With my interest in Native American history, the West/Southwest has always had a strong pull on me. Starting in Las Vegas, this trip covered a broad swath of the desert landscape. From there I drove to Zion National Park, Mesa Verde, Canyon De Chelly and the Zuni reservation. Next stop, friends in Tucson and the incredible Saguaro National Park.
Living in a small state like Connecticut, it’s easy to forget that the distances in this part of the country are enormous. I can get anywhere in Connecticut in about an hour. For comparison, you can fit 10-15 of my home state into some of the Southwestern states.
Itinerary Las Vegas, NV; Zion National Park, UT; Bryce Canyon, UT; Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, UT; Mesa Verde National Park, CO; Canyon De Chelly, AZ; Zuni Reservation, NM; Saguaro National Park, AZ; Tucson, Phoenix, and Sedona, AZ.
Zion National Park
The scented forest and cool climate even in the brutal Summer months makes this one of my favorite places to visit. Some of the trails lead up the mountains and can be difficult for those who suffer from vertigo, but once you’re there, you are practically alone.
River wading takes you deep into the canyon. Right, I don’t like heights so this path was a challenge for me.
The oddly shaped Hoodoos (pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion) are making this a Gothic-looking natural cathedral. Despite the steady flow of visitors, you can easily get away, lose yourself in some of the labyrinthine trails that continue deep into the canyon.
Spanish for green table, Mesa Verde was occupied from AD 600 to 1300. Today it encompasses about 5,000 archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. The main sites are visited in groups but you can use some of the trail network to get away once you exit the main archeological sites.
There are excellent trails in the area, hugging the rim of the mesa and going deeper into the canyons.
Violent lightning storm at my hotel, Cortez, CO.
On the way to Canyon de Chelly, through Navajo Nation tribal lands.
Canyon De Chelly
Located on the Navajo Nation lands, The National Park Service and Navajo Nation manage this monument. I had expected more visitors but perhaps the remote location makes it less accessible for most. Apparently, the area has been inhabited for about 5,000 years, and still the canyons are home to farms and settlements.
Liquor stores are never far outside native lands. This one spotted exiting the Zuni Reservation.
Saguaro National Park
Nothing is a better symbol of the American West than the giant saguaro. These impossible cacti are found, amongst other species, in a small area of AZ, mostly in the Saguaro National Park, right outside Tucson.
Bottom, prickly pear is an excellent desert snack.
Ever wondered about what happens when the Saguaro’s die? First they dry/shrivel up, then a hardwood skeleton is revealed. Given time, it all collapses.
Categories: North America