Just Back from a National Parks Tour

Old Sep 5th, 2006, 02:00 PM
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Just Back from a National Parks Tour

I just got back from this independent road trip, yesterday. I am absolutely astounded by the beauty and culture of the Southwest.

Our original goals for this trip were to see the National Parks in 11 days as thoroughly as our out-of-shape bodies allowed. We also booked National Park lodges or rooms in very centrally located hotels.

Please note, that my husband and I are not what you consider hikers. But, this trip certainly changed our level of hiking experience.

Before embarking on this trip, we purchased a good pair each of hiking shoes and socks. This purchase was invaluable, as the shoes provided in much needed traction on the sandstone in the trails. Also, did I mention that I have balance problem, and that my husband is afraid of heights. However, we simply agreed to not let these issues affect us by tackling easier trails and by taking our time.

Our initial schedule was as follows:
August 24: Land in Phoenix at 9:21. Drive to the Grand Canyon via Sedona's scenic road, 89A, and check into the El Tovar for 2 nights.

August 25: Get up at dawn, hike a little of the Bright Angel Trail, and take the shuttle to every lookout on the western rim.

August 26: Drive to Zion, stopping at all of the East rim lookouts including desert watchtower, and driving the Arizona strip via Marble Canyon. Check into Zion Lodge cabin for two nights.

August 27: Explore Zion, and maybe do one or two easy to moderate difficulty hikes.

August 28: Drive to Bryce Canyon Lodge via the Mount Carmel highway, and check in to Lodge cabin for two nights.

August 29: Try one or two easy to moderate hikes. Explore the different lookouts.

August 30: Drive to Lake Powell and check into Wahweap Lodge for one night. Our goal the next day was to see Antelope Canyon.

August 31: Take a photographic tour of Antelope Canyon. Possible hike to Horseshoe Bend. Drive to Monument Valley. Check into Gouldings Lodge for two nights.

September 1: Take full day jeep tour at Monument Valley provided by Gouldings Lodge.

September 2: Drive to Sedona via Canyon de Chelly and the Hopi Mesas. Check into Canyon Villa Inn for two nights.

September 3: Explore some Sedona sights.

September 4: Fly home.

This the schedule that we kept for the most part. In addition to stunning natural beauty, we hoped to visit Indian ruins where time permitted.

We planned for this trip by using this website, and several guidebooks, including Eyewitness Guides Grand Canyon and Arizona, and Hidden Southwest.

We also planned to shop. My husband was definitely going to purchase just one kachina. I would have been happy to purchase just a Navajo basket.

I made all these reservations in March of 2006, and the order of parks visited was dictated by the availability of the lodges where we wanted to stay. In March, I also made dinner reservations at the El Tovar, Zion Lodge outdoor patio, and Bryce Lodge, around their respective time for sunset. This proved to be invaluable, because we were to exhausted at the end of the day to leave our hotel in search of a meal.

We also agreed that it was worth a little extra money to rent a convertible for the whole trip. Finding the best deal for a car rental was pretty time-consuming, but it is best to start early to get the best deals.
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Old Sep 5th, 2006, 04:42 PM
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Thank you for posting this wonderful report!
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Old Sep 5th, 2006, 05:57 PM
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Flying Maltese--
Thanks for posting your trip report. It's a great trip, isn't it?

Can you tell us which hikes you did and liked and which you'd pass on? I think others (especially the non-hikers on the board) would love some guidance. Would also love to hear your favorite moments
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Old Sep 6th, 2006, 06:38 AM
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Day 1: The Flight

We live in Hershey, Pa, so we flew out to Phoenix from Baltimore. The flight left at 7:20 am, which meant that we had to check in by 6:00 am. The lines to check in our baggage was long mainly because the airport seemed understaffed. We had to check-in ourselves to get the luggage tagged. If anyone is flying, bring your flight confirmation number to ease the process.

The security checkpoint line was long. With the new requirement to not bring liquids, I put all the toiletries in a carry-on bag seperate from our clothes and checked it in. I also purged my purse of any lipstick, lip gloss, and hand cream that I usually carry.

I was very clear to my husband that almost all of his toiletries--shave gel, cologne, toothpaste--had to be checked in. After waiting in a long line for security, my husband forgot there was shave cream in his carry-on.

We still had time to go check it in, which meant waiting at least 15 minutes in the check-in line and 20 minutes in the security line. When the check-in clerk tagged the bag, she tagged it for San Diego (SAN) instead of Phoenix (PHX). The poor clerk seemed frazzled from overwork. Just know your destination airport code, and check the tags to avoid lost luggage.

I was very thisty at this point, so I purchased a bottle of water. Even if you purchase water, soda or juice in the terminal after clearing security, you cannot board the plane with it. I was thirsty, though, so I drank the whole thing.

The flight was enjoyable, though. The did serve breakfast sandwiches for five or six dollars. The did run out of sandwiches, so the poor people in the back of the plane could not buy food on the four hour flight. The TSA has not banned passengers from bringing food on board, but that takes planning. To me, flying has become a real hassle and has taken the joy out of travel.

After landing and gathering our bags, we took the shuttle to the car rental center. I had reserved a Chrysler Sebring convertible for 11 days for $510 including taxes and fees. Bring your car rental confirmation with the promised rate. The Alamo clerk tried to charge us more money for the car. I brought the confirmation, so he had to honor that agreement. If you reserve on the phone, have that reservation e-mailed to you so you have something in writing.

I even signed up for Quiksilver, because spouses could drive free as an additional driver. The clerk denied us that priviledge stating that Arizona law requires that even spouses pay the additional driver fee. I did not have the Alamo additional driver policy, so I unable to dispute that. My poor husband would drive the whole 1,700 miles for this trip.

So far, I have been writing about the boring details of flying and car rental. But, I hope this information would be helpful to someone else planning a trip.

From here on, I will write about beautiful Northern Arizona and Southwestern Utah.
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Old Sep 6th, 2006, 07:49 AM
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By the time we loaded our luggage into the Sebring, it was 11:00 am Phoenix time.

The plan today was to drive to the Grand Canyon via Sedona's scenic road 89A. If we were up to it, we would go to some of the Grand Canyon lookouts.

We really should have taken a later flight, and stayed one night in Phoenix. We were pretty exhausted from the lack of sleep and the hassle of airport security. But I had already booked and paid for the first night of the El Tovar.

The road from the Phoenix airport to Route 17 is not particularly scenic. The scenery improved outside the city when you start climbing the hills, which are dotted with organ cactus.

Although the speed limit was 75 mph, people were driving slower because it was drizzling. The people did not seem used to driving in the rain. There were two separate instances where one car and one truck flipped over on the side of the road.

Also, there were numerous makeshift memorials along the highway. Yet, the state of Arizona posts a speed limit of 75 mph on the highway. Go figure.

By the time we got the Village of Oak Creek, we were able to drive as far as Bell Rock before the clouds moved in. Since the scenery would be obfuscated by clouds, we decided to break for lunch at a Mexican Restaurant named Maria's. It was very good. We later at El Rincon at the end of our trip, but we thoght that the Mexican food was better at Maria's.

Our initial impressions of Sedona were that it is a beautiful scenic area that grew up too fast. One of the first things you see upon entering the Village of Oak Creek are factory outlets where you can get factory direct prices on items like Gap jeans. This is hardly the wild western experience that we looked forward to.

There is a wild west quality in all the time-share companies that pose as tourist information centers. I thought I would avoid such a scam when we drove into the parking lot for the Sedona Chamber of Commerce. I wanted to enquire about a State Parks Pass for the end of our trip.

I walked into the Welcome Center-and guess what-the girl behind the counter tried to convince me to stay at a certain hotel for free if I was willing to learn about a timeshare "opportunity"! Usually, a city's Chamber of Commerce is only allowed to tell you of available hotel rooms and restaurant reservaation without providing a personal opinion of such hotels and restaurants.

I stormed out of there, and spotted a sign hidden in the back of the shopping center that stated, "The Official Chamber of Commerce."

I was finally able to get some information about a Red Rock Pass and a State Parks Pass, and I complained about the time-share place posing as a Welcome Center. The gentleman behind the counter had sued that particular "Welcome Center," and the judge ruled that the time-share company could keep their sign as long as it did not state that it was the Chamber of Commerce. After leaving, I noticed numerous "Welcome Centers" and "Tourist Infomation Centers" that littered the landscape. There were also plenty of tacky souvenir shops, just to round out the whole Sedona experience. I guess you can say that a town that allows timeshare companies to dupe unwitting tourist is a part of the Wild West experience. We just feel that these practices despicable.

Anyway, after this "Wild West Adventure," we tried to continue along 89A with the hope of seeing more beautiful scenery, and maybe swim in Slide Rock State Park. It rained, however, so the rest of 89A was closed. We had to backtrack to Rte 17 to get to the Grand Canyon. The scenery there was not as pretty, but there were some hills and some pine forests.
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Old Sep 6th, 2006, 08:23 AM
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Hi Flying Maltese,
Can't wait to read the rest of your report! I'm glad someone else shares my impression of Sedona. So many people want to visit Sedona because they have seen the beautiful pictures, but what they don't know is the lengths the photographers have to go to in order to get the houses out of the picture.

I visited there 20 years ago, and even then, I was hugely disappointed. So much development!! Yes, the red rocks are pretty, but I'll take the UT national parks any day. Sedona - never again.
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Old Sep 6th, 2006, 09:18 AM
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We finally did arrive at the Grand Canyon just before sunset. We checked into the El Tovar, where I booked the bellman's suite. I booked this room only because this was the only king-bedded room available when I booked in March. (I need a king bed because my husband is 6 foot 3 inches tall.)

I know that other people have had bad experiences, but we found the El Tovar to be a notch above in quality compared to the other park lodges where we stayed. The linens felt silkier, and the bed was really comfortable. The bellman's suite had a view of the Grand Canyon Railway train station. This was an added bonus because my husband is a train buff.

There are other suites that have a private deck that overlooks the Grand Canyon, but those suites book way in advance. Those rooms also seem worthy of the splurge.

After settling into our room, I had a little time to get out my tripod and take a sunset photo of the canyon from the front of the El Tovar. Viewing the canyon for the first time in twelve years, I was finally happy to be vacationing in Arizona. The Grand Canyon is peaceful; and, one cannot help becoming reverential because you enter holy ground.

I am not particularly religious. But, on my second visit to the Grand Canyon, I became acutely aware of a higher power. I hoped this feeling would stay with me throughout our Southwestern journey.
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Old Sep 6th, 2006, 10:58 AM
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One important thing did change since I was last at the Grand Canyon. When I was there in 1994, the El Tovar employees were all American. The employees were American citizens beaming with pride because they worked for something great, our National Parks.

In the twelve years since I've been there, the park lodge have been "privatized." Privatized is a rather genteel word for what it really is--outsourcing American jobs.

About half of the employees of the El Tovar are Russian. Although the cost of lodging ($16/week) and the cost of meals (wholesale price) are deducted from the paycheck, the Russians were flown in by Xanterra. This is quite a perk since the a round-trip ticket from Moscow or St. Petersburg to Arizona or Utah costs at least $2,000.

What is utterly disgraceful about this practice is that Arizona and Utah are two of the poorest states in this country. I know of many young people who would love the opportunity to work in our National Parks. Also, the nearby Navajo and Hopi reservations have many unemployed.

Heck, I went to public schools in Philadelphia. My classmates and I worked minimum wage jobs in the summer. I would have died for the opportunity to get out of the hot, muggy city to work in some of the most beautiful places on earth.

Do you mean to tell me that Xanterra could not pay a decent wage to American citizens, yet somehow they can budget round-trip plane tickets for Russian? Is it really more cost effective to fly people in from Russia, when young people from New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Phoenix, the Navajo Reservation, the Hopi Reservation, etc., would be willing to work.

Has Xanterra even bothered to recruit locally for jobs? Posting jobs on the internet does not count. Because, as every Arizonan knows, most people on the reservation have no electricity.

I know I'll receive flack for this post. In truth, I thought that all the employees the park lodges were courteous and provided good service.

But, I doubt that when President Teddy Roosevelt created our national parks, that he could envision that we would outsource American jobs with the full approval the National Parks Service.

For, this is a major symptom of our moral decay when we allow a few corporate hacks to become rich, while many Americans remain unemployed.
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Old Sep 6th, 2006, 11:18 AM
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Flying Maltese, I do think you will get some flack for your comments about the Russians working the National Parks but, as this is America, we are all entitled to our opinions.

My husband and I have been to many national parks and have stayed in quite a few of the lodges and eaten in quite a few of the restaurants (including a recent trip to Yosemite and Sequoia--those are run by Delaware North however). We have always assumed that the prevalence of non-American seasonal workers was due more to the need for people to work longer than the usual college-aged student can and the remote location of these 'resorts'. The non-Americans usually tell us that they are there through September or October which US college students can't do. And a quick look at Xanterra's website shows that they are pretty sticky about hiring people who can stay a minimum number of months.

To be honest, I believe that the Europeans and Russians and Israelis who have served us at these parks are seemingly more willing to do menial jobs than many of the younger people I know. I always had a summer job and was expected to contribute to my "upkeep" in college and beyond. I don't see that same attitude among many of the families I know here in Boston. It bothers me but I also think it's a reality that corporate America has to deal with.

You make some good points about the rich getting richer but I also believe that "the early bird catches the worm" and a strong work ethic is missing in many Americans these days. And I truly welcome the experience of meeting people from other countries when I travel.

For the record, we met two wait staff members at the Ahwahnee Lodge last month who had been working there for over 20 years each! They have long commutes each day (30 to 60 minutes each way over very windy roads) but they like their location.

Looking forward to reading the rest of your trip report. Glad you had a good experience at El Tovar--we had a nice meal there in 2004.
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Old Sep 6th, 2006, 12:21 PM
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I still have to politely, yet strongly disagree with the notion that our young people are unwilling to work menial jobs in our national parks.

A prime example that refutes that notion is Gouldings Lodge in Monument Valley. Gouldings is Navajo owned and operated, and I would categorize Monument Valley as one of our treasures.

Every employee at every level of Gouldings Lodge is Navajo. This to me shows that Gouldings Lodge at least contributes to the local community by hiring local employees.

For me, this is still a moral issue. The Navajo and Hopi reservations, where unemployment is high, are adjacent to the Grand Canyon. Yet, I met very few Native American employees.

I wish that more American would demand better behavior by our National Park Service. We allowed our National Parks to be privatized the wrong way.

Why can't we as Americans have the Native Americans run our park lodges? I honestly believe that if we turned over, lets say, Zion Lodge to the Paiute Indians, we would have Americans employed in our park lodges. Also, we know that the American Indian would stellar environmental policy given their respect for the land.

Additionally, Native Americans would be able to give insight any new archeological find. Only 3% of the Grand Canyon's archeological past has been uncovered. Today, the Park Service has consulted local tribes who have been helpful in interpreting archeological finds.

Also, shouldn't the American Indian be given back these lands to manage in conjunction with the Park Service? Instead of privatizing, wouldn't returning this land back to the American Indian be the right thing to do?
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Old Sep 7th, 2006, 10:35 AM
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Hi FlyingMaltese,

I was very much enjoying reading the details of your trip. I am hoping that you will be continuing on with the details of Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion. We took this trip ourselves over 3 weeks in June this year and I am reliving moments of our trip through your posts.
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Old Sep 7th, 2006, 12:33 PM
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Agree with you 110% !!


PS - Great report too.
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Old Sep 7th, 2006, 01:47 PM
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Let me continue with the first night in the Grand Canyon.

August 24: I had made reservations for dinner at the El Tovar for about ten minutes after sunset--about 8:30 p.m.

If you can afford the splurge, please try to have one meal at the El Tovar. The dining room was gorgeous. The decor is rustic yet elegant, and there are four large beautiful painting depicting tribal life of the Apache, the Hopi, and the Navajo. (I forget the fourth painting.)

By the way, I certainly packed too many dressy clothes. People do not seem to dress up for the El Tovar. So, I wore slacks and a nice top.

Our server was knowledgable and his entree recommendations of the Sauteed Mediterranean Shrimp and the Grilled New York Strip were excellent choices. He also helped us choose a very good wine--the name of which escapes me. We also had two very good starters--the black bean soup and the spinach salad with radicchio, gorgonzola, bacon and apple.

The meal and service were excellent. Unfortunately, we both were too tired to finish the really good wine, much less order dessert. The waiter was kind enough to have the El Tovar dining room store our bottle for our dinner reservations the next the following night. We took advantage of that option and savored the wine again the next night, which was another exceptional meal.

August 25: I awoke about 5:30 am because of jet lag. I decided to take advantage of this early hour and set off with my tripod and camera to the front of the hotel. The weather was too cloudy, and I did not like the shots I took. I returned to the room hoping to sleep an hour more, but my husband was awake and showered. So, I showered and we went to get breakfast at the El Tovar dining room.

We arrived at 6:25 am, but the dining room does not open until 6:30 am, exactly. At breakfast, I ordered coffee despite our decision to attempt the Bright Angel Trail that morning. My husband, Nick, tried to resist ordering coffee, but the brisk aroma got the best of him.

We each had two cups of coffee and two glasses of water at breakfast. We hoped that we would reach a rest room if needed on the trail. My breakfast was unremarkable, as I ordered a fruit plate. It was just chunks of melon and pineapple with a half cup of yogurt. I should have ordered the eggs benedict. They looked and smelled delicious.

After breakfast, we searched for the Bright Angel Trailhead. There is a paved walkway along the rim that takes you to the Bright Angel Lodge, which is near the trailhead. We took advantage of the rest rooms before embarking on our first hike.

I had done this hike about twelve years ago. Back then, I thought it was really level, smooth and easy. This time the trail was deeply rutted from the recent rain, and it was no longer as smooth as it once was. You share the trail with the mules, so there is an odor. Also, the trail seemed to dip rather steeply in some places.

After hiking a whopping one third of one mile, I decided to stop. I told Nick that if he wanted to go further, that I would be waiting for him where I stopped. But Nick was feeling the effects of the coffee, and we climbed up the trail.

We decided that we could have a rather full day going to as many lookout points as possible. That day, we covered every viewpoint west of the Bright Angel Lodge.

The shuttles were really quite informative, where the drivers told about the importance of each viewpoint. The shuttle buses stop at each stop going west, and but will stop three times going east. Hopi Point and Maricopa Point were both nice stops. We continued to the end to Hermits Rest, where we shared a sandwich and purchased sodas.
The gift shop and interior of Hermits Rest was just alright. The sandwich was stale, but we were hungry.

After returning at the Bright Angel Lodge, it was only 2:30 pm. So we took the Village Loop shuttle to Mather Point. The number of stops seemed endless, and although the view from Mather Point was beautiful, it was crowded with the Las Vegas daytrippers.

We then went to Yavapai Point, which was fine. In my opinion, though, any view of Grand Canyon is magnificent. Rather than take the dreary shuttle to Bright Angel Point, we decided to walk the one mile to the El Tovar. Well, the sign said that it was just one mile. I walk pretty quickly, and this one mile took us two hours. It was still a pleasant walk over a paved walkway with views of the canyon.

As we approached the El Tovar, Nick and I approached very dangerous territory. We walked into Verkamp's Curios. We looked at kachinas, which are gorgeous ceremony symbols carved by Hopi Indians using one piece of cottonwood root.

The sales staff, here, was very knowledgable and helpful. They never complained no matter how many times we asked them to retrieve a kachina from a high shelf requiring the use of a ladder. They also looked up the symbolism of each kachina, because some kachina spirits are quite negative.

After much deliberation, we purchased an eagle kachina that had a small carving of a mudman (clown) right next to it. Nick was then exhausted, and the salesman agreed to box up and deliver the kachina to our hotel so that it would be safe for travel. He also supplied ample literature about the kachina artist.

By the time we arrived back at our room, we closed our eyes for an hour before showering and going to dinner. Before dinner, I had to get some photos of the sunset. I was too lazy to go to Hopi Point, so I settled for sunset photos in front of the hotel.

We ate another very good dinner at El Tovar. I know that many people prefer the Arizona Steak Room. But, I liked El Tovar because we did not have wait two hours to eat dinner.

For dinner, I had the strip steak and Nick had the halibut. We savored the wine from the previous night as it was stored at the right temperature. We also both had the black bean soup which was spicier tonight than the previous night. For dessert, we shared a banana split tart, which I found too sweet.
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Old Sep 8th, 2006, 04:58 AM
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August 29

I awoke at 6:00 am, because today would be rather busy. We would drive to Zion via Marble Canyon, with stops at every eastern Grand Canyon rim lookout.

I went in search of coffee for the El Tovar early risers, but they did not set up coffee service until 6:30. I took some sunrise shots in front of the hotel, which were better than yesterday's. I got coffee and went to wake Nick so he would not miss sunrise. He was already awake, and happily drank coffee with me outside. Please note, we are not morning people. But, the sunrise where sun gently lights different cliffs of the canyon is not to me missed.

Around 7:30, we showered and ate breakfast at the El Tovar. This time I ordered the pancake trio--one blue corn, one buttermilk and one buckwheat pancake covered in prickly pear syrup. It was delicious and too much for one person. Nick had the steak and eggs, which were good.

I went to pack while Nick went to look at Hopi House, in case they had a kachina he would like. After finishing packing, he came into the room beaming. He said that he found the perfect necklace for me.

He was right. The necklace was gorgeous. There was beautiful inlaid work with two different colors of turquoise and two different colors of coral. The detailed work in the silver was amazing. We bought the necklace. Oh well, my car repairs will have to wait.

Nick want to also check out another wood carving at Vercamp's. So we really didn't leave until 11:00.

We still managed to see the eastern rim lookouts on the way out. In my humble opinion, the eastern rim has the best lookouts on the South Rim.

Our favorite viewpoints of the Grand Canyon became Grandview Point, Lipan Point and Moran Point. I took at least fifty photographs at these viewpoints.

All these viewpoints have a nearly 360 degree view of the canyon, and they are blissfully uncrowded. That is because during high season, you can drive your car eastbound but not westbound along the eastern South Rim.

We also saw the Tusayan Ruins, which was an interesting brief stop. We stopped also stopped at Desert Watchtower, which was a bit more crowded than the other lookouts. This is a worthwhile stop to view Mary Coulter's tower.

While purchasing sodas at the store near the Watchtower, we noticed a sign that stated that the store does not sell items made by Native Americans. This is quite disgraceful. Given that Mary Coulter spent years of her life studying and replicating American Indian architecture, how could the Park Service allow this sleazy store to operate so close to her Watchtower.

Seriously, this merchant is more concerned with purveying cheap foreign-made products with a higher mark-up value. I can only assume that the Park Service and this merchant have little respect for the gorgeous Indian pottery, baskets, jewelry and woodcarvings available to them merely tens of miles away from the Park entrance.
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Old Sep 11th, 2006, 10:52 AM
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August 28 (cont'd)

After leaving Desert Watchtower, we drove east to Cameron and then Northwest to Zion via Marble Canyon. I had no idea how scenic this drive could be.

The drive from Desert Watchtower to Cameron cut through a portion of the Painted Desert where you surrounded by mounds of pastel colored stratified stone. There were some small canyons that cut near the road, with views alternating from the north or the south side of the road.

There were quite a few Navajo stands by the roadside. Different roadside stands sported different flags, some had the German flag, some had the French flag, some had the Italian flag, but almost all had a U.S. flag or a Navajo nation flag. We stopped at one roadside stand and bought some pottery.

These stands usually do not sell high end merchandise, but we liked the shape and colors of the pottery. The items are fairly priced, and these stands do accept Visa and Mastercard. I have been warned, however, that the really cheap necklaces for under $20 are probably made in China. Merchants tend to be honest, if you inquire directly about the products origin.

We arrived in Cameron about 3:30 pm. It is a good idea to get gas because you will not find gas for over a hundred miles. After gassing up, we went to Cameron Trading Post. Nick looked at kachinas, while I perused Navajo baskets. After an hour of deliberation, Nick could not pick a kachina. I bought a traditional Navajo wedding basket. The price for Navajo baskets seemed cheaper her than at Grand Canyon. We considered eating at Cameron Trading Post, but opted to drive in as much daylight as possible.

The drive from Cameron to Marble Canyon continued to have rugged beauty. Pastel striated mounds transformed into jagged red rock formations. This road is lonely, and you will probably driving the only vehicle for miles. I liked the idea of driving in wide open spaces. I kept snapping photos from the car of jagged red rocks because the light was so irresistably warm. I later found out that this area is called the Arizona Strip.

Several hours later, we stopped at Marble Canyon. Only one other couple was there. It was a pretty rest stop, and we walked halfway across the Navajo Bridge above the Colorado River.

We continued driving and the landscape became more mountainous, with sagebrush giving way to pine trees. The road climbed a curvy mountainous road as we approached Jacob's Lake. We stopped briefly at a scenic overlook shortly after Jacob's Lake, and continued onto Zion.

On the way, we drove through Kanab, Utah, shortly after the sunset. Kanab seemed like a kitschy little town that relishes in its Western movie-making past. There are two adorable old-fashioned movie theatre along the main strip. We decided that we would stop in Kanab when we would drive from Bryce Canyon to Lake Powell.

We arrived at the gate for Zion about 8:30 Arizona time. It was pitch dark, and there was no one at the entrance gate to ask for information about the park.

We drove the Zion-Mt. Carmel highway in the dark. I would not recommend this. It is rather frightening to drive these twisty roads without any help of light. We did not want to run over a poor wild animal. Even at night, though, this road is dangerously beautiful. You could see the black outline of the towering peaks against the blanket of stars in the night sky.

We arrived at Zion Lodge at 8:45 Arizona time, 9:45 Utah time. The restaurant was nice enough to serve us even though they normally close at 9:30. After eating a very good meal, we drove to our cabin and unloaded our car.

The cabins at Zion are rustic, but the interiors need updating. The beds somewhat comfortable, they curtains and bedding look dated. There is no TV, so we read guidebooks until we passed out at 11:00.

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Old Dec 24th, 2006, 06:46 AM
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I know,this is a late reply to the posting, but I just need to clarify a few things that FlyingMaltese wrote about regarding Xanterra and the Russians....Please take a moment to read this post!

I am a Xanterra employee who has a tiny hand in the recruiting/hiring side of the process. One of the greatest hurdles in each summer season is getting American kids to come and work. Granted, Xanterra pay is pretty crappy and the dorm-style housing is nothing like home. But, there was a day when people really wanted to come out for the experience of spending a summer in our national parks and the hard work and communal housing was a means to an end to be there. Not to mention the pride of helping visitors have a fantastic experience and simply being one of the park alumni!

Those days are gone! Our kid's culture has changed. Working in the dishpit is really unacceptable to so many of our college-aged kids. Not that we don't have thousands of amazing, hardworking, funloving Americans each summer. But the numbers are dwindling! Enter the international kids that come over (at their own expense...Xanterra DOES NOT BUY PLANE TICKETS!) These kids work like dogs, get paid badly (they still make much more in America than they could ever make in a summer back home.) and are willing to live without any luxuries so they can experience America and Americans. In most cases, they immerse themselves in the entire park experience...including the work!

As for not recruiting to Americans. Wish you could travel one hiring season in a seasonal employer's shoes. You'd be really tired from all the travel, hand shaking, and explaining the joys of our National Parks to people (face to face) that just don't want to do it anymore.

It's a real shame that more Americans don't want to experience the parks by putting in a summer of hard work and giving up the spoils of our daily cultures.

As for Native Americans being offered jobs....you will find people of almost all Native American nations working in National Parks. Maybe you just haven't noticed.

Thanks for letting me rebutt...all of the above is my personal information. I'm not any kind of spokeserson for any of the Park concessionners. Just an employee of Xanterra.

Have a great day....and think about working in a National Park yourself! Anyone of any age is encouraged. It's a life changing experience....if you can give up your espresso maching for a few months!

Have a great day!
yellowmic is offline  
Old Dec 24th, 2006, 07:01 AM
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I've enjoyed this post... is there more to come on the rest of the trip?
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Old Dec 24th, 2006, 01:59 PM
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I have kind of let it go by the wayside to do my silly rant about the lack of American talent at the national park lodges.

There was once a time when a job in the National Parks was choice because one could build up their federal pension during their summer job. When I was last at the El Tovar in 1994, the employees there were federal employees.

I have a quick question, yellowmic. Does Xanterra do any recruiting on the nearby Navajo and Hopi reservations? This is not an accusation. I am really just curious. Would Xanterra drop the requirement to live in the dormitories for Native Americans?

I did see some Indians working at El Tovar and as Park Rangers, so I know Xanterra has hired Native Americans.

I am sorry about stating that Xanterra pays for the plane tickets. I thought one of the Russian girls had told me that her ticket was paid by the recruiter, which I believe is contracted with a Russian agency.

It is Christmas eve. So, I will do not want to rush with the trip report.

PS: I know. I just thought that people lost interest.

I will post again from my journal in a few days.
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Old Dec 24th, 2006, 06:44 PM
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Hi FlyingMaltese. Sure am enjoying your detailed trip reports. Don't stop until you get them all done. We've enjoyed the SW for too many years to count any more and are convinced you can never see it all. We now try to take some of the Grandkids about every summer. Thought they might be a bit scared of the heights but not after the first stop or so. For avid photographers, it's very hard not to go back to many of the sights because "the sun was not just right". My wife loves that statement. We often travel many, many miles to see something again in either the AM or PM. The scenes seem to change with your direction of travel, the sun angles and the time of year. If your husband is a 'train buff', be sure to come back and ride some of the fantastic narrow gage steam RRs such as the Durango-Silverton and the Cumbres-Toltec. That's a real ball! Have you posted any of your photos on the web?
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Old Dec 25th, 2006, 07:37 PM
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LarryT, I will post photos soon. The photos did come out great. I am always unhappy with not only the light, but also the composition.

We will definitely take the Durango-Silverton and Cumbres-Toltec when we do another trip to New Mexico.
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