(Read Part 1 here)
After we left the Grand Canyon on Monday, we drove three hours southeast to the Hopi reservation. Our plan was to take a tour of Walpi, a small village that has been continuously inhabited for 1,000 years. The drive took us through some incredible landscapes as we passed through first the Navajo reservation and then onto Hopi land. It was mostly flat and rocky at first, but then we began gaining elevation really quickly and found ourselves on these winding mountain passes. It literally felt like we were driving into the great unknown – I’m not sure we’ve ever been somewhere so different.
The Hopi people live, like their ancestors always have, on top of three large mesas. Some have moved to the base of the mesas now because of overpopulation, but many still make their homes high in the sky. We drove up First Mesa to the village of Walpi. I thought surely the mesas would be wide since I knew people settled there, but their homes seemed to be barely hanging on this narrow, compact mountain top. It was really windy on Monday, so unfortunately they weren’t giving tours. The tour would have taken us on the most narrow part of the mesa and there’s literally danger of falling off. However, the girl at the “visitor center” was really nice and told us all about the Hopi people’s history, religion, family structure, etc.
The one thing I found interesting is that their religion teaches that “kachinas,” or spirits, come to live with them for part of the year. These kachinas provide blessings for the Hopi people and are celebrated through various ceremonies during their stay in the physical world. I kept wanting to say, “What if you could have just one Spirit live not with you, but literally in you, all of the time? He would never go away and would never choose to be separated from you. All the blessings you celebrate for just part of the year would be available to you constantly.”
I know God is impossibly intricate, but I also love the simplicity of His relationship with us. He made us out of love and desires to be with us. All we have to do is follow Him. And I’m so glad He doesn’t leave for half of each year!
After our visit on the mesa, we drove an hour south to the town of Winslow. Any Eagles fans may remember Winslow from the song lyric, “Standing on a corner in Winslow, AZ…” We chose Winslow because we needed a middle-point on our drive to spend Monday night, and because Winslow is home to the La Posada hotel. We absolutely loved our stay here!
In the 1920s, as the West became a vacation or adventure destination for travelers from the East, the Santa Fe railroad came right through Winslow. Hospitality entrepreneur Fred Harvey began changing the face of tourism by building nice hotels that offered quality, affordable meals along the rail line. The waitresses and hostesses at these establishments were known as the “Harvey Girls.” They were often college-educated young women who enhanced the travelers’ experience with friendly, quality service. La Posada was one of the first Harvey hotels, and was designed by Mary Coulter (who designed several of the buildings at the Canyon). Coulter’s idea was to build a hotel that felt like the home of a wealthy Spanish family. The result was a huge hacienda filled with the kind of furniture and details that a well-traveled, worldly family would own. Throughout the 1930s and 40s, everyone who was anyone stayed at La Posada. The rooms are now named for past famous occupants such as Clark Gable, Albert Einstein, John Wayne, Teddy Roosevelt, Will Rogers, etc. La Posada closed as a hotel in the 1950s, but a couple has recently restored it to its original glory and added a James-Beard award winning restaurant. We never wanted to leave!
We spent most of our time in the ballroom, reading by the fireplace. The cold wind blowing outside made it a perfect afternoon to stay warm and cozy with a latte and the restaurant’s signature cornbread (soaked in mesquite syrup!) to snack on. Dinner that night at the hotel’s Turquoise Room was unforgettable. We had a variety of southwestern dishes, from a Hopi bread known as piki bread (really more like blue corn tissue paper), to a duo of black bean and sweet corn soups, to Charlie’s trio of quail, elk and bison and my vegetable platter filled with all kinds of squash, peppers, cheeses, etc. The highlight though was our chocolate souffle for dessert. The waitress broke open the top of the mile-high concoction and poured warm cream and chocolate sauce right into the souffle until it was so full it overflowed the ramekin. Heaven, I tell you!
On Tuesday morning, we made our way an hour east to the Petrified National Forest which is also home to the Painted Desert. On the way, we saw a billboard for a donut shop and made a special effort to go, thinking “we’ll just split one.” When we arrived we saw that they were none other than Daylight Donuts! Needless to say, our idea of splitting one little ol’ donut was shot.
Full and happy, we entered the Petrified Forest and made the slow drive among ancient, fallen trees that have solidified into rocks. The trees were under water for some time and eventually the surrounding sediments seeped into the pliable bark and solidified the plant tissue into stone. The result are perfectly preserved logs that tell the story of time.
At the edge of the Petrified Forest is the Painted Desert. It’s miles and miles of small mounds and large walls of limestone and sandstone that have been colored by minerals such as iron and copper over the course of thousands of years. It really does just seem to go on forever. It was particularly cloudy that day, which made for a breathtaking sight. The wind pushed the clouds so fast overhead that the light on the desert was constantly changing. One mound would go from dark in shadow to showing off its brilliant, almost neon, colors in a patch of bright sunlight. It was almost as if we were watching a movie of the Painted Desert.
After soaking up the views, we picked our jaws up from the ground and started our three hour drive home. We once again drove over the Mongollan Rim and enjoyed our last glimpse of lush green pines and snow. We stopped for lunch at a great diner in Payson called the Bee Line Cafe. We highly recommend their blackberry pie a la mode! Before we knew it, we were back in Tonto National Forest and spotted our first cactus.
Home sweet desert home!
See more pictures from our adventure here