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June 8, 2013

Holiday road: Dodd family visits Arizona

“We don’t inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” — Navajo proverb.

Kim, Cameron and I were exploring the sandstone maze that is the Lower Antelope Canyon last week in Page, Ariz. A young lady, who told me her non-Navajo name was Delvonda, was our guide.

As Kim and most of the rest of our tour group was busy taking photographs of the spectacular cave-like formations, I was doing my usual question and answer routine learning about all things Navajo.

When the discussion turned to things holy and holidays, Delvonda told me they didn’t really have scheduled religious holidays, rather, when it was felt a spiritual gathering was necessary, it just happened. She did look at me in an unscripted moment and said, “We do have a rather spirited anti-Columbus Day celebration every year!”

It was just another day for the Dodd family in Navajo Nation.

This was the second time for Kim and me to visit and travel across Arizona. It was the first time for Cameron and included one of his bucket list items. We spent an afternoon hiking into the canyon on Bright Angel Trail. Two decades ago Kim and I went all the way down to the overlook and the hike lasted 8 hours and 23 minutes. This hike only lasted a bit over three miles and less than half that long. Cameron wants to return someday and hike the entire trail. The views from the trail are certainly breathtaking.

On the very first afternoon before arriving in Sedona for a two night stay, we stopped at Montezuma’s Castle which is a tourist stop that features a cliff dwelling from several hundred years ago. On the way returning to our car there was a bit of a crowd stopped and looking just a few feet off the trail. That was the moment I got to see my first rattlesnake in the wild. It was a black-tipped rattler and was rather unagressively meandering across some brush. In just minutes a park ranger arrived with some of those snake catching tongs and it took another 10 minutes or so for the snake to crawl into the clear which enabled him to catch it for some overnight study and a future relocation away from the public trail. I looked around as he held it in the air and hoped Kim would get a good photo. Apparently she didn’t get a good snapshot from the souvenir stand about an eighth of a mile away into which she had disappeared shortly after seeing it was a rattlesnake in the wild.

The view from the West Sedona Best Western was among the most beautiful sunset and sunrise views I have ever seen. On the second morning we were going to hike up to Devil’s Bridge and had just parked our car when we met Frank.

Frank was a retired California transplant we encountered driving around to the trail head sites in a four-wheeled vehicle and collecting trash that had been discarded on the trials. Yes, even morons who litter at national treasure spots visit such places. Anyway, we struck up a conversation and Frank offered to drive us the first mile to the final stage of the hike which was mostly uphill. We accepted and got a free kind of cheap man’s version of a Pink Jeep tour.

As he departed he asked if we had sprayed for the insect he called “no see em’s” which could bite and leave welts. We told him nobody had told us nor had the trail literature mentioned them. He bid us farewell and drove off. Cameron thinks we were being snookered by Frank and that he was probably having a good laugh at our expense. Either way none of us a bit as nobody suffered any such insect bites.

Devil’s Bridge itself is a strip of rock that spans two cliffs with a couple of thousand feet dropoff. At its widest I would estimate the width of the natural span to be somewhere seven to 10 feet. As Kim was busy fiddling with her camera, I hollered at her to take a picture. She looked up a bit surprised and more than a bit nervous as Cameron and I were posing in the middle on top of Devil’s Bridge. I am pretty sure at that moment she was less than pleased with me. The picture is certainly a priceless father and son moment captured in time.

Also while in Page we visited the Glen Canyon Dam on Lake Powell (an engineering marvel but not nearly as impressive in size and scope as Hoover Dam) and took a raft trip on the Colorado River from the dam to Horseshoe Bend. We had been to the overlook on the previous day to view Horseshoe Bend from the topside. It was equally as visually a treat from the river looking up over a thousand feet.

An overnight stay in Prescott and the last night in Phoenix were rather uneventful. As is the normal course Phoenix was very hot. The official reading was 105 degrees. My car thermometer (probably roughly equivalent to the heat index) read as high as 114 degrees a week ago Saturday.

Possibly one of the most adventurous days was when we flew home last Sunday. Our route took us from Phoenix to Houston. From there we flew to Grand Rapids, Mich., onward to Cleveland, and finally to Louisville. We actually spent as much time in airports or on planes getting home from Phoenix as we had flying to Paris, France.

That’s what can happen when you book the super saver fare. Cameron will probably be posting photos on my Facebook site sometime this weekend. I am pretty sure I will always get a smile on my face whenever Columbus Day rolls around thinking of the unofficial Navajo national holiday!

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com

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