June 16, 2019, Grants, NM-
I told myself that this summer, I would not zip through the astonishing red rocks and juniper of northern AZ and New Mexico, so today, I set a limit of the 62.4 miles that lie between Gallup and this old mining town, which is struggling to redefine itself.
I began Father’s Day, last night actually, with a roughly forty-minute conversation with my son and daughter-in-law, reassuring me that all is well with them, and vice versa. This morning, a light breakfast of yogurt, from the grocery store across from Lariat Lodge, seemed quite sufficient. Afterward, the first order of business was a visit to the lobby and garden of El Rancho Hotel, Gallup’s premier historical property and a favourite of many of Old Hollywood’s great figures- from James Stewart to Claude Akins. Several photos line the wall of the second floor of the lobby. Here is an introduction to El Rancho:
Gallup has made itself a haven for Dineh, Zuni, Acoma and Apache artists looking to sell their crafts. Armando Ortega and his family were among the first to offer marketing services to First Nations artists in the area. The Ortegas have sponsored this alcove display, in the center of the first floor lobby.
Even the outdoor benches are adorned with intricate design.
From here, it was time to head towards the rocks, specifically El Malpais National Monument, just south of Grants. In 1985, Penny and I took two sons of a then-recently departed friend to this area, camping overnight at the privately-owned Bandera Volcano (extinct), as a respite for his widow. In the years since, the road has been a shortcut, when I have driven between Phoenix and Albuquerque.
Today, it was my Father’s Day present to myself, to explore the eastern portion of the Monument, some forty miles past the volcano. The sandstone formations near Zuni-Acoma Trail are as majestic as any in the southwest. Whilst taking in these marvels, I fixed and ate a sandwich. This would prove to be of dire consequence.
After visiting the Ranger Station, I doubled back to Sandstone Bluffs Overlook.
Although the storm clouds looked threatening, the rain held off until I was back in Grants.
The series of holes, that are visible in the center of this frame, were actually bored by molten lava, during the last eruption of McCartys Crater, some 3000 years ago. They are known, collectively, as Chain of Craters.
Of more ancient vintage is Mt. Taylor, seen to the north. It is one of the Four Sacred Peaks which are revered by several First Nations in the area. Mt. Taylor has been inactive for millions of years.
Lichen have absorbed into the sandstone, over the centuries, giving some parts of Sandstone Bluffs the appearance of having been painted.
Whilst sandstone is not slippery, its delicate nature means it can be broken easily, especially close its seams. All walking on rock surfaces requires close attention to what lies underfoot.
While heading towards La Ventana Natural Arch, I spotted this remnant of an early rancher’s attempt at settlement.
La Ventana is a continuation of Cebolita Mesa’s exquisite base, which we saw earlier, near Zuni-Acoma Trailhead. This is older sandstone than that at the Bluffs. There were several other people here, including a grandfather, his son and three grandchildren. Grandpa was teasing the two younger kids about jumping off the rock on which they had climbed. Of course, he and Dad each helped the kids get off, but it was amusing to watch the little ones’ initial reaction of “AWWW, GRANDPA!!”
This balancing rock evokes a visitor from another world.
Here are two views of La Ventana, itself.
A close look at this wall of Cebollita Mesa seems to show two faces. I am curious as to what you, the reader, sees here.
The area west of Cebollita Mesa is covered with lava beds. These range from just north of I-40 to the Lava Falls Area, thirty-six miles southward. They extend, east to west, for about twenty-five miles.
Once back in Grants, I was starting to feel a drag on my system. Nonetheless, being Father’s Day, I was determined to get one good meal. There being no locally-owned cafe open,near the Sands Motel (another Route 66 establishment registered as a National Historic Site), I chose the reliability of Denny’s. The salmon and vegetables were very nicely done, as was the cup of soup. I hydrated plentifully, as well.
Back in the motel room, I will only say that I dealt with my ailment as I had always taught my son to do- in mature and responsible manner. I felt much better afterwards and Father’s Day was only mildly interrupted. I had maintained my example, though, even if no one was around to notice. That is what the day really signifies.
NEXT: A Return to the Duke City