Wednesday, April 25, 2007

By Barbara Barton Sloane
There is no where else on earth even remotely like this area. Its enchantment is almost impossible to put into words. Edward Abby, one of the most famous voices of the Western deserts, spoke of the “huge vibration of light and stillness and solitude.” Welcome to Flagstaff, Arizona.

Route 66 Runs Through It
Flagstaff, at an elevation of 7,000 feet, is a city of 60,000. It nestles in the cool pines of Northern Arizona, 2 ½ hours from Phoenix, and just 80 miles south of the Grand Canyon. The rather quirky name – Flagstaff - comes from a group of settlers who, in 1876, selected a site at the foot of the San Francisco peaks. They chose a tall pine, removed its branches and in observance of the 4th of July, attached a flag to the top. Over time, the flagpole remained and became a landmark for travelers. The name Flagstaff became prominently used from that time on.

There’s lots to do in Flagstaff, and summer has some very special offerings:
How about a ranger-guided hike or climbing camp? There’s a chili cook-off and a fajita festival and sampling. There are Native American art exhibits, the Flagstaff Music Festival and the 74th Annual Hopi Festival of Arts & Culture! For more summer happenings, check with the Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Home of the Expanding Universe
Whether you’re an astronomy buff or just want to visit the place where the planet Pluto was discovered in 1930, the rings of Uranus were first seen in 1977, as well as the sighting of the three largest known stars in the universe, then you’ll want to check out The Lowell Observatory. A fun fact: to aid in the Lowell’s ongoing astrological research, the city of Flagstaff has instituted an aggressive anti-light program. All the lights of Flagstaff must be reflected downward. The result: a sky that comes alive in the darkness with a magnificent display of more stars than you’ve ever seen before.

In 2008, the Lowell will acquire the $30 million Discovery Channel telescope which will be able to image an area of the sky 16 Full Moons wide, and will detect objects more than 40 million times further than can be seen by the naked eye.

America’s Mountain Garden
The Arboretum at Flagstaff is a wondrous place where you can explore several miles of Alpine meadows, cool Ponderosa Pine forests, cultivated gardens and see plants characteristic of this elevation of the Colorado Plateau. At the Arboretum, you can have a bird walk, listen to a summer concert, see wild birds of prey demonstrations. Care to hold a red-tailed hawk or a great-horned owl? Here, you can!

Before you leave Flagstaff, if you’re hankering to experience an authentic, old-West hotel, check out the Weatherford Hotel. Back when Arizona was a territory and vigilantes ruled the dirt streets, John W. Weatherford rode into these parts by horse and buggy with a grand vision for the West. It was on the very first day of the new century that he threw open the doors of his hotel—doors that would ultimately welcome presidents and gunslingers alike to a civilized oasis in the wild, dusty West. Having just undergone 20 years of restoration work, the Weatherford is open again for business and offers a chance to sample the flavor of Flagstaff’s pioneer beginnings.

While there, you’ve got to visit the Zane Grey Room. Here are original stained glass windows, an antique Brunswick bar from Tombstone, wood floors and original wool rugs. This, my friends, is the authentic old West!

If you’re yearning for a Grand Canyon experience, remember that Flagstaff is a relatively short drive away. It’s a good idea to make this city your home base , and do a day trip to the Canyon. But now it’s on to Page!!

Gateway to Canyon Country
Page, Arizona is 120 miles from Flagstaff and an equal distance to the Grand Canyon. Located in the north central part of the state, Page, at an altitude of 3,700 feet, is home to 7,000 residents. Local attractions abound: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the Colorado River Float trip, Village Heritage Center, a PGA professional national golf course.

Let me tell you about just two spectacular, not to be missed wonders: Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell, one of the cleanest, healthiest lakes in the country.

In Antelope Canyon, also known as “Corkscrew Canyon”, you’ll discover one of the most spectacular, yet little known attractions of this area. This, in a word, is sculpture set in stone. It is at once awe-inspiring and just a tiny bit frightening as you stand between its very narrow walls, looking skyward at the sliver of blue that’s visible. Perhaps not such a good idea for the claustrophobic. Otherwise, a joyous, mystical experience. If you want to go, know that it is a site owned and run by the Navajo Nation. They offer Antelope Canyon Tours, in which you enjoy a scenic ride to the canyon where a Native American guide will explain geology and its cultural history.

Magical Mystery Tour
Lake Powel awaits! First, a little history: Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1963, and Lake Powell reached “full pool” in 1980 at 3,700 feet. To give you some idea of its size, the lake is 186 miles long with 96 major side canyons, and the shoreline of Lake Powell, including all its meanderings through the side canyons, is actually greater in length than the California coastline.

The recently completed Antelope Point Resort & Marina offers gourmet dining, a beautiful lounge area, boat rentals, and is the largest floating platform of its type in the world!

How’s this for service? The Marina staff will personally meet you at your vehicle and transport you, bags, gear and all, down to the marina. They will take you to your personal or rental boat, load your belongings and will return you to your vehicle at the end of your Lake Powell experience, all as a complimentary service. If you want the ne plus ultra in luxury, consider renting a houseboat. Picture this: you’re relaxing in a hot tub atop your private houseboat while gliding silently across a lake sparkling like a sheet of blue glass and gazing up at the most astonishing canyons towering above you, all the while, breathing air so clean and fresh you want to take huge gulps of it. Like the picture?

The canyons defy description, but I’ll try: Their colors change in the sun: ochre, sienna, orange, cream, mauve. They look at times like gigantic cathedrals or Balzac sculptures. They are, quite simply, breathtaking. The lake itself alternates between an icy blue, glistening with diamonds refracted by the sun to late afternoon when it is teal turning to inky black.

The Navajos believe Lake Powell must be treated with respect, that it is a hallowed and spiritual place. I think you’ll feel that way too.

If you go:
Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau
Lowell Observatory
The Arboretum at Flagstaff
The Weatherford Hotel
Page Lake Powell Tourism Bureau
Antelope Canyon Tours
Antelope Point Marina
Days Inn & Suites Lake Powell
Lake Powell National Golf Course

Sunday, April 8, 2007


The Life You Save May Be Your Own

By Barbara Barton Sloane

Even One is One Too Many

Four thousand women die of cervical cancer each year, and the major risk factor in developing this cancer is the sexually transmitted disease Human Papillomavirus (HPV). It is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world, and infects about 6.2 million Americans every year. It leads to cervical cancer for more than 10,000 women annually. Alarmingly, only about 40% of women between the ages of 18 and 75 have heard of HPV, and less than 20% understand the link between it and cervical cancer. Even more alarming, some experts downplay the risk of cervical cancer in the U.S., saying ‘only 4,000 women die each year’, but even one death from this disease is one too many. Other possible risk factors for developing cervical cancer are having many sexual partners, oral contraceptive use (the “Pill”) and a weakened immune system. It’s now time to de-mystify this disease. Education is the key.

What is Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the tissue of the cervix. The cervix is the lower end of the uterus – where a fetus develops. There are no noticeable signs of early cervical cancer. The first stages of the diseases usually do not manifest symptoms. It is typically slow spreading, and can take up to 10 years for cancerous cells to invade the cervix. However, vaginal bleeding, unusual vaginal discharge, pelvic pain or pain during intercourse may be symptoms.

Once the cancer is diagnosed, certain factors will determine the prognosis: the type of cervical cancer, the size of the tumor and the stage of the cancer. Treatment options also depend on the stage and size of the cancer, the patient’s desire to have children, and the patient’s age.

Although it may seem as if cervical cancer is the disease du jour, in fact this cancer is not new. For more than 20 years, it has been detected and treated. The reason we’re hearing so much about it today is because of the development of a cervical cancer vaccine – Gardasil – which the FDA approved in June, 2006, and which prevents two HPV strains responsible for 70% of cervical cancer cases. Illinois state senator Debbie Halvorson has introduced a controversial bill to make this vaccine mandatory for girls ages 11 and 12 (ideally, before they are sexually active). However, she is adamant: “This isn’t about sex – this is about cancer.”

The Good News

Most women’s immune systems naturally fight off HPV. Ninety percent of cases clear on their own without treatment. Diagnostic tests now exist to detect this disease in its early stages, so that it can be treated with surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. Happily, women today are more educated about the importance of having yearly exams. According to Nancy Pawl, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women’s Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine: “Having a yearly Pap test is crucial. Over the years, great strides have been made in almost eradicating cervical cancer through early detection.” Dr. Pawl also recommends the HPV vaccine for young, sexually active women. For those taking Gardasil’s 3-shot cycle there is still a need to get a regular Pap test since the vaccine does not protect against all of HPV’s cancer-causing strains. Knowledge is power. Through heightened awareness for the need of yearly testing, cervical cancer can be aggressively fought and cured.

For more information: