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Statue of William Ellery Channing, Unitarian preacher of the early 1800s, born in Newport, Rhode Island.

We packed so much touring into our next day in Newport that I’m going to split it into two posts. We began at Touro Park to see the Newport Tower, the remains of a windmill built approximately 1660. The round stone structure is beautiful, and I am reminded that arches are one of the strongest structures humans have ever built.

Newport Tower remains standing after nearly 400 years. Maybe because of the strength of the arches.

Inside the tower is also interesting. You can see Perry through an arch.

After exploring the tower, we stayed in the park for some time. There are multiple monuments surrounded by examples of period architechture. We admired the statue of Matthew Calbraith Perry, who was instrumental in bringing the Japanese into commercial and diplomatic relations with the West in 1854. The bronze bas reliefs on the pedestal reflect scenes from Perry’s life.

Mounted on the cast iron fence surrounding the pedestal were two plaques. One in Japanese and one translated. The title in English is The 2012 Shimoda TOMODACHI Declaration. I recalled that name from when I was staying at a Navy base in Japan, and said to Will, “Oh hey, Tomodachi is the name of the operation in which US service members helped out the Japanese after the tsunami wiped out the nuclear plant.” I kept reading, and rather than find a different use of the word tomodachi, the plaque referred to exactly what I was thinking of. It’s a Thank You from Shimoda City, acknowledging the beginning of Japanese-US relations 150 years previous, due to Perry’s work, and the continuing good relations today. Since I’m always pointing out Indian perspectives in an attempt to shed light on the nuances of our relationships, I think it’s only fair to point out that our “good relations” with Japan today are a result of the Japanese choosing to be an extraordinarily polite and accommodating people, after being bombed and invaded (and still occupied) by Americans. I do not at all assume our countries are friendly without deeply complicated undercurrents. Anyway, it was fun for me to recognize the name Tomodachi.

Naval Officer and diplomat Perry. You can see the Tomodachi Thank You plaques.

Scenes from Perry’s career.

Interesting handles of this flower pot in the shape of fauns, sitting on the heads of goats.

From there we walked to the Touro Synagogue, down lovely streets filled with late spring colour on the trees and in flower gardens.

We stopped first at the small Colonial Jewish Burial Ground, since it was on theme. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem about this cemetery, called The Jewish Cemetery at Newport. Another author, Emma Lazarus (“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”) wrote about the cemetery and the synagogue. It is the first Jewish cemetery in Rhode Island, acquired in 1677. Abraham Touro had the first protective wall erected, and his brother Judah Touro established a trust to care for the cemetery upon his death in 1854.

Colonial Jewish Cemetery was locked so we couldn’t go in for a better look.

We arrived at the Touro Synagogue just before a tour began, so we quickly paid and ran up the hill to listen to the tour guide tell us about the site, the oldest synagogue in the United States. We sat in the pews and listened while the older man intoned, and it was clear he was used to teaching and used to people listening. He invited questions, and I tried to re-state in my own words something he had said, to make sure I had understood his point. He was not at all pleased with my attempt, and moved on with his story. I felt like I was 9 years old in Bible School again. It was very sweet and funny.  Even though he denied my description of the story, I still think what he explained is that since Jews in the 18th century had been welcomed in the Netherlands, when Jewish emmigrants were looking for a new home, they hoped for a warm welcome from the Dutch colonists on the American east coast. It didn’t go as well as hoped, but there was enough tolerance to allow a Jewish community for some of early Rhode Island history. The Jewish community grew in Newport, and in 1763 this house of worship was dedicated. I can promise you that the guide would explain it with different words! 🙂

Interior of the Touro Synagogue.

The inside of the synagogue is gorgeous, but we were not allowed to take photos from inside. We were invited to stand outside, at the doorway, and photograph into the building, however. The architect knew nothing about synagogue construction, and it is assumed for the interior that he relied entirely on the guidance of members of the congregation, some having only recently left their Jewish communities elsewhere. The tourguide told us to notice two important things about the outside: first that its orientation is east (facing Jerusalem) rather than perpendicular with the street, and second that it is built to blend in with the colonial construction of the time, and not stand out and probably irritate the other settlers.

Facing east, and thus at an angle compared to the other buildings.

The lovely site includes the Loeb Visitor’s Center, the Touro Synagogue, and an inviting garden between them.

In 1781 a Town Meeting was held here during a visit by George Washington. Later, when he was President in 1790, Washington wrote a letter to the Newport Hebrew community that the whole nation should be proud of. I had never heard of this letter, but copies are provided free of charge at the visitor’s center. The text includes this,

…happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

How much less of a country we are today because our leadership embraces, rather than rejects, bigotry and persecution.

Our next stop was to find Castle Hill Lighthouse, the 7th lighthouse of the trip. We parked at the Castle Hill Inn parking area, and crashed the rather posh grounds, walking across manicured lawns, past white lawn chairs filled with paying guests, and up a hill to a spot where we could see the lighthouse above the bushes along the rocky beach. It was windy and cold and we didn’t stay long. We were near Fort Adams State Park, and we went there next. I’ll talk about the rest of the day in my next post.

Castle Hill Lighthouse as viewed from Castle Hill Inn.

Looking toward the Claiborne Pell/Newport Bridge

Tara poses in Wilson Arch

Tuesday morning I was up on the rock again before the sun rose. We all slept pretty well. It was only a little chilly but Arno and I are such outdoors people, that all five of us had warm gear. Arno went into get-going mode right away, and I let him. I sat and watched the silent desert, and caught the first sunlight fire orange on peaks to the West. The sun rose quickly and I stayed up there till sunbeams had crossed the valley toward our camp, and had nearly crossed the road to us. I had come to rest on a perch above Arno, watching him work for us. He looked up and spotted me, so I came back down into camp. Coffee was ready for the grownups, hot cocoa ready for the kids (none of whom had yet stirred). Breakfast was half-cooked and only needed me to turn the bacon. Hm, camping like this would be easy to get used to.

Me taking photos from Wilson Arch

Our big plan for the day was to get closer to Canyonlands National Park. We were camped at Sand Flats Recreation Area, situated close to Moab, just south of Arches NP. This is a great central location for vacationers into trail biking, dirt biking, quad running, and having a city nearby for water, ice, and beer. It’s not a great base camp for Canyonlands, however. So we packed up to make the 2½ hour trip south (it would have been 1½ hours, but we dawdled). We stopped first in Moab for ice, dry ice, and water. Arno brought a couple of 5-gallon jugs that we lived from.

It’s always interesting to camp with someone new for the first time (well, actually, Labor Day weekend was our first camp trip but it was at KOA and not real camping, so I don’t use that as a reference). Arno is willing to put a lot more effort into things. Since my car camping has evolved slowly from backpacking, I tend to do all things in mini-scale. Use only drops of water if possible, then re-use it. Re-use the same scant dishes, do without some things like actual dishsoap, because a person can actually survive without it. Arno, however, has the truck packed with everything five large campers could need, and then some! He uses the water he needs, the dishes he needs, and actually has a whole routine of dishwashing, drying, and putting away that is perfected.

A fun thing about the two of us is that we both believe that a person can eat well while camping. Of course, we acquiesced to one day for hotdogs (Tara and I brought canned biscuits for our pigs-in-a-blanket preference) and we brought fixins for s’mores. Other than that, we had tortellini, grilled asparagus, fried bacon and eggs, fajitas, etc. I brought my Asian chicken walnut rice salad, but it bombed with the kids, so that’s a mental note for the future. We roused the kids, fed them, and then cleaned up the breakfast stuff while hollering at them to help pack up. We left late morning to the great delight of a couple who had been circling the campground for some time, waiting for a spot to open up.

Arno and me on the rocks above camp

On the road south, I again had strange flashbacks from ages ago. Yesterday when we passed the entrance to Arches NP, I pointed it out to Tara, “Hey! You and I have been there!” She didn’t remember. Today I finally recalled the time when I was here before:  cross-country trip with my mother. Oh, gosh, I was so angry with her on that trip. Man, that woman was a world-class complainer. Tara and I were going to make the move from California to Massachusetts just the two of us, and bond. Tara and I travel brilliantly together, and always have. Mom begged and begged to come along (“It’ll be so much fun, the three of us girls, and I’ll get to know Tara better.”), and I finally agreed. She launched into blah, blah, blah non-stop about her friends, her house, her husband, her church, blah blah blah complain complain. She complained about sitting in the car all day. Complained about the hotels. When we came through this part of the country, she complained about the heat. Never stopped complaining. So, it went from a really fun road trip with my kid to trying to console my mother who carelessly ignored my Tara girl for thousands of miles. Arrggh. No wonder I had forgotten about having already visited these Utah parks!

Right there on the highway, we spotted Wilson Arch, and pulled over to explore our first arch of the trip. We girls had not yet had a chance to “get our rock legs” and were a bit wobbly and unsure on the slickrock. Slickrock, as I discovered in Oak Creek last summer, is best climbed by planting your feet flat against the slope and moving up by walking. Once you achieve the trust of your feet and the rock, it’s easy, but at first it is non-intuitive. We climbed around and through the arch and had some spectacular views of the wide open desert.

Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument

We left the main highway 191 and turned onto highway 211 toward the park. On the way, the views were captivating, and I had to drive in front, since it was easier for Arno to keep track of me and my many stops for photos. Our best stop was Newspaper Rock National Historic Site. Miguel was excited about it and wore his Newspaper Rock T-shirt in honor of the visit, but was still feeling very sick and not able to enjoy much of the journey or the sights. The rock is so-named because it is a large wall filled with petroglyphs. Ancient writing of course touches the anthropologist in me, and I can’t help but stare in awe. The petroglyphs were applied by different indigenous American people over a 2000-year time span, and so one can imagine they tell many stories together on one page. In the Navajo language, the rock is called Tse’ Hane’ for rock that tells a story.

Farther along the highway, we were treated to better and better views of North and South Six-Shooter Peaks. They are framed by sheer red cliffs and bound by blue skies above and silver grey winter trees below. What stunning country!

At the park gate we found that we were too late to get a campsite inside the park, which had been our goal. There are 26 sites and people in the know show up first thing in the morning to lay claim to them. We toured the campsites anyway, and found that at least 10 of them were roped off, supposedly “under construction,” though what was being constructed was impossible to tell. We backtracked to BLM land a few miles outside the park and found a campsite at Hamburger Rock. This turned out to be a serendipitous event, because we all loved the campsite and the excellent Hamburger Rock. Originally our plans had been to pack up early the next morning and try once more to camp inside the park, but we discarded that idea in exchange for staying put.

Tara peeks into the roadside ruin

We ate lunch and then went into the park to try a trail or two in the remainder of the day. We stopped at the Roadside Ruin, which appears to be a reconstructed grain bin of some kind, made of rocks mortared into a large container under a rock ledge. Arno and I agreed that if reconstructed (it looks brand-new), the granary is not compelling. Even if it’s modeled exactly after an actual ruin, or in the same exact spot. It just isn’t the same. The fascination of an actual ruin is that ancient people actually touched those stones; placed them precisely in that spot.

Ferns drop from a sheltered crack in the wall where water seeps out

Then we took a walk along the Cave Spring Trail. This short trail (1/2 mile) packs a ton of fascinating things into a easy walk and must be swarmed with families at busier times of the year. At first we saw the Cowboy Camp, and though I have always enjoyed finding old remains of relatively recent peoples, it’s fun to see that others find it fascinating too. This camp comes from the days when white pioneering men were trying to make a living out of driving cattle across these wide deserts. Cave Spring trail has a sheltered spring that must have been Life Itself for cowboys working hard in the sun all day. Under the ample shelter of an overhanging rock ledge, we saw a couple of old work tables, benches, boxes to store things, and beside the fire pit was some kind of metal cook stove jerry rigged together with imagination and resourcefulness that makes up the core soul of any Westerner. There were empty tin cans, horseshoes and other tackle, and several large wooden bins for storing food. The Cowboys had copied the Indians there, using wood instead of mortared stone.

pictographs above the spring

Around a few more bends in the trail, we reached the spring, and we could actually taste the moisture in the air. A trickle of water seeps from one long horizontal crack that follows the path in the cliff wall beneath a huge overhanging rock ceiling, making a flat pool that seeps across the rocks. Wet sand stretches away from the sheltered cave-like area, and ends at the inevitable dry sand after only about 10 feet. Where moisture seeps from the horizontal crack, fern fronds dangle in a lovely and unexpected green curtain of freshness and life in that dry world. Stark red pictographs adorn the cold stone walls around the spring. Doubtless there because of the spring. Some ancient person’s thanks and recognition to his Deity, and probably in hopes of invoking further watery blessings in the future.

Diego contemplates grinding grains

Mere steps beyond the moist cool air was another sign of people long gone: troughs worn into stone, likely by Indian women grinding grain into flour. Diego was compelled to touch the indentations. He must have had the same thought as I: a long time ago, someone ancient and beyond reach touched this same stone.

ladders are part of the trail

The trail incorporated ladders as well, to help us gain the top of the rocks. Arno showed off his climbing skills and did not use the ladders. We stood at the top awhile and gazed out across the stunning landscape, then continued down the other side, and back to a sandy trail still sheltered by a wide rock overhang.

On our way back to camp, the setting sun culled deep reds and bronze oranges from the rocks, requiring many more photo stops for me – by this time annoying most of my travel mates. At camp Arno again leapt into meal preparation mode, and I climbed to the top of the rocks with the kids and watched the sun go down. I had my camera on a tripod and managed to get some nice sunset photos as the fiery globe sank from sight.

View from the top of the trail

Tara and Miguel hold up the rock ceiling with their heads

Three-quarters of a reflected sun

Last glimpse of light across the desert horizon

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