Life Is A Journey

Life Is A Journey

(Remember that images can be enlarged by clicking on them)

The crack of dawn. It cracked because it was brittle with cold. Here I awoke at first light  in a gravel pit near Williams Arizona.

I am determined to journey homeward in a meandering fashion, with no particular route planned. The journey, after all, is its own reward. After all the repairs and expenses I knew I dare drift no further eastward, away from the general direction of home on Vancouver Island. I arrived in Flagstaff, where it was cold, snowy and blowing. I found a McDonalds and checked my e-mail and the weather. With more real winter to come, I checked for an RV Park then entered the data into my dash-mounted GPS. It lead me for miles in all directions and finally in the gathering darkness, I fired the miserable little box. The Grand Canyon was in my sights so I headed westward, where I would turn on to Highway 64 and find any old place to camp.

In the early morning light what to my wondering eyes should appear? A lifelong airplane guy, you’ll just have to put up with my occasional aviation photos. A pair of Convair 990s.
An inglorious end to a wonderful life of airshow flying. Closed for the winter, the museum claims to have many flyable aircraft stowed away inside.
Drones are nothing new. I want one for my birthday!
Bin der, Dun dat! No photo can convey the immensity, not only of geography, but also of man’s insignificance on this tiny planet within the universe. All this photo can tell you is that I was there.
That is the Colorado River down there. It’s almost a mile to the bottom and obviously much warmer. It is hard to believe that this meandering stream was the prime maker of the huge canyon. So where did all the dirt get washed to?
The nearby sign said 8000′, ASL. A ski hill close by was on Humphrey’s Peak, 12, 600′ up in the frozen desert sky.
That’s better. This is the through-road from the Grand Canyon where it arrives at Cameron AZ. I would have been here six hours earlier if the road had not been closed, forcing me to backtrack through Flagstaff.
If I had not been forced to detour, I would not have had the joy of meeting these wonderful Navaho ladies selling their handmade crafts. Who can resist smiling, waving people on the roadside out in the lonely desert?
They even sold mutton soup! An arrow and a bookmark were the only only souvenirs I bought  from these women on the entire trip. We had a great chat and I discovered the Navajo people endure the same issues as the North Coast natives at home, of whom these folks had never heard! That’s Lady laying there, guarding the jewellry.
“Honey, I felt the earth move.” A section of old highway. Things take a very long time in the dry desert to vanish into the earth.
A horse in the Painted Desert. The country is beautiful. I was left wanting a horse of my own so I could ride and ride. I can feel my saddle-sore bottom even as i think of it. Then there is the aching back of the poor horse who had to carry me!
A hogan. This was the traditional Navajo home. No matter what these folks live in now, they still also have a hogan for traditional religious purposes. With roofs made of different materials, the doors alway face east to catch the morning sun.
A Navajo community.
Beautiful but hostile to gringos like me. It is amazing to this outsider how indigenous people survived and thrived in this environment. Their art demonstrates enough free time to develop a rich cultural cornerstone.
Neo-native art at a roadside craft marketplace.
There were several murals, all very poignant.
While taking my photographs, a young Navajo girl stopped to shyly ask if I’d seen her runaway dog, a young brindle female pitbull named ‘Jinx.’ Hope you found your way home doggie!
One more
Sheep are an important part of Navajo culture.
The Painted Desert now holds a piece of my heart. Imagine a desert night’s sounds under a brilliant moon and star-studded sky. Whistling wind, coyote’s howl and all the things that go bump in the lonely night. Then comes the golden light of dawn against the vermillion cliffs. It is said that if your dog runs away, you can watch him going for the next three days.

 

The night was crackling cold. I piled on all my blankets and thanked the Gods for my propane furnace. The stars were amazing. By morning the potable water pump had frozen. I was worried about split plumbing but all’s well that ends. I arrived at the Park Gate, paid the horrific fee, and found my way to the snowy parking lot. I’ve seen thousands of photos and films of this incredible hole in the planet, but nothing can prepare a person for the moment when you first look upon the Grand Canyon. If you are not rendered speechless, then you are a sad creature indeed. My photos can only confirm that I was there; they cannot do justice to the expansive and overwhelming feeling of the place.

Unfortunately the price of being able to easily attend one of the world’s greatest marvels is that there are people, bus loads of them, steadily arriving in an endless convoy. They overwhelmed the place, with hordes pushing, shouting, being rude in every possible way and seemed oblivious to any sanctity or wonder. They’d come half-way around the planet to take selfies on their mobile phones and absolutely nothing else seemed to matter. I really do try to love all of God’s creatures and I hate categorization and racism so all I’ll say is that it is holiday time in celebration of Chinese New Year. “Gong Xi Fa Cai” with all due respect! These tourists were everywhere, I mean every-bloody where I was to go in the following days. Their behaviour was consistently rude and arrogant. Shop keepers and vendors expressed dread at their invasion. I’ve been in China, the folks there are charming and considerate. I cannot explain beyond my personal observation of what happens when they are visiting here. I should quickly add that I’ve found other cuacasion cultural groups just as abominable when on their vacation. People!

With the fabulous shifting light, I could have stayed, but after having actually been shouldered aside a few times, I decided to proceed forthwith. My plan was to drive on to a place called Cameron, where I could consider my options, but the road had been closed due to wintry conditions. Swearwords indeed! Why the hell could the National Parks folks not have made the closure clearly noticeable beforehand?

Frustrasted, with no other option, I headed the sixty miles back to Flagstaff, fortunately in part, on a different route. I ended my day in Page, Arizona on the shores of the great man-made Powell Lake where the Colorado River was dammed, and damned. Incredible scenery was sacrificed to make a huge recreational waterway. I had no interest in seeing it and headed off to see other wonders. Everywhere I go, I am boggled by what I see. The grandeur and vastness is too much to comprehend. I want to come back and slowly sponge it in and so the bottom is blown out of my bucket list. I am bemused that nearly all the best views are smudged by power lines. Or on clear days, by an endless parade of jet contrails streaking in all directions. I wonder repeatedly at how the world must have looked before it was “Settled” and how we have altered it so drastically and so quickly. Small wonder at the disenchantment of the First Nations People.

Finally arriving at the Arizona/Utah border I had to choose a route that lead approximately northwest. With a simple choice at a crossroads I left the natural wonder of the scenery of Kanab Utah behind and drove over yet another snowy pass into the wonderland of Zion National Park. I had barely heard of this place and can only describe it, inadequately, with photographs. I caught an incredible afternoon light and realized that everything was happening in a serendipitous order that makes perfect sense in retrospect, including some very wonderful people I meet along the way.

I’ll be back.

Beauty is not caused. It is.” …Emily Dickinson

Foresight

A traveller’s promise. Beyond Wickenburg, home of the Desert Caballeros Western Museum museum. I did not go in. Every town claims to have been the prime stomping-grounds of Wyatt Earp. He was a very busy dude!
It’s hard to believe I woke in this van under a palm tree this morning and now I’m going to bed in this! Yep that’s sleet on the windshield, ice on the ground. Eeeech.
Altitude makes all the difference. The Glen Ilah Hill is a steep winding grind from the desert floor below to a high plain and forest 4000′ higher.
His Master’s Voice. Remember that? Mainstreet Yarnell. Many of these small American towns look as if someone walked out the door one day, and never came back. You keep expecting to see Rod Serling standing on a street corner.
See what I mean?
Each little town can be easily dismissed as being like all the others. Yet, if you have a real look, they all have their own distinct personality.
Beauty in the storm. It chased me as I went along. The welded steel pipe fence went on for miles and . Even if prefabbed,it was a helluva project. (Trump Fence Company?)
The GPS says it all. On the road to Prescott, complete with several roadside crosses. Pelting rain and sleet, swirling cloud, snow plows on switchback corners. Nope, not sleepy!
Jerome or bust! Part of the bigness of this incredible country is that distances are given in miles not kilometres. You drive and drive.

Light jazz was playing on the local radio station. Saxophone, piano and pan flute. Then came a crash and a flash of light. For a moment I thought I was back in Ajo with yet another sonic boom. It was thunder and lightening. Thick rain and snow pellets rattled down on the van.

It is hard to comprehend that only this morning I was among the palms and cacti of the broad Ajo Valley. On the way, I missed a turn and drove miles out of my way and then had to drive through the heart of Phoenix. It’s no place for the likes of me and I’m glad to have that gauntlet behind me. Now I am at 6000’ASL in the boulder-tumbled mountains above Prescott, southwest of Flagstaff Arizona. I drove up from the valley east of Phoenix into the clouds and onto a high plateau which rapidly became a jumbled rocky forest and a winding, snaking road that crawled through it. The radio station is from nearby Prescott, the local forecast is for up to three inches of snow tonight. The countryside and forest are fantastic, entirely new to me. That’s why I came. As promised I’m meandering homeward but palm trees to snow in one day, that was not within my foresight.

The ups and downs of travel in Arizona. For a few hours I leave the snow behind, until I drive up the next mountain pass. Just before I could pull over and take this photo I left an indelible image behind. A huge prickly pear cactus was poking out of a snow drift. The road maintenance is excellent.
Driving in Arizona is seldom dull. Brake shops and funeral homes must do very well. “Look ma, they got no snow down there.”
Jerome AZ. I could have spent a whole day here, with my camera clicking. This funky town is perched on the side of a very steep hill at 5000′ ASL. Every home has a view.
The countryside is constantly changing. Open plains dotted with Juniper, cactus and sage, deep winding canyons, steep cliffs and weird rock formations. It is NOT boring. This stream in winter freshet will probably be bone dry by late spring.
Gobsmacked!
The dramatic red rocks of Sedona are surreal. They made many cowboy movies here.Shame they were black and white.
What does a priest have to do to be sent here? It is a stunning piece of architecture that blends with the natural surroundings. I pondered yet again how a dogma that claims peace and love as cornerstones, uses a symbol of capital punishment as its icon.
Dang rocks! Yer view in every direction gits spoilt!
Every home in Sedona has curb appeal. This house also has my idea of a lawn.
Front yard shrubbery. Now try pruning that.

I am determined to take some gorgeous photos of my own in the Sedona region and then meander on northward on routes which are new to me. All the repairs I’ve had to make on the van have gobbled up my already tight budget. So there is a stress factor but I am determined to return home refreshed and recharged. Old aviation clichés about wings and prayers and groping through the murk with dusty gas tanks are coming to mind. Well, ordeal or adventure, that it is up to me. I have had some wonderful moments, making wonderful new friends and seeing amazing things. And, the grandest times of my life have been when I didn’t have the proverbial pot. No, not the one you smoke!

Tonight I’m snug in a National Forest Service campground, parked on a level asphalt pad with a lighted outhouse only a few long paces away. The fee is a modest $5. The forest around is open, a mix of Ponderosa Pine and Juniper. There are punctuations of clear rushing streams among jumbles of smooth, large boulders. It is the sort of woodland where I could wander blissfully for days. Look there’s another deer! I am warm, dry, fat and happy inside the van. As I edit my day’s photos the radio station KAHM, Prescott Arizona, 102.7 continues to play a lovely mix of music. It will be a long dark night and it sure beats sleeping in a ditch. I realize that, for the moment, I don’t want to be anywhere else. That’s a grand feeling! G’night.

Over the pass and down through the funky old mining town of Jerome I descended to the broad, undulating valley below and began tacking and gybing across the country like a good sailor should. The suddenly I found myself in Sedona. The natural scenery is stunning and beyond description. The whole town has been designed to blend in with that natural wonder. Despite the reek of money and the glossy architecture it is elegant and makes this town, in my opinion one of the most beautiful inland communities I have ever seen. Even in February, the sightseers were everywhere. I can only imagine how it is in the peak seasons.

Travelling northward from Sedona the scenery changes dramatically yet again as you wind up along Oak Creek, famous to Southwest nature photographers. Unfortunately there are few safe places to pull over and where provision has been made, they have gates and toll booths.
Everywhere is an essay on Rocks and water. Here a trickle of water belies the eons it has taken to carve the earth.
Oak Creek was a dream. Note the waterfall up high, coming down from the ridge.
I drove for miles to find a spot to turnabout and come back to this piece of the creek. Fortunately the light was still good.
I’ve said it before. “Hi mom, I’m home.”
A cave across the road from where I parked.
The cave evolved.
On up the creek.
It began to snow yet again. I drove on and up yet another twisting steep grade. At the top I travelled for miles through a snow-laden pine forest. Fresh elk and deer tracks crossed the road everywhere. I emerged from the forest into snow-shrouded Flagstaff where Old Route 66 is the main drag. It took me three tries to get out of that town for good.

I know those devastating numbers of people need to be controlled but it gets frustrating. No matter where I wanted to stop for more photos there is a plethora of signs and concrete preventers of some description. You are expected to display a permit but there is no indication of where to purchase one. Other places one is able to stop will not accept the day permit from the last place. Travelling north from Sedona along incredibly beautiful Oak Creek there is no place to pull over and work your camera. I finally emerged out of the spectacular scenery, miffed about all the photo opportunities I had to pass by. It is cold and snowy and blowing. I am sitting in the van tonight somewhere west of Flagstaff apparently on a road to the Grand Canyon. It will be beautiful with all this snow. Yesterday I was in Ajo. It is a long way away now. Was I ever really there?

Power To The Peeples.

Part of being sane is being a little bit crazy.” …Janet Long