Monday, July 30, 2012

Monumental decision, and poverty

It’s not every day when you say “hey, let’s not do Monument Valley and just go back to the Grand Canyon for the fourth time.”  It sounds oh so obnoxious until you realize that the other three times we went to the canyon it involved lots of tourists, lots and lots of driving, and inlaws.  This time we could pace ourselves and make it to Lake Powell with more mellow time to spare, and thus save Monument Valley for next summer’s trip we are already planning.

We started from our base of operations for Sedona’s hiking adventures, Flagstaff.  I happen to like Flagstaff.  Part of that might be from the nice motel we stayed at, the Little America Hotel.  The room was huge and front desk guy took our recommendation and fulfilled our request to be away from everything that involved tourist busses, kids, or any distraction that would ruin our enhanced vacation.  He put us on a corner room overlooking the woods were the only thing bothering us was, well, nothing.

We started out from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon after a serious thunderstorm, and immediately we became concerned that the view of the canyon would be obscured.  We were dead wrong.  The canyon had pockets of clouds inside the rim and it made for an even grander view.  The sun then broke through creating a gorgeous image of colors and landscape that we couldn’t even dream of watching.  It was pretty special.  Unlike past runs to the canyon, this time we avoided the more tourist-laden Visitors Center and west side points and opted to head toward uncharted territory to the east.  I highly recommend that you take the time to drive to Desert Watch if you have the opportunity.  You see back into the Grand Canyon from the east side, and also you get to see out along the Colorado Plateau.  Views of the Painted Desert, Navajo Mountain, and various jagged canyons were a treat to the eyes and the soul.  If there is a time when someone says “this is God’s Country”, that would be it. 

We zipped down the east face of the Grand Canyon, past the fantastic views of the Little Colorado River, into scenes of total poverty.  Ukiah is not unknown to Native American poverty conditions.  Some of the reservation land a mile away from the high school looks like it came from a Third World country.  Navajo land was a little bit different in that these were small collectives out in the middle of nowhere-desert-country.  Often we would see single-wide trailers in little clusters with particularly nice Chevy or Ford trucks parked next to them.  It was a bizarre sight that impacted us for hours between the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell.  I won’t get crazy into Native America politics but something is inherently wrong when you drop into extreme poverty the second you entire reservation land.  This reservation land and its “citizens” also receive payments from the federal government, something many Americans aren’t privy to.  Lots of things don’t add up.

We ended up sipping wine, watching the sunset over the Lake Powell resort and preparing for the trek to Bryce the next day.

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