Petrified Forest National Park (AZ)

Petrified wood is a mysterious byproduct of geological processes. A petrified log looks just like wood on the outside but is usually a jumble of colorful quartz on the inside. How did this come to be? Here too in Petrified Forest National Park is the Painted Desert, the name given to the “badlands” whose outrageous... Continue Reading →

Hubbell Trading Post (Ganado, AZ)

In 1864, the first group of Navajo was forced from their land by the U.S. government into an internment camp at Bosque Redondo, NM, followed by several other forced migrations. Four years later, they were allowed to return to their homeland in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, but not before the Navajo's traditional way... Continue Reading →

Canyon de Chelly National Monument (AZ)

Spider Rock, where Spider Woman taught the Navajos the art of weaving, towers 800 feet above the canyon floor. Many television commercials were filmed here, notably ones with cars precariously parked on top. It’s arguably the most spectacular physical feature of Canyon de Chelly National Monument, one best appreciated by driving to the overlook along... Continue Reading →

Monument Valley Tribal Park (AZ)

These sandstone monuments that tower above the flat, arid desert are almost clichés of Southwest travel. Ever since John Ford popularized Monument Valley in his films, it seems everyone has come to regard this area with its unique sandstone buttes as iconic symbols of the frontier West. Monument Valley is on Navajo reservation land. As... Continue Reading →

Valley of the Gods (AZ)

After leaving Natural Bridges National Monument, we had to descend the spectacular and cliff-hugging Moki Dugway, down almost 2000 ft, in order to get to Mexican Hat, where we stayed the night. The dugway was carved out of the cliffs for uranium-mining trucks back in 1958 to get from the mine at Fry Canyon to... Continue Reading →

Natural Bridges National Monument (UT)

Many travelers going through the Southwest skip Natural Bridges National Monument because it’s tucked out of the way and maybe because the small park features only three natural stone bridges. But a visit is well worth the time. Bridges are rock spans that are carved out by a river. They typically form where a river... Continue Reading →

Hovenweep National Monument (UT)

Not too far from Mesa Verde is a complex of ancient communities that was built at the headwaters of box canyons and situated in a remote area stretching across both Colorado and Utah—Hovenweep National Monument. We set aside a few hours to visit the monument en route to Blanding. We would have been able to... Continue Reading →

Mesa Verde National Park (CO)

You hear a lot about the Southwest's ancient cliff dwellings and wonder what they are about. What possessed the builders to create these permanent and elaborate structures in such inaccessible places? We ventured out to the most famous complex of them all, Mesa Verde National Park, to look at them first hand. To see these... Continue Reading →

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park (UT)

Canyonlands is a sprawling national park. It has three distinct districts, separated by great distances. There is no way you can see all three in a single day. Staying in Moab is the best way to experience the two most popular. Even still, you have to do some driving. The distance between the Island in... Continue Reading →

Cryptobiotic Soil

Throughout the Southwest, there are admonitions not to set foot on a certain type of soil. Sensitive hikers are usually mindful of staying on the trail, usually meaning being careful not to step on plants. But, soil? It turns out that cryptobiotic soil is the engine that sustains life in arid climates all over the... Continue Reading →

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