Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sedona, Too

As you might gather from the comments below, while we were taken with the setting, the town of Sedona left us bemused at best. With Sharon still ailing, our plan for Tuesday was to drive the Red Rock State Park and then to take it easy and do a few travel chores.

Our host Sebastien, proprietor of Desert Rose B&B, had a better plan for us, however. Just west of where we are staying in Cottonwood, a working class suburb of Sedona proper, is an old ghost town, reborn as a rather charming hillside tourist trap. Jerome began in the late 19th century as a mining town. It has a rich history not just in mining, but as a scene of violent attacks against labor carried out by the mine owners, the Douglas family, in the second decade of the 20th century. By mid-century, however, the town, which had suffered multiple fires and mine collapses, was all but abandoned. It had 50 residents in 1950. When the family tried to sell their home there for $10,000 in the 1960s they could not get it, and instead gave the house to the state which made it into a park. From that point, the town became a magnet for artists, hippies and the like, and then an attraction

The family name was vaguely familiar to me and only as we toured their home did it come to me that Lewis Douglas, one of the several sons of the founder, was a minor official in the New Deal and then rose to greater prominence as a supporter of Harry Truman. Their rather lovely house, built in the 1910s, has been preserved, but sadly, as a museum rather than an historic house, so only the exterior, surrounded by mining exhibits, endures. It was fun seeing it, enjoying the setting and rambling through the town.

Side of the house, as you approach from the parking lot
This is the front, pointed uphill toward the town
Mine car exhibit in front of the house

The town

In the afternoon, we toured by car, and I managed to capture a few more images of this amazing landscape.

Dinner was at a little place in nearby Cornville called Harry’s Hideway, another suggestion of Sebastien’s. Harry, apparently, was a programmer, turned chef, who worked in Phoenix and then decided to open a restaurant here that would reflect purely his own style and values. Wow! Sedona’s L’Auberge, the first night, was elegant and charming, if a bit overdone; Harry’s Hideaway is the real deal, a place for folks who take dining and food seriously.

Today, we are off to the Canyon de Chelly (thanks Jeanne), a 240+ mile drive.


For the past few days, Sharon has been suffering from a cold, so we have set Sedona as an easygoing period, lots of sleep for her, a bit of catching up on travel chores, kickback.

First, some impressions of Sedona. The setting, in Arizona’s Verde Valley, is stunning. No wonder folks flock here. That said, the town seems, to our eyes, a bit silly. Charming, with it’s new ageness, but silly. Amusing. Perhaps, a cross of Berkeley, Glastonbury and Palm Desert or any other resort town. A few pictures, to let you judge.
A bit of old Sedona and the setting that made it famous

The Sacajewa Plaza directory says more than I ever could

Sharon and the woman herself, or at least as re-imagined here

Crystals and Vorteces and Stores, oh my!

Even before we arrived, we decided on a special dinner and pointed Open Table toward L’Auberge, widely regarded as the town’s best restaurant. The setting, creekside, was superb on a balmy evening, and the food, while good, was a bit fussy and overprepared for our California palates. They were trying too hard. On a scale of 1-5, maybe a 3.8 where San Francisco’s Indigo, one or our favorites, would get 4.2. But enough grading. I am (mostly) retired, no more grading.

We got a late start Monday morning. Sebastien at Desert Rose, offers a minimalist breakfast, something we needed after Hopi breakfasts that neither of us could finish. When we checked in on Sunday I was more than pleased to see an exercise room with a small but carefully chosen set of weights and machines. I spent an hour working on upper body since we have done plenty of walking at least up to now.

At midday we met Beth and Jon Messer who had driven up from Scottsdale. For those who don’t know him, Jon is a longtime friend and consummate penman, at one time editor of Stylus magazine, among other accomplishments. I had not met Beth, and Sharon knew neither of them. But it was still like old friends meeting up. A lovely afternoon.

Afterwards Sharon and I wandered a few of the tourist stops before closing out the day, early.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

From Second Mesa to Sedona

Easter Morning dawned clear at the Hopi Cultural Center. As we went from our room to the dining hall we chatted briefly with the young men and women putting the finishing touches on the piñatas for the Easter festivities. But we did not remain for those. We were scheduled to make the brief trip of about 80 miles to our next stop, as culturally different as can be, Sedona.

But, first, we had heard of the Katsina dances being held in Moenkopi, a Hopi village located near the Navajo settlement at Tuba City. (The land arrangements here are complicated, to say the least.) Unlike many Hopi ceremonies, these were open to the public, so, with some good advice on deportment from an Anglo who lived in the area with his Hopi wife, we set out.

Of course, I was unable to photograph any aspect of the village or the dances, but just witnessing them was enough. They were held in the central plaza between two rows of houses. We had the good fortune to arrive just as one of the dances began. The dancers were dressed as you see them in standard depictions and this was a serious dance. I cannot ever pretend to have understood any of the rituals performed, but these are early planting dances, prayers for fertility and a good growing season and perhaps this drought cycle made them even the more intense. There were about eighty dancers ranged in an oval, all men, of every age and stature. The Hopi tend to be short and thick, we fit right in, though we were two or only four “anglos” we saw there. The beat of the drums was hypnotic, you could feel it and soon my body picked it up. It was a fitting and appropriate way to spend Easter morning.

After the dance ended around mid-day the question was where to go and what to do. We had a late, specified check-in at our bed and breakfast (loosely construed, more on that, perhaps, later), so we had a day to kill. Under the heading of it seemed like a good idea at the time, we decided to drive 178 miles southeast to the Petrified National Forest. We got there barely in time to stroll about looking at the fallen trees before heading out to head to our “real” destination of Sedona.

On Monday we look forward to lunch with pen buddy Jon Messer and his wife Beth and strolling through Sedona itself.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hopi Arts and Culture

We began our second and final day with our guide, Gary Tso, who took us off first to see the work of a silversmith, Duane Tawahongva. It was a treat to see a man in his workshop creating before us a pendant made entirely by hand from scratch. Although we were in no way obligated to buy the piece, the theme, begun before Duane knew anything about us, was healing hands and that seemed just perfect as a gift to our daughter who works as an ICU Vet Tech. Interestingly enough, it turns out that Duane and I have a mutual acquaintance. A small world.

After that Gary took us out to see some petroglyphs on the First Mesa. Just to explain, these Hopi and Navajo lands are all on an extensive Black Mesa which subdivides down to three mesas that the Hopi occupy, you guessed it, First Mesa, Second Mesa, where we are staying, and Third Mesa. The site of the petroglyphs was an ancient marketplace that was on a trade route that extended up from South America all the way east to Florida, and the earliest signs of use in that place stretch back 1500 years.

Along the way Gary provided a running commentary that tied together creation myth, history and geography. He kept mentioning readings to further illuminate his points to the extent that I almost suggested that he publish a bibliography.

We’ve learned more than I can put into this narrative in our brief time here. The Hopi seem not just willing, but anxious, to share their culture and their personal narratives with visitors. It has been a gift to travel here and our lives will be enriched not just by the pottery and other objects we have acquired but by the experiences and stories that came with them. Anyone interested in native American culture will benefit from time spent here.

Gary, our guide, and Sharon

look carefully for the airplane-like image near the center. Gary said that it represents the flight of Halley's comet in 1066

The mythology on this female image is said to include human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism on the part of the early Hopi people.

The desert blooms in spring

The Hopi Cultural Center

Now for something different. From Zion Canyon we took a fairly long drive, about 300 miles, backtracking into Arizona to visit the Hopi Cultural Center at Second Mesa in the heart of the Hopi Nation. On the way we stopped briefly at Glen Canyon Dam, before powering on, so to speak, to the Hopi Nation which curiously, is surrounded by the lands of the Navajos. Gotta find out how that happened.

As Sharon observed at lunch, shortly after entering this land we felt like we should have passports. This is a different culture and one that has very carefully chosen what elements of mainstream culture to accept and what not, and often the decision has been made village by village. One of the things made clear in several of the villages is that, while we were welcome to visit, there are rules including prohibitions on photographing and sketching. I hope tomorrow to find out why, whether it is some sort of cultural, religious thing or a deasire not to be misrepresented. While I totally respect that limitation, I found myself looking at buildings hungrily, wanting desperately to photograph them, not because they were picturesque (they aren’t) but because they represent a culture so very foreign to us.

So, one of the things we decided to do is something I don’t think we have ever done in our travels, not even in China (which is as exotic as we have gotten) and that is to hire a guide for tomorrow. But, not content to simply laze about this afternoon, we decided to ramble on our own and ended up visiting a rather interesting village. Old Orayvi Village on the second mesa dates itself back to 900AD, though others mark it as more recently settled, in ~1100 AD. The village is purely traditional, and that means that the governing council has decreed no power lines, no running water, because to do so would disrupt the air and the ground of their ancestors. What led us there was the gallery of Sandra Hamada, which is reknowned for exquisite arts we spent a bit of money on a traditionally carved and wrought Katsina as well as some other small objects. When we return home I’ll do some images of our katsina, but for now the delicate figure is wrapped up. Sandy also educated us in the history and culture of the village, then and now.

As we emerged we were invited by one of the men of the village to visit his mother’s pottery and to see some figures that he and a friend had carved and painted. I am ashamed to say that I do not remember his name, even though I bought a signed piece of his work. I’m too lazy now to go out to the car to retrieve it. But the main event, as it were, was a fifteen minute lecture on traditional pottery making. Only later did we find out that she is a retired teacher (figures), and so she taught and demonstrated how traditional pottery is made in the ways that she learned from her grandmother.

To the outside eye, this village would look primitive, ramshackle and impoverished. It would seem to reinforce all the stereotypes of native Americans as victims, but without anyone saying it the message is clear, these are people, many of whom are educated, who have chosen to limit many of the modern conveniences in order to preserve their heritage. I don’t want to minimize the plight of Native Americans in mainstream society, or to overly romanticize, but their lives in many ways represent a balancing act that I centainly did not understand until this afternoon.

We spent the rest of the afternoon driving through a bit of the rest of the Hopi nation, and as we headed back, I cheated and used about 1200 mm of real and digital telephoto to capture images of a village from a distance. These are the villages of the first mesa, as opposed to the traditionalist second mesa and they look more like the images of “impoverished” Native America we are used to seeing.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Great Day in Zion

 After an off-day (we all have them even on a trip like this), we had a fantastic day yesterday (I'm posting a day late because of a horrible connection in Zion), walking and soaking in the wonders of nature (and taking a few pictures).

For the first time on this trip I have missed having the old roadster. This is the kind of scenery you want to surround yourself with, and so that’s what we did. We walked about 2 ½ miles along the Riverside Trail which is a superhighway of a trail, paved and graded, with wheelchair access (and we saw a couple of wheelers out there). It also has offshoots some of which I took, and at the end those hardier than us don waterproof gear and go upriver to the narrows. Gotta say that walking down at 4000 feet is a whole lot easier than at 7500. This walk may have been a stroll in the park, but it least it felt like it.

The Riverside Walk

Ma and Pa and Buffalo
Dramatic lighting at day's end

Zeiss to Bryan

OK, I just had to do that, as someone interested in cameras (Carl Zeiss) and American history (William Jennings Bryan) I have always in my mind transposed the name of these two National Parks, Bryce and Zion.

We made the eighty mile trip between the two parks relatively quickly, I did, afterall, promise that Utah State Patrolman not to speed, and got here by mid-morning.

This park, Zion, gave me something we had not gotten at either the Grand Canyon or Bryce, the view from the bottom, and the park is, in its own way, different than the other two. For one thing we have moved away from the high desert of the other two to pine forests. We did a shorter walk than usual and then got onto the shuttle to hit a few other stops. More tomorrow.