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Day 12 :: October 03, 2004: 07:52 PM

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004
Day Twelve

We began the day in our little Mormon motel, getting up early in the rain, taking an English muffin from the breakfast area but heading over the road for an espresso – even little Blanding had an Indian gift store with lattes.

The storm or rains had wiped out all credit card and ATM functions in the area which was a little problem as I had not realized Mike had as little cash as I had. We ,managed to get the coffees and set off. (The free stuff at the hotel was just too nasty to rink but then I was surprised Mormons would serve it. Mike’s comment was: “ that stuff bear so little resemblance to coffee even Mormons could drink it.”)

In Bluff 12 miles south of Blanding, we stopped take a photo of the Navajo Twins rock formations and read the historical markers. This town, too, was founded by Mormon pioneers in 1880. One of their log homes, actually three homes converted into one by the leading family, remains there to this day. Beside the4 village has re-constructed the meeting house of the time that served as worship space, fellowship hall and anything else needed it would seem.

Five miles south of Blanding, and listed as b being in a campground at Sand River Valley, though this was not exactly the came, I ha found reference to a wall with petroglyphs with the famous drawing of Kokapelli, the little dancing, flute playing figure with the spiky head. We clambered around a while before locating the figures though once we found one, we found others quickly. There were scores of drawings. The rain stopped for our walk along the cliff base and the sun tried to shine through a layer of cloud.

Back in the car, the rain resumed. The scenery was imposing, huge cliffs, strange shapes and moody under the dark sky and very low clouds and rain. The rain had formed deep red puddles on the fields sometimes in an area with still visible cracks in the recently dried out surface. The rivers and streams were thick and red, full of clay and sand. The mesas were particularly impressive surrounded as they were by low cloud almost to the base. The red rock, so receptive to low sunlight , looked surprisingly impressive a bold in the gray day around them. In the mist the looming shape looked like castles with fortifications or oriental temples on hills! As we approached Valley of the Gods, layer upon layer of them came into sight through the mist.

As we approached Mexican Hat in sixthly improved weather we saw the rock that gave the village its name. We were hoping this might be a sizable place as we had seen no habitation, signs of human involvement in the landscape for some 40 miles. Mexican Hat was tiny, a couple of motels, a couple of filling stations, a café and gift shop and about 6 homes. At the Shell gas station we managed to get cash from their ATM and of we set again – we did not get gas which was $2.27 a gallon, but nowhere is a whole lot less.

17 miles before Monument Valley we entered Navajo lands. Monument Valley is famous for all the movies that have been shot there – john Ford liked to film westerns there and the area has been sued for numerous commercials it seems. Of course neither Mike nor I had even heard of most of the movies and never seen any of them but there was a vague familiarity in the shapes, strills seen through low cloud, so it must come from those times when I could not avoid seeing part of the imported Western TV shows at homes I was visiting as a child. We did not watch them my home, nor Mike’s. In fact, when I saw parts fo them they always upset me: I rooted for the Indians! Presumably this was because of or the reason for my dislike of guns as I did not see guns anywhere else. Not until the first Gulf War did I see an English poluceman with a gun and even today British street patrolmen do not bear firearms.

Just after entering the Valley we entered Arizona. Utah bade us return and Arizona bade us welcome. As the sun broke through we realized we had not noticed that we had passed the 4000 miles of our trip as we had reached the valley. The land was surprise; I expected it to be sandy, so that galloping horses could kick up sand as they rode the valley bottom but the valley was filled much the same scrubby little desert plants as we had seen before except that here and there was some quite bright green and yellow and even green fields. The road was beautifully smooth and we were almost alone on it. I cannot imagine what it must be like in peak season.

We stopped in the township of Kayenta to look in a Radio Shack inside an Indian store and then to get lunch - a small, whole roasted chicken from the supermarket , which even so, was too big for us. We took the meat off the bones and fed it to the dogs roaming the parking lot, who approached a tour bus that stopped and everyone who ventured into MacDonald’s, looking hopeful. Mike was less fortunate – no espresso to be found anywhere.

We headed off again with nasty gray clouds in front of us and eventually to our left, the whole journey we watched lightning shooting from this storm to the ground. Occasionally, we would get a few drops of rain but mostly it just passed by beside us leaving us unscathed. By the time we got to Tuba City and our turn onto the 89S the sky was intermittently blue and the clouds a little higher. Everywhere along these roads until the part entrance there were Indian trading areas, sometimes spaces for a whole market (though few were selling on such a bad day) and also individuals selling from their vans at the roadside.

It is a long road up to the Grand Canyon National Park. We saw the Little Colorado River Canyon to our right and just after that, the skies became darker, and eventually huge stormy raindrops began hitting the car. We entered the park with huge hailstones crashing into the windshield and bouncing off the hood making little heaps by the roadside! Yet by the time we had traveled the 35 miles to the campsite we had sun and white clouds and we put up the tent in very pleasant conditions.

We went down to the rim to see our first glance of the canyon at what we thought was about 6 pm and was actually 5pm. Arizona is indeed on Mountain Time. Utah is on Mountain Time so we did not think we should change watches…but Arizona is on Standard Mountain Time (does not have summer daylight saving time) with the exception of Navajo land which does. So, somewhere as we climbed up into the Park and we left Indian land for park land the clocks shifted another hour, now three hours behind the east coast. So the sun is now setting around 6pm as it was in the east coast (in between sunset had moved to after 7pm) The Park Ranger I asked was as confused by it all as me.

We caught a glimpse of sunset on the Canyon and headed back to the Market Plaza to look around and then to the tent, with a trunk-load of wood for a hearty campfire we thought we were going to need – and we did!

This park has amazing visitor services. Quite obviously it is geared for many more tourists than are here right now. The Visitor Center is a huge complex that includes an area for the station and rails of a high speed rail service some time in the future. The Market Plaza ( there is another for the other camping area at Desert View, they have a gas station at their’s) has a large supermarket and camping needs store, gift shop,Post Office, BankOne bank, several restaurants and stops for the shuttle buses as much of the park is no longer open to private vehicles .. you ride the bus or hike, but a lot of the trails as well as the buses are handicapped accessible. And yes, they have espresso (Mike was so pleased).

We bought chicken to make a curry and some Tadcaster Oatmeal Stout from North Yorkshire at the supermarket. The prices were better than we expected, given we are captive consumers and went to the site to eat, enjoy the fire, me to type this and to try and stay warm till morning!

Mike had an interesting experience in the men’s room!

He was in there, just washing his hands when there was knock on the outer door. He had noticed a “foody” smell and thought no more about it. Every RV site in the place was filled and there quite a few of us in tents…the knock again. He opened it and a woman looked very surprised and suggested she was expecting to see someone other than Mike and shouted: ‘Jason! Jason! Let me have a taste of that salmon!” Out of the handicapped stall comes a guy with some foil in his hands and in it some blackened salmon. The two of them then filled the doorway eating the fish so Mike had a job to get past them….other peoples’ lives…I have so many questions and theories…

The storm we had been watching on the north rim of the canyon as the sun set eventually made its way over us at about 9:30pm. We had watched the lightning all evening, eventually the moon was obscured and the storm rolled in. Some of the strikes seemed pretty close. We watched from the car and after it passed by (an hour later) we went back to our still blazing fire, got warm and went to bed.

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