/ Grand Canyon

Riders of the Purple Sage

Seriously, this post is only a little over a week old, no need to get your knickers in a knot.

As we drove out of the Grand Canyon National Park it started to snow. It was picturesque but we were be glad to be moving on given the temperature drop. As a wise man once said: 'Fuck this, let's get a hotel room.'

As we got out of the Grand Canyon NP and our altitude dropped the snow stopped but the rain continued all the way to Monument Valley where we stayed in a hotel overlooking the Valley for a couple of nights. It was nice to slow down a little after some long days.

Monument Valley is the quintessential western movie set. Red dirt, shrubs and towering pillars of rock jutting up all around. Countless John Wayne / John Ford films were set there and it has cameoed in all sorts of films from National Lampoon's Vacation to Back to the Future 3.

The highlight of our time there was the tour of the valley that we did with a Navajo guide. David was not only knowledgeable, but being Navajo himself he was able to take us into parts of the valley that white folk like us are not otherwise able to access.

The Valley itself is in Utah (Mormon Country) but it is Navajo land. I was hoping to get a better understanding of the Navajo situation in modern America but I don't know that my understanding of the situation developed any further. I was struggling to get even a basic understanding of the governance situation on the 'reservations' and all our guide offered up was a fairly positive view of the first white folk to settle in the land (the Gouldings) and speaking glowingly of the Navajo's contribution to the US military. The Navajo language was actually used to encrypt radio communications during the Second World War. The code was never cracked by the Japanese. That said, a few snide comments did slip out which belied and underlying resentment.

It was Armistice Day (11/11) and there was a procession of Navajo people on horseback honouring those who had served in the armed forces. The people in our tour group started calling out things like "thank you for your service". That was a bit of a culture shock for both of us - you'd certainly never see that in Australia or the UK. We later quizzed a more critically minded American we met about the incident. She believes it's a direct reaction to the negative way that Vietnam Vets were treated when they returned.

The next morning we were up early for our drive up to Bryce Canyon which, at about 3000m altitude was the highest point of our trip. It was a long drive too, not that I mind at all. All I ever seem to want to do these days is just drive through this country - it's just so beautiful.

We stopped at Lake Powell on the way. The lake has been created by the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River which allows a relative trickle to continue down into the Grand Canyon. It's said that this damn resulted in the birth of the environment movement in the US [citation needed]. 90% of the water in the Colorado is diverted for various purposes (not least of which is irrigation) and the last 100km of it has been completely dry since the 1960s.

None the less it's a suitably spectacular lake which shimmering glass-like water, a couple of small Yachts getting about and a grouping of house-boats that looked particularly inviting.

We arrived at Bryce Canyon with just enough daylight left to drive the length of it and have a quick look at each of the lookout points. given the altitude it was suitably cold with a light dusting of snow from the previous night.

Again, it's a totally unique bit of scenery and so, so beautiful. A very wide canyon with sandstone rock formations jutting up, striped with the sediment of millennia. We definitely didn't give Bryce Canyon enough time. There are lots of walks down into the Canyon itself which we just didn't have time to do and the snow meant we were ill-equipped shoes wise.

We had booked a hotel room in the national park that night as the overnight low was forecast for minus ten degrees Celsius. When I enquired as to the Wi-Fi password for our rather expensive hotel we were told: "Sorry, no Wi-Fi, no television and the hotel restaurant is closed for the season." How quickly one can go from heaven to hell.

The next day we made a b-line for Zion National Park which was reasonably close by. You'll never guess... Yep, another totally unique and utterly astonishing little pocket of the world. To get into the main Canyon you actually drive through a narrow tunnel carved out of the rock-face and emerge on the canyon floor with towering red cliffs on either side, a little stream running straight through the middle with autumn-leaved trees lining it's banks and rock climbers up above.

Again, it seemed like on of the more accessible parks with loads of walks we'd love to have done but just didn't have the time for. Vegas awaited.

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Riders of the Purple Sage
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