That’s a LONG Day

Four hundred and fifty miles; twelve hours; and four national parks or monuments. Girls and boys, that makes for one very LONG day!

2016-09-14-08-43-21-bBut, it was a good long day. We rolled out of bed early, knowing we were going for a marathon. But, our early start got waylaid by our deer breakfast buddies appearance right off our living room deck. I had opened the bedroom shades after getting dressed and saw them basking in the dappled sun shafts coming through the Ponderosa pines. So, transfixed by their beauty, I had to eat my yogurt standing by the sliding door, watching them. Finally, I realized they weren’t going anywhere and I got my camera and got bold enough to walk out onto our deck. They looked at me and carried on! Look closely. They are in this picture. Mother is just right of center and her fawn is in the bottom left corner. It was a beautiful, if slow start to the day.

2016-09-14-09-56-45By 9:30 we were gassing up and hitting the road. First stop: a return to Walnut Canyon for some photos in the morning sun. Never being one with any affinity for living on the edge, I went as close to the edge as I dared, took my photos and retreated. The wind was blowing fiercely and I was afraid I might loose my hat, or my camera, or my life! Those cliffs are impressive, and how people managed to live on them is beyond me! But, it is a beautiful place. Archaeologist have learned so much from what these ancient peoples have left behind in these dwellings. What will archaeologists in the future learn about us from what we leave behind?

After about two hours of driving into the heart of Navajo lands, we were able to make a surprise stop at one of the very few commercial enterprises along the route. The Bashas’ Grocery in Dilkon was a delight to find. Not only did they provide a “comfort stop” but had some of the best fresh donuts I’ve ever tasted! Yes, I had two!! And, they were heavenly.

2016-09-14-14-00-28Another hour of driving and we arrived at Canyon de Chelly, a park that is jointly managed by the Navajo Nation and the National Parks. We thought we might just make a short stop, but the views and the landscape were so stunning, we drove the whole length of the south rim and stopped at every pull off. The beauty is unparalleled. And, not to be compared with the Grand Canyon. 2016-09-14-14-43-30Each is completely unique and I’m so glad we made the extra effort to go all the way to Canyon de Chelly. Who has even heard of such a place? Well, now that you have, it is a must stop for any trip to Arizona.

2016-09-14-14-02-57-bWe ate our picnic lunch at an overlook and I stopped and purchased a painting from an artist who was painting rock tiles on the tailgate of his truck. He was happy to know a piece of his art work would find a home in Seattle.

Fearing the time was evaporating, we hastily tried to make it to the next stop on the itinerary, the Hubbell Trading Post. We arrived just 10 minutes before we thought it was closing at 5 p.m., only to find out they were open until 6! What a grace. 2016-09-14-16-58-18Now we had time to look around and explore. Just as its name implies, it was a trading center, a spot where cultures met and goods were traded beginning as early as the 1300’s. Around the 1890’s a man named Hubbell built a ranch and a trading post there that functioned until his daughter-in-law sold it to the National Parks Service in the 1960’s. Today it is still a place to purchase fine Navajo art and products. Not having the budget to buy most of the inventory, I settled on a handmade Christmas tree ornament of Our Lady of Guadalupe (a great number of Navajo are Catholic); a book of native culture and legends; and a tiny jar of “Natural Pinon Cream.”

2016-09-14-17-21-30Now it was 6 o’clock and we were afraid that our final stop, the Petrified Forest was also closed. However, upon research we found that we had two hours yet! The park was open until 7 and since the Navajo Nation observe daylight savings time, but the rest of Arizona doesn’t, we had an hour to make our way there and an hour to see the park before it closed.

2016-09-14-18-17-19So, another grace and another race down the highway through the amazingly varied landscape of Arizona to the Petrified Forest National Park. We checked in just in time to have one hour to see what we could see. So, we drove the length of the park making decisions as we went as to what to stop and see. 2016-09-14-18-38-34More canyon-type landscape; more rock formations and “painted desert” lands. But the most intriguing site was the petrified forest itself. Unfortunately, we arrived there exactly as the sun was setting. My pictures don’t do it justice and you’ll have to click the link to see some pictures in the sunlight. All of it a truly stunning example of diversity in creation and the effects of time on the landscape.

2016-09-14-18-39-09The moon rose; the sun set; it reached seven o’clock and we had to be making our way to the nearest exit of the park. We were so very happy we were able to make every destination of our day’s plan, even if it seemed at times like we had to take the abbreviated tour.

Now it was pitch dark and we drove to connect with the major highway to make our way “home” to Flagstaff, another two hours and fifteen minutes away. But that hastily packed picnic lunch wasn’t lasting very long and we were scouting for nourishment. In the town of Holbrook, driving down the main street we saw “The Butterfield Stagecoach Co. Steak House.” Now, that sounded pretty good!

2016-09-14-19-27-17The place looked like it had been there since the Butterfield boys established their stage line, but the waitress showed us to a table and we shared a sirloin steak platter. It was enough to keep us going for the next hour and a half.

At 9:50 p.m. we pulled into our drive. Four hundred and fifty miles; twelve hours; and four national parks or monuments. Quite a day. Quite a memory. Quite a grace.2016-09-14-19-38-23