Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Long, sharp drops

The next part of our trip involved a lot of driving, and a lot of very long, very sharp drops. There were a few times when I just had to stop and hold on to something (usually one of the kids; man, do they move fast) and remember that if lots and lots of people were losing children off of those edges, surely I would have heard about it? (The book in the Grand Canyon bookstore whose focus was all of the deaths that had ever occurred in the Grand Canyon did not inspire confidence, alas.)

But first, fiber. We headed out of Santa Fe and towards Colorado via Los Ojos, where we were able to stop at Tierra Wools (wonder who put that stop in the itinerary?). Rick and I had visited there eleven years ago when we first went to the southwest (when I was pregnant with Older Daughter, in fact), and that's where I got the wool that I eventually used to knit him a vest -- it took a few years, but I did it. The wool there mostly comes from their own Churro sheep, which they raise there, although they've recently had to start sending the wool out to be processed and spun (a long drought has meant that there's enough water for processing or for dyeing, but not both). But it comes back to Tierra to be dyed, and we were lucky enough to meet one of the dyers, who gladly talked with us about the natural dyeing that she'd just finished up (they also use chemical dyes).
(Indigo, overdyed with something I can't remember right offhand.)

She showed the girls some of the plants that she uses, and gave them samples of yarns dyed using indigo, madder root, cochineal, and a local plant whose name she couldn't remember right offhand.
And look at all of the colors they use in their weaving.
Their weavings were absolutely stunning, but when we were there, they almost no rug-weight weavings available, and none in a size that we could actually use (I can't believe I was so busy playing with the weavings that I took no pictures of them!). That didn't stop us from petting and stroking everything they had hanging up, and admiring the looms. I also bought a couple of hanks of gorgeous yarn (dyed with indigo and cochineal) to use in making mittens for the girls for next winter. I don't have any pictures right now, but I promise I'll share later.

We spent the rest of the day driving to Cortez, Colorado, alternately stopping to look at rugs (we've decided that we're definitely getting a Navajo rug, once we've saved up enough money; that'll be a while, I think) at pretty much every trading station we went by, and admiring the scenery.
Younger Daughter was particularly taken by the Pedernal, as she'd absolutely adored the Georgia O'Keefe paintings of this mountain, and loved O'Keefe's statement that God had promised her she could have the mountain for herself, if only she painted it enough. It just captured Younger Daughter's imagination, and then seeing that mountain in real life for her ownself clinched it.

The next day was our day to spend at Mesa Verde, and it was absolutely perfect. The weather held off for us (it poured and snowed the next day), and we spent the whole day climbing up and down ladders and in and out of cliff alcoves, and along trails. We started with a tour of Cliff Palace (a tour is the only way to go there). The best thing about going at this time of year was how (relatively) deserted the entire park was. We had it virtually to ourselves, with no rush. Normally, they're moving tours of 60 in and out of this site every half an hour. There was none of that when we were there.
It gives me chills just looking at it. It is astonishingly beautiful.
It is also entirely practical, in that wonderful way that a place is practical when its inhabitants have been living in, and adapting to, an environment for centuries.

The ranger who gave our tour was wonderful; he was animated, and clearly in love with his work and with Mesa Verde, and he had also clearly spent a lot of time with the modern Puebloan people whose ancestors built these cities. His respect for them, past and present, was evident in everything he said, which I appreciated immensely. The girls, of course, loved his animation, and the fact that he let them go up the ladders first on the way out. (eek)
We also got to take a lovely long hike out to Petroglyph Point; we met precisely one person on the whole hike. Just to give you a sense of the kind of edge we were hiking on, if you look at the canyon rim across from us in the picture below, you can see a white band at the top, with a greenish bit below it. The white band is composed of sheer sandstone cliffs. The greenish band below that is a rock formation which erodes more easily, forming a "slope" (note the scare quotes) rather than a cliff. The white band immediately below that "slope" is another sandstone cliff formation. We were hiking along that slope, with sandstone cliffs above and below. Total craziness.
(We also got frybread tacos for lunch -- really good ones, too. It doesn't get better than that.)

And the girls finished the day out by being sworn in as Junior Rangers. The National Park system has a lovely program which provides the kids with booklets to fill out; once they're filled out, a ranger checks them all over, and then swears them in and gives them badges. The girls loved it.
Next time, Grand Canyon, and then home. And after that, socks!


twinsetellen said...

Ah, you are in my SIL's territory, roughly. She is a bit further NE, but the landscape looks the same.

Did the frybread tacos have mutton? That is what I think is the best!

Anne said...

Oh, frybread tacos. YUM. You were in Willa Cather country! Now there's some good reading ...

Bea said...

So much fun! I love that part of the country!

M-H said...

I've been to Los Ojos, when I visited the US in 2000. We were staying with friends in Placitas, NM, and they drove us up there. It was amazing. And I haven't used up all the yarn I bought there yet.

Alwen said...

My youngest brother is northeast of there, up near Colorado Springs. He worked as a ranger at Eldorado Canyon state park a couple of years back. He's a rock climber and hiker, so that's a happy place for him.

Katie said...

I've never been anywhere like that. I guess I need to head west and do some exploring! Sound like fun. Love the photos.

RobinH said...

Fabulous photos- now I'm longing to see Mesa Verde (I was in Arizona last summer, but we couldn't fit Mesa Verde into the schedule). I went to the Grand Canyon a few years ago and a friend of ours bought that book about deaths in the Canyon and insisted on giving us the highlights before the trip.

Terrific travel posts!

AlisonH said...

Very cool. Very interesting. I wanna go!

We drove probably the same route the summer I was 16, and halfway down that steep mountain road with the dropoff of, oh, a thousand feet or two right there, Dad slowed the car and asked me jauntily if I wanted to drive now. (I'd gotten my license about six weeks earlier.) Uh, Dad. Thanks but NO THANK YOU.

Anonymous said...

You probably drove within ten miles of where I lived!

I've been craving a good Navajo Taco lately and now you mention frybread tacos. We used to eat them almost every Thursday.

EGunn said...

Wow! Looks like a great trip! The Grand Canyon is definitely on my list of "places to visit," but we haven't made it there yet. Maybe next summer? =)

Mary Lou said...

I have a poster in my office of various traditional Navajo Rugs. Someday..

Infanta said...

We were just in Grand Canyon a few weeks ago. But I would love to visit Mesa Verde. I think that will be our next road trip. I am sure the pictures on your blog doesn't even come close to capturing the real site.

Helen said...

I think I'm quite glad I haven't been to Mesa Verde; I think it would spook me too much. Isn't it funny how unreal it looks? The photos look like models - I've still put one of them on my desktop, though :)