Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe

The monuments are (mostly) natural

The Quality Inn in Tuba City gets mixed reviews on Travelocity; we really liked it - warm, clean, spacious, pleasant design, friendly staff. The price is a little high but then it's the only hotel in town and Tuba City is a convenient stop between the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. The hogan restaurant was closed for New Year's Day but open for breakfast, and getting a real cooked breakfast (from a list of three, cooked to order and brought to you rather than languishing on a buffet) probably puts the price back to good value. We don't each much breakfast at home apart from lazy weekend brunch, but it's cold enough and we'll walk enough to be very glad of it most days. Also, American breakfast - pancakes or biscuits and sausage gravy or scrambles and hash browns - it's just so much better than limp fried eggs and beans (although the poached egg on muffin in the Virgin Clubhouse was nice too).

It's not all breakfast! We drove out of Tuba City hunting Coal Mine Canyon, which we probably drove past twice but didn't find the way into: looking it up, the directions are passing obscure.... we drove over Moenkopi Wash and caught glimpses of canyons to either, one of which would be Coal Mine Canyon, we drove up onto Cola Mine Mesa and on and on and on, with only solitude and views of San Francisco Peak - which are worth the drive anyway.

Our next random excursion was much more successful. The Navajo National Monument is actually an Anasazi pueblo sheltered in a cliff arch. You get a good view of the Tsegi canyon it's in from the overlook just outside the park station but to see the ruins you can either hike right into the valley (8am start, 6 hour walk described as climbing a 70-story building with sand on the steps and not in winter) or take the half mile track to the Betakin overlook. This would be a nice walk in any weather, up and down the slope and over several wooden walkways. When there's thick snow and a mix of snow and ice on the path it's more of an adventure: I don't much mind sitting down hard on snow when I'm wearing leather trousers, gloves and a down jacket on and we had a nice scramble and slide to the overlook. The canyons are beautiful and the ruins are impressive even from a distance: regular blocks and steps and buildings in the natural arch. But what really struck me was the complete and utter silence. There's a replica sweat lodge and fork-stick hogan at the park station; the bones of what Colter used to create her buildings.

Back to the main road and we amused ourselves by speculating on what the odd tower ahead was, and where the railway line would go. To the tower, which is where the conveyor from the coal mine ends up; now that looks like an amusement ride, up and down the slopes between the high mesa and the railway. On past mesas and canyons and distant peaks until we reached Kayenta. Navajo towns are understated; nothing flashy that draws attention, a few shops and services, a few hotels and restaurants. We chased the sun into Monument Valley, stopping several times to snap the vista and appreciate outlying rocks and then driving up to the visitor centre. The 17-mile dirt track will take a couple of hours if I can convince himself we won't bog down in mud so we stood on the viewpoint watching the sunset and gently freezing. Back to Kayente for the night, where all three big-name hotels are run by the same family. The sun setting behind a bluff throwing out stylised rays like a 1930s stained glass front door: I've always called this zodiac light. Beautiful.

Three kinds of fry bread for dinner (must walk tomorrow!): as croutons with cinnamon in a black bean chili, as the tortilla underneath chili and cheese and lettuce and salsa and all the usual southwestern extras, and with cinnamon apples and vanilla ice cream.

Some of the formations in the Grand Canyon look shaped by human hand; erosion creates stacked blocks. Colter uses that to make her buildings look part of the landscape. The pueblo ruins have been there so long they are part of the landscape, and they're made out of rocks from the place they're built. The hopi architecture is somewhere in between and Colter references it constantly and respectfully. The navajo earth hogans would fit in to the landscape as well; even the trailers and prefab homes sit snugly in the landscape.
Tags: food, travel

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