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Capitol Reef National Park is a great place to connect to the elements of earth and stone. Here you'll find vast monoliths, huge rock formations, and towering cliffs in tones of brown, tan, orange, pink, red, white, and every color in between. As the daylight, weather, and cloud cover changes throughout the day, the colors change like a massive kaleidoscope.IMG 0599

 

The best way to experience the power and scale of the earth element here is by hiking. When you hike, you experience the rock up close and really feel the power of stone all around you. You hike through, over and between the rock, and the trails often take you along slickrock shelves and ramps. You may start in a low canyon with brown and red walls looming high above you and end up climbing up among white layers of navajo sandstone.

 

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I won't go into a lot of technical detail about the geology here. Whole books have been written on the subject and most leave me more confused than before I read them. Two things you need to know about Capitol Reef, though. One is that there are more layers of rock exposed here than almost anywhere in the Southwest (except the Grand Canyon). The other is that the elevation in Capitol Reef ranges from near 9,000 feet in the northwest corner to around 4,000 feet in the south. All this means that you can see lots of layers of rocks, each layer representing a different time in rock history. Rock dominates here and the variety is phenomenal. Above is a photo of the white knobs (domes) of Navajo Sandstone with black volcanic rocks in the foreground.

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The layers of rock represent 200 million years of clay, sand, gravel, volcanic ash, evaporated salts, and aquatic fossils that have been deposited here over time. It's easy to feel a connection with the past here among the ancient elements of earth.

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The Golden Throne (above).

You'll find monuments here, monuments of rock. Also spires, domes, thrones, natural bridges, and arches. When you gaze on the steep canyon walls, it's difficult not to see faces, animals, and spirits.

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When you are among these stone walls and formations, it is easy to feel the power of these places. There is a feeling of solidity, strength, and age-old patience in the rock formations here, and its easy to get a feeling of awe when surrounded by the high canyon walls.

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Cathedral Rock on the far right (above)

While the earth element is strong here, there are plenty of vistas with great views of the wide open skies to balance things out. The heat of the desert is balanced out by the green, lush growth around the visitors center, where giant old cottonwoods and a variety of fruit trees grow.

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In Writing the book Strange Hunting, I did a lot of research. In fact, more than one reviewer has mentioned the amount of research that went into my book. In doing that research I relied on many sources.

The second chapter, I Rabas, starts off in a remote village in Mali, West Africa. The main character, Berk Willis, and his father are later hired to protect a camel caravan that goes into the Sahara Desert, meeting bands of nomads, Tuareg tribesmen, and desert bandits along the way. Setting the story in Mali had a few advantages, first I knew a few people who had visited there and a few who were born and raised there. I was able to pick people's brians, study their photos, and watch their videos. Second, I had always wanted to go there and had studied some of its cultural traditions of drum and dance and related rituals. I had collected a fair amount of information on Mali in hopes I would visit one day. Lastly, Mali was the perfect setting for the story I wanted to tell. The place had to be remote, difficult, and it helped that it was populated with a diversity of people each with their own traditions, stories, and myths.

Here are some images I found that helped me create the second chapter of Strange Hunting.

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This first photo is of a person from the Fulani, or Fula, tribe in Mali. They are known for their unique conical hats, their jewelry and other accessories, and the dark dyes often used to make their mouths black. Yellow face paint is commonly used by the Fulani for certain occassions.

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