really wanted to go the
I found myself in my 59th year cruising to the
Pulling off the freeway into the official park headquarters was my first warning that my expectations might have been a bit high. Also, a creeping sinus headache was warning me that I had changed altitudes pretty quickly in the last few hours, and say what you will about nature, it can be cruel. My personal theory that the ruling deity isn’t too perfect (what I like to call the Theory of Unintelligent &/or Ridiculous Design, or T.U.R.D.) is proved most effectively by the design of my nose, which is (a) too large, and (b) often not working due to allergies and stuffiness. A sinus headache is just one more point of suffering that I cannot understand.
So with my not-so-perfect head somewhat pained, I began a trek through my boyhood wonderland. Actually, I began my “trek” by sitting through a brief movie of the park, which always makes me wonder why don’t they save the video until after the journey? Why do we sit watching a movie of the park when the actual scenery is literally right on the other side of the wall?
Sadly, they did explain in the movie that the crystals that used to fill the interiors of the fossilized tree trunks had been picked out by earlier tourists, while other tourists were busy scratching out the Indian petroglyphs and hauling away petrified logs. This was actually the primary reason for the movie, I suppose. We humans are a pretty destructive lot, and always have been. I wonder if older Indians were angered when the younger, artistic types began defacing the rocks around the campgrounds.
journey through the West continued on to places that delighted me as much as
Now if I were a lonely hunter-gatherer stuck in the desert of the American West, there would be few places lovelier to stumble into than Montezuma’s Castle. Even after hundreds of years, the place gives off a Garden-of-Eden atmosphere. Now the place has nothing to do with Montezuma, nor is it a castle. Apparently Arizonans have a long history of creative marketing, or what we non-politicians call “lying.” But this small bit of paradise hidden away in the middle of a rather tough looking landscape is one fascinating piece of real estate regardless of the pretentious name. I could have easily slipped off most of my clothing and spent a while with my feet dangling in the gentle stream that nourished this little desert oasis, but the park rangers would probably have taken a dim view of that. So I had to content myself with staring at the old pueblos hovering over this lovely, lonely place and wondering what life was like for the folks that lived here and then mysteriously disappeared several hundred years ago. Did they get bored with the place? Did something happen to them? No one knows. If you don’t like stories without an ending, Montezuma’s Castle is not for you. I believe I know the answer to the riddle, but I’m not telling.
the castle, there was one more piece of tourist business to attend to and that
was the Famous Train Ride from the town of
I guess the owners of the train thought that their passengers couldn’t go a whole 40 miles without some entertainment beyond the scenery, so they had hired some singing cowboys to enhance the trip. Why this is necessary only a Disney executive would know, but for me, it just about ruined the whole experience. When I am shut into an enclosed space without an easy means of escape, the last thing I want near me is a guy dressed in a Halloween cowboy suit and carrying a guitar. And during the return trip, the musical cowpoke was just about the most annoying buckaroo I could have scripted. While he had an obviously trained stage voice and some musical talent, he was also the most name-dropping, kiss-ass son of the prairie one would ever want to meet, as “my ol’ pal Clint Eastwood used to say.”
did get to view the
impressions of the Southwest are a little different now that I am older – or
perhaps because I have lived in the green of the Old South for so long. At this stage in life a withered and dry
landscape is not as welcoming to me as in the days when I hiked and camped in
Saying that, I still love the big spaces and open sky of the American West, and sometimes I yearn for it, in much the same way as I sometimes yearn for the sea. It is nice to have yearnings. It lets me know that I am still living for something beyond the horizon.