Utah 2023 – Four Corners, Valley of the Gods, and Monument Valley across 58 years

Escaping the cold windstorm by moving East, we made a long, shallow loop around Navajo Mountain to Four Corners, then back through the serene Valley of the Gods for a quick afternoon hike before approaching one of my favorite places on Earth: Monument Valley. I have been to this special place many times in my life, and always recall vivid memories of my first visit as an 8 year old. With the help of my brother, Eric (who was not even born at the time of that first visit), we found photographic slides that our Dad, the late Jack S Wilmoth, had taken in 1965, 58 years earlier. While I didn’t have access to his images during this trip, it has been fun to intersperse his shots with my own! You can see how we change much more dramatically than the formations do.

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Utah 2023 – Upper Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend

Well, actually not Utah, but just over the river-border into Arizona for a day to visit the iconic Upper Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend near Page, Arizona. For many years I have loved the imagery that photographers like John Gavrilis have captured of this magical place so it was a special treat to join a guided tour (the only way we’re allowed to visit this Navajo tribal land) and try my own hand at such artistry. The conditions outside were rough, with high winds sandblasting our faces as we entered and exited the famous slot canyon, but when we saw how those conditions delivered unique drifting “sandfalls” in the beams of sunlight, it was easy to ignore the discomfort. We could easily blame the swirling dust for the tears in our eyes, but the emotions that the beautiful formations evoked also played their part!

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Utah 2023 – Zion National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Still relishing our climb of Angels Landing, the next couple of days were filled with several relatively short hikes in Zion (The Watchman Trail, The Narrows Riverside Trail and the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail) before we made the long drive around Navajo Mountain, back and forth over the Utah-Arizona border, to our next base of operations in Grand Staircase-Escalante.

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Utah 2023 – Zion National Park: Angels Landing

Shortly after I returned from Thailand, Joanie and I left home for our first trekking holiday of the year: to the American Southwest and, in particular, to Southern Utah for a couple of weeks of pre-planned trails and impromptu adventures. The winter was longer than usual this year, so inclement weather altered some of our plans. But with every bit of “bad luck” we also found unexpected rewards.

As we had done in the English Lake District last year, we moved in a large loop through five “bases,” where we could unpack and settle for a few days in each while enjoying nearby day hikes. Most were in or near National Parks, National Monuments and State Parks, and reminded me of a quote often attributed to one of my favorite authors about the American West:

National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

Wallace Stegner, 1983

For some fun literary research about “who said this first?” check out this article.

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Thailand 2023

When you’re not a big fan of cold and wet weather and your home state gets hit with rare winter “atmospheric rivers” that allow your son to snowboard from the front door of his home and bring snow to your favorite beach volleyball courts, you know it’s time to search for warmth.

For me, in March, that meant returning to Thailand where I hoped to hike in the mountains of the north and scuba dive in the islands of the south. It was a wonderful trip even if circumstances forced me to alter many of my original plans. Here are a few pics to start off what will I expect to be a year filled with many adventures that I want to share with you all on this blog.

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Camino Francés 2022 – Final thoughts, stats, and what’s up next?

Since coming home, I’ve had fun catching up with friends and family, as well as chatting on WhatsApp with my new Camino friends located all over the world. Many are now home and having various re-entry experiences. Most seem content as we try to bring our Camino peace into our everyday lives. All are exploring ways to get out there again, wherever “there” may be.

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Camino Francés 2022 Days 40-46: Santiago de Compostela to Muxia

What a difference the side of a city can make! Arriving from the East showed off the bustling, industrial sector of Santiago de Compostela. Departing towards the West gave me miles and miles of beautiful rural landscapes and dense woodland trails. An even bigger difference could be felt on the Camino itself. Two days ago, entering the final destination for most peregrinos, meant hoards of people (tourists and pilgrims alike): it was very hectic. But because the Camino is a “one-way route” for 99.99% of the walkers, you very rarely see anyone walking away from Santiago. The serenity that I missed last week, in the last 100 kms after Sarria, returned ten-fold today and the clear weather made for a nearly perfect day of walking!

But first, before I share about the day, I feel compelled to share a story about “Camino magic…”

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Camino Francés 2022 Days 31-39: Villafranca del Bierzo to Santiago de Compostela

After five weeks on the trail, I feel like I’ve been walking forever. Each week brings new terrain, new views, new weather, new friends, new experiences, and new emotions. The golden meseta is behind me now and I am faced with a lot of green – in every imaginable shade. The green, of course, comes from rain, which also means wind, and muddy trails, and swollen rivers, and rainbows. Realizing that I was entering my final week before arriving to Santiago (the ultimate destination for most of my fellow pilgrims), my mind began to dance to new tunes.

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Camino Francés 2022 Days 24-30: León to Villafranca del Bierzo

Leaving León, some say that the meseta is now behind us. But is it really? Personally, studying the map, I am not convinced. It looks to me that we will have another couple of days before we begin to see substantially different terrain. In the meantime, we all know what we need to do: just get up and walk!

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Camino Francés 2022 Days 15-23: Burgos to León

Leaving Burgos, all peregrinos had heard many stories about what lay ahead of us: the meseta! Those stories were enough to scare off some folk and motivate them to hop on buses and taxis to pass over it entirely. Most of us, however, were excited to experience this major geological feature of the Iberian peninsula. I had heard it often described as a desert, and loving the American Southwest and Namibian deserts as much as I do, I was particularly looking forward to it.

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