Archives for August 2007

Navajoland and Beyond…

I have the wanderlust bug. There are so many places that I want visit. My dream is to move around the Southwest, and visit all those desert landscapes between Los Angeles and Santa Fe. I’ve admired those hitch-hikers that travel great American highways, like the famous, but deceased, Chris McCandless…

I have become somewhat a transient, myself. Not like those folks that spent so much personal time in isolation. I haven’t always been the best of friends and have fallen short of promises to keep, but I constantly need the human element. I depend on human acquaintances, friendships, and close family. I go to them for social replenishment, even nurturing, but often fail to return the favor. Without people in my life, I would be a dead man.

Instead of hitch-hiking, which I did a little in my teen years, I prefer to drive a camouflage-brown Samurai all over the West. This last summer, I spent a lot of time in Navajoland. I pick up every hitch-hiker out there on the rez, just to visit. Going places and meeting new people is always worth every mile. The summer before, I gave one of our stone customers a ride clear from Cedar City down to Tuba City. It was a good excuse to travel. He is one of our long-time customers, who had hitched a ride all the way up to our rock yard from off the rez. He needed sculpting Alabaster bad enough, and so I volunteered to drive him home. Later on, I went to an event in Flag, then headed up to camp near Lake Powell, in the hills north of Big Water. All the while, the suit and tie people continue to flourish and so do I! Not many people have the opportunity to wander all over tarnation, surely what this means is to experience true freedom instead of an illusion…

I made two very unique trips to Navajoland and Hopiland this summer. I drove on back roads around Big Mountain and Black Mesa. One major reason was to see the gaping wounds of Peabody Coal, one of the largest strip mining operations in the West. The first trip started in Chinle; I drove up through Keams Canyon, entering Hopi Territory. Just before dusk, I left the small village of Shungopovi and journeyed all night, careful not to rush. The stars were enormous in the heavens, there were deep ruts in a dirt road that leads to the coal fields. The wash-boards were nightmarish. Small communities, homes, and ranches were dispersed all over. Out there, folks seem to worry about outside travelers, reminding me of people back home… While checking the oil, three different individuals had stopped out of concern. One guy asks if I was lost and another wanted to know if my engine was having trouble.

After traversing some of those roads, I cannot imagine what it would be like to commute these routes on a daily or weekly basis; having to haul water or go to work, etc!? The nearest highway is 20-40 miles away. Approaching Peabody Coal Mine in the middle of the night with bright orange industrial lights was coming face to face with a monstrous and fiery industrial dragon that pierces wilderness at the very heart. It’s all found on top of a high plateau covered in Juniper, Pinion, and Cedar. Big Mountain and Black Mesa are at the heart of the Navajo Nation. It is an area considered sacred to Navajo people. On my second trip out there, it was mid day, and the landscape changed. It didn’t look as bad. The hills surrounding the mines were green with sage. Healthy monsoon clouds poke-a-dotted the sky. The air was fresh. It tasted and smelled good. Of course looks are deceiving, I’m aware of that!