Canyon de Chelly – Breathtaking Views Under Vibrant Skies

April 2017 – We left the wondrous Petrified Forest National Park with its incredible hikes and nearby Route 66 nostalgia and headed due north from Holbrook, Arizona, on Route 77 towards Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

Route 77 in the Navajo Nation Arizona

Wide open lands on Route 77 in the Navajo Nation, Arizona

This interesting (although occasionally bumpy) rural road goes through the vast Navajo Nation. We were mesmerized by the classic southwestern vistas that filled our views for the first twenty miles or so. My long lens was in the trailer (sigh), so I didn’t get good shots of the amazing rock formations we passed.

A few years back we made a similar trek on the parallel Indian Route 12 and really enjoyed it. So, again, we decided to forego the more major highway (US Route 191) and take another scenic route instead.

Little did we know it was going to snow on us as we got into the higher elevations!

Snow on road Navajo Nation Arizona

When we climbed from 5,000′ to 6,500′ elevation, we got a spring snow storm!

This was our third trip to Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon d’Shay), but like all of the National Parks and National Monuments, there always seems to be something new to see.

In past visits we explored the overlooks along the northern scenic rim road through the park and hiked to the jaw-dropping White House Ruin. So, this time we decided to explore a few spots along the southern rim road.

Tunnel Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Tunnel Overlook, Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly is a massive canyon formed by uplifts and the relentless flow of water, and today the sheer red rock canyon walls tower 700 feet above the lush green valley floor.

Far below us we saw trucks bashing through the water from recent rains.

Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Tsegi Overlook.

The only way to see the valley of the canyon is to take a private guided tour offered by the Navajo who live on the reservation that surrounds Canyon de Chelly National Monument. However, the North and South Rim Drives are open to everyone to enjoy for free without a paid guide.

Car driving in wash at Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

The only way to get into Canyon de Chelly is on one hiking trail (White House Trail) or on a commercial tour.

As we zipped in and out of the overlooks, the skies began to brood…

Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument RV trip Arizona

The clouds were moving fast at Tsegi overlook.

…and the red rock cliffs seemed to swirl around each other in fabulously exotic shapes.

Junction Overlook Canyon de Chelly South Rim Road Overlook Arizona

The rocks formed beautiful shapes that were so much fun to climb on.

Sliding House Ruin Overlook at Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Sliding House Ruin Overlook

Eventually, we made our way to Spider Rock Overlook, one of the iconic images of Canyon de Chelly. We reached the overlook right at the golden hour before sunset when the rock itself was lit in rich burnt orange hues.

Spider Rock overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Spider Rock.

The day had been very cloudy and windy, but as if by magic, right as the sun began to set, we were blessed with the most astonishing display of colors in the sky.

Sunset spider rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

As the golden light faded on Spider Rock and the red rock cliffs, the sky began a light show of its own.

We each ran back and forth on the rim, unsure where to get the best views and which part of the sky would light up next.

Sunset at Spider overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Mark lines up his shot on the next rock outcropping (upper right corner).

Spider rock lost its glow but the fire in the heavens was just getting started.

Spider Rock sunset Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona RV trip

Sunset’s brilliant display begins at Spider Rock.

Once the drama had played itself out in shades of orange, the skies turned vivid pink.

Pink sunset Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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The light show intensified and our two-way radios crackled as we called each other from opposite ends of the overlook.

“Did you see THAT??!!”

Colorful sunset Spider Rock overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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That sunset was breathtaking, but when morning came the next day and we ventured back out on the south rim drive, the drama in the sky was gone. We returned to Sliding House Ruin overlook because there is such a huge area to prowl around there, and looking down into Canyon de Chelly was as astonishing as ever.

Valley at Sliding House Ruin Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Sliding House Ruin Overlook.

At Sliding House Ruin overlook there are endless stretches of flat and undulating boulders that head out in all directions on a promontory. Before we knew it, we had been there for hours running around on the tops of these cliffs and peering down into the tree-filled valleys below.

Of course, if you get too close to the edge in a place like this, it’s all over. A sign near the rim was a good reminder!

Sheer cliff warning sign Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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Red rock cliffs and green valley floor Sliding House Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

It’s a long way down…but what a view!

When I finally had gotten my fill of staring at the immense views in front of me, I glanced down at my feet and was taken with the rich hues and artistic patterns of the colorful lichen that was growing in and around the creases in the rocks.

Nature's artwork Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Nature’s artwork on the rocks.

Standing back and surveying the vast flat lichen covered boulders that stretched in all directions around me, I felt like I was looking at a modern art painting. Perhaps this is where Jackson Pollack got his inspiration!

Lichen on red rocks Jackson Pollack painting Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Jackson Pollack — Or colorful lichen on red rocks?

A little movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention, and I turned to see a lizard scampering past. He stopped and stared at me as I snuck closer and clicked my camera’s shutter.

Lizard Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

A lizard looks over at me as he runs by.

The spring wildflowers had started blooming, and Mark found a beautiful bouquet of Indian Paintbrush flowers.

Indian Paintbrush Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

A dash of scarlet…

We stuck around and soon the sun was sinking low in the sky, and the shadows were growing long and deep.

Shadows at sunset Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Long shadows made for a surprise selfie at Sliding House Overlook.

The clear sky meant there were no colorful theatrics in the sky for our sunset at Sliding House overlook, but the sun gave me a coy wink for a split second before it slipped out of sight.

Starburst sunset Sliding House Ruin Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

A fleeting starburst at sunset…

It was hard to set the alarm for a pre-dawn hour the next day, but we bundled into our truck with hot tea and coffee in hand and drove out to Sliding House overlook once again where Mark caught the sun giving us a wink on its way up.

Sunrise Sliding House Ruin Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

…and another at dawn.

Canyon de Chelly is a special place deep in the heart of the immense Navajo reservation. There is a dry camping campground in the town of Chinle that is run by the Navajo, and a few sites are big enough for a big RV.

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Blue Mesa Trail – Lavender Beauty in Petrified Forest National Park

April 2017 – When we visited Petrified Forest National Park a few weeks ago with our RV, we discovered two true jewels in the park: Jasper Forest and Blue Mesa Trail.

Ready to hike Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Ready to hike Blue Mesa Trail in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

It is really easy to blast through Petrified Forest National Park at 50 mph and miss it all, and we’ve made that mistake in the past. We’ve also done the less spectacular hikes and later wondered where all the petrified wood was! How funny!

As seen in our last post about Jasper Forest, there are some breathtaking landscapes where petrified logs are in stunning abundance.

Blue Mesa is another fabulous region in the National Park where rolling hills are beautifully striped in shades of purple and lavender. There is a wonderful and very easy hike on a paved path at Blue Mesa that wanders through all these hills.

Blue Mesa Overlook Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

The overlook at Blue Mesa in Petrified Forest National Park

At the start of the hike, high up on a plateau overlooking a vast expanse of exotic beauty, we saw a pretty spray of yellow spring flowers and spent a few minutes admiring them.

Yellow wildflowers Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

A vibrant sign of spring greeted us right away.

Mark took advantage of the “Color sketch” option in his Nikon camera to get a very cool effect from this photo:

Color sketch Yellow wildflowers Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

The “color sketch” option is available in most Nikon DSLR’s. Fun!

The Blue Mesa trail begins with a wonderful plunge down to the valley floor, and we got a few shots of the spectacular purple/blue landscape as we descended.

Descending on the Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Blue Mesa trail took us down to the valley floor right away.

As we made our way along the pretty, winding trail, the breathtaking views of these colorful hills surrounded us.

Blue and purple on Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

The purple stripes were magnificent!

Rock striations Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Nature has a wonderful artistic flair!

But where was all the petrified wood? It didn’t take long for us to find the gorgeous rock logs spilling down the gullies between the hills.

Falling petrified logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Did a woodsman just cut down a tree?
No! Nature did this over 200 million years ago!!

Every crevice between the hills was loaded with perfectly hewn petrified logs. Incredible!

Petrified log pile Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Solid rock logs that look for all the world like they are wood!

Petrified logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Every crevice between the hills was filled with stone logs.

We couldn’t help but scurry up a ways to get different perspectives on these logs. Suddenly, I lost my balance and slipped. I brushed myself off and looked around, a little embarrassed and wondering if anyone had seen me fall. Luckily I was the only witness.

That is, I was the only witness until I saw what my camera did when my finger hit the shutter button on my way down!

Falling on hiking trail at Blue Mesa Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Oops!

I don’t think I could have staged that shot more perfectly!

Blue Mesa trail was largely surrounded with waves of gravelly hills that are horizontally striped in lavender hues. But a few of the hillsides and cracks were gray, and these were strewn with exquisite crystallized tree stumps too.

Tumbling petrified logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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Pile of petrified wood logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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Surprisingly, even though this was peak season for visiting Petrified Forest National Park, with absolutely perfect sunny, dry, warm weather, there were very few people on the Blue Mesa trail. Every so often, though, we caught sight of someone in the distance.

Tumbling logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

We shared Blue Mesa with very few other hikers.

Petrified Forest National Park has several “Off the Beaten Path” hikes, and there is one that originates at Blue Mesa trail and heads out to the Tee Pees formations. I had hoped to hike at least some of that trail because we had enjoyed the Off the Beaten Path trail at Jasper Forest so much.

Hiking Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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But I was so caught up in admiring the awe-inspiring views surrounding us on all sides that I forgot to double check the page of notes the ranger had given us to see where the gravel trail intersected the paved trail we were on. I think I’d kind of expected it to be obvious when we got there.

Hikers and petrified logs on Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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The National Park Service is a little coy with these special Off the Beaten Path hikes.

First, I’d only learned about them when I asked a ranger to recommend some areas for photography and then watched wide-eyed as he pulled a huge 3-ring binder full of photocopied trail notes off a low shelf behind the counter. More importantly, though, the trail intersection itself isn’t marked with a sign!

Blue skies on the Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Somewhere out here there’s a neat unpaved hiking trail!

I learned later that the intersection is to the right of the one plaque that is out on the paved trail at Blue Mesa, and unfortunately, we’d walked right by it. Argh!

Purple striations at Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Lavender shades all around.

Oh well, it’s a good reason for us to come back to Petrified Forest National Park another time!

Hiker Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Purple haze…

If you take your RV to Petrified Forest National Park, don’t miss the Blue Mesa trail, and keep an eye out for that plaque and head out on the adjoining “Off the Beaten Path” hike! I suspect there are some cool views back there.

RV at Blue Mesa Overlook Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

A cute teardrop trailer at the top of the Blue Mesa overlook.

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Petrified Forest National Park RV Trip – Magic in Jasper Forest

April 2017 – One of the highlights on Route 66 is the Petrified Forest National Park where the enormous trunks of 200 million year old trees have turned to stone.

Photography at Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

The solid stone tree stumps at Petrified Forest National Park are truly impressive!

We have been to Petrified Forest National Park twice before, but it was on this trip that we finally found the true magic there.

Stumps Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

Those tree stumps are solid rock, through and through!

We knew that the best way to see Petrified Forest National Park, like all the National Parks, is to get out on the hiking trails away from the crowds.

Jasper Forest petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

We loved seeing how the logs split over millenia, due to the pressures of moisture and ice,
and revealing the tree rings — still perfectly intact — inside.

But it wasn’t until this visit that we discovered which hiking trails are the most stunning.

Logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

Was the woodsman just here with his ax?

On our first foray into the Park on this trip we explored the area called Crystal Forest.

Logs Petrified Forest National Park Crystal Forest

The logs were scattered everywhere. But there wasn’t a living tree to be seen anywhere!

In every direction we saw the enormous trunks of trees that had been growing millions of years ago.

These trees had toppled over during torrential rains millenia ago, and had floated downstream only to end up in a deep and muddy logjam where they slowly and very gradually crystallized.

Over time, the pressure of moisture and ice within the logs broke them into segments.

Out on the vast treeless plain, we saw countless tree trunks that looked like a lumberjack had just sliced them up with a chainsaw in preparation for splitting them into firewood!

Petrified log Petrified Forest National Park Crystal Forest

We saw many 50+ foot long logs lying on the grass and split into sections.

Here and there, the stump of a tree trunk stuck up from the ground and looked for all the world like the tree had just been felled.

Wildflowers with petrified wood tree stump Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

A rock and a wildflower.

All the tree rings were perfectly visible in a rainbow of crystalline colors.

Tree rings Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest

Brilliantly colored minerals have crystallized the tree rings in this ancient tree.

The logs lay scattered all over the place, and in between were beautiful shards of petrified wood.

Colorful agate Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest

There were exquisite shards of rock EVERYWHERE as far as the eye could see in all directions.


Some logs had been split so the tree rings were visible while others had been severed lengthwise showing vertical striations from the interior of the log.

Colorful agate Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest-2

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In one area the shards that surrounded the logs look like woodchips. It was as if the lumberjack had just laid down his ax! These pale wood chips were very thin, just like ordinary wood chips, but these slivers of rock tinkled like a bell when dropped on each other!

Petrified wood chips at Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest

The light colored “wood chips” on the ground were brittle rock shards that sounded like bells
when they fell on each other.

We had wandered out at the “golden hour” about an hour before sunset, and as the sun sank below the horizon we were blessed with a beautiful sunset over these exotic rocks.

Sunset at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Sunset in Petrified Forest National Park.

Even better than Crystal Forest, however, is Jasper Forest which is just a little further north. The overlook takes in a sweeping view.

Jasper Forest Overlook Petrified Forest National Park Arizon

Jasper Forest overlook has an incredible view — see the logs below? — and the trail to the plain below took us down among thousands of logs.

In the distance, far below the Jasper Forest overlook, boulders and petrified logs intermingled.

Overlook at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Huge waves of eroded rock formations were littered with tumbled boulders and petrified logs.

When we stopped at the Visitors Center to find out where the best collections of petrified wood were in the Park, the ranger took out a large 3-ring binder labeled “Off The Beaten Path Trails.” He took out the trail directions, complete with photos, for a few trails and handed them to us. One set was for Jasper Forest.

Sitting on petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

Down among the petrified logs at Jasper Forest.

The trail directions were a bit confusing, but they are actually very easy:

  • Go to the north end of the Jasper Overlook parking lot and look for a narrow trail heading north from the last parking space in the lot.
  • Follow this trail north and then west onto the wide plain that stretches out below the Jasper Forest overlook.
Petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

Two faces from the same log reveal gorgeous tree rings.

From there you can go in any direction you want, and we quickly ran off in opposite directions!

Log with a knot Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

The “bark” on this 200 million year old log even had a knot in it.

We were there in the harsh light of noon, so even though the rock logs were mind boggling, we knew they would be even more beautiful in the rich light of late afternoon.

Petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

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Petrified wood logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

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So, we returned a little later with our cameras, and suddenly the logs came alive in vivid shades.

Petrified tree stump Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

At the “golden hour” an hour before sunset,
all the logs began to glow.

The skies were darkly overcast but the sun snuck through underneath and cast a brilliant light on all the stone tree logs.

Storm clouds Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Storm clouds darkened the skies while the sun peeked through.

Golden light at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Looking at the tree root ends of the logs — in rich light.

As the sun sank towards the horizon, we were in awe of the beauty around us. We were also frantically running around trying to capture it as best we could while the sun teased us mercilessly!

At one moment the sun would pierce through the clouds and light everything up in bright orange and yellow, and at the next moment it would disappear all together behind the clouds!

Petrified logs at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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The clouds were flying across the sky, making an ideal opportunity to use long shutter speeds to make them blur dramatically just as the sun set in a starburst.

Sunset at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Drama in the sky above an ancient world of stones.

Wild skies at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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Dramatic clouds at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona 2

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Petrified Forest National Park is a great place to go with an RV, and it is surrounded by many of the most spectacular natural wonders of America’s southwest.

RV motorhome in Petrified Forest National Park Crystal Forest

A motorhome passes the Crystal Forest turnoff.

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Getting Our Kicks on Route 66 by RV in AZ – Cool Springs, Winslow & Holbrook

April 2017 – Back in the 1930’s to the 1960’s, Route 66 was a 2,448 mile long road from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California, that passed through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. It was established in 1926 but was gradually replaced with the US Interstate highway system starting in 1956.

RV on Route 66 Arizona

We’ve been getting our kicks on Route 66!

Portions of it still remain, and we have been bumping into it in our RV travels through Arizona.

RV on Route 66 Arizona

Cool Springs Station Museum on Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman

Route 66 is memorialized in all kinds of songs and folklore, and one of the most iconic songs was (Get Your Kicks) on Route 66 written by Bobby Troup in 1946.

Cool Springs cabins antique Mobil gas station Route 66 in Arizona

Antique gas pumps and an old Mobil Oil sign at Cool Springs Station Museum near Kingman

We’ve been getting our kicks on Route 66 lately starting with a stop we made at the Cool Springs Station Museum between Kingman and Oatman, Arizona last fall.

Antique Mobil Gas station Route 66 in Arizona

What luck – A retro Royal Enfield motorcycle pulled in and parked next to the antique gas pumps while we were there!

This is a cute stone building that has big antique gas pumps out front that will be familiar to our older readers and Mobil Oil signs that were familiar to us from our childhoods.

Inside we found all kinds of charming memorabilia from decades ago, and outside we saw several antique cars that at one time might have rolled down this famous American highway.

Mobil Lubrication or Mobil Oil Antique wooden sign Route 66

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Route 66 chair in Arizona

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Antique car on Route 66 in Arizona

Ready to roll…in a bygone era

Cool Springs Station is in the northwest part of Arizona near Kingman. Way over on the northeast side of the state we stopped in at the town of Winslow in northeastern Arizona a few weeks ago.

Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona Route 66

Route 66 goes through Winslow Arizona

Winslow sits on old Route 66 but it is much more famous for the song Take It Easy, which was written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey and recorded by the Eagles, and features the very memorable lyrics:

Well, I’m a standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona,
and such a fine sight to see:
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed
Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me.

Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona Route 66

Winslow has memorialized the Eagles song “Take It Easy.”

Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona Route 66

A painted mural reflection and the real thing:
“It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flat bed Ford, slowing down to take a look at me!”

This corner is now a favorite tourist attraction. Every year the town hosts a huge “Standin’ on the Corner” festival. This year’s event is on May 6, 2017 (link at the bottom of the page).

Five years ago on our way back to our boat in Chiapas Mexico we zipped through Winslow and got a selfie at the corner. This year the corner was a little busy with other people getting selfies, so we’ll just go with the old pic!

Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona

From the archives back in 2012!

Nearby, Mark found an electric guitar…

Route 66 Guitar corner Winslow Arizona

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The opposite corner is dressed up with a vintage coffee and soda shop that has old fashioned seating on stools at the counter inside.

The other corner Route 66 Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona

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This building won the Good Job Award in 2004. I like a town that gives out Good Job Awards!

Good Job Award sign Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona

The world needs more Good Job Awards!

Although Winslow sits on Route 66 it was also an important train depot for the Santa Fe Railroad.

Eagle on Route 66 sign Winslow Arizona

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Wandering around town, we came across La Posada Hotel and Gardens which is a meticulously and lovingly restored Grand Hotel from the heyday of the railroad era, built by Fred Harvey for Santa Fe Railroad and designed by Mary Colter.

Entrance La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

La Posada Hotel and Gardens in Winslow, Arizona

Built in 1929 to the tune of $60 million (in today’s dollars), La Posada Hotel and Gardens gave tourists a reason to take the train to Winslow. They could stay in an elegant hotel home base and visit Arizona’s many very cool sights that lie within a day’s chauffeured drive from town.

Balcony La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

La Posada was southwestern elegance at its best in the 1930’s and 40’s.

The hotel was beloved by the well-to-do from its opening in May of 1930 until it closed in 1957. When it closed, all of the museum quality furnishing were sold off, and the building was turned into offices for the Santa Fe railroad. Over the next 40 years it was slated to be demolished several times.

La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

The restoration has been lovingly done.

Chessboard table La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona

Visitors can watch a fantastic video that explains the details of the original design and restoration.

Fortunately, when the Santa Fe Railroad planned to abandon the hotel, news of the its uncertain fate made its way to Allan Affeldt. After three years of negotiations with the railroad, in 1997 he moved in with his wife, Tina Mion and they began a $12 million restoration.

Hallway La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

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We knew none of this when we walked in the door, but we were smitten with the beautiful renovations and artsy decorations in every room.

Elegant La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona

There are endless common areas where guests can relax and socialize.

The windows and French doors were thrown wide in every room, letting the warm air from outside flow in, and we wandered around the property enchanted by all we saw.

Room with a view La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona

Room with a view.

Balcony overlooking courtyard La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

Let the outside in!

La Posada Hotel and Gardens is a fully functioning hotel today and there is a very popular restaurant that was packed to the gills when we stopped by. We didn’t stay to eat, but unusual goodies drew us to every corner of every room in the hotel.

Piano in La Posada hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

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Turning a corner, we came across a “hall of mirrors” which is part of the hotel’s gift shop.

Hall of Mirrors La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

Beautiful mirrors are for sale in the gift shop.

The gift shop had all sorts of things for sale, but the ones that really caught our eye were the adorable antique trailer bird houses!

Trailer bird house

A bird house for the RV crowd!!

Not far from Winslow, Arizona, we drove through Holbrook, Arizona, and just had to stop at the Wigwam Motel.

Wigwam Motel Route 66 Holbrook Arizona

Wigwam Motel in Hobrook Arizona – A Classic Route 66 stopover.

Unlike the very upscale La Posada Hotel and Gardens in Winslow, this is a fabulous Route 66 motel that reflects the funky and slightly cheesy tourist traps that filled Route 66 in its day.

Wigwam Motel antique cars Route 66 Holbrook Arizona

Have you slept in a wigwam lately?

The wigwams still rent out each night, and we saw people loading and unloading their bags for a night’s stay.

Antique cars and tee-pees at Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

Modern travelers come in modern cars, but antique cars were parked in front of each wigwam!

The motel’s owners have parked antique cars in front of each wigwam, lending an authentic air to this classic Route 66 stopover.

Antique cars Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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Wigwam and antique cars Wigwam Motel Hobrook Arizona Route 66

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Antique car Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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Of course, there’s plenty of room for Wigwam Motel guests to park their modern cars by the front office, but part of the mystique of sleeping in one of these wigwams is the fun historical context of being immersed in early American car travel on old Route 66.

Antique Ford at Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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Studebaker truck at Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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If you are traveling east-west in northern Arizona, in the neighborhood of I-40, take a detour off the freeway to one of these stops near Kingman, Winslow and Holbrook and get your kicks on Route 66!

RV on Route 66 in Holbrook Arizona

A service shop from yesteryear… Luckily we didn’t need a new muffler or garage mechanic!

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RV Camping with the Rock Art Petroglyphs in Gila Bend, AZ

For years we’ve driven back and forth between San Diego and Phoenix on I-8, zipping by the exit for Painted Rock Petroglyph Site. I’d always look out the window thinking wistfully, “Oooh, that must be so interesting!” but it is a ways off the interstate and we were always on a mission to get wherever we were going and didn’t have time to stop.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Sunset at Painted Rock Petroglyph Site near Gila Bend in Arizona

On a recent trip we decided to make Painted Rock Petroglyph Site our destination, and we scooted off the freeway onto a paved side road that wandered off into the desert.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Petroglyphs cover all the rocks and boulders at this site.

In a few short miles we arrived at the site and were delighted with what we found.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Some images are recognizable like the double parallel squiggly lines that probably indicate there’s water nearby.

The sun was setting and it cast a wonderful pink glow across the desert and the pile of rocks that is the centerpiece of the site.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend AZ

Sunset on a sun rock!

Following a trail around the rock pile, we found that petroglyphs literally covered almost every boulder, rock and small stone.

Unlike so many petroglyph sites where the rock art is located high up on a wall or far across a canyon, these petroglyphs were right there in plain site at our feet.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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On one side of the huge rock pile there’s a dry camping campground with lovely widely spaced sites. A few of the campsites are right alongside the trail where campers can have a view of petroglyph covered rocks right from the RV window!

The next day we wandered further and were amazed at the wide variety of patterns, designs and images we saw on these petroglyph adorned rocks.

Patterns Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

A saguaro cactus stands watch over some petroglyphs.

Some of the designs were easy to decipher, like parallel squiggly lines that surely describe the water sources that can be found nearby in the Gila River.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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Others were just crazy designs that seem indecipherable.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Crazy patterns!

Almost every face of every rock had at least one design on it.

Pattern Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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There were also lizards with tails — very similar to the little guys we saw scurrying between the rocks — and some images of people too.

Bullseye Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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Bullseye Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

A lizard and a bullseye.

It was also intriguing that there were quite a few bullseye types of designs. Some were concentric rings.

Man and Bullseye Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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Bullseyes and animals Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Concentric circles form two bullseyes.

And some were spirals. Was this accidental or did the two styles of circular designs have different meanings? Or were these things just random doodles after all?

Spiral Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

A spiral pattern.

It is thought that these petroglyphs were pecked out of these rocks by the Hohokam people who lived in this area between 350 AD and 1400 AD, the same time frame spanning the Mayans in Central America and the ancient Khmer in Cambodia and Thailand.

There are ancient dwellings and rock art sites all over the southwest and they are impossible to protect from roaming vandals. Sometimes they bear scars from bullets or spray paint and sometimes an over eager collector has cut the entire face of the rock off to take elsewhere.

Navajo pattern Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

A cool and complex pattern defaced with bullet marks.

Stealing defacing petroglyphs Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Someone chiseled the whole surface of the rock off to take elsewhere.

But there are still thousands of pristine images carved on rocks all over this area that have survived as much as 1,000 years or more in the hot desert sun. Staring at them stirred my imagination as I pondered what motivated the ancient people to leave this legacy of art work strewn across the massive expanse of barren and inhospitable landscapes that makes up this part of the Sonoran desert.

If you find yourself traveling on I-8 with your RV about 18 miles west of Gila Bend, Arizona, take a detour off the highway and check out the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site!

More links below.

RV camping boondocking Arizona

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site is a little gem for RVers about 90 miles southwest of Phoenix, Arizona!

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More info about Painted Rock Petroglyph Site near Gila Bend, Arizona:

Other blog posts about rock art, petroglyphs, pictographs and other ancient glyphs:

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A Visit to the Dentist in Mexico

Dentistry is really expensive these days, and RVers that make their way south in the wintertime can take advantage of the good quality dental care that is available just over the border in Mexico.

The November/December 2016 issue of Escapees Magazine features our article about some of the great experiences we have had with dentists in Mexico just across the border from Yuma, Arizona, in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico.

Mexican Dentistry Escapees Magazine Nov-Dec 2016

Escapees Magazine Nov-Dec 2016
Article by: Emily and Mark Fagan

Escapees has posted the article on their website at this link:

The Affordable Alternative of Mexican Dentistry

Our dentist, Dr. Sergio Bernal, is a general practitioner in San Luis Rio Colorado just over the border from San Luis, Arizona (south of Yuma).

Last year he coordinated and oversaw a root canal I had done in a tooth that already had a crown on it (described in detail here).

Eight years ago, Dr. Bernal put a porcelain crown on a baby tooth of Mark’s that had never fallen out. It was an exccellent crown and very easy procedure.

The crown was fabricated by the lab and ready to be installed within 18 hours of us arriving at Dr. Bernal’s office for the very first time. It fit perfectly and cost just $130.

Mark always said it was the best crown in his mouth.

Unfortunately, the baby tooth under this crown came loose this past October, and Mark was suddenly in a lot of pain. He needed another solution.

Ironically, this happened just as the issue of Escapees Magazine with our article about Mexican dental care was being mailed out to Escapees members.

Because we lived on our sailboat in Mexico for the better part of four years, we have enjoyed top notch dental care all over Mexico, from the Arizona border to the beautiful Bays of Huatulco very near the Guatemala border.

We have always been very satisfied with both the dental care and the price.

With Mark’s tooth aching, we dashed to Yuma and then zipped across the border from San Luis, Arizona, to San Luis, Mexico, on our bikes (you can learn more about doing this as well as walking over the border in our blog post about Mexican dental care here).

Even though dental care in Mexico is excellent, the upscale frills that Americans are accustomed to are not necessarily a part of the deal.

For starters, dentistry in Mexico is usually handled on a walk-in basis rather than making an appointment in advance.

Some people have read my writings about dentists in Mexico and have tried to find these dentists on the internet. Well, most Mexican dentists don’t bother with the expense of setting up a website, as they rely more on word of mouth and patients showing up at the door when they need care.

So, we got psyched up for a day of dentistry, rode the 1/2 block from the border to Dr. Bernal’s office, leaned our bikes against the wall and peered in the door. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there.

Rather than wait, we decided to ride over to visit the endodontist, Dr. Horacio Avila, who had done such an excellent job on my root canal last year. I needed to see him for a follow-up on my root canal anyway, and we figured he might have some thoughts about Mark’s aching baby tooth. We each took a quick turn in his dentist’s chair and looked at our x-rays with him on his computer screen on the wall.

My root canal was doing great, but Mark’s situation was more complex. The adult tooth was present but was lying sideways, which meant there was no option for an implant. Instead, Dr. Avila felt he probably needed a bridge.

Mexican dentist San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Mark and Dr. Avila check out his tooth on an x-ray.

Being an endontontist and not a general practice dentist, bridges are not his line of work. So, he handed us the x-rays and sent us on our way.

The bill for our five x-rays at Dr. Avila’s office was $50.

We biked back to Dr. Bernal’s office and found he had returned from his errands and was happy to see us.

Mark got in his dentist chair, and Dr. Bernal had a look at his tooth and Dr. Avila’s x-rays. Of course, Dr. Bernal has an x-ray machine too, but there was no need to duplicate the x-rays. He agreed that an implant was out and that a bridge was probably the best way to go.

He pulled Mark’s tiny baby tooth out of his mouth with a quick yank and explained that a bridge involves grinding down the two adjacent teeth, putting crowns on them, and then suspending a false tooth in between. Egads!!

Sadly, the two teeth on either side of Mark’s (now absent) baby tooth were 100% healthy. Mark felt really badly about grinding those teeth down to support two crowns and suspend a false tooth in between.

Dr. Bernal scratched his head for a while and studied Mark’s teeth for a while and then suggested he consider a different option: grinding a tiny channel on the back side of each of the two healthy teeth and suspending a false tooth in between on wings that were inserted and glued into the channels.

This sounded intriguing.

He suggested that Mark try a temporary solution like that and see how it felt before committing to a permanent solution. So, we hung around San Luis for about three hours while Dr. Bernal’s lab technician across the street fabricated a plastic temporary tooth. In the middle of the afternoon, Dr. Bernal inserted it and off we went back over the border.

He charged us $20 total for all of his work and the lab’s work.

Mexican Dentist San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Dr. Bernal goes over Mark’s options with him.

Mark liked the idea of being able to keep his healthy teeth mostly intact and not crown them, so we returned a few weeks later to get the permanent work done. Again, we showed up unannounced around 8:00 in the morning, and by late afternoon Dr. Bernal’s technician had fabricated a permanent false tooth with wings and Dr. Bernal had prepped Mark’s teeth and installed it.

The cost: $250.

Mark absolutely loves this tooth. He’s had it for a few months now and doesn’t even notice it’s there. It chews fine, looks fine, and the teeth on either side of it are totally intact except for a tiny indent in each one to support the wings of the false tooth. A retired dentist friend of ours said similar dental work in the US would have cost over $1,000.

Besides the high quality workmanship and low cost, the best thing about all of this was the back-and-forth conversation we were able to have with Dr. Bernal. Rather than the brusque manner of many dentists, he took the time to consider other options besides a bridge and to listen to our concerns about destroying two perfectly good teeth. I was in the room with Mark the whole time, and I liked the feeling that we were participants in Mark’s dental care rather than being just recipients.

Next door to Dr. Bernal’s office there is a hair cutting salon. Both times we visited Dr. Bernal, we dropped in on the hair cutting salon to get haircuts. The most delightful stylist named Amber works there, and for just $3 for men and $5 for women, she does a great job.

To find her shop: as you walk into the alcove where Dr. Bernal’s office is, the hair salon is on the right side before his office. For both of us, these have been the bests haircut we’ve had in over a year!

Barber next to Mexican dentist San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Next to Dr. Bernal’s office there is a great little hair cutting place.

Getting a haircut in San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Amber gives me a haircut

Another thing that’s great about going to Mexico for dental care — besides receiving excellent care at a fraction of American prices — is that it’s an excuse to enjoy a daytrip to another culture and eat some really wonderful Mexican food.

In San Luis there is an absolutely fantastic restaurant called El Parianchi that serves incredible food, complete with fun entertainment. We’ve now eaten several lunches there and a breakfast too, and we have loved the experience every single time.

El Parianchi Meal San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

The first course of a feast for two for $13 (pancakes and omelette not shown) at El Parianchi restaurant.

We’ve gotten to know several of the waiters as well as the harpist, Elias. Mexicans enjoy listening to folk songs played by various kinds of musicians while dining, and the harp music adds a special something to the ambiance at El Parianchi.

Mexican restaurant El Parianchi San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Elias entertains us with his harp.

El Parianchi also has a stash of huge sombreros, and sometimes the waiters bring them out and put them on their guests as a gag. We ended up wearing these crazy hats on one of our visits for my root canal last year (see this post). On one of our visits this year, a group celebrating a 26th birthday ended up in the hats right behind us!

People in sombrero hats El Parianchi Restaurant San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Sombreros for everyone at the birthday party!

For lots more details about dental care in Mexico, including directions to our dentists’ offices, check out this link:

Mexican Dentists – Finding Affordable Dental Care in Mexico

Basic info for our primary care dentist. He’ll set you up with specialists in town as needed:

Dr. Sergio Bernal

Call him directly from the US by dialing this number: 011 52 653 534 6651
Address: First St. #118-9 San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico

Open Monday-Friday 9-5, Saturday 9-2, Sunday 9-11

For first timers, walk 100 yards from the border to Dr. Bernal’s office (detailed directions at this link), and then take $2-$3 cabs to visit other dental specialists, if needed, and be sure to enjoy a meal at El Parianchi! Here is a map showing the locations we visited:

Locations of Dr. Bernal’s Office, El Parianchi Restaurant and Dr. Avila’s Office – Interactive Google Maps

On the above map, the locations are labeled as:

  • Dr. Bernal = “Calle 1 115”
  • Dr. Avila = GPS 32.477776,-114.766224 (Calle 13 & Madero)
  • El Parianchi is in between them at Calle 10 & Captain Carlos Calles

When we crossed the border for our first visit with Dr. Bernal this past October, we were alarmed to see a huge group of illegal immigrants waiting to cross into the US. On our return visit a month later, Mexican authorities had removed them from the sidewalks and placed them in shelters. The sidewalks near the border were empty as they always had been before.

So how do you get hooked up with a good dentist in Mexico?

We first heard about Dr. Bernal from fellow Escapees members at the Escapees Kofa RV Park in Yuma. For new RVers, we highly recommend joining Escapees RV Club, as it is little tidbits like getting the name and address of a trusted Mexican dentist that are the unsung benefits of being part of this club.

Escapees is known for its fabulous magazine, its many member parks, its discounts on RV parks across the country, its workcamping job board, its massive database of boondocking locations, its bootcamp training for new RVers and its incredible mail forwarding service and RV advocacy work.

But sometimes it is the little things that are passed on member to member, like dentist and doctor referrals, that make the club particularly helpful for folks living on the road in their RV. Lots of people go RVing, but there is a comaraderie among Escapees members that is unique.

To learn a little more about the unusual history of Escapees, check out our links:

If you think you might want to join Escapees RV Club, you can become a member at the link below…and if you mention that you heard about Escapees from this blog, Roads Less Traveled, they will put a little something in our tip jar as a thank you (and thank YOU!!):

Join Escapees

We’ve been members since 2008!!

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Grand Canyon’s North Rim – Magnificent & Intimate by Day or Night!

October 2016 – After driving through the red rock wonderland of the Vermillion Cliffs in northern Arizona, we found ourselves at 10,000′ elevation on the Kaibab Plateau in beautiful pine forests. This is the home of the Grand Canyon where the earth seems to have split apart, revealing the massive crimson hued jagged walls that rise up from the Colorado River thousands of feet below.

Red cliffs of North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

Red cliffs at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon runs east to west for 277 miles and spans as much as 18 miles between its north and south rims.

A huge region towards the middle of the chasm has been set aside as Grand Canyon National Park, and it has two entrances you can drive to, one on the north side of the canyon and one on the south side. At each of those spots you can wander along the rim and peer over the edge to look 6,000′ down.

North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona view through trees

A glimpse of the Grand Canyon through the trees.

The South Rim is much more popular than the North Rim and is quite overrun with tourists, many making a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list trip from far distant corners of the planet. It is wonderful, but it is extremely busy.

Colorful cliffs North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

View from the North Rim.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is a bit out of the way, so far fewer people go there, and most visitors are from the surrounding states. The North Rim sees 10% of the tourist traffic that the South Rim does and is 1,000′ higher in elevation.

Chasm North Rim Grand Canyon Arizon

Looking across the Big Ditch!

The North Rim has a very special lodge that was built by the National Parks Service in 1927. This wonderful and inviting stone building is perched right on the edge of the Grand Canyon, and the huge picture windows look out on a spectacular view.

View from Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

The Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim – What a view!

There is also a huge dining room where diners can eat dinner while watching the sun cast its golden glow across the ridges of the canyon right next to their table!

Dining Room Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

A historic and beautiful spot for a dinner…with a world class view!

Outside the lodge there is a low stone wall and a line of big wooden chairs where you can sit and take in the view over a beer.

View from deck of Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

The deck behind the Lodge offers a relaxing spot to enjoy a drink and take a few pics.

What a fantastic place!

View from deck Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

Tourists kick back at the North Rim.

There is a feeling of intimacy and wonder on the rim here as strangers chat with each other and snap pics and take in the incredible view, enjoying a unique National Parks experience.

Deck view North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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A short trail leads from the edge of this deck out onto a peninsula that just into the Canyon and ends at Bright Angel Point.

Hiking to Bright Angel Point North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

The trail to Bright Angel Point at the North Rim

This is a fun paved path that provides endless opportunities for jumping up on the rock pinnacles on either side to get a better view.

Hke to Bright Angel Point North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

There are lots of places to scramble a little higher for a better view.

Of course, the best light in the Canyon is early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona View

Late afternoon’s golden light brings out the contours of the jagged cliffs at the Grand Canyon.

The sun was sinking in a very hazy sky when we were there, but the towering walls of the Grand Canyon still radiated a soft light, as if from within.

Golden hour North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona overlook

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Rock formations North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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Here and there couples and friends staked out a spot on a precipice to watch the sun fade away.

Sunset North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

Catching the sunset at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

As the shadows crept up the canyon walls from the bottom, the tips of the craggy peaks held the light the longest.

View of Red cliffs North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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In the final few moments of daylight, a thin ribbon of orange hovered over the Canyon.

Chasm view North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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As the sun sank deeper behind the horizon, the colors in the sky grew ever more rich.

Sunset North Rim Grand Canyon

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Once the sun was gone from the sky, the contours of the Grand Canyon flattened out, revealing beautiful patterns.

Color Patterns North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

Patterns in the view at the Grand Canyon after sunset.

Without any shadows to show depth, near and far blended together.

Patterns North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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Cliffs North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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Because of the 10,000′ altitude at the rim, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is very cold, except in midsummer, and the Grand Canyon Lodge closes October 16. The 45 mile drive on Highway 67 between the hamlet of Jacob Lake and the North Rim remains open but isn’t plowed, and the self-service gas station in the park closes December 1.

In mid-October we shivered in overnight temps that dipped into the 20’s. Nevertheless, we snuck out onto the trail in front of the lodge in the pitch dark, lighting the way with our new and very cool Lumintop flashlight (we reviewed it here) and got set up to take some shots.

Overlook night stars North Rim Grand Canyon

Night photography at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Above us, the lodge was well lit and looked very cozy and inviting. Occasionally we heard the excited conversation of revelers out on the deck and saw flashes from their cameras.

Stars over Lodge at North Rim of the Grand Canyon starry night and fifth wheel trailer RV

The Lodge at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Slowly the stars began to shimmer above us, forming a dome full of glitter over the Grand Canyon.

Stars at North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

Stars began to fill the sky

Both rims of the Grand Canyon are decorated with the skeletons of dead trees whose gnarly branches reach out in all directions. The Milky Way formed a majestic backdrop in the sky.

Tree and Milky Way North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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The moon was setting and slowly sank into the horizon. It was nearly full and glowed orange.

Milky Way at North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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Seeing the moon at the horizon below the Milky Way reminded us of our many nights at sea on the Pacific Ocean. Sailors doing their first overnight passages are often shocked as they fly along in the pitch dark at full speed, squinting hard to distinguish the sky from the ocean, and then suddenly see a very bright light on the horizon right in front of them.

More than a few hearts have skipped a beat, and more than a few frightened sailors have dashed to their radar display in a total panic as they tried to figure out what kind of mammoth ship was about to crash into them.

Then they’ve suddenly collapsed in embarrassed laughter when they realized the enormous ship approaching them was actually the rising moon.

We’d read these stories before our cruise, and of course we knew we were far too smart ever to fall for Nature’s little nighttime tease. So, it was particularly funny when it happened to us too!

Milky Way at the Grand Canyon North Rim Arizona

Good night, Grand Canyon!

If the Grand Canyon is on your horizon for your RV travels, you can camp right on the rim in the campground at the North Rim. How totally cool is that?!

However, you need to have a small to mid-size RV to fit into the campsites and drive the camground loop, and it is best to reserve a spot in advance. There are other RV camping options for slightly bigger RVs in Jacob Lake.

For folks without an RV, the Grand Canyon Lodge has a collection of charming small cabins that surround the main lodge building, and they are just steps from the rim as well.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is quite vast, and many of the overlooks require a drive of 50 miles or so round trip to reach them. We breezed through the North Rim on this RV trip because it was late in the season and we couldn’t drive through Jacob Lake on our route from east to west across northern Arizona without dipping down to say “hi” to the Grand Canyon, if only for a moment.

However, like all the National Parks, the Grand Canyon deserves a week or more to enjoy its many nooks and crannies in depth. During our second year of full-time RV adventures, we stayed for a month at the North Rim.

More info and links below.

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Some details about Arizona’s North Rim of the Grand Canyon:

Other blog posts from our RV travels in Northern Arizona:

All of our blog posts from Arizona
National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites we have visited

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“Cliff Dwellers” on Arizona’s Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Drive – A Fun Stop!

October 2016 – Cutting across the northern part of Arizona from east to west in an RV is a total treat.

RV trip Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

An RV trip through the Vermillion Cliffs area in northern Arizona is a fabulous scenic drive.

We took US-95 south from Page to US-89A, and then followed US-89A northbound towards Marble Canyon, passing through the stunning red rock scenery of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.

Driving through Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

Classic scenery in the Vermillion Cliffs of Arizona

The most spectacular section of this drive does a 180 degree turn on US-89A near Lees Ferry and Marble Canyon.

RV trip in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

My camera never stops when we drive this part of US-89A!

Every time we pass through this region we are blown away by the scenery once again.

02 761 RV travel Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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As I was going through our photos this morning, choosing which ones to include in this post, I was amused to discover that a lot of the photos were essentially the sames ones I had taken from the passenger seat of our truck on previous trips through this area on our way to Kanab and Bryce Canyon years ago, and again this past spring of 2016 on our way towards the Canadian Rockies.

It is just that beautiful: even though I have the photos already, I’ve gotta take them again!

Motorhome RV in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

RVing through the Vermillion Cliffs. Wow!

A stop at Marble Canyon and Lees Ferry is an absolute must. We loved visiting that area last spring.

This time, however, we wanted to see something new, and a small roadside stop called Cliff Dwellers was just the ticket. This is essentially a pullout located about 9 miles west of Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon.

Pullout at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

The pullout at “Cliff Dwellers” on US-89A.

Boulders at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

The boulders at Cliff Dwellers are huge!

RV at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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We had no idea what we would find at this roadside stop in the middle of nowhere, but the first thing we saw was a towering mushroom red rock formation.

Rock formation Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

A huge mushroom rock formation towers above me!

Red rocks at Cliff Dwellings Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

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In the distance there was a rock structure.

Rock formation and rock house Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

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Whoever built this structure had placed red rocks on top of each other to form walls that fit under a huge overhanging mushroom type of boulder which formed part of the roof.

Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

The rock building at Cliff Dwellers isn’t on a cliff, but it probably was a dwelling!

Rock house built into boulder Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

The building is tucked under and overhanging boulder which provides part of the roof.

We prowled around the outside and inside of the building, peering through the windows and door.

Photography at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

View from the rock dwelling.

Windows at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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There were some beams that had once formed a ceiling over part of the structure.

Interior Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

Simple living!

Off in the distance, we found a plaque that probably used to describe the history of the structures and the area, but the plaque was empty. So, we just enjoyed roaming around this odd structure.

Cliff Dwellers rock house Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

The rock house looks small compared to the huge red rock hill behind.

Behind it there was a fantastic red rock hill that had all kinds of striations and textures. Huge white boulders had come crashing down from one of the layers over the years, and they were strewn around the base.

Red rock cliff at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

Enormous rock boulders had fallen down the sides of this hill and lay around the bottom.

A Navajo woman had set up a folding table to sell jewelry to tourists who stopped by.

Navajo trinkets Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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This little stopover at Cliff Dwellers was a fun way to spend an hour or two.

Cliff Dwellers red rocks Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

What a great little spot to take a breather in the middle of a truly gorgeous drive!

Motorhome Navajo trinkets Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

Cliff Dwellers Roadside Stop on US-89A.

Continuing our drive west along US-89A, we came to the end of the red rock region where the red rocks of Vermillion Cliffs abruptly give way to the evergreens of the Kaibab Plateau.

RV at Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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Climbing up a series of tight switchbacks and steep grades, we arrived at a pullout near the top where we could take in the view in all directions and see this incredible transition in the landscape from red desert to green forest.

On one side there were beautiful yellow wildflowers that set off the red rock cliffs in the distance.

Wildflowers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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There were also some beautiful pink fairy dusters in bloom.

Fairy Duster wildflowers Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

Pink fairy dusters.

Looking east back down the way we came, the road cut a cool s-turn through the desert.

Road in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

Looking back towards the red rock cliffs.

And looking to the north, we saw the very cool divide between the red rocks of the desert and the green hills leading up to the very dense Kaibab forest that surrounds the Grand Canyon.

Red rocks and juniper hills Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

The red rocks of the desert give way to the greenery of the forested Kaibab Plateau which surrounds the Grand Canyon.

More about the Grand Canyon in our next post!! In the meantime, there are links for Vermillion Cliffs below.

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Info about the Vermillion Cliffs:

Other posts from our RV travels in Northeastern Arizona:

Our most recent posts:

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Immigrants Flood California’s & Arizona’s Borders – Surprise in San Luis AZ!

This blog post is a departure from our normal fare of cheerful travel stories, but as documenters of what we see in our day-to-day travel lives, it is something we encountered that we believe is worthy of sharing. This is not intended to take a political side or offend anyone.

October 2016 – A few days ago, we crossed the border between the US and Mexico at San Luis, Arizona. We were returning to the fun, small town of San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico, for checkups with our dentist and endodontist whose excellent work we describe here.

After quite a few visits to this Mexican border town, we now know it pretty well. We like to make this border crossing by bicycle, because that gives us great transportation around town in Mexico. It also makes it super easy to return back across the border into the US, because bicycles bypass all the lines and go straight to a gate set aside especially for them and for holders of the US Sentri pass.

After wrapping up our dentist appointments, we rode our bikes back to the border to cross back into the US. As we approached the border gate, we stopped dead in our tracks when we saw dozens of people sitting on the sidewalk right outside the US border gate on the Mexican side.

Illegal immigrants waiting in Mexico to cross the border in Arizona

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How bizarre! We’ve never seen anyone sitting on the sidewalk in this area before.

Pedestrians always simply walk up to the border crossing gate, show their passports and walk on through into the US. Often there’s a line of people, but everyone stands in the line, rather than sitting on the ground, and the line keeps moving.

These folks appeared to be settled in for a while. They were leaning against the fence in the border crossing zone that separates the US and Mexico. They had hung some blankets up to shade themselves from the intense sunshine, and they had bedding and luggage around them.

What the heck was going on?

800 Undocumented migrants wait to enter the United States in Arizona

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Two US border patrol agents in front of the gate asked us for our passports before we even got to the actual US Immigration booth. That was weird too. Usually you present your passport to the agent in the booth, not to agents standing in front of it on the sidewalk.

We asked them who all these people were and what was going on.

“They are from Haiti, Africa, Central America, Asia, even Russia — lots of different countries — and they’re waiting to come into the US,” he told us. “But they don’t have any documentation, so they are waiting for an appointment with an agent.”

He went on to explain that his job was crowd control. Fortunately, this was a quiet crowd. On the other side of the street several Mexican soldiers in camo gear held rifles and stood watch as well.

He told us there has been a huge increase in migrants since last spring, and there had been so many at the San Ysidro/Tijuana crossing in recent months that the area in front of the US border there was quickly turning into a Tent City.

So, the migrants were moving to other, less crowded border towns in Mexico at the California and Arizona ports of entry. More and more were coming to the San Luis port of entry on the Arizona border.

“But this is nothing,” he said, sweeping his hand in the direction of all the people. “You should have seen this place a few days ago.”

721 Illegal immigrants wait to enter the United States in Arizona

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We have crossed the border between the US and Mexico many times. We spent the better part of four years cruising Pacific Mexico on our sailboat, and we have crossed the border at least 25 times, by car, on foot, by bicycle and by boat.

We’ve crossed at the massive San Ysidro/Tijuana border crossing south of San Diego, the busiest port of entry in the Western Hemisphere. It resembles a mammoth freeway tollbooth plaza: 25 or so regular booths and perhaps 10 or so other booths for buses, commercial trucks and “Sentri Pass” holders who cross the border frequently.

And we’ve crossed at the smaller border crossings in Tecate (in rural southern California), Nogales (south of Tucson, Arizona), Los Algodones (western Yuma, Arizona), San Luis (south of Yuma, Arizona) and Boquillas del Carmen (at Big Bend National Park in Texas). At sea, we crossed just off the Pacific coast of southern California and northern Baja California, Mexico.

Going into Mexico is always very simple, and when on foot or bicycle, no one ever checks out passports. Returning into the US, however, is always an adventure. The wait in line to get into the US by car is usually at least an hour and is generally closer to two hours. It can be as much as four hours.

771 Undocumented migrants wait to cross from Mexico into the United States in Arizona

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The fun thing about this mind-numbing wait in an idling car, creeping along inch by inch, is that entrepreneurial Mexicans make the most of their captive audience. They walk up and down the road between the cars and provide crazy entertainment for tips, and they sell things, from food to cold drinks to trinkets of various kinds.

Crossing into the US from Canada with an RV at Calais, Maine, and Chief Mountain, Montana, in the early morning avoids the lines, but you don’t want to have any fruits or veggies in the RV’s refrigerator!

Sailing across the border from Mexico into the US was quite different. Helicopters buzzed our boat and border patrol boats zoomed out to get a good look at us through binoculars. US Customs and Immigration came down to inspect our passports, boat documents and the boat itself when we tied up at the dock in San Diego.

But we’ve never, ever seen people hanging out on the sidewalks a few feet from the border gates setting up tent cities.

What had brought all these migrants here in such huge numbers? Even the agents themselves expressed shock at what was going on!

Illegal immigrants wait to enter United States from Mexico

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Researching things a little bit, we discovered that after the big earthquake in Haiti in 2010, many Haitians moved to Brazil and stayed there for a few years. Many worked in construction-related jobs in the lead up to the 2016 summer Olympics. Unfortunately, Brazil’s economy has gone into a deep recession, so the Haitians began leaving Brazil this past year to come to the US.

It is a long journey to get through all of the Central American countries and Mexico, and without documentation, they can’t cross the borders in these countries legally. So, they pay smugglers to get them from one border to the next. The cost for them to get from Brazil to the US has been estimated to be at least $2,350.

When they reach Mexico’s southern border, many claim they are from Congo or other countries with which Mexico has diplomatic relations. This allows them to get a 20-day permit to remain in Mexico, which gives them enough time to get to the US border and wait for admission.

Illegal aliens wait to cross the border from Mexico into America

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Haitians aren’t the only immigrants that are arriving in large numbers. Central Americans, Africans, Asians and others are taking this same route to America’s southwestern borders too.

Apparently 5,000 have arrived, and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldaña says 40,000 more are on their way. This movement of so many people is putting huge pressure on the Central American countries and Mexico as they try to find places to sleep and eat along the way.

Will they be deported?

Would they make this long journey and pay all that money if they knew they had no chance?

People arriving at the US border can ask for asylum. Held in detention for a short time until their request to apply for asylum is approved, they can then file their actual application for asylum.

Once this application for asylum has been filed, they can legally live in the US while their case goes through the court system until they are either granted or denied asylum. The time period is generally three to five years, and if asylum is denied there is an appeals process which allows them to stay longer.

This is different than people who are outside the US that are classified as refugees before they arrive. Both refugees and people granted asylum status are eligible for the same cash and medical benefits.

The Border Patrol agent commented, “The vetting process starts with figuring out if they are actually from the country they say they are from.”

I asked him how they do that. He said he had no idea.

Undocumented migrants waiting to enter the United Sates from Mexico

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Coming face to face with “the immigration issue” like this was startling and disturbing, to say the least.

For most of us, it is something that’s happening “over there,” beyond our neighborhood, at least for the moment.

I have wrestled with this post for three long days now, unsure if I should share this tale on my usually very upbeat website.

However, I was shocked that the Arizona Republic (the Phoenix, Arizona, newspaper) hasn’t mentioned a thing about it in their online edition and that the Arizona Daily Star (the Tucson, Arizona, area newspaper) has reported it online only once…two days ago. It doesn’t appear to be on the Arizona TV news networks either.

Many Arizonans are unaware that the state of Arizona is taking in more Syrian refugees per capita that any other state in the union. In raw numbers, it is taking in more refugees than all but two other states, California and Michigan!

I think this story is important for people to know about. So here it is.

More info:

Update – April 16, 2017

After Donald Trump was elected president, things changed dramatically not only for asylum-seeking immigrants at America’s formal ports of entry, like the border crossing (“port of entry”) in San Luis, Arizona, described on this page, but also for illegal immigrants sneaking across the border in between the formal ports of entry.

During the month of October, 2016, when we saw these prospective American immigrants seated on the Mexican side of the border in San Luis as they waited to plead their cases to US authorities, a total of 66,000 “inadmissible” migrants showed up at America’s ports of entry or crossed the border illegally in between.

During the month of March, 2017, the total was down to 16,400, a drop of 75%.

The flow of Haitians into the US dropped from 3,000 in October to 100 in March, a drop of 97%.

Reports in November and December, 2016, indicated that many of the Haitian immigrants were being released in the US to live freely while their cases moved through the courts.

Reports in February and April, 2017, indicated that many of them are remaining in detention centers, are being deported, or are now living in northern Mexico and seeking legal status there so they can remain in Mexico.

Mexico has no plans to change their immigration policies to allow the migrants to stay within their borders.

For those who are unaware, simply obtaining a temporary residency-only visa in Mexico can be challenging. When we decided to upgrade from a standard, automatic 6-month travel visa to a one-year “FM3” non-working residency visa in Mexico in 2010, we had to supply the following:

  • A letter of recommendation from the manager of our marina
  • 6 months of bank statements translated into Spanish showing a minimum income level of $2,000 US per month
  • A set of black and white photos of ourselves that met very stringent hairdo and clothing and size requirements.

It took us several weeks to obtain the visa the first time, including several trips to the immigration office, and it took no small amount of effort to renew it a year later. The Mexican FM3 visa has since changed to a 3-year Residente Permanente – No Inmagrante visa, but the requirements are similar.

Unlike these migrants, we were not seeking to work in Mexico or to stay indefinitely.

Here are some follow-up articles:

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Navajo National Monument, Monument Valley and Bears Ears

March 2016 – The Northeastern quadrant of Arizona and a bit of southeastern Utah is the Navajo Nation, an Indian reservation that is over 27 thousand square miles. It is larger than the state of West Virginia (~24k sq. mi.). It is also larger than the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Delaware combined, with enough left over to add in the southern half of Vermont.

Just under 175,000 people call it home.

Within the borders of the northern part of the Navajo Nation, the National Park Service manages the Navajo National Monument, an area where there are some ancient Indian cliff dwellings and ruins.

Hiking at Navajo National Monument Arizona

Navajo National Monument is home to ancient Indian cliff dwellings.
One is in a cave across the canyon.

After visiting stunning Horseshoe Bend and Lees Ferry near Page, Arizona, we drove our truck and trailer across the northern part of the Navajo Nation to see Navajo National Monument.

There are three short hikes at Navajo National Monument, each one progressing along the canyon rim and offering views down into the canyons. We started with the Sandal Trail which was an easy stroll on a paved path to a viewpoint at the end which looked across the canyon at the Betatakin Ruin.

Navajo National Monument Arizona

The Sandal Trail took us along the edge of the canyon to an overlook facing the Betatakin Ruins

In the summers there are guided tours of these ruins, but they don’t start until May 29th, and we were there in mid-March. But the view of the ruins — with binoculars or our long telephoto camera lens — was wonderful.

Betatakin Ruins Navajo National Monument

The Betatakin ruins are in the back of this cave.

Ruins at Navajo National Monument Arizona

In the summer months you can take a guided tour of these ruins. We were there too early!

The Canyon View Trail hike gave us views of this same canyon, although there were no Indian ruins to be seen.

Navajo National Monument canyon view

The Canyon View Trail gave us different views of the same canyon.

Unlike the first two “mesa top” hikes, the Aspen Trail hike descended down into a canyon and gave us a terrific stair-stepping workout going down and then climbing back out.

We were definitely missing the “prize” at this park since we couldn’t do any tours of the ruins themselves, but spring was in the air and wildflowers were just starting to bloom.

Spring flower Navajo National Monument Arizona

Pretty wildflowers on the trail.

There are two dry camping campgrounds at Navajo National Monument, and they are free. Only one campground was open (and only two campsites were being used!), and with some jockeying a bigger rig could fit during seasons where there is little traffic. The signs give RV size limits of 25′ to 32′, depending on the sign, not just in the campground but on the road leading to Navajo National Monument, but in reality a 35′ fifth wheel could manage in one or two of the campsites we saw (with patience). Busy summer weekends might be more hair-raising with a big rig.

This is high desert country (7,300′) so it was quite cold during our stay, but we saw a beautiful sunset.

Sunset starburst Arizona

Remote and quiet in March, we had the sunset to ourselves.

Sunset Navajo National Monument

Sunset at Navajo National Monument

Traveling northeast from there, we passed through Monument Valley, which sits on the Arizona and Utah border. This ia a vast flat plain that is dotted with towering rock formations.

The most dramatic rock formations of Monument Valley are in the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in the Navajo Nation, a four mile detour east of US-191, the road we were on. We decided to save a trip there for another time, but stopped in at a Welcome Center to get some info.

At least, the building had a sign on it that said “Welcome Center!”

When I walked in the door, I expected to see racks of literature and a helpful person behind a desk. Instead, I found myself staring at the backs of several rows of people in folding chairs listening to a man giving a speech. His voice was low, melodic and wistful. And the language he was speaking was Navajo!

Monument Valley Arizona

Monument Valley is dotted with enormous rock formations

I wasn’t sure if I should back out quietly or stick around and see what this was all about. Suddenly, a woman approached me and whispered and gestured towards some pamphlets on a table. She wanted me to sign a petition.

“What’s it for?” I whispered.

“It’s a petition to create Bear’s Ears National Monument,” she said. She handed me a map and a glossy brochure.

Monument Valley selling Indian crafts Arizona

Indians sell crafts from stands on the side of the road.

It turned out that the Navajo Nation (together with 25 other Indian tribes) has approached the federal public land agencies for help protecting their artifacts, relics and ruins. They have been struggling with preventing the desecration of archaeological sites (ancient ruins and petroglyphs), and they want to phase out mining too.

The Navajo have never sought this kind of help before, but apparently they simply don’t have the manpower or the authority to protect the unique archaeological sites. So they are proposing to convert 1.9 million acres of land (about 3,000 square miles) into a National Monument.

Monument Valley Arizona

Towering rock formations in this part of the country often hide Indian archaeological treasures

The parcel of land is enormous. It is the size of Delaware plus half of Rhode Island.

It is a triangle that stretches, more or less, from a bit SW of Moab, Utah, in the north, down about 90+ miles to the Utah/Arizona border in the south, and westward about 50 miles to Glen Canyon, and then about 80+ miles back up on a diagonal along the Colorado River towards Moab.

The popular landmarks and destinations of Natural Bridges National Monument, the Valley of the Gods, Goosenecks State Park, Newspaper Rock and Manti La-Sal National Forest would all be enclosed inside the boundaries of the new National Monument land.

Canyonlands National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area would border it to the west and south. The north-south highway of US-191 would be outside the eastern boundary but would more or less parallel the eastern border of the National Monument between the Moab area and the Arizona/Utah border.

You can see a map here:

Map of Proposed Bears Ears National Monument in Utah

RV at Monument Valley Arizona

This whole area is extremely popular with RVers and other travelers

This proposal is unique because it requires cooperation between several different agencies that manage public land, including the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service, all of which manage portions of the land parcel already (most of the land is currently under BLM management).

The organization that is behind this and that was making presentations and gathering signatures to present to President Obama when I walked in the door is called Utah Diné Bikéyah. “Diné” is the Navajo word for the Navajo people.

I spoke briefly with Gavin Noyes, the Executive Director. He explained that this has been in the works for a few years and that the hope is that Bears Ears National Monument will be created by President Obama before his presidency is over.

He explained that in many ways the process is being modeled on Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, another ~3,000 square mile public land conversion in southern Utah that was designated a U.S Presidential National Monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906 by President Bill Clinton.

Grand Staircase Escalante was created to preserve unique natural treasures (like red rock formations). Bears Ears National Monument will be created to preserve Native American cultural and archaeological treasures (ruins and petroglyphs and ceremonial sites).

RV at Monument Valley in Utah

The landscapes in this corner of the world are stunning.

I asked what the impact would be on recreational use of the land, like dispersed camping, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, etc. Gavin explained that the intention was for better management of the archaeological artifacts and that recreational use would still be allowed, just as it is still allowed in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

Photos in the proposal’s brochure show situations where people have attempted to remove petroglyphs from rock faces by cutting them out with high powered saws. They also show images of mining and other commercial land use. These are the things that this proposal is seeking to eradicate.

Of course, even presidential protection doesn’t guarantee anything. In 1955 President Eisenhower protected a four square mile portion of Tonto National Forest in Arizona, making it off limits to all future mining. In late 2015, that was overturned by the National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law by President Obama, enabling the very same National Forest public land to be sold to a private, for-profit Australian and British mining operation. Eventually, this mine will destroy a beloved recreation area once used by campers and rock climbers that at least one president sixty years ago thought was worth hanging onto. (More info here).

An editorial in the LA Times by former Secretary of the Interior (1993-2001), Bruce Babbitt, spells out all the political back and forth that is going on behind the scenes. Just like the situation that arose in Tonto National Forest where foreign copper mines have trumped recreational use of America’s public land, mining seems to be playing a central role here as well.

Monument Valley reflected in fifth wheel trailer RV

Monument Valley reflections on our RV

All of this was news to me, and perhaps it is news to you too. I am sharing it here because the recreational use of public land is a large part of what this website is about.

Further questions can be directed to Gavin Noyes, Executive Director of Utah Diné Bikéyah by phone: (801) 521-7398 or by email: gavin [at] xmission.com

For more information about the proposed Bears Ears National Monument, see these links:

Further info:

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