Linnie Aikens Arts and Letters • HeART Haven Studios

Kolob Canyon, part of Zion National Park, Utah


I took another day trip to Kolob Canyon.  Slightly off the beaten path, it has its own National Park designation, although really it’s just an extension of Zion, as evidenced in this photo by the rock formations.  They’re just not as extreme and don’t form a slot river canyon.  There were many more conifers here rather than the Zion cottonwoods and other vegetation that seek moister areas.  The hills were a little redder here, too, almost pink, which I found quite pretty.  I think had Kolob been in the middle of California, it would get a lot more press, but Zion just eclipses it here, unfortunately.


It’s like many things in life really.  In one area they’re invisible, but pluck them out of one environment and put them in another, and their simple contrast brings them much more attention and praise....Take a tiny meadow flower, unnoticed in a field of larger, brighter blooms, and set it in rocky soil on a desert trail, and it becomes an attraction for photographers.  Take a woman who is a little overweight but strong and healthy, living in a land of bikini-clad, starlet lookalikes, and she’s invisible.  Set her down in the midwest or a country

town, and suddenly she’s a much sought after beauty.  It’s all in perspective and supply and demand.


This evening I wandered around downtown Springdale, which is the town at the base of Zion Nat’l. Park. 



Lots of gift stores of the Ojai/Santa Ynez variety--t-shirts, Native American art and rock carvings (Anazasi here rather than the Chumash of my home area), spiritual items like crystals and dream catchers, whimsical wind chimes and garden pinwheels of colors and some metal.  In chatting with store keepers, I was so surprised to discover that except for a photographer in town, a metal sculptor and some Native American craft artisans, there really aren’t any painters or fine artists in town. I would think such natural wonder would naturally draw such artists.


Of course, that got mind little creative mind a-spinnin’.  How fun would it be to live in a place like this for a spell and paint?!  I don’t know how long I could endure the winters, but it would be fun for a time, right?!   I’m at that age when I’m thinking of retirement ideas! 


I got to talking with a woman about my age a few days back.  She saw me writing about my summer travels and started talking.  It seems adventurous women recognize one another.  She was about my age, working as a hostess in a local restaurant.  She said she’d traveled to Zion so many times and finally just decided to move here.  She put her home in Florida up for rent and came out West for a time.  She told me to be careful...”Zion is contagious.  It will cast its spell over you!”


I walked down the road and found myself in the David West Gallery, where I saw the most spectacular photographs of the area, the large versions of ones I’d been particularly admiring on postcards.  I strolled around and recognized this man as a true artist when it came to landscape photography.  It was obvious to me that he’d really had to WORK to catch these shots at just the right moment.  This wasn’t about photoshop.  For all the magic of photoshop, there’s just no shortcut when it comes to naturally perfect composition, timing of light, weather and mood.  It takes time, patience, effort to go where others won’t go.  This man had it.  


"Kaleidescope" Photograph by David West

I found myself ensnared by one photograph in particular, called Kaleidoscope.  It was a closeup of rock, the lines and colors creating almost a rainbow effect in an abstract composition.  It was utterly stunning.  What I didn’t know was that the artist-photographer himself had quietly walked up behind me.  He said, “You must be an artist.”  Without turning around, my eyes still on the “painting,” I said, “No, THIS photographer is the true artist here.”  He laughed and thanked me, diverting my attention to him finally.  His eyes still on the photo, he said that Kaleidoscope was his favorite, but that most people only were interested in the traditional landscapes.  After another 40 minutes or so talking, I purchased a smaller print of the work but knowing that it really needed to be large to have the full impact.  I wish I had been able to purchase that one!  I left feeling as if I’d been given a special gift of getting to meet and know the artist a bit.  It always makes the artwork even richer.  



Other galleries showcased kinetic metal sculptures, whimsical fun garden toys.  Again, my mind went to ways my mother could market her own sculptures here.  Of course, part of the attraction of purchasing art while on vacation is that it is made by local artists and the symbolic significance of always bringing fond memories of one’s vacation to the area.  


(Look at that cool old panel truck in the background too!!)


Dinner Fun.....


David West pointed me to the best local restaurant in town and told me to tell them he sent me.  Established in an old converted gas station the “Whiptail”‘s fire-roasted beef was to die for (try it on any dish!)  I was enjoying my dinner with a glass of wine and a book, when 6 men at the table nearest me caught my ear.  Soon I found myself giggling and then outright laughing.  One older man, maybe my age, was trying to talk the younger man to pose for a photo with his bulging biceps transplanted on his 50-something body. They enlisted my help as photostylist. 

I laughed so hard!  It reminded me of the time I’d gone expedition kayaking 5-6 years ago with 6 men.  We kayaked 150 miles in 10 days,  camped on a different island every night, and drank our Trader Joes bagged Delicata Wine until well after midnight (since the sun never sets) as we told tall tales and watched the Pilot Whales glide by.  What I learned that trip is that you get a group of 6 men together, no matter how old (and some were in their 60’s!) and they revert to acting like10 year olds!  Case in point:  Our last night out, they fished out a large styrofoam buoy from the shipping lane.  The painted a face on it with berries and charcoal, added found feathers, etc., and then strung him up on the bear-hang.  They called him “Wilson.” (yes, like the volleyball in the movie “Castaway!”   After some wine, the guys took turns on their knees praying to Wilson, confessing their sins and paying penance, which came in the form of another man/boy religiously flagellating him with Alaskan seaweed!  I never laughed so hard in my life.  After the photo shoot, I shared my story and we all got a good laugh!   


All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.

Zion National Park, Springdale, Utah


Once it began to cool down, I drove up past the canyon where you can only take the shuttle and pulled off to do a short hike off the beaten path.  Definitely less people but more wildlife.  I ran into this young buck eating dinner along the bank, and I sat down to watch him in silence.  He looked up once, cocked his ears, but after assuring himself that I was no threat, he went right on eating.  At one point, he slipped on the rock and had to climb his way back up the rock.  Any deer I’ve seen in the past were merely walking through flatlands.  It was something of a treat for me to sit and observe in delight the movements of this beautiful creature.

And of course, my squirrels!  I was fascinated with how well they were camouflaged in their environment. I know they’re pesky little creatures, but that’s only because people fed them and they’ve learned that where there are people, there’s food.  It’s funny to watch them scuffle when staking their claim; it’s a flurry of bushy tails!


All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.

Desert of the Virgin River Valley, just outside Zion National Park, Utah

Friday I think.  Who can ever keep track of time when they’re on vacation?  I love Zion National Park, but I was in the mood to do some exploring just outside of the park this morning.  There’s a quiet and aged loveliness to the high desert, with its silver haired brush and the smell of dryness. It’s as if you can feel and smell time.  The silent clouds aimlessly drift by overhead, casting long shadows across, up and over the cresting sand dunes.  There’s a soft drone of crickets or some small insect, something akin to what we city-dwellers might liken to the buzzing of a telephone wire high overhead.  Comforting, rather than irksome though.  I wonder if deserts were initially created by God or simply the product of time and evolvement of weather and creatures upon the land?  I know Biblically, early figures lived in the desert thousands of years ago, but were there millions of years of earth life before that, from Pangea and the Ice Age to the ever-changing and shaping world we see now?  I need to go back and review my geological history again.  Nonetheless, the desert, especially the high desert for me, reminds me of how I have the history of time spread out before me in rock and sand.  For some reason, I’m not prone to ponder such when I have the daily view of palm trees, sailboats, coffee shops and the absorbing routines of work, friends, hobbies.

But today I am here, and this is what I ponder...



"Never too bad, never too old, never too sick, never too late, to start from scratch and begin again."  ~ Bikram Choudhury


I was reflecting as I walked through the desert with only the landscape audience to my thoughts.  I considered the resiliency of the desert plants at the mercy of the harsh elements and whims of the thoughtless weather.  Through it all, they endure and still retain their quiet beauty.  I am as these desert plants.


I finished the school year on a note of discouragement due to an unexpected threat of defeat, but I didn’t cancel my trip.  I pushed forward and refused to let “them” beat me, and after a week in this beautiful place, I can’t help but feel as if none of that touches me anymore.  I pad softly down the sandy path, and I still see the beauty in the subtleties, the wonder in the contrasts of texture, line, color, smells, and I feel blessed.  I know I will turn the corner and sudden upon a whole new landscape, or at least see the same landscape in a whole new way and consider it a gift.  Circumstances don’t determine who I am, my attitude does.


Zion Canyon is in the far background of this picture...

I walked through the desert for awhile, studying plants and rocks, and playing a Twister game with the clouds, trying to guess the spot where their shadows would next land.  I discovered some beautiful quartz and sandstones and even a one with a tiny fossil of prehistoric sealife...yet another reminder of the history that puts my own life into perspective!!  My story is but a tiny little sliver in the story of time.


Beginning to feel overheated, I found a nice place by the Virgin River and spread out my towel for some reading and cooling off.  Too tempted, I slipped off my shoes and sat down right in the middle of the river, which was only about 2 feet at this area, and watched the tiny fish darting around me.  I remember the last time I was here, my daughter and I did the same and found ourselves covered in crawdad-type creatures crawling over our legs!  They were small, maybe 2-3 inches long and nearly see-though, taking on the color of the river.  My daughter was fascinated by them!  Just between you and me, I am just fine that all I have to contend with today are the tiny little fish!  After about 4 or 5 dunkings in the water, I just took my book and just sat and read right in the middle of the river!  When no one is watching or depending on me to be responsible, I heed my whims!

All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.


Hiking the River Walk and the Narrows Trails, Zion National Park, Utah


Today I walked the mile River Walk then another 3+ hours up through The Narrows, up to Big Springs, before turning back.  It’s a 16 mile “trail” through the Narrows otherwise!  I couldn't think of a better way to spend the 4th of July.  The trail begins with a lovely forest of cottonwoods predominantly.  You’re surrounded by warm and cool greens of every value and texture.  You get a sense of lushness and peaceful freshness.  The River Walk is well maintained and conducive to the leisurely romantic stroll, should one choose.  I have to content myself with the larger definition of "romantic" in my case!


This is a picture of the “Alcove”, where a large semi circle is carved deep into the base of the rock mountain, leaving a a substantial overhang and a natural-made amphitheater.  It’s wild how the colors seem to change depending on the light’s whim and which angle you’re shooting. 


Like many artists, geologists and photographers before and after me, I am awed by the beauty of the natural colorations of the rock from water seepage and different minerals, all creating some utterly lovely abstract paintings like the ones in my pictures above and below:

Most of the “trail” is through the water, fairly deep at times, because there is no bank.  At a little over 5 ft. sometimes the water came up to my chest, and other times I actually swam.   I prepared for that event by bagging everything in my pack though, but that’s the fun of it all!  My thought was that since I’m doing this alone, I’m going to test all my abilities and challenge all my fears! ---go where I have never gone before...or something like that!! haha 


More often than not, however, the water didn’t come up over my knees.  It was really refreshing in 100+ degree heat!!  I didn’t rent canyoneer equipment; I just wore my Merrill trail running shoes and quick-dry clothes that I’d bought for my expedition kayaking trip in Alaska a few years back.  I’d learned in Alaska that water sandals and water socks really don’t cut-it when you’re navigating long distances and rocky, slippery terrain.  I saw someone doing it barefoot!! Yikes!!  What were they thinking?  Ouch!


Here is a view looking straight up.  How cool is that?!

Yes, here’s me swimming again!!!  LOVE those swimming holes! 

Lunch of string cheese, nuts and grapefruit, sitting in the middle of the river (no begging squirrels or chipmunks there!) From here, I watched the boys jump off another big rock into the deep water around me. 


Eventually, I made my way up to Big Springs and ...I think they call it “Wall Street”....prettiest skyscrapers I’ve ever seen!!!  They say the canyon opening at one point here is only 22” apart!

I got to Big Springs, my turn-around point, but I could never get a photo without a group of people blocking the view of the springs!  There were three of them next to each other and really pretty, falling over rocks and maidenhair fern...take my word for it!.  I think you need a pass to go up further than Big Springs, and honestly, I was really tiring out and I still had to go back!  I was starting to feel my age and lack of triathlete body (as much as I tried to deny it!!).  It may have only been 4 miles up the Narrows, but it’s kind of strenuous on the old knees and hips walking and balancing on river rocks.  My left ankle is killing me--must’ve had it buckle on me 8 times on the way back, landing me smack on my rear in the water!  (My old trail running partner would probably shake his head....some things never change!!)  Despite all my whining here,  I would not have missed this for the world!   There’s just nothing like it! 


All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.

The hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce National Park was every bit as beautiful as I’d remembered it from 11 years ago.  They’ve upgraded and added a shuttle, similar to Zion Park, which is nice.  The vegetation is dramatically different than Zion.  There are no cottonwood, wild grape, maidenhair fern and other moisture-loving plants.  Instead, conifers, densely populated above the canyon, sparsely within, give the park a very different feel, but no less lovely and inspiring.  Ground covering are pygmy shrub manzanitas, their shiny red branches holding out their little green tinkly leaves in the wind.  (Well, they just look tinkly, of course!  They’re really stiff small leaves that hold their own moisture tightly within, necessary of this environment.)


Bryce Canyon is overwhelming in its intricate and fragile beauty as Zion is in its sheer immensity and strength.  Both parks, however, instill a sense of reverence and spiritual awe and quiet in the viewer.  To think the Paiute lived off these lands for thousands and thousands of years so long ago...

The hoodoos, created by erosion from the waters, wind and sands of time, took millions of years.  At one point, this entire area was under water!  Bryce is actually part of the same large mountain range as Zion to the north, and the Grand Canyon continues the range to the south.


This time, I went down into the canyon, doing the 1.5 mile Navajo Trail Loop.  Seeing the hoodoos from their base truly instills awe.  Standing in their shadow, the soft wind fluting through the hoodoos, the warm colors drawing you in, you experience something indefinable...a presence...of God, of those who walked the land long long before us, and the whispers of prehistoric sealife from another lifetime.  It is not surprising that the Native American peoples were so spiritual.  One could not live in any of these ancient places and not feel it.  Our cities, with their noise and neon, cell phones and technological whirring, drown out the voices of old that may have spoken to us and taught us.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the Native Americans understood God in a way so much more natural than we.


Below are a few of my favorite Bryce photos.  You can see the trail leading right down between them (left photo).   These form mini slot canyons I guess you could say.

I’m sort of a kid at heart sometimes...the kid who still sees animals and magical stories in cumulus clouds.  The hoodoos provide the same kind of challenge for the imagination!  On the left are three women dressed for a ball, waiting with their dance cards full, for the next waltz or quadrangle.  Their matron escort sits in a state of alertness, protecting her charges.  On the right is a King and Queen standing in front of their thrones, holding court with their pet lion standing at the Queen’s right hand.  To the left of the photo are the Queen’s lady’s in waiting.  I call the bottom photo “Front Line of Defense.”  Apply it to whichever scenario you choose!

All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.

Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Utah

Sometimes we only stop and notice the big name places, things, events, people in life.  Zion and Bryce are magnificent, but the varied countryside between them is beautiful as well.  Here are some pictures driving from Zion to Bryce.  I especially loved Red Canyon in Dixie National Forest, which from a distance has that soft pink look like a 1950’s postcard.




I thought this was also really pretty.  I passed through a lot of grazing land that bordered the river from Mt. Carmel all the way to where Utah Highway 9 meets 89.  Look at that sky!  I felt as though I could just reach out and touch those atmospheric cotton balls.  You just don’t often see wide open sky like that in California.




All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.

Moqui Cave, Kanab, Utah

Today I came upon what are called “Moqui Marbles”, and I learned that they are found right here in the high deserts of Utah---Moqui, named by the Anasazi-Hopi Native American Tribe that lived there long.  It is believed that Moqui is from the Hopi religious word, Moki, or the dead.   Most of them are found over in the Escalante Staircase area, but just a little ways from Zion, in Kanab, there was/is another concentration.  Learning this, I decided to take a little side trip off my side trip on my way to Bryce, and I stopped at the Moqui Cave in Kanab.  


Saying “Kanab” reminds me of the line in the movie, “Notting Hill,” where Hugh Grant tries to sell a travel journal to Roberts by enticing her with a “clever tale of a kabab.”--okay, so guess you had to be there!!!


I’ve traveled all over Utah in the past, and it still amazes me how rich is the Native American history here.  Usually folks are aware of the national parks, Bryce, Zion, Arches and Canyonlands, but there are so many other sites worthy of a visit...Cedar Breaks, Kolob Canyon, Escalante Staircase, Hovenweep, Kanab and so many others.  THIS is the way to learn about American history and USA geology--or geology in general!


A few miles north of Kanab, you’ll find the Moqui Caves.  Yes, it’s a bit of a tourist attraction, but it’s a unique one.  The family that runs it, has owned it for many generations, and talking with them was fascinating and historically informative! (Now isn’t this the way we’d all like to learn history?!)  She told me how the ancient Anasazi used the caves for shelters thousands of years ago, but that her great great ....grandfather discovered them and turned them into a bar and club during the years of prohibition.  The bar is still there, carved far into the back of the cave!  I gather that this was before there were laws about defacing historical sites!  In any event, she went on with her rollicking tale of the speakeasy days and then the long polygamous history of the family!!  I and everyone else there was spellbound!


What I didn’t expect were the Dinosaur tracks preserved in the area!  These were taken up from the area and preserved in the wall inside the cave.


So Moqui Marbles are this strange phenomenon where an iron composite forms a hard shell around sandstone, usually in a spherical shape.  There seem to be many different scientific (and not so scientific!) theories as to how these were formed, from meteors to mollusks.  Here are some theories!


Here are some interesting facts I learned about them and their use for healing and dream visioning by Shamans then and now.

How to Use Moqui Marbles for Healing |



Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel out of Zion National Park near Mt. Carmel Junction, Utah

I awoke a little tender from too much time in the sun, and truth be told, my hips and knees needed a little break!  It’s so humbling to grow older!  18 year olds were SKIPPING down that steep incline yesterday....skipping, I tell you!  All that to say, I decided this was the best day to take a day trip to Bryce Canyon to see the hoo doos.  (That song with the line, “hoo doo you think you’re foolin’?” has been rerunning through my mind unbidden today!!)


Going Northeast out of Zion Canyon is much like Walter’s Wiggles for vehicles, the same red rock low wall at the cliff’s edge of the steep switchbacks.  Eventually I arrived at the 1.1 mile long Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel that runs right through the solid rock.  It is the longest tunnel of its kind in the USA.  There are several air ducts or “galleries” (see half-circle hole in middle of cliff below) which were created to let light in, air and fumes out, as well as an opening for the construction crews to dispose of rock as they were adrillin’ and ablastin’ back in 1927 to 1930.  The tunnel opened on July 4th, 1930.



Below are some shots of the galleries taken inside the tunnel (and no, Dad, I didn’t stop in the middle of the tunnel, but no one was behind me, so I went very very slow!)  I love the bigger photo below, which I had no idea would even come out since I wasn’t even looking through the camera.  Notice the striations in the rock above and around.  This isn’t one of your regular concrete encased tunnels!




Some views of the countryside on the other side of the tunnel.... Checkerboard Mountain and other beautiful rock formations.

I have to tell you...I have a certain love affair with these old gnarled pines and slickrock--love at first sight 11 years ago in Moab on my Mountain Bike.  Isn’t it just beautiful!  All those layers and sculptural qualities!  It’s like a hands-on topographical map. These little rock formations on the slickrock make me think of little groundhog popping their heads up!



Now for the Duct Tape part of the story....


I’m driving slowly, enjoying the scenery, no rush, when I see two old Chevys pulled off to the side of the road, with their winged hoods up.  Oh dear, way up here and cars like that broken down?  Yikes!  I don’t know what I was thinking, stopping to help?!  Like I knew anything about cars!!!  (I didn’t even know they were Chevys, much less a 1920 and 1928 Chevy!!)  I could at least offer them something to drink as I had my ice chest with me, right?  As I get out and stretch my legs, I see the gray haired gentlemen stooped over the engine of the 1920 convertible, shaking their heads.  “What we need here is some duct tape and a pop can, and I can maybe jimmy this up.”  They head back to and rummage through the “trunk” of the 1928 Chevy, a little metal box sitting behind the car.  More head shaking.  No duct tape.  No pop can. 


More cars stopped to help and their male drivers came over to help.  More head shaking.  No duct tape.  No pop can. 


I frown to myself a moment...hmmm...I wonder....  I rummage around my 1999 Toyota 4-Runner.  My friends laugh at me that I have this big plastic tub in the back with “Truck Essentials, labeled on the outside with each of its contents).  AHA!!  Duct tape.  I grab a 4 oz Trader Joes version of V-8, gulp it down and rinse it out with melted ice from the chest, then make my way over to the Chevy owners.  “Ummmm, did you say duct tape and a pop can?”  They looked up in surprise and big grins.    “Well, waadayer know!!  Mighty grateful young lady!”  I provided my swiss army knife, which I’d grabbed off my daypack as an after thought.  



Don’t ask me what they were fixing, but they fixed it!  Soon we were all on our way, and I was feeling pretty dang cool!  Who would’ve thought?!  Maybe I was no McGiver, but I certainly was Mary Poppins with a bag filled with everything but the kitchen sink!  Candidly, I was even pleased with being called a young lady!!



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