Posts Tagged ‘Canyon de Chelly’

Toward a Sense of Place by Philip Hyde 1

February 9th, 2012

Marble Gorge, Grand Canyon National Park, 1964, by Philip Hyde. From Navajo Wildlands, Sierra Club Books. Two miles from proposed Marble Canyon Dam site.

(See the photograph full screen: “Marble Gorge, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.” To view other photographs from the same Exhibit Format book see the photographs: “Stormlight, Canyon De Chelly National Monument, Arizona” and Navajo Wildlands Photographs In The Deserts Portfolio.)

From Navajo Wildlands: As Long As The Rivers Shall Run, Text by cultural geographer Stephen C. Jett, Photographs by Philip Hyde, with Selections from Philip Hyde, Willa Cather, Oliver La Farge and Navajo Myths and Chants, Edited by Kenneth Brower, Foreword by David Brower, Sierra Club—Ballantine Books 1967–Exhibit Format Series

*Landscape Photography Blogger Note: Clarence Dutton was like the ‘John Muir’ of the Grand Canyon and Colorado Plateau. As you look to explore the Colorado Plateau yourself, please be aware that the areas where people are allowed and the approaches to them have changed since 1965, especially in Canyon De Chelly National Monument. Also note that the politically correct term for the native people now is their own word, “Dineh,” in its various spellings, rather than the Spanish word “Navajo,” in common practice then.

Toward a Sense of Place By Philip Hyde

When Clarence Dutton explored the Plateau Province a hundred years ago, he saw that a visitor conditioned to the Alps, if he stayed long in this new country, would be shocked, oppressed, or horrified. While in Dutton’s days emotion about scenery was still all right, today, indifference is popular, and we tend to take someone else’s opinion about what is beautiful and flock to the recommended places. Noting this, Aldo Leopold, in A Sand County Almanac has identified the “trophy recreationist,” and urges that recreational development is “not a job of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the…human mind.” Indeed, a great increase in individual sensitivity might be achieved if park authorities spent as much effort on interpretation as on road building.

Dutton lead the way, and his insight about what would happen to a traveler in the Plateau Province certainly worked for me in the Navajo Country. The traveler needs time enough, he wrote, and: “Time would bring a gradual change. Someday he would become conscious that outlines which at first seem harsh and trivial have grace and meaning, that forms which seem grotesque are full of dignity, that magnitudes which have added enormity to coarseness have become replete with strength and even majesty. The colors which had been esteemed unrefined, immodest and glaring, are as expressive, tender, changeful and capacious of effects as any others. Great innovations, whether in art or literature, science, or in nature, seldom take the world by storm. They must be understood before they can be estimated. They must be cultivated before they can be understood.”

A woman we met at the gas station in Newcomb volunteered that she and her husband had just driven through the Navajo Reservation and that, “there’s nothing there but little round shacks. We’re headed for Colorado!”

We had reached Newcomb, about halfway between Shiprock and Gallup, crossing the Chuska Mountains on a magnificent little dirt road. It wandered in the pine forest on top, discovered little aspen-ringed ponds, and found us a superb view of Shiprock, fifty miles to the northeast. It also climaxed our afternoon with an enormous thunderstorm we watched from an eminence above Two Gray Hills. I wanted to tell the couple something about what our old road had let us see, but they were off with their tank full of gas, to collect place names in Colorado like a good trophy recreationist should, ever hurrying over the ever-increasing highways that penetrate lovely country and either lacerate it or pass it by unseen.

John Ruskin said, with the invention of the steam engine: “There will always be more in the world than a man could see, walked he ever so slowly. He will see no more by going fast, for his glory is not in going but in being.”

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Mitchell Butte from Mitchell Mesa, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Utah-Arizona, 1963, by Philip Hyde. From Navajo Wildlands, 1967.

Do you see Monument Valley now by whizzing past its monuments on a paved road, taking lunch in Tuba City or Kyenta, and spending the night in Moab? Or are its greatest rewards still reserved for those who take the dusty little dirt road that goes down among the great buttes and who feel the rocks and sand under their wheels and feet? I recommend especially the great reward of winter time, when there may be a light skiff of snow in the dune shadows. This reward is even greater if you have also experienced Monument Valley in the heat haze and dust of mid-summer. The crisp winter air is then a special elixir.

To me, Canyon de Chelly is another scenic climax of Navajo Country, and at its best in the fall. The cottonwoods lining the canyon’s fields and sandbars glow with their own inner light, and the sun arrives with that low-angled brilliance that drives photographers into ecstasy and exhaustion. Canyon de Chelly is perhaps the most Navajo of all the park areas on the Reservation. It speaks eloquently, in the present tense, of the Navajo and Anasazi past. Here is probably the Reservation’s most spectacularly beautiful combination of colorful rock, canyons, and ancient ruins. You can drive on pavement to its fringe and soon will be able to drive the rims on high-standard highways; but travel in the canyons, where the most exciting visual action is, is subject to nature’s whims. High water, or sand quicker than usual, can stall the most ingenious mechanical substitute for feet.

There is still a lot of foot travel in the canyons. The White House Trail that drops over the rim from an overlook on the rim road crosses the wash and leads to the area’s best known ruin, perched on a ledge above the canyon bottom, with a great wall sheer above it.

In the Spring of 1965, when heavy runoff in the canyons kept even the Park Service vehicles out…

(Originally posted January 17, 2010)

(CONTINUED IN THE BLOG POST, “Toward a Sense of Place 2“)

RELATED POST: “A Sense of Place and A Changing World.”

Many museum curators, gallery owners and photo buyers consider the image all important and often overlook the significance of place, even in landscape photography. Do you feel a sense of place is important in landscape photographs? If so, why?

New Release: Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park

April 26th, 2011

The Making Of The Widely Published And Collected Photograph In Philip Hyde’s Own Words

New Release: Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 1963

Landscape Photography Blogger Introductory Note:

Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, copyright 1963 by Philip Hyde. Widely exhibited and published including in “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America” and related major museum exhibitions. In permanent museum collections.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

As part of his first explorations of the American Southwest in 1951 and 1955, Philip Hyde documented Dinosaur National Monument on the first photography assignment for an environmental cause. (See the series of blog posts that begin with, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1“)

Ardis and Philip Hyde returned to the Southwest in the Fall of 1963 and visited Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Arches National Monument, now also a national park, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon National Park, the Hopi Villages, Canyon de Chelly, Petrified Forest National Monument, Walnut Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon, “Lake” Mead National Recreation Area and Glen Canyon Dam. Philip Hyde on this trip planned to build his stock photography files, gather images for several upcoming conservation projects as well as working on an assignment from the National Park Service photographing several of the national park’s facilities and buildings’ architecture. After a stop in Zion National Park, the Hydes moved on to Bryce Canyon National Park…

Excerpted From Philip Hyde’s 1963 travel log:

By Philip Hyde

September 24, 1963: We decided to go on to Bryce Canyon and come back to Zion National Park later—after Canyonlands, or on our way home before “Lake” Mead. We broke camp and headed for Bryce Canyon. On the way out of Zion, I spent an hour or so working on the East side formations after the tunnel—Checkerboard Mesa and Navajo Formation pavements. Then we went on out of Zion and north. We stopped about 11 am at Edith Hamblin’s place on the north end of Mt. Carmel. Edith Hamblin is the widow of painter Maynard Dixon. We also stopped in to see Dick McGraw at his studio and guest house with a view toward the White Cliffs, then drove on to Bryce Canyon, arriving about 3 pm.

At Bryce Canyon we went to the visitor’s center to meet with the Park Engineer and Naturalist. Then we headed on out to the first overlook road. In the fairyland section the light was gorgeous. I took my 4X5 view camera and walked down the trail half a mile or so into the canyon. I made six color transparencies and two black and white negatives. Then we drove back to the Visitor’s Center in later light which was also very good. Called it a day and headed to the campground, which was rather exposed with little gravel platforms for camp sites. The Park Ranger said that the low last night was down to 29 degrees Fahrenheit, so I put antifreeze into the radiator that I bought in Hatch, Utah.

September 25: In the morning I went up to the Visitor’s Center to shoot interiors for the National Park Service. Then we went first to Sunset Point and down the Navajo Loop Trail to the canyon bottom where I made several exposures. We drove out along the loop road to

Various viewpoints and eventually to Rainbow Point, then back along the rim. Back at Sunset Point I caught the late light and walked down the Queen’s Garden Trail just at Sunset when the light was magnificent. I photographed until the light failed. When we returned to the car, we ran into Adele and John Hampton of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, whom we had met in Zion National Park. We had dinner with them and talked until about 9 pm—late for us.

September 26: We were up before dawn, about 5:30 am, to catch the sunrise light on the Queen’s Garden Trail. Hiked down into Queen’s Garden working all the way as the light was spectacular. Photographed in the Queen’s Garden until about 9 am, then back up to the car, showered, packed up and set out for Capitol Reef about 10:30 am. Drove down into the Paria Valley—now called Bryce Valley—around Tropic, Utah. Tropic is just awakening from its sleepy, remote, Mormon character to tourist awareness. However, only the main “street” has changed adding a drive-in and frosty store. The road is now paved all the way to Escalante, Utah—not just paved, but realigned to “modern” engineering high standards—70 mph in most places. It circles around the Table Cliffs of the Aquarius Plateau and crosses several layered ridges and streaks across some broad open plateau tops to reach Escalante. Several roads beckoned. One that looked interesting was the one to Hole In The Rock, which we will take before we finish this project—maybe on this trip or perhaps next Spring. About eight miles East of Escalante the dirt started and except for a stretch on top of a ridge several miles long near Boulder, Utah, it was much like it was five or six years ago, though the surface this time was in better shape and some of the notable grades have been eliminated.

Landscape Photography Blogger Postscript

Philip Hyde made four dye transfer prints of “Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 1963″ in the early 1970s and two more in 1987 when Drylands: The Deserts Of North America came out. See the blog post, “The Legend of Dye Transfer Printing, Interrupted 1” for more about dye transfer printing and “Philip Hyde At Home In The Wilds 1” for an interview in which Philip Hyde talks about his approach to dye transfer printing. Now for the first time since Kodak discontinued the manufacture of dye transfer printing materials in the early 1990s, “Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park” is available as a color fine art print in archival digital print form. Also for a limited time “Formations From Bryce Point” is available at introductory New Release Pricing. For more about Philip Hyde’s connection to the Southwest see the blog post, “Earth Day Celebration Of Ardis And Philip Hyde And Canyonlands.”

The Making Of “Rainbow Bridge From The Upstream Side”

August 10th, 2010

The Making Of The Landscape Photograph That Is Now A Limited Edition New Release:

“Rainbow Bridge From The Upstream Side, Now Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Utah, 1965” FROM the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series book, “Navajo Wildlands: As Long As The Rivers Shall Run” by Stephen C. Jett and Philip Hyde.

Rainbow Bridge From The Upstream Side, Now Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Utah, (Color) 1965 by Philip Hyde.

(View the photograph full screen CLICK HERE.)

It was the end of November and the Northern Sierra Nevada winter set in. Long cold rains, sleet and snow alternated with ever lower night temperatures when the weather cleared. The telephone rang, Ardis Hyde answered. She set the receiver on the desk, walked out the back door and looked up to where Philip Hyde was hurriedly putting a roof on his new studio addition on a precious day of dry weather.

“It’s David Brower on the phone,” Ardis Hyde shouted. “Something about a new project.”

“Tell him I’ll call back a little later,” Philip Hyde yelled back.

“He said it was very urgent.”

“OK, tell him I’m coming,” Philip Hyde replied. He climbed down the ladder and came to the phone. David Brower told him there was not much time. There were urgent threats to the Navajo lands in Northeastern Arizona. Proposed dams on the rivers, Uranium and mineral strip mining, oil drilling, and civilization’s encroachment on the Navajo way of life were just a few of the dangers to the desert landscapes that the Navajo had called home for a thousand years undisturbed.

Professor Stephen C. Jett had written his dissertation after a “detailed study of the recreational resources of the Navajo Country.” His dissertation was “an introduction to Navajo attitudes toward land, a guidebook, an inventory, and a series of recommendations…” David Brower was emphatic, “We need to get some photographs of these areas as soon as possible and pair them with a text by Dr. Jett to spearhead a campaign to save Navajo Country.”

Philip Hyde gathered several layers of thick tarps and plywood, put them over the roof skeleton of his newly framed studio and in less than a week he and Ardis Hyde were off to Navajo Country in Arizona. He would take his chances with putting on the roof. Hopefully the heavy snows would hold off until he returned. Hopefully there would be enough clear weather to finish the roof before too many January snows made it impossible until Spring and a whole season was lost.

Ardis And Philip Hyde Explore Navajo Country In The Cold

By December 8, 1964 Ardis and Philip Hyde were on the road and by nightfall December 9 they arrived in Gallup, New Mexico near the Arizona border and the Navajo Reservation. Fortunately they did not camp out but stayed in the Ramada Inn because the low that night was 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Early the next day they drove out to catch the morning light on Window Rock. The Navajo Tribal Council was in session. The Hydes met with Navajo Tribal Council Representative Sam Day. Ardis Hyde wrote in the Travel Log, “We had a brief but illuminating talk about what we should see in the way of tribal parks present and proposed…. He is recording chants and rituals in the evenings.” Ardis and Philip Hyde visited the Good Shepherd Mission and a few trading posts. They bought a beautiful 4’X6’ Navajo rug for $22. They spent the night in Chinle at Thunderbird Ranch in a new unit for $9.00. Because the dining room was closed, Ardis Hyde cooked soup and coffee on the SVEA portable stove in place of room service. In the morning they went to the new Navajo visitor’s center to meet with the liaison officer between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Navajo Indian Tribe for more guidance on what landscapes to photograph. They also bought several reports on Navajo planning and affairs.

Philip Hyde photographed Ship Rock and other landmarks, some that had never been photographed before. By Monday, December 14, temperatures were down to 3 degrees Fahrenheit and it was hard to photograph. The next day the sun warmed the air enough to make photography easier. A Navajo guide showed the visitors into Monument Valley where Philip Hyde made two exposures that later became well-known landscape photographs, “Evening Light On West Mitten Butte” and “Anasazi Bighorn Sheep Petroglyphs” on the wall that Ansel Adams made a photograph at a different angle. In the days to follow they traveled on to Batatakin Ruin, Muley Point, the Grand Canyon and finally Canyon de Chelly. For more on these Navajo adventures see the blog posts, “Toward a Sense of Place 1” and “Toward a Sense of Place 2” by Philip Hyde. Many fine photographs went home in the 4X5 and 5X7 view camera film holders. Yet the Hydes found they had barely touched what the country had to offer.

Ardis And Philip Hyde Hike 24 Miles From Rainbow Lodge To Rainbow Bridge And Back, Six Months Pregnant

After successfully finishing the roof and weathering the worst of the winter cozy at home in Northeastern California, Ardis and Philip Hyde were back in Navajo Country by April 1965. Ardis Hyde was five months pregnant when they arrived, but that didn’t slow them down. For a month they traveled around Navajo Country photographing and getting to know the land and people. May 26 they finally succeeded in lining up a pack trip from Rainbow Lodge down to Rainbow Bridge and back. The journey of 12 miles each way took several days walking on foot with pack horse support. The trail winds around sacred Navajo Mountain in one long gradual ascent punctuated by one very steep descent and ascent through a canyon. Ardis Hyde wrote in the Travel Log:

At about mile 4 the trail leaves flat terrain and enters interesting country making a transition from soft rock with ledges into sculptured rock with good views of White Mesa, Cummings Mesa, Dome Canyon, No Name Mesa and the Kaiparowitz Plateau. Just past mile 5 we ate lunch in a good spot to see the summit of Navajo Mountain with fresh snow. This was Philip’s first picture of the day and more followed around the pass.  We started down a steep descent into Cliff Canyon, which narrows more at the bottom with a green canyon floor of lush grasses. On top we saw a few larkspur in bloom. Now there were brilliant yellow Mariposa Lilies as well as paler lavender ones. The wild flower display became more and more profuse until as the canyon leveled after mile 7 it was just like one continuous garden in all colors. Mallow, Asters, yellow and white daisies, larkspur, pink prickly pear cactus, spiderwort, evening primrose, Cliff Rose, Sand Verbena, wild onion, Bricklebush, Spanish Bayonet in bud and Juniper berries still abundant…

Ardis And Philip Hyde Camp Under The Stars Next To A Hopi Wood Fire

That night they camped under the Cottonwoods and stars after threat of rain had passed. ‘Sheep’ frogs made a “chorus at assorted pitches of bleating.” The Hydes could see the glow of a beautiful sunset on all of the high domes across the landscape but they nestled into their “shady enclosure with the smell of a Hopi wood fire and snug beds after a nine mile day.” The next day they hiked on in the canyon bottom slowly picking their way and “stumbling over streambed rocks most of the time.” It heated up. They saw a few pools of clear water to swim in but decided to wait until they reached Aztec Creek. However, Aztec Creek turned out to be brown with the recent storm. They climbed out of the canyon up onto the “Slickrock domes” for views of the mountains and surrounding landscape. Then back down to hot chocolate and another early bedtime. The next day as they entered Bridge Canyon they came to very clear water under cottonwoods, dense foliage and three horses grazing on wild flowers.

The View Of Rainbow Bridge

Bridge Canyon was beautiful with dense foliage and high vertical walls until the last mile before Rainbow Bridge when an inner gorge develops out of darker red sandstone in layers. Here the trail continues above a ledge and we look down into the gorge to see the stream. We pass many tempting pools and catch our first glimpse of Rainbow Bridge about 10:30 am, unfortunately in flat light. From this upstream approach Rainbow Bridge appeared finer, not as massive as from below. At the last turn above Rainbow Bridge we hear voices. We coincided with a boating group coming in. They were immaculately dressed in white and light-colored pressed clothes. There were two families of shrill children. Philip took some photographs of Rainbow Bridge from the west side on a ledge above the stream and we hurried away to each lunch in quiet upstream. Philip bathed in two pools. There were frequent overhangs with seeps apparent. At one of these we found enough water to fill our cups. Saw a bee collecting pollen and at another seep we saw a ‘Sheep’ frog up close. He had no webbed toes, a gray-black back and orange-cream sides. We heard an occasional canyon wren call. I spotted some kind of flycatcher with rufous tail, white side feathers and a horse, gargling call. The trail through Redbud pass was all in the shade. We paused to admire a butterfly with a Navajo rug design and vegetable dye colors gaining strength in his wings after emerging from his chrysalis.

From Navajo Wildlands: As Long As The Rivers Shall Run

Toward A Sense Of Place by Philip Hyde

Excerpted from the blog post, “Toward A Sense Of Place 3.”

Our first view of Rainbow Bridge had been some years before, after coming up five miles from the river through a magnificent canyon of beautiful rock sculpture and delightful long, narrow pools. We were almost reluctant to go to Rainbow Bridge again after that fine, wild memory of it, knowing that it was now only a mile and a half from the rising edge of Lake Powell that is engulfing the stream that created the bridge. We had been three days in the wilderness, with all that is implied in getting close to the land and letting it get close to you. We rounded the last great curve above Rainbow Bridge and began to see tourists. I sniffed the air and—sensed something extraordinary about it… perfume, emanating from some immaculately clad yachtsmen—or was it the yachtwomen among them—busily signing the register under the Bridge. The Bridge looked the same, or did it? Was it only an illusion that it looked… a little plastic? To know what the real Bridge looks like, don’t you have to participate in the finding of it, a little arduously along the stream that made it possible, the heat and the cobbles and the water and the time that all combined to build that Bridge? I think of the land of the Navajos as a living entity of moods—of light moments and gloomy. Above all I think of color—color constantly changing with the light, color that infused the life of the people who have passed over this land. Overpoweringly, this place testifies to man’s transitory nature—and yet confirms his continuity. That continuity may end if this should ever cease to be a land of time enough and room enough.

More about the flooding of Glen Canyon in the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.”

For sizes, pricing and more information, see the blog post, “Limited Edition New Release: Rainbow Bridge From The Upstream Side (Color)” on Fine Art Collector’s Resource Blog.

For more about Philip Hyde and his relationship with wilderness and landscape photography see the blog post, “Celebrating Wilderness By William Neill.” For more on wilderness backpacking see also the blog post, “The 1970s Backpacking Boom, Conservation and Photography.”

Toward a Sense of Place By Philip Hyde 2

January 20th, 2010

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Toward a Sense of Place 1“)

Anasazi Big Horn Sheep Petroglyphs, Monument Valley, Utah-Arizona, 1963, by Philip Hyde. From Navajo Wildlands.

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

By Philip Hyde

From Navajo Wildlands: As Long As The Rivers Shall Run

Sierra Club—Ballantine Books 1967

*Note: Beware of using this as a travel guide. The areas where people are allowed and the approaches to them may have changed since 1965. Also, the politically correct term for the native people now is their own word, “Dineh,” in its various spellings, rather than the Spanish word in common practice then, “Navajo.”

Toward A Sense of Place (Continued)

In the Spring of 1965, when heavy runoff in the canyons kept even the Park Service vehicles out, many of the Navajo men walked into the canyons to start their spring plowing and planting. There are more horse-drawn wagons in the Canyon de Chelly region than almost anywhere else, with good reason—they still rely on dependable foot power in traveling the canyon bottoms.

The best way really to feel the country is to visit it in many seasons and to know something about it beforehand. In a region where so much geology is laid bare, a smattering of geology is illuminating, and of prehistory, for the evidences of ancient occupation a searching eye will discover. The petroglyphs and pictographs fascinate me. We were delighted by the humor in a petroglyph some eight centuries old—with its wonderful incised figures of Kokopeli, lying on his back with one knee up, playing the flute. Some of the pictographs in Canyon de Chelly are sheer drama. The Ute Fight Mural, a Navajo charcoal drawing of about a hundred years ago, portrays a battle between Navajos and Utes. A short distance farther up the same canyon is a drawing depicting the coming of Spaniards on horseback.

The pictographers knew with assurance what they wanted to record. My own processes in deciding what a photographer should report were less sure. I started out with several ideas, rejected them, and reluctantly concluded that I should emphasize the land, not the people. I had read more about the country, been exposed more to it. I found the Navajos fascinating and beautiful. They fit their land far better than whites fit theirs. Yet, I felt that emphasis on the people would preclude the sense of place, a sense that I think the Navajos themselves feel strongly.

They also value highly their personal privacy. One can try to make grab shots, which violate that sense of privacy, or spend enough years living and working with the people to know how not to violate. I would not do the former and couldn’t do the latter. I hoped that the absence of a human figure would not suggest the absence of a human eye, and that mine would be sensitive enough to the Navajo’s own sensitivity to his land. This hope was the basic challenge. There were other challenges.

Some Navajo areas are nationally known and celebrated; others are neither. I wanted both. Photographers must also fuss with logistics, and I would try to do my share. They also need intuition and luck. I rarely wait for something to happen. I haven’t the patience, and besides, there are usually too many things around already happening. So I hoped to be in the right places when the light said now!

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Stormlight, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, 1963, by Philip Hyde. From Navajo Wildlands.

I remember a storm-lit view of Canyon de Chelly. It had just stopped raining heavily when my wife came charging into the back office of the Visitor Center and said, “Come out and see what’s happening over on the rim.” Together we grabbed camera and gear and ran half a mile or more to the edge of the canyon. A shaft of sharp yellow light was burning its way through a rent in the clouds. Still breathing heard, I managed to set up the camera, calculate the exposure, and release the shutter. Thirty seconds later the clouds closed, and the light was gone.

I begin to see when I leave the car behind. The immensity of the Navajo country, however, made working with the car essential in many places. Nevertheless, the times I remember with most pleasure are those when we were walking around Navajo Mountain into the canyons of the Rainbow Plateau, or backpacking to Keet Seel. These were the wilderness experiences, and the others are pale. For more on wilderness see the blog post, “Wallace Stegner: The Wilderness Idea.”

Navajo Mountain was another adventure, thanks again to the primitiveness of a road. There is something exciting about a rough dirt road into new country, particularly if its remoteness is famous. At Rainbow Lodge Trading Post, you are about as far from pavement as a Navajo can get. Kayenta once had such remoteness, as did Monument Valley. Remoteness vanished when the high-standard paved highway came.

We arrived at the Rainbow Post in late afternoon to find Myles Headrick, the trader, busy with several groups of customers. We sat on grain sacks piled against the wall and we watched the trading process. We couldn’t understand the soft exchange of words in Navajo, but we could watch facial expressions and gestures, hear the modulations and occasional chuckles.  We spent an hour or more cultivating what Sally Carrighar, in Moonlight at Midday, calls the Quiet Mind. She speaks of it as an Eskimo trait, but the Navajos share it. I think we could expect to find it in any individual or any people who have kept touch with what the land is saying and who lack the benefits of instant dissemination of the human troubles that make news.

Relaxed and willing, we waited out four days of rain before starting our descent into the canyons of the Rainbow Plateau. But first we had to go down about four miles to our Navajo packer’s Hogan. We navigated more than drove, for the road was all too often a sea of mud. Somehow we made it down to the sandy flat below the Mountain’s shoulder, and found our way among the maze of tracks to the Hogan. We were pleased to be asked in, but the darkness that had begun while we visited was not too reassuring when we left the hogan’s snugness. How would you put on film our apprehension of that slippery slide to Rainbow Lodge? Or how we kept moving, foot by foot, grateful for the rocky places that had once worried our tires? Or how time was suspended in our concentration until, an infinity later, our headlights found the Trading Post? This is the kind of adventure that highway engineers seem determined to wipe out, and what diminishes this diminishes me. Whom does an overtamed world serve?

Our Navajo Mountain adventure took on a new aspect two mornings later when our packer brought up his retinue of three horses, four people, and two dogs….

(CONTINUED IN BLOG POST, “Toward a Sense of Place 3“)