Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Tuesday, 1 November 2005

Dream Catcher

Grand Canyon, Arizona

 We did an easy hike yesterday in Sedona six miles up a spectacular canyon called West Fork. We drove the motorbike ten miles up Route 89 to reach the canyon mouth. The tree leaves were about a week past 'peak' because of the altitude and cold. The walk took nearly five hours to cover a round-trip of twelve miles up and back. The spectacular canyon walls rise about seven hundred feet overhead.

The vehicle has a special electrical heating system to keep the tanks in the storage bays from freezing up. There is a freshwater tank, a grey water tank for the shower and sinks and a black water tank. A propane heating system keeps the passenger compartment warm at night. To the north, freezing temperatures are forecast every night, with highs in the 50-60 degree F range.

Our travel choices are north and south from Sedona. Immediately to the north are the Grand Canyon, The Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park and the Arches National Park. There is nothing that looks very interesting to the south.

After 23 days in close quarters, my Faithful Companion has begun to bicker with me at times over the length of the trip, destinations, navigational issues and other matters. She is telling me to head south or back to Florida because of possible cold and snow to the north. An exploration of this type cannot have two commanders, so I explicitly relinquish all control and begin addressing her as 'My Commandant'. It feels better now, not making a move or decision without awaiting proper orders.

At her direction, we make the quick three-hour run north from Sedona to the Grand Canyon, stopping along the way for groceries, propane and gasoline.

We walk several miles along the canyon rim, peering down nearly a mile. My old vertigo is acting up again in a big way. The oldest rocks on the riverbed below are 1.86 billion years old. The capstone layer is a mere 270 million years old. The river, a mile below, is at an altitude of 2,500 feet. It is believed that the canyon was carved in the last 5 or 6 million years, a geologic eye blink.

The North Rim of the canyon is visible ten miles away. It closes October 15 due to weather. There are little snow poles everywhere here on the South Rim to measure the snow depth and the road location. This is a 'World Heritage' site. I hear many languages around me, only rarely English.

We grill chicken and cook wild rice for dinner. Water boils at a low temperature at this altitude so the rice takes more water and time than expected to cook. I explain pressure cookers and the altitude at which blood boils at 98.6 F. to My Commandant.

Hopi Indian crafts are on display here. The famous architect of the Southwest, Mary Coulter, designed the Park's 'Hopi House' in 1905 as a place to make and sell Indian crafts. I'm struck by the Hopi 'dream-catcher'. This small device is hung over the place where one sleeps. It is a circle about three inches in diameter, with feathers hanging down. Material is webbed inside the circle in geometric designs leading to a very small central circle. Sometimes small rock crystals are added to the web to enhance the dream catcher's power. Bad dreams are caught in the center of the small circle and are blown away by sunlight, while good dreams slide down into the feathers and are trapped there for later reuse.

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