It has been two years since we sold our home in Cornwall-on-Hudson and took off on the open road. In that time we have been overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of North America and I am embarrassed to tell you how many times the lyrics of America the Beautiful have bounced around in my head. Let me tell you about one of the hidden beauties of our country with the hope that you can visit it one day.
We started our week in Southern Utah, with a rainbow that graced the Vermillion Cliffs. The Colorado River was thundering towards the Grand Canyon fifty miles away.
From the cliffs we drove north to Kanab, a thriving town with a classic red rock landscape has been the background for hundreds of Western movies.
We were lucky to win a permit in a lottery run by the Bureau of Land Management every morning that allowed us to enter the Coyote Butte South, where sweeping lines ran through the mountainsides and created the most fascinating shapes.
On a 9-mile hike we explored a narrow canyon that is part of the longest canyon in the world, Buckskin Gulch. The walls of the canyon had been carved then smoothed by millennia of rushing water. The floor of the canyon was sand, but could be inundated quickly during a rain storm. Around each corner the colors of the rock shifted from purple to yellow or red.
Have a look at the marvels of the canyon in the slideshow below, starting outside the canyon entrance:
New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment and one of its more perplexing attractions is the Three Rivers Petroglyphs site that has been traced to the obscure Mogollon culture. Experts are divided about when the Mogollon people arrived in the Southwest, with theories placing them in the region from 2-to-11,000 years ago, some saying they migrated north from Mexico. What is agreed is that their culture – pottery, symbols, villages – flourished from 200 AD until the 1500s.
At the Three Rivers site, in the desert near Tularosa, New Mexico, you can see hundreds of petroglyphs scraped into rocks that are scattered over a 10-mile area.
Goggled-eyed beings and animals with horns are found frequently, along with images of birds, reptiles, and masks.
These circular designs made up of a series of dots are seen around the petroglyph site. Some experts hypothesize that they represent a census of local families.
Another theory pertains to these maze drawings and proposes that it represents the migration of the Mogollon people.
One fact is certain: the Mogollon people migrated throughout the Southwest. In the Gila National Forest, 50 miles to the west, you can visit the cave dwellings where members of the group lived for one generation starting in 1275 AD. Their culture disappeared shortly thereafter and the Southwest Apache peoples moved in. To date, 46 rooms have been excavated in the cliffside dwellings.
We had the good fortune to arrive in West Texas just when the Texas Cowboy Poetry Festival was getting going in Alpine.
Alpine is a pretty little town with a college campus that was buzzing with dozens of singing cowboys, yodelers and, of course, the best of cowboy poetry and wit.
We heard stories about branding cattle, loving cattle, driving cattle on the old Chisolm trail. We also got to hear some songs, like this ode to a fallen cowboy.
Downtown Alpine was folksy. Like this shop window.
Or this one, where perennial local favorite Kinky Friedman is still running for office.
We spent our first night in the area at an RV Park next to this Motel in Marathon.
Then we moved to the amazing Davis Mountains State Park where the grass valley spread out before us, offering soft sunset views followed by a sky full of stars.
See you on down the road!
I knew that Donald Judd, the minimalist sculptor, created some of his most well-known work in Marfa, Texas, where he transformed vast spaces of an abandoned military base with repeated geometric forms made from industrial, machine-made materials, but I was not expecting the place to have become such a mecca of the art world. Under the umbrella of the Chinati Foundation, Judd’s work is on display in a sprawling series of buildings, in the grasslands, and in a former ice plant.
Nearby, the Foundation rebuilt a former hospital to the specifications of artist Robert Erwin, who used the windows to play with light and dark, turning the entire building into the sculpture. No photos were allowed, except for this sculpture in the hospital’s courtyard.
The number of urban sophisticates on the streets of Marfa was stunning. A new boutique hotel catering to the art tourists who pour in to see the numerous galleries in town. There is a show of Andy Warhol originals across the street. A gaggle of beautiful fashionistas, in mini-skirts and sunglasses, lounged outside the Food Shark truck waiting for their falafel and hummus.
We had the good fortune to run into Lineaus Hooper Lorette outside his New Star Grocery Art Museum and he gave us a tour of his collection of politically-inspired art work by the artist Abby Levine. Abby’s work – and Lineaus’ drive to create a communitarian future -- are worth a blog post of their own.
Lineaus told us about his support of communism and communitarianism and he calls for a dismantling of borders, especially the nearby one between the U.S. and Mexico. He’s created a flag that could be used for the future US-Mexico community.
Lineaus’ passion is also for the work of Abby Levine, whose colorful wood creations in the folk art tradition, tell political and personal stories. He has collaborated with her for some pieces, including portraits of Lineaus’ nominees for great women of the world.
Check out our next posting, where we visit the Cowboy Poetry Festival in Alpine, Texas.
Listen as Johnny Cash & Lynn Anderson tear it up.
Where we are today.