Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What you'll find in Mesa, Arizona

Of course this is a cute little smart car sporting American pride.
This is a great replica of a school bus. I think the bus driver is a bit big seeing that his head is busting through the roof.
I decided to return home for Veteran's Day weekend, and see what the family had planned. They were going to see the Veteran's Day parade located in Downtown Mesa. My younger sister, Bailee, is on her high school's color guard and we were excited to see her perform in the parade. However, I was very surprised at just how entertaining the parade would be. I had no idea of the many social amenities that Mesa, Arizona offers. Here are some of the great and perhaps laughable highlights of the parade:

I feel that no caption is required here :)
So this appeared to be a typical Mesa bike gang that supports the Veterans, until we see the tiny motorcycle weaving in and out of all the other tough and expensive looking bikes. In addition, the woman driving seemed to be having so much fun, so it really added to the parade.

Well finally it was time for my sister and her band to come perform. They looked and sounded amazing. Bailee has put so much effort into Color Guard and really looks beautiful and great out on the football fields and in this case in the parade. Let's just say she really knows how to flip a rifle around. Great job Bai!!

Overall the parade was great and of course entertaining. It was great to see all the social clubs and activity groups that reside in Mesa.  It was also fun seeing how they spice up a Veteran's Day parade.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Final Day on the San Juan

Sunday was our final day on the river. We were just sailing straight through to our take-out location in order to get back to Flagstaff at a decent hour. Today was my lucky day to be in the "Duckie". To those of you who do not know river terms, myself included, a duckie is basically an inflatable canoe. I had been a little eerie of the duckie because I knew I would be getting wet. To make matters a bit worse, my class had camped in a canyon, where there was little sun. We woke up pretty cold only to realize that our wetsuits and gear had not dried from the day before. Also the sun would not fill our canyon until noon so nothing was going to get much warmer until were paddled into sun light. I gingerly put on my wet river shoes and suit and was ready to find a patch of sun light. My partner and I climbed into our duckie and started paddling. Without any previous experience, our efforts only seemed to spin us in circles. We learned we were somehow more coordinated and could go straight if we went backwards. Of course eventually we would just end up in our regular 360 pattern. Finally we made it to a patch of sunlight. Our red, frozen hands dried out and instead of frustration at our failing efforts, everything just became funny. Then we both had to use the restroom. I was getting desperate so our river guide told us to just stop at a beach and go. Immediately I located a perfect location a few feet ahead. We hit the sandy shore, ready to relieve ourselves. Of course, just as we stepped out of the duckie, we sunk up to our knees in mud. My partner's shoes were falling off as he tried to pry his feet from the quick-sand like mud. Once we freed ourselves we ran in opposite directions to use the restroom. Then back into the duckie we went. However, we had not realized how long we were stuck in the sticky mud. Everyone else in the group was way ahead and quickly disappearing from site. We both kicked our paddling skills into high gear trying to work with the river and avoid spinning in circles. We were exhausting our every effort, while the groups ahead weren't paddling at all and still seemed to be moving faster. At last, totally exhausted, we were able to catch up. Of course, thats when the guides and other students decide to tell us how to paddle correctly! Eventually we arrived at our pull out destination and headed down the road toward home.

I really had a great time on the San Juan. I began to see the Indian culture and desert in a different light. I had often looked at Indian Reservations with a negative connotation, but this trip really opened my eyes to a new, although ancient, culture. I have a lot more respect and understanding. The San Juan sits among gorgeous canyons and rock formations. I would encourage people to plan a trip to the area even if only to look at it. However, please research and remember the history of the area and please respect the land and artifacts.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

River Trip: Day Two

The next morning we awoke and were ready to go. We had 12 1/2 miles to travel in one day, so we had to stay organized and get going. We got on the river and were off. Today we were going to be hitting several rapids so everyone was extremely excited.
After dipping and diving through the rapids were made a quick stop to a pictograph. Pictographs, unlike hieroglyphs, are painted on to the canyon walls. Because the paints come off the walls relatively easily, it is amazing to see several that have withstood time. The reason for this pictograph surviving is likely because it does not face the constant wind and is hidden on a canyon wall.I loved seeing the little hand prints that surround the painting. The big circle symbol of the pictograph is thought by some anthropologists to represent war. Of course, the exact meaning is unknown.

Also while looking at the pictographs we saw many granaries.These are storage units that were often built high of the ground and in small cubbies in canyon walls. These granaries haven't yet been examined or dug though to determine what was stored in them. Actually many sites along the San Juan have remained unexcavated in order to preserve history and tradition. It is also done out of respect to our ancestors.

In order to see the pictograph we had to cross a small river. At one point we were all up to our waist in water and up to our knees in mud. Of course this muddy water was not new to our group. The San Juan and surrounding area has survived centuries of soil erosion. The banks of the river are all sand and the river is a nice brown color. My class couldn't decide whether the river was the color of chocolate milk, cappuccino, chai tea latte, or the just chocolate. But either way, getting into the river was definitely exfoliating.

Once we saw the pictograph and crossed back over the small river, we continued downstream to make camp. Remember those groups that were with us at launch? well we had to camp just a little bit downstream from one of them, and let's just say they were not going to waste any of that beer. Til pretty late in the night we heard tons of laughing and even some mock howling. Meanwhile our group is having a camp fire discussion on the cultural and environmental issues of the river. But we did not mind the noise; it made the night hilarious for sure.

On the River: Day One

My small class arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed at five AM outside the university pool. We loaded all of our gear and set off on the four hour drive to Bluff, Utah. Most of the van slept the entire drive only to wake up to a chill wind at our launch site. The San Juan at one point was being trashed and over-used by the hordes of tourists that would flood it's shores every summer. Now the Bureau of Land Mangement restricts the amount of river runners to 15,000 a year. Because of this our class was lucky just to have been drawn to go. With the drawing, the BLM restricts when people are on the river too. That is why we were doing our river excursion in the cold fall air instead of the warmer summer months. Also as a result of the drawing system other groups were launching on the same day as my class. The must have thought we were crazy or something. We pull up to the dock and begin to outfit ourselves in wet suits, splash jackets, life jackets, river shoes, and helmets. The other groups stood confused in their shorts and sandals all the while loading several 24-packs of beer onto their boats.

Nevertheless, we all dressed and set sail in our three boats, prepared for the great adventure ahead.I really fell in love with the geology of the San Juan. The different rock formations and high cliff walls were beautiful.

Our class made a quick stop for a delicious lunch and small hike. The hike lead the group up to some ancient petroglyphs that were carved into stone by the Ancestral Pueblo. Little is known of the meaning of the pictures, so sitting around making up stories and meanings is really entertaining.

Soon our tour down the river was done for the first day. We had traveled 5 1/2 miles and were ready to make camp. Before dinner, though, we hiked to an old ruin. This location was probably my favorite. This house and kiva were built centuries before my visit and yet were perfectly preserved. We even found some old corn cobs that had resisted decomposition in the high desert walls. The kiva's insides walls were still coal black from a fire's smoke.It was truly amazing to just imagine one day in the life of this ancient culture.

On the hike back from from the ruins, the Honors director at NAU encouraged us to look at the ground. Before our eyes thousands small pieces of broken pottery lay. We had hardly noticed them. In some of the coil styled pot pieces little fingerprints and nail markings were visible. It really hit me then that the inhabitants were humans, just like us, and we were visiting their homes. Just on day one, the San Juan trip was already broadening my perspectives to a new culture.   

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

San Juan River Trip

At the beginning of the semester I was searching for a final class to fill my schedule and I came upon HON 244. This class seemed like a perfect fit. It gave me honor credits and had a small class size. I enrolled as was set to go although I had never heard if its main subject matter: the San Juan River. The first class I attended I learned that I was going to go on a three day river excursion.Man was I excited!! Throughout the semester my class has been reading and studying all about the environmental and cultural problems that involve the river and the surrounding area. Finally, it was time to actually see the river!