THE FOUR CORNERS - 2004
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THE FOUR CORNERS
September 18, 2004: After a sunny drive south from Moab, past Monticello, and down highway 191 into the Navajo Indian Reservation crossing to Arizona and meeting highway 180 . . . it seemed logical to take a side-trip over to the Four Corners Monument, just to record the fact that we were there. September is definitely too late if you happen to be interested in art, pottery and other crafts. Most booths had little to offer. Even the local museum shops and casino shops were closed. The "best" items had already been shipped off to big name stores in cities as large as or larger than Flagstaff, Sedona, Gallup, Albuquerque, Santa Fe or Taos (which were on our map plan later). Thus, we recorded our stop and turned back towards the southern rim of the Grand Canyon.
- Four Corners Visitors' Centre: Even in the "off season", people travel there just to say that they've been there.
- The Mandatory Photo: Now it's official. We can prove that we stood at the Four Corners.
- "Elephant Feet": On the return trip along Highway 180, we passed the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Road construction prevented cars from stopping at the roadside, but Pat managed to get this picture anyway.
The Spanish, with the assistance of Hopi guides, were the first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon, but they found its 10 mile width impassable.
As we arrived at the Xanterra Thunderbird Lodge on the South Rim, the parking situation was impossible and a slight drizzle dampened our spirits for a brief time. The local people, however, were happy that a thunderstorm was forecast that night after a few weeks of drought. Fortunately, the heavy rain held off until much later (after we enjoyed our supper).
Just look at the excellent photographs which were taken on Saturday before the storm . . . and on Sunday morning as we were departing.
- The Three of Us: Here's our obligatory photo at the south rim of the Grand Canyon after we had booked into the Thunderbird Lodge (at the Bright Angel lobby).
- Lookout Studio: Lookout Studio was built in 1914 to blend in with the scenery.
- Canyon View: The water level of the Colorado River was low due to the lack of rain. We were treated to a thunderstorm and heavy rain overnight.
- Canyon View: How do you choose from so many spectacular views? Luckily the heavy rain held off until we had supper.
- The Colorado River: The river was easier to see with the eyes than with the camera, but Jenn's telephoto made this picture possible.
- The Lodges at the South Rim: Kachina and Thunderbird Lodges were located between the El Tovar Hotel and the Bright Angel Lodge.
- California Condor #46: The numbers of these rare birds are increasing gradually. For more information, click here for a link to one of the websites dealing with further details.
- Rainbow over the Canyon: As we headed east along the canyon road the next morning, we made several stops at the lookout points along the rim. I guess that we were not alone in noticing the rainbow, because others also stopped to take pictures.
- Cliffs in the Clouds: After the night rain, the colours of the vegetation seemed to be brighter and sharper. Each of our stops provided opportunities for great pictures.
- The Swollen Colorado River: Another effect of the thunderstorm was quite evident. The banks of the Colorado River were wider this morning.
- The Desert View Watchtower: This gift shop (of weathered stone) and rest area were planned in 1930 and opened in 1933. The Painted Desert can be seen on the horizon to the East on a clear day.
- Another View of the Colorado River: The river and lakes in the canyon were more easily seen at the lookout points today.
After leaving the Grand Canyon National Park, we drove south on highway 89 to Sedona. A particularly scenic part of this trip was the Oak Creek Canyon. When we arrived at the Hampton Inn, we found that our room had a TV as well as an internet connection for Jenn's laptop. Our previous accommodations had refrigerators, but no contact with news from the outside world. The inn also provided snacks in the lobby all hours of the day . . . as advertised. The weather gave Pat and Jenn good opportunities for pictures at sunset and sunrise.
- Sunset in Sedona [TOP]: I was posting messages on the internet while most of the pictures were taken, eh?
- Clouds: The rain followed us, and there were a few brief showers overnight again.
- Sunrise in Sedona: A wee breakfast was more important to me. I saved my film for different photographic opportunities. Digital cameras have some advantages over the disposable varieties.
Meteor Crater is just over 550 feet deep. In comparison, the CN Tower in Toronto is 553 metres (1815 feet) tall and even diners in the restaurant would still be twice as high above the ground as a person standing on the crater's rim.
The topographical terrain of the Meteor Crater resembles that of our Moon (and some of the Planets). For this reason, NASA designated this site as an official training site for the Apollo astronauts.
- Meteor Crater: I won't hide the fact that three photos taken from the Viewing Platform were put together to produce this panorama effect of the crater.
- Astronaut Figure: An astronaut figure was placed beside a US flag at the lower right hand corner of the fence at the bottom of the Arizona Crater where NASA did experiments and training of Apollo Astronauts.
- An Iron-Nickel Meteorite: A park ranger was on hand to answer questions. He explained that the day was much too windy to lead a tour group out along the rim.
- "Pat in the Crater": In the Learning Centre, we stood in a mock-up of the bottom of the crater to have a picture taken.
- Pat Taking My Picture: Jenn took this photo of Pat taking my picture on the Observation Deck.
- Here is my Photo at Meteor Crater: This was the photo of me taken by Pat.
One of the features of the Painted Desert area is the Petrified Forest. Many tons of Jasper Forest's petrified wood were carried off before the establishment of the Petrified Forest as a national monument in 1906. Technological development led to incremental increases in the depletion of this national treasure.
The prehistoric trees were the Schilderia (like swamp cypress trees), Woodworthia (with spiral leaf-bearing branchlets around the trunk) and Aurarioxylon pines (larger and more prolific than the other trees, and with modern relatives in Australia, South America and some islands in the South Pacific).
- Crystals in the Rings: A cross-section of petrified wood can show colourful crystal patterns. After the Late Triassic Period (225 million years ago), the area was covered with a fresh water lake, which was saturated with silica and other minerals.
- Desert Deposits: Chunks of petrified wood were deposited in the Painted Desert when old bluffs disintegrated.
- Giant Logs near Rainbow Forest Museum: The Rainbow Forest Museum is about 4 km from the entrance at Highway 180. This area has some of the rare long logs, and the museum has displays about geology and palaeontology.
- Colourful Crystals: The various colours in the crystals come from combinations of minerals, such as iron, carbon, mandanese, and sometimes cobalt and chromium, which blended with the silica-saturated water.
- More Large Deposits: These large petrified logs were also deposited in the Painted Desert when old bluffs disintegrated. The process is a continuing one. The logs were cracked by the stresses created by an upheaval which lifted the area far above sea level.
- Large Logs: All of the petrified wood, including these logs, were once held by the layers of hardened sediments and clays which formed the ancient bluffs. Weather, wind and water continue to expose the fossilized remains of earlier plants and animals.
- Blackbird: This blackbird, with a coloured pattern on its beak, flew down to a fence at the parking lot . . . and Jenn captured a second photograph before it flew away to follow a van to our next stop at the Puerco Ruin.
- Blackbird Pix #2: This same blackbird has a less distinctive pattern on its wing. Jenn obtained another blurred photo as it took off after the van in which people had a supply of peanuts. [I couldn't identify any of these photographs in the bird books.]
PETROGLYPHS IN THE PAINTED DESERT
Over 650 images are on the boulders at the end of the Puerco Ruins Trail location. The prehistoric peoples "pecked" shapes into the "desert varnish" of iron and manganese oxide.
- Prehistoric Homesteaders: The Puerco Pueblo was occupied twice (1100-1200 and 1300-1400) but Spanish explorers found this site unoccupied in 1540.
- Humans, Animals and Geometric Shapes: Thus far, nobody has found a Rosetta Stone to assist us in the translation of these petroglyphs. Some shapes and figures carved by the Puebloan ancestors are repeated from site to site, and some are unique to an area. This suggests that the latter are tribal symbols.
- A Kokopelli Figure?: In the upper left-hand side there appears to be a Kokopelli or humpbacked flute player. His was the spirit that kept the land fertile.
- A Bird Holding a Human: Find the bird holding a human form in its beak. This may simply illustrate a common tale or legend.
- Faces: Some of the petroglyphs, such as the one to the left, look like a "happy face". Is it possible that Edvard Munch obtained the idea for his painting "The Scream" from the sketch at the upper right? Some of the concepts may be universal.
- A Face in the Crowd: Some faces have more expression than others. The faces with circles for eyes and mouth may represent a Hopi god of death (according to one source).
- The Rising Steps: In the Mesa Verde State Park of Colorado, we learned from our guide that steps may symbolize the number of generations. We also learned that interpretation varies amongst today's descendants of the Anasazi or Puebloan ancestors.
The Painted Desert surrounds the Petrified Forest National Park, and it extends into the Native Indian Reservations (Hopi, Zuni, Navajo and Apache, whom we call "First Nations People" in Canada). We drove to the other end of the Petrified Forest park and took highway 40 to Gallup, New Mexico.
- The Tepees: Halfway along the road through the Petrified Forest National Park in the Painted Desert, a sign points to The Tepees lookout. These cone-shaped formations have white layers of sandstone capped with clay. The darkest layers have a high carbon content, and the dark reds are mainly iron-stained siltstone. Reddish bases are stained by hematite (iron oxide).
- Plenty of Colours: All of the colours at The Tepees are present as we proceeded through the Badlands of the Painted Desert.
- Badlands of the Painted Desert: The features of this landscape are very similar to those found around Drumheller, Alberta, where animal and plant fossils are also found.
- More Badlands: Clay gullies lay at the feet of the carbonaceous cliffs. The badlands of the Painted Desert extend to the horizon.
- A Vast Expanse of Desert: I'm feeling thirsty as I gaze across this high, dry tableland. Safety regulations contain warnings to carry one gallon of water per person per day and to avoid open areas during summer storms.
. . . AND ON TO TAOS
On the way to Taos, we stopped in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Pat took this photo of St. Francis Cathedral. We paused in Santa Fe for a while at the market places and plazas of the old town, where the streets had names such as Old Santa Fe Trail and Old Pecos Trail and San Francisco Street. At last, there were shops with native pottery and art and reference books. [Jenn took this picture as Pat captured a photograph of the cathedral made famous in films about the Southwest.]
Then we continued on to Taos through a varied scenery of forests, flatland, and mountains.
- Taos in the Distance: As we approached Taos from the south, I suggested that this scene might make a good picture.
A VISIT TO TAOS PUEBLO
- 1619 St. Jerome Church Ruins: Admission to the Taos Pueblo was $10 per person plus $5 per camera. The fees were paid at an Admissions Booth, where visitors received a map with incomplete descriptions and rules about no climbing, respect of the "Restricted Area" signs, and warning against entering or drinking water from Red Willow Creek. One of the first sights on the Tour Route are the ruins of the St. Jerome Church built in 1619 by the Spanish missionaries.
- 1850 St. Jerome Church: Jenn stands in front of the adobe-styled St. Jerome Church, which was built in 1850 to replace the old church which had been destroyed in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and during the Mexican-American War in 1847.
- The Old Graveyard: The old graveyard is beside the ruins of the St. Jerome Church built in 1619. The dog may be a frequent visitor within this enclosure.
- North House: The Kivas beyond these Pueblo dwellings are out-of-bounds to visitors. Note the drying racks in the Pueblo plaza, which are for corn, meat and berries. The adobe mounds (hornos) in the foreground are ovens used to bake fresh bread.
- Pueblo Homes: Ladders provide access to the entrances on the roof. Visitors are expected to respect the privacy of residences and sacred areas.
- North House Area: Visitors cross the Red Willow Creek by using a foot bridge to reach the dwellings at South House. Most features are similar to those at North House above. The creek water has been undrinkable since a red fire-retardant spray was used to extinguish a local forest fire years ago.