Thursday, November 29, 2012

TPThursday: A Vermilion Vignette

The scenery had been stunning in its expansive, empty way; the roadways long and lonesome as the High Plains Drifters (our nom de blog for the next few weeks) made our way south to Arizona on this Western Winter Road Trip.

AZroadtrip2012 067 Having crossed our snow-dusted 3,022-foot Snoqualmie Pass in Washington on a gray Thanksgiving morning, we were delighted to find  elevations further south, like the Le Fevre Overlook at 6,700-feet, to be shirt-sleeve warm and sunny.

In keeping with our travel style, we followed a road less traveled  on this segment of our trip. It was Highway 89A, from St. George, Utah a route that wound its way through northern Arizona (instead of southern Utah) through the rather sparsely- forested Kaibab National Forest.

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We had no expectations – no ‘must see’ places – for the day, only a plan to reach Prescott, Arizona before sunset. And it is those kind of days, we’ve found with travel, when the magic happens.

A roadside overlook just outside this forested land is where we had our introduction to the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, a mind-boggling vast area of some 293,000 acres of plateaus, canyons and cliffs. Two Native American ladies were some distance away quietly setting up tables to sell artwork and jewelry. The silence, the absolute silence and the view. . .I still struggle to find the words to describe that moment and its magic:

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For miles the roadway cut through that ‘valley floor’ itself an elevation of 5,000 feet, with those cinnabar cliffs towering from  3,100 – 6,500-feet above us.

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We were the only travelers on this stretch of road for some time and could only imagine what it had been like for Sharlot Hall (1870-1943), a journalist, poet and the Historian of the Arizona Territory as she traveled this same area by horse-drawn wagons some hundred years ago.

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The Vermilion Cliffs are an outdoor enthusiasts playground – hiking trails abound.  Next time, we’ll allow ourselves some time to stop and explore the area.  We passed two character-looking mom-and-pop places that offered overnight accommodations:  Lee’s Ferry Lodge and Marble Canyon Lodge.

If You Go:
The Vermilion Cliffs are bounded on the east by Glen Canyon National Recreation area, on the west by Kaibab National Forest, to the north by the Utah border and to the south, 89A (389 if coming from Fredonia).

Services are limited between St. George, Utah and Fredonia, Arizona; the bookend cities of this loop. However, there’s is a service station and convenience store at Pipe Springs, about 15 miles west of Fredonia.

The Paiute Indians have opened a museum across the road from the service station at Pipe Springs National Monument. Allow some time to visit it, the historic fort and cabins.

You can learn more about the woman I mentioned at the Sharlot Hall Museum, 415 W. Gurley, Prescott, AZ. (In 1927 she signed a contract to house her collection of history and memorabilia in the building that had in 1864 been the Governor’s Mansion.)

That’s it for today’s Travel Photo Thursday. Be sure to visit Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos.

And for those who missed the first two segments of High Plains Drifter’s Winter Road trip, you might be interested in:
* A Thanksgiving Jackpot
* A Long Lonesome Road: To Stop or Not
Hope you’ll come back Saturday when I’ll tell you what “P.C.” means in Arizona!

18 comments:

  1. Beautiful photos... I wish to go there someday :)

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    1. Thanks for visiting today! Hopefully you'll see them in person one day.

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  2. I can relate with the "magic" that you felt. Truly there are some moments in our travels when we feel that. You're lucky you were with someone you love!

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    1. You are right! There is something about 'those moments' that only we travelers can relate to. . .

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  3. Amazing landscape - unlike anything we see here in Australia. Great post - thank you F

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    1. Thanks for writing Francesca! Hope to see that Australian landscape one day!

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  4. No words are necessary, Jackie, but I thought of one: stunning.
    That Sharlot Hall was a courageous woman. She must not have seen anyone for days!

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    1. It was that alright! And yes, that Sharlot Hall must have been some woman. Next time we get to Prescott I will make it a point to visit her museum.

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  5. I've driven that Highway 89A and never seen a soul either. I'd like to include the Vermilion Cliffs on one of my Arizona trips.

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    1. I thought of you when I wrote this post - I could picture you on some of the hiking trails!

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  6. oh cool. I didn't realize this was so close to me. Planning future road trip now!

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  7. Jackie, this area looks outstandingly beautiful. How cool it must have been to have it all to yourselves.

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    1. It was one of those spine-tingling moments; those kind that you look around to see if there really is anyone else there or if you are as alone as you feel.

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  8. It is hard to say what we would do in another country, but in Australia we would always stop. Like the question!

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    1. I think it would be hard to not stop, knowing that just down the road, you might find yourself in the same situation.

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  9. I have never heard of Vermilion Cliffs but such awe-inspiring beauty. I love this part of the country for its desolate environment and these types of scenery. This sounds like a wonderful road trip. Looking forward to reading more of your "drifter" adventures!

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    1. Mary, it really is a desolate environment and each time we've driven through it I think of what those brave first travelers - the pioneers - must have thought when they approached its daunting vastness.

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