Canyon de Chelly.
We spent time looking at the many ruins. Virtually every cave has ruins. Some have crumbled, but in most cases they remain, with the walls fairly intact. One of the first we saw was Mummy House Ruin, so-called because early occupants [before 400 AD] buried people in "cysts" [hollows in the ground walled with slabs of rock and covered with more slabs] where the dryness of the climate has allowed good preservation of the bodies. Those early occupants were the Basket Makers, who did no pottery, but were masterful in their weaving of even waterproof baskets. Next came the Anasazi. They occupied Mummy cave from around 400 AD to 1300.

You can see the houses huddled in the cave. Anasazi pottery was also found there.

Next we went to the largest settlement, White House

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The White House is so called because the main ruin has white plastered walls.

This is a partial view.

As you can see, there are also some more damaged houses on the canyon floor.

An interesting feature of the Canyon are the many petroglyphs, made at various periods.

The figure on his back playing the flute is an early "Kokopelli", a character or divinity often seen in the Southwwest. The white hands are just painted on, the dark ones are made by putting the hand on the wall and spraying color on it.

This a later, more sophisticated one, done by Navajos, and showing Spanish riders. The Navajos could see the usefulness of horses. They stole some from the Spaniards, and used them for raids to advantage. The Spanish attacked the Navajos many times, but didn't succeed in subduing them. These horses are still raised in the Canyon, along with sheep.

Another ruin in a curiously shaped cave.

Another small one.

The Canyon is a very pleasant and peaceful place. Many visitors just drive along the rim, without ever actually visiting it.

This is a typical spot. On the right is the frame for a characteristic summer shelter. It will be covered with brush and branches to provide shade. Similar "shade houses" are used for summer cooking .

Canyon de Chelly is one of the many unique sights in Arizona, and remains one of my favorites.

A short trip to Northern Arizona
I spent last week in Northern Arizona, for a return visit to some ancient sites I particularly like. We went north from Flagstaff to the Cameron Trading Post. On the way, you can see the San Francisco Peaks [3,850 m] towering by the road.

The Cameron Trading Post is about 100 years old. Now it has become a large motel and restaurant with a big souvenir shop. Some of the items are indeed Native Indian, but others are made cheaply elsewhere. Check the labels! It is a fairly good place from which to go visit the Grand Canyon and other sites.

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We chose to go look at the Betatakin ruin, at the Navajo National Monument. Contrarily to other Anasazi [or "Early Puebloan"] ruins in the general area, it was only occupied from 1250 till about 30 years later. The consensus is that a bad drought drove the people away, as from the other villages. Betatkin means "house on the ledge". It is built in a natural cave on the side of the cliff, a common feature offering safety as well as protection from the elements. The park entrance is about 15 km from the main road. Then you walk about 1.6 km roundtrip to the canyon and the ruin, an easy walk. There are signs giving the name of various plants. A certain number of pinyon pines are there. Some of the dead ones were curiously twisted.

On the way.

First view from a distance.

Unfortunately, we were there late in the morning, and the view is better earlier, when the sun illuminates the cave. You can see the houses huddled all along the rear of the cave. The upper ledges were used for storage.
There is another ruin, particularly well preserved, Keet Seel, but it is a 30 km hard hike round trip.

We then drove across the large Navajo reservation [and a large part of Arizona] to Chinle. This is a small town from which you can visit the Canyon de Chelly. It is a beautiful canyon, with the interesting characteristic of starting on the mesa, at the mesa level, 1700 m., while the walls of the canyon rise around you as you go deeper into it, and it narrows. There is a stream at the bottom, fed by the snows and rain of the Chuska Mountains to the east of it. The area belongs ot the Navajos, and you can visit only with a Navajo guide, in an SUV or a jeep. The stream has to be crossed repeatedly, and a knowledge of the area is necessary, as there are spots of quicksand. The Canyon actually is made of several different ones [de Chelly, del Muerto, Monument] which converge at the entrance. It has been occupied by Navajo families for 300 to 400 years. They have apricot orchards, among other cultures, and raise sheep and horses.

The entrance to the Canyon.

This shows the characteristic colored streaks down the walls of the Canyon, made by water seeping through manganese deposits. Notice the swirly layers of rock on the lower part.

This is a typical view, with more streaks, and a small cave wiht a ruin in the lower part. Cottonwoods are growing alon the stream.

I still have to show the various sites along the Canyon, so be sure to come back and look!

Kyoto, kamigamo shrine
Spring has arrived in Las Vegas, though it is still only mid February. The deciduous trees are pushing out little green leaves, and some of the others are in bloom.

Here is a Bradford pear:


And a flowering plum:
Here is a close up of another one:
The blossoms are pale pink, but the leaves, once mature, are a dark red.

Fall colors in Kyoto
drinking bird
Recently my friend Aya-san sent me some pictures of the gardens at Renge-ji, a small temple in Kyoto, well known for its fall colors, and at Ruriko-in. The latter is a hidden jewel, as you can only visit it for a couple of weeks in November. In fact it was closed to the public for a while, to protect the fragile gardens and buildings.



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More scattered leaves
scattered leaves

A lovely pond
Some of the many kinds of mosses at Ruriko-in

I had trouble choosing among Aya-san's many wonderful pictures! I hope you have enjoyed this small sample.

Takeda castle ruins
drinking bird
This is just a short post to let you see some pictures of Takeda castle ruins [Hyogo prefecture in southern Kansai]. My friend Aya-san took them on a recent trip there. The castle was built in 1445. It fell to Hideyoshi towards the end of the 16th century, but was abandoned in 1600.

It is high up on a mountain top, and must have been very imposing.
Now that it is uninhabited, pines and sakura grow on the grounds. What it is famous for is the fact that occasionally, in autumn, clouds surround the castle and give it a rather surreal appearance.

Takeda ruins
So it is often called "the castle in the clouds".

Takeda ruins 2
Here you can see some of the walls [and the pines].

The castle is a longish walk from the railway station, but taxis are available. I regret never visiting it!

Zion National Park
drinking bird
We decided to have a look at Zion Park since we had a little time and the weather was great. It is definitely worth a longer visit. It is in a very mountainous area, with slot canyons, waterfalls, springs and seeps, many trees and other plants, with often spectacular scenery. We only had a glimpse of it.

approach to Zion
the approach to the park
layers, Zion
rock layers
layered rocks, Zion
deeper in the park
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shiste layers
A characteristic feature of Zion seems to be the presence of water under the rocks, enabling the survival of many plants and trees.
rocks and pines
This, plus the cover and food the plants supply, allows an abundant animal life. From fish and lizards through birds, including condors and spotted owls.
Not snow, just white rock at the top!
leaving Zion 2
Leaving Zion. I definitely hope I can return for a longer visit.

Northern Arizona, continued.
drinking bird
Our next visit near Page was to the Horseshoe. It is a bend in Glen Canyon. In fact, an interesting feature of the area, generally a flattish mesa, is all the deep canyons interrupting it.

Glen Canyon
Glen Canyon

approach to the Horseshoe
The approach to the Horseshoe Bend
horseshoe 2
The Horseshoe
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The next day, the weather was unfortunately overcast and at times drizzly. Nevertheless, we decided to drive to the Grand Canyon, which is always spectacular. I have been there a couple of times, and always enjoy it.
colors, Grand Canyon
Some colors, but very low clouds
low clouds and mist, Grand Canyon
In spite of the weather, there was a fair number of visitors
observation platform
An observation platform
clouds lifting
The clouds lifted a bit at times.
You are not seeing the bottom, which is too far down to be seen from the edges, but one of the intermediate levels.

The next day, on the way home, we briefly looked at Zion National Park in southern Utah. I will post my pictures in another entry, I hope very soon.

A short visit to Northwest Arizona
drinking bird
I recently stayed a few days in Page, AZ. The purpose was primarily to visit Antelope Canyon, a "slot canyon" located on Navajo Tribal land. The interest of the place is the effect of erosion on the reddish sanstone, and the play of light on the walls and the floor, though this last is more visible in summer than fall or spring.

the entrance
entrance to slot canyon 2

different tones
first encounter with the different tones of the walls
sculpted walls
Looking up

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looking up
and again
looking up (2)
a narrow passage
narrow passage
photogs at work (2)
Photographers at work
leaving the canyon
Leaving the canyon.

I am unhappy that somehow the photos colors don't appear as vivid on LJ as on my Picasa album. Imagine it all a little redder, please!

We went on for a very short look at the Grand Canyon, and at Zion Park in Utah on the way back. I will show my photos over the next few days.

Last few days in Las Vegas
drinking bird
I want to show you some pictures of the garden where we were. It felt like an oasis.

putting green
Please note that this "putting green" is actually artificial grass. In this photo, only the very bottom of the picture shows real turf. The dark wine colored tree is a flowering plum. There are in fact 4 of them.

covered terrace
This is the covered terrace at the rear of the house. It is always shaded and very pleasant. Against the back wall you may be able to distinguish a couple of rosebushes. There are several on the property. Roses seem to do very well in Vegas.

Outside is a common area with mostly shaded walks.


common ground

We went to see Lake Las Vegas, a development and recreation area not far from the city, with an artificial lake. You can go boating or paddle boarding on it, or simply swim. What I found strange, when we arrived, was to see an imitation of Florence's Ponte Vecchio!

Ponte Vechhio
Of course, Las Vegas is the city of make believe...
However, the rest of the place was more as expected.



Definitely a nice vacation!

Still in Las Vegas
drinking bird
We particularly enjoyed our visit of the Botanic Garden. A surprising number of desert plants bloom, for yuccas to cacti, to many different agaves and others. I liked very much a small tree called Palo Verde, curious because of its green bark

Palo verde bark
It also has abundant yellow blooms

Palo verde blooms

Palo Verde tree
There were many cacti, several in bloom or about to


bright cactus flower

various cacti

There are other plants as well

callistemon or bottle brush

This is an Australian plant, called callistemon, or "bottle brush" because of the shape of the flowers. These are mainly red, though the size of the shrub varies, and looked as though they were dipped in gold. There were also desert bluebells and California poppies.

desert bluebells

California poppies with  sempervivum

In front of these poppies is a mass of peculiar looking sempervivens (hens & chicks).

I will post my last photos later.


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