Southwest 2015 – Journey into the Great Navajo Nation

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Sunday, December 6th, 2015

“Farewell Williams, it’s been an amazing week, but the time has come for us to explore the northeast regions of Arizona!”
We got up early today to get a good head start on the road to come. We grabbed all our stuff, loaded up the Starship and made a hasty checkout from our cozy room at the Rodeway Inn and Suites. Our breakfast was a very small Greek yogurt to go and it was just moments before we finally hit the 40 east toward Flagstaff and took the 89 northbound toward Page, AZ. Naturally we were going to hit up every interesting photo opportunity we could along the way, but first and foremost, we had to hit up the Little Colorado River Gorge that we had seen in the late dusk of our return trip from the Desert View Watch Tower a couple of days earlier.

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Looking back south along highway 89, Humphrey’s Peak marks the passage to Flagstaff, Sedona, and Williams. It is the tallest natural point in the entire state of Arizona at 12,637 ft (3,852 m). I have seen this mountain 300 miles away on a clear day when going up the back road to the Big Bear Mountains of California. It is also a very impressive sight when driving along 40 east past Kingman. This has much to do with the fact that it’s prominence is 6,039 ft (1,841 m). There are some really amazing lava tubes in that mountain wilderness and unfortunately we could not access the road to get there due to a seasonal winter closure. It will definitely be on the list for the next round of ventures we make here.

“We had made about 70 miles by this point, and we were getting a bit famished.”
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“Along the stretch of Highway 89, we stopped to snap a few pics of some Silo Art.”

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The Deli

Julia and I were starving now, so before we drove to the Little Colorado River Gorge we stopped to get something to eat. The only place we found was in the isolated town of Cameron, AZ. It was nothing more than a Conoco gas station, Painted Desert Trading Company,  and Simpson’s Market. What we didn’t notice right away was a very tiny shack of a food joint called “The Deli” which was attached to the backside of Simpson’s Market. We pulled up and took a walk inside to see what we could grub on. We ordered a couple of cheeseburger combos.

“Julia and I are about to feast and did I ever mention that I am a pepper jack cheese fiend?”

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After wrapping up lunch at The Deli, Julia and I picked up a few snacks over at the Conoco Station and then proceeded to take Desert View Drive westbound. We were definitely feeling a lot better and ready to expend some of that energy via exploration. We drove along the highway and saw many little tents and shacks set up, some had attendants who were selling Native American jewelry, dreamcatchers, and more, but some looked like they had been abandoned for years.

Our drive was not a very long one as we started to see massive cracks in the earth just north of the road. What we were seeing was the eastern most cracks of the Grand Canyon, however, these were not considered the Grand Canyon as they sit outside the National Park border. They were part of the Little Colorado River Gorge which is nested in the Navajo Nation.

“We pulled over at a tall rocky embankment and climbed to the top for a better view.”
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“Julia always gets some pretty cool shots of me getting cool shots of her.”

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“Facing east along Desert View Drive.”
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“A totally unexpected discovery! I found a Survey Marker at the top of the rocky roadside embankment.”
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“Following Julia up the rocky slope for a better view of things.”

“The view was excellent! These massive cracks in the earth mark the western most regions of the Navajo Nation.”
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We wanted to see if we could get any closer since there was a barb wired fence blocking access to the trails that we could see in the distance. We realized that we may have to drive back a little ways and park next to one of the road side jeweler stands. Julia said that she recalled seeing what appeared to be an access road or trail next to the last stand that we passed about a mile down the road. It was settled, we got down from the rocky embankment and hopped into the truck to head back.

“We found our target, a small cluster of stands and a parking area with a trail leading to the cliffs.”
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“Somebody’s day is already off to an epic start.”
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Little Colorado River Gorge

GPS Coordinates: 35.9498° N, 111.6623° W
The Little Colorado River is a tributary of the Colorado River and has carved a canyon of its own that not unlike it’s bigger western companion, The Grand Canyon, is host to it’s very own system of very steep cliffs that form the gorge. During the summer months, its mineral content transforms its waters into a brilliant ribbon of robin’s egg blue. During other times of the year, it displays an almost blood-red color. The Little Colorado River carves an extremely steep and narrow gorge into the Colorado Plateau, eventually achieving a maximum depth of about 3,200 feet (980 m). The depth of the canyon is so deep that groundwater near the floor of the gorge is forced to the surface, forming numerous springs that restore a perennial river flow.

We pulled into the dirt road that led to a small parking area near the road side stands. We didn’t see anything that suggested a fee for parking, I looked over at the old Native American couple who were running the stand and I waved hello, they waved back and that was all I needed to see to know that they were cool with us parking on their property. Julia and I grabbed our gear, some water, and snacks then headed out in the direction of the trailhead.

“The trailhead starts with a dead end for vehicular traffic in the form of large boulders.”
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“This way to adventure!”
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“The hike to the ledge was not a very long one, just under a half mile from what I recall.”
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“Julia gets right to work with her lonely little tree.”
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“I captured a lonely little tree of my own.”
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“We hiked a little further along the trail and found a very appropriate sign.”
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“We finally came across the railing that represented the edge of the trail.”
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“Having a look around at the 2,000 ft (609.6 m) cliffs.”

After hanging out at the “suggested” edge of the trail railing, Julia and I noticed that there wasn’t exactly a sheer cliff at this point, but rather a sloping set of cascading rock ledges that led even closer to the actual edge. Naturally we had to start making our way down the rocks to see what kind of photo ops we could capture.

“Looking back after making the first part of the descent past the railing.”
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“The rock here was very porous and sharp.”
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“To the west, the view of the gorge was fantastic!”
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“A closer look at the overhanging rock here reveals all sorts of rock algae flourishing in the shade.”
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“I walked over to the eastern edge where Julia was headed and the view was even more spectacular!”
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“Julia stands at the edge of a 2,000ft (609.6 m) vertical drop to the bottom of the gorge.”
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“This Prickly Pear Cactus made a great subject at the cliff’s edge.”
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“I’ve come a long way since I started fighting my fear of heights, Julia snapped a shot if me literally at the edge of the cliff.”

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The Dreamcatcher Artist and his wife

It was time to go, we still had many miles of road ahead of us. Although the old Native American couple was okay with us parking on their property at no charge, I felt that it was only appropriate to at least check out what they had for sale. Besides, I was in the market for a new dreamcatcher anyway and I wasn’t going to settle for some mass produced phony from some foreign country. As we put our gear into the truck, The gentleman who was standing there asked if we got any good photos and I said, “So many!”

Julia and I walked over and we started chatting, his name is Kenneth and his lovely wife is Lucille. I had noticed that Kenneth was in the middle of making a new dreamcatcher with the materials and needle in hand. They had so many beautiful dreamcatchers and jewelry. I could have spent at least $500 here if I just had the funds to do so, but I had to keep it modest since we were barely half way done with our venture. We chatted for a bit and I learned from Kenneth that the Dreamcatcher is not represented by the entire crafted piece, but rather the dreamcatcher is the tiny stone that is mounted in the netting. He said if you ever see a dreamcatcher without a stone in the netting, then it is not a dreamcatcher.

I had noticed the rocks on various dreamcatchers in the past, but I thought they were always just little rocks for decoration. With Kenneth’s work, he took various types of rock and carved small animal shapes into them. I found a big one that had an onyx stone carved into a black bear and Julia found a cute little dreamcatcher that had a turquoise stone carved into a mountain lion. I shelled out $55 for the big one and $25 for the small one and I did not mind at all.

“Julia and I had a Lucille take a photo with Kenneth, the Artist who made our beautiful dreamcatchers.”
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We started our journey back to the 89 and took the northbound lane toward Page, AZ. We didn’t have a whole lot of time so we decided last minute that we were going to attempt to check out the Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon and take note of how it’s positioned with the sun and lighting in mind. The sun was setting at about 5pm on these winter days so making the most of our day was a bit of a race half the time.

“Highway 89 near The Gap and Billy Goat Wash.”
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“This narrow rocky ridge formation rises almost 1,000 ft (304.8 m) off the surrounding desert floor.”
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“Passing Highway 89 to Page, AZ, we continue on Highway 89A to Marble Canyon.”
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The Navajo Bridge(s)

GPS Coordinates: 36.8156° N, 111.6662° W
Navajo Bridge crosses the Colorado River’s Marble Canyon near Lee’s Ferry in the US state of Arizona carrying U.S. Route 89A. Spanning Marble Canyon, the bridge carries northbound travelers to southern Utah and to the Arizona Strip, the otherwise inaccessible portion of Arizona north of the Colorado River, which includes the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

Prior to the construction of the first Navajo Bridge, the only river crossing from Arizona to Utah was at nearby Lee’s Ferry, where the canyon walls are low and getting vehicles onto the water is relatively convenient. The ferry offered only unreliable service, however, as adverse weather and flooding regularly prevented its operation.(Source: Wikipedia)

“The newer Navajo Bridge sits right next to the old bridge with the Vermillion Cliffs just behind.”
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“Julia stands atop the walkway of the old Mojave Bridge which is only open to foot traffic these days.”
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“I got out to the middle of the old bridge and snapped a most excellent shot of the Colorado River below!”
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Once the sun was really starting to set, Julia and I made tracks back to Highway 89 and northbound to Page. We were glad that we got to scout the area of the Navajo Bridge for consideration of future shots. We managed to get to Horseshoe Bend and literally ran all the way to the rim, but it was far too dark to get in any reasonable shots. It was good to scout that location too. Now we were exhausted and it was time to get checked into our hotel room at the Holiday Inn Express in Page. We went to the market to grab some snacks and yogurt for the mornings and we even had a sandwich from the deli for dinner. Afterward, we went back to our room and chatted about all the awesome experiences we had today and were excited about tomorrow because it was going to be our trip to Monument Valley.

Until the next travel blog, remember to get out there and “Shoot the Planet!”

“Cheers!”
~Indigo

 

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