Road Trip in the American West

Road Trip in the American West

March 13, 2014

My daughter has grown up with an East Coast perspective on the world, but we have Western roots. Having grown up in Arizona, I wanted to make sure that her idea of wide open spaces wasn’t based on Central Park. We headed out on a road trip to see just how different America can be from our own corner of New Jersey.We began our trip at the Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North. The hotel has very authentic pueblo-style architecture and all the quiet luxury for which Four Seasons is renowned. Saguaros and prickly pear cactus dot the rugged landscape throughout the property and there is no mistaking this arid part of the high Sonoran desert for anywhere else. As we took shelter from the sun on our patio, a bobcat strolled by, just arm’s length away. Definitely not New Jersey…

We continued on to Sedona and the Enchantment Resort. Sedona is known for its red rock canyons and the vortexes believed by many to be sacred places. The canyons have been home to the earliest inhabitants of Arizona, and the ruins of their cliff dwellings are still nestled into the canyon walls. We headed out a long dirt road to a ruin well off the beaten path. We followed the trail through scrub and over rocks until we reached a small cliff dwelling, decorated with hieroglyphics. We were alone at the site, except for a ranger at the trail head.  In the silence of the ruins, it was possible to imagine life there, isolated from the rest of the world and to imagine other mothers and daughters standing where we stood.

Out of Sedona, we wound our way through the state, to the Grand Canyon, the meteor crater in Winslow, and into Utah and Monument Valley.  We searched for fossils and peered through telescopes. We visited museums to the Native Americans and watched the sun set over the desert.

canyonAfter several days, we reached Page. This unremarkable town is home to the most remarkable desert location I’ve ever visited: Antelope Slot Canyon. The canyon is located on Navajo land and can only be reached with Navajo guides. After a teeth-rattling ride through a dry riverbed in a modified truck, we entered the canyon on foot. Curving red sandstone walls have been carved by flash floods over millennia. In many places, outstretched arms easily span the space between the walls and the sun is a narrow ribbon of yellow overhead.  Sometimes the only sound was a thin trickle of sand streaming from above into a puddle of sand on a ledge. Invisible from the outside, this is truly a secret and special place.

It’s hard to believe such places exist, as we lace up our snow boots one more time for a trip through the suburbs to school and to work. But they do. And the clear, wide skies over hard, red earth still call to me. Next time, I’d love to show her the conquistador’s graffiti at El Morro and to visit the ancient and still inhabited Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. It’s a big country and there’s so much left to see…