American Southwest

How I met Muriel

For a change, this post is about the American Southwest. I have written about this part of the world before: Bryce Canyon, Arches and Grand Canyon, Lake Powell and my childhood memories  and other posts. This post is also related to my childhood.

I have been a reader since the age of four, but my love for reading took off when I started Elementary and discovered our school library. There were no age limits – teenage book section was at my disposal. I judged the books by the cover – it is how I came across The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry, and Johnny became my role model ūüôā I loved the intelligent humor of these books, but some stories broke my little heart. One of these stories is Jimmy Hayes and Muriel. I have read this story countless times when I felt like crying, and it always worked. It is a short story, and if you haven’t read it yet, here it is:

Jimmy Hayes and Muriel

A short story by O. Henry

Supper was over, and there had fallen upon the camp the silence that accompanies the rolling of corn-husk cigarettes. The water hole shone from the dark earth like a patch of fallen sky. Coyotes yelped. Dull thumps indicated the rocking-horse movements of the hobbled ponies as they moved to fresh grass. A half-troop of the Frontier Battalion of Texas Rangers were distributed about the fire.

A well-known sound — the fluttering and scraping of chaparral against wooden stirrups — came from the thick brush above the camp. The rangers listened cautiously. They heard a loud and cheerful voice call out reassuringly:

“Brace up, Muriel, old girl, we’re ‘most there now! Been a long ride for ye, ain’t it, ye old antediluvian handful of animated carpet-tacks? Hey, now, quit a tryin’ to kiss me! Don’t hold on to my neck so tight — this here paint hoss ain’t any too shore-footed, let me tell ye. He’s liable to dump us both off if we don’t watch out.”

Two minutes of waiting brought a tired “paint” pony single-footing into camp. A gangling youth of twenty lolled in the saddle. Of the “Muriel” whom he had been addressing, nothing was to be seen. Read more

Jimmy’s fate didn’t concern me for some reason. I cried for his little loyal Muriel.

An encyclopedia found in the same school library gave me idea about Muriel’s looks and classification, but I have never met the creature in person, until last summer.

A part of a lovely weekend spent in our friends’ St. George house was a trip to desert. We took some dirt roads and short hikes to give our little explorers the feel of wilderness.


There were lizards and insects to admire. I am not sure, but I think it is a Locust and a Mormon cricket. They were huge.

Many wildflowers had passed their peak, but some were still in bloom: Globe mallow, Prickly poppy, Desert buckwheat and some cacti.




It was on our way back when I noticed something under a sage bush. I rolled the window down and my heart skipped a beat. I took a picture and zoomed to make sure it was not a mistake. It wasn’t. I finally met Muriel.

I cannot tell that it is exactly the horned lizard species from the story, but it is the closest I could get to meeting my Muriel. It has been some 50 years…

The lizard didn’t move. It was a very hot day, and I didn’t want to bother the creature and force a photo session on it. I was already happy enough.

Some pomegranate flowers spotted in St. George to brighten your day.

There are six bloggers whose blogs I really want you to visit. As this post was basically about the short story that has been stuck in my head for 50 something years, I want to share the books I have read recently ( or about to start reading ), and their authors. I have read every book of these authors and look forward to the new releases.

Science fiction and fantasy writer¬†Craig Boyack¬† –¬†¬†The Yak Guy Project was¬†the first book I opened after several months of abstinence from reading. I truly enjoyed the protagonist’s journey towards maturity.

Science fiction writer Sarah Higbee¬† ¬†–¬† Book #3 Breathing Space¬†of Sarah’s trilogy Sunblinded¬†is a fantastic sequel and I hope for more books in the future.

Historical fiction writer Millie Thom¬† –¬†¬†I am currently reading Millie’s Book #3 Wyvern of Wessex of the¬†Sons of Kings trilogy. This is a completely engrossing read, from start to finish.

Fantasy writer Diana Wallace Peach¬† –¬† ¬†Legacy Of Souls,¬†The Shattered Sea Book #2 was recently released, and I cannot wait to open it. Soul swallowers are the most fascinating Diana’s creations so far (You read about them in Book #1)

Young adult fantasy writer’s Jean Lee’s¬†blog is a magical place that is very difficult to leave. You just want to read one more article, then another… Recently, Jean nominated me for the Liebster Award, a great friend she is. Visit Jean’s Book page – read her new novel and short stories.

Artist and author¬†Resa McConaghy¬† – Nine Black Lives, a detective novel, my latest read. Resa’s knowledge of the film industry makes the book stand out. It is a very intriguing piece with much potential for many sequels to come.

Hope you find new friends and amazing books. Have a happy weekend!

Traveling American Southwest… Part II

res2008 trip 1 344

At the exit of the Antelope Canyon ( see Part I), we saw this little chick on the ground and heard his mama chirp somewhere close. I quickly took a picture and off we went, in the back of a 4-wheel drive comfortable truck.

In the evening, driving around, we stopped at the marina parking lot¬†and took some pictures of the endless sky, Colorado River, and Navajo Generating Station –¬†¬†the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the USA.

colorado river

The next day we drove, all  excited, down to Lake Powell to take a boat tour to the Rainbow Bridge.  A two hours boat ride or a two day hiking? You have to choose if you want to see many places in just a few days. The tour took about five hours, from which four hours on the boat with the most breathtaking scenery all around, and a fresh breeze.

res2008may 004nohdrres

lake powell

lake powell

This is a furnace ( only about a mile long though) we had to hike through to get to the famous natural  bridge. In the evening I was all red like a lobster, and it was only May!


We turned around the corner, and there it stood.

Rainbow bridge

lake powell

My daughter said that she wanted to sing for us, and she did, and it was really moving.

Judy Garland, “Over the Rainbow

The next day was Sunday. I saw that there was a church across from our hotel, and I decided to go and mingle with the locals.

I entered the room  and quietly sat in the  back row. When I looked around I realised that all the congregation except me and another couple were either Native Americans or Mexicans. Presiding was a solemnly looking Native American man with long hair, who spoke with majesty and authority. I was mesmerized.

After the service I was about to sneak away,¬†but two young men who sat next to me started conversation and¬†marveled at the fact that I came all the way from Europe. I really enjoyed our conversation and marveled at the fact that I was chatting¬†with 100% Native Americans ūüôā After 40 years, since…

In the 1960s, DEFA film production studio¬†based in¬†Berlin, Eastern Germany ¬†produced the Western¬†The Sons of the Great Mother Bear, directed by Josef Mach and starring Gojko Mitińá. Many other films followed.¬†Basically, the films portrayed the good Native Americans¬†and the¬†bad white Americans. What else would you expect from the Cold War era movies ūüôā

The DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the only archive and research center outside of Germany devoted to the preserving and promoting DEFA movies. In October 2005 the Museum of Modern Art in New York City hosted a two-week DEFA festival, and several titles are now commercially available on DVD.

And for those who wonder – no, this¬†is not American Southwest ūüôā In fact, it is not America at all. The movies were filmed somewhere in Southern Europe and even Mongolia.

To make a long story short – In ¬†this photograph¬†you see¬†Gojko Mitińá.


I was 10-12 years old at that time. The crush wasn’t on him! I still have no idea if he was ever married or something. The crush was rather on his characters ūüôā

I and alike, were the most devoted fans he has ever had. We recorded the soundtracks from TV shows, we quoted his characters, we wrote screenplays, made tomahawks and bows, and all sort of jewelry. We went to the library and researched all the books on American history and anthropology that were available. We have read all the books on which his movies were based! He influenced a whole generation, and somehow we knew that the white Americans were not as bad as we were told, because some of them were good friends of Chingachgook, Tokei-Itho, and Ulzana.

I wish all celebrities used their influence upon the young generation as he did.

In this photograph,¬†he is 75 ūüôā Yep.


The following¬†morning we left¬†Page AZ and¬†traveled North. ¬†After visiting Monument Valley we took Utah State Route 261, passed¬†stunning rock formations ¬†– Mexican Hats, and crossed the Valley of Gods. I was clueless ¬†about specifics of US 261… I just wondered, where are we¬†going to drive¬†if there stands¬†a gigantic mesa all the way along the valley… When we approached the mesa, I got it. I asked if I can leave the car and walk. The answer was “no”. ¬†Moki Dugway. I didn’t know we were destined to meet…

Holding my camera tight, I stretched my arm out of the window, closed my eyes and up we went. I cannot tell how many switchbacks are there. Five? Six? There are no protective walls or anything, and we were lucky that no one was traveling down the mesa in their campervan.

Most of my pictures look like this one.


Valley of Gods from Moki Dugway.

moki dugway

This is my daughter’s photograph taken on the top of Cedar Mesa ¬†this year when they traveled the Southwest again. You can see some of the switchbacks.

moki dugway

Our next stop, Navajo National Monument. In the photograph below, there is a whole city in the rock, Betatakin cliff dwelling, as seen across the canyon. Anasazi lived there in the 13th century and vanished  overnight without a trace.


A dinosaur footprint.

dino track

We traveled through the beautiful desert, and finally crossed the Glen Canyon again.


This is actually a picture of the same area, but taken from the top of the canyon wall. You can see the bridge across Colorado River near the confluence of Dirty Devil River.


Unlike the DEFA movies, this¬†American Southwest is real ūüôā

One more video,  and Ennio Morricone music for you.

Thank you for your company!

IneseMjPhotographyHave a great weekend!

Traveling American Southwest, Part I

three gossips

I have this image of Three Gossips taken in color at the sunset,¬†but I added ¬†gradient and changed color¬†balance to make it look like a distant memory,¬†because I will share some almost forgotten, and for most of you, unknown memories… in my next blog, Part II ūüôā But first, let’s go back to the story about our Southwest travels.

We have made two trips to Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, in 2007 and 2008. Our first trip included:  Arches National Park, Four Corners, Little Colorado River Gorge, Marble Canyon, Grand Canyon, St George, Cove Fort Рa round trip  we had made in five days.

There is no photograph that could adequately depict the stunning beauty of Arches National Park. You come there in awe, and you leave in awe. If you are short of time and cannot stay longer than one day,  I would suggest something like that:

Morning – Devil’s Garden Trail and Landscape Arch ( 2 hours) and probably another¬†2-3¬†hours if you want to walk to the end of the trail ( we didn’t); ¬†Double Arch ( 30 min); The¬†¬†Windows ( 1 hour). It is just how long it takes to walk. You will need more time – driving, taking photographs, sitting and admiring the scenery.

Afternoon¬†–¬†Delicate Arch ( at least 3 hours; parking is limited!);¬†Balanced Rock¬†before the sun goes down ( 30 min). Check the¬†map¬†to calculate how long it takes to drive from place to place.

Check out the links to the long and short trails, but regardless of the distance you have to take a lot of water with you.

There are 2000 arches in Arches Nation Park. Well, perhaps 1999, since the Wall Arch collapsed in August 2008.

The¬†best photographs of Delicate Arch come out in the afternoon. We went there first thing in the morning. It made sense¬†because we¬†had no idea how long it takes to hike, and we really wanted to stay there a little longer.¬†Photography wasn’t our priority.

In the first photograph, Delicate Arch is just around the corner. The weather is changing to overcast, and the arch looks differently every half and hour. Sitting there and staring at the arch was one of my favorite activities in the Park. If you have been there you know what I am talking about.


May 24-25 2007 145res


This is the Landscape Arch, or what is left of it after the first slab of sandstone fell off in 1991. Still, it is the longest natural arch in the world with the span of 290 feet.


It is the¬†Devil’s Garden trail, the most spectacular of all the trails in the park. The weather was changing, and¬†by the time we reached the Landscape Arch, it was raining and we turned¬†back.


These formations are called “fins”. I mentioned them in my¬†previous¬†blog.


The rain stopped and we actually visited more arches than expected. We took beautiful photographs of the Balanced Rock half an hour before the sunset, and the Three Gossips a minute before the sun went down.

This is the Window Arch. For the scale, see a tiny human sitting in the left corner.


The following day we¬†started our unhurried trip¬†to the Grand Canyon, a ” hole in Arizona”.¬†It is hard to put the Grand Canyon in words and pictures, and yes, “not all holes are created¬†equal” ūüôā I was standing there speechless and almost¬†breathless.

South Rim, Colorado River. Here we spent a day, hiking around and down in the canyon.

Grand Canyon

North Rim, the following day. There, we took a short  but breathtaking  Bright Angel Point trail.


We walk along the narrow ‘peninsula’, surrounded with the stone ‘waves’. At the end of the trail, The Bright Angel Point, most of people just stand and stare across the vast expanse. It is difficult to believe that this ¬†is all real. I think you will love reading¬†this very informative and very poetic article¬†about the area down there.

angel fault

Reading displayed information I had to smile. What is the Bright Angel Fault?  As I learned, faults are fractures in the Earth crust that occur under the pressure Рcompression, extension or side-by-side movement. The Bright Angel Fault is such a fracture that stretches almost straight across the Grand Canyon from the South to the North through the Bright Angel Canyon, which was formed through erosion along the fault.  Yes, the view that we see at the view point is not technically the Grand Canyon, but a side canyon,  the jagged border ridge of the Bright Angel Canyon!

The Bright Angel Fault is still active and has produced small earthquakes that visitors sometimes feel. The fault is visible as  a 186 foot displacement: you can see it in the image of the distant South Rim, where the left side of the horizon line is visibly higher than the right one (sorry it is heavily zoomed and taken with a 3 mp camera)

angel fault

I have read a lot about the side canyons, and I still have more questions than answers. I know that I will never hike the Grand Canyon and see everything by myself. I can only pray that the people who go there in the future are considerate and respectful to the Nature.

Little Colorado River Gorge, and¬†Marble Canyon and Navajo Bridge are worth to mention¬†not only¬†because they are located on the way to Grand Canyon National Park and to stop there seems like a natural thing to do. These places are¬†beautiful. ¬†Cross¬†both ¬†– New and Historical Navajo bridges, and enjoy the emerald color of Colorado river if you travel early in summer. Little Colorado river is a¬†bright ¬†blue color,¬†but later when the rains start, they¬†both¬†become chocolate milk ¬†brown, and as the saying goes ‘ too thick to drink, too thin to plow’.¬†Marble Canyon¬†and¬† the Grand Canyon join where the Little Colorado River enters the Colorado River.

In the image below, a view from the Old Navajo bridge.

colorado river

On the way back, we had a stop in St. George, UT,  and visited their Pioneer Park.  We climbed up the Dixie Rock for the downtown panorama, and I can tell you that the place is certainly worth to stop by.

Our last stop was the Cove Fort, with their curious exposition of the 19th century artifacts, workshops¬†and¬†the Big Barn. Lots of history, with no admission fee ( the place belongs to the LDS Church). ¬†We even learned how to play¬†the¬†long forgotten¬†game! ūüôā

cove fort

There is a wonderful¬†book ¬†– Travelers’ Tales, American Southwest: Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah… A great¬†read when you feel nostalgic.

The other trip was also a five days long trip : Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Lake Powell and Rainbow Bridge, Horseshoe Bend, Upper Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, Mexican Hat, Utah State Route 261 and Moki Dugway, Natural Bridges National Monument,  Utah State Route 95 across the end of Glen Canyon, and a long drive through the breathtaking canyon country up to Salt Lake Valley.

As I said, we travel with no hurry. We stop to admire buttes and mesas; we  even climb them sometimes. We buy Native American jewelry made from  seeds,  beads and semiprecious stones; we watch the wildlife and marvel at the flowers bravely standing out against the barren rocks. One cannot plan discoveries and surprises.



On our way to Page, AZ we turned into the side road to check out a  unique place, a part of Zion National Park РPink Sand Dunes.

Pink sand Dunes

It was fun to run down the dunes, and it is where I lost my wide angle lens…

We stayed in Page three nights exploring the area. Horseshoe Bend was one of the places on our list. I failed to take a good picture, but my daughter had a good fun taking pictures of me wriggling on my belly towards the rim with my camera holding hand outstretched, and with the mortified face. Due to the embarrassing nature, these pictures may not be published.


We went¬†there again after dark. The full moon lit up the waters of Colorado River; wildlife enjoyed the coolness of the night, and we enjoyed watching the cottontails happily run around. I didn’t get any¬†braver, and this sorry¬†picture is the¬†best ¬†I have got.

Horseshoe bend

Another place on our list was  Antelope Slot Canyon. Probably many of you have heard about the tragedy that happened there in August 1997. We went to the safer and easier of the slots, the Upper Antelope Canyon ( the Upper and the Lower slots are a few miles apart) . All the land around Page, including Antelope Canyon,  belongs to the Navajo Nation. It is a family business, and we got a handsome young man for a guide, a University student who was on holidays at that time, and not only gave us photography tips, but also played the flute for us.

Antelope Canyon is one of the most mesmerizing¬†places on Earth, where the light is everything. The corkscrew walls polished¬†by flash floods change their color every second as the light¬†bounces¬†between the twisted columns. In the image¬†below –¬†Slot entrance.

slot canyon

Images taken inside the canyon, available light.

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon

In my next¬†blog, I will cover the rest of our Lake Powell trip, and reveal my first (and last) celebrity¬†crush from the¬†1960s ūüôā

IneseMjPhotographyHave a wonderful weekend!