Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Grand Canyon 2 Hopi Nation--Road Trip Day 3--ex post facto

(this is the third in a series of posts put up almost two weeks after I actually went through these days).
It was a perfect starry cool night at the Grand Canyon and I slept great. The next day I awoke slightly dizzy from the altitude, N had a cold and E was grumpy and had a blister from walking miles in flip flops in Vegas. So we dubbed ourselves, "Dizzy, Cold and Toe Package" and headed off for a wimpy hike on the western part of the South Rim--which is nonetheless an amazing 12-mile section where you can hike a section, get on the bus for a section, hike a section. We only walked a little over 2 miles but were astonished how few people were actually on the trail with us--we often had the canyon to ourselves. Despite the beauty and occasional solitude, it was quite the contrast to the fantasy I have of backpacking to the floor of the Grand Canyon--still very much a goal of mine.

For a variety of reasons, at the end of the walking day, we decide to forgo the second night on the rim and pack up to head to our next destination: Hopi Indian Reservation. With no cell phone coverage in the Park, I buy an old school calling card from a machine and use it at a pay phone. It costs about 25 cents a minute.

We called our friends who live on the reservation, "can we come earlier?" they say yes, despite a brief worry that we're being held hostage (long story).

As I hang-up, I shake off a concern that I should have asked for more precise directions. Surely I've got all I need in my compulsively assembled folder of information printed out from the computer weeks before the trip and checked the night before and morning that we left.

We break camp quickly and have a beautiful late afternoon departure from the park. No traffic on a Wednesday afternoon. Grateful for last minute advice to head out the eastern rather than southern exit (thereby avoiding a long detour that Mapquest wanted us to take through Flagstaff), we head over to the great metropolis of the drive, Tuba City, population 85 on the edge of the Hopi Reservation.

In Tuba City we chance dinner at the "Szechuan Restaurant" staffed by American Indians. It serves surprisingly tasty food--better than any Chinese I've had in Sacramento (with a huge Chinese population--a subject for a whole nother blog).

As turn onto highway 264, I reset my mileage indicator on the car, telling the kids that the only "address" we have is a milepost on this highway (something that has made me a little nervous from the start). As I check my web-aided directions I learn that in fact, I don't even have that milepost, I just have the spot that Yahoo Maps decided was the right point on the highway when I entered that milepost into the search engine. I gulp and soldier on.

The spot on the map turns out to be the Hopi Cultural Center (which I actually recognized from a previous trip with Bill). We look around nearby and see nothing remotely resembling the type of dwelling my friend (a physician working for the Hopi Nation and her family) would be likely to live in. I pull out a package of quarters and head for the payphone to call the house. Their 11 year old answers and brightly informs us that she has no idea how to tell us to get to her house from where we are, or even where we are. She vows to call her parents and call us back. She doesn't.

About to call her again, I see a group of random natives leave the cultural center. Acting on a hunch, I call out, "excuse me, do any of you know Andy and Anna Lewis?" They do. A nice pair approach me and give me flawless directions. It is another 10 miles. If we boogie, we can maybe make it before dark (fairly important as there are no lights of any kind on the highway).

We book east, finding by far the most modern development on the stretch, a small southwest style subdivision built to go with the large health center in which Anna works. We easily find their home and the adventure ends with a warm reception, 2 dogs, 3 cats and a great evening passed in conversation (for me) and reuniting with internet (for teens).

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