Visually Overstimulated

The first jail in Moab is now a breakfast joint called The Jailhouse Cafe. We had a tasty breakfast. My selection was a poached egg, soul-food bacon(thick and meaty) and a buttermilk pancake with lingonberry compote. M.E.A. had the cafe’s famous ginger pancakes and bacon. It was a good thing we were well-fed because we had a long day of driving to the Grand Canyon thru breathtakingly beautiful but relatively uninhabited country. By hour five we, especially my pal, were visually overstimulated.

Leaving Moab we traveled south towards Arizona but soon took a 17-mile detour to the Canyonlands National Park, Needles overlook. We saw a camper, one truck, some cyclists and lots of cattle, some of whom crossed the road in front of us, on our way to the overlook. The overlook gave us about a 250+ degree view of the area. Reading a sign, we learned that the area was once the Redd Family Ranch. We wondered whether their name really was Redd or if they changed it to Redd since the area was that color, shades of red with some green vegetation. There were some snarly looking junipers on the top of the mesa; the wind must be fierce. I threw a decent size rock over the fence at the edge of the mesa hoping to hear it hit the ground. After three rocks, I gave up. Either it was too far down or my hearing was even worse than I had thought.

We headed back across the open grazing area to State Highway 191 to follow it until we turned southwest onto the Trail of the Ancients, otherwise known as State Road 163. Before getting to SR 163, we stopped in the small town of Bluff, Utah which boasted of a 13th Century kiva. I followed the signs down dirt roads and up the side of hill until coming to the kiva, which had recently been excavated. The parking area gave us a great view of this town of 320, most of whom we guessed worked for the nearby mining companies. The color of the land had changed from reds to the colors of dust, white and grey.

Just a couple of miles down the road, the Trail of the Ancients goes through Monument Valley, beautiful red(many more than the crayola 64 box) rock country with many stunning stand-alone rock formations. The drive left us without words to describe the intense color and stunning scenery, but also left us with a feeling of insignificance and desolation. The quiet was deafening. We recovered from the melancholy that had set in with a good belly laugh at the name of the town, Mexican Hat. We couldn’t figure out how it could have gotten its name until we got closer and saw the rock formation north of town. It is a large flat rock perched precariously on a much smaller rock, like a mexican hat.

Just before we crossed into Arizona we spotted several Navajo craft booths and then a large Navajo settlement with government buildings, high school and community facilities. The land began to change again, flatter with the colors in the ‘earth’ tones, and there was a significant increase in population and cars on the road. At a stop for gas and a drink in Tuba City, Arizona we encountered stray dogs for the first time. We had seen stray (read feral) dogs early in the trip, but these dogs were brazen, coming up to cars sticking their heads into open doors looking for food.

We arrived after 7:00pm at the Desert View area of the Grand Canyon. This round tower offers great vistas but my camera battery died while we were enjoying the views. Hungry and tired of driving we made it to our hotel in the Grand Canyon Village, checked in and headed straight to dinner. We were pleased to be seated at a window table in the Arizona Room of the Bright Angel Lodge overlooking the Grand Canyon while the sun finished setting. We dined on surf and turf, then headed off to bed, but not before encountering a few mule-deer while walking back to our room. Mule-deer are an interesting animal, crossed between the two animals they are named for and appear docile, slow and somewhat awkward. It’s hard not to like these unattractive creatures.

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