Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Back from Western jaunt


Mexican Hat rock in Monument Valley.
We were there 20 years ago. Strange to think
how old we'll be if we wait 20 more to return again.


Jacob got up to go watch the sunrise with me.
Sandstorm obscured the brilliant red fireball I remember
from 1989, but very cool and eerie and beautiful to be there.
Jacob like the blowing tumbleweeds.

Dinosaur tracks near Tuba City, Arizona.
Navajo Nation.

Grand Canyon. They're pretty good hikers.

Two of the hottest moments of my life involved hiking
The GC in the summer... 1987 and 89, I think. It was nice
to be there in mild weather. Even saw snow.

Zion NP...stunning, and kids loved all the rock scampering.



In front of the Zion Lodge.

We returned late Saturday night form a week-long Western jaunt. We flew into Vegas and went to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley (with a side trip to the pathetic Four Corners) and the wonderful Zion National Park. I had been to all of these places before, but it was really different and fun to be there with the kids.

One of our motivations was really wanting the kids to have a great American adventure, to realize that we can still go out and do fun, wild stuff here, after all the Asian adventures. And also to fully understand the scope and grandeur of this great country of ours, to remind them that it is more than New Jersey, Michigan and Pittsburgh, our regular haunts.

We even did some ad libbing, adding in an unplanned trip to Monument Valley and the Four Corners, largely driven by Jacob’s obsession with seeing the latter. It was the one stop I had never made on this journey and now I see why. We drove hundreds of miles to get to a gravel parking lot. The upside: it was a stunning few hundred miles and it got us to Monument Valley, which is just as incredible as I remembered.

Becky and I were there almost exactly 20 years ago and she got quite sick there, necessitating a rushed and quite scary drive to an ER in Flagstaff, Arizona. So there was some sort of karmic justice in getting back there. I think the kids really got the magic of the place, too, and were quite intrigued by being in the Navajo Nation and seeing so many native people.

There was some really crazy weather there, with a big sandstorm whipping the red sand around in big swirls and sending tumbleweeds rolling all over the place, much to the kids’ delight. On the way in, I asked the woman at the entrance booth if this was normal weather and she said yes, for March and April. I asked how they handled it. “we stay inside.”

“What about back in the day?”

“Actually, I have no idea,”

Then Eli surprised the heck our of me. “I know what the Navajo did during sandstorms,” he said. “They had two different structures, a winter one, which was protected and only had one small window and a more open summer one. They went into he winter building during sandstorms.”

Wow. He told us a lot more about Native Americans after that.

Zion was particularly successful. Its beauty and majesty are hard to top and they all loved the endless rock scampering and climbing possibilities. Wild turkeys and deer everywhere.. Not too overrun with cars, thanks to the smart mandatory bus shuttle system. I can see making this a regular stop, as it is an easy three hour drive from Vegas and great place to meet up with West Coast friends.

We stayed in Vegas one night when we arrived (late), and thought about going back for the last night, before deciding that Zion was just too sweet to leave (more ad libbing). And thank God. The place is tremendously changed in the two decades since I’ve been there, but it’s as nasty or nastier than ever and no place for a family, no matter how many circus acts and roller coasters they add. The sleaze was just too much and the titillating billboards too hard to explain.