Friday, April 24, 2015

Four Corners to Tuba City (photos)

Four Corners & Tuba City. Mffft. (Add California City to the mffft list. No there there.) Not impressed. The Navajo Nation have monitized the stateline boundaries and turned Four Corners into a tacky theme park. Define tourist trap. So irritated that there was an admission fee of $5 per person. I preferred the old geodetic marker without all the fanfare, and you could see clearly into all four states. Not that there was a lot to see.

The theme seems to be a build it and they will come mentality. Now the once unfettered view into four states is surrounded by a sea of concrete: a cement plaza, an auditorium, kiosks where native artisans sell trinkets, and portapotties. Tourists just love this stuff. Think they're getting a piece of the action. They need to be officially told with little plaques that they're having an authentic experience.

It's an artificial boundary after all. Really? Do they also charge the San Juan River admission? We parked under the Four Corners sign and argued about going in.

But the day was drawing to a close, and there was no place to stay for us Bilagáana at Four Corners, or at Teec Nos Pos (a circle of cottonwoods) which consist of a trading post a DMV, and a post office (cheap gas!), so we took a miss on Chaco Canyon. We'd just come from Kayenta (Tó Dínéeshzhee), a dry town of many churches, and didn't want to retrace our steps. Besides, there was only the ostentatious pricy Hampton Inn. We didn't know about the only other motel in Kayenta, the Wetherill Inn (no wifi). Notes for next time.

Agathla Peak (Aghaałą́—wool-gathering), or El Capitán, a sacred peak.

According to Wiki, Agathla Peak, at 7,099 ft, is a volcanic diatreme, or an eroded plug that rises more than 1,500' feet above the valley floor. Think of it as the many-chambered heart of the volcano. The breccia, cut by dyke arteries, and an unusual igneous rock, minette, are 25 million years old. Seconded only by Shiprock, these astounding monumental rocks are part of the Navajo Volcanic Field. By contrast, Monument Valley's minaret reefs are comprised of sandstone.

Church Rock, just east of Kayenta, near on the Navajo Trail (US 160), was astoundingly beautiful at sunset. I was not expecting that. I thought Agathla Peak and its sidekick, Chaistla Butte, or Little Capitán, were the the crown jewels. I didn't even know about Church Rock (we entered Kayenta late at night), so its surprise beauty was doubly astounding. No time to stop, we were chasing twilight. Neil wouldn't stop the car for photos, so I watched it whizz by in the rear-view mirror. All I have is a drive-by memory of Diatreme Alley.

Church Rock? or another outcrop on 160. It was a cathedral of a rock.

We followed the Navajo Trail through the canyon all the way to Tuba City. So much for seeing the Painted Desert in the dark.

In Tuba City Hopi and Navajo tension is palpable. Cop presence everywhere. Most of the police in front of Denny's and a monstrous casino/hotel are Hopi. We got questioned by the Navajo Police in a MacDonald's parking lot for sitting in our car. I was trying to find a motel on the iPad, So much for the free wifi at MacDonalds. Don't ever loiter in Tuba City.

Tony Hillerman's memorable character Sgt. Jim Chee, caught straddling two worlds, was a Tuba City Navajo Police officer. He left Tuba City behind—probably for a good reason.

Tuba City was named after Tuuvi, a Hopi leader who converted to Mormonism. He brought the Mormans in. Must explain the third arm of tension here. Tuvi means outcast or rejected one. The Navajo name Tó Naneesdizí means tangled waters, which is a good a metaphor as any. What was the Paiute name? There are two time zones here. Then there's Navajo time.

Speaking on the measurement of time, we also missed out on seeing the dinosaur tracks and visiting the Navajo Code Talkers museum. Tuba City, a boomtown, struck it rich on uranium, is an uneasy city.  I just wanted to get out of Dodge. I don't want to see that kind of glowing desert landscapes.

We gassed up (a full tank is a must, gas stations are few and far between. Gas is also cheaper on the reservations), We pushed onto Flagstaff during the wee hours and were met with hellacious rain! Next morning it was snowing at the pass above Flagstaff so we abandoned our Grand Canyon plans. Road closed. Revisiting Wupatki was our grand consolation prize.

I think this is Chaistla Butte, or Little Capitán.

added, extensively revised 4/17
(I got into it! You never know when a line or two will yield a post.)
from very skimpy Facebook notes

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