This is the final report from the tour William Ernest and Susanne Waites to the National Parks of the Western US. Our granddaughter was with us. On these two days, we introduced her to the Native American culture reflected in our web sites: ZuniLink.com, Native-PotteryLink.com, Native-JewelryLink.com and TribalWorks.com .
As the end of our tour of the National Park draws close, we are starting to get itchy to move on.
Nothing had been formally planned for the next two days. We only needed to be in Salt Lake City on the morning of the 21st to catch our flight back to Chicago.
We decided on an early rise and a drive to Second Mesa in Hopi-Land.
We planned to have breakfast there, at the Cultural Center, to give Melissa a first-hand native experience.
This resulted in us leaving at sunrise and driving east into the blazing sun. Even with the visor down, the vision was seriously impaired. We were creeping along the drive in front of El Tovar at under 5 miles per hour. It was a good caution. Suddenly, directly in front of the car, standing in the middle of the road, was a large buck elk. He towered over the car and was in no hurry to move from his road. He was accompanied by another younger buck and two or three does.
It was a stunning vision.
We stopped so the entourage could clear the road and so we could shoot photographs of this very close personal encounter.
We concluded that this probably was the same group of elk that had left their calling cards on the rim path a day earlier.
Hyped up by the experience, we continued on our way, only to realize that we had forgotten to check out when we left Bright Angel Lodge. We decided to return just to be certain they would know we had left. We were not that far down the road.
After stopping again at the Lodge lobby and telling the reception desk that we were leaving, we started out again.
By now the elk family had moved on, but we did see another group of deer or smaller elk while retracing our eastward route.Aside from a short stop at the Watch Tower on on the east end of the South Rim, where we saw some different perspectives on the canyon, we were on our way.
The trip required us to drive up Route 89 to a road that enters and passes through the Hopi Reservation.
Hopi is made up principally of three mesas, although many Hopi today live in areas below the mesas. The mesas are identified as First Mesa, Second Mesa and Third Mesa, said to be in the order the Spanish invaders encountered them.
The Hopi Reservation is completely surrounded by the much larger Navajo Reservation. Conflicts between the Hopi and the Navajo over land ownership and use go back many generations.
The mesas were settled by the Hopi for reasons of security.
Centuries ago, a mesa was a difficult height to climb without being seen and was easier to defend from attack than a flatland community. Since the mesas are not suited to sufficient agriculture to support the population, the Hopi became very inventive subsistence farmers. Corn is planted not in rows but in individual mounds of three or four plants, which can be watered efficiently. This is an important consideration in the arid desert the Hopis inhabit.
When driving west to east, Third Mesa is the first one the road passes through. It is the lcoation of Old Oraibi. It was said to be founded in about 1150 and is said to be the oldest continually occupied village in North America, although many Native American villages make a similar claim. In any case, it is extremely orthodox and conservative and does not generally welcome visitors.
Second Mesa is the Home of the Hopi Cultural Center, which includes a restaurant, hotel, arts and crafts co-op, Hopi museum and a handful of small galleries or shops.
Second Mesa ia very important to me. I often feel it is a spiritual center of the universe for me, even though I have no Hopi blood that I know of. Perhaps the power of a place can transcend tribal affiliations.
In any case, the importance of Second Mesa to me is underscored by an experience I had on my first visit there. We had driven to Hopi from Flagstaff. We visited the arts and crafts co-op which was packed with Hopi jewelry, pottery and paintings. (It appears to have since fallen into disfavor with Hopi artists and has very little material on display; very sad for me).
While there I saw a painting by Milland Lomakema that captured my fancy.
It was a Mondrianesque representation of the Second Mesa Cultural Center. Driving back to Flagstaff, I was seized by the compulsion to own that painting. Susanne allowed me to turn around and drive back to Second Mesa just to buy the painting.
It now hangs on the wall of my living room, a small piece of Second Mesa in my home.
Back to the trip, we stopped at the Cultural Center for breakfast. I had blue corn pancakes. I always have blue corn pancakes when in Hopi. Susanne also had the blue corn pancakes, but Melissa chose French toast. Not much was left on our plates so I concluded every one else enjoyed theirs as much as I enjoyed mine.
After breakfast, we spent a few minutes walking the area. Susanne and I have stayed in the motel more than once. This time, however, it was a quick tour of the two open shops and the museum before moving on.
We did see a necklace we admired in one of the shops.
Buying it would have exceeded our sensibility about a fair price. So, lacking the storekeeper's willilngness to deal, we moved on.
Driving out of Second Mesa, we passed the entrance road to First Mesa, the home to the legendary community of Walpi. Founded in the 1600s, it exists today largely as it did hundreds of years ago. It has been the location for many photos of Hopi people.
At the foot of First Mesa is Keam's Canyon, with a grocery store, restaurant and McGee's Trading Post. We know the owners and respect them as knowledgable and fair people. Then, it is up the canyon side again to head east through pine forests to Window Rock.
But first we pass Hubbell's Trading Post, famous for the founding owner's contributions to the Navajo blanket and rug trade.
Soon we reached Window Rock. It is a thriving Navajo community and headquarters for the tribe. Not far beyond we reached Gallup and I-40 (nee the famous Route 66, where I got some kicks years before the Interstate System was completed)
From Gallup, Susanne drove east to Albuquerque.
Ironically, one of Susanne's favorite geological phenomena is the lava beds left from volcanic activity centuries ago. The windrows of stoney, black lava line the road. They are fascinating to see and have created numerous ice caves beneath thier crests. The irony is that Sue was looking forward to sharing that visual experience with Melissa. Alas, both Melissa and I slept almost all the way to Albuquerque. So much for early rising.
In Albuquerque, we stayed at the Rio Grande Best Western motel on the west end of town. Susanne and I had stayed there more than once in the past. It had been seriously upgraded since then and was quite comfortable, swimming pool and all. The only disappointment was that the AAA guide we relied on to determine the current status of the place said it served a complimentary breakfast.
When we went to the restaurant the next morning, we were told the complimentary breakfast had been discontinued but hotel guests received a 20% duscount off their breakfast check. I hate to be chintzy, but that just didn't seem right to me. If you promise something or it is promised on your behalf, you should deliver it. I know that is what we do with our tribal arts business.
So, if you are traveling through Albuquerque and consider stopping at the Rio Grande Inn, book directly with them and ask questions concerning what has been promised and what is likely to be delivered.
We had dinner the night before at the restaurant at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. This facility has seriously upgraded since our last visit. It now includes a pleasant outdoor terrace on which to dine. The aftrnoon we were there , however, it was much too hot to eat outside. July in New Mexico after all. What would we expect?
Previous visits to the IPCC no alcohol was served.
We thought things were the same since there was no wine list. We were half way through our meal when we noticed what appeared to be a beer on a neighboring table.
So we asked.
Yes, they had recently received a license to serve alcohol and wine was available. So we imbibed. It was one of those, "if you don't ask, you won't know" incidents. Assume nothing.
The IPCC gallery and shop is a wonderful place to experience Pueblo native crafts and art.
We walked Melissa through the rooms and described whatever she asked about.
The next day (after the breakfast we felt cheated about) we drove up to Santa Fe. We took Melissa to see the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. The exhibit there, which we did not know about before hand, was of drawings created by well-known Indian artists of today, when they were students in the Indian School.
Fascinating to see the talent of these masters when they were mere art students.
The pictures had the added value of depicting home life for the students.
We did not overnight in Santa Fe since we were a long way from Salt Lake City and had just two days to get there for our flight home.
Instead, we headed north through Durango and on through some of the most beautiful Rockies scenery, complete with incredibly twisty roads and surprising views. Our next stop was to be Montrose, Colorado. We arrived early in the afternoon, checked into a new Days Inn, to which we referred when we had called another Montrose motel and they were filled. Cooperation among theoretic competitors serves everyone and is to be applauded and encouraged.
Crass commercial break: We always refer people to other companies if we don't have what they are looking for or we can't answer their question - and we get lots of questions we can't answer.
Dinner in Montrose was at a local Chinese buffet. (I know. I know. But I love Chinese food, which I am pretty sure is made here. Altough, on a steam table you sometimes wonder.)
Anyway, as a new or newly remodelled motel, the Days Inn in Montrose was a very comfortable stay and included a real complimentary breakfast.
The next morning we continued our drive north to Salt Lake City.
By this time connected to I-15, with its HOV lane, which we used effectively. Looking for lodging near the airport - e had a morning flight - we had found the SkyHarbor Inn. We had reserved a night's stay, again using AAA.
When we showed up, they had no record of our reservation. Fortunately, I had an email print out verifying that we had booked. Still. much rig-a-ma-role. Call the manager. Wait in the lobby. Check with AAA. A whole lot of delay after a long drive. The general feeling was that we were incidental to the business, not important to it.
Finally, they relented and put us into a unit.
Sky Harbor is a condo hotel, meaning the units generally are owned by individuals and placed in the condo association rental pool. The unit was okay. The problem was that it was on the second floor, up a long steep flight of stairs, with a loft up another flight.
We had to schlep everything up the stairs in order to get organized for the next days flight. This was not good news for a guy with a bad knee after days of traipsing through park lands.
On the plus side, there was a nice pool and fitness center, albeit a fair hike form our unit. Internet service is important to us. They had advertised wireless. But it wasn't inthe rooms. It was in the fitness center/pool area. Another Sky Harbor disappointment.
Anyway, we were up the next morning, got to the airport with plenty of time to turn in our rental car and check in for our flight.
Shortly, we were airborne and on our way back to Chicago to deliver Melissa to her eager parents.
Quite an adventure. We even got into some Native American tribal culture and art. How else could we, with four web sites featuring tribal art - ZuniLink.com, Tribalworks.com, Native-PotteryLInk .com and Native-JewelryLInk.com - have ended the trip?
Future issues of Tribal Artery will focus more on that subject.
I hope these digressions were interesting enough to justify their existence. Thank you.