Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Flagstaff AZ to Bluff UT

Monday, June 04, 2012 - Photos to come

It felt good to be back on the road with a full day ahead of us with our goal to possibly get to Bluff UT for the night. This is Tony Hillerman and Indian Country week and we have lot’s of stops along the way.
Our first stop as we headed back up 89 towards the Navajo Reservation from Flagstaff, was a stop at Sunset Crater National Monument. It is a huge volcanic area with Sunset Crater the largest cone.  The eruption was around 1075 and is said to be seen as far away as Choco Canyon.  Much plant life is now growing in the volcanic soil and indeed it is unique. We had hiked here on a previous trip so just drove through enjoying the scenery.    

About 30 miles further along the same loop road was Wupatki National Monument. This ruin was large and the most western great house from Chaco Canyon.  The settlement here was probably begun about 50 years after the eruption of Sunset Volcano. The influences of the Hohokam from the south blended with their Anasazi made for a unique ruin.  They had a ball court like at Casa Grande but most of the rest reminded us of other Anasazi sites.  Ben went on one part that Jane did not hike – he reported a blow hole where you could actually hear sounds like what you hear when you put your ear to a conch shell.

Continuing up 80 we turned east to Tuba City which is a major city in the Navajo Nation. We remembered a poor town with no very modern up to date stores, restaurants, etc when we were here about 10 years ago….well surprise, surprise things were much improved. We observed a modern boarding school for children, new motels and several restaurants and many new homes. Jane searched Virtual Tourist for the best restaurant for a Navajo Taco – found it and headed to Tuuvi Cafe- got there and recognized the location as where we had eaten 10 years ago but it had totally been rebuilt.  We had chosen it then because it was a small cafĂ© near a Chevron station where Lt. Leaphorn from the Tony Hillerman mysteries always ate – now it was another brand of gas, the restaurant and 3 arts and crafts shops.  But the important thing was the Navajo Taco was GREAT!!  Luckily we saw the size served a couple nearby so we knew to order one and split it!  The fry bread was light and not at all greasy …fry bread, pinto beans, chili, lettuce, tomato, onions, and green chilies.

After lunch we headed on across the reservation.  Our next stop was at the Navajo  National Monument. This is a small park on a mesa that is administered jointly by the US Park Service and the Navajo Nation. We watched to movie and a Navajo woman weaving a rug.  We hiked about 1.3 mile round trip to an overlook where we could see the cliff dwellings across the canyon. It was HOT and it was down and then back up on slick rock. ( the name for smooth rock that covers some mesas or other areas…it is not slick when dry but very slick when wet – luckily not wet for us today). The cliff dwelling could be reached only by a very rigorous 5 mile hike so we opted for the overlook with the time of day and temperatures.  The other interesting thing about the hike was the number of wild flowers along this hike – we must have stopped to photograph 10 or more different flowers. This was another Anasazi site.

The next interesting thing we saw was the electric railroad that carries coal from the Navajo Coal Mining operations on Black Mesa to Page.  The Navajo Nation operates the coal mining here in Black Mesa and sends the coal to Page where they have an electric plant that supplies power for the entire Navajo Nation.  Not sure the distance for transport but it would be 100 – 150 miles at a minimum.  

We then headed north to view Monument Valley .We have visited this area twice and while we think it is beautiful we did not choose to take a day for the tour this year. So instead we just enjoyed the red sandstone buttes in such unique shapes from afar. 

A bit further north we crossed into Utah and drove past Comb Ridge a unique geological formation, Mexican Hat, and finally arrived in Bluff.  Bluff is a very interesting small town on the banks of the San Juan River, surrounded completely by high bluffs.  We have visited here twice before and enjoyed the area; but have never camped. We chose Cottonwoods RV Campground because it sounded like it would be shady!  It had been a hot day – high 80’s and 90’s but still with low humidity. 

When Ben went in to register the man said – why we have someone else here from Kingsport!  Turned out it was another couple from Colonial Heights that we knew of through several mutual friends…REALLY small world! We had a nice visit with the Hughes discovering they have been visiting Bluff often for about 20 years!  They told us lots of stories about some of the local folks here in Bluff.  What an unusual situation to be so far from home in a small place like Bluff and run into someone who was almost a neighbor!
About 8:30 the wind picked up and a fairly bad dust storm. With heat on one side for keeping the Sprinter open and the dust saying close them up – neither made for a very pleasant evening. Finally the wind and the temperature improved and we got some sleep.

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