Northeast Arizona And Southeast Utah

I have failed to keep the main blog up to date.  So this is a “catch-up” blog entry, a bit out of order, to bring you up to date on all of our happenings in Northeast Arizona And Southeast Utah leading up to the previous Colorado blog entry.  Now that we have that squared away…

We didn’t end up leaving Phoenix quite as early as we expected to because we had to make a couple of architectural stops.  Teresa, being the architect that she is, had to stop at Taliesin West to check out Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio and school in Scottsdale.  We ended up paying for a tour of the grounds, and got to see some of the buildings.  It was impressive, but as Teresa’s blog entry points out, he contradicts himself in his work quite frequently.

Our next stop, was also an architecture related stop:  Arcosanti, the project of Paolo Solari.  Solari studied under Frank Lloyd Wright, but left after 18 months or so.  I originally discovered Arcosanti because it was listed in the Intentional Community directory a number of years ago, but as we discovered on a tour, it is not an intentional community.  We discovered that the so called community is always in transition, and therefore, isn’t a permanent community.  It is host to an internship program where you can learn about the construction techniques and art projects that continue at Arcosanti.  One of the more unique construction methods was to build a huge mound of dirt, pour concrete over it, then excavate the dirt.  The architecture was neat, but the results, in my humble opinion, were less than stellar.  For example, they talked about efficency, but they used single pane windows on some of the structures.  Still, it was neat to see the artistic aspect of Arcosanti.

Before heading to Sedona AZ, we spent a few minutes at Montezuma’s Castle, which was neither a castle, nor a home to Montezuma at any point in its history.  It was a pretty spectacular 5 story high cliff dwelling which you can view from afar.

Upon arriving in Sedona, I was horrified at the amount of development that has occurred there.  When I visited 8 years ago, it was still a fairly small town, known as the hub of the New Age movement..  While there are still a few remnants of the new age, this town has busted at the seams with overpriced art shops, time share condos for sale, and tons of other tourist crap.  If you ignore the kitsch aspect of the town, the crowds of tourists, and overdevelopment, Sedona is still a interesting place to hike around, and there are tons of places to explore.  Although Teresa’s knee started bothering her, I managed to complete a hike/scramble up to Cathedral Rock with some outstanding views.  The following day, we checked out the Sinagua Indian (translates literally from Spanish, “without water”) Honanki and Palatki Pueblo Ruins and left for more appealing areas.

I decided it would be a neat idea to attempt to summit Arizona’s Mt. Humphrey, at 12,633 ft.  I figured we just hiked out of the Grand Canyon a week ago, so we should be in pretty good shape to summit.  I was wrong.  After spending an evening checking out Flagstaff, a pretty cool little college town, we camped out near the Arizona Snowbowl.  Unfortunately, we got a fairly late start the next morning (about 10am).  We set a turn around time at 3pm just to make sure we’d return with plenty of sun left to get back to the car.  We got to tree line and reached a saddle at about 12,000 ft.  At this point, Teresa started really feeling the altitude.  She felt like she had lead in her legs.  I went ahead to see if I could reach the summit by 3pm.  I was pretty darn close, but when 3pm approached, I decided to turn around, with summit in sight!  I met back up with Teresa and we headed down.  It was strange… as we headed down, I started feeling worse and Teresa started feeling better.  I think I was simply experiencing exhaustion.  (My bladder kept telling me it certainly wasn’t dehydration.)

After a good nights sleep, we headed out to visit Wupatki, Sunset Crater, and Walnut Canyon which had some interesting ancient Indian ruins, including Wupatki pueblo which had an Aztec ball court.  They sure had some incredible trading networks!

After leaving the Flagstaff area, we hit Homolovi Ruins State Park which just outside of Winslow, Arizona.  Homolovi itself was unremarkable as it was mainly just an archeological site.  At one point, it was excavated, but it was filled back in to preserve the structures.  There were a number of pottery shards on the ground.

Winslow, on the other hand, would just be your standard desert ranching town… except for the fact that Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey (of the Eagles) made the town famous in the lyrics of Take It Easy, the Eagle’s first hit song back in the 1970s.  After visiting “Standin’ on the Corner” Park, we were told that Jackson Browne was actually the one to stand on the corner and start writing the song.  Glen Frey picked it up, helped finish it, and bam… the Eagles had their first hit song.  We also walked around another Mary Colter work, La Posada.  (See Teresa’s Daily Diary for more details.)

We continued heading East and North, stopping at Petrified Forest in the Painted Desert.  Petrified Forest is known for its petrified wood which forms when microscopic crystalline mineral structures replace the actual wood as it decays.  Very specific circumstances are required to produce petrified wood, but Petrified Forest has hundreds of specimens.  Millions of years ago, Arizona was apparently much wetter.  In addition, there were some decent views of badlands and the painted desert.  Unfortunately, I think we were getting jaded at this point in the trip… perhaps too jaded to really enjoy the views in Petrified Forest.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument sits in Navajo Nation lands.  The National Park Service and the Navajo Nation work together to manage the land.  My last time in Canyon de Chelly was not a good experience.  I was accosted by a somewhat drunk Navajo who wanted me to hire him as a guide into the canyon.  I also found the constant flow of peddlers annoying.  This time, with an artist by my side, we did enjoy looking at some of the local artwork and handiwork.  We also decided to go splurge on a tour of the canyon, which was an interesting experience.  It was a bit overpriced and impersonal, but being on a budget, it was the cheapest way to see the canyon.  The funny part is that we ended up changing trucks three times before we embarked on the journey into the canyon.  The first truck wasn’t big enough for our group.  All 23 of us got out and loaded into the second truck.  As we headed off in the second truck, our driver found out over the radio that the front axle was bad.  All 23 of us got out again and loaded onto the third and final truck to go see the canyon.  The canyon is indeed beautiful, and sports some incredible pueblo ruins and petroglyphs/pictographs.  The stories of the Navajo people were also relayed to us during the tour.  Overall, it was a nice experience.

On the way out of the Navajo lands, we stopped to find the Mexican Hat and drive the Moki Dugway, where we ran into about 20 German motorcyclists with an RV support vehicle… sounds like a cool trip!

At this point in the trip, we were hoping to cut out nearly 75 miles of driving by taking the Bullfrog Ferry across Lake Powell / Glen Canyon.  It would also be the first ferry trip for Big Red, our truck.  Unfortunately, it was not to be.  Due to mechanical problems AND personnel problems, the ferry was not running, and we had to drive around Lake Powell.  Ick.  Anyhow, I had recalled, from my previous trip, that the drive up Burr Trail was some of the most stunning scenery I had ever seen in the desert Southwest.  Thank the maker for plate tectonics!  As the centerpiece of Capitol Reef National Park, the waterpocket fold is an uplifted area where the earth buckled upwards under pressure, pushing various layers of sedimentary rock ever higher.  Eventually, cracks started to form, and over millions of years, eroded to form the most surreal of landscapes.  The resulting stunning scenery probably makes Capitol Reef National Park my favorite desert park.  Teresa and I entered the park on the Burr Trail which is actually a pretty decent gravel road.  With our high clearance, we did a side trip to the Brimhall Arch overlook which provides stunning views of the waterpocket fold.

As we were kicking back getting ready to dinner, a gentleman drove up the road, which, in this desolate country, is a rare occurrence.  Turned out to be a really nice guy and we spent the evening chatting and having a few drinks (ok… maybe more than a few) with Dick, a realtor from Salt Lake City, and discussed how wonderful it is to be in the world’s most remote places.  He explained to us that the waterpocket fold has a sibling known as the San Rafael swell, just a few hours to the Northeast.  We bid Dick farewell the next morning, while Teresa and I headed off to hike out to Brimhall Arch.  I hiked out to Brimhall Arch on my former driveabout.  The hike is now more difficult than I recall… which, given the occurrence of occasional flash floods, is definitely possible.  Take the scene from my earlier hike (ignoring the former girlfriend), and then compare to the recent scene.

Kinda hard to see, but there seems to be a lot less sediment than before!  I don’t know… maybe I’m just getting older.  Anyhow, I did manage, barely, to get up over that rock, but Teresa wasn’t so lucky.  She waited for me while I wandered up to get a better view of Brimhall Arch.  In addition, Teresa slid down a rock embankment tearing up her brand new REI convertible shorts.  And the best part, we caught it on video!  We’ll definitely put that in a future podcast!

Next, it was on to Capitol Reef’s historic district in Fruita where the park maintains fruit orchards left over from a Mormon Settlement.  Unfortunately, we were too early to catch any ripe fruit, and we were running out of time to meet my parents in Utah, so we headed out of the park.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were about to visit more bizarre desert scenery up against the aforementioned San Rafael swell:  Goblin Valley.  The weather here has eroded the rocks into bizarre mushroom or goblin shapes.  Some of them looked like my nose (IE big!)

Our last stop on this jaunt was Moab, UT where we met my parents for some gorgeous desert scenery.  I think Moab area has some of the most impressive scenery in the world.  Moab originally was known for its world class mountain biking.  But after mountain biking there a number of years ago, I would have to disagree.  The biking in Moab is on one of two types of surfaces:  slickrock and sand.  And slickrock is a misnomer because your tires stick to it like glue.  When biking on trails near Atlanta, you have rock, sand, shale, mud, gravel, tree roots, etc… far more challenging in my opinion.  But nonetheless, slickrock is unique in its uniformity, and it is fun to ride on… so long as you don’t fall.  Anyhow, people have discovered that Moab is also a great place for four-wheeling, river rafting, base jumping, etc… It is literally being loved to death.  We found out, when we arrived, that the dispersed BLM camping is disallowed anywhere near Moab.  In other words, due to health reasons from overuse, they’ve had to close off all free camping near Moab.  The BLM has set up a number of campgrounds around the area that are fairly cheap, but many of them were full.

My mom was nursing a bad back, so long hikes were out.  Nonetheless, we did get out and see all the major sites nearby, including Dead Horse State Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park.

As you can see, Moab is truly filled with spectacular scenery based on some awesome exposed geology.

Anyhow, arriving in late May, things were very hot in Moab.  Unfortunately, my parents, being on vacation, weren’t in the “get up early” kind of mood.  We arrived at our destinations around 10 or 11am, so by the time we got out, temperatures were above 90 degrees.  We all tired of this rather quickly.  Only being four hours from their house in Edwards, we decided to head for higher elevations and end the Moab trip early.  They agreed, the scenery was outstanding, and they do want to return sometime in a more agreeable season.  Oh well… what’s that quote?  “The best laid plans of mice and men…”

So our final stop, ending our 5 months of travel, was Edwards, Colorado where we would relax for the next month and find our future home.  See former blog entry for details!

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