Sunday, October 13, 2013

Vermilion Cliffs

Despite leaving Utah and entering Arizona, life was still very much elevated. The Vermilion Cliffs are at 5.000 ft, high enough in this time of year to be quite cold at night. Not that we had the option to stay overnight as the campground was closed. They are a so called National Monument and anything 'National' seemed to be affected by the governmental squabbles, including the campgrounds. Humans have lived in the area for more than 10.000 years and it's rich in history, jet the Vermilion Cliffs were only protected in 2000 by US president Bill Clinton. They form the eastern edge of the National Monument. 

The Vermilion Cliffs are beautiful. There is no visitor centre, or any other tourism 'improvements', which is good. We don't need multi-million dollar visitor centres. The Cliffs are strange too, as they seem to be an ancient coastline, yet there isn't a coast to be found for thousands of kilometres. If nature itself hasn't made it interesting enough, Blanche and Bill Russell decided to start a rather unusual trading post there in the 1920's and called it Cliff Dwellers. For many years it served as a gas station, restaurant and bar, but when a lodge opened nearby in the 1950's it was abandoned. Today only the crumbling remains can be seen and they serve as a selling spot for Native American artists.

Lees Ferry was the place to cross the river for many years. During 1928 and 1929 the grand Navajo Bridge was built, which today also serves as meeting point for Native American artists. Mike bought a small handmade tomahawk, beautifully crafted. The campground after Marble Canyon was closed due to the government farce. Riding through Indian territory for another hour, seeing settlements that looked more like a tip than liveable, we wondered why Native Americans would want to live this way? All we saw were junkhouses, junkvillages and junk all around them. We found a place to camp behind a modern version of the trading post and asked the Indian lady operating the shop how far we could go towards the Grand Canyon National Park, which was also closed due to the shutdown. She told us to ask her again in the morning, as 'there might be some changes announced later in the evening'. The campground wasn't a quiet spot, although the big building blocked most of the noise, but it was the first campground with grass in many many weeks!