Everyday adventures

From Petroglyphs to Ice Caves—the Enchanted Meander* Begins

April 24, 2017

Installment two of the great Arizona/New Mexico Road Trip...

Let me tell you a little secret about traveling with my friend Kerri. You’d better be ready to GO. She packs more into a day than almost anyone I know. I’m grateful for this, because I’m a bit of a slug by nature. Each day of our trip was chock full of seeing the sights, driving, talking, eating, listening to music or podcasts, hunting that perfect photo, and exploring anything that caught our interest. Last week, I skipped ahead in our trip to write about Antelope Canyon, but now I’m backtracking to our first day’s adventures: 

Petroglyph National Monument is just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico, and it was our first stop on the trip. After checking in at the visitor’s center for advice on where to go if we didn’t have much time, we settled on Boca Negra Canyon. It was a beautiful morning, with cobalt blue skies and cool temperatures. A few minutes easy walk brought us into an area of tumbled volcanic rock, and the petroglyphs were easily spotted on the dark surfaces. These markings were created by Native Americans and early Spanish settlers approximately 400-700 years ago. This area is considered a sacred landscape by the American Indians, according to the Park Service brochure.

We also caught glimpses of the wildlife of the area—rabbits, quail, lizards, and what might have been ground squirrels or prairie dogs—they were too fast and too far away to tell.

 Our next stop was a roadside attraction we stumbled upon:

Located in a collapsed lava tube, the ice on the floor is approximately 20 feet deep. The deepest ice dates back to 1100 AD. Arctic algae causes the ice’s green tint.

We finished off the day sunset gazing on the way to Cottonwood, Arizona:

Where we stayed at the delightful Iron Horse Inn.

In our next installment, our intrepid travelers discover perhaps the world’s most delicious breakfasts, cliff dwellings, and even more stunning rock formations.

*Kerri dubbed her Facebook photo album for our trip “An Enchanted Meander”—and I’m shamelessly appropriating the name.


Where the Wind Lives

April 19, 2017


This is installment one of my 2017 Arizona/New Mexico road trip adventures with my friend Kerri. 

As we bumped down the dirt road to the mouth of the canyon, tour company owner Jackie told us that Navajo culture is matriarchal, and the land we were seeing belonged to her mother. The rocky landscape was her home, the place she felt most comfortable. Just before she dropped us off, her words captured my imagination: “This is where the wind lives.”

Antelope Canyon, near Page, Arizona, is one of the most visited slot canyons in the Southwest. (Slot canyons are narrow, deep canyons carved by water.) Tours go to Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, as well as a few lesser-known canyons. We chose to visit “Canyon X,” with Taadidiin Tours (no affiliation).

After Jackie dropped us off, we descended into the canyon itself, where we were met by a guide. The sandstone curves, swirls, and corkscrews, carved by wind and water into sinuous shapes. Colors range from pale peach to deep purple, depending on the angle of the sun. 

When the sun shines into the canyon just right, you can see the elusive trademark Antelope Canyon shaft of light. As we walked deeper between the curving walls, we saw our first one. (The guides toss fine sand into the air so it shows up in photos.)

If ever there is a place to look up, look down, look all around, it is here.

Looking up
The guides helped us with our camera settings so we would get the best shots, and though they kept an eye on us, they allowed us to freely explore. It wasn’t mobbed with people the way the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon tours can be, and we were able to take our time exploring, taking photos, and soaking up the peaceful atmosphere. I was even able to sit quietly and make a quick sketch of a section of the canyon. (The challenge will be mixing watercolor representative of the shades of rock I saw!) 

A few more photos: 

Canyon resident

Looking down into the canyon entrance from where we were dropped off.

Canyon X was a magical place, and a not-so-everyday adventure. I highly recommend a visit, and Taadidiin Tours. (See their website, above, or check out their Facebook page here.)


April 17, 2017

I’m home. My suitcase is stowed, and I just finished the laundry, but I’m still unpacking my photos (all 700+ of them) and my impressions. I’ll share tales from the road later this week. Until then, here are a few photos of some of the things we saw.

Beautiful flowers:

Friendly aliens:

Charming towns:

Four-legged friends:

Rock formations:

More to come soon! Now about those 700 pictures...

The Journey Changes You

April 12, 2017

Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona,
courtesy Josef Pichler

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
—Anthony Bourdain

 I’m on the road having adventures right now, but I’ll be back to share soon!


What to Pack For Adventure

April 07, 2017

I’m getting ready for an adventure! Tomorrow I take off to New Mexico and Arizona for another road trip with my friend Kerri. (Read about 2016’s Florida road trip adventures starting here.) 

Along with my clothes, books, camera, sketchbook, and journal, I’m preparing for this adventure by “packing”:
  • Anticipation—looking forward to my trip boosts my happiness starting weeks in advance.
  • Openness—to new experiences, foods, etc.
  • Curiosity—my chance to learn about a different area of the US.
  • Patience—because you know there will be challenges.
  • Sense of humor—see above!
  • Communication skills—even though Kerri and I travel well together, it’s always good to remember to listen, as well as to speak up when there’s something I want to do (or not do).

It’s likely that I can buy any physical item left behind, but if I leave behind any of these attitudes, my trip will surely be the worse for it.

When adventure comes calling, will you be ready? How do you prepare for adventure?

I’ll be packing these essential items for an even bigger adventure this summer: ITMR Trip to England! There are still a few spots available if you’d like to come, too!


Drinking Deep

April 05, 2017

Photo courtesy Aaron Burden

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Roy Scheele, one of Nebraska's finest poets, has a new chapbook called The Sledders: Thirty Sonnets, from Three Sheets Press. One of any writer's most valuable tools is memory, and this poem shows it being put to work to breathe life into an afternoon from long ago.

In Possession (Minnesota)

Something almost Flemish about that water,
a golden brown but clear into its depths,
the plank-ends of the dock a fading gray
beside it, and a boat moored at the end;
something, it seems to me in looking back,
about a murky bullhead on a stringer,
one of those rope ones you can hardly see,
so that the fish appeared to scull in place;
something (the details start to widen now)
about white wooden clapboards on the side
of that inn or tavern where my dad had stopped,
a neon beer sign staring out through glass—
late in the afternoon, I drinking deep
of everything I saw, now mine to keep.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2016 by Roy Scheele, “In Possession: Minnesota,” from The Sledders: Thirty Sonnets (Three Sheets Press, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Roy Scheele and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2016 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

National Poetry Month

Painless Poetry

April 03, 2017

Does reading poetry seem hard or boring? Do you think you’d like to read poetry, but for some reason just can’t seem to make it a regular practice? April is National Poetry Month here in the U.S. and regular readers of Catching Happiness know that I like poetry and to force encourage others to read it, too, I  post a poem on the blog every couple of weeks. Every year during National Poetry Month, I also try to share simple ways for us to explore poetry in a painless fashion. (You can see some past poetry posts—say that five times fast—here, here, and here.)  

Reading poetry can be a simple pleasure, not an ordeal, or something that’s “good for you,” like eating broccoli. Consider these painless ways to add a little poetry to your life:

Downloading a poetry app, like Poetry from the Poetry Foundation, Poems by Shakespeare (Android), or Poems by Heart by Penguin Classics (iOs).

Or watch one of these movies with a poetry connection. (One lovely film with a poetry connection that was left off this list is Il Postino.

Watch  people reading their favorite poems by clicking here. 

Why not read a poem about happiness

And, of course, come back here Wednesday when I’ll have a new poem posted for you!

I encourage you to give poetry a try this month—and come back here and share your discoveries with us.