November 28, 2015

VORTEX HUNTING IN SEDONA

“God created the Grand Canyon, but he lives in Sedona.”  Anonymous

Carol writes:  Mention the city of Sedona and what comes to mind is something for everyone who likes the outdoors.  Set in the scenic Verde Valley,


outdoor activities abound—biking, hiking, off-roading, ballooning, horseback riding—and Sedona residents embrace it all! 

We were looking forward to two weeks at the Apache-owned Distant Drums RV Resort, where we had an ideal sunny campsite with panoramic views of the distant mountains directly out our windshield.
 
In addition to those who crave the active lifestyle, Sedona also has a worldwide reputation as a destination for those seeking self-awareness, serenity, relaxation, and meditation.  There are several so-called “vortex” sites where these meditative goals are supposedly enhanced.  I must say that in all honesty we never felt we reached the highest states of metaphysical enhancement, but I will say that hiking in the majestic juniper trees and prickly pear cactus of Red Rocks State Park definitely nourished the soul.




A visit to the architectural wonder of the Chapel of the Holy Cross provided its own spiritual lesson, and it wasn’t a difficult one to appreciate.  This was not a great locale for a multi-million dollar ‘Italian Renaissance Mansion of Excess’ at the feet of a simple house of God…



The Sedona area is rich in mining history and this could be appreciated in no better way than with a visit to the historic mining town of Jerome!  Literally carved into the hillside of a mountain at around 7000 ft. elevation, Jerome was quite hilly!


We took a tour of a well-known Jerome landmark—the Douglas Mansion—built by a wealthy mining official. 


Now a museum, we were educated a bit on the mining history of Jerome, where a vast wealth of copper, gold, and silver was dug out of the mountainside.  One of the neatest parts of the mansion’s location was the awesome back-patio view of snow-covered Mt Humphreys some 45 miles in the distance, under clear blue Arizona skies.


At the top of the town, the Jerome Hotel was a natural choice for a lunch spot.


Even the ancient Southern Sinagua civilization knew what modern-day residents of Sedona have come to appreciate—the Verde Valley was, and still is, a near ideal place to call home.  And so it was at Tuzigoot National Monument, where there was more of the ancient archeological ruins that we admire so much.



This settlement of farmers surely appreciated the warm winters and nearby water source of the Verde River.  They sure had fabulous vistas surrounding their strategic hilltop settlement.


Two additional nearby national monuments—Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well—illustrated other aspects of Southern Sinagua life over 8 centuries ago.  Montezuma Castle was a 5-story multi-dwelling complex built high into a cliff face.  With fertile land below and access to a reliable water source at Beaver Creek, it was a good strategic choice for construction of an apartment-like living complex high into a sunny, several-hundred-foot cliff.




Montezuma Well was a surprisingly interesting find.  Until we saw it, we didn’t appreciate the unique geologic nature of this lush limestone sink hole that is still fed by continuously flowing springs that have been feeding this “desert lake” for many centuries. 


It was no surprise to find archaeological remains of cliff houses built into the surrounding limestone walls, in addition to small pit houses along the narrow shore of the lake below.



Fast-forwarding to Arizona’s frontier days...

We made a short but interesting visit to Fort Verde, home to Army scouts and soldiers in the latter decades of the 1800s.  Similar to its contemporaries, Fort Verde was laid out in the style of many of the frontier forts we have visited—that is, a large parade ground in the center which was bordered on all sides with homes and structures essential to Army life of the times. 

Only three historic homes survived the original fort structures; all were furnished in the period of the 1880s. The post doctor performed surgery in his home.


In the Sedona area we discovered two state parks that were well worth visiting.  The first was at:


Discovered in 1877 by a prospector as he stumbled upon this rare natural wonder while he was being chased by Apaches, Tonto Natural Bridge is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world.


The opening was 183 feet high, and our photographic skills were severely taxed to capture its giant perspective.  Those are people dressed in blue and red at the very bottom of the above pic.

On a recommendation from our Las Cruces friend Barb, the other Arizona State Park we visited was the summertime playground at Slide Rock State Park.
 

The summertime thrill is to ride the rapids by sliding the slippery rocks of Oak Creek from pool to pool along its course.  I say “summertime thrill” because those waters were frigid and literally breath-sapping in November.  However, that didn’t stop a very few brave souls from trying…



I’m showing pictures of other people riding these rapids because
we aren’t crazy; we wisely left our bathing suits in the car.

On one of our last days in Sedona we hiked a canyon trail that was billed as one of the favorite hikes of the locals.  The trail led into Boynton Canyon and passed very near one of those famous vortex locations (still not sensing any vortex vibes for me…),



to a sweet lunch spot a couple of miles into the canyon.


And finally…one day Al took a hike by himself up at Doe Mountain, while I got in a day of sewing.  

He found incredible iconic Sedona red rock formations


and mastered a neat selfie at the top!


Wow…our two weeks in Sedona was as busy and delightful as we hoped it would be.  We didn’t quite get sucked into doing yoga on a vortex, but what we discovered in Sedona was nourishing to our spirit.

We are beginning to love late Fall in the desert, especially when there is a hot tub awaiting us at the end of a long day.


“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.”  Danny Kaye 

November 4, 2015

GETTIN' OUR KICKS ON ROUTE 66

“We cannot change the direction of the wind, but we sure can change the direction of our sails.”  Michelle Lorusso

Carol writes:  After spending three long months in San Antonio, we were eager to get back on the road again.  Our summer had been nearly rainless, so it seemed somewhat strange to be leaving on a socked-in rainy day.  As it turned out, we got out of San Antonio  just in time and, thankfully, escaped widespread flooding that occurred over the next several days throughout the state of Texas. 

Driving west against the trade winds, we spent our first night in Abilene,  then on to Clovis, New Mexico, for a last minute check-in with our daughter.  When we got back on the road, we headed toward Albuquerque and hooked up with historic Route 66.  Commissioned in 1926 as a major highway between Chicago and Los Angeles, historic Route 66 quickly became one of the most revered, beloved and sought out roads in America. 


Baby boomers will certainly remember the 1960s popular TV show “Route 66,” with Martin Milner and his Chevy Corvette convertible…  

SKY CITY

Our first stop for the night on Route 66 was at a casino campground at Sky City.  For a well-balanced life, we always like to mix in some vices with the bountiful dose of Nature that we enjoy in our full-time lifestyle.  Typically, I have found that Native American casinos  have “friendly” penny slots…and so it was at Sky City! 





Let’s just say that for two low-stakes penny slot players our evening at Sky City was a very memorable one…






GALLUP, NEW MEXICO

We had covered lot of miles since leaving San Antonio, and now we looked forward to slowing down for a few days in Gallup, New Mexico.




In the Gallup vicinity, we wanted to check out another of our nation’s National Monuments—El Morro.  We had one of those perfect fall days for a hike to the top of 200-ft high El Morro.  

We didn’t do a whole lot of research ahead of time on what there was to see at El Morro, so it came as a pleasant surprise to find that part of El Morro’s historic claim to fame included the archeological remains of an ancient pueblo on top which dated back to 1275.
 
El Morro is also the site of a well-known fresh-water pool

that for centuries was a welcome water source for the pueblo inhabitants and later for Spanish colonizers and American Army explorers who camped for the night and left carvings of their signatures with dated messages along the smooth sandstone walls at the base of the cliff. 



Surprisingly, the precise identity is known of many individuals whose signatures and messages are preserved at El Morro.  The most famous is Don Juan OƱate, founder of the first permanent colony in New Mexico.


The penmanship of some of the signatures and messages carved in stone was extraordinary.


The hike along the hard white rock layer at the top was a lot of fun!

……A picture-perfect day for hiking, remnants of the homes of Ancient Puebloans, historic rock carvings and messages—all made for an interesting discovery at El Morro.

WINDOW ROCK, CAPITAL OF THE NAVAJO NATION

I confess to being an unapologetic fan of Tony Hillerman novels.  His books, which are set in the Four Corners area of Arizona and New Mexico, have a heavy dose of Navajo culture and traditions through the eyes of an endearing set of characters that work for the police department of the Navajo Nation.  Since our campground in Gallup was only a short ride from Window Rock, capital of the Navajo Nation which is featured prominently as the locale in many of Hillerman’s novels, we decided to check it out.  Our first stop was the Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park, where the famous rock window was front and center…


and the role of the Navajo Code Talkers during WW II was proudly memorialized.

Working with WW II military intelligence, the Navajo Code Talkers developed encryption methods and code based on the somewhat obscure Navajo language.  Their code was never broken during the entire war, and they were instrumental in victories throughout the Pacific Theater.

The artwork and historical displays in the nearby Navajo Museum were wonderfully presented.  I learned about the story of Hweeldi’ and it left me deeply saddened.  This tragic historical event recounts the incredibly cruel relocation and enslavement of Navajo people at Fort Sumner, also known as Bosque Redondo.  The 300-mile forced walk and subsequent inhuman enslavement over the next four years resulted in a devastating loss of life for the Navajo.  On a positive note, it was interesting to read of the role of Chief Manuelito in securing the eventual return of the Navajo ancestral lands back to his people.  Now I know why Tony Hillerman used the name ‘Manuelito’ as the last name of his main character Navajo policewoman—he certainly knew his Navajo history.

While in Window Rock, we drove by many of the Navajo Nation administrative offices, including  the police station.  It’s nice to  have a more accurate visual of where Tony Hillerman’s  Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn work!  Hillerman fans will understand…

HOLBROOK, ARIZONA

It felt good to enter Arizona, our winter home for the next several weeks.  Our first stop was in Holbrook for three days, with the intention of taking a look around our first national park since we left Colorado.  We had visited Petrified Forest National Park many years ago when we were traveling full-time in 1989 with our children.  We both remembered that back then we had only a few hours to look around the park, and then we spent the rest of the day celebrating our son Jason’s 10th birthday.  We had a family dinner with birthday cake and presents in the trailer, with the incredibly beautiful Painted Desert as our backdrop.  A fond memory… 
 
This time we thought we would take a little more time to look around…


The Petrified Forest is a treasure trove of prehistoric Triassic Period forests which have fossilized into petrified wood over 225 million years.  The National Park itself is a small part of the incredible  Painted Desert which stretches in a huge swath from the Utah border into northern Arizona.

There were lots of stops where visitors could view the Painted Desert, and each pullout was more spectacular than the last.  With the setting sun to our backs, the colors were at their best.




























A rusty ’32 Studebaker sat on a section of old Route 66 where it used to pass through the park.  






Neat picture opportunities for sure...








The 26-mile road through the southern part of the park had great opportunities for viewing and hiking through spectacular examples of petrified logs strewn across the landscape.



Agate House trail led to a 7-room pueblo reconstructed of petrified wood.


The Crystal Forest trail had the best examples of crystalized logs.

Puerco Pueblo had ruins of Ancestral Puebloan homes that were occupied in the 13th century, in addition to an interesting display of ancient petroglyphs.




We were quite pleased with the opportunity to spend a day and a half in Petrified Forest National Park.  It felt good to stretch our legs and do some great hiking through such an incredible landscape.

We sure enjoyed our stops along historic Route 66, but now that the calendar has flipped over to November it is time to head south to lower elevations in the Sedona area for a couple of weeks.  What will it be like to have a winter with no snow?


“Winter is coming.”  George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones