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June 16, 2017

In The Still Of The Night

By Maryanna Gabriel

     Except for my pounding heart the night was still. The adrenaline that had just surged through me was beginning to ebb. I tried not to shake. I was frightened. My courage seemed to take leave of me. I had no idea where I was. It was hard to think. Was I past the camp ground or before the camp ground? And shouldn't I get off the beach in case they come back. Yes, I decide. I turn into the narrow cobblestone streets. I find a hotel. The man at the desk does not know where the camp ground is. I can see he cannot help me and I go back out onto the street. My heart pounds and my fear mounts. It is so dark. I have no choice. I head back to the beach and then as I get my bearings I realize I am before the camp ground. It was difficult to recognize the place because it was closed and gated. In fact the gate was locked. I scaled the wall. I landed in the camp site court yard. A man had been watching me. He now stepped forward to question me. I began to babble.

      It was then a kind of a miracle happened. He recognized I was traumatized and began talking to me in a soft calm voice, telling me I was safe, and that it was all alright. He said he was a retired fire chief from Orillia, Ontario. I guess he knew how to speak to victims in shock. He spoke to me gently for a long time. He told me little stories. Did he give me a blanket? I don't remember. I know he walked me to my camper in the black night. I will be forever grateful to this man. 

Mount Shasta
     Rather incredibly the gentleman I was travelling with didn't believe me. He turned a deaf ear, rolled away from me, and ignored me. I ran a theory or two as to why this might be so. Somehow the morning came. By then the news of what had happened was all over the campground. I heard later that the priest gave a sermon in the local church that day, gringos are not just "marks" but people too. The lady who owned the campground brought me buns.

     I was so weary. My heart and soul were heavy. I just wanted to go home. This was it for me. Finally, after all was said and done, I remember driving past Mount Shasta in California. I wept with huge heart-rending sobs. Maybe it was the smell of the pine. I love pine. It is one my favourite smells. It connects me to life and all that I hold dear.

   I felt gratitude. Grateful I was safe, grateful I was heading home, and grateful for resolution around someone who supposedly cared for me. And thus ends this tale of travelling south. 

June 10, 2017

Rincon de Guayabitos, Mexico

By Maryanna Gabriel


Boca de Iguana with friends. 

Boca de Iguana with friends, Manzanilla with crocodiles, and finally in Rincon de Guayabitos in a destination campground we stopped for a longer sojourn. Let us just say that travel is a good way to know somebody and fissures that had been revealing themselves had just become a crack. I was needing to cool off. Quickly. 

I set out onto the beach. I was walking quickly seeking the calming affect of the ocean when some boys came by and began to speak to me in Spanish. I say boys, they seemed like boys, but they were closer to twenty. I just spoke quickly in Spanish that I did not want to talk and kept moving without paying much attention. I began to feel better. By now it was dark, I had covered the breadth of a sandy bay and the stars were out. I may not have had resolution to what I was feeling but clearly it was time to return whether I was looking forward to it or not.

I made my way along the shore glad for the starlight gleaming on the waves. It was hard to see. Suddenly the same boys parted from the shadows on a wall. There were three. They surrounded me. I backed up with the ocean behind me and like wolves they closed in. A cold fear coagulated as I realized I was cornered. "Oooh miss you are so beautiful," I hear one say. One stepped forward, grabbed a breast and retreated. With difficulty I focused on a feeling of incredulity. I was old enough to be their mother, maybe their grandmother. Did they need glasses? The slightly bigger one reached forward and grabbed my crotch and then he stepped back. The world immediately slowed. Frame by frame my mind reached for a quiet puff of thought as I remembered words from long ago. It was of a tea cup reader I had seen. She told me I would be sexually assaulted against a wall. Her words had frightened me at the time. Eventually I had forgotten her words. Until now.

Something in me turned over. Not a chance. I swiftly take in their height. I am bigger. This is not going to happen. Not these punks. Not on my life. With that thought I felt myself puff up. It was as if some primal force inside of me was tapped into. I grew and I grew. Instinctively I knew I needed to make a sound. Screaming wasn't big enough for I felt huge. I seemed to bump my head against the stars. I threw back my head and opened my lips. I reared and I roared, a surging torrent of carnal rage. It overflowed from gaping hairy jaws and the roaring seemed endless. A red ferocity of the she-grizzly possessed me and I knew in this savagery I could easily tear them limb from limb. Then I did what grizzlies do. I charged. I charged roaring with claws outstretched and I went for the throat of the boy who had gone for me. But he was not there. 

They had vanished. The night was quiet once again. I was alone. Was I? Was I really?

June 3, 2017


By Maryanna Gabriel

City Of Guanajuato

I was stunned by this place. It is an outstanding testimony to colonial architecture as it was built on money that was mined from silver and gold. It has a history that dates back to the 1500's. Prosperity and violence are intertwined as Spain interfered with taxes and bloody feuding resulted. For nearly two centuries, 30 to 40 percent of the world's silver was mined here. Silver barons lived opulent lives while slaves, the indigenous peoples,
Tunnels of cobblestone.
worked. Jesuits struggled for their existence as the monarch of Spain felt they were too powerful and banned them. Eventually it all settled down as independence from Spain was achieved and theaters, churches and mansions were built on narrow cobblestone streets. We walked through a series of underground tunnels. I was awed by the labour invested with everywhere we looked. A popular art university flourishes here.

It was time to head to the west coast. I was not looking forward to all of the tolls and road checks. Men in uniform with machine guns and ammunition strapped to their bodies has never been my favourite thing. 

May 27, 2017

San Miguel De Allende

By Maryanna Gabriel

Me In San Miguel 
     I was curious about this place for a number of reasons. Foremost, San Miguel had seemed to capture the heart of my mother who absented herself every winter to join the burgeoning numbers of gringos who were drawn to this artistic city. The pull was Escuela de Bellas Artes, the art school. Artists flocked here and over the years the painters and sculptors gave it a bohemian feel which gradually morphed into richer gringos who decided to retire permanently. There is a huge population of English speaking residents, prices tend to be higher than anywhere else, and it is almost possible to get by on English alone. It was not just the art. My mother had an extensive social life and loved her new friends.

     I was charmed by the old world Spanish feel of this place that was rife with heritage, and I found myself fascinated with the stone work. I could not help but admire the creative Mexican spirit that was expressing itself even in the radiating patterns in the cobble stone on the streets and within walls. Older doorways with heavy iron clasps, huge bells, street lamps of wrought iron, and the colonial curvature of church rotundas graced with all of the intrigue and bric-a-brac the Roman Catholic Church has to offer,
 played with the eye and have fortunately been valued and preserved. In short, I loved it. I could see why people sold up and moved to this beautiful place without looking back for I was asking myself the same question.

     I wish to dedicate this blog to the memory of my mother, Joy McAughtrie, and include her art work here that so captures the spirit of this special place where she so loved to live in and paint.

May 20, 2017

El Paso, Texas

By Maryanna Gabriel

Dinner In Juarez, Mexico

Texas was, well, Texas. Hotels posted that there was no water for showers. Any waterbed that had been there was now dry. The United States had been tapping out this most precious resource. However as I duly noted this, we were simultaneously concentrating primarily on crossing the border. We wanted to drive through the mid-section of the country so that we could make our way to San Miguel and so El Paso was our crossing point. I cannot imagine how this experience would be now with today's political climate. What seemed to be the focus of the Mexican federales was that I was not trying to flog my vehicle in order to sell it. To ensure that we were not, we needed a special permit to cross. It was a doomed scenario. Six hours of having my identification photocopied, including my credit cards, and me being bounced from one bureaucratic agency to another finally led to a successful outcome. We could have been running arms or drugs, nobody seemed to care about the contents of the truck and camper, but hey, we had the piece of paper!

Vowing I would cancel my cards when I got home and happily departing from the heat and chaos of the border, we drove into Juarez, Mexico, seeking the heartland and the lovely San Miguel de Allende. 

May 7, 2017

Sedona, Arizona

By Maryanna Gabriel 

Oak Creek Canyon  (photo from a postcard by Bob Bradshaw)

Interesting Sandstone Formations


Sedona is in the Upper Senoran Desert and is a city of roughly 10,000 people. Coming from an art town myself, I was intrigued not only with the artistic aspect of the place but with the spiritual vibe. Sedona is reputed to have vortexes or energy portals and as a result of this an interesting subculture has sprung up. I had heard a lot about this place and I was eager to see it. I wasn't disappointed. Walking in the hills and in Red Rock State Park, the lovely red rock and sandstone formations, were interspersed with huge Bromeliads and Prickly Pear Cactus. We camped by a pretty river. It felt quite magical. I remarked that it was how I imagined Lothlorien to be, the elvish land, that Tolkein describes in the The Lord Of The Rings. 

Sedona - photo from Wikipedia

May 6, 2017

Bait And Switch

By Maryanna Gabriel 

It was bound to happen sooner or later. A man had entered my life. My new friend and I 
Mexico Bound
concocted a scheme. We would travel in my camper to Mexico and head for the west coast. How grand, I thought. Another adventure. He was experienced with Mexico, a place I would never dream of attempting on my own with the truck. In spite of my eagerness for the experience I was bothered by something. I wasn't exactly sure what it was. Trying to calm what was niggling at me, and dismissing it as new relationship jitters, we made a pact on how we would arrange practicalities and set out. I am taking you, dear reader, to the geography where we left off from which is Arizona. I had been wanting to see Sedona for some time. So the journey continues as we once again focus on travels southward from my island in the Canadian north. 

May 3, 2017

Chinle, Arizona

By Maryanna Gabriel

My purse. Oi. Where was it? I had just been admiring it and thinking how long I had owned the beautiful wallet that was hand-crafted, a gift from my ex-husband for a birthday. Had I Ieft it in the camper? I had walked away from the camper with it on the bed, door unlocked. Oh no. Or had I left in the washroom? I didn't know. It was hard not to panic. I raced to the Canyon de Chelly Guest Center thinking surely someone would turn it in. Nope. Day two. Nope. Day three. Nope. I came to understand that this was a frequent occurrence. Signs were up warning visitors about their valuables. It seemed there was a kind of retroactive karma happening and I was payback. Visitors were marks.

Nothing is more heart rending than losing something like this in a foreign country. I spoke with a young Navajo woman who talked to me about her own experience of having silver jewelry that she had made that was stolen. We commiserated. I knew what I had to do. I went to the Navajo Tribal Police in nearby Chinle and made a report. The law enforcement officer with the email handle "devil dog" was very nice. I would need the paperwork for when I crossed the border to my island home in Canada. It was time. I had no choice. While I was able to cut off my credit cards I was now without means. I was due back at work shortly. This wonderful trip was coming to a close. 

April 22, 2017

White House, Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

By Maryanna Gabriel 

I recently watched a show directed by Robert Redford entitled "Skinwalker" based on the
famous detective series by Tony Hillerman featuring the Navajo detective named Joe Leaphorn. The opening sequence made my scalp prickle with recognition. There it was. The rim of of a pueblo site shot in Navajo Nation. It sure looked like the White House. 

Canyon de Chelly National Monument Park is 339 square kilometers and they say there are 2,700 sites her. It is entirely owned by the Navajo Tribal Trust. Approximately 40 families live here eking out a living with farming and tourism. The famous peach trees that flourish with the sediment run-off were introduced with contact with the Spanish in the 1600's.

I walked past some Navajo men who were sitting around the remains of a fire and looked up to see the famous "White House" with its stark pictographs. Built into the cliff in an under-hang of rock and quite protected is an astonishingly haunting and beautiful place that used to house a large village. The Anasazi gave way to the Hopi who then gave away to the Navajo over the last 5,000 years. The White House is the longest occupied site that we know of in North America. Here rooms connected to one another like a honeycomb and where specialized kivas were used to connect with spirit, the Kachinas or "Shining Ones". It was certainly a power place and I could feel it. 

I slowly put the history together. Colonel Kit Carson led a campaign in 1846. He placed his men around the top lip of the chasm. Here it was easy to pick off the peoples who lived here. Hogans were burned, thousands of peach trees destroyed, as well as crops and livestock. Much like the helpless buffalo, the brutal slaughter was unrestrained. Years later the people were allowed to return. The autonomy they have today has helped to heal the past but there are still deep wounds. I was to encounter something of that in what happened to me next.
Outlook From The White House photo by Ron Resnick

April 16, 2017

Unforgettably Beautiful Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

By Maryanna Gabriel 

“Our sacred sites are more precious than gold.”—Phil Emerson, Quechan

I had no idea but I was catching on pretty quickly. This place. I had never seen anything like it. I began to make my way into the canyon. I hesitated. There was the tiniest ancient woman before me. She was carrying sticks on her back and she was working around a mounded stick house, an actual hogan. There were sheaves of white wool drying. I felt like I had stepped back into time. I reached for my camera. She held up her hand blocking her face and she shook her finger at me in a kind of a rage. So, this was not staged, I thought to myself. She must not have any peace in her day. Respectfully, and knowing she was fighting a lost cause, I put my camera away.

Photo depicting the evolution of the hogan. 

I began to understand the relationship between this national park and the Navajo people. They live and work here at the same time it is nationally funded. A certain reluctant cooperation was at play. As I descended further I tried to understand the geology. It is as if a flat world opens up and in the deep chasm is revealed a secret hidden world. Canyon de Chelly (pronounced "shay") is from the Navaho word which means "hidden". The scope is enormous. Huge walls towered above me of umbricated oranges and yellows, ribbons of colour twist and turn, frozen into sheer cliffs of sandstone. Winding throughout the valley bottom is a river. It was clear the river moves and changes with the rain. Were those peach trees? Beautiful fruit trees were planted and herds of sheep moved amongst them. I felt miniscule and humbled by the beauty of this place. The energy here was palpable. The wind had sculpted forms into the sandstone and rock. Moving forward, I was spell bound, mesmerized by this unique landscape. 

April 7, 2017

Gallup, New Mexico

   By Maryanna Gabriel                                              
"I don't know what lies around the bend
but I am going to believe that the best does."
-L.M. Montogmery

     Gallup is dusty and flat, on the famous Route 66. I pulled into the gas station which was
closed, not surprisingly, as it was a Sunday. I parked the camper fully expecting to wait until the following morning for the tire repair. A truck pulled in. A huge Navajo man with long black hair got out and in a very surly voice asked me my business. I told him. He said he was getting something for a birthday party and that he could not help me. He fairly glowered. I told him I fully understood, that I was fine, and not to worry about me, that I had books to read. I was extremely polite. Next thing I knew he was fixing my tire. "I'm going to charge you a lot," he says. I just nodded, a model of equanimity. What did I care? I was alive and not caught with a flat in a desert with the coyotes possibly being abducted by aliens. As he worked the tire he asked me about what I had been up to. I told him about my desire to go to Chaco Canyon. He was visibly upset. How could I? How could I even think of going there? Even he, who lived in Gallup all of his life does not go there. Did I not know it was sacred? One has to respect the spirits.
Puzzled I nodded. His reaction was visceral and sincere. His bill came to thirty dollars. Maybe he was feeling better about me. I happily paid him. I began to think that going the long way around to Chaco Canyon would take too much time. The distance was too great. Were these all signs? It all just seemed that maybe I was not meant to visit there after all. No matter. There is more than one pueblo site in the southwest and I was headed towards a huge and very famous one. 

March 31, 2017

Navajo Country

By Maryanna Gabriel

I woke up with a start. Registering my bearings, not a soul or vehicle in site, I quietly made breakfast. I tried to get the spare tire down again to no avail. I was thinking about what I had recently driven by. I remembered seeing something about a ranch. I was struggling with another memory as the morning turned into afternoon. It was the old mountain adage not to leave one's pack. Long ago, on a school expedition several of us had been lost in a severe mountain storm. I had made it to the mountain cabin but half of us spent the night bivouacked in deep snow. The teacher who was responsible for us got down to saying goodbye to his wife. He thought he was a goner. Everybody made it out but it was close and one person was badly injured. I am sure that isn't the reason why they later divorced.

Was it better for me to try and walk to find help with a canteen, a kind of Clint Eastwood trek in the desert, possibly never to be heard or seen again, or should I stay with the pack, er, my truck, which was my means of survival? I really didn't know. It being almost 24 hours without any sign of human life, I decided on the latter course. With my bottle of water I began to walk to the ranch I remembered. It was hot but not unbearable, it being November after all. After five miles I came close to where the turn off was for the ranch. As I arrived a truck load of people were also headed for the turn off. They were Navajo. I waved anxiously and it looked like they were not going to stop. They drove past. Then the truck halted and backed up. They piled out. Relieved, I explained the situation to what seemed to be an extended family with a lot of children. The woman laughed and laughed. "You drive too fast," she said. Together we drove to the camper. A wiry girl, about twelve years old, slipped under the Bigfoot with a pair of pliers. In seconds she had pulled out the cotter pin and the spare was released. They all thought I was tremendously funny and I was so relieved that I felt pretty happy and laughed with them too. The spare was a pathetic thing but it was enough to get me to a gas station. I wished I could give them something but I had nothing to give except my thanks. I was lucky. They told me Chaco Canyon was a sacred place and I was not to go there. I didn't really understand as it was a national park open to the public. Gratefully I retraced my route back to Gallup, New Mexico. 

March 24, 2017

Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

By Maryanna Gabriel
"Now I walk in beauty..."
  - Navajo Prayer

     Being in the southwest I knew I needed to see this famous place and after leaving Santa Fe, Chaco Canyon was where I was headed. The Navajo reserve I was entering was reputed to contain the highest concentration of Pueblo sites and that had me intrigued. The shortcut to Chaco Canyon seemed like a good idea. It would save me many miles and what was the big deal with a gravel road anyways? I do it all of the time back home in British Columbia. I drove intrepidly into the desert. I was in Navajo country and fully engaged with this experience. I mentally rummaged trying to remember what I could from my studies as an archaeology student.

     The road seemed smooth but the gravel was sharp. The land was dry and flat with little vegetation. I drove hurriedly. The next thing I knew my truck lurched. With a sinking heart I pulled over to check the tires. No doubt about it. I had a flat. I tried to loosen the spare tire from under the truck. No go. There wasn't any other vehicle in sight, or person for that matter, nor come to think of it, houses. The sun began to set. There was no point in getting worried I told myself. Someone was bound to come along. I had food, water, and a place to sleep, didn't I? The stars came out. It was an incredibly clear sky. Coyotes began to croon. Quite a few of them. It was a strange feeling to be in this place for hours on end without one vehicle passing, halted on a red road in a desert landscape listening to all of the yipping. I scanned the sky for UFO's in case I had to add alien abduction to my list of woes. As the hours passed I sincerely started to worry. 

March 18, 2017

Santa Fe, New Mexico

By Maryanna Gabriel 

I knew where I was heading. The Georgia O'Keefe Museum was foremost on my mind as I pulled in. Santa Fe has a population of 67,000 and is the capital of New Mexico. What struck me immediately was the architecture. Gaudi would have approved. The rounded adobe forms seemed so inviting. The streets and buildings were sculptured. I walked into the museum and felt surprised by the size of the canvases. For some reason I thought they would be large. They were not. This museum houses a lot of her earlier work which is exciting and innovative. I walked into a room and took one look at the canvases and burst into tears. "They are so beautiful," I managed to breathe to the surprised onlooker beside me. Composing myself I walked into the next room and promptly burst into tears again. I was so moved by the beauty that Georgia had captured. A lot of the work I had never seen before as it was her later years that made her so famous. I loved that they were small and I loved how she framed them. Seeing this museum and these works in person was something I had dreamed of for many years.

Feeling inspired, I started to explore Santa Fe. I felt I had come home. The place was a combination of the indigenous peoples, the Spanish who had come in 1610, and of course the new world influx. It exploded with colour. Coming from an art town myself I felt I had hit the mother lode. The streets were a jostle of interesting shops, galleries and restaurants. I longed for my daughters, wanting so much to share this amazing place with them. Inspired by what I was seeing I was to startle my family when I returned home by repainting all of the rooms. The colours of this place made me feel so alive.

March 10, 2017

Taos, New Mexico

By Maryanna Gabriel 

"It was all so far away - there was quiet and an untouched feel 
to the country and I could work as I pleased."
Georgia O'Keefe


I must confess to a love affair with Taos. I approached this famous place with mounting anticipation. I crossed the Rio Grande, a vast cleft in a moonscape geography and came to the the rolling hills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The pines were pretty but it all seemed so miniaturized compared to the forests of British Columbia. I think I travel in part because I wonder if the place I am about to see has everything I think I might be missing. I was thinking of this town's most famous resident, Georgia O'Keefe. I admired Georgia. She painted from her soul at a time when it was difficult for women to be successful in the arts. She had left New York knowing that she needed a more natural and rural place to tune into her muse. She lived in an adobe house called "Ghost Ranch" and she would lie on the roof at night and look at the stars. A prolific and vastly original output ensued that has enriched us all subsequently. I was intrigued that other seekers of some fame had lately come to Taos, it being an artistic mecca. The truth of it is that I drove in and walked around this small and dusty place. I had trouble getting a read on it. A string of red peppers hung from a store and the quick take on the restaurant menus did not draw me in. In short, I was unable to find a latching point. The ranch was closed. I got into the truck and moved on. Pulling over to rest I had a nightmare that I was being boarded by robbers. In a somewhat unsettled state I made my way to Santa Fe. 

All of these photos are from post cards that I bought and are by Bill Bonebrake. 

March 3, 2017

Mesa Verde, Colorado

By Maryanna Gabriel

Cliff Palace
Once long ago, I stared at a National Geographic article on the "Four Corners" and resolved to go there. Here I was. This famous Mesa Verde National Park, a world heritage UNESCO site was also something I wanted to see. Unbeknownst to me I was arriving the last day the park was open. Mesa Verde is a table top formation that is situated high above a vast plane and is over 210 square kilometers. It is famous for Cliff Palace and there are over 4,000 sites in the park. I was recognizing the sites as I stood on the edge and scanned the cliffs. A new vocabulary was becoming familiar to me as I learned about kivas, kachinas, and skin walkers. 

It is not well understood why the Pueblos left but as they depended on their gardens of squash and corn it was thought that drought was a factor. I went into a museum in the park that contained some of the best preserved artifacts in the United States. I was startled because it seemed to me that the artifacts were familiar to me, the basketry, the clay sculptures, and the tools. I next wandered into a small arroyo where a small village had been and waves of emotion came over me. Why? Was I remembering a past life or was I tuning into the emotion of the people there? I did not know. I was surprised by how deeply the place was effecting me.  

February 25, 2017

Canyonlands, Utah

By Maryanna Gabriel

 "..the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth—there is nothing else like it anywhere."
   - Edward Abbey

I didn't really get it. The warden at the park entrance to Canyonlands was saying he had never seen a woman go in alone before at this time of year. What was the deal? Camper, woman, park, so? Even although it was November, the weather was warm and I was enjoying wearing a dress with bare legs and sandals. Coming from a Canadian gulf island I was moved by the vastness of the red earth and turquoise sky and it was with pleasurable anticipation that I made my way into the park. I was unprepared.

I felt like a dust mite in an infinite universe. There was nobody. I was alone. The feeling of space which I usually appreciate, coming from where I do, somehow felt intimidating. Such a canvas. Such sculpture. The colours. Oi. For some reason I thought about the arctic
...feeling like a dust mite...
and the landscape there versus what I was seeing so much further south and contrasted them, as if the same hand was playing with similar elements and media only with the desert temperatures thrown in. I had the freedom to drive anywhere I wanted. It seemed wrong. The park is over 1,300 square kilometers and the ecosystem is fragile. It takes hundreds of years to form an inch of earth. I made my way towards a tree and set up camp curling my mind around it for solace. I had beans. It seemed like the right thing to do. I may have sung on my guitar. I do not remember. I was reading a most amazing short story by Edward Abbey about a boy caught in a flash flood in an arroyo, riding a log like a leaf. I was unnerved. I may complain from time to time about not having a view but when I got this one I felt like I would pass out. Despite my tree, I did not overly linger. It was with some relief I drove out and headed towards Colorado.

Huddling up to a tree in a vast space. 

February 17, 2017

Arches, Utah

By Maryanna Gabriel

Delicate Arch
It was such a canvas of beauty. was unprepared for what I was experiencing. I had no idea. I was not sure what was hitting me the hardest. The colours in the rock formations against a breathtakingly  turquoise sky or the windswept sculptural formations themselves. It was almost hallucinogenic. And vast. In the distance were snow capped mountains. The truck wove in and around the formations as I climbed in altitude. It all felt so potent, magical, as if it was breathing,  the formations themselves seemingly imbued with spirit. The shades of red in the rock strata fairly throbbed. 

I felt despair for my camera felt inadequate. It was so beautiful that any photograph failed it. 
 It was majestic. Unique. Unlike anything I had ever seen. For all of my life this place will be with me.There are over 2,000 natural sandstone arches in Arches National Park that is over 300 square kilometers and which was 65 million years in the making. Trying to understand the hallowed ground I had just visited I perused the book section in the park gift shop and found author, Edward Abbey. He used to be a warden here and he had published books and short stories about the experience. I came away with an armload and much quieted by what I had just experienced, I thoughtfully  made my way to Canyonlands. Utah was proving to be a most amazing and surprising place to see.

Arches National Park (photo credit unknown)

February 11, 2017

Moab, Utah

By Maryanna Gabriel 

Bungy Cord Technique

With bungy cords swinging I drove. I was trying not to overly worry about the mirrors but realizing that driving was a little tricky and it was difficult for me to gauge distance. As I traveled I was struck by how everyone looked like they were off of a Hollywood set, lean and pale, as though they did not eat vegetables. In fact there was not a vegetable in sight. From what I could figure people were existing on deep fried steak and chicken. I tried not to pine as I took in the astound landscape and headed to Moab. Being from an island the expanse of space was exhilarating. 

Moab is in Utah which is mesa country  and is the jumping off point for two famous parks,
Exhilarating Expanse 

Canyonlands, and Arches. This landscape also reminded me of Hollywood sets, John Wayne movies, Thelma and Louise was shot here, as was Indiana Jones and the Las Crusade. Moab was just hopping. It is only a population of 5,000 people but it seemed to be a mecca for the young and an excitement filled the air. There were a lot of people white water rafting and kayaking the Colorado River as well as doing off road biking. The energy of the place caught fire with me. I briefly searched for a bottle of wine which seemed rather difficult. I realized I was in Mormon 
Mesa Country
country. Nobody here drank wine. I was finally able to refit my supplies with the odd vegetable thrown in but not before I stumbled upon a barbed wire museum.  I couldn’t believe that somebody was actually documenting the different forms of barbed wire over time. I was fascinated. I was reading the biography of Georgia O’Keeffe and her white water rafting trip through this area. As with most biographies I have read, I began to see the human side of her which was plenty big as people recounted tales of their experiences with her. She could be quite a difficult woman apparently. I longed to kayak the rapids but I could not figure out how I would get picked up at the other end. Never mind. I was headed towards Arches. 

February 4, 2017

The Border

By Maryanna Gabriel
As hoped for, nobody was at the small country border. It should go well then I thought. I pulled in. A young fair haired official asked that I go into a waiting room. This was different. Let us put it this way. A very long time passed. Very. I longed for my book. He then came in and requested my purse. He rifled through it. It seemed a bit excessive. He went through my wallet. Uneasily I answered his questions. After ascertaining that the camper was new to me, he wondered if I was aware that everything in the cupboards had fallen out. “Had it, really?” I replied. I was suspicious and wondered if it was actually customs who had caused it. We headed to the back door together and I looked inside. Everything was everywhere. Groceries were spilled in the aisles and my things were higglety-pigglety in an upsetting jumble of goods. He actually blushed as I was given the go ahead to leave. In my travels, I have been through some remarkable border crossings, some at gun point, and this one was right up there.

I drove into the United States. I was in Idaho. My first act was to pull over and put everything to rights. Using bungy cords, I criss–crossed from handle to handle. Smooth rolling hills spilled away from me as a weak sun warmed the October air. I drove south...... it seemed to me I could almost hear and see the Shoshone and Paiute riding and whooping as I felt myself relaxing in pastoral a countryside. 

January 27, 2017


By Maryanna Gabriel

I drove east from Vancouver along the route that parallels the border. I wanted to enjoy the fall colours and I reasoned a smaller border crossing into the United States might be less arduous because of the attack in New York. After a hard day's travel I found myself stopping in a place called Conkle Lake and decided it would be a good place to stay the night. As I unloaded my kayak, two hunters appeared dressed in camouflaged overalls. Great. 
Water colour of Conkle Lake. 
Nervously I paddled quickly away hoping they wouldn't shoot me or anything else for that matter. I didn't like that they were armed and I was not. Happily, they disappeared and much to my dismay the temperatures dropped as night fell. Ice formed on the inside of the camper. I had trouble figuring out how to operate the furnace. The next morning the windows were covered in frozen crystals. Exiting the camper I slipped on some unexpected ice on the stairs and hurt my back, flinching with the injury. It was time to break camp and head towards the sun. Gingerly I approached the border and while I was confident all of my paper work was in place I knew it wasn't going to be easy. Little did I know.