In early spring I finally visited a place I’ve wanted to see for quite some time. Just south of Gallup and a little west of Grants is this amazing place that sits near the Zuni and Ramah Navajo reservations. Annie and I left Colorado in the morning and drove south……. Just outside of Gallup I pulled over to get some coffee ( I am a caffeine addict, a healthier substitution in relation to the days when I was supporting a small village in Columbia or Peru with my habits!) and I noticed a large drip coming from my rear differential. Blown pinion seal…..f***!
In the distance I could see a small shop that might offer some help so I flipped a bitch and pulled in….. It was little more than a large dirt lot with 5 or 6 Navajo kids milling about changing tires and wrenching on cars. This place seemed to do a brisk business with the local navajos selling used tires, obviously they didn’t see too many white boys in there because all the customers looked at me like I was a red headed alien….But anyways, with a little friendly banter and an offer of cash, Budweiser and weed before I could even blink they had it up on jack stands to assess the damage….. Luckily Annie is a Ford and parts are plentiful and cheap! Those Navajo boys had me going in less than an hour ! How cool is that!
After the Navajo boys got the rig back on the road I ventured into a place I hate more than anywhere else on the planet. Can you guess? WAL MART! I said, ” Have courage son, be brave, I know it’s scary but you gotta do it!” I despise this place, but it was a necessary evil. You see, I had forgotten my pillow and I wasn’t about to rough it without one. The place was mobbed. Absolute mayhem. I was bobbing and weaving down aisles of Navajos with carts stuffed with soda, chips and junk food. I just wanted a f***ing pillow and to escape unharmed. I thought to myself, ” No wonder the Navajo Nation has the highest rate of diabetes in the world! All they eat is crap!” I stopped at the movie bin to look for a movie to watch that evening and struck up a conversation with an elderly Navajo woman. I asked her, ” Is this place always this nuts?” She looked at me quizzically and answered very matter of factly, ” No, only around the first of the month when we get our checks from Uncle Sam.” I thought to myself, “Hmmmm. Must be nice. I don’t get one of those!”
But back to El Morro…….
After procuring a pillow and a movie from the s***show they call Wallyworld I climbed back in Annie and made the 45 or so minute drive to the campground. I got there late afternoon and found a nice sunny camp spot, got set up, and took a stroll around the grounds to watch the sunset and locate the vault toilet so I’d know which direction to go after dark. I then made a simple supper and crashed early in my warm comfy bed with my movie. Almost as good as being at home! I’ve come to enjoy traveling alone, the conversations I have with myself are always debates, never arguments……And sometimes the experience of getting there is just as good as the final destination! I used to hate the fool in the morning , but now I tolerate him all day long!
This place has been a respite for travelers for thousands of years. Ancestral Puebloans, Spanish and American travelers have left literally thousands of carvings and signatures carved into this large sandstone butte with a reliable waterhole at the base of the cliff. The water is why they stopped. What they left behind were carvings that cover a vast span of cultures and time. Indians, Conquistadors, Catholic missionaries, wagon trains, US Cavalry, settlers, ranchers and visitors left their mark here up until the time the government made it a monument. There is a short easy trail around the base of the cliff called The Inscription Loop and also a trail to the top of the mesa where there are ancient Pueblo ruins….. I didn’t get to do that hike even though I would have liked to, unfortunately the trail to the mesa was closed when I was there due to a recent heavy spring snowstorm that made it too dangerous. Early in the A.M. I did hike the loop trail and it was quiet, serene, and truly amazing to see all the carvings of the countless travelers that stopped here for the desert oasis and it’s life giving water. I was the first one there and had the loop all to myself. I took my time and marveled at all the carvings, art, names and inscriptions. I found myself wondering about the names on the cliffs, who they were and what had brought them there. A better life? Adventure? Necessity? Who knows?
The campground was clean, well maintained and best of all FREE! I guess our tax money isn’t just funding some stupid war somewhere where people are killing in the name of God. Whoever their God’s name may be. Always a bonus! I was practically alone as there were only 2 other vehicles scattered among the 15 or 20 campsites…….I had the place almost to myself and smoked a little of Colorado’s finest to enjoy the solitude…..What a treat! I got to see a bunch of cool s*** without a bunch of gapers (slang for tourists) up my a**!!!! A little later in the day I packed up and headed out to El Malpais National Conservation Area to go see the ice caves in the lava tubes there, but I’ll save that story for another blog……