Sunday, 28 February 2010

Last Post

Or is it?

Cue the sound of bugle playing up and down in fifths, putting to bed our big trip.

For our final night in the States we’d decided to splash out and have a stay in something posh so I’d booked us into L’Auberge de Sedona, at least it sounded posh.
It was a bit special as on arrival we were ushered to our own cabin that had some first class facilities and a welcoming bottle of champagne accompanied by chocolate covered strawberries. Dinner could only be described as fine dining and the position of the restaurant, alongside Oak Creek, was stunning. Our little celebration before heading back to Phoenix and the long flight home.

Porte Cochere at L'Auberge de Sedona

The Carney Cabin

Creekside Seating

Our Bed

Sheila contemplates Champagne and Strawberries

The trip back to Phoenix was under no time pressure so a couple of diversions to places like Red Rock Crossing gave us our final visual memories of our trip.

Above Sedona

Four miles down the road

Red Rock Crossing

There are one or two small tales to relate to round off proceedings but I think that they are better left until we’ve had time to absorb the whole of the experience that the last two months has given us. So maybe this isn’t the Last Post after all.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Me John Wayne or I thought they shut the Works

Early awakening to rip the curtains open as the sun was rising to be met with a warm glow at the horizon silhouetting the buttes. It was enough to postpone the morning shower until after a quick run out with the camera. Back to the Lodge to clean up and have breakfast before our planned excursion. We’d booked a package that included a day in the Valley guided by a Navajo who rejoiced in the name of Larry. We were picked up at 9.00 and found that there was another couple booked on the trip as well. This made it very comfortable, as the vehicle we travelled around in was able to accommodate twenty that would have been a nightmare if it had been full at summer levels.

From the bedroom
Early light

Back in the tripod holes

Our next stroke of luck was the weather, bright clear skies were the order of the day and whilst cold we had wonderful visibility. The quality of the light in this part of the world is a joy and I am determined to return and take advantage of it with a full painting kit. It is no wonder that the region is a Mecca for artists and photographers.

Lots of holes and arches

Clinging on for dear life

Sheila, Mick, J.J. and Carolyn

Larry was the ideal guide, born and bred in the Navajo Tribal Lands, a Navajo speaker as his first language and well versed in the history and mythology of his people as well as intimately familiar with the geology and biology of the Valley. Besides all that he had a cracking sense of humour. The other couple, J.J. and Carolyn were also good company so the whole day was a joy from every perspective. J.J. and Carolyn had an interesting story, having attended school together, they were reunited by the miracle of modern technology, both having led lives without seeing one another for decades. They were now carrying on their relationship at some distance, Carolyn living in San Diego and J.J. in Illinois.


Larry cooks the lunch

This is going to one of those occasions where the pictures should do the talking so I’ll shut up for a while.

There's a magnet at this spot

John Ford Point

Elephant Butte

Susie, 97 years young and still weaving

The references in the title are mixed, the first being very easy to understand, I’ve been reliving the cowboy fantasies of childhood but the second relates to the patina of red dust covering everything up here. Those of us brought up not too far distant from Consett remember well the layer of red dust that covered the town as a result of the activities at Consett Iron Works.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Road to Monument Valley

Up with the American equivalent of the larks with a sense of excitement as today was the day we would head for Monument Valley, scene of many movies and so familiar that it was intriguing to know whether the place would live up to the expectation, but first of all we had to get there.

Breakfast in Kanab

The road out of town

The route would take us, first of all south through the previous day’s snowfall on roads that had been cleared but were subject to wind driven snow covering the tarmac with no warning as to the presence of ice that occurred in patches. Difficult conditions for driving that didn’t ease till we dropped from 7,000 feet to 5,000 feet where the ice that had attached itself to the car showed the first signs of thawing. However, the route was spectacular with snow clinging to the precipitous faces of the roadside mountains as we progressed towards the junction that would take us heading toward the Valley.

Icing Up

Vermillion Cliffs

More Vermillion

And More

Rock Furniture

Rock Sculpture

Towards the Junction

Interesting roadside rock scenery was a constant distraction until the first sight of El Capitan the first significant uprising of the Monument Valley region. I couldn’t resist photographing it as the background to a sign declaring that there was an accident ahead. Little was I to know that the accident might be in my head as I tried to take in the enormity of what I was beginning to view. The closer we got the more tantalising glimpses we had of the familiar sandstone mesas and buttes, until finally arriving at our accommodation for the next couple of nights, Goulding’s Lodge.

El Capitan

Beware Beauty

How about this for a bedroom view?

The view from our window was like a fairy tale involving a stellar Hollywood cast who one expected to ride around the nearest butte at any moment. My childlike excitement at the sight had me Skyping another movie fan to share the moment, my mate Jed.

A short run along to the Navajo Tribal Park and Visitor Centre gave us the chance to take in one or two of the classic views and whet our appetites for the more detailed tour of the morrow. Magic.

Two familiar Buttes

Local Fauna
In the tripod holes of Ansel and Les