I can be excitable.  Sometimes it’s because the world doesn’t conform to my understanding like it should.  Sometimes it’s immaturity.

CaptureBut sometimes it’s passion!  Sometimes it’s a mix of good and bad.  Regardless, no other situation seems to conjure the mix more than visiting one of America’s National Parks for the first time.

Figuring out where to park, where to camp, where to hike… and all I want to do is see the canyon!  All I want is to look down upon the colors and shapes manifesting as the renowned hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park in south-central Utah!

So I went recently…

Left Sedona on Wednesday morning, the 19th of July AD 2017.  The sky was blue and hot.  Had my air conditioning blasting while driving north on 89A to Flagstaff, and then north on US 89 towards Page.  Continued on 89 as it first veers west towards Kanab, Utah, and then veers north towards Panguitch.

I’ve driven to Page – on the central Arizona/Utah border – countless times.  There is some monotony to the red and orange sandstone that marks the western edge of the Navajo Reservation. But that is placated by views of Vermillion Cliffs and the massive valley housing Marble Canyon that’s bordered by the Kaibab Plateau rsing over 4,000 feet 30 miles to the west.  Pure Arizona!  The bridge 700 feet above the Colorado River at Glen Canyon Dam is neat too.


Then you enter Utah.  The land     can certainly speak of desolation, as in Arizona.  But, there is wonder.  Crazy red rocks forming plateaus eroding into crags and canyons unfold scores of miles into the far horizons where junipers and pines speckle below blue.  That hot sky shining through the windshield is mitigated by billowing cumulus clouds of thunderstorms that streak downward, cool skin and make you appreciate the intricate design of the Southwest Summer.

Got to Kanab.  That little town is clean!  Prosperous even.  But that is due to the industry of the Mormon people, who have made quite an aesthetically pleasing civilization in a land that nobody wanted 150 years ago.

2At Kanab US 89 veers north.  There you slowly ascend through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, wherein, from Kanab northward, rise red cliffs, then white cliffs, then pink cliffs, which all tie in to the geological formation of Grand Canyon to the south, and I have no desire to explain why now.

Regardless, as you ascend the Staircase, you get into higher elevations.  The higher the elevation, the higher the chance of rain.  Cliffs, plateaus and mountains are literal ramps for moisture to be blown into higher elevations by the North American Monsoon Wind, where that moisture can condense into clouds and storms.  This phenomena is called orographic lift.  That’s why land rises are greener than valleys below.

And there was greenery!  US 89 straddles first the East Fork of the Virgin River, and then the Sevier River.  Both were flowing nicely.  Both were surrounded by seeping cliffs and broad fields with tall grass for cattle and horses.  Distant barns and cabins dotted the landscape whose cultivation and cleanliness reminded me of Switzerland.  More storms1 showered gray and black upon the green and red land as they slowly drifted.

The temperature was pleasant too.  The turnoff from 89 onto Utah 12, the road I took eastward into Bryce Canyon, is at roughly 7,000′ above sea level.  Yes, there was some humidity.  Yes, the solar radiation at that altitude can be fierce.  But, it’s 7,000′.  All these elements come together to make one heckuva’ summer vacation spot.

Then I got to the Park.  Of course I’d lost my America the Beautiful Pass, which allows you to get into virtually all federal recreation lands for a year.  Of course it cost me another $80 (but I’d used well over $80 worth of passes since buying the lost one in February… and I’ve almost recuperated this second $80 by now).

And then… where do I camp?  Where do I park?  Where do I access the rim?  Where are the trailheads for going down into hoodoos?

14But, after not getting too pissy, it all worked out.  Camped in the park.  The rim was a quarter mile away.  Trails going down into the Amphitheater were right there.

And it was fantastic.  I’d certainly go there again.  Like the cliché I hear over and over again, usually from people who have NO IDEA how to compose a photo, “pictures just don’t do justice.”  True.  But that’s the fun of photography.  That’s the challenge.

Anyway, I hiked for 5 hours on Wednesday, from Sunrise Point down into the Queen’s Garden and up to Sunset and Inspiration Points before before eating and sleeping.

Woke up at 6 on Thursday, and hiked the Fairlyand Trail and along the Rim for about 8 miles.  Thereafter, showered and drove to Rainbow Point, which is the furthest south point at the Park, with an elevation of over 9,000 feet, and some awesome views to the south of the Grand Staircase and the Kaibab Plateau.

Thereafter, headed back to Arizona.  Stayed the night at Lee’s Ferry.  Went to the boat ramp and remember how majestic that Marble Canyon is at the bottom with that Colorado River flowing hard and cold.

Friday I headed back to Sedona, but not before driving through some of the Hopi Reservation, which I’ll talk about later…

Regardless, I love it out here.  You’d have to offer me something fiercely tempting to head back to Texas…



Why atheists can only consider themselves purposeless slime

First, I’m not saying “Atheists are slime!”  They are men and women of flesh and blood. They have souls and spirit.  God loves them as much as anyone under the sun, as Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son beautifully conveys.

But, if they truly believe there is no Creator, if they truly believe there is no eternal part to our beings that is also created, by their own beliefs, they can only believe their lives are purposeless slime.  This is not exaggeration.  Let me explain why…

Now, I must be clear with my language.  So I will posit this definition of God: God is the self-existent and eternal Creator and subsequent sustainer and ruler of life and the universe.  An atheist is one who rejects the existence of God.

Without a Creator, life can only be a freak accident.  Think about that.  Without a  Creator molding the milieu of unknowable substances that became you and the universe, life could only be the result of chaotic forces of nature.  How can there be an alternative?  Either life was created by an Intelligent Creator, or it is the product of chaos.  Period.     

The Material that became the universe (whose origins no scientist can explain) would have had to morph into a form of life (a process no scientist can prove or replicate) from which you and I and EVERY SINGLE LIVING THING descend.

Now, you can believe this possible.  You can accept the astounding improbability of life coming from non-life.  You can accept the improbability of a print shop exploding, and, from the chaos, coming 10,000 perfectly-worded King James Bibles –  a complete impossibility in reality. 

But, for those who accept this impossibility as reality, you MUST also accept life as a mere extenuation of this chaos.  It’s just a freak accident.  Sperm and egg are accidental.  Heartbeats are accidental.  Birth, childhood, adulthood, epiphany, depression, exultation and death are the random play of the same primordial elements still unfolding as mere chaos, without the intelligent direction of God. 

Yes, you have a conscious mind.  You are aware of your own existence, feelings, thoughts and external circumstances.  But do you have control over them?  If you’re just a random amalgamation of elements, consciousness is no different than fire, or rain, or insects mating.  It is just another random force of nature that you think you have control over, but you don’t.  You are just some Pavlovian dog.

“Oh, that’s bull crap, Charles.  I can choose to eat at Burger King or McDonald’s.  I can choose to read your stupid words or not.  I do have free will.  I am not some Pavlovian dog because, unlike a dog, I can choose to heed my impulses and desires or not.”

But what is it that does the choosing?  Because your life would only be the result of a freak amalgamation of elements, that of your mind which does the choosing is not fundamentally different than the reaction of a dog.  Granted the degree of perception and choice is more evolved than those of a dog, but such a difference in degree does not constitute any real difference in the fundamental nature of a mind with life.

After all, both would be soulless.  Both would be bereft of that rational, emotional and volitional faculty that comes from outside the body.  You’re only flesh.   You’re only material evolved from the chaos of some random Big Bang a long time ago.  You think you’re choosing?  You think you have free will?  That’s impossible.  You’re just chemicals.  Because all the universe is just some freak accident, you are too.  Free will is illusion.

And the point I want to make to atheists is really a question: what purpose could your life really have if you are a freak accident?  You say want to provide for your loved ones?  You say you want to change the world for the better?  Good.  Those are noble aspirations. 

But the good and bad you render is as purposeless as you.  Again, it’s all just some freak accident that no eternal aspect of you can ever know.  You have no soul.  Your sense of self, your consciousness, will go into nothingness after you stop breathing.  It will be as if you never existed.  So why care about anything in the first place?  What purpose could your glimpse of chaos really have?

Of course I don’t believe this.  I do believe in a Creator God.  I do believe he is the God revealed to us through the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  I regard Genesis 1:26 as a sacred truth, and I believe God created us all for a purpose that transcends our lives, whose full force and character we will one day come to understand perfectly, in this life or the next.

But, atheists, do tell me where my reasoning breaks down.  Tell me how the purpose you feel can be anything but an illusion if we are born of chaos?  Seriously, I would really enjoy a level-headed exchange on the nature of our existence.  I would love to learn a new slant to this thinking.

Remembering my father on Lake Powell

Ralph-TorelloMy father was born June 2nd, 1938.  He would have been 79 today.  But, after fighting for his life, he passed on Wednesday August 17th of last year.  His obituary is here.

What does this have to do with Lake Powell?

I think my dad would have liked Arizona.  He would have liked Sedona, Grand Canyon and all the other Southwestern landscapes that have brightened my days.

I was thinking about him a lot this past Wednesday on Lake Powell.  I wished he was with me.  It would have shed more light on what makes me come alive.  It would have helped him understand how important seeing these Wonders are to me, and why I rarely made money top priority.

But that didn’t happen… and that’s ok because I told him I love him many times, and he saw how similar I was to him in so many ways – especially our shared love of GOVERNMENT – which is the ultimate form of respect.

But it would still have been nice to share the time.

Lastly, I have no idea where life is going.  There is some force dragging me from place to place that I’ve yet to be able to resist.  I’m not lazy, dispassionate or unfocused.  But when I see what I saw Wednesday, which my photos do no justice, well, I just wonder, and wanna say to hell with plans.

Make sense?  No?  Ok.  I think my dad would’ve understood.

And if you don’t know where Lake Powell is, click here.

A boat ride into Utah today

Came out to Lake Powell last week. Was getting some training for touring. I’ve been here before a couple of times, but it seemed to hit me like lightning last week.

So on my days off, I thought I would take advantage of my proximity to this beautiful place and explore Lake Powell a little more on a boat ride to a National Monument called Rainbow Bridge in Utah.

Wanna take some photos. Wanna get a better feel for this place. Wanna absorb more of that brightness glowing of the voluptuous red and orange sandstone formations that makes not just a few people question life priorities.

Afterwards, I don’t know. I don’t know where I’ll sleep tonight. But, I think I want to make it to Lees Ferry and the Hopi land tomorrow.

The Glory of God

16Look, God’s glory ain’t contained in my photos.  The source of all that is and will be – outside infinity and eternity – is impossible to contain in a mere photo, especially ones devoid of higher talent like mine.

But that’s not the point.  God’s glory IS in Arizona.  It IS on the mountain tops.  And I’m profoundly grateful to have walked the top of Sedona’s Wilson Mountain, not only to continue experiencing something of a second childhood, but also to see more of that glory inherent to God’s Creation.

And Earth is God’s Creation.  It was made for mankind. It was made for us to be fruitful and multiply upon (as we are not a mere infestation upon the false god Mother Earth).  It was created for health, happiness and countless other blessings.

Now, of course, many reject God.  They reject we’re in his Creation.  They claim all existence is a freak accident, that it’s chaos arising from slime and n12othingness.

Ok.  That’s their choice.  And I won’t address why there is something rather than nothing.  And I won’t address the vain construction of purpose to life that can only be derived from relegating it to mere freak accident by denying a Creator.

But I do disagree with those people: the atheists and materialists. I do say that there is scenery upon this earth that’s intelligently crafted with more talent than all artists that ever have been or will be, explicitly for creating a beauty that turns the hearts of all creatures to the highest realms from which everything comes.

As I often hear about Sedona, it’s hard to see the Red Rocks and not think there is a God.  That’s because the light, colors, forms, shadows of the Rocks stimulate the mind that causes contemplation of how such scenery actually came to be.  It stimulates imagin1bings of living life in a different way, perhaps because we feel something of God’s glory, and know it should play a deeper part of our life.

Of course, God’s glory is found elsewhere.  It is found in charity, forgiveness, love, hope, perseverance, longsuffering, forbearance and a thousand other virtues that bless the lives of neighbors whom we’re supposed to love.

But, it IS here too.  The rocks do cry out God’s Glory – and I’m not the only who around here who says this.  And I felt acutely obliged to say this after this hike…

And check out the rest of my nifty photos!

My happiest college football memory: Rice vs. Texas 1997, Part I

‘T was Saturday September 27th in the year of our Lord 1997…

It was hot.  It was one of those days in late September Houston, Texas when the sun still shines with ferocity.  The heat and humidity remind you that you’re in a paved swamp.  This was accentuated by Rice Stadium’s field sunk into the ground, where the air is more stifling.

logoBut you know what?  That heat made you feel alive!  It takes getting used to, but, once you are, the sweat soaking your body creates an endorphin buzz that pushes you to challenge its limits, in a strange way that only people from the South understand.

‘T was a perfect day for college football.  Today the opponent was the University of Texas Longhorns.  Of course you’re jacked to play them!  Of course you despise their arrogance!  They’re so easy to hate.

See, UT is one of the biggest universities in America.  Rice, at least in 1997, was literally the smallest NCAA Division I-A school in America.  You can see something of David vs. Goliath.

Furthermore, the academic standards at Rice were far higher.  There’s an absolute correlation between high academic standards and lesser football talent.  Add to this the hotties around Austin and 6th Street drunkeness and, well, there’s a reason why the Longhorns get some of the best recruiting classes every year.

Thus, the Horns should yield the biggest, fastest and strongest teams.  They should be in the hunt for national championships every single year (but the program’s opulence does effeminize…).  Rice should always get trounced.  Thus, we had everything to gain, and nothing to lose.

This was the fourth game.  Though we got murdered by Agamesnip 1ir Force 12-41 in the season opener, we came back to beat a very strong Tulane Green Wave 30-24 for the second game, and then beat the Northwestern Wildcats 40-34 in game three.  The Wildcats had won the Big 10 the previous two seasons, and were still ranked before we beat them.  The back-and-forth scoring up Chicago way that day is quite the memory!

But this day was more!  To be 3-1, after beating the 1996 Big Ten and Big Twelve champs in back to back weeks, as some may remember Texas beating Nebraska 37-27 the December before, would have made one helluva’ statement.  FIRE burned in us all.

Of course, as we ran  on the field, we noticed that roughly 35, 000 of the 53,811 roaring fans wore burnt orange.  I had to laugh.  Attendance at our games kinda’ sucked.  But oh well.

That intensely pleasurable buzz I’ve only felt before football games, when you look forward to each hit, to each opportunity to muscle your opponent into the ground, and listen to punk d-lineman bitch about holding as you whip his ass again and again and again… that buzz pulsed through me…

The game kicked off at 11:10 am.  ABC covered the game, as a lot of people in Texas would have loved to see us win too.  But we didn’t, and that doesn’t matter…


Death Valley ain’t that cool

Death Valley is rightly named.  It’s hell in summer.  It was almost hellish at the beginning of May.

Why’s it so hot?  I’m glad you asked!  Oh, you didn’t?  Too bad, because this is more interesting than cats farting on Chive…

6First, Death Valley’s floor’s 282′ below sea level.  Then, mountains rising over a mile high above surround that floor.  Hot air rising from the bottom can’t escape.  It rises to cooler temperatures, then wants to sink, as all air does.  But, it can’t be pushed out of the valley by the newly rising air because those mountains keep that cooler air in, which compresses the hot air at the bottom, thus super heating the air and ground, to the point of making one of the hottest places on earth.

On July 10th 1913 – 5 months and 2 weeks before the Money Power of Europe created their monstrous Federal Reserve Bank – the highest reliably recorded temperature on the earth’s surface was recorded at Furnace Creek at 134 Fahrenheit.  Some contest this.  Some say it was 136  in Libya in 1922.  Some say that 134 at Furnace Creek is too high, but still say 129 recorded on five distinct Death Valley dates is valid.


Regardless, that’s hot!  Though August is the hottest month, Saturday May 29th hit 95, and Sunday the 30th hit 100.  That sucks for van camping.  So I spent only one night there…

But I’m glad I went.  Had to quell my curiosity.  Had to stand on the mountains above the valley and see what dynamics create this furnace.  Clouds, mountains, valleys, creeks, trees, brush all say things…

So, left Lone Pine and took CA 136 to CA 190 into the Park.  ‘T was unremarkable desert landscape for much of the way.  Then, lo, the Panamint Valley, as you see in the photo at the top.  The whole place spoke heat.10

Then made it into Death Valley.  The temperature was 95.  Not a cloud was in the sky.

Found the Furnace Creek campground.  Took a 2.5 hour walk along the road for some exercise before returning to my van for sleep, where I slept awesomely the whole trip, even though I could feel metal in my back all night.

Sunday the 30th was… hot.  Took a hike in the morning.  Checked out the top things to see according to Trip Advisor.

First took the Artists Drive.  The highlight is the base  of a black mountain that has a many bright colors, including turquoise, caused by oxidation of various metals, as seen in the photo above.

Then went to the Badwater Basin.  Walked out on the dry lake bed for some time.  It would have been better were it under 80.  But this is the epicenter of heat.  After my seven mile hike that morning, I didn’t feel like continuing to the middle of the lake bed.

Then went to Zabriskie point.  Nice, but not spectacular.

Then I caved in, and had beer.  It’d been over three months.  But an IPA in the 100 degrees was just too tempting… and of course that turned into a big pizza also, because Mr. Tummy hadn’t been so spoiled for so long.

Then headed to Dante’s Peak, which overlooks the Badwater Basin from over a mile above, which is in the photo to the right.  Spent about 20 minutes there before saying to hell with the heat.  Headed for Nevada, and home.1

I’d go back, in winter only.  The heat kills all charm.  But if life never brings me back, ok.  It ain’t that cool, and I can’t imagine what Europeans go through when they come here in August, because, to them, Death Valley is another spot on the map while journeying across America.  This makes me laugh though.