Notes from Westwater

Goldfinch, photo by Ted Palmer
The lesser goldfinches in our yard often perch upside down on the sunflowers, busily plucking seeds from the mature heads. Holding on with their tiny feet, they ride the flowers like miniature ships as they sway in the breeze. The males with their gold breasts, black caps, and black-and-white...
Historic photo of cave tour at Manitou Springs.  William Henry Jackson photo, courtesy Denver Public Library
Dustin, our guide, handed us each a long-burning candle inserted into the bottom of a bucket. We stood just inside the mouth of the cave where enough outside light illuminated an iron gate. “Iron,” Dustin intoned, “repels spirits and keeps them from leaving the cave. Once we pass that gate, our...
Hardworking ants can carry impressive loads – ten to 50 times their own weight.  Merry Palmer photo
Clumsy and plump, Steven Pfenniger cried easily, which didn’t earn him any respect from the pack of kids running our neighborhood in Hutchinson, KS. His dad owned a shop just off Fourth Street and repaired TVs, but we didn’t know much more about him or his family — which was unusual in our...
Havasupai Canyon. Photo by Merry Palmer
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin Nine years ago, having heard about the mystical waterfalls in Havasupai near the Grand Canyon, we decided to backpack into the area. Because I’d been struggling with bronchitis, I sat up coughing the night before we hiked in, but...
Soldiers carry the colors during the Blanding Fourth of July celebration. Annually, the Blanding celebration offers the small-town American feel of yesteryear,  a breath of fresh air in these modern times that can sometimes feel complicated.  Ted Palmer photo
I first met Blanding on the Fourth of July many years ago when my family and I visited my brother Tom. After some rough experiences including war, Tom, a police officer, decided he wanted to raise his young family in a small religious town so he looked on a Utah map, prayed, and chose two...
Wild burros near Oatman, AZ. Once very instrumental to mining operations during World War II, these hardy beasts were turned loose in the desert where they have thrived. Some sources estimate their numbers have grown to around 20,000 throughout the west. Ted Palmer photo
As I was walking between the Quonset hut and the old chicken coop, I heard my cousin scream. I peered around the door of the old coop where my cousin Linda cowered on the roost. Two Shetland ponies had chased her there and were not about to let her down. Linda and I were ten years old. “Merry, go...
Joshua means, “God is deliverance,” an unlikely name for the largest yucca plants in the world, but according to Katie Noonan, when settlers sent out by Brigham Young first saw the trees southwest of St. George, they thought they resembled Joshua from the Bible. Not all early explorers thought the...
Moqui Canyon, photo by Merry Palmer
by Merry Palmer I held my breath as we started down the 600-foot, orange sand dune into Moqui Canyon. With our fellow adventurer, Ned Smith, following in his Razor, Ted drove our Pioneer 500 to the end of the dugway’s first slope. He stopped, put on the parking brakes, and he and Ned climbed out...
“I always wanted to see the pyramids,” Dad told me once over the phone. Maybe that’s why he always listened so intently when I described the Ancestral Puebloan ruins, pictographs, and petroglyphs found in San Juan County. He died on December 19, 2021, just a month short of his 95th birthday. He...
The left front tire bounced over a boulder, the right front tire left the ground, and my hubby called, “Lean your way!” We could see the red bottom of a deep, deep gully below us. To be honest, before we left Blanding, I’d been worrying about friends suffering from COVID, family situations, and...

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