Road Closed

on_the_road_road_closedThe journey along the Blue Ridge Parkway is not always predictable—what journey ever is? Sections of the parkway can be closed because of landslides. But when one road closes, another opens. This closure was just after the entrance to Mt. Mitchell, the tallest peak east of the Mississippi River.

The ride up Mt. Mitchell is very different from Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. While Mt. Washington is 400 ft lower at 6,289 ft—compared to Mt. Mitchell’s 6,684 ft—the summit is an alpine zone. The tree line extends to Mt. Mitchell’s summit. on_the_road_mt_mitchellThis December, it was a windy 37°F at the summit lookout. A park ranger walked up with us and explained this weather was unusual. Normally, he explained, there would be a snow pack of several feet and freezing weather. He is a member of a troop of rangers that man the summit year round. We ended the day at Green Knob Overlook on the way down. Click on the images for larger views.

Green Knob Overlook, Elev 4,760 ft

on_the_road_green_knob_overlookFrom the Blue Ridge Parkway. At dusk, light seems to be sucked up out of the valleys and into the sky. Anyone below would probably feel the day has ended. But high on a ridge, the light seems to linger just a little longer. And quietly, the landscape yields to the inevitable darkness. Click in the image for a larger view.

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Crossing the Chesapeake

on_the_road_crossing_the_chesapeakeBetween Norfolk, and Cape Charles, Virginia is a series of bridges and tunnels that take you across the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the US. The 17.6 mi. or 28.3 km route, known as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, opened in 1964. Click on the image for a larger view.

Devil’s Toenail

devils_toenail_001This “toenail” was found in a field in East Anglia in the United Kingdom. It was thought carrying one in your pocket could ease the pain of rheumatism. Since this is about 3 inches or 7.5 cm long, it would be a rather large charm.

However, it really is not a toenail, one from the devil or any other creature. It is an extinct animal related to the oyster, known as Gryphaea. They lived in shallow waters during the Mesozoic period, about 250–65 million years ago. Click on the image for a larger view.

The Shore of Lake Erie

travels_shore_of_lake_erieLiving in Maine, it is always hard not to think of a body of water that does not terminate at the horizon with land as a lake. But a lake does not look like an ocean. At least, I have never seen such a calm ocean, although these lakes can be violent. The tree in this image was felled by the erosion of the sand banks along the shore. The banks are about twelve to twenty feet tall. The coarse white sand on the beach is actually the remains of clam shells. Click on the image for a larger view.

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Cycles of Life—Canyon de Chelly

canyon_de_chelly_agricultureWhile Canyon de Chelly is a national monument, it is owned by the Navajo tribe. Squash, corn, apples, and peaches are grown on the land. Horses and sheep pasture here. And as ever, it is a source for their cultural and spiritual heritage.

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Time & Space—Canyon de Chelly

canyon_de_chelly_layersCanyon de Chelly is a layered tapestry in time and space. The rock ledge in the bottom left corner of the image is about 100ft/30m below me. The canyon floor is several hundred feet more. Cottonwood trees, with their bright autumn foliage, mark water running below the surface of the land. Paths and roads trace the passage of the residents, human and animal.

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Stone & Symbols—Canyon de Chelly

canyon_de_chelly_walls_symbolsThe canyon walls are sliced from De Chelly sandstone. Formed during the late Permian Period, about 200 million years ago, the stone still reflects the ancient sand dunes that created them.

The walls also are a canvas for petroglyphs, images and symbols chipped into the stone. Petroglyphs are difficult to date. Both the Anasazi and Dineh (Navajo) practiced this art. These images can commemorate an event, mark a trail, or hold deep spiritual or religious significance in rites or initiations. This section of the canyon wall near Antelope House Ruin has petroglyphs scattered over its surface. Click on the image for a larger view.

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Antelope House Ruin—Canyon de Chelly

canyon_de_chelly_antelope_ruinBefore the Dineh, or Navajo, arrived in Canyon de Chelly, the area was home to the Anasazi, a name given to them by the Dineh meaning “ancestors of the enemy.” The Anasazi settled the area sometime in the first century.

Antelope House Ruin is from the Great Pueblo Period or Pueblo III period, beginning around the 1100s when large settlements were being built. The two-story tower suggests these places were fortifications—some built high up on the canyon walls. The round wall at the left of the tower is the remains of a kiva that played a ceremonial or religious role in the community. Even with these large constructions, it seems that most of the population still lived in small dwellings outside these structures.

It is unclear whether the swastika on the canyon wall is from the Anasazi or Dineh. The Hopi, a descendant of the Anasazi, use this symbol as a representation of their migration story. For the Dineh, it is used in healing rituals.

By the beginning of the 1300s, the Anasazi had gone from Canyon de Chelly. Studies of tree rings shows there was a sever drought from 1276–1299. There is some evidence that over population and stress placed on the environment may have contributed to their decline as well. The modern Pueblo tribes of the Hopi, Zuni, Acoma, and Leguna are believed to be the descendants of the Anasazi.

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Spider Rock, Speaking Rock—Canyon de Chelly

canyon_de_chelly_pano_2aSpider Rock in Canyon de Chelly National Monument is one of the most recognized sites in the American Southwest. This is the spiritual and geographic center of the Dineh, also known by their common name, Navajo.

The tower in the center of the image is Spider Rock. This is the home of Spider Woman. She helped rid the world of monsters and gave the Dineh the gift of weaving; an art form at which these people excel.

Speaking Rock or Talking Rock is at the tip of the butte on the left on the image. The Dineh have a children’s story where it is said that Speaking Rock will tell Spider Woman which children have been naughty. Spider Woman will take these children to her rock and eat them. The paler colored rock at the top of her tower is thought to be the bleached bones of these unfortunate kids.

Canyons are cut from plateaus. We are really not looking at tall features, but deep ones. The canyon floor is about 1,000ft/300m below the rim at this point. If you look at the horizon near the center of the panorama, you can see a mountain called Black Rock. That is a volcanic plug; the core of a volcano which is left after the sides have been eroded away.

Click on the image for a larger view.