Open Letter to King County Councilmember Larry Phillips

No More Dead Elephants - Sanctuary Now

No More Dead Elephants – Sanctuary Now

Dear Councilmember Phillips,

Thank you for your reply to my correspondence urging City and County officials to use their political and financial influence to ensure that Bamboo and Chai are sent to a sanctuary where they can roam and be free after a lifetime of physical and mental abuse, and not sent to another zoo where they will continue to suffer for public amusement and private profit.

While I realize that being a member of both the King County Council and Woodland Park Zoo’s Board of Directors puts you in a position that some might consider to be a conflict of interest when it comes to determining the financial backing and other resources the Council affords the Zoo on taxpayers’ behalf, I am surprised and somewhat taken aback that your response to the community’s concern about Bamboo and Chai would seem to be taken almost verbatim from the Zoo’s press releases; statements which dismiss those who advocate for sending Bamboo and Chai to sanctuary, and the content of which is simply untrue when looked at with a critical eye and a minimal amount of research.

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Angels Rest – Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Forget about enlightenment.
Sit down wherever you are
And listen to the wind singing in your veins.

-John Welwood

Entrace to Angels Rest

Entrace to Angels Rest

No matter what I write about Angels Rest, it will sound clichéd. Everything I do write about it, however, is true. On the morning we departed the desert to return home we decided to make one last drive through Angels Canyon and Best Friends, stopping at Angels Rest for a few minutes of quiet contemplation.

As dawn broke sideways across the cemetery’s ornately carved main gate, we silently entered and slowly, reverently walked our way along paths where hundreds of memorials mark the final resting places of dearly departed pets. Simple markers, carved plaques, personalized urns, wind chime trees bearing names and messages of a favorite cat or beloved dog. Many were surrounded by mementos: dog tags, pictures, pebbles, messages of love and remembrance. Remi “Our Baby,” Mr. White Kitty, Flopster and Mopster, the Reno Rabbits.

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Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Lots of people talk to animals. Not very many listen, though. That’s the problem.

-Benjamin Hoff, “The Tao of Pooh.”

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

As our time in Kanab wore on and we traveled out north, south, east, and west of town on our daily adventures, we’d find ourselves driving frequently past the entrance to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. The fact that we’d originally planned to come to Southern Utah first and foremost to volunteer for them hung over our heads, and we knew at some point we needed to pay a visit.

Make no mistake: we think very highly of the work Best Friends does and what they’re able to accomplish, but it became a complete nightmare simply trying to sign up to volunteer. They were extremely slow to respond to any inquiries. Weeks, sometimes months, would go by before we’d get replies to emails, and even replying back to them within minutes of their emails to us would again mean weeks until their next reply came. The vol schedules they sent us were changed and out of sync with each other and what we’d selected in a way that meant wouldn’t be able to fulfill our duties according to their own guidelines. They never answered their phone or returned the messages we left, and when we finally took to Twitter for a little polite shaming about their lack of operational organization, they tweeted back that we should… call them. Queue forehead repeatedly hitting desk. We did our best to remain polite and supportive throughout, but it felt like a losing fight. Yet still we kept driving by Best Friends with that guilty itch.

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Kanab

Now playing in Kanab, Utah.

Now playing in Kanab, Utah.

For years after it was settled by Mormons in the mid-19th Century, Kanab claimed it was one of “the most isolated cities in the nation.” Today, even though it sits as the hub on a wheel of magnificent natural wonders, with numerous national parks and outdoor destinations a short hop, skip, and jump in every direction, and with a major state highway bisecting the town bringing countless visitors through annually, this “city” of about 4,000 residents still feels cut off from the rest of the nation, both literally and figuratively. With Springdale to its west and Moab to its east, both flourishing from several decades of tourist boom, Kanab still seems like a forgotten step-child – unwilling or unable to catch up.

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White Pocket

White Pocket - an alien world

White Pocket – an alien world

When I asked William James, manager for Dreamland Safari Tours, which day tour he recommended, he quickly replied, “White Pocket. It’s an alien planet!” We’d been pondering signing up for one of the rare day passes given out by lottery to Northern Arizona’s famous The Wave, but the chances of winning that, along with needing a permit and a four-wheel drive vehicle (neither of which we had), had us taking a look around and what else was out there that could offer a similar experience as the Wave without needing a permit or locating an off-road vehicle of our own. “Definitely White Pocket,” said James.

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Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks National Monument

On a very wet and windy day that saw flash floods in Zion Canyon and portions of Interstate 15 washed out between St. George and Las Vegas, we found ourselves driving up Utah State Highway 148 along the edge of Cedar Breaks National Monument. Northwest of Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks is every bit as beautiful and engaging as its big sister, Bryce Canyon, only smaller in size. It’s also less well known than Bryce, so not nearly as busy, and every bit worth the visit.

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Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Following a now established ritual of beginning our daily treks with coffee at The Rock Stop in Orderville, we decided to spend the next two days in and around Zion National Park. It had been over fifteen years since I’d last set foot in Zion Canyon, and driving into the park from the east via the Zion – Mount Carmel Highway brought back a host of memories.

When I was last here in late spring of 1998 the Virgin River was overflowing with fast-moving murky brown water from recent heavy rains, making any attempt to hike up The Narrows an impossibility. I spent most of my time camped under the impressive gaze of The Watchman, lost in thought, writing in notebooks, relaxed in the majesty and serenity of the park. And while The Watchman, The East Temple, The Sentinel, and all the other sovereigns of Zion remain as mighty and stoic as always, everything at their feet has changed dramatically in the intervening years.

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Bryce Canyon

Just a few of Bryce's amazing hoodoos

Just a few of Bryce’s amazing hoodoos

Our third day will forever be known as The Day We Found Good Coffee in Utah! Deciding to spend the day in Bryce Canyon, while driving up Highway 89 through the tiny hamlet of Orderville we sped past an adobe building called The Rock Stop, where I caught a sign out of the corner of my eye that said “Espresso.” Espresso? ESPRESSO! Queue brakes squealing as we hastily turned the car around to investigate. A mere twenty-file miles from where we were staying, finally we had found some decent caffeine!

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Toadstools

Toadstools

Toadstools

The afternoon of our second day in Southern Utah was spent, again, in Arizona, hiding out from a driving rain and windstorm in Page, after stopping off at Glen Canyon Dam. Before the winds blew us back across the border, and before we’d fight our way westward again while doing our best to avoid being run off the road by a car sporting Florida plates and a driver determined to run off just about everybody he passed, we spent the morning off Highway 89 just past the Pariah Ranger Station hiking into The Toadstools. It’s a relatively easy hike back into a small valley of surreal hoodoos and balancing rocks, and it was a bit crazy to think it was such a short distance off the highway yet felt like you had arrived on a different planet entirely.

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Grand Canyon

View from Walhalla Plateau

View from Walhalla Plateau

Our first full day in Southern Utah found us on the road once again… to Arizona. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon to be exact. Neither of us had been to the Grand Canyon before and a morning spent driving in, around, over, and through some of its scenic vistas seemed the perfect way to inaugurate our arrival. Inside the park entrance, bison lingered while dozens of cars pulled off to the side of the road to photograph them munching on grass. After a short hike out to a very windy Bright Angel Point, holding on tight as we stood at the look-out that cantilevered over the edge of the canyon. We took a late lunch in the North Rim Lodge’s dining room, listening to the waitstaff tell each guest about their “delicious hot and cold buffet bar” in monotone and robotic voices. It felt like we were in a scene straight out of Twin Peaks.

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