Sunlit Water

February 28, 2009

Day Eleven

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 6:44 pm

I didn’t take any pictures today, but I did see some stuff.  I spent most of the day around the UNLV campus, including at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History.  The museum closes at 2:00 pm on Saturdays, so I didn’t get a chance to see everything there, but I did see the southwestern arts and crafts exhibit, which was my main priority, and a little of the Mesoamerican stuff.  It’s a pretty interesting place.

After that I headed up to downtown Las Vegas with the intention of seeing the old Mormon fort, but I wasn’t able to find it.  (I wasn’t really looking that hard.)  Then I headed down the Strip and out of town, intending to see Sloan Canyon, but I couldn’t find it either, which is not too surprising if you look at the directions at the link.  Neither of those was a high-priority destination for me, and I did get to see a lot of the city and the surrounding area, so I wasn’t too upset with how the day went.

February 27, 2009

Day Ten

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 10:33 pm

I left St. George in the morning and headed south through the northwest corner of the Arizona Strip and into Nevada.  My first stop was the Lost City Museum in Overton, which contains the artifacts recovered from the many sites excavated in advance of the inundation of the lower Virgin and Moapa Valleys by Lake Mead.  This was one of the very earliest salvage archaeology projects, and the museum actually dates to the same time (again, all New Deal work).  It’s been substantially updated, however, and is very nice and thorough.

From the museum I went to the nearby Valley of Fire State Park.  This, the oldest state park in Nevada, is an area of red sandstone formations similar to those in southern Utah and northern Arizona.  It’s pretty cool just for the geology and scenery, but it also has a considerable amount of rock art, some dating back to the Archaic period.  The park gets a lot of visitation, and there were quite a few people there today, so not everything has held up well over time, but there are some particularly secluded panels such as the ones at Atlatl Rock that have withstood the ravages of time and tourism quite well.  The visitor center is interesting but seems to be in the process of being renovated, so it was a little disorganized.

From the park I continued southwest to Las Vegas, where I drove around for a while, exploring, then got a room at a Motel 6 just off of the Strip.  I got this room for two nights; there’s quite a bit of stuff I’d like to see in this area, but it’s all actually pretty low-priority and I may just take the opportunity to relax a bit.

February 26, 2009

Day Nine

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 4:58 pm

I took a few more pictures of Kanab this morning, then headed south into the Arizona Strip, through Fredonia and on to Pipe Spring National Monument.  This is one of the more obscure Park Service units, but it’s a pretty interesting place.  It’s a fortified ranch house built on top of a spring and used by the Mormon church in the nineteenth century to collect tithes of livestock.  The monument is surrounded by the Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation, and the visitor center is actually on the reservation and is operated jointly by the Park Service and the tribe.  As a result, the (very nice) museum has a strong tendency to present things from the Paiute perspective, which is sometimes at odds with the Mormon perspective.  It leads to an interesting and, I think, pretty balanced account.

From Pipe Spring I continued west through Colorado City and back into Utah.  When I got to Hurricane, I realized that this was a different world from the places I’d been in the past few days.  There was sprawling development everywhere, and it continued all the way into St. George, which is where I stopped and got a motel room.  It was a bit overwhelming to see so many people and so much wealth after spending so long in the sticks.

I doubt I’ll do a whole lot in St. George, though I may take some pictures.  I think I need a break and a chance to relax a little.

February 25, 2009

Day Eight

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 10:53 pm

I stopped briefly on my way out of Bicknell to fill up on gas and buy some detergent, then headed south.  My first stop was Anasazi Indian State Park in Boulder, which I had actually been to before on a family trip to this area.  At the time I hadn’t been very impressed with it, because compared to the sites at places like Chaco and Mesa Verde it’s just not a very large or impressive site.  I’ve since been reading a lot of archaeology, though, and I’ve come to realize that this site, known in the literature as Coombs Village, is actually very interesting, in part because it’s extremely large for its time and place.  Its location is way out on the far fringes of the Anasazi culture area, and it appears to be contemporaneous with Chaco,  which seems somehow meaningful.  The architecture of the village is also unusual; there is a Kayenta-style straight roomblock right next to a more irregular roomblock reminiscent of those found in the Virgin area to the west, along with a bunch of pithouses, and these all seem to have been occupied at the same time.

So this time, with those things in mind, I paid more attention and was a lot more impressed.  I was also impressed with the museum, which is small but very good.  Judging from both this and Edge of the Cedars, it seems like Utah State Parks does a great job with these sites.

From Boulder I continued driving to the southwest, through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument with its fantastic scenery and terrain, past Bryce Canyon National Park, to Mount Carmel Junction, where I ate at the Thunderbird restaurant.  The food was good, and I also had a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie.  From there I went south to Kanab, where I took a look at the visitor center for the monument, then did my laundry at an odd little laundromat at a gas station.  The laundromat was totally deserted when I showed up, but I took a chance on it and it turned out fine.

As I was packing up my clean clothes and getting ready to leave, a car pulled up to the laundromat and two clean-cut young men in suits walked up to me.  I had heard of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, actually, and I wasn’t interested in converting to it, but I had a nice little chat with them and they were very pleasant and not at all pushy, which is exactly what I like in a missionary.  They were from Pennsylvania, and it seemed a little odd to me for them to have gone to Utah, of all places, on their mission, but the inner workings of the church are, as always, a mystery to me.

After the elders left, I left the laundromat and got a motel room, which is where I am now.  The internet is a little iffy, which is irritating, but otherwise it’s pretty nice.

February 24, 2009

Day Seven

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 11:39 pm

First thing in the morning I went to Edge of the Cedars, which is a fantastic museum and a pretty interesting site as well.  One of the kivas has been reconstructed and you can go into it.  I spent pretty much all morning there.

When I was done at Edge of the Cedars, I took a few pictures of Blanding then headed south.  My first stop was at Westwater Ruin, which is a cliff dwelling just south of Blanding.  It’s pretty obscure and seems to be virtually unknown outside of Blanding and the immediate area, and there are no signs for it at all.  Indeed, it took a while for me to find it.  It was worth it, though.

After Westwater, I continued south to Utah Highway 95 and headed west.  There’s a bunch of cool stuff along 95.  I stopped at Butler Wash, which is an interesting cliff dwelling, then at Mule Canyon, which is an open site, contemporaneous with Chaco, that has been excavated, stabilized and partially reconstructed.  There’s a lot to see there and it’s right off the highway, but it doesn’t seem to be very well-known or frequently visited.

Next up was Natural Bridges National Monument.  The bridges were interesting in their way, but I was perhaps more intrigued by Horsecollar Ruin, which is visible from an overlook along the loop road.  Like many cliff dwellings in southeastern Utah, it shows signs of both Mesa Verde and Kayenta influence, and it also has that weird horsecollar thing, a pair of oddly shaped rooms which are unique as far as I know.

From Natural Bridges I headed northwest, crossed the Colorado River at Hite, and went through the rugged canyon country up to Hanksville, where I stopped for gas and took some pictures.  From there I headed west to Bicknell, where I got a room for the night.

This time the story doesn’t end there, however.  I noticed when I checked in that the motel had a laundry room that was quite near my room, so I figured this might be a good night to do some laundry.  I went in there and it looked decent enough, but it didn’t have a vending machine for detergent, which I need.  The motel’s restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays for some reason, so I was going to need to go out to eat anyway, so I figured I’d stop somewhere while I was out and pick up some detergent, then come back to the motel and do laundry.

Sounds simple enough, right?  Ah, but this is small-town Utah, so it’s never that simple.  I left the motel around 7:45 pm, and as I drove through Bicknell I noticed that all of the convenience stores were closed.  I had noticed this to some extent in Blanding too, but it wasn’t as universal there as it was here.  There was literally no place in Bicknell to buy anything that late in the evening.

Now, Bicknell’s a very small town, so I decided I might have more luck if I expanded my search to Torrey, which is eight miles east of Bicknell and which I had come through on the way in.  I drove out there but found the same thing: all the stores were closed.  There were some restaurants open, however, which was not the case in Bicknell, so I figured I  could at least stop somewhere to eat once I finally found some detergent.

Not having had any luck to the east, I decided to try to the west, and went as far as Loa, ten miles from Bicknell, but nothing was open there either.  More disconcertingly, as I was doing this back and forth among these towns I kept noticing that more and more of the restaurants that had been open when I first went by began closing.  I eventually gave up on finding any detergent and decided to just wait on laundry until I was in a larger community with more services, but by that point it had been an hour already and all of the restaurants in all three towns were closed.  I had to go all the way to a place east of Torrey, which was the only open restaurant anywhere in the area, but I did finally manage to eat dinner.

So what’s the deal with this?  It’s clearly some weird Utah thing, since I’ve never encountered it anywhere else, and I think that points the way to the answer.  Most small towns in most parts of the country have restaurants that are open late because they have bars, which are open late as a matter of course, and some of those bars serve food.  Small towns in Utah, however, don’t have bars, so their restaurants close whenever they feel dinner time is over, and they apparently feel it’s over by 8:00.

This is not, incidentally, because of legal restrictions; Utah is not actually dry, and while it does have a tangle of onerous regulations about selling alcohol, they’re not really any more onerous or ridiculous than those in many other states.  There are plenty of bars in Salt Lake, and, indeed, the place where I ate tonight serves beer (and was pretty busy when I showed up).

Rather, the issue is one of demand.  In a small Utah town like Bicknell, everyone is Mormon, and most people take that very seriously, so the potential clientele for a bar is extremely limited.  Larger and more cosmopolitan areas have different demographics, of course, and areas that are heavily tourism-dependent are in a different situation, but in general there’s just not much demand for places that serve alcohol and/or stay open late at night.  It works for them, I guess, but it can be frustrating for someone like me.

February 23, 2009

Day Six

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 8:57 pm

I spent most of the morning in Cortez, then headed north to the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, which is an excellent museum at the site of McPhee Reservoir.  It contains all the material collected during the Dolores Archaeological Project, which conducted salvage archaeology in advance of the construction of the reservoir, and there’s a ton of stuff to see there.  Above the museum is a Chacoan great house called Escalante Pueblo, which is also very interesting.

From the museum I went northwest to Lowry Pueblo, another Chacoan great house and part of Canyons of the Ancient National Monument.  It has one of the very few excavated great kivas anywhere, and it is interesting to compare it to the better-known ones at Chaco and Aztec.

From Lowry I headed southwest into Utah, and stopped at Hovenweep National Monument.  I only had time to do the two-mile trail right behind the visitor center, but that was plenty.  This was something of a last-minute addition to the trip, but it was definitely worth it.

From Hovenweep I headed northwest to Blanding, Utah, which is where I am now.  I’ll spend the night here then see some more stuff tomorrow.

February 22, 2009

Day Five

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 9:03 pm

I left Flagstaff fairly early this morning (for me), after having a bagel and filling up on coffee at Late for the Train, and headed north.  I stopped at Sunset Crater and Wupatki, then continued northeast to Cortez, Colorado, where I stopped for the night.

February 21, 2009

Day Four

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 7:33 pm

After breakfast at Biff’s Bagels, I headed south from Flagstaff to Montezuma Castle.  It’s a pretty neat place.  Not exactly a hidden gem, however; I couldn’t believe how many people were there.  It’s pretty easy to get to and apparently pretty well-known, and today was a gorgeous day, so it was packed.

The same cannot be said of the next stop I made, Tuzigoot.  This is also a pretty interesting and impressive place, but it seems to be much less popular.  One thing that’s particularly notable in light of certain recent topics of discussion is that this monument owes its existence entirely to the New Deal.  Many national parks and monuments benefited significantly from the CCC and WPA, of course, but the story here goes well beyond that.  Before the New Deal, this was just an obscure, unexcavated ruin on a hill owned by a copper mining company.  When the depression came, the mining stopped, and the economies of the nearby towns of Clarkdale and Jerome totally collapsed.  When Roosevelt began putting programs into place to put people to work, someone realized that this was a pretty big ruin that would probably make a good tourist attraction if it were excavated and interpreted, which would benefit the local economy even beyond the obvious immediate stimulus effect of paying unemployed miners to excavate it.

The only problem was that it was on private land, where New Deal funds could not be spent, so the local school district bought the land with the intent of eventually transferring it to the state or federal government, and work began.  In addition to excavating the site, the workers built a wonderful visitor center and museum, one of the few museums from that era to still survive in more or less its original condition (although it is slated for a major update this year).  Once work was complete the school district couldn’t really afford to manage the place, so in 1939 Roosevelt declared it a national monument and that’s what it’s been ever since.

It’s a pretty cool site too, perched up on top of a hill.  The views are fantastic.

On the way back I went through Sedona, where I saw firsthand the problems with free parking.  I decided as I was going through to stop there to eat.  This wasn’t something I had intended, but I was getting hungry and it was on the way.  When I got to the cool little main street section, however, it was just mobbed with tourists.  There was no available parking on the street, and I turned into a parking lot advertising free public parking only to find it packed as well.  There were a lot of other people circling around trying to grab spaces as they came available.  I decided I’d had enough and just kept going back to Flagstaff.

Free parking is cool and all, but there’s a real price to it in all that circling around and the resulting waste of gas and time.  If the on-street parking had a price to it, people with spaces wouldn’t hold on to them all day and it would be a lot easier for people newly arriving to park.  Just a thought.

February 20, 2009

Day Three

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 8:50 pm

In the morning I went to Homolovi, which seems to be safe from closure for now, then I went back to Winslow and took a bunch of pictures.  Now I’m in Flagstaff, where I plan to be for a couple of days.

February 19, 2009

Day Two

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 9:31 pm

I didn’t exactly intend to spend most of the day at Petrified Forest National Park, but somehow it just kind of happened.  I drove there from Show Low in the morning and went all through the park taking pictures, focusing particularly on the cultural sites that I was most interested in but taking notice of the views and the ubiquitous petrified wood as well.  It’s a great place.  When I was done there I headed west on I-40, stopping for gas in Holbrook then continuing on to Winslow to spend the night.

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