|World Trip Home||Post Three|
Many people visit Las Vegas and never leave the neon lights or the slot machines. This is fine with me because the surrounding area is rich in natural beauty but relatively unknown and therefore, unfrequented. Vegas is a great place to get out of the winter rains of the northwest. You can enjoy the beauty of the desert during the day and the lights and attractions of the city at night. This photo was taken in the Virgin River Gorge just across the border in Arizona - about an hour and a half from Vegas. It's wildly beautiful and completely empty.
|Julia and Karen|
After restocking supplies in Vegas, we met up with Karen's sister Julia and her husband Matt in Death Valley, California. In addition to being family, Julia and Matt are some of our closest friends and it was great to be with them for a week. Normally Death Valley is quite warm in November, however this year was abnormally cold so we piled on our winter clothes and spent our evenings in the van rather than out under the stars. We even saw snow on some of the higher peaks. Luckily, the van is like a small, cozy cabin and housing four is no problem. In fact, on other trips we have had many more people in the van - up to nine once. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of that.
The main route from Vegas into Arizona crosses over Hoover Dam. Built in the 1930's, Hoover Dam was the quintessential statement of mankind's dominion over his environment. The ability to capture one of the most powerful rivers in the west and use it to generate electricity and irrigate the desert was seen as a true triumph of human ingenuity. For much of U.S. history the west was seen as wealth to be exploited. Only recently, with our crowded cities and sterile suburbs has the beauty of the desert been widely appreciated. Today, there are many who would like to see the dam removed and the river restored to its original state. Although I would love to see the canyons surface again, I am a big fan of renewable energy. If we blast the dam we would need to build several fossil fuel-burning power plants to replace it. Perhaps it is better to leave it as is and focus conservation efforts on areas that have yet to be spoiled (like the Artic National Wildlife Refuge).
Two miles past Hoover Dam is an unmarked turnoff with a trail that leads down to the Colorado River. It takes two hours walking through deep canyons to reach the river. Unlike the lake above the dam, the water here is cold and moves quickly and powerfully like it did before the dam was built. A quarter mile downstream from where our trail came out another canyon leads to 'Arizona' hot spring. The water coming out of the ground here is quite hot and there are several pools along the slot canyon - each progressively cooler. Below the final pool there is a drop-off with a ladder. The water cascading down is bathwater warm and forms a perfect shower. Several people have mentioned that there are not enough photos of me on this site. Well, here you go.
In central Arizona, south of Sedona, is a beautiful valley containing the small town of Cottonwood. This area has been popular for centuries and there are numerous Native American ruins around. One area, the Tuzigoot National Monument, is built on a small hill and contains foundations from many Pueblo-style dwellings. Below the hill is a flat flood plain where the original inhabitants of the site grew their crops. In the late 1800's large amounts of copper and other metals where discovered in the hills above the valley. Part of the mining process included pumping tailings onto this flood plane. The toxins in the waste have turned the soil bright orange and even today nothing grows there. It is interesting to see the ruins of these two different civilizations. The Tuzigoots lived here for hundreds of years yet virtually nothing remains. The miners where here only briefly and the valley will probably never recover.
Like our first trip around the U.S. in 1992, as we traveled we were on the lookout for areas we might want to come back to and live. At the end of that '92 trip we returned to Seattle, convinced that nowhere in the country matched it. Seattle is a fantastic city but the recent growth has choked the roads, drastically increased housing prices, and fundamentally changed the character of the city. Jerome, Arizona was one of the few places on this trip we thought we could live. A lively town in its day, Jerome was all but abandoned when the mines closed in the 1950's. Hippies started moving-in in the 60's and 70's - buying the falling-down homes for a few thousand dollars or simply squatting. Now, Jerome is a popular weekend destination for people from Prescott, Flagstaff, and Phoenix. Filled with artists and bohemians, a brewpub, galleries, coffee shops, and great old homes with beautiful views over the valley, Jerome seems like an inspiring place to live. However, if we moved there, would we be helping to create a 'Seattle' effect for the current residents? Many of the residents we spoke to praised Jerome but expressed their concern that its recent growth may drive them away. This photo was taken from the balcony of our hotel in Jerome - the former miner's hospital up on the hill. We had planned to stay only for a few hours but ended up staying almost two days.
|Thanksgiving in Phoenix|
We were on our way to Texas but we knew we wouldn't make it in time for Thanksgiving. We had planned to have Thanksgiving dinner at Denny's when my friend from Seattle, Eric, e-mailed and said his parents had invited us to spend Thanksgiving with them. Seeing Eric again was great and sharing Thanksgiving dinner with his family made us truly understand the meaning of the holiday. They made us feel as welcome as their children that were flying in from different parts of the country. We had a full, traditional, Thanksgiving dinner starting with their famous carrot soup and ending with two types of pie. When we left, Barb (Eric's mother) even gave us leftovers for the van. One of the best things about traveling is the wonderful people you meet on the road. This is a photo of Eric and I hiking above Tempe, where his home is.
Scott & Karen Semyan