After Colorado was Utah. Deserts filled with shrubs and brush and finally having to pitch our tent and bathe in rivers. We wouldn’t have gone through Utah except that a mutual friend promised we’d be crazy to miss it. He was right. The canyons in Cisco and windy road that wound itself through beside a river was like nothing we had ever seen. The strange beauty made up for the hours of driving without rest stops through 110 F weather, the sunburn and blisters we got from our hike through Arches National Park, and the sweat that dried instantly, caking us in salt for the duration of the state. But it was hard to be miserable when every turn took our breath away. Arches national park made the Garden of the Gods look like a mini golf course with miles and miles of red rocks precariously perched on one another, and Zion national park was lush with hanging gardens, mile high viewpoints, and a turquoise river named the Virgin that we cooled off and bathed in when we camped.
And then we were in Arizona at the Grand Canyon. The north rim first which was spectacular, and lots of other adjectives that I was tired of using by the time we saw it, and then driving 200 miles around the 10 mile wide canyon. Driving through the Navajo Reservation just outside the Painted Desert brought a heaviness into the car that made us both edgy and uncomfortable. It was a sad place, and so barren. We stopped at one of the many road stands to buy jewelry and a hand carved pipe, and got into the car feeling worse. Sad because the black dog at the gas station covered in warts and foaming at the mouth was somebody’s pet, and sad to see the old red man clutching his arm and lolling his head back and forth while his grease stained levis collected dust and he asked for change. And sad to read the Navajo times about the recession that has been a reality for hudreds of years for them, while the “Trading Post” across the highway promised real native gifts sold in a family friendly environment and looked like a Cracker Barrel store. While the roadside jewelry stands were deserted, this post filled with tourist buses on the hour every hour. Not sure what to make of it I guess, or where to place my anger at injustice and sadness at a standard of living I wasn’t used to.
We continued through and pulled off a mile outside off of the reservation and camped in the desert. Both of us too scared to sleep well and too tired and broke to even get a campsite. The next morning we entered south rim of the Canyon. Ten miles (or 200) away and hotter than the north rim. A lot hotter, and 97% of the tourists that see the Grand Canyon see the south rim. I couldn’t help but wonder if they drove through the reservation too. We stayed an hour and were ready to go. It wasn’t that it didn’t deserve more attention. It was just that we were so hot and tired from sleeping on the rim of the canyon the night before, still dazed from what we had seen just outside the National park, that to be surrounded by tourists and hiking all of the well planned trails had lost its appeal to us. So we headed to a church.
Holy Cross church in Sedona. It was built by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, right into the red rock cliffs overlooking the city. It was different from the canyons and the deserts. Filled with little shops and restaurants and we weren’t even hungry. We were just hot and tired and found it hard to get off of the crude wooden pews in the shaded church on top of the city.
The west is rough. Hot and red and filled with wonders that are hard to talk about after hours and hours of driving. The west will keep you if you don’t drive fast enough. You won’t know how you ended up staying, but you’ll look around and realize you are not alone. Some come west for the adventure, some come for the wonders, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some stay because it is too hard to leave.