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Off We Go Again

Wednesday, 28 January 2004
written by Teresa

Since returning from England, we have begun wending our way east towards Florida for Eric and Jeanetteís nuptials in February. Our route has taken us via Colorado due to a slight oversight when selling the F-350. Somehow, everyone involved forgot about the Title and so it failed to change hands. When the dealer came to sell the truck the cascade effect began, culminating in us realising that the crucial piece of paper was probably in a safe deposit box in Glenwood. There was no solution but to go and get it.

Monument Valley Camp We stopped for a night in the Navajo Tribal Park overlooking the Mittens and at first light were treated to the open expanse of Monument Valley bathed in the weak wintry sun. The red rock gives an appearance of warmth that belies the crisp cold air, the underling silence broken by the occasional raucous call of a raven. This magnificent place has acted as backdrop in numerous films and adverts, fixing itself firmly into the American consciousness. Itís another of those places that you think you know, until you come here and stand in awe at the enormous scale and beauty of it. The sheer walls of the mesas and buttes rise from the vast expanse of the floor, eroded into their various distinctive shapes eliciting Anglo names such as King Arthur, Rabbit Rock, and The Mittens. Not a bad place to be on the morning of our wedding anniversary. On previous visits we had been walking and horse riding out in the Valley itself but this was a flying stop, the Title still calling.

We dragged ourselves away and headed off across Utah towards the I-70 corridor and for the first time in our experience found it covered in a light sprinkling of snow, covering the empty bare expanse, giving it a pristine appearance, the snow luminous, the curves of the land beautiful in their new clothing, their lines accentuated by the suns oblique angle, layer after layer fading into the distance.

In Glenwood the temperatures hovered around twenty degrees and given the date we treated ourselves to a night in the Hot Springs Lodge with the obligatory dip in the waters the following morning before heading out again to the warmer air of the Front Range.

Lake Pueblo State Park provided a convenient stopping place for a couple of nights while we caught our breath and had a rest from the seemingly endless driving of the last few days. This is not our usual pattern of travel, we more favour the meandering approach but circumstances sometimes dictate that we move a little quicker.

Our path took us into northwestern Texas and the miles stretched out in a seemingly never-ending flatness uninterrupted but for small rural towns huddled around their rail-side grain silos. Many are not wealthy communities, main streets stand deserted, businesses gone, buildings derelict, a few diehards clinging on scraping a living or hoping for an upturn in fortunes. Palo Duro Canyon There is always one building that looks pristine in these scenes: itís the Post Office, however small, proudly flying The Flag, windows clean, paint gleaming, structurally sound. It stands as though holding these communities together, cutting across racial, economic and religious boundaries, the one place that everyone visits, a centre of sorts.

Palo Duro suddenly appears in this yellow, pancake landscape as a deep, red gash cut into the earth, the second largest canyon in the States. It is startling in its contrast. There is no preparation, no hint in gradient or vegetation just the wonderful surprise of a dramatic and intricate landscape suddenly opening. We had been here before but even knowing what to expect does not take away the excitement after so many perfectly horizontal miles.

There has been recent rain and many of the small fords crossing the canyon road have an inch or so of water flowing over them. The wooded floor of the canyon is home to an amazing selection of wildlife. Northern Mockingbirds harass the Golden Fronted Woodpeckers, driving them away from the berry laden Juniper trees. Wild Turkeys Cardinals, redder than any post box, perch on high branches, surveying their surroundings. Flocks of Turkeys regularly wander through the camp site scratching and squabbling as they go. Rabbits hop amongst the undergrowth and a pair of well coated coyote move through, sniffing, stopping, looking for dinner as they continue at some distance from each other, hoping to flush someone from their hiding place. This is a wonderful place to walk. The trails climb up small twisting side valleys opening into wide-open shelves higher in the canyon system. The red rock dominates but other minerals also colour the earth in yellows, purples, greens and whites. The shapes, textures and colours keep the eyes busy and on a clear afternoon the heavens are that beautiful true blue of the western skies. Itís good to be back.

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