Saturday, October 17, 2020

~ Into the Wild West's FOUR CORNERS ~


The article, Into the Wild West's FOUR CORNERS by Robert Griego, was published in the 2020 Special Collector's Issue by RoadRUNNER Magazine.










End of preview text by RoadRUNNER:

"Our 2020 Special Collector's Issue showcases a regionally balanced mix of both previously-featured and new motorcycle tours with trip planning information and spectacular photography, as well as new Destinations features. The issue is printed on the high quality paper that you've come to expect from RoadRUNNER, and finished with a beautiful matte coating for the cover — a perfect gift for friends and loved ones, and to add to your personal RoadRUNNER collection."


~ Muir Woods National Monument ~

The article, Muir Woods National Monument by Robert Griego, was published in the 2020 Special Collector's Issue by RoadRUNNER Magazine.







Tuesday, September 22, 2020

~ In Pursuit of Wildness: Canyon de Chelly National Monument ~

The article "In Pursuit of Wildness: Canyon de Chelly National Monument" by Robert Griego was published on the "RoadRUNNER Travel & Touring" website on 9/22/20.



"The heart of the Navajo Nation"


The rain is hard and relentless. The gas station ahead, a few miles from Window Rock, AZ, offers shelter. In seconds, the parking area is flooded, but my motorcycle is safe and dry.

“Do not go out further just yet,” the old Navajo man says. “The roads will be full of mud, and it will be very dangerous.” I nod in agreement, wet from the quick downpour. The rain intensifies, and many more people seek shelter. The gas station has a small market, and to my surprise, sells tamales. I love tamales, so I buy three. There is a very old Navajo woman who is taking a long time getting into her pickup truck. I want to help but hold back. She has likely done this a thousand times; as she makes the final push, she sends a smile my way. Without hesitation, she starts the truck and leaves. The rain stops, just like that. Several of the other Navajo begin to leave as well, and I do the same.

The road is full of mud, and the four-wheel-drive trucks slosh forward while I move cautiously slower. Indian Route 112 takes me north and crosses into New Mexico. The scenery is spectacular, especially along Wheatfields Lake as I head for Tsaile and the north rim of Canyon de Chelly National Monument. At my first overlook, there are two young Navajo boys selling jewelry. “I like these earrings,” I tell them.

“My grandmother made them,” one of them says, quietly. “She lives over there,” pointing his arm toward the south. He adds proudly, “She is 80 years old and still rides a horse.” The turquoise pair of earrings pack easily in my saddlebag. I know that my wife, Denise, will love them.



A SACRED PLACE

Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a place that my brother Leo has always talked about: “It is a sacred place. You easily go back in time.” He said that the town of Chinle has food, gas, convenience stores, and ample lodging but encouraged me to find the Cottonwood Campground inside the park. The campground, operated by the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department, is perfect for the night. I normally lay out my camping tarp and sleep on the ground. Not tonight. There are millions of small red ants everywhere. Most of the other campers are in RV trailers. There are several cottonwood trees, so I rig up my hammock for the night. I make a mental note to stay at the Thunderbird Lodge, located inside the park, on my next trip.

The White House Trail (2.5-mile round trip) is the only trail that one can take without a Navajo guide. It winds down from the top of the parking lot to the canyon floor in the open sun. The trail is easy and brings you to the White House Ruin, which was built and occupied centuries ago by the Pueblo Indians.

I am thankful for the sweeping views with water flowing before me. The high canyon walls often have horses roaming freely along the cliffs. Tomorrow, I’ll hire a Navajo guide and travel on horseback into the canyon. I’ve ridden horses extensively in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, in California, and I’m looking forward to this particular horse ride.

Stanley, an authorized horse tour operator, greets me warmly at 9:30 a.m. John, from Alabama, joins us, and the three of us trot off into the canyon. A Navajo guide adds so much history to the ride, and Stanley seems to love what he does. He begins by telling us that, in Navajo, Chinle means “water flowing out,” a reference to water leaving the canyon. I’m seeing the towering canyon walls from a new and wild perspective. We ride into history that time seems to have forgotten. The horse beneath me is a big part of the experience, and together we are one within the moment. I feel alive.

In a quiet moment, Stanley’s horse bolts left, then right. After getting the animal under control, Stanley leads his steed back to where it got spooked. He speaks calmly to his horse in Navajo, telling it, “Look: It is just a stick.” Laughing, he tells us that they’ve been up here thousands of times, but his horse still thinks that the stick is a snake. This ride into Canyon de Chelly was magical. I know that I’ll return another day.


John, from Alabama


FAREWELL, CANYON

The Navajo reservation is huge, and I am on small roads. Approaching the community of Leupp, I spot a van selling tamales. “They are freshly made and hot,” a Navajo man tells me. I find a tree with some shade and enjoy three delicious tamales—one red and two green. I tell him that I just came from Canyon de Chelly, loved it, rode a horse, connected with nature, and I’m returning home to California.

He nods and says: “The canyon is a sacred place. One is taken back in time.”


PLANNING A VISIT

Canyon de Chelly National Monument was established in 1931, primarily to preserve and protect its rich archaeological sites, and, to this day, the homes and farms of many Navajo. The monument is located entirely within the Navajo Nation reservation, in northeastern Arizona. The National Park Service and the Navajo Nation share resources and work in partnership to manage this unique place. Mid-September to mid-October is a good time to visit.

TO DO

On the North Rim Drive, approximately 34 miles round trip, you’ll see some of the most beautiful cliff dwellings (Antelope House, Mummy Cave, Massacre Cave overlooks). If you have time, take the South Rim Drive; it’s 37 miles round trip and offers panoramic canyon views at seven overlooks. Spider Rock Overlook, an 800-foot sandstone spire, provides spectacular photos ops.

Private hiking, backcountry camping, horseback riding, and four-wheel-drive vehicle tours are available with authorized Navajo guides who have a deep understanding of the culture and history of the area.

HOURS

The visitors center, in Chinle, is open every day except for major holidays. It’s best to check operating hours before you travel, however, to ensure there aren’t any unexpected closures or restrictions.

FEES

There is no admission fee to enter Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The Navajo Parks and Recreation Department operates the Cottonwood Campground and charges a fee to camp.

For more information, see www.nps.gov/cach.


Text and Photography:

Robert Griego

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

~ In Pursuit of Wildness: Manzanar National Historic Site ~

The article "In Pursuit of Wildness: Manzanar National Historic Site" by Robert Griego was published on the "RoadRUNNER Travel & Touring" website on 8/26/20.


“Our differences in beliefs do not truly separate us or elevate us over others. Rather, they highlight the rich tapestry that is humanity.”
— George Takei


Once upon a time, Manzanar National Historic Site was called Manzanar War Relocation Center. It was one of 10 camps where Japanese American citizens were incarcerated during World War II. I had never been there, and I knew little about this site, though I knew that it is managed by the National Park Service, for which I once worked at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, just west from there over the Sierra.

Manzanar National Historic Site, established on March 3, 1992, can be found along a section of US 395 known as the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway, about 10 miles from Lone Pine, CA. Lone Pine is a springboard to some amazing motorcycle routes: the towns of Bishop and Mammoth Lakes, Death Valley National Park, Yosemite National Park, Devils Postpile National Monument, and Lake Tahoe. This story begins at the Lone Pine Campground, one of my favorites. The campground sits at an elevation of around 6,000 feet and has a birds-eye view of 14,494-foot, snow-laced Mount Whitney on the eastern Sierra mountain range. There are over 40 campsites located next to a babbling creek.

The campground is virtually empty as I circle the loop looking for just the right site. Every campsite has a yellow “reserved” sign that expired last night. Then a pattern begins to emerge. All the names were reserved with Japanese surnames. Why so many? Surely, the campground host approaching in his golf cart would know. “Why are there so many Japanese names?” I ask as he removes the signs.

“They were here for a pilgrimage of sorts. They went to Manzanar for a special celebration. They reserved all of the campsites yesterday, and left early this morning,” he explains. “You’ve picked the best site,” he adds.

The campground is quiet and the night sky is bright as my campfire crackles. A shooting star crosses the entire sky. I wait for another one; perhaps the Japanese campers did too. Sleep comes easily as I look for the next shooting star. I think the coyote in the distance waits too, or maybe the sliver of the moonlight caught his attention. I think more about the Japanese campers and what they must have been looking for in these night skies. Perhaps it was only a glimpse into the past. I can only imagine the talk around the campfire, full of respect and honor, paying homage to family and friends who endured hardships beneath the ever-watching eye of Mount Whitney. Sleep finally comes, but my mind is lingering on the Japanese campers. Tomorrow, I will go to Manzanar National Historic Site.

There is a light rain as I head north on US 395; I exit onto the frontage road, Blue Star Memorial Highway. The guard tower points me toward the former Manzanar War Relocation Center. But first, I must pass by the original Military Police Sentry Post before heading to the visitor center.

The camp opened on June 1, 1942, and closed on Nov. 21, 1945. More than 11,000 Japanese Americans were processed through the facility, which at its peak had a population of 10,046. Overall, the U.S. government detained more than 110,000 men, women, and children—Japanese American citizens and resident Japanese aliens—at this and other military-style camps. It is painful to read the statistics.

Manzanar National Historic Site will force you to think about this time in our history. It’s hard to understand, yet war does that to even civilized nations. We may not be proud of what we did, but the National Park Service has done an outstanding job to help define this moment in time. How do we right a wrong? The question is hard. The National Park Service has started by telling the story, written by survivors of that era, and that’s a step forward.

PLANNING A VISIT

Manzanar National Historic Site tells the story of the thousands of Japanese Americans who spent all or part of World War II at the war relocation camp at Manzanar. Start your visit by watching the award-winning 22-minute film Remembering Manzanar, which is shown every half hour at the visitor center’s theater. The film includes rare historic footage and photographs as well as personal recollections of several people who were incarcerated at the remote desert facility. As the park literature states, the film “gives viewers a sense of the place and its past, and a glimpse into a time when American citizens were exiles because of their ancestry.” When planning your trip, keep in mind that this can be a windy area, and temperatures vary from 100 degrees in the summer to 40 degrees in the winter. These are the same conditions encountered by those incarcerated here during World War II.

TO DO

In addition to the visitor center, which has the film and exhibits, there are ranger-led activities, a 3.2-mile self-guided driving tour, “Block 14” exhibits depicting life at Manzanar, and opportunities for biking, birding, and wildlife viewing. The Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage event traditionally is held in April.

HOURS & FEES

Manzanar National Historic Site is open year-round. The Manzanar Visitor Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free.

For more information, including holiday operating schedules, see www.nps.gov/manz.

Text and Photography:

Robert Griego


Saturday, August 8, 2020

~ Riding West ~

"All good things are wild and free".  -  Henry David Thoreau


A few days ago, Christa Neuhauser Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel asked me to write an article for their upcoming Special Collector's Edition.  She asked if I could select a small, lesser-known National Park Service area on the West Coast.  I was honored and came up with some possibilities. She quickly let me know that she wanted other options. 

She agreed with the area that I selected and asked if I could meet a short deadline.  While I can't yet reveal the area, it is a small NPS area located on the West Coast. The Special Collector's Edition will be published soon and should be loaded with awesome pictures and stories.  Keep an eye out for it at newsstands. 

It was a fun assignment allowing me to turn wheels and feel the wind in my face along with some quality camping at Basalt Campground at San Luis Reservoir.

It has been a while since I've ridden my Indian Springfield for a story and this is just what the doctor ordered.  I camped once going to this park and once coming home.  A quick, yet rewarding trip.

Going home, I rode Highway 1 past Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, and Moss Landing.  The fog was thick and wet.  The views were limited, though I could hear the crashing waves.  The sun did peek out for a bit as I stopped to stretch my legs.

Here are some pictures of that quick trip.  Enjoy.



My most important item for this trip

Yup, my bike, and flag are ready to go.






Sleeping bag - check.  Water - check.  Gloves - check.  Charger - check.  Face mask - check.




Basalt Campground, San Luis Reservoir.  80 sites total and 78 available.  My million dollar view.



Tonight, I grabbed the upper suite.



Nature takes great selfies



I love a campfire after a long day.


On my way back from the West Coast, my site was still available. The ground floor was perfect.


Cowboy boots make ideal windbreaks when cooking breakfast.


Leaving the campground, I stopped for three Tule bull elk that crossed in front of me.
These bulls ran for 1/4 mile before they felt safe from my iron horse.


The sun finally came out along Highway 1 south of Santa Cruz, CA.


It seems like corn is the crop this year in the San Joaquin Valley.  Perfect rows.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

~ Reflections ~

"Live close to nature - climb the mountain, treasure the woods, the flowers, the rock-giving strength to body and soul." - John Muir


Sawtooth Peak stands majestically on the horizon.


It was our first pack back trip in the early 1970s into the Sierra wilderness of Sequoia National Park.

Once we began our ascent of Sawtooth Pass in Mineral King, I'm not sure that we would survive.  It was a sketchy, cross-country trail at best.  I had never been here before and I relied on a topo map with scribbled notes from an earlier ascent by friends.

She reluctantly follows as we leave the established trail at Monarch Lakes to ascend the cross-country route over the 12,000' peak.  The steep granite slabs quickly begin to drain our energy.  The route is slow and difficult.  Each step is deliberate.  Our packs are heavy, our steps unsteady.  Near the summit, we pause to rest and assess the route before us. The views far below stretch for miles and we spot two mountain lakes; I think the map showed them to be Little Five and Big Five Lakes.

Honestly, I wasn't sure if we could make the first lake before dark.

We didn't have the latest camping gear.  Our backpacks were aluminum with heavy cotton sleeping bags.  We didn't have a full tent.  Our open tube tent was our shelter and the dark clouds concerned me.  The light rain quickly turned into a typical Sierra storm.  Sleep is poor as our tube tent provided a modest relief from the storm.

In the morning, the sky is clear and we quickly dry out our gear.  We fish at the first daylight and catch a few trout.  Denise and I are in awe of the wilderness before us.  The pristine lake warms our souls.  Wilderness and the sound of solitude was deafening.

We continued with our adventurist cross-country trip back to Mineral King via Hands and Knees Pass. The name perfectly describes our grueling descent back into the Mineral King valley.  The weather had turned bad and our visibility was a mere 10 feet.  I remember setting up our tube tent and heating some hot chocolate, waiting for the weather to improve.  It never did.  We descended hoping to hit Mineral King valley.

We did make it out!  Reflections.


Those are my thoughts, some fifty years later, as I gaze fondly towards Sawtooth Pass.

Today, we are spending the night at friend’s rustic cabin in Silver City.  We did hike the 3 1/2 mile Cold Springs Nature Trail absorbing the tranquility of Mineral King Valley from the shimmering aspens to the peaceful mountain stream and an occasional mule deer.


Small steps, big moments, Sawtooth Peak in the background.


We stop for lunch next to the cool East Fork.


Our steps are slow and deliberate. She has made remarkable progress since her stroke on April 29, 2020.  We share a few pictures and memories over Sawtooth Pass.


Dinner at an awesome outdoor restaurant.


Dinner today was a great improvement over a camp dinner years ago.
The Foxglove Cabin at Silver City.


Reading about the history of Mineral King.

Coffee in the serenity of Silver City soothes the soul.


We bid Mineral King valley farewell.



Wednesday, July 1, 2020

~ Just this side of Heaven ~

Today is a free day. 

There are no doctor appointments, no physical therapy, no occupational therapy, or no anything else structured. 

So when she asked, "Do you want to go into Sequoia National Park for a picnic?"

My answer was immediate: "Yes."

The day is perfect for hiking some of the Giant Forest trails.  

We push further up the High Sierra Trail at about 7,000', higher than I want, but the panoramic views of the Great Western Divide are rewarding.  We hike slow but with purpose.

We share some pictures from this first day of July.


Lupine grows before a Giant Sequoia.



Giant Sequoia Trees stand well beyond our time.



Moro Rock in the background.

The Great Western Divide is itched in memory.



Delicate flowers with Moro Rock in the background.




Not riding my bike today, but awesome moments at Crescent Meadow.



Great sign on a Government car.

We saw two bears today.

The NPS has done a great job communicating an important message.

Nature comforts the soul.



Friday, June 19, 2020

~ 49 Degrees East ~


Eastern Sierra, Mount Whitney.   


Every day, every single moment, causes me to pause. I’m the lucky one. 

You see, on April 29th Denise suffered a stroke.

Any stroke is serious, but when it occurs during Covid-19 well, your world is quickly turned upside down. I use to count moments in life. Today, I count ¼ moments. Honestly, time slowed down to a crawl.

My priority, my goal, my mission is her. Nothing else matters.

The good news and short version are that she is making a remarkable recovery. Her physical therapist, occupational therapist, nurse, and you have contributed to her recovery. I was impressed with their compassion and single focus on her rehabilitation. They do this daily, yet they performed their tasks like it was their first day at work.

Like millions around the world, we have stayed at home during this pandemic. We are thankful to the many friends who delivered home-cooked meals, freshly baked bread, flowers, cards, calls, emails, and visits.

To celebrate our 49th wedding anniversary on June 14th, we prepare our North Star camper and head off to the eastern side of the Sierra for some quality time. We plan to camp at the Lone Pine Campground and the dispersed camping in the Alabama Hills. 

The pictures that follow are part of that journey, if only at one ¼ time.



Denise experiencing life below the watchful eye of Mount Whitney.


Our North Star in the Alabama Hils near Mount Whitney.


Our camper lost in the landscape as we search for the infamous Arch Rock.


We attempted the 3-mile hike in search of the Arch Rock.

Slow and steady.


When I said, "This is far enough after a 1 1/2 mile of a 3-mile hike." 
She replied, "If we quit now, they will never know we made it."  Without discussion, we continued.



Arch Rock. Well worth the 3-mile hike. Our 1/4 moment in time.  Mount Whitney perfectly framed.



Reading at camp the biography of Spruce Springsteen.

Our camp far below, what a view to behold.

Plenty of spare tires if you have a flat in the backcountry.

Saying goodbye to Mount Whitney.

Thank you, for helping me along this road.


Dramatic clouds, on our last night, say farewell.