From the Grand Canyon to the Navajo Nation

Tuba City, AZ; September 26, 2010. After five days of aggressive cycling—497 miles from Old Town Albuquerque to Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim—PACTour’s Grand Canyon Tour 2010 reached its destination. For three nights and two days, this company of thirty-five cyclists could enjoy one of the world’s greatest wonders and take their rest.

And how do aggressive cyclists rest? Twelve hiked to the river at the bottom of the Canyon and back up in one day. Eight others took the shorter hike to Indiana Gardens and return, while another eight hiked four or five miles along the trail from Hermit’s Rest and back.

The senior member of the tour, however, rested more quietly. He dozed his way through a talk by a park Ranger on the geology of the Canyon, walked briskly along the Rim Trail for about a mile, took a long nap, and listened intently to another Ranger tell about the near-miraculous recovery of the California condor. With a wingspan of nine and a half feet, this bird is grand enough to grace the skies of the Grand Canyon.

With the determined help of governmental agencies and other interested groups, this species, which once flew over most of the southern portions of the United States, has begun to come back from virtual extinction. At one point, only twenty-two of these birds (the ranger called them animals) remained, but now more than 300 soar in the skies of the desert southwest. When so many of the natural systems of the world are in great distress, the California Condor could be a sign of hope. Perhaps it should become America’s national bird.

After two days at the Grand Canyon, it was time for the tour to continue with Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly next on the itinerary. Shortly after 8:30, breakfast eaten at the red trailer and gear stowed in the silver trailer, the cyclists pointed their bicycles toward the east. For twenty-five miles through the national park, the road gained elevation. Even though the riders had been in elevations of 5,000 feet and higher for a week, two or three reported that they had trouble breathing while climbing the grades as the road reached 7,400 feet.

Shortly after they passed the eastern park entrance, the cyclists’ mood turned up as the road turned down: first a short but steep downhill, then another ten miles at a gentler rate of decline, followed by more miles that rolled along. Somewhere along the way an elevation sign indicated that cyclists had coasted their way down to just over 5,000 feet elevation. After their eastward turn toward Tuba City, they had to make a few short pulls, but the cyclists arrived at the Navajo Nation Quality Inn and Hogan Restaurant in a more buoyant mood than they had felt at the end of any of their previous days on this year’s tour.

The next day, however, would be longer and harder. It would take the cyclists ever deeper into the Navajo Nation. PACTour trips focus on swift, long-distance cycling, not on the natural and cultural attractions along the way. Although riders on the Grand Canyon Tour would spend most of the week in Navajo lands and in territories controlled by other Native American nations, there would be little opportunity to explore cultural sights or meet the people who have for so many centuries occupied this bleak but fascinating land. So much could be learned if only the journey’s pace allowed the time!

2 Responses to From the Grand Canyon to the Navajo Nation

  1. Liisa Fagerlund says:

    Hi Keith–We are following your adventures with great interest and admiration. Awesome that you have enough energy to write your blog after a long day of cycling. Keep up the great work. Liisa

    • Hello Liisa, You are right that energy (and time) is a challenge on a trip like this. Not only is there a noticeable diminishment of energy by the end of the day, but finding reliable internet connections is often difficult. We are supposed to have it in our rooms at Thunderbird Lodge in Canyon de Chelly, but the server wouldn’t respond. Finally, this afternoon we can get through. I have a posting basically written, but after today’s jeep ride through the Canyon, with a guide who grew up on his grandmother’s farm way back, I think that I want to revise what I have written. Keith

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