Friday, June 04, 2010
Serendipity in traveling
Time in Arizona was covered in my link to the previous blog where I kept a brief journal of activities and thinking while there. Because of having to leave the house in condition suitable for a renter to arrive, we didn't leave particularly early on Thursday the 2oth. At that point, we were still uncertain what route we would take. There were reports of possible snow in northern Nevada and southern Oregon which had been our planned route. The only thing definite was feeling we should be home before the 25th.
It was really only after driving through Phoenix that we decided to spend our first night in Sedona. The idea was we could then drive out to Palatki and Honanki Ruins which are Sinagua (one-time residents of northern Arizona) cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.
We called ahead to get reservations at a reasonably priced older motel we particularly like that overlooks Oak Creek Canyon with a small balcony, views of the red rock, and the sounds from the creek below. We stopped at the first ranger station to be sure our National Park senior passes would be sufficient to get us into any parking areas and learned it now required reservations to visit Palatki. The more people use something, the more use has to be limited. Once again the cell phone proved its worth as we reserved a time we could make-- if we put off eating lunch.
Palataki was once again a pleasurable time made even better at seeing the waxing moon above the red bluffs. Afterward we drove out to Honanki (rough road suggesting limited to vehicles with good clearance) also which again had petroglyphs and the remains of Sinagua cliff dwellings.
On our way back to Sedona, we stopped for another photo op at a small water tank where the reflections of the red rock bluffs were interesting with only a mallard duck as current resident.
I wouldn't mention our eating dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Sedona except for the surprise of seeing an older gentleman there who had joked with us at both the ruins by asking if we had seen any Indians. At the restaurant he didn't see us and was still by himself. It made me wonder though about why he was alone, few are. He didn't look like the kind of man who had always been alone. I thought how important it is that people do such things even if they don't have family or friend to do it with them. I admired that he had.
We drove north the next morning up through Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff which we basically drove straight through before turning onto a loop drive past Sunset Crater to Wupatki National Monument where there are four different ruins open to the public with easy walks into them (Wukoki, Wupatki, Citadel and Lomaki).
The photography gift there was being able to incorporate into many of the photos the San Francisco Peaks with snow on them. These mountains are where the Hopis believe the Kachinas spend half the year (they would return there during the summer). These peaks are considered sacred to most of the native peoples of the region today and probably were when the Sinagua walked the land.
When we again turned north, we were still unsure where we'd spend that night; but being in the red rock country had inspired us and we decided it should be at or near Bryce Canyon National Park. We had a AAA Tour book and used it to find a motel. Cell phone again came through (how did we manage before them?) as we found one with a room still available, a bit removed from the 'village' itself which ended up being something I very much liked as I had had no idea how bustling it would be near the gates to the park.
After we checked into that family owned and run motel, we drove into the park hoping to get photos before the sun was too far below the trees to make good color. Although I am generally not a sightseeing type person, I was very impressed by Bryce. Where the Grand Canyon suggests timelessness and vastness, Bryce seemed more about transitions, strangely enough intimacy, and seemed almost touchable although it has vast depths and many warnings about being careful near the edges of the cliffs.
I don't do well with heights and a few places I felt very uncomfortable. Especially one where Farm Boss stayed behind with the camera and I walked a broad path back to the main viewpoint. The sidewalk followed a crest and I felt like the wind was trying to blow me off the side. Silly as it was, there really was no risk but there also was no guardrail. the feeling of near panic was real for me. Farm Boss has no such height problems which also makes me uneasy when I see him or anybody acting cavalierly when I can see how far down it is.
The most exciting thing for me that evening was the ravens at the last viewpoints along the canyon. They weren't afraid of people-- not at all. I had never seen wild ravens this close and assume that someone had spent some time teaching them and then they taught their families that humans are easy marks. I always notice ravens wherever I go; so this was a treat to get these kind of photos.
The next morning we drove back to the park for morning light before heading north for the long drive to midway up the state of Nevada. In southern Utah the trees were just beginning to leaf out which meant it had had a late spring. With a still vigorous wind (the day before that meant 40 mph), the air seemed colder than the high 60s temperatures would indicate.
I was thinking a lot as we drove north regarding a book I had bought at a store at Bryce about hiking the Paria River country and some of its history. Years ago I had read a romance based around what had happened in 1857 to the Fancher Train, a large, prosperous wagon train where 120 people, all the men, women and children over a certain age, were massacred at Mountain Meadows by Mormons and Paiutes (believe it or not on September 11th).
Besides explaining possible hikes, the book had more of the story of John D. Lee who was one of the Mormon leaders who was eventually executed for the killings although many think he took the fall for Brigham Young who may have ordered the attacks but it could never be proven given the loyalty of Lee.
In reading about Lee, one of his 19 wives particularly interested me. Rachel Woolsey Lee had come out from Kentucky with him. Lee had married her older sister (among others), then her and the girls' aged widowed mother, and later one of Rachel's younger sisters. Rachel, who was his 6th wife, followed him into the wilderness, lived through his years of being on the run, and stuck with him to the end. After he had been executed, she moved down to the Mogollon Rim country of Arizona with one of her sons and is buried near Safford, Arizona.
The whole idea of polygamy and how these women get along within it, their lives, especially hers so often in the wilderness, that interested me. In the case of Rachel, a pool up in the Paria River country is named for her because Lee built a home up there for her and I think one other wife. Lee tended to have his wives in different homes and some did leave him. Some like Rachel's mother were likely wives in name only.
Southern Utah always leaves me wanting to spend longer even though I think it still would not be easy to live there for a non-Mormon-- not because it's dangerous but because it's isolated and the communities are all based around Mormonism, which is a very tight religious community. I definitely would like to come back for a few weeks. Maybe several days at that house out of Moab back in the canyon country along with other vacation home rentals that would let us experience the land more closely than a motel-- that is if we didn't camp.
Saturday night was in a motel along the freeway 2/3 of the way up Nevada. It was cold and everybody was talking about how much colder it was than usual. As we drove north the next morning toward the Oregon border, we saw snow all along the road but not on its surface. Looking toward the rugged snow covered hills, I got some interesting photos from the window of the moving truck. At one point the snow was falling pretty heavily on the road, but the surface stayed clear.
Again we decided on the spur of the moment to check out John Day, Oregon at this time of the year; so we kept driving north from Burns, through John Day (one of the warmest places we experienced since leaving southern Utah) planning to spend our last night in Sisters which is right on the edge of the Cascade Mountains.
All in all we had four nights of serendipity with three different sets of experiences. We joked that we were having a Griswald family vacation like the Chevy Chase movies (which I haven't seen so hope I got the name right) but it really wasn't exactly like that. Although we were doing a lot of driving, each time we stopped for those three experiences, the Sinagua ruins and at one of nature's wonders, we were there and we didn't rush the experience of being. (to be continued)
The photos are from Sinagua country and Bryce with more to come in a Picasa folder for each. It's hard to cut everything down to just a few (hundred) but too many and a person's eyes glaze over. We really did get some beautiful and I think intimate photos of the red rock country of northern Arizona and southern Utah.