4 CORNERS OF THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST – part 2
4 CORNERS OF THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST – part 2
Comes the morning, and after taking advantage of the truckstop’s facilities, coffee, and food, we made our way to Hwy 191 and turned south to The Canyonlands and The Arches.
In The Canyonlands, more high desert mesas fall away to a landscape of colorful mazes and land islands and needles and jaw dropping panoramic vistas. Dead Horse Point was the highlight for me. The confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers deep within the park and accessible only by raft, is in The Canyonlands.
We headed toward the city of Moab a few miles south and camped on the Colorado River, positioning ourselves for The Arches the next day.
We spent most of the day hiking some of the trails amongst the massive blocks of sandstone, tall pinnacles, balanced rocks, arches, and slot canyons. And like all of these primitive expanses, the silence was exhilarating. Perhaps, the “Om” of creation. At times I was certain I could hear my heartbeat.
And like all the Parks and Monuments we visited, there was not enough time to see it all.
Continuing south through Moab and past natural bridges in the rock formations we made it to Newspaper Rock, where we stopped for the night. It is one of the largest known displays of petroglyphs – drawings of men, animals, symbols, and events – of the various tribes of Indians that inhabited the area, through both prehistoric, and historic times.
We were fortunate, that being early in the tourist season, there were few tourists. We had The Rock to ourselves. And the ants. We ended up sleeping on a picnic table to escape them.
A few miles south to Monticello, we turned east and entered Colorado on the way to the Mesa Verde Nat’l Park.
INTO COLORADO AND NEW MEXICO
Just across the state line we ran through a swarm of bees. With Shino behind me, she wasn’t hit, but I was peppered. We pulled over and picked them off my face and chest and out of my hair. But not one sting. They were either stunned or dead by the impact. My fingers were sticky, and tasted sweet. Honey bees.
There are hundreds of archeological cliff dwellings and sites in the Mesa Verde area. The natives moved from a nomadic life style on the mesa and in the canyons to these semi-permanent dwellings on the cliffs. They also offered protection from enemies, as ladders and footholds carved into the rock were easily controlled.
Still, it had to be a precarious way of life as there was little room for error as they navigated up and down to eke out a living hunting, gathering, and farming the mesa tops. There were storehouses for grain and cisterns for water. They could be self-sustaining for long periods of time. A highly evolved culture of trade, agriculture, and architecture ensued.
Cliff Palace is a large adobe cliff dwelling built into and onto the face of a sheer rock wall alcove. Facing south, it received sun in the winter, while offering shade in the summer. It was the social center of the area and with its numerous round-walled kivas, it received high ceremonial usage.
Sustained droughts during the 1200s drove these tribes out of the region, and they assimilated into surrounding cultures, effectively bringing this period of history to its end.
We continued on to Durango, and turned south to Aztec, New Mexico, where we bedded down beside another well-preserved ruins. This was the half-way point on our trip.
We turned west through Farmington, and Shiprock, to the 4 Corners and the landmark monument where you can step from one state to another. It has since been discovered that the real geographic location is several miles to the east. Hooray for technological advancements.
BACK INTO UTAH
We met some locals who worked for the state of Utah and they let us stay for the night at their work-site. The first shower in days, and a bed was welcomed. We departed the next afternoon after exploring a small colony of cliff dwellings above the San Juan River, a major contributor to the Colorado. Among the ruins we found miniature corn cobs amid broken shards of pottery.
We followed the San Juan back into southeast Utah to the towns of Bluff and Mexican Hat where we camped on the bank of the river. In the deep quiet of the night, with the river running high and swift, you could hear the sands bars below shifting in the current. A low thunder would sound, and an accompanying tremor would shake the ground.
Up early, we took the 17-mile drive on the dirt road through the Valley of the Gods. It took most of the morning as we took our time. It was one of the trip highlights. The scale of us on the motorcycle amid the other-worldly mountains and spires left its mark. We felt honored to experience it.
Then, the Goosenecks State Park, high above the San Juan River. Wow!
And onwards to Arizona and Monument Valley, home to the Navaho and Hopi Indians. Again, the scale of it – stark, bleak, primordial. Words were failing me but what came to mind constantly was “deeply spiritual,” deeply felt but hard to grasp. Was this feeling the takeaway of our trip?? We slept that night below the Monuments, with the “Ancients”.
We continued on through the tribal lands to the town of Page, and the Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell.
We motored down the lake side of the dam to the shoreline for a swim. Lake Powell, created by the dam, fills a deep canyon. There was no sand, just rock that sloped into the water. You could wade out into the water waist-deep, then step off of what was once a cliff, into water maybe hundreds of feet deep. It was an odd sensation. And Shino, with her new swimming skills, was swimming in the canyon, in deep water, just a stroke away from sure footing.
It was similar to being in a tower that has built, as an attraction, a glass floor section to view the ground below. It is dizzying, and tricks the senses. It takes a bit of “Wide-Eyed-Oh Boy-Is This Real?!-Here We Go!” to take that step out onto the glass. Like standing in midair, hovering, birdlike. There is now a Skywalk on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
We headed west alongside the Vermillion Cliffs Nat’l Monument with its cliffs, plateaus, buttes, canyons, and amazing swirls of color. Like the other Parks, more time is needed, and wanted, to properly take it in.
We stopped for the night in a forest service campground near Jacob’s Lake. On the morrow, we would head for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We had just dozed off when into the campground came a large RV. In the whole large empty campground, it pulled in right next to us. I thought it was just odd.
Up early, and instead of enjoying the quiet, and not wanting to stop myself, I started up my bike and let it run while we had our coffee. “Good Mornin’, RV!”
Image by Cristian Grigore from Pexels
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