Travel articles can vary in length and tone, depending on the placement. Obviously print magazines and newspapers have a finite amount of space; online papers have much more flexibility and may be more inclined to include ‘just for fun’ pieces. A travel article should be very descriptive, including what you can see and do and how to get there. Depending on the destination described, the piece may include where to stay, if it’s kid-friendly or adult-oriented, and a range of costs.
Written under the name: Beverly Lehnhardt on August 24, 2006
Valley of the Gods
A short 4-hour drive from Sedona takes you to a most amazing place. The Valley of the
Gods, located between Mexican Hat and Bluff, Utah, is a mere 33 miles from its much more famous cousin, Monument Valley, where cars, off-road vehicles, and buses pay fees to tour the Valley. Not so at Valley of the Gods! Here there are no lines, no buses, no fees—just wide open spaces dotted with huge, mysterious, red sandstone rock formations. The quiet, the solitude, the alien landscape, make you feel as though you’ve suddenly been transported to another world.
The Valley of the Gods lies at the base of Cedar Mesa, an 1100-foot bluff formed 250 million years ago when a shallow sea invaded from the northwest, depositing rocks and debris. As the water gradually receded, wind and weather set to work on the newly-exposed undersea topography, slowly wearing away the steep cliffs and ridges. Over time, the ancient sandstones and shales gradually turned red or purple as the iron in the rocks oxidized to form rust. Today’s monuments and spires are actually buttes and petrified sand dunes that remained standing long after the cliffs they were attached to eroded away.
Hemmed in by the V north of the junction of State 261 and U.S. 163, the valley is a relatively level, 50-square-mile basin studded with intricately eroded sandstone spires, buttes, and towers. The 17-mile dirt Valley of the Gods Road (FR 242) meanders through the valley, winding amongst the eerie formations. It is bumpy, occasionally steep where it criss-crosses the washes, and forms a scenic loop that connects Highways 163 and 261. The jagged towers, gravelly washes, and intricate sandstone formations line the road, close enough to be seen well without getting out of the car, yet beckoning to be explored—up close and personal—on foot. The road is passable by normal vehicles in good weather but during the monsoons, even 4-wheel drives may have problems negotiating the slippery, muddy, slopes. It would be a good idea to monitor the Utah weather forecast before embarking on an extended stay in the valley.
Navajo legend believes that the towering sentinels in this sprawling, ocher-hued amphitheater are warriors turned to stone and frozen in time. Over the years, the formations have earned whimsical names such as Woman in a Bathtub, The Rooster, The Hen, and General Degaulle’s Troops. However, sometimes it takes a stretch of the imagination to see the likeness!
Summertime temperatures often exceed 100 degrees so hiking or camping might best be left for spring or fall months. Regardless of the time of year, however, always bring along plenty of water as there are no facilities in the valley. The nearest civilization to the north side of Valley of the Gods is the tiny town of Bluff nestled in the shade of the cottonwood trees along the San Juan River, about 30 minutes away. Mormon pilgrims settled here in the 1880’s but it is now home to a mixture of artists, river-rafting guides, and back-to-nature types. In Bluff you’ll find water, gas, and other supplies as well as a few decent motels and restaurants if you’re tired of roughing it. To the south, the small town of Mexican Hat offers several small motels for those in need of civilization. During the summer, the Mexican Hat Lodge provides a fantastic barbecue dinner for a very reasonable price. If in town, it’s not to be missed!
Cedar Mesa itself is known for its many scenic canyons that are very rich in Anasazi ruins and rock art. This area is a great place to explore with camera in hand! South of Cedar Mesa between Valley of the Gods and Mexican Hat is the Goosenecks of the San Juan River, one of the world’s finest examples of entrenched meanders. (Goosenecks are where a river meanders in tight curves.) Off the southern end of Highway 261, take Highway 316 for 3.5 miles. From here, you can look down on the goosenecks over 1000 feet below and see the convoluted switchbacks that cause the San Juan River to wind five miles while moving only one mile towards its destination. Another fantastic photo opportunity!
The nearest lodging to Valley of the Gods is the solar- and wind-powered Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast. Attracted by the area’s remote beauty, Gary and Claire Dorgan relocated from Flagstaff, Arizona, nine years ago to open the B&B. They act as the area’s unofficial caretakers, offering local history, hearty breakfasts, and friendly advice on what, where, and how to see the valley. It has only 4 guest rooms, ranging in price from $95 to $130 per night. The B&B is the only home within the 360,000 acre Cedar Mesa Cultural and Recreational Management area and is within easy driving distance of many area attractions. Obviously, advance reservations would be a good idea if you plan to stay here. You can visit their website at www.zippitydodah.com/vog.html or call (970) 749-1164 for more information or room availability.
Although Sedona and its surrounding areas offer much to see, do, and explore, if you are looking for a day trip (or even a camping overnighter), Valley of the Gods is a great place to get away from the hustling, bustling crowds of tourists. And see some incredible sights that can be found few other places on earth.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
An entrenched river is a river that is confined to a canyon or gorge, usually with a relatively narrow width and little or no flood plain, and often with meanders worn into the landscape. Such rivers form when an area is elevated rapidly or for some other reason the base level of erosion is rapidly lowered, so that the river begins downcutting into its channel faster than it can change course (which rivers normally do on a constant basis). If the river had pronounced meanders before the lowering of the base level of erosion, then those meanders may be carved into stone, as it were.
Written under the name: Beverly Lehnhardt on September 9, 2007
A Lake Tahoe Pajama Party
It was just what the doctor ordered: a brief mini-vacation with some girlfriends. We eagerly anticipated a 4-day pajama party and flirted with the idea of showing up at the airport in our bathrobes. Deciding that airport security might not have the sense of humor needed to pull this off, we opted instead for casual comfort and saved the pj’s for later.
Since we were arriving from three different directions, we flew into the Reno, Nevada, airport within four hours of each other, stowed our luggage in a rented SUV, and headed for Tahoe. Laughing and relaxing, we shared stories, personal anecdotes that underlined our reasons for needing this trip, and voiced our appreciation at finally being able to get away from it all. Husbands, children, dogs, cats, and employees would just have to survive without us for a few days.
We stocked up on groceries at Trader Joe’s in Carson City and arrived at our timeshare about 9:30p.m. Exhausted from the day’s travel, we changed into the aforementioned pj’s and popped a chick-flick into the DVD player. A glass of wine, good company, light entertainment, and we could feel the stress of everyday life beginning to drain away.
In the morning, we were nearly speechless at the breathtaking view from our balcony. Miles of pine trees paraded up and over the mountain, meeting clear blue sky at the horizon. Occasional peaked chalet roofs poked out of the alpine forest like forgotten party hats on a green tablecloth. Perfect weather beckoned us outdoors so after breakfast we piled into the SUV and made our way into town, then beyond that to Lake Tahoe itself. From the beach, blue water extended into the hazy distance where mountains of various heights ringed the entire basin.
Lake Tahoe is the third deepest lake in North America (the tenth deepest in the world) with a maximum depth of 1,636 feet; it is 22 miles long and 12 miles wide with 72 miles of shore line. At 6,225 feet above sea level, it’s the highest lake of its size in the United States. Interestingly, 63 streams flow into the lake but only the Truckee River flows out—past Reno and into Pyramid Lake. During drought conditions, the level of Lake Tahoe can drop below the rim of its natural outlet and no water then flows into the Truckee River. Also, unlike most bodies of water in North America, Tahoe’s water never flows into the ocean.
A lake of this size and incredible beauty offers many summertime water sport and lakeside attractions including boat cruises and tours, parasailing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, camping, and picnicking. It also offers scuba diving but the high altitude, extreme depth, and coldness of the water deters many would-be divers.
Our drive meandered back through town and took us once more to our safe haven—dinner, pj’s, and movies beckoned. The next day we partook of the resort’s spa and enjoyed a deep tissue massage to work out the worst of those stress-induced kinks. Ahhhhh… I think Heaven is located in Tahoe.
The next day, we booked an afternoon boat tour of Emerald Bay with Woodwind Cruises. At 1:30, a group of us boarded a lovely catamaran and set out across the lake. The water was calm, the sun warm on our faces, and the captain and first mate were very knowledgeable, answering questions and filling us in on facts, figures, and Tahoe history. We learned that the water in the lake is 99.7% pure and is known for its clarity—it is so clear, in fact, that in some places a white dinner plate can be seen at a depth of 75 feet. It is also very cold, ranging from 41 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the depth and the season. At 600 feet below the surface the temperature remains a constant 39 degrees, however, the lake never freezes because the water is always in motion. The mixing motion prevents the lake from freezing although some protected inlets have acquired a layer of ice during cold winter months.
As we slowly sailed across the bay, First Mate Cat related some interesting lake history. In 1928, Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight, a wealthy widow of English descent, purchased 239 acres of land, including Emerald Bay, for a mere $250,000. Today, that amount would buy approximately two feet of shoreline!
Mrs. Knight decided to build her summer home, “Vikingsholm”, on the shore of the bay because of its fjord-like similarities. Likewise, impressed by the Nordic style home her nephew-by-marriage (a Swedish architect) had built for himself in New York, she hired him to design the structure. The two of them traveled to Scandinavia to gather ideas for the construction of the house. The design is an elegant synthesis of historic Scandinavian styles—incorporating the atmosphere and design of an old Viking castle, Nordic churches, and farmhouses—and is still one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the Western hemisphere. The ideas for the construction came from buildings dating as far back as the 11th century.
Mrs. Knight brought 200 workers to Emerald Bay to build the stone and timber castle and most of the materials used in construction came from the Tahoe Basin itself. Trees were cut for their size and lack of knots and the granite for the foundation and walls was quarried from behind the house. The castle was built in the shape of a horseshoe with two wings enclosing a courtyard. Both wings have sod roofs which Mrs. Knight seeded with wildflowers each spring.
Vikingsholm was completed in the fall of 1929 and occupied by Mrs. Knight, her staff of 15, and many guests in June of 1930.
In addition to Vikingsholm, Mrs. Knight had a Tea House built on Fannette Island, the only island on Lake Tahoe. Located a short distance from Vikingsholm, the island is a sparsely timbered, brush covered upthrust of granite that rises 150 feet above the water. The Tea House looks like a miniature castle situated at the very peak of the island; accessible only by boat, a set of stone steps leads up from the water. Mrs. Knight and her guests were transported over by boat to be served tea (or other beverages) there. The 16-by-16-foot room once contained a fireplace and a large oak table and chairs—today only the shell remains.
Mrs. Knight always had a home full of guests and enjoyed 15 summers at Vikingsholm. She passed away in 1945 at the age of 82.
To visit Vikingsholm, it is an easy 1-mile walk down a dirt road from Hwy 89 or you can get to the shore by boat.
Cat told us that camping is prohibited on Fannette Island, dogs are not allowed, and commercial boats are barred from stopping there; private boats are permitted to stop. From February 1 through June 15 the island is closed to all visitors and during this period several pairs of Canadian geese nest on the island. Due to the virtual absence of predators, the geese find this an ideal location for nesting. There may be as many as 100 geese on or near Fannette Island in early spring and by late spring it is not unusual to see families of geese swimming along the shoreline near Vikingsholm.
We cruised slowly back to the dock, relaxed and slightly sunburned, and debated how to spend the remainder of the afternoon. Three of the group wanted to visit Harrah’s and see if Lady Luck was in a good mood; I wanted to stroll through a quaint shopping area we’d passed on the way through town. We agreed to meet in 1 ½ hours so off I went, on foot. I found the shops varied with a great selection of items and interspersed with restaurants, ice cream shops, spas, and art galleries—and a cute little miniature golf course.
Later, I found the group awaiting me at the car—Lady Luck was not smiling that day. Having worked up quite an appetite with all that fresh air, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner at the Chart House. With 25 locations across the U.S., the Chart House menu offers seafood, steaks, and decadent desserts. Following our meal of slow-roasted prime rib, garlic mashed potatoes, and fine wine, we considered the Hot Chocolate Lava Cake but just didn’t have room.
Our brief vacation ended all too soon but we felt much more relaxed as we headed off to the airport with a new attitude, ready to resume the hectic pace of our daily lives. I have discovered a true fondness for four-day pajama parties and intend to plan another one day soon.
IF YOU DRIVE: It’s about 850 miles from Sedona to South Lake Tahoe, CA; a 14-hour drive.
IF YOU FLY: Southwest Airlines often has specials that will take you to Reno, NV, for under $200. It’ll take you about an hour to drive from Reno to South Lake Tahoe. Take 395-S toward Carson City and 50-W to South Lake Tahoe.
Written under the name: Beverly Dennis
My Exhilarating Running-Trotting-Walking Horseback Ride through Canyon de Chelly
The Ride of my Life
Many years ago, in NW Pennsylvania, I was a “Can-I-get-a-horse,-Daddy?-We-can-keep-it-in-the-garage.-Please-please-please?” kind of kid. I loved the animals’ graceful, muscle-rippling, hoof-pounding magnificence and never tired of watching them graze or frolic across the green pastures. As I grew up, horseless, (my parents’ resolve never once wavered on the issue) and occasional riding opportunities cropped up, I rode as frequently as I could—which wasn’t often—and soon came to the conclusion that perching atop a large, spirited animal with a mind of its own wasn’t as easy as it looked. I regularly ended up on the ground, jarred and marred, but thanking the good Lord that Pennsylvania is a lush green state with earth softened by frequent rainfalls.
Upon moving to Arizona, however, I determined that staying on the horse was paramount—I saw no soft spots between the sharp-edged rocks and prickly cactus—and have since met with great success. Riding more and falling off less gave me a much more confident attitude, even leading to the purchase of a cowboy hat and boots. The wannabes have nothing on me!
Two years into my Arizona residency, some friends and I decided to visit Canyon de Chelly, supposedly nearly as beautiful and breathtaking as the Grand Canyon itself. The plan was to tour the canyon by bus—open-sided, comfortable, and up-close; however, as we approached our destination, I spotted numerous signs advertising horseback riding tours. “What a perfect way to see the canyon!” was my thought as we checked into the motel.
I made a few calls and discovered there was a riding stable a mere ¼-mile from us with an opening at 9:00 the next morning—the exact time of the bus ride. It was Fate! I booked the ride and informed my pals that I would tour by horseback while they rode the bus and we could meet up afterwards.
Elated, I awoke early the next morning to bright sunshine and blue skies and dressed quickly in jeans and sneakers. When packing for the weekend, I had no idea I’d be riding, so brought no boots or hat. My friends dropped me off at the stable on their way to the bus and I happily waved good-bye, little dreaming that I was in for the ride of my life.
As I checked in and forked over payment for a three-hour ride, I discovered the stable was on reservation land—I’d be riding an Indian pony named Blackie and my guide, Freddie, was Native American. It never once occurred to me that the normally strict rules and regulations governing rider safety would have little impact here. Also, the names were changed to protect the innocent—not that I think Blackie would’ve minded.
A large group had gone out earlier, so Freddie and I set off alone. About five minutes into the ride, Freddie asked if I’d like to run. My previous experience with running had consisted of about a ¼-mile (or 1 minute) of cantering, but, feeling adventurous, I gave him a big smile and an enthusiastic “Yes!” He returned the smile and kicked his horse in the sides. The animal lunged forward with Blackie right on his tail. With few options, I leaned into my horse’s neck, grabbed a handful of mane, and apprehensively eyeing the rock-strewn canyon floor, raced the wind.
It had been a rather wet spring and much of the soil was moist—some downright muddy—and in a few places the water was nearly horse-belly-deep. As we galloped, puddles disintegrated into myriad rainbowed droplets and gobbets of mud rained down upon us. I stuck to my horse, exhilarated and astonished at the previously unimagined feeling of being one with the animal. The magic of the day was absolutely perfect.
After about ten minutes, we finally slowed to a trot, then a walk, letting the horses catch their breath (the horses?!). Already my jeans were soaked to the knees, I had mud in my hair and between my teeth, and I was having a blast! So when Freddie kicked his horse again, I was ready—off we went on another wild, wet, and mucky flight.
This oft-repeated pattern—run, trot, walk/run, trot, walk—soon brought us to the halfway point where we dismounted and shopped. A small group of Native Americans had set up tables of beautiful silver and turquoise jewelry, pottery, and other unique pieces of artwork. However, I had planned on riding, not shopping, and had nothing but muddy lint in my pockets. So after a brief respite and a drink of water, I hauled myself back into a saddle that suddenly seemed much less comfortable.
Freddie and I began the running-trotting-walking thing again and I realized that my body had had enough! I brought Blackie to a dead stop and diplomatically (or not!) suggested we either run or walk, since trotting was totally out of the question. With a look of compassion (or was it psychotic glee?) Freddie nodded—and kicked his horse into another mad dash. At this point I figured pain was pain and it couldn’t get much worse.
Eventually, we met up with another group of riders and discovered they were the ones that had left before we did. Their guide asked how I was holding up. I thought it an odd question until he told me, “You’ve done some serious riding today. You made the four-hour tour in three hours!” That explained the condition of my hindquarters.
We all rode together the last mile or so and as we filed into the stable area, I felt many emotions: elation at the unique experience; sadness that it couldn’t go on and joy that it was finally over; and something akin to love for my mud-splattered, sweat-stained, equine friend. I also had the not-so-sneaky feeling that I was going to hate everyone involved tomorrow!
I wearily trudged the quarter-mile back to the bus stop to meet my friends and found they had yet to arrive. Spotting a low stone wall, I carefully stretched out on top of it to await the bus. Amazingly enough I dozed off and was suddenly startled to recognize nearby voices. As I tried to sit up, the excruciating pain made me decide to stay on that wall until Hell froze over; however, my friends had other ideas. They cheerfully rolled me off and helped me hobble to our room where a toothbrush, a hot shower, and clean clothes made me look human (and mud-free!) again—although it was nearly a month before I felt human again.
It was a l-o-n-g ride home and my posterior—as well as the rest of my body—had never hurt so badly, but would I do it again? You betcha—in a running-trotting-walking heartbeat!