First stop was just south of Moab for a quick photo opportunity at Wilson Arch which looms over the west side of US Route 191 and which we thought rivaled many of the arches in Arches National Park.
A little further south and the landscape flattened, the mountains almost mirages in the distance. We were definitely in the desert.
An hour later, just north of the town of Bluff, we were treated to the sight of spectacular sandstone rock formations appropriately called bluffs.
Bluff is a very small town, but a popular tourist destination given it's closeness to Bears Ears and Monument Valley. Twin Rocks Trading Post, a cafe and gift shop, which appears to be built into the rocks, seems to be designed to cater for bus tours. Luckily, as we arrived, a coach full of tourists was just leaving.
|Twin Rocks Trading Post|
Bluff was originally founded in 1880 by Mormon settlers. For protection they built their cabins around a courtyard, with the entrance to the cabins facing inwards and the spaces between them linked with log fencing, in effect creating a fort. Fort Bluff Historic Site is a representation of what the community would have looked like.
Each cabin contains the original furnishings and belongings of one of the settler families, the items donated by their descendants. Photos and short histories provide a background to each of the families which gives the displays much more historical impact.
Some of the settlers were lucky enough to make the journey in horse-drawn wagons.
While others made do with hand-pulled versions! It's almost impossible to believe they could survive such an arduous trek pulling their belongings.
The courage and fortitude of the original settlers is honored by a memorial which not only tells of the journey they made, but also lists all the members of each family involved. There were lots of children!
When we discovered that all the local restaurants apart from Twin Rocks Trading Post were closed due to it being Monday, we decided to drive on before stopping for lunch. That almost proved to be a mistake. We drove through miles and miles of desert with very few signs of habitation. Finally, after we crossed the border into Arizona we came to Mexican Water Trading Post which consisted of a service station/store, a restaurant and a very large laundry!
Curiosity got the better of me and I went to check out the laundry. It was open but nobody was using it. I can only imagine they must get a lot of campers and RV's coming through to make it worthwhile. If we had been a little more organized we could have done our laundry while we were having lunch!
Mexican Water Trading Post is in land designated as the Navajo Nation, a reservation which covers 27,000 square miles of mostly desert landscape. The largest community in the nation is Tuba City. The city is home to the Navajo Interactive Museum which offers a fascinating introduction to the history, culture, language, and life of the Navajo people.
In a separate building opposite is an exhibit devoted to the World War II Code Talkers. When the Japanese managed to crack the secret codes the U.S. was using, the military needed to find an alternative. A small group of bilingual Navajo servicemen used codes based on their native language to send secret communications which helped the U.S. defeat the Japanese.
After our dose of history, it was time to get back on the road, this time through desert canyons. We were amazed time and again to see random houses miles from anywhere. What brought people to live in such isolated places, we wondered?
Every so often we would pass abandoned motels, gas stations or restaurants, the Interstates presumably having diverted business away from the once tiny towns.
Two hours later we finally arrived in Flagstaff, a town with a lot of old world charm, including the Weatherford Hotel, a 1900 landmark.
Several large murals adorn the walls of the town center, including this one by Ricco diStefano.
|The wall of the Piano Room - a downtown bar|
Flagstaff is also home to a bar/restaurant called Cornish Pasty. Being British, how could we resist? Pasty and a pint (well, a glass of wine in my case), the perfect way to end the day.
Mel writes contemporary fiction with a twist of mystery and suspense. For more information about her books visit her website, or sign up for her newsletter at http://bit.ly/melparishnews