The winter wonderland of the Grand Canyon had not disappeared when we drew back the curtains this morning and the icicles which had formed on the edges of buildings now only added to the feel of the area. I did not sleep well, which I mistakenly put down to a mix of Jamesons and Miller rather than the fact that we are at altitude. It is quite a weird sensation and you certainly feel the effects when you do any sort of activity. Walking down to the café where we ate had several of the party short of breath and the ice on the ground just made it more challenging; we had “one piper down” when one man went for a skate over a kerb. Thankfully he is still with us.
The South Rim of the Canyon is approximately 7400 feet above sea level and as we left our accommodation we drove along the rim to give us one last look at the canyon. It is amazing how times of the day shape how it looks like; we saw it at morning, noon and sunset and all were dramatically different. It is the colours – pinks, browns, reds, and whites
all contrasting with the dark shadows. The drive took us out of the National Park and then onto the Navajo Reservation, which is the largest land area of Native American jurisdiction in the US. It is home to nearly 175,000 of the nearly three million Native Americans registered in the US. What we learnt as we drove iss that the US has changed their way of thinking to Native Americans; namely in their way of educating students. Today instead of “westernising” graduates and then sending them home to the reservations in an attempt to homogenise the population there is a greater influence on teaching heritage and history and allowing the reservation residents to continue the ways of the past with definite modern influences. In fact many of the original graduates were shunned when they returned to the reservations. The reservations are divided into smaller Chapters – the Navajo has 88 each with an elected official. There has also been a desire to make many of these reservations self-funding, hence the need for mining and gambling rights to be eased. The second largest coal fired power plant is on Navajo land and millions of dollars are generated by casinos built on
Native American land – we drove past a huge complex on our way to Phoenix. It is certainly barren land punctuated by housing and small markets. Much of it felt like the Desert Road on NZ’s central region with its tussock grass (and sage), which grew over the plateau - even more so with Mt. Humphreys (a 13000ft extinct volcano) in view.
The sky across Arizona is a deep blue when the sun is shining. It is also crosshatched by dozens of vapour trails at any one time you can look up and see planes heading in all directions. It is an image that has always captivated me and sadly in NZ it is seen infrequently. I always wonder where these planes are headed and who is on-board; in much the same way I wonder who is below me when I fly across continents. There are people in the world that think it is all a conspiracy and planes are spraying us with all sorts of chemicals in some government inspired cover up – go on Google it, I know you will! If they are spraying us with something all I can think is that in the last few
days I will have absorbed a lot.
Our first stop of the day was after a descent of nearly 3000 feet into the town of Page. The reason for stopping here was to enjoy the sights and sounds of one of America’s greatest icons. We had been promised the chance to experience it when we boarded the bus in LA but it had been delayed due to the weather and our detour out of San Diego. There were people on the bus who clapped and whooped when they heard we were stopping so the anticipation grew and all I could garner was we were to share in a US institution that was like no other. Oh what could it be…well, it was Walmart so here the paragraph ends. I do need to say that some on the tour pushed carts around and bought up large. We bought an apple, a banana and two salads.
Our travel today meant that we would enter Utah and finish near the town of Bryce. Obviously Utah has strong links to the Mormon Church and all non-Mormons in the state are called Gentiles, which for a Jew could be quite confusing. In the
1800s the founders of the Church left upstate New York and headed west to find their new Kingdom and escape persecution in the East. The simple story goes that when they reached what is now called Salt Lake City they stopped and on the basis of a prior vision they settled the area. Much of the population of Utah still follows the Mormon doctrine and it is a well-known fact that if you are considering running for elected office then being Mormon is not compulsory but will certainly assist your vote count. Mitt Romney, the front-runner to be the Republican candidate to contest the Presidential Election in November could become the first Mormon president. He made his name by being the man who took over Salt Lake City’s Winter Olympics’ campaign when it was dogged by corruption and now in the political field as Governor of Massachusetts.
Our final destination would be the institution that is Ruby’s Inn but before that we would visit Bryce Canyon. This is similar to the Grand Canyon but in reality is just an open expanse on the plateau that is eroded sandstone. Because of the different densities of sandstone it has eroded leaving
huge columns, which you can look down into. It will slowly implode on itself and each time there is heavy rain more disappears, which is the major difference to the GC and the Colorado River erosion. It is quite possibly more awe inspiring than the GC as it just goes on and on into the distance. We were also back at nearly 8300 feet so the snow and ice was piled high again. With the hour time difference it was an hour closer to dark so the temperatures had dropped and there was an icy chill in the air. It was a photographers dream so Narelle was thrilled when she asked someone to take a photo of us and ended up with one of my ear and a fellow traveller’s bag – you will not find it on this page!
Ruby’s Inn was all of five minutes away. It has been on this site since 1916 and is now a Best Western on both sides of the road. They did a good old fashioned buffet supper with different meats and a pile of vegetables so my salad only day went out the window. I tried a Utah beer called
Full Suspension Pale Ale – my desire to try new beers is linked to good friend Charles Haddrell who is always trying new beers. Food wise I must admit that the pork was great, the beef superb and if you do find yourself near the place I do recommend the chicken. I can only imagine that was like being at Valentine’s on your birthday – just nicer.
Tomorrow we are off to see the Zion National Park and then onto Las Vegas for two days– it could be quite the day of contrasts.
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