Monday, October 18, 2010

west to the vermillion cliffs

I woke up at 5am bathed in sweat. The heat had clicked on with a vengeance and we were fully clothed under several beds worth of blankets. I opened the front door wide and let the cold, fresh air rush in along with several more moths. I guess this was why we weren't supposed to mess with the thermostat. Tomorrow was going to include a lot of driving and I desperately needed sleep. I cursed the Anasazi, an entire Native American tribe's good name was now sullied in my mind due to this destitute, roadside flophouse. I futilely tried to fluff my filthy pillow but it just made it lumpier.

The night was long and far too short. The next day came too quickly. We drug ourselves out of our uncomfortable bed and got the hell out of there. We'd gotten pretty savvy at packing in a hurry during our first week of travel. Then we double-checked under everything, aware that if we accidentally left something behind we may have to return to this awful place.

The day was bright and beautiful and we fueled up with coffee and gas at a tribal post. Two dogs sat panting in the shade of the front porch flanking the market's front door like the New York Public Library's stoic lions: Patience and Fortitude. We hit the road. Our final destination was the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. But we'd be taking an out of the way route that would send us past the Vermilion Cliffs. Traveling the Four Corners region is like navigating Middle Earth. Lots of colorfully descriptive and ominous sounding place names.

We ate at a Subway in a town called Page. Deb sat with her back to the parking lot. Halfway through the meal a bus pulled up and teenagers started pouring out, heading our way en masse. "Europeans," I whispered to Deb and nodded in the direction of the door as the tiny restaurant filled with the tour group. "Das est not eine Burger King," said one in a thick accent that I'll say was Swiss. We made a quick exit as blonde teens continued to file in and got back on the road.

We first saw the Vermilion Cliffs after the road was narrowed by high rocks on both sides. The road curved round a small bend with 30-foot canyon walls of rock on both sides. As we came out the other side we realized we were on the top of a huge mesa and could see for miles looking down across the valley floor. Across the valley, far in the distance lay the Vermilion Cliffs, and in between was the fissured floor of the valley. Within the fissure lay the Colorado River and the easternmost beginning of the Grand Canyon.

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