Sunday, April 6, 2014

Navajo country travels

March 31 - 6, 2014:

It was about 100 miles from Holbrook, AZ to Gallup, NM with about 96 of those miles being on Route 40 east.  We left at 8:30 AM with very little wind to contend with, but the forecast says: I'll be back !!!  It was a very pretty ride, great scenery, with what seemed like a hundred billboards advertising the "El Rancho Hotel" in Gallup.  We missed the "El Rancho" on the last pass through town, so it's a must see this time.  It felt nice to move into another state again, was starting to feel like a resident of Arizona.

Great mural in Gallup

Amazing pawn shop / trading post in Gallup

So many Concho belts and Navajo blankets for sale

Another great mural in Gallup, this is one half of it

The infamous American Bar, a real dive !

This man insisted I take their picture, their 35th anniversary

Famous El Morro theater in Gallup

Coal mining union confrontation mural in Gallup

BNSF freight trains roar through Gallup constantly

El Rancho sign
The interior

We are camping at the "Red Rock Park" is a great facility that holds many big events throughout the year.  They have a world class rodeo arena and a impressive indian museum.  It is in a spectacular setting against a beautiful red sandstone rock formation.  It also has two great trails to Church Rock and Pyramid Rock, we will be doing the Church Rock hike again for sure. This is the site of the "Church Rock Ranch and Trading Post" established in 1888 according to the carvings in a nearby sandstone rock wall.  An old stone Trading Post building remains, not sure if it is the original one, but it looks it. 

Rodeo grounds participant entrance

A Navajo emblem

Ancient pottery display at museum

Museum display of blankets and baskets

Red Rock Park view

The weather forecast this week is very wintery, with freezing temperatures (20-30's) at night, 30-50 MPH winds with higher gusts and light snow forecast for Wednesday night.  Gallup is located at  6,4368 foot elevation and there doesn't seem to be a warm valley nearby for us to move to, or we would.  I'm a little worried about the rig freezing up, so I bought a blow out plug on Tuesday and used it to blow all the water out of the RV pipes. We're really dry camping now !  It actually was fairly easy to do and we can go without water easily since there is a bathroom/bathhouse next to the rig.  The downside of this this RV, which I knew when I bought it, is that some of the water piping is underneath open to the elements with no heat tape or insulation to prevent freezing.  This will definitely be a future project.  In a strange way, it's exciting, like we're really camping out in the wild. The view from the RV is special, red rocks on each side, Church Rock in the distance, no human structures in view and accentuated only by the sound of the wind and the lonesome sound of a freight train in the distance.  

Tuesday's original plan was to hike Church Rock, but the wind and blowing sand put that on hold.  Instead we went downtown and visited the Gallup Cultural Center which is located in the old Santa Fe Rail Depot.  The Southwest Indian Foundation runs the center with a "Masters Gallery" of native Indian art and a "Storytellers" section with cultural and historic exhibits of the Indians and the Gallup area.  Gallup is sort of the "Capital" of native Indian pottery, jewelry and art with around 100 stores and trading posts. 

The famous Navajo leader, Chief Manuelito

Indian art

Navajo rug loom exhibit

Sand painting

Wednesday and the wind continued, so we took a ride to "Window Rock", AZ about 30 miles away.  Window Rock is the government center of the Navajo Nation.  The government offices are located in a very nice setting adjacent to the rock face with the hole in it known as "Window Rock".  It's really odd to see so many Indian's, we are a minority here.  We then visited the Navajo Nation Museum and had a yummy Indian Taco and beef vegetable soup.  As expected, the museum was great.  Wednesday evening the wind is ripping again against our little house on the prairie and the temperature is dropping.

Window Rock mural

View near Window Rock

Window Rock

Navajo code talker monument in front of Window Rock

Painting of the sacred gathering of the corn pollen
 It started to snow in the early morning hours on Thursday with a temperature of 27 degrees and about an inch of snow on the ground.  That enabled me to get a few winter snow scenes this year.  The day evolved into a mix of sun and large white puffy cumulous clouds.

A cold snowy start

Red rocks and snow

A nice dried flower arrangement

Friday morning was hopefully the coldest, enough is enough, 24 degrees, but sunny!  We went to the "El Morro National Monument" which is a very historic and beautiful spot.  It has a year around pool of water at the base of the rock wall which in the early days was the only reliable water source for thirty miles in all directions.  As a result, the Zuni Indians had a huge settlement there until the mid 1300's called "Atsinna" which housed from 1,000 to 1,500 people.  A portion of this site, located on the Mesa top, has been excavated and is visible.  They have a great 2 mile trail from the base of the Monument to the Mesa top with incredible views.  After the Indians,  the early Spaniard explorers came seeking the fabled riches of the golden cites of Cibola.  Of course, they never found them, but they left their mark on the Sandstone rock walls. Finally, the Americans explorers and settlers came also leaving their marks on the rock walls.  As a result, they also call this "Inscription Rock".  After the hike, we went a mile east to the "Ancient Way Cafe" that has a artistic, hippie vibe, along with great food and deserts.  There is an attached RV Park that would be a good place for future reference.  We then traveled to the "Zuni Pueblo", but saw little to do there except ride around.  They have a strict "no photography" policy unless you buy a permit, so no photos were taken.  The town is dirt poor looking, very old, like going back in time.  The "middle Pueblo" is located there which is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the US.  There was no visitor information that we could find and it's not appropriate to walk around gawking at the sights, mostly poverty, unless you have a guide.

The famous pool of water

Spanish left this in 1709

Army captain left this in 1860

Looking down from Mesa top into canyon

View from the trail to valley below

Trail on the Mesa top

Great trail with beautifully carved steps

A portion of the ruins on the Mesa top
We went to the very popular "Fire Rock Casino" on Saturday evening where the money was flowing, but unfortunately, not to us.   It was filled to capacity, doing a booming business and seems to be what you do on Saturday night in Gallup.  The indians are sure are into gambling, it was about 98% indian inside, but no alcohol.  Twinkles broke even (if she is telling the truth) while I lost again, but it was good entertainment for a couple of hours.  

Sunday, we finally did the Castle Rock trail and it was as good as we remembered it to be.  This time we took the loop trail around the peak and returned by a different route.  The clouds and the blue sky were also spectacular adding to the grandeur.

Church Rock at dusk

On the trail along the edge, our destination in background

I was intrigued by the the seams in the rock

Twinkles looks small in this vista

Those clouds are not enhanced

Erosion at work, like a work of art !

I'm standing at the base looking up

great wavy contours to the rocks
The weather forecast looks more favorable for the upcoming week and it seems to be slightly warmer at our next destination in Chinle, Arizona.  This is deep in Navajo country where we will visit the Canyon De Chelly National Monument.        

In the house of long life, there I wander
In the house of happiness, there I wander
Beauty before me, with it I wander
Beauty behind me, with it I wander
Beauty below me, with it I wander
Beauty above me, with it I wander
Beauty all around me, with it I wander
In old age traveling, with it I wander
I am on the beautiful trail, with it I wander

(old Indian chant)

That says it all,
Twinkles and Slick

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