There are always some favorites…

It is always fun to go through all the photos at the end of a trip…especially when one of the photographers is Alex Roszko. Most of these are his shots, but one or two are mine.

They cannot begin to adequately portray this beautiful country…but enjoy them! Above, the horses at the Red Cliff Lodge. Below, Shiprock (left), Double Arches, Arches National Park.

A nice roll in the dirt at Red Cliffs Lodge…and the Lodge at dusk.

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Monument Valley ahead.

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Navajo Code Talker Memorial, Navajo Reservation at Window Rock, AZ

Timeless Santa Fe…

On the downslope of the trip, there was one last mission to be accomplished…a visit to the True West gallery in Santa Fe (https://www.facebook.com/TrueWestSF/). Earlier this year, I chanced upon their website thanks to one of my favorite artist’s announcement that his work was being featured there. I went online, and that is when I saw — hanging on a wall in a photo takdangerous eagle quanah p burgessen during a gallery open house — a stunning painting of an eagle. I zoomed in on it online…and immediately contacted them to learn if it was for sale. A day or so later, I got an email from the gallery owner with a positive answer and a surprise… “Dangerous Eagle” was indeed for sale and it was painted by Quanah Parker Burgess. I already had one of his paintings and quickly told Craig and Lisa — SOLD!

As I began planning our Great Southwest Adventure, I inked in the gallery visit and knew that — if Lisa and Craig were able to contact these artists — this would be one of the highlights of the entire trip.  We were not disappointed!

Craig and Lisa believe in putting artists together with the folks who like and purchase their work. They weren’t surprised when I asked if they could help arrange a meeting with these artists while we were in the ‘neighborhood.’ They did, and we were able to spend two very enjoyable mornings with these talented craftsmen.

There is so much I could say about these meetings…but here’s the Reader’s Digest version. Bennie (Yellowman) is one of those people who you immediately feel like you have known forever. He is comfortable and candid…endearing and funny…and as proud of his family as anyone I’ve ever met. And…I love his art. The new one I bought is completely different from the bold and aggressive Warriors that hang in my den. He took the time to explain all the symbolism he’d included in it. This makes my enjoyment of the painting that much more complete. (http://yellowmanfineart.com/links.html)

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My new acquisition hangs on the wall behind us…a colorful tee-pee with mountains and an evening sky in the background.

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On Friday morning, we got a ‘two-fer’ when Quanah Parker Burgess (https://www.truewestgallery.com/quanah-parker-burgess) brought his brother, Nocona, along to the gallery. For anyone who knows me, they would understand that this event was more than just “Bucket List” — actually meeting descendants of the legendary Quanah Parker was…I cannot come up with a word that adequately describes it. I know, I know, I’m a little old to be a history groupie…but awe is not too strong a word.

Alex and I unembarrassedly picked Quanah’s brain — about his life, his art, his plans for the future. And then, while Alex and Quanah talked about the nuances of one of his paintings, I visited with Nocona. (http://www.noconaburgess.com/pages/biography) There were so many incidents that we had covered about his ancestor in our (SaveWaterTexas) Legend Series of the Dime Novels, that Nocona so graciously discussed with me. It was almost like going back in time to get to the truth of so many stories about Quanah and Cynthia Ann. He told me one story that I hadn’t heard before…and will share another time…but it shed some light on another tale. I left a set of the “Dimes” with him to fact check!

These two young men are blazing a Native American/Comanche art trail that is new and refreshing. Their styles are captivating and different, and I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot about them in the future. In fact, I’m hoping to have another opportunity before long to learn much more from them…

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Quanah is on the left, Nocona on the right.

So, this ends the tale of this journey. A million thanks to Alex for his driving skill, his knowledge of the route and locations, and most of all for his patience. How many millennials do you know who would willingly spend nine days with his grandmother and drive almost 3,000 miles in the process?

HAPPY ALEX

 

 

 

 

Back in time…again!

Here is just a tease about what we discovered yesterday at Mesa Verde National Park. More stunning photos (Alex’s, not mine) and information to follow.

We’re off to Santa Fe this morning to visit a very special gallery (TRUE WEST) and to have the opportunity to meet a favorite artist.  More later…

We hit the Motherlode of Petroglyphs!

After Alex’s hike, we went into Moab and visited the Information Center…a veritable goldmine. What a seriously cool town…charming boutiques and some art shops, but this is first and foremost an outdoor person’s paradise.  There is every kind of sport you can think of…biking, hiking, camping, river rafting, kayaking, rock climbing…and a lot I’d never heard of. The town folk said there were only about 5,000 residents but they get 2 million tourists each year.

We found a wonderful guidebook to the ‘local’ rock art that contained directions for an auto tour — all within 10 miles of the city — that wound around the cliffs and river banks. Even with such a handy reference book, it was astonishingly hard to find them. I expected them to be larger and higher in the rocks so on the first pass through the winding trail, I didn’t spot them. Finally, we went up to a camping turnout and there they were…as advertised. Alex was game for climbing to good vantage points, and I’m betting we have enough photos to satisfy my obsession with the petroglyphs. Certainly enough to accomplish an informative ‘show and tell’.

It is quite easy to see why folks believe that these drawings portray travelers from outer space. You can imagine space helmets and craft, and many of the figures are certainly alien-looking. What is interesting, however, is that these same figures appear wherever these petroglyphs and pictographs are found in North America or maybe the world. The oldest images in the Moab area were likely left by “indigenous Archaic people 3,000 to 4,000 years ago.”

Archaeologists say that it is nearly impossible to precisely date the art left by ancient people. They study the subject matter — hunters with weapons, the animals they kill and sacred symbols and subjects; colors — mostly charcoal, dark reds and some white. Some images appear to be seasonal rituals like a successful hunt. Others may depict a birth or death ritual…or they might even be clan symbols.

We found one piece of information in the guidebook especially interesting: it suggests that the best way to interpret why an image appears in a certain place is to turn around and see what IT is looking at. Does it face the mountains? Or face a landscape feature like a balancing rock, or a symbol to guide a visitor to a water source. Alternatively, an image could invite or warn visitors to stay away. The symbols, we are told, do not constitute a written language. Archaeologists may provide some insight or suggestions, or at least a starting point for speculating what the ancients were trying to communicate — but even they acknowledge this is a true exercise in creativity and imagination.

Or — perversely — the images might simply be pleasing designs that they enjoyed and have survived the ravages of time to drive us nuts trying to interpret them.

Here are some photos of the locations where we found the art…and I’ll post some of Alex’s best shots of this excursion at the end.

Just for fun, look at the top right photo…what faces and/or critters can you see?

And the documentation of today’s heat…and it felt like it…

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History Conversations

Alex is off climbing a hiking trail very near the cliffs (in this header photo) that rise above the Colorado River. I suspect he has another 90 minutes or so before returning to the Lodge. As for me, I am sooooo content to sit out on my patio and enjoy a very similar sight…watching kayaks on the river rushing by, and the sun and shadows playing on the steep landscape with only the sound of random crows breaking the silence. We keep asking…”Does it get better than this?”

Surrounded by historic and before contact eras (that’s how the folks at Blackwater Draw refer to time before the Europeans showed up) — as we have been since arriving in Clovis, NM last Friday — we often find ourselves talking about “old stuff”. Like how Paleo Indians had kill sites where they left surplus body parts of the mammals they hunted that sustained them (mammoths, mastadons, and the huge bison) that were too heavy to transport (skulls and tusks), and bone sites where they systematically claimed virtually every useful scrap of food or hide from the massive beasts…and left only the carcass to be discovered thousands of years in the future.

A recurring ‘theme’ in these esoteric discussions has been “Who got here (and Texas) first…much like the question that provoked our trip down the rabbit hole to create the DIGGING UP HISTORY program with the amazing Steve Baird as our guide. So when I saw this meme (below) in a Facebook feed, I figured it was important to insert it into our written experience. We are constantly reminded that this beautiful landscape is inextricably interwoven with the history of the Native American people. We remained on the Navajo Reservation, for example, for days as we traveled into Arizona, New Mexico and finally Utah.  When we head to Albuquerque tomorrow, we will explore the UTE Mountain reservation, the Mesa Verde National Park, the ancestral Puebloan sites scattered throughout the area, and the ancient rock art to be found there. I’m counting on the tireless and cooperative Alex to climb up to capture the pictographs!

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Not sure which magnificent sites we’re going to this afternoon…I think the temps will remain in the 100’s today. Sure, it is drier and that makes it less HOT…uh, not so much. That’s a myth the Chambers of Commerce out here love to perpetuate.

Later.

UTAH IS AMAZING…

I’m not often at a total loss for words, but the magnificent UTAH scenery we have seen in just two days defies description. Alex has been here before and he made an outstanding tour guide and could even explain all the Earth processes (chemical weathering, deposition, erosion) that shaped the Colorado Plateau 300 million years ago.

Today, after enjoying a tasty breakfast at the Eclectica Café in Moab, we gassed up the Explorer and headed to the Arches National Park. I had seen photos from Alex’s earlier trips but nothing prepared me for the massive, majestic, monolithic rock formations — arches, spires, impossibly balanced rocks, fault cracks, and sandstone fins. I’m afraid that I was fascinated by the “things” I saw in the huge towers and soon began describing them to Alex…to his disgust. “Look, there’s a lion…a warrior sleeping…an old man with a beard…and (name any number of animals).” In the photo above, for example, you can make out a man sitting in a recliner, feet in front of him.

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And let your imagination loose with these two characters…I see an Egyptian pharo to the left — with his ‘head’ rock balanced precariously, visiting with a woman covered in a burka. We drove through the Arches National Park and stopped at every opportunity to get photos. The incredible thing was that each new vista was more amazing than the last. Even with the temp ramping up to 100+, there was a nice breeze and the sky couldn’t have been better if demanded by central casting.

Arches welcomes over a million visitors a year who journey to see the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. The Park encompasses about 77 thousand acres and was created in 1916.

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As if this Park weren’t enough, we continued on to Canyonlands National Park.  While the wonders of Arches rise ‘UP” the splendor of Canyonlands is below. The Park’s brochure points out Canyonlands (established as a national park in 1964) preserves a wilderness of rock (336 thousand acres of Utah’s high desert) at the heart of the Colorado Plateau. Water and gravity (the land’s primary architects) cut flat layers of sedimentary rock into hundreds of canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches and spires.

The contrasts are striking between the two parks…Arches seems to embrace visitors — with its many user friendly stopping off viewpoints and helpful information at overlooks. Canyonlands, on the other hand is more aloof…”Look at me,” it says…”but don’t touch.” Reaching its 60 miles of trails and campsites can be daunting…and if you think you’re going to find your way to visit the Horseshoe Canyon Pictographs — left by the hunter/gatherers over 2000 years ago — you’ll have to navigate a 600-foot descent into the canyons of the MAZE District, one of the Park’s most remote wildernesses. As with the Arches, photos do not do justice to Canyonlands.

And, as we have discovered in just two days, even a Thesaurus wouldn’t help…there just are not words to describe (with any accuracy) this magnificent “real estate.”

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You can see Alex center left…black shorts, tan shirt, with his photographic gear. He got terribly close to the edge…something he takes great relish in…to make me scold him.

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Tomorrow morning, Alex plans to take a hike up into a nearby canyon, then I expect we’ll go off in search of yet more visual extravaganzas. Come along…

Back to the beginning…Clovis

Ever since we asked ourselves “Who were the first Texans? and where did they come from? We followed the amazing Steve Baird down the rabbit hole that led us to studying the immigration of the giant Mammoths and Mastodons…and the people who hunted and followed them into the North American continent centuries ago. We heard of the Clovis people and the weapons they crafted from chert.  All of this led to the development of SaveWaterTexas’ DIGGING UP HISTORY program for use in 4th and 7th grade classrooms.

Today, Alex and I visited the refurbished Blackwater Draw Museum at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, NM. The new gallery provides a showcase for the archaeological work that has been done at the Clovis site over the past 85 years. According to the facility’s brochure, the archaeological finds within the landmark are traced back to prehistoric activities that occurred around an ancient lake and spring.

Some factoids for those who have not followed us down the rabbit hole…

  • Most of the activity known from the Clovis site dates to the last 14,000 years.
  • Humans have used the Clovis site over a 13,500 year period
  • There were about 28 mammoths excavated at the Clovis site over the last 80 years
  • Ice Age bison at the Clovis site were a third larger than modern Bison
  • The Clovis point is the oldest and most widely distributed single artifact type in North America.

We visited with two archaeology students and enjoyed hearing of their experiences with the Clovis site and their plans for graduate work. The visit was worth every minute!

We left Clovis and traveled to Gallup — which offered scenery as a prelude to the “John Wayne” vistas to come. We head for Window Rock, the Navajo reservation, Shiprock, Monument Valley and Moab — the Red Cliff Lodge. More to come….

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