Settling In

The snow has mostly melted, but the Alpine Pond Trail is still impassable due to high snow drifts. IMG_5664.jpg

Wildflowers have already started to show themselves.IMG_5668IMG_5662

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The meadows are snowy white with flowers.

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We took to rambling Cedar Breaks’ Spectra Point Trail and then went on to the Ramparts. It’s a bit muddy, but the trail is mostly open. Here’s a few pics from the 4 mile out and back.

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The happiest deadwood we’ve ever seen.

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A hoodoo / fin up close. It would fall apart in your hand.

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The inspiring Ramparts breakaway.

I had believed that the window in Jericho Ridge had fallen last season. Looks like I was wrong. It’s alive and well.

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To Cedar Breaks

Leaving Flagstaff, some stops had to be made.

Through the mysterious painted desert…

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Up to Page, AZ, Glen Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend.

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Through Escalante and the Grand Staircase.

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We take a “shortcut” through Zion National Park, essentially our neighbors from Cedar Breaks.

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To our new home… Cedar Breaks National Monument.

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Our cabin… the Historic Rangers Cabin, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937.

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The neighbors seemed to be happy enough to see us… say hello to the Marmots.

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See if you can find the marmot in this photo…

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The West

Joanna and I were invited west this summer to work with Cedar Breaks National Monument in Southwestern Utah.

A week ago we packed up and began our trek from the east. Here are just a few of our stops along the way:

Mile High Pie @ Blue Springs Cafe – Saline, Illinois

How could we say no to a slice of pie that stands a foot high? Our stomaches followed the interstate signs to see what it was all about. Turns out this rather large pie has been featured a time or two on Food Network.

Re-fueled and hungry no more, we headed onwards through Missouri and Oklahoma along Route 66.

IMG_5109IMG_5113Albuquerque, New Mexico

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After a thunderous night in Clinton, Oklahoma, we sailed through the panhandle of Texas, before finally stopping at Clines Corners’ famous Travel Center, loaded with Native American Crafts and unique oddities.

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We then slipped into Albuquerque, just as the sun was beginning to set, hell bent on finding some local cuisine to appease our ravenous appetites.

This brought us to Old Town Albuquerque, a fun little historic district filled with novel and romantic depictions of the old southwest in landscape, architecture, theme, food, and design.This is where we found the Church Street Cafe . The Cafe boasts of genuine South West recipes four generations old. And, if that isn’t enough, their building, Casa de Ruiz, is one of the oldest structures in New Mexico, dating back to 1706!

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After roaming the haunted streets of Old Town, we decided to indulge in Lonely Planet’s Do-It-Yourself Breaking Bad Tour. Many of the sights were homes used in the Breaking Bad t.v. show. Since it was almost midnight, we felt a bit creepy lurking in front of residential homes, but we had great fun at the Car Wash.

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El Morro National Monument & Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary

On a random off-chance we saw a pamphlet for the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary while we were at Clines Corners. As we would never pass up a chance to see and support wolves, we made the detour the next morning, stopping at El Morro National Monument along the way.

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Although not depicted in the pictures here (due to being very short on time), there are over 2,000 inscriptions, signatures, petroglyphs, dates, and messages carved into the beautiful sandstone by Ancestral Puebloans, Spanish, and American travelers.

Unfortunately, I do not have any photographs ready from our experiences at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. We will be posting an entry just for the Sanctuary soon.

Flagstaff, Arizona

Friends. Who can live without friends? We stopped in at Flagstaff to stay with a good friend. He took the time to show us around Flagstaff a bit.

We stopped in a Macy’s for lattes, a sweet treat, and to listen to voicemail poems at a phone booth. IMG_5218.JPGIMG_5215.JPG

Then, we wandered around town.

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We then did a sunset hike on Fatmans Loop Trail before going to sleep and making our final jaunt to Cedar Breaks National Monument.

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Glasgow and The Chippy Doon The Lane

In the United States it is often said that the south is very friendly and hospitable. The further north you go, the warmer and more at home travelers often claim to feel.

We discovered that this rule also applies to the United Kingdom. Glasgow, Scotland, in particular, we found to be very warming. It actually felt like a home we didn’t know we had! The food we quickly discovered is on par with the warmth of what felt like our new home.

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The first thing we did upon arriving to city center from the Glasgow Airport via the 500 Glasgow Shuttle Bus, was eat. And why wouldn’t we? We had just landed in the UK for the first time. Our thoughts were naturally on finding the nearest and most delicious chippy. So, we slipped doon a lane in the Merchant City district and well… rather ironically ended up at a very yummy chip shop, called Chippy Doon The Lane.

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I’ll let the pictures of our fish n’ chips speak for themselves. It was delicious, homemade tartar sauce and all. If I remember correctly, I had the Coley and Joanna had the Haddock. Both were reasonably priced. We happily feasted for under £15!

I suggest if you’re ever in Glasgow, especially for Tea, check out Glasgow’s famous Chippy Doon The Lane.

 

The Four Guardians of Iceland and Bluetooth Technology

When you flip over any Icelandic coin (known as a Krona) you’ll notice a coat of arms containing four quadrants. This same coat of arms is found on most government buildings in Iceland and even some that are not.  Each quadrant is fitted with it’s own fearless guardian, also called a Landvættir or land wights. I overheard one local joke while on a ghost tour, that these four mythical monsters are the reason that Iceland doesn’t need an army.

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So, where did this coat of arms and the legend of the guardians originate? Maybe the best way to start this story is with a quick anecdote on the origin of Bluetooth Technology’s name.

Danish King Harald “The Bluetooth,” a man extremely fond of blueberries, unified Danish tribes into the Danish kingdom. The unification only lasted a few years, but it was enough to remind Bluetooth inventors of the correlation, as the Bluetooth was designed as a unifying standard. The Bluetooth symbol that we see on many of our technological devices is none other than the runestones of the king’s initials, “H” and “B” (Herald Bluetooth).

Image from haraldbluetooth-and-the-vikings.weebly.com

Image from haraldbluetooth-and-the-vikings.weebly.com

King Harald “The Bluetooth” is also famous for sending a warlock to spy on Iceland. But in order for the warlock to get from Denmark to Iceland, he had to shapeshift into a whale and swim the cold Norwegian Sea.

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After crossing the sea, he arrived near the eastern part of the island in an area known as Vopnafjörður. To his surprise, he found that the region was filled with land spirits. At this point, a dragon (breathing poison, dropping serpents, toads, and insects) attacked. He couldn’t reach the shore.

The warlock fled and tried to enter from Eyjafjöður to the north only to be met by a monstrous bird so giant that its wings covered the mountains on both sides of the valley. Again, the warlock retreated.

A grey bull met the warlock out at sea when he reached Breiðafjörður in the west. He barely made his escape before continuing on to Reykjanes in the south part of the island.

The Reykjanes, as it turned out, was filled with mountain giants. The biggest of them, whose head was bigger than the mountains themselves and always held an iron staff, walked towards the warlock. This finally sent the warlock fleeing back to Denmark, where he told the blueberry-eating king that there was no safe way to come ashore on Iceland. With that, the King of the Danes ceased his invasion attempts on Iceland. The creatures have been Iceland’s guardians ever since.

From what Joanna and I could see in Reykjavik, Iceland’s peace and splendor are very much intact. I commend the guardians on a job well done.

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The Light Bringer

Why does it take so long in Iceland for them to begin using a brand new cemetery? They’re waiting for the right person to die and take on the responsibilities of being the first person buried in the cemetery.

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According to Icelandic beliefs, the first person buried in a cemetery becomes its Light Bringer for eternity. The Light Bringer’s duties include: ushering in the newly dead, showing them around the cemetery, and telling them what their job will be in the afterlife. They are also responsible for overseeing and protecting the cemetery from harm.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t a job that many people wanted. Most liked the idea of going on to the afterlife and being at peace rather than looking after the dead. In the case of Holavallagardur Cemetery, pictured above, it was years before a light bringer was found. Whether or not it was against the person’s will is up for grabs. As it turned out the person appointed light bringer was put in the position by her ex husband. I suppose we will never truly know his intent, but we generally get the idea. It’s reported that the ex husband’s grave is the furthest away from the light bringer.

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Elf Stones of Iceland

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This rock, as inconspicuous as it seems, holds a rather magical secret. This one here, as we learned within the first twenty four hours of being in Iceland, is an Elf Stone. Elf Stones aren’t to be taken lightly, for it is the home of an Elf.

Elves, it appears are blamed for all kinds of things in Iceland. While we blame the milkman for any child not looking at all like their father, in Iceland it means that the maiden received a visit (or in many cases multiple visits) from an elf. This too is the case if the wife becomes pregnant while the husband is away. It wasn’t her fault, an elf must have come in the night and done the deed! There is also the case of angelic, well-behaved children turning into bratts. When this happens, it is believed that the perfect child was swapped out for an elf child.

These trouble makers don’t look much different from humans, but do appear “strange” (whatever that means, I still haven’t seen one myself). A great way to know whether or not someone is an elf is to see if they come out of or go into a rock. Most times the rock is much smaller than they are, but this has an obvious explanation: The rock is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

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Now, here is where it gets interesting. Strange incidents are often known to occur around construction projects in Iceland and it usually starts with a rock. As a crew removes stone, debris, and rubble at their construction site, it isn’t usual to come across a rock that cannot be moved. In many of these cases they will try everything to get rid of it including dynamite to no avail. This is when they realize that it is an elf stone. So what do they do? They call in someone who can speak to elves, come up with an agreement between the two parties, and remedy the situation. In many cases crews end up building the road around a problematic stone and leave the elves alone. That’s why there are so many curves around small stones in Iceland. Many cases, however, aren’t as clear cut.

This Elf Stone, for instance, came from outside the city. As the crew was working on a road project they came across the stone which would not move and could not be destroyed. After having someone speak to the elves, it was discovered that the elves were willing to move, but wanted to be moved to an exclusive spot in Reykjavik’s city center. The elves also requested to be left alone for a week in order to pack. After the week was up, the stone was easily moved and brought to city center, where it currently resides.