Sunday, May 17, 2009

Item From the Past: Arizona Days

May 17-19, 1997.

Saturday: The big event of the day was going to Boyce Thompson Arboretum [photo below], about an hour’s drive southeast of Phoenix (Ed drove). It was hot as we walked through it, looking at the multitude of desert plants, plus lizards and other small fauna, but there was a fair amount of shade. After we returned to Phoenix, we had a late lunch at an inexpensive steak/Mexican/Southwestern restaurant built on the site of a hacienda and flour mill on the Salt River, which was bone dry.

Sunday: In the early afternoon we picked up Mama at Sky Harbor Airport — I think it’s a funny name — and soon embarked on a drive northward. We took the Interstate to Flagstaff, passing through but not stopping there, and then took Arizona 89 to Cameron, about 25 miles from the eastern entrance of Grand Canyon Nat’l Park and just inside the Navajo Reservation. Along the way we stopped at Montezuma Castle National Monument, a cliff dwelling built and inhabited by the Sinagua Indians around A.D. 1100, and having naught to do with the emperor of the Aztecs. Nothing like a desolate ruin to enlarge your day, as it whispers memento mori in modern man's ear.

We checked into the Cameron Trading Post Lodge, a complex of very comfortable and well-appointed rooms, a lovely garden, an enormous gift shop and a restaurant. The rest of Cameron seemed to be mostly small trailers spread out on the arid landscape. Since we’d arrived late in the evening, we had dinner at the restaurant. Three of us had a thing called a Navajo taco, which was much like a taco except that “Navajo frybread” was used to hold the ingredients. A regular one of these was enormous. The frybread was the best ingredient.

Monday: A day at the Grand Canyon. After breakfast at the motel restaurant (not bad) we headed west to the canyon, stopping first to see it from Desert View [pictured below]. It was the first of many views we stopped at.

Later, after arriving at the park headquarters, Mama and I hooked up with a tour of the town of Grand Canyon’s cemetery, which has a number of pioneers and miscreants of early canyon times within, as well as a memorial to the two airplanes that collided over the canyon in 1956. Yuriko wasn’t feeling so well then, and doesn’t care for cemeteries anyway, so she sat it out. After the tour, we started to look for a place to have a picnic (we’d brought food), and it started to rain while we were at a shopping complex near the headquarters. Yuriko says that that complex didn’t exist when she was there before, in 1990. So we ate at a picnic table facing the parking lot, under an extension of the roof of the stores.

But it was a short rain, and soon we were walking the South Rim trail, taking in some more views. After about a mile of this, we wanted to take a shuttle back from near the Teddy Roosevelt-era hotel whose name I forget, but couldn’t find the stop, so we walked back. But that time we were plenty hungry, and discovered a cafeteria across the parking lot from where we’d had lunch. It was reasonably good and not too expensive — a marked change, Yuriko said, from the last time she was there, when buying food at the canyon meant getting gouged. We didn’t finish dinner that evening till after dark, which meant driving back to Cameron on the narrow and reflector-less park roads. It was a long few miles.

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At 8:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it was probably El Tovar that you were trying to take a bus back to. This does at least date when you came to visit us--it was bloody hot for so early in the year, and I remember nearly frying at Boyce Thompson. I just sent a friend to Cameron last month, and she loved it, so apparently, some places are timeless.



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