Friday, June 27, 2008

My CKU Evolution Album

Yesterday I finally finished off my 'Evolution' album that I starting working on at CKU. I am SOOO happy with the results. Love it. The album was designed in 3 parts. Since it was all about me I broke it down into my childhood, school & Uni years and adulthood (when I get there!!).

Each part is essentially the same; a front cover with pocket for journalling on the left, a transparency page with section title and photos on either side, a page with 6 circles with mini photos or embellishments, the backside of that with 6 square photos, and a closing full page photo of that era (love that picture of me and my brother as superheros!!). I added a couple of extra pages along the way to be able to include more photos!

I so enjoyed this project (designed by Life Artist - Ali Edwards). I loved the excuse to dig out all these old photos and scan them in - it now means I have a whole stack of old photos on my laptop and they come round periodically on my beloved screen saver slideshow. Love that.

To see the whole album visit my scrapbook gallery HERE

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bryce Canyon NP

Such a wonderful couple of days in an enchanting and unique place. As their orientation and promotional movie goes 'Bryce Canyon is like no place on earth'. Due to some complex layers of specific stone and rock the erosion that takes place here is something else. In winter it has freezing night tempearatures and warm days resulting in a constant freeze/thaw action in the cracks of the stone. In summer it receives monsoon rains and washouts crumbling and dissolving the limestone and runoffs off the plateau leaving distinct gullies. When gullies get deeper the walls between them get narrower and taller and fins eventually devlop. Fins erode to form windows and windows erode and collapse to form hoodoos. Phew - busy eh?! The landscape is constantly changing here. And what we see is magnificent ampitheatres full of a crazy, other-world landscape of fins, hoodoos and spires.

This is our gorgeous campsite in amongst the trees...

Last night we went to a ranger talk on astonomy - just reminds us how teeny weeny we are in this mighty big galaxy of ours. Earth is 3 light minutes from the sun whereas Pluto is 14 light hours from the sun (both planets are within our little ole' galaxy and they estimate there's billions of separate galaxies) The figures just start get overwhelming and fascinating at the same time. Bryce is quite remote and at 8000ft quite high so has awesome visibility for star-gazing so after the talk the rangers had set up several telescopes for us to spot through. We saw Saturn. Amazing. So clear, complete with it's rings - we could see the gap between the planet and it's rings and everything! Also saw some other stuff (all with weird astronomy tecchie names) - a galaxy, a dying star and a double star and other cool stuff!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Wave

So this is 'The Wave' and we're 2 of 7300 people a year to see it! (which sounds a lot but really, think about it - it so isn't - 20 a day). Still can't believe we got lucky in the lottery for permits!!

It was a pretty tough hike out there. Only 3 miles each way but completely exposed and thus VERY hot. Mostly walking across slickrock which was easier, but toward the end it was thick sand - I'm sure I've brought home half of the desert with me. Aren't I just wishing I didn't got for those vented trek shoes?! The Wave's location is pretty tricky to find. It's in the Coyote Buttes area of the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness and although the trailhead is in Utah the actual Wave is in Arizona! You get given 4 pages of trail details when you collect your permit - with colour photos and descriptions and even they were ambiguous at times we thought!. Because the sandstone formation is so fragile they limit the people able to visit. And when you're there you can really understand why. It wouldn't take long to wreck the beautiful rock if hundreds of feet were trudging all over it. It would wear trails on the stone and damage the thin layers that create the waves and streaks. So really having limited permits is a good thing (easy for me to say now I've been!) It was great to get out there and see this famous formation!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Page, AZ as our base

So here we are in Page, AZ. On the shores of Lake Powell. It's a man-made lake created when they dammed up the Colorado river at Glen Canyon. I had no expectations of this place. I had no idea the scenery here was so spectacular! The lake is vast and generally fairly inaccessible (unless of course you have a boat - Houseboating is enormously popular here - I want to come back one day and do that it looks such fun!). We have stayed at a great campsite in Page, bargain price and it's been so hot so we've indulged in some non-stop aircon action which has been very appreciated when we get back from long days out on the bike.

We went on a tour of Antelope Canyon - a very popular slot canyon. It's amazing and although we're pretty happy with our photos they don't do it justice. I must be honest I don't really understand quite how slot canyons are formed (wind & water obviously!) but they are just something else. The walls are smooth, almost polished and wave-like in shape and in many places you can touch both walls as they tower up above and in Antelope Canyon it was just a floor of perfect, pristine pale sands. Tours are popular and busy but we still got chance to savour the place and take plenty of photos!!

We've been getting up early the last couple of mornings. There's a really 'famous' desirable hike in the area. Very exclusive and preserved area they only issue permits to hike to 20 people a day. 1/2 are reservable in advance but the other 10 are offered to people in a lottery system. It didn't bode well. I was the person who had a standing order national lottery ticket and won NOTHING for a year!! In high season 80 people turn up to try to get lucky for the 10 permits. Oh dear me!! You have to be in to win as they say and we went yesterday at 9am and didn't get lucky :-( Second chance this morning and this time they give you 2 balls in the bucket - we got drawn 3rd and got our permits for tomorrow! - Hurrah!!

Back to yesterday though. Who'd have thought we'd be re-visting the Grand Canyon. Certainly not us. We visited in Spetember 2006 and hiked to the bottom and back and spent several days based at the South Rim. This time we were much closer to the North Rim and we couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit. This is the 'exclusive' side!! Apparently only about 10% of all park visitors come this side. It doesn't open till 15th May and closes again by mid-October (due to snow - it's at a higher elevation than the south rim). Visitor facilites are much smaller here but that added to it's appeal. Even on a busy day in high season the place was quite lovely - not at all teeming with people. And at 8800 feet we managed a midday hike (wouldn't contemplate that back at Page where we're staying!) Walked out to Cape Final - just a lovely view! Such a great day out we had to drag outselves away around 5pm. We had a long ride home to Page. ABout 3 hours. But the scenery on the ride was hardly an eyesore. Past the Vermillion Cliffs, over the Colorado river where the condors hang out (we didn't see any!) and a full moon to guide us home the last 30 miles to Page.

Today we visited another slot canyon. This time we didn't need a guide and it wasn't quite as popular as Antelope. We had to ride a nightmarish 8.5 miles on a horrid dirt track (we've got to do this again tomorrow to get to the trailhead for our 'special' hike). From the trailhead we walked 1.5 miles in a sandy wash then entered Buckskin Gulch. This goes on for miles and miles. We only walked about 2.5 miles before we turned around but it was a fab hike for the time of day. The walls were so high and narrow - in one place we had to walk sideways to get through! It meant the sun didn't get in much so it stayed beautifully cool and shaded almost the whole way.

On the way back to Page we visited the Glen Canyon Dam - the cause of Lake Powell. Watched the video of how/why it was built and took it the spectacular views.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Monument Valley

When we FINALLY left Sedona (after 15 nights!) we made an impromptu decision to detour about 100 miles to take in Monument Valley.

Probably the first time we've actually been bothered enough about gas prices to cost out just how much extra it would be to take the RV rather than do a day trip jouney on the motorycle. But for $40 ish it was worth it. It meant we could stay overnight and for us that was the highlight of Monument Valley. It's just such a classic American scene and we were camped out on the top of the mesa overlooking the lot. Perfect sunsets with the buttes glowing in front of us and sunrises silhouetted them perfectly.

As I lifted my head from the pillow in the morning I was greeted with the most fabulous view - not a bad sight to see first thing in the morning! Went on a lovely short hike - actually did it twice, once in the evening and once again the next morning. Down off the mesa then onto the valley floor and around the butte in the middle of the photos.

Friday, June 13, 2008


We'd heard so many good reports about the whole Sedona area that we really were expecting a pretty cool place; and we weren't to be disappointed! Part of the appeal was the race track quality mountain roads (obviously I didn't act like I was on a race track; ok well maybe a little bit then... after all Helen was away in Houston for a few days leaving me alone with the bike...), not to mention the stunning scenery - There seemed to be something to do in every direction; to the east was the Coconino National Forest, south to Prescott was the local area brewery which Helen made the most of whilst I rode us there! Like so many brew pubs we've been to, the food was pretty spectacular so I didn't do so bad out of the deal. It was no surprise that the brewery was there as the town has the original "Whisky Row" street from way back in the days of the wild west; they had a fire once, (as most old American towns seem to!) and the patrons of one particularly popular bar managed to get together and physically lift the wooden bar out in to the street to save it - it's still there!

On the way to Prescott was a small town called Jerome that although now quite a hippy/arty town, was once a virtual ghost town; it was a big, (in fact the biggest in America) copper mine built on the side of a 7,000 ft mountain overlooking the Sedona valley but partly due to a lack of demand but mostly because of a huge land slide that dropped more than half the town down the mountain, people moved out and almost but not quite, deserted the place.

In and around Sedona itself are the most amazingly red rocks and mountains so hiking was big on our list; unfortunately the pictures will never do it justice - you'll just have to go there and see for yourselves! Sedona is well known, (apparently...) for its vortexes; not really my chosen subject but the area is said to be full of high energy points which means everywhere you go there seems to be a bunch of people chanting and offering sacrifices, (thankfully not live goats and things) to whoever I don't know.

This was our hike out to the West Fork. Lovely shaded hike and at the end the trail just dead-ended in water. At least I'm sure it would go on if you wanted to get your feet wet!! We paddled a little just to see what was round the corner but it was COLD!! On the way back to the trailhead we were treated to a glimpse of this Hummingbird faithfully guarding it's nest. Didn't seem bothered by us even if we were poking a camera lens in it's face!

And then there was Slide Rock State Park; the name might hint at the theme here; basically a large park cum picnic area with a river running through a very rocky valley. The river of course had worn away the rock over the years leaving a smooth, narrow and thankfully, cold channel in which one can slide one's way downstream. We should have perhaps taken more notice of the fact that the locals were all wearing heavy duty shorts or cut-off jeans; let's just say my backside hadn't felt like that since my last caning at boarding school!

Last but not least was the winery just outside the campground gate; too expensive for us travellers to shop there but we of course had to at least go through the rigorous process of tasting the choices they had on offer...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Verde Canyon Railroad

So after the 'little' mishap with reading abilities I finally got home Sunday night. Late. Very late. Pulled back into the RV park just after midnight. It's so good to be back and so much exciting stuff to talk about and show Chris - all my goodies and projects from CKU!

Today Chris surprised me . And I generally am not easy to surprise - I usually think too hard and figure it out! But I was stumped until about 2 miles from our destination...The Train depot. Had no idea there was a scenic railway around but Chris had booked us First Class tickets for an afternoon journey on the Verde Canyon Railway. I specify First Class as it's quite a different experience from regular and so worth the $25 more. Comfy, comfy armchairs. Only about 30 people per carriage and served by 2 wait staff who brought drinks, gave us info about the sights we were passing and generally pampered us. After the journey from hell yesterday this was the best way I could imagine spending an afternoon. Hor d'erves were served during the outbound journey and ice-creams on the way back, along with a full bar service. It was WONDERFUL!!

Oh, and to mention the scenery. Well it's a given that it was rather lovely. The tracks run from Clarkdale to Perkinsville and it's loveliness all the way. Even the slag heap on the side of the tracks had an interesting story and we saw 2 bald eagles and plenty of funky rock formations - if you squint you could maybe make out George Washington, the Angel or most impressive the Elephant!!

Sunday, June 08, 2008


CKU. Stands for Creating Keepsakes University!! Creating Keepsakes is the 'leading' scrapbook magazine in the USA and very proactive in promoting the craft. It was a 3 day convention I suppose is the best way to describe it. Lots of classes, projects, time to work on your own stuff in the 'crop' hall, great chance to meet new friends with a like-minded hobby. Fantastic experince. Was maxxed out the whole time with non-stop business - they only gave us an hour between classes and evening activites on some days! Busy from 9am till midnight!! I have so many projects I worked on. Mostly Scrapbook pages - I normally create 12x12" pages but here we were using different sizes - we created a whole album of 6x6" pages - 8 different classes with 8 different teachers with different styles and products - very cool - all I need to do now is finish it off with my photos and some journalling!
Also created a fab mirror! Loved this class - so many new techniques for me and I could even get into the messy play thing and start using paints! The main thing I realised I can't fully embrace Scrapbooking until I have a much larger space to collect products, tools, papers, paints - an RV isn't ideally suited!! I came home with 2 bags full to bursting with goodies we'd been given and all my new projects!!

These are all the goodies and even here I have stuff tucked away in bags so there's even more than it looks!! Now I have to find homes for all this! I ain't complaining!

Read your ticket properly... and use the 24 hr clock when travelling!

DUH!!!...... obviously haven't mastered the 24 hour clock system. If they had I'd still be wandering the Galleria mall in downtown Houston after having had a lovely long night's sleep in my Heavenly Bed. Whilst I'm prepared to accept SOME of the blame I will defend to the death. It's not 08.35 it's 20.35 - if only....the ticket says can see where I went wrong! Meanwhile I will continue to sit at this blasted airport for another 4 hours. 8 hours down, 4 to go. Thank God for Itunes Monvie rentals, Wifi, and a cosy corner with power outlet, added to which I will miss my shuttle bus in Phoenix which means I lose the return portion of my ticket AND Chris will enjoy a 6 hour round trip to drive the RV down to Phoenix to meet me. Duh, duh, duh.....

And the moral of the story is two-fold.....(1) Use the 24-hour clock when travelling (2) Learn to read!!

Oh...and always travel with snacks!!! (They come in handy!)

Petrified Forest (belated!)

OK so I was gonna post about Petrified Forest National Park. First up I must say it really doesn't look all that scared...

It was a day-use only park, so we drove in from Gallup, NM - Arizona doesn't use DST so our times were all messed up and we got there early in the morning so first into the visitor centre. Even by that time (8am) the sun is so high in the sky and the colours were already getting washed out. We entered the park in the Painted Desert area. But even with the high sun the colours were still amazing - photos just don't do it justice! Took a little hike from here - walked down into the desert floor from Kachina Point and headed off into the 'wilderness area'. There were no trails we could just walk wherever we wanted - used the 'wash' in the distance as a reference point. What looked like a tiny dried-up stream bed was actually as wide as a 6 lane highway and filled with perfect 'clean' sand once we got there! All along there were bits of old trees just strewn about - trees that are rock! I just can't get over how cool this looks - how tree like! The texture is all still there - preserved forever, cast in stone - AMAZING! And this part of the park wasn't even heavily populated with the petrified forest so much - that was more south!

The park has a 30 mile road going right through it. Lots of pull-outs and mini trails leading to points of interest. We stopped at most of them - really making the most out of the fact it was only day-use (we're so used to spending time in the National Parks, camping, hiking out etc). There was an old pueblo ruins, some petroglyphs and the old Route 66 passed right by - the line of old telegraph poles remains to mark the old road and a rusting old car.

The thickest concentration of petrified wood (did I mention HOW COOL this stuff is!!!? - I did?, ok!) was in the Crystal Forest and Long Logs area - wow! Did another little hike round this area - to an old pueblo building that had been built with the 'wood/stone'. These days that's not really in keeping with the whole National Parks preservance policy but it was done 'before their time' so it's been left. People nicking stones is a HUGE no-no in the park. They estimate (how on earth?!) that 1 ton of the stuff gets swiped each month! There are spot checks on vehicles as you leave. Strange because 1/2 mile down the road outside the park boundaries you can buy as much as you like - there are whole parking lots full of the stuff all laid out for your perusal and purchase (it just isn't collected from within the park).