In March, we drove through Alabama, just a week before the anniversary of the 1965 civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, and we paused to witness the racial struggle still happening in our country.
We walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, and as we reached the crest, I could hear the voice of one of the marchers from the spoken history at Selma’s Interpretive Center. She saw Sheriff Jim Clark and his goons waiting for them: “I knew we were going to get beat.”
We followed the road the marchers eventually took to Montgomery, the fields where they slept, now marked with plaques, and made our way to the newest twinned museum and monument, the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, which traces the direct line from slavery to lynching to forced labor to today’s mass incarceration, and the searing National Memorial to Peace and Justice, which documents the unprosecuted, officially sanctioned, serial lynchings across the south.
And we attended Sunday services at Montgomery’s First Baptist Church where we saw community sadness, solidarity and struggle, along with hope for the future.
Sedona has an embarrassment of rich hiking trails. Earlier this spring, we took three:
Distance: Two miles (You can go farther if you like.)
Time: About 1 hour, longer if you meander, take photos or play in the water.
Elevation gain/loss: 100 feet
We’ve been on this trail before, and it never disappoints. It’s an easy trail along the Coconino sandstone cliffs that crosses back and forth over Oak Creek. You can tiptoe over boulders, downed trees, or splash right through. Much of the trail is shaded by Ponderosa pines, Douglas firs, box elders, cottonwoods, walnuts, maple and oaks. And wildflowers grow in abundance. There are lots of other hikers here, but it’s cool, relaxing, with the constant sound of running water. In the book, 100 Classic Hikes: Arizona, author Scott Warren says the trail extends up to 6 miles, becoming overgrown and eventually just following the creek bed, with an elevation gain of 200 feet. We’ve never ventured that far.
Distance: Six miles round trip
Time: About 3 hours
Elevation gain/loss: 350 feet
The Boynton Canyon hike snakes up the side of a canyon overlooking a resort then follows a drainage through sandstone walls. The trail meanders through manzanita, oaks, pines, and cypress and, when we visited, lots of wildflowers. We got caught in a brief rain shower that left everything sparkling with drops of water.
Distance: 4 ¼ mile loop
Time: About 3 hours
Elevation gain/loss: 250 feet
The Courthouse Butte Loop circles the large formation and provides amazing views of the red-rock country. You climb along slick rock and through rocky washes on the mostly exposed sides of the formation. Even though we were there in early spring, it was warm, so be sure to bring plenty of water. And your camera, because you won’t believe the panoramas from every side.
Note: Remember to take plenty of water, snacks and proper clothing. Even in Spring, it can get very hot.
For the first time in five years, I lost my mojo. Then I found it.
Actually, since we started this amazing adventure, it’s been pretty smooth sailing, and complaining about any small problems just seemed in bad taste, seeing as how most people our age are still working, and we’re living the endless-road-trip dream-life. I mean, come on, stop sniveling, you ungrateful assholes.
But this summer began as the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad summer (with some fabulous, very good, extra great moments).
By Judy Nichols
The day we entered Canyon de Chelly, in mid-May, water, lots of it, was flowing through the canyon.
“Usually, by mid-April, the water has dried up,” our guide, Daniel, told us. “This year, we had more than 15 inches of snow. Last year, we had none. I can’t get my tractor in to plant the corn on my mother’s land. My cousin’s bringing his tractor in today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take the day off to try.”
Both sides of Daniel’s family have lived in the canyon for three generations, growing corn and tending orchards of apple, peach, pear and plum. His mother has two, 5-acre fields and about four acres of orchards. The land, about an hour-and-a-quarter drive into the canyon, has passed from Daniel’s great-grandmother, to his grandmother, to his mother, always to the oldest female in the family.
As a child, Daniel would climb sandstone cliffs, which rise up to 1,000 feet and hold treasures of Anasazi ruins, petroglyphs, pictographs, ladders used to escape marauding U.S. Cavalry, and caves that still bear chips from the bullets of Spanish conquistadors who killed 115 defenseless Navajos.
By Judy Nichols
The Coral Castle, not really coral or a castle, is a charming roadside oddity filled with mystery and romance.
We stumbled upon it last year on our trip to the Everglades.
We live in a metal box on wheels, so weather becomes a demanding taskmaster we can never ignore.
This spring, we faced down the polar vortex and the bomb cyclone.
Each time my Mothers Who Write group came to poetry week, I would groan, not because I hate poetry, but because I feel so inadequate in its world.
Still, Deborah Sussman, our highly literate instructor, (who with Amy Silverman forms the MWW yin/yang) would coax us along like discombobulated chicks, encouraging and praising our efforts, no matter how pitiful.
I’ve also been inspired by my friend David Stabler’s brother, Martin, who each morning sends out Daily Sightings, a collection of his and others photos, poetry and thoughts.
So, this year, as I vow to broaden my self-expression (because those who know me know I don’t express myself nearly enough), I’m dabbling with colored pencils and watercolor (another out-of-my-element endeavor) and trying different kinds of writing.
Hence, I offer this, Desert Invitation.
Deborah and Martin, this one’s for you
1 – Driving past old haunts like the Catalina Odeon Cineplex Cinemas and remembering when Tom and I, newly in love in journalism grad school at the University of Arizona, would ride our bikes on dates, coming out after the movie to cycle home in moonlight and warm breezes. The poor shuttered Cineplex is looking a little worse for wear, slightly decrepit, should I say, aged, but don’t we all.