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Friday, October 20, 2017

Meandering the Mae Simmons Park Trail and More

It's been about three weeks since we were out hiking, and we've had a few days to recover from our very active crewing at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta - so we decided to look for a little more extensive outdoor activity here in the Lubbock area.  The 5 mile long Mae Simmons Park Trail interested us because it offers the opportunity to hike along the shore of Canyon Lake, a manmade lake formed by the damming of the north fork of the Brazos River in Yellow House Canyon.

The lake is pretty - perhaps 1.5 miles long, with docks and shoreline for fishing.  Here is a view of the lake as we started the trail.

The trail covers open hillside on the east side of the lake.  Much of the terrain is hilly, and we suspect that much of it had been a formal or informal landfill before it was dedicated to recreation and wildlife habitat.  Here is a typical view from the trail:

The northern end of the trail passes through Prairie Dog Town.  We realized this when we started hearing those characteristic alarm "eeps" from the local denizens.  There were thousands of burrows, and in every case, as we approached, an appointed sentry would give up his cry, barking at us until we got too close, then dive into his burrow, to be succeeded by another sentry along our path.  Here's a photo of our favorite prairie dog friend, Cynomus, who let us get very close before diving into his rocky hole:

Yellow House Canyon, which was flooded by Canyon Lake, was the site of a battle between a force of Comanches and Apaches against a group of American bison hunters that occurred on March 18, 1877.  The murder of Marshall Sewell, a well-liked buffalo hunter, started the conflict between 300 Comanche, Apaches, and possibly Mescalero from Oklahoma, and 47 white buffalo hunters.  The murder of Sewell was the result of Indian resentment against overhunting of buffalo in the area by white hunters.  The conflict ended with a ten hour fight, which would be the last fight between Indians and the White Man on the High Plains of Texas.

The area looked peaceful enough today as we hiked.  There were even shaded groves of trees for us to rest in during our hike:

It is fall, which we imagine is one of two beautiful times of year in West Texas.  We some pretty wildflowers --

-- and some wild squash, which we imagine the prairie dogs love to feast on:

David even explored some prickly pear cactus that popped up every once in a while along the trail:

Signs about the trail warn of rattlesnakes, but we didn't spot any during our hike.  We did see some outcroppings of intriguing soft limestone rock, which made us wonder if this weren't the geologic remains of part of the great inland sea that covered this area a millenia ago:

Even though the temperatures weren't high, and there was a cooling wind, every shady stop was welcome:

We finished our hike with a late lunch, and then returned to our campground to do some chores, have dinner, and get ready for the event of our evening:  a face-off between the local Coronado High School Mustangs football team and their cross-town competitors, the Monterey Plainsmen!

We could have waited until tomorrow and tried to get tickets to the Homecoming Game for local Texas Tech, but that is a BIG DEAL locally; the tickets would be expensive (if even available) and the seating would be crowded and uncomfortable, and we decided it would be better to be out doing something else while the whole city of Lubbock, Texas watches the Texas Tech game.

The high school game was rock 'em sock 'em, with all the hoopla you would expect from a Texas high school sports event.  It seemed the whole school turned out to support each team.  The football squads were HUGE - between 60 and 70 varsity players on each team.  And, of course, the City of Lubbock built a huge stadium where all four high school teams play - with games on Thursday and Friday nights:

Because a Texas Tech player is a Heisman Trophy candidate this year, the Heisman Trophy is in town for tomorrow's college game - and it dropped by the high school game to give everyone a chance to have their photo taken with it.  During the first quarter, David hopped over to get his photo.

Kathy held onto our seats.  Originally, we sat right on the 50-yard line in the lower tier, but we quickly realized that this was where all the high school students sit; the parents sat in the next section over.  So, to keep from having to stand the whole game - and to hear ourselves talk, we moved over with the other old fogeys.  There was still hoopla to spare!

Musing About Lubbock

Hi Blog!

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is now but a memory, but what a great memory. We're still trying to recovery from the early mornings and late nights. It took a few days, but we think we're finally getting back on track.

We are now heading south and east toward Houston, Texas where we will store the rig for our upcoming trip. Lubbock is our first stop in Texas.  The city is located in the northwestern part of of the state. Lubbock's nickname, "Hub City", derives from it being the economic, educational, and health care hub of the multi-county region.

On Thursday, October 19, 2017, we set out to get to know Lubbock a little better.

You may know Lubbock as the birth place of Buddy Holly.  So what better thing to do first in Lubbock, than to visit the Buddy Holly Center?

The collection is headlined by the Fender Stratocaster that Holly played during his final concert and the pair of glasses that he was wearing at the time of his death.

In 1996, the city obtained a large number of Buddy Holly-related artifacts from his estate. The next year the city then purchased the recently closed Depot Restaurant, and began restoring, renovating, and expanding it into a facility that could both replace the Fine Arts Center and serve as a home for its newly acquired Buddy Holly collection.

Kathy had a little trouble seeing the entrance to the Buddy Holly Center:

We started our tour by watching a documentary on Buddy Holly and then browsed the exhibit hall, which included numerous artifacts from his career as a professional musician, including a recording microphone, performing outfits, a guitar strap customized by Holly himself, and numerous albums. However, no trip to the Buddy Holly Center would be complete without a visit to the gift shop.  Here, Dave models a "genuine" pair of Buddy Holly sunglasses while holding his newly acquired CD of all Buddy's greatest hits (soon to be ripped to mp3):

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included Holly (his actual name was Charles Hardin Holley) among its first class in 1986. On its entry, the Hall of Fame remarked upon the large quantity of material he produced during his short musical career, and said it "made a major and lasting impact on popular music". It called him an "innovator" for writing his own material, his experimentation with double tracking and the use of orchestration; he is also said to have "pioneered and popularized the now-standard" use of two guitars, bass, and drums by rock bands. As we left the center, we wondered what Rock and Roll would have been like had Buddy been able to continue his career.  Kathy KNOWS he could have used her help:

We decided to continue our musing over lunch at the Triple J Chophouse & Brew Co. Dave went right for the Octoberfest, while Kathy sampled several of their beverage offerings. We plotted out our next Lubbock adventure while enjoying our beers.

After lunch, we stopped at the National Ranching Heritage Center, a museum of ranching history, located on the campus of Texas Tech University. The NRHC features almost fifty authentic ranch buildings dating from the late 18th to the mid-20th century. These structures include a railroad depot, homesteads, barn, schoolhouse, windmills and other historic structures. There are several rotating exhibits in the main hall including one on cattle rustling, another on the local native tribes and, Kathy's favorite, the history of bandanas!

With over 50 buildings it was hard to choose which made the blog and which didn't. We decided to just include a sampling to give you the basic idea. The Jowell House, a fortress style residence, was built in 1872 after Comanches burned down the Jowells' first house.

Here Kathy inspects the Waggoner Ranch Commissary. The Waggoner was notable for being the largest ranch bounded by one fence in the United States - 535,000 acres. The land was used primarily to raise crops, beef cattle and horses as well as for oil production. The commissary was needed to supply the huge labor force needed to run a ranch of this size.

Bairfield School House (1890) is a typical one room school house:

Barton House (1909), an example of Queen Anne Style architecture, was relocated to the Heritage Center from Hale County. It is named for Joseph J. Barton. Barton secured 50 sections of land in the southwest corner of Hale County and founded the T. L. Ranch. Plans in 1906 for a railroad line to connect Hereford with the Texas and Pacific RR at Colorado City through his property prompted Barton to found a town which he called Bartonsite. By 1909 Bartonsite had 250 people and was supporting a hotel, lumberyard, community church and school, and a post office. Then in 1909, Barton erected the two and a half story home which is now at the Ranching Heritage Center. 

The house was built in the late Victorian style with carved wood mantels and staircases and elegant wallpaper. Later when the railroad went through Abernathy to the east, Bartonsite residents dispersed, mainly to Abernathy. The house in its elegance represents the prosperity of the rancher, which came after years of hard work in overcoming the adversities of weather, terrain and economic recession.

One of the most fascinating of all the buildings was the Picket and Sotol House.

Since wood was in short supply in West Texas, pioneers collected the stalks from the sotol plant. Hundreds of these stalks were nailed on two sides of wooden studs. The center between the two walls of sotol was then filled with mortar to insulate the building. What a tremendous amount of effort it must have took to nail each and every one of those little sticks to the wall! We finished our tour with a better understanding of what life was like out on the range back in the day.

After we got back to camp, we walked around the corner to Mi Taco Village for some good Mexican food and local cowboy music. In addition to country standards like "Paper Roses" and "Fine Time to Leave me Lucille," he regaled us with Prince's "Purple Rain," John Denver's "Country Roads" and several Jimmy Buffet tunes! A good time was had by all.

We are hoping to go for a hike on Friday and take in a local high school football game. Stay tuned!

Eddie and George Wake Up in Lubbock Texas

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Ten Days of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

This festival flew by so fast!  How can we possibly sum it up in one blog post?

We'll try.  Here are ten photos, emblematic of each of the ten days we spent at the Fiesta Grounds.











Monday, October 2, 2017

Canyon de Chelly

Hi Blog!

We camped at the Cottonwood Campground run by the Navajo Nation next to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The Monument is located near the town of Chinle, Arizona and is within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation. The Canyon de Chelly is one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America, it preserves ruins of the indigenous tribes that lived in the area, from the Ancestral Puebloans (Archaic, Basketmaker, Pueblo and Hopi) to the Navajo. The monument covers 83,840 acres and encompasses the floors and rims of the three major canyons: de Chelly, del Muerto, and Monument. These canyons were cut by streams with headwaters in the Chuska Mountains just to the east of the monument. None of the land is federally owned. While the rim roads are open to the the public, to access the canyon you must travel with a Navajo guide.

We started our tour on Sunday, October 1, 2017. We met our local guide, Harris Harding, at the Best Western Hotel. Harris's family has lived in the valley since his great grandmother returned from the Long Walk in 1868. In Navajo families, the land is passed down from mother to oldest daughter, and so he lives on the land because his mother owns part of it. His family farms on the valley floor, growing all sort of produce like corn, squash, beans, peaches and pears. There is no running water or electricity and they want it to stay that way. They are very proud of their home and are happy to share it with visitors, provided we respect the local inhabitants. Here we are at the start of our journey. The recent thunderstorms made it an exciting ride.

Our first stop was Kokopelli Rock. The petroglyphs and pictographs span almost 1,000 years. In addition to the animals, there were two types of hand prints. One is created by blowing paint over the hand, leaving a void where the hand was. The other is made by dipping a hand in paint and leaving a print.

If you notice the kokopelli, he is lying on his back. There is a small water line just below his feet. It is believed that this image represents a "fallen" situation and was made when the Ancestral Puebloans left the canyon due to a drought.

As we moved on to the next site, we stopped to visit ET!

The next set of pictographs were made almost 800 years after the Ancestral Puebloans left the valley. When the Navajo migrated into the valley, they too left stories in the rocks. Here, two riders are chasing down a deer. They could have shot it with an arrow, but a deer hide was more valuable if it was unmarked. Hunters would chase the deer down and capture it, but kill it without leaving marks. An unmarked hide was almost always included in a dowry.

When the Navajo moved into Canyon de Chelly, they built 8-sided houses known as hogans on the valley floor. They were curious about the Ancestor Puebloans, but never disturbed their homes or dug up their graves. The first home site we visited was named "First Ruins" by the National Park Service. While this home site looks high up on a shelf, the valley floor was actually must higher a thousand years ago.

At the entrance to the canyon, the walls are only 30 feet high. The further up the canyon, the higher the walls become until they are almost 1,000 feet above the valley floor. There are 37 different traditional Native American hiking trails in and out of the canyon. If you look closely you can see toe holes cuts into the rock leading up to the canyon rim on the edge of this fin.

The second ruin we visited was located at the junction of Canyon del Muerto and Canyon de Chelly.

Folks lived here between 1000 and 1200 AD, nearly a thousand years ago. You can see how construction techniques change over the years. The oldest structure is the round kiva in the center, which is built of rough stones and only interstitial mortar.  The buildings further from the center are constructed using carved stone and finer, smoother motar.

As we made our way up the canyon, we passed a number of homesteads. It's common for the Navajo to let their horses roam freely.

The last stop on our tour was the White House. The Navajo call this location "white house in between" referring to the white plastered walls of the room built in the alcove. The multi-storied pueblo below was once high enough to provide access to the rooms in the alcove above.

This site may have had up to eighty rooms and at at least four kivas, but due to erosion only about forty rooms are left. Tree-ring dates from the logs used in the construction indicate the first building activity began around 1060, with additions as late as 1275. Here's a look at what is left of the round kiva, on the center-right. You can still see the holes where the ceiling logs once rested in the remaining walls of the squared building on the left.

Some local residents set up craft tables in the parking lot. After picking up a couple Christmas presents, we made our return trip out of the canyon. We really enjoyed our tour of Canyon de Chelly and learning more about Navajo life.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley.  We all know the images:


So the two of us wanted to see it, and we did on Saturday, September 30, 2017:

However, there are, in fact, three Monument Valleys.

The first and most popular Monument Valley is the 17-mile drive through all the famous monuments such as the East and West Mittens (that's a photo of us in front of West Mitten above), and some lesser known monuments.

It's a rough dirt road and full of drivers that don't know how to drive in rutty sand.

Call it the "front country" - it has some of the most recognizable Southwest scenery because its dramatic formations have been filmed in countless Hollywood movies.

John Ford Point in the Valley got its name because of the director John Ford's proclivity to use vistas from the point in his films.  Here, a cooperative park worker offered to let us take a photo of him on his horse in front of the classic Western film view:

But even more fun:  he let Kathy mount up for her own closeup, Mr. De Ville:

The second Monument Valley is only witnessed by those who take the 4x4 tour into the backcountry.  Our driver, a native Navajo who lives and ranches in Monument Valley itself, took us on an adventure through parts of the monument we wouldn't otherwise have seen.

The backcountry of Monument Valley is filled with numerous arches, fins and formations that rival Arches or Canyonlands National Parks.  Here is a beautiful pothole arch our tour guide showed us - the sun shining through it onto the sandstone below the arch:

Our guide said that each formation has its own story.  The story of this arch relates to the fact that it looks like a person with long hair and ceremonial dress:

Yet another, Surprise Arch, was breathtaking for its grace and delicate beauty:

This arch is named "Eye of the Sun":

The rock walls in Monument Valley are decorated with petroglyphs (rock carving or pecking) and pictographs (rock painting).  Because the area was first inhabited by the Anasazi (a term perjorative to the Navajo that means "the ancestor others" in Navajo) - or, in more presently acceptable terms, the Ancestral Puebloans, the earliest rock art was created by that early group.  After the Ancestral Puebloans left the area by 1300 or so, the Navajo did not arrive for perhaps 200 or more years.  The Navajo themselves left their own rock art.

The Navajo believe that they are not related to the Ancestral Puebloans.  They believe that the Ancestral Puebloans might have descended from an early migration from China or Japan.  Many ethnologists believe that, when the Ancestral Puebloans left the Four Corners area of Utah/Arizona/Colorado/New Mexico, they moved east and south and became the present day Hopi and other Southwestern tribes.

Instead, the Navajo believe that they and the Apache descended from the Athabascans, a group that still lives in Alaska and northern Canada, and these ancestors, in turn, were the descendants of Mongolians who migrated - perhaps across the land bridge from Siberia and Mongolia to Alaska - in a later wave after the ancestors of the Ancestral Puebloans.

Our driver pointed out that this rock's shadow, during the middle of the day, appears to cast a silhouette of George Washington, who may be laying his blessing on the visitors to this place:

Yet another arch framed a lone, dead tree:

These formations our guide called, "The Totem Poles":

This one he calls, "The Thumb," but David wondered whether some might have given it an alternate name:

The third Monument Valley - and one which very few visitors come to grasp - is a place of The People - DinĂ© - who have lived here for centuries.  Why they live here, who they are, and how they live, are things that can be understood by outsiders only with time and careful attention.

What few outsiders really appreciate is that Monument Valley is an active, living homeland and source of living to Navajo people.  They live their lives here in traditional ways.  They work hard and preserve Navajo traditions.

They welcome visitors to pass through, but they only offer their learning - their wisdom - to those who ask to learn for the right reasons.

We tourists get to see the monuments.  DinĂ© inhabit this world with its spirits and their ancestors, and they know beauties and dimensions of it that we will never experience.