long time! Indeed, that was exactly what it was, and it was spectacular! We had come at the right time, too, as the day was growing short. We had daylight, but also happened to be there while it was getting dark, allowing us some nice desert sunset shots. However, having taken more time than expected at the Grand Canyon, and then taking this unexpected (but very welcome) excursion, we were now far behind schedule! However, it was already getting dark, and we had not prepared enough for things, which meant that we had not really eaten prior to our visit to the Grand Canyon. Page was the biggest town anywhere nearby, so we basically had to choose that as the place to eat dinner, and it felt necessary to couple that with a stop to fill up on gas, just in case we needed it. I had filled up just outside of the Vermilion Cliffs, but knowing how far we still needed to travel, and the late hour and lack of any really notable places on the map, I did not want to chance anything. The rest of the drive was indeed long and very, very dark. There were hardly any lights of any sorts, except by highway intersections and the few communities that we reached. Still, the miles needed to get done, and we got them done. We drove and drove, until we reached closer to Colorado. As we reached close to the border, something very strange and most unexpected happened - we almost hit two wild horses! It was dark, and there were two small buttes on the side of the road, but I saw some vague, dark shapes moving, and recognized them as two huge bodies. At first, I thought that they were buffalo, although as we got closer, it was clear that they were horses. What they were doing there, right in the middle of a road, is anyone's guess. We had not seen much traffic on the road, but suddenly, there seemed to be a lot of cars going in the other direction shortly after this incident, so I flashed my lights to warn them ahead of time. The first guy was close, and he slammed on his brakes, as the horses probably were still on the road. That was a big scare, and it slowed me down pretty much for the rest of the evening. This was just around midnight. We arrived outside of Durango as it was approaching two in the morning, and I found a quiet spot on the side of the road (it is not hard to do in that area), and tried to catch some shut eye for a few hours, before the dawn of a new day. All I can say from that long drive is just how thankful I was, and still am, that we did not actually hit those horses. That likely would have ended the trip prematurely, and on a sour note. Thank God I did not hit those horses!

Vermillion Cliffs, Marble Canyon and the Grand Canyon East

The Colorado River

The Horshoe Bend, Page, Arizona