Arches National Park, Utah

Sometimes I think I am the luckiest person on earth. I really do. I finally scraped and clawed myself up to the lower middle class (even as it seems to be disappearing), and I now have a job with decent paid vacations. Woo hoo!

So this time I decided to go and explore Southeastern Utah. This is a state that has always intrigued me. Its landscape changes dramatically in the blink of an eye. One minute you can be in lush green mountains, and the next you’re down in red rocky canyons or on the flat, forbidding Great Salt Lake. There are arches and plateaus and caves and sand dunes and salt flats and rivers and waterfalls. It’s going to require multiple visits for me to see it all, but I am up for the challenge.

On the first part of my visit, I explored Arches National Park. According to the National Park Service website, there are over 2,000 natural stone arches in this park. In 1929, President Hoover signed the proclamation that set aside the first acreage for it. At that time it got 500 visitors. In 2016, more than a million and a half people explored its 119 square miles, and yet its budget is being cut. Frustrating.

Along with the amazing arches, you’ll see precariously balanced rocks, enormous fins, and amazing pinnacles. And red. Lots and lots of red. It’s stunning.

We were lucky enough to visit on a day where the park was to remain open all night long, so we brought lawn chairs and blankets and set ourselves up in an overlook that gave us great views of a wide valley. I can say with certainty that I have never seen so many stars in my life. And satellites! We saw 8 satellites fly over. And some shooting stars. And the Milky Way. And later, the moon, in all its yellow glory.

I remember thinking on several occasions while there that I was going to remember this trip for the rest of my life. It is one of the high points, literally and figuratively. Like I said, sometimes I think I’m the luckiest person on earth.

Without further ado, here are some of my photos from the trip. Including my favorite rock formation of all time, simply because it’s called The Three Gossips. Enjoy!

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Racing Extinction

In my timeworn tradition of being years behind trends, I just saw an amazing documentary from 2015 on Hulu. It’s called Racing Extinction, and it’s both beautiful and horrifying. It has forever changed the way I look at the world.

The cinematography is stunning. Many of the people involved in this documentary also worked for National Geographic. That pretty much tells you all you need to know about this film’s quality.

It moved me to tears more than once. The first time was when they played the recording of the very last O’o bird singing a mating song that would never, ever be answered. Then there were the views of hundreds of thousands of shark fins on a roof in Hong Kong, and footage of sharks with their fins chopped off, struggling to swim to get air through their gills, only to eventually suffocate. And the sight of majestic manta rays fighting for their lives in hour-long battles with fishermen made me want to scream.

At this point I’ve probably convinced you not to see this documentary, but I urge you to change your mind. It will open your eyes. It shows you incontrovertible evidence of the methane we release into the atmosphere every day. It shows how this methane is making the oceans more acidic, and how this acid dissolves seashells. It demonstrates how this is killing the phytoplankton that produces more than half the oxygen we breathe. As the film says, “Your life depends on the oceans breathing.”

It also says that “if every American skipped meat and cheese just one day a week for a year, it would be like taking 7.6 million cars off the road.” (I’m managing to be meat-free 3 to 4 days a week, but that doesn’t let you off the hook.)

But more than anything, it shows the gorgeous way they are educating all of us about this crisis. Check out their website to see the videos they have displayed on the side of the Empire State Building, for example. Absolutely stunning. The website also suggests ways you can help slow down this man-made mass extinction that is happening all around you, even as you read this. Please help.

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Copyright Jon Brumbaug

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I Miss Cars with Fins

Is it just me, or are all cars starting to look alike? What ever happened to automobiles with style and personality? Where did they go?

I suppose if I were an auto manufacturer, I, too, would want to play it safe. Go for an efficient design that is going to sell to the greatest number of people. If you get all quirky, you limit your customer base.

And then there’s also aerodynamics. Fins weren’t particularly practical. Neither were cars that were blocky and appeared to be two miles long. But damn, they were cool.

I used to be able to tell a car’s make and model from a quarter mile away. But as we lost our fascination with the jet age, which inspired fins in the first place, those very fins faded into obscurity. Detroit had de-finned itself by 1966.

Now cars are becoming generic. No wonder tattoos have made such a comeback. You certainly can’t express much of your personality with the average automobile these days.

What we’ve gained in fuel efficiency, we’ve lost in panache. How sad.

[Image credit: plan59.com]
[Image credit: plan59.com]