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The Colors of the Desert

DarcMonVal

The Colors of the Desert

The road to Monument Valley from the west leads across the Navajo Nation. I love this part of the country. It is vast and filled with color. The varying elevation changes take you from abundantly green vegetation to neutrally barren sand. Exposed layers of rock along the red cliffs weave waves of cream, lavender, and a hint of pale green through them. There is creative color as well, signs of the modern-day Indigenous artists who have painted murals on the walls of water tanks and the lone buildings. What I love best about the drive is the opportunity to pull off the road and meet the locals. I savor the time talking to the Indigenous people who love their land despite the challenges of isolation. And, I can’t lie, I stop for the fry bread. The “real” kind.

The time of the drive to Monument Valley is irrelevant. I’ve been there numerous times. What elates me is knowing that the road leads to the most definitive image of the American West—and one of the most photographed points on earth. I am always excited to see that very first formation in the horizon.

My most recent trip was an awakening to the colors that saturate Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. A friend and I traversed the off-road trail (4x4 required) that winds through the 91,696 acres crossing both Arizona and Utah borders. The formations towering hundreds of feet into the air are the remnants of the sandstone layers that once covered the region. The Navajo people call Monument Valley, Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgaii meaning “Valley of the Rocks”.

The road we were on climbed uphill to the edge of a plateau noted as Artist’s Point. We got out of the car and looked into the distance—miles of flat land stretched before us spotted by the iconic “monuments”. It was the hour of alpenglow and we had a front row seat to Mother Nature’s transformation to twilight. As the sun began its descent, the red color of rock began to warm, then seemingly ignited into a blazing pillar of fire. Simultaneously, the bright blue sky erupted with vibrant orange and red tones. It was glorious. It was surreal. And before any of it made sense, the blazing red color that lit up Monument Valley began to fade. The sky began to dim as well, turning to shades of pink and lavender, and then to purple as twilight took the stage. I stood in wonder at how perfect this performance of light was. Out of one color came a multitude of hues and shades, working in tandem to create something chromatically spectacular. I likened it to the colors of the human race working in tandem together to create a perfect world.

The fall issue of Etched Magazine has risen from the very canyons and cliffs that we call home. The imagery has taken our photographers to places where words cannot do the beauty justice. Our contributors have sought the stories of the dunes and canyons, as well as the people who live and survive, some for centuries, in this colorful, ever-changing landscape. The Colors of the Desert is a saturated smattering of the best that the Southwest has to offer from a different perspective.

I continue seeking treasures in a desert filled with them—it is a colorful world all on its own. What if we deepened our appreciation for color? What if we saw color in a new light? I believe we would see something more than what we just perceive.

Darci, Editor in Chief

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Holding On To Farming

Holding On To FarmingDarci Fruit

It is that time of year when everything just tastes better from the garden. I love the delicious experience of going to a local farm and eating something I just picked off of the tree or out of the field. That first bite is purely euphoric; the color, taste, texture, and the goodness of it all makes the mouth (and my mind) rejoice. The fact that Mother Nature herself produces exactly what we need to nourish our bodies is nothing short of miraculous. It was my grandparents who showed me the divinity of eating fresh.

As a young child, I spent most weekends with my grandparents, Milt and Laverne, while my parents worked. The drive to their late 1950s ranch style home in Garden Grove would take us directly through Chino Hills cattle ranches of southern California. Upon that first initial whiff of manure, Laverne would say to me, “Smell the cows, Darci?” Indeed, I did! The drive and the scent became extremely familiar. By the time we’d hit the orange and lemon groves the aroma transitioned into the tangy smell of citrus.

On Saturday mornings my grandparents and I would head out to the various local farm stands for fresh produce. The first stop was always for strawberries at the field a block from their home where the farmer would guide me through the process of picking my own strawberries. I, of course, insisted on validating each experience with a taste test. During the afternoon, we would harvest avocados from the huge trees in my grandparent’s backyard. I’d carry my beautiful green avocados into their back porch and exchange the previous week’s avocados, which we ate, for the newly picked ones which would sit to ripen.

My favorite thing to do with my grandparents on Saturday night was to visit Walter and Cordelia Knott’s Berry Farm. We would dine at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. It was in Cordelia’s restaurant that I gained my insatiable craving for the farm’s boysenberries. Mrs. Knott turned those berries into jam, jelly, syrup, and pie—and I loved them all! After dinner we’d go into the Knott’s live bee exhibit and watch the bees work their way madly through the honeycomb.
 
I feel fortunate to have had these heavenly experiences with farmers and food because farming in America doesn’t look quite the way that it used to. Urban development is slowly steamrolling over cities agriculture belts. Local sustainability has been minimized, and reliance has been placed upon the shoulders of large growers. Awakening to a new generation of thinking are young, educated individuals willing to become farmers. Existing farmers are elated. Their fight to avoid being pushed out or bought out is real. But the movement toward the reunion of town and country is evident by increased support and the spending of dollars on ‘locally grown’. Call it a trend, but the drive toward reviving the farm is alive. And how the farmers plan to hold on to farming is a community discussion.

“There are in reality not only, as is so constantly assumed, two alternatives—town life and country life—but a third alternative, in which all the advantages of the most energetic and active town life, with all the beauty and delight of the country, may be secured in perfect combination.” - Ebenezer Howard, 1898

The Summer Issue of Etched takes a look across the fields of the southwest. From small farms and farmers markets to heritage crops and large producers, you will meet the individuals who literally are putting food on your tables. The beekeeper, the herb grower, the rancher, the native crop owner, all have a place in the Summer Issue of Etched—and in our lives.

Driving home from a hike in Zion National Park, I stopped at a farm stand in Rockville. Displayed in front of the modest orchard were brightly colored, “organically grown,” apricots and the greenest of apples. I bagged all of my favorites and left my money in the ‘honor system’ can. While standing there, I bit into an apricot. The warmth of the sun had softened the fruit as if it were out of a freshly baked pie. The moment and flavor, euphoric. Consider when you sit down to dinner, where your food comes from. Perhaps you, too, will discover the taste of farming’s goodness.

Darci - Editor in Chief

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Etched Travel Issue 2017

The Desert. The Dust. The Drive. The Cowboy

darc cliffI love to walk. And not just a little. I have ‘steps’ to get in (if you are checking ‘yours’ now, you get it). But my days best lived are when I choose to walkabout. I wake to my early morning pace with my “peeps.” And about every 72 hours, I begin to yearn for a trail to explore. I embrace each and every step of what becomes a journey, taking in what Mother Nature has put out. For that moment, I am free. Thomas Jefferson said, “…Habituate yourself to walk very far.” And so I have; from the historic streets downtown to the surrounding red cliffs and canyons in between. What I glean most from walking is best worded by naturalist and author, John Muir: “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

Walking is a way of connection for me… to the earth, to my health, to my friends, and to my soul. I use my feet as my form of transportation whenever I can. Not too long ago I headed out from my house to pick up my car from a service center. I walked along some of our city’s busiest streets. I found a sense of empowerment by not being in a car racing to the next red light. Despite all of the traffic noise I oddly felt alone. There was no one else walking in sight. It was just me and a few head of cattle dotting the sporadic parcels of farm land that remain nestled between homes and buildings. The noise level faded as I visualized the streets before pavement, the views before buildings, the hillsides before homes, and the horses before cars. There was an emptiness in thinking about industrial evolution and the many things that a growing community loses in spite of the benefits. The signs that reflected an era when the streets were bustling with people and the cowboys rode in on their horses have been replaced as has the culture from only a century ago.
 
The invitation to join southern Utah cowboy, Brent Prince and “the crew” for a dutch oven dinner was far too good to resist. It was a chilly spring afternoon atop Little Mountain. Looking down, the green fields surrounded by the stoic lush trees conveyed the country setting that was once similar to the downtown area where I reside. “The crew,” as Brent refers to his friends, consists of a group of industrious horsemen (and a few women) who, by virtue of their passion for sustaining the cowboy way of life, share an undeniable kinetic energy that was just plain easy to fit into. I listened intently as we sat around the campfire. They reveled in the stories of their horseback riding excursions into the wilderness. They recalled some of the cattle drives they’ve been on, helping out their fellow rancher friends. The laughter was grand. The comradery was sincere. The need to roam drives these men back into their saddles. Even I, a hippie of sorts, felt connected to the crew because of our shared need to be free, whether on two feet or four.

No vision of the American West is complete without the cowboy. His Golden Era was short (1866 to 1886) but the culture was indelible. He was hardworking, honest, and a true survivor. Despite Hollywood’s depiction, skilled horsemen were culturally diverse; one cowboy out of every four was black, and one out of every four was said to be Mexican. And then there were the Indian cowboys. These men rode the range together and drove cattle across some of the most barren but beautiful lands of the desert. Etched Magazine takes our Travel Issue on the road to the places where the Native Americans lived and the cowboy barely survived. From the scenic routes to the ‘remotely located’, the pages of Etched reflect the past fused to the present through history, music, art, and the love of a lifestyle.

I continue to ‘get my steps in’ along the busy city streets but now take the time to stop and chat with the cows. I’m cherishing what signs remain left from the settlers of the area. I appreciate the new development and businesses that have allowed so many to partake of life in the southwest. Sometimes I still get a little sad by what has been lost through growth. But I walk. And I think. Then I walk some more. Comedian, Ellen DeGeneres talked about her grandmother who also loves to walk. She says,“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.” If only I could live so long and wander so freely! May we all keep moving, in one direction or another, without losing sight of where we’ve come from.

Darci - Editor in Chief

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Etched Outdoor Issue 2016

DARCIWATERFALLExplore the Canyons
Escape the Ordinary

There is no place else in the world like the American Southwest. I am open about my love affair with the profound geological beauty of this place. It is one, big, fat, amazingly grand wilderness. The elements are harsh, but the gravitational pull is real.

The southwest has five seasons, including the monsoons. From June to late August, the desert spontaneously produces dramatic weather including heavy rains, winds, and lightning. While I appreciate that the monsoons resuscitate parched vegetation and suppress sweltering heat, they can also mess up plans for a backpacking trip.  

It was early summer. Etched Magazine’s Editorial Assistant, Vicki Christian, our friend, Shelley Cox, and I had our three-day hike into the Grand Staircase-Escalante’s Coyote Gulch planned. Knowing the dangers of the monsoon season, we watched the weather intently. A series of storms had settled in. It was raining and we knew the dangers of flash flooding in the canyons. But our backpacks were staring at us as if to say, “Let’s get out of here!”. And, so we did.

With the decision to not hike the Gulch, we headed out with no plans except to let the wind carry us where it may. It was late, so we spent the first night at Bryce Canyon (a mere hour drive), pitching our tents just outside of the park. As I laid there that night, listening to the rain, I realized that part of what I love so much about the elements of the southwest is its spontaneity ... it’s much like mine.

The following seventy-two hours could not have been more perfect. The clouds provided shade as we hiked to the bottom of Bryce Canyon. No matter how many times I’ve been there, the hundreds of majestic pillar-shaped hoodoos in the most vibrant of colors leave me breathless.

From Bryce, we made our way up Scenic Byway 12 staying the night in Escalante. We played in the rain at Devil’s Garden before chasing the storm further up the 12. By our second day out, the sun began to shine along our hike up the Escalante River Canyon. As we explored the area, we discovered a variety of petroglyphs and other signs of primitive life. We felt a deep appreciation for finding this sacred space. We sat quietly on a ledge and watched the sunset. The surrounding red cliffs of the canyon were ablaze from the Alpenglow, a sharp contrast to the dark clouds that had hovered earlier.

On our final day, we rose early to hike Calf Creek Canyon. The monsoons had disappeared and we could already feel the heat. The path followed the creek, winding between it and the smooth canyon walls where Native Americans had left pictographs centuries ago. Near the trail’s end, the lush vegetation gave way to a massive waterfall flowing over from Upper Calf Creek. This was Lower Calf Creek Falls. We threw our clothes off and went running like little girls into the frigid water, a haven in the heat.

The landscape of the southwest is truly phenomenal. Some of its best secrets are hidden within the walls of its canyons. The Outdoor Issue of Etched takes you to places that many may never see and few will experience. Travel with adventure photographers as they take you to the Paria River Canyon and down into the Grand Canyon. Rappel one hundred feet through twisted slot canyons. And when you’re ready for a change of scenery, travel with Etched’s photographer, Nick Adams, to Las Vegas for a one-of-a-kind experience with Punk Rock Bowling.

A lifetime isn’t enough to explore this desert’s vast wilderness. Regardless of the elements, there are always more canyons calling. And so it is, my love affair with the American Southwest continues... in sync with spontaneity.

Darci, Editor in Chief

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From Badwater Basin... To Angel's Landing

From Badwater Basin... To Angel's Landing

IMG 2508The open road is my obsession. If too much time passes between outings, I need a fix. Perhaps a mere two-hour drive ascending along the magnificent Kolob Reservoir Road for an indescribable view and a breath of fresh air is all I need. But sometimes I just yearn to cleanse my mind and sweat it out along a desert highway. The enormous diversity of the Southwest landscape is my addiction.   

I clearly recall the first time I crossed the desert alone. It was 1979, and I was 17-years-old. Behind the wheel of my 1976 Ford Pinto, I headed out from my home in Parker, Arizona, to Southern California on Highway 62, better known as the Rice Road. This two-lane stretch of asphalt was built in 1933 and lacked engineering, to say the least. The twists, turns, bumps, and hills were like an “E” ticket Disneyland ride in my Pinto. Conditions across this part of the Mojave Desert are harsh. General George Patton set up a military training facility here in 1942 to prepare troops for action in the deserts of North Africa. I too, was fairly prepared (but mostly naive). I knew how to change a tire and crank a wrench. The car was loaded with water, blankets, snacks, and my favorite Led Zeppelin 8-track. I was ready for the three-hour adventure and the Pinto was my ticket to freedom.

The trip itself seemed to soar by at 55 mph. I stopped to view any distraction that caught my eye; random historical markers, abandoned buildings, and pullouts where the scenery was the most majestic.
As Highway 62 veered slightly north, the road took me through what would later become the east side of Joshua Tree National Park (1994). My eyes were wide open as I passed thousands of the iconic trees with their branches extending towards the cerulean skies. Who knew that the countless rock formations
I witnessed would become a haven for world class climbing? It was just me and the desert in an
intimate space. It was here that Highway 62 showed me how to love the open road and left me with a profound respect for nature, history, and freedom.

When the highway calls, I grab my husband and go. Sometimes I drag the girls in the office out, other times it’s a friend riding shotgun. Most times, it’s just me and my dogs, but whenever possible, I take one of my grandchildren, sharing with them my passion for seeking the beautiful, vast, mysterious, glorious, isolated, grand places hiding along the unbeaten path ... and to protect them.

From the depths of Death Valley’s Badwater Basin to the adrenal rush of reaching Zion’s Angel’s Landing, the Travel issue of Etched Magazine takes you out on the open road. Journey with photographer and journalist, Nick Adams, as he wanders across the Mojave Desert. Witness the magnificent sights of the Grand Circle’s treasured formations. And travel the tracks to the train depots that changed history in the nineteenth century by bringing people to the region. From two-lane highways to narrow trails, the Travel issue of Etched allows you to truly Experience the Southwest.

When the open road calls, don’t silence it. Indulge yourself in the landscape and allure of the desert;
feel its grit on your skin, and let the sweat roll down your face. Feel how the hot air keeps you gasping for more, and the canyons quench your thirst. This is the euphoria of the Southwest.

Darci, Editor in Chief