Woohooo! I have not only scored a drop-in campsite at the Grand Canyon, but I have also showered and laundered! No worries, I shall modestly acclaim your gasps of astonishment and awe. Showers and clean clothes are awesome! Truly the kami who watch over Dark Star and I are mighty! :)

Also, some culinary firsts! I had Navajo stew and fry bread at the Cameron Trading Post. It was hot ("caliente," not spicy), and so was the weather, so this was probably not the wisest decision I've ever made. However, it was tasty, and I now have leftovers for dinner tonight. Fry bread is remarkably like the Mexican sopaipillas I've had, except bigger (like the size of a plate) and heavier. However, it was served with butter and honey, just as I expected. The stew was meaty and tasty, and included carrots, potatoes, and a green legume-like, ridged vegetable I didn't recognize — okra, maybe? Delicious broth as well.

The stew had a bay leaf for seasoning, which made me smile: when I was a child my mom would often make spaghetti after horse shows, and it was a light-hearted tradition in our family that whomever got the bay leaf would have good luck at the next show. Guess my driving will be easy for the next few days! Oh, also: I bought a little jar of prickly pear jelly for my parents — my dad loves guava jelly, so I thought he might like trying something new with me. :)

I learned to pause at the Trading Post from three women who camped next to me at the Jacob Lake campground in the Kaibab National Forest. That was, oddly enough, another first for me. Remember how I mentioned how friendly and nice everyone has been? Well, I decided what comes around goes around, and it was high time for me to try being friendly and helpful as well! So I screwed up my courage that afternoon and walked over to say hi and offer to share my s'mores with them — I bought a package of them at Yosemite, and there are far too many for me to eat alone. Unfortunately they'd just finished dinner, but we sat and chatted and enjoyed ourselves. They were lovely people: three women, all in their 60s, who decided to ride their Harleys together on a trip that accidentally turned out in planning to last for 40 days. They're going to many of the same places I am (or have gone to), although we're on different schedules. They mentioned having Navajo tacos at the Cameron Trading Post, so I decided to do so. However, the tacos were huge, and the waitress said she preferred the stew, so I tried that. Admittedly, it was just as huge, but it was still fun. Plus, I was so pleased my first try at being a friendly camper worked out so well! :)

The Cameron Trading Post is a real antique — the original small trading post building is still there, and the larger modern building, containing a store, restaurant, and hotel, abuts it. The main dining room of the restaurant was beautiful — it was big and airy, something like 15' tall, with 9' tall, dark wood, antique, mirrored armoires or bookcases or something lining the room. Some of them had antique Tiffany glass in them, and the old stone fireplace was big enough to roast an ox in. The entire ceiling is that punched tin in long, decorative strips that cover rafters and all — really lightened up the room.

Also, the various buildings formed a square with a surprisingly verdant little garden inside the plaza. As I sat in the garden under a leafy trellis, I saw a scaled, beautifully patterned lizard of some type, that was as long as my hand from wrist to fingertip. It slithered on out and posed in front of me for several seconds before it vanished into the undergrowth. I apologized to it for leaving my camera in Dark Star. :)

Technically, I guess using the propane stove at Yosemite was another culinary first. I've eaten food prepared on one at the many girl scout outings I've been on over the years, but this was the first time I made it myself. Surprisingly easy! Another first I have planned is to have an "Alien Burger" at Roswell — hopefully I'll report on that later.

I didn't get to see a Kaibab squirrel at the appropriately named park, alas; apparently they are quite shy and dislike lots of noise. However, the night sky was utterly gorgeous — not as heartbreakingly beautiful as it was in Duck Creek Campground up in the Utah Mountains, but still very lovely, with a brilliant moon.

Later: finally in the Grand Canyon. Most of the terrain I'm passing through right now (in Arizona) apparently actually belongs to the Diné, or the Navajo Nation. All of the employees at the Trading Post appeared to be of Navajo ethnicity, and the woman making change here at the showers and laundromat is wearing a name tag that has her name, and under it "Navajo Nation." I checked: in the park employees have the state our country they're from listed under their name. Fascinating how many different countries and states are represented!

I've also seen a huge number of roadside stands for Native crafts and other goods, though most of them are closed. Interestingly, when they're open they fly several US flags as well as that of their homeland. I don't remember it precisely, but there was a distinctive red/yellow sun or star with several sunbeams, over (I think?) a blue butte — quite striking. There are also a surprising number of round, yurt-like buildings at all the little homesteads and such that I can spot off in the distance. I wonder if that building shape is inherently Navajo, or if they've borrowed a useful, multipurpose and multi-weather building type from another indigenous people. That would be eminently practical, if so.

I've seen several signs along the road for various reservations and tribes in the states I've passed through so far: Kaibab Paiute, Moapa, Timbisha Shoshone, Papago, the Navajo Nation, Havasupai, others I cannot now recall; apparently the highways just zoom through them all. It bothers me how little I know about the indigenous peoples of my native country. Further, I cannot help but wonder in amazement at just how… arid and unpleasant most of these lands seem to me. However, I also know some of the tribes consider these lands their home — they were not all simply shoved into the most undesirable places that no one else wanted.

I'm reminded of the Timbisha Shoshone in Death Valley, who named themselves after what they call the distinctively crumbled red rocks there. There was a short movie shown at the Visitor's Center in Stovepipe Wells, and one of their elders — an older woman with a wrinkled face full of quiet dignity and character — was interviewed for the movie. Death Valley was supposedly their reservation, but to her they were not actually reservation Indians, since this had always been, and would always be, their home. She noted with clear pride that the tribe considered themselves the caretakers of the land, saying, "There is no culture without land." What does that say about the US media being exported for big bucks across the world, I wonder?

Okay, jeans & towels take a while to dry. It's almost 7pm local time, and I was feeling peckish, so I finished the Navajo stew and most of the fry bread. I think the Navajo fry bread is a bit much for me, though — a bit too greasy for my tastes. I'll treat myself to a milkshake or something else cool, sweet, & liquid, at the cafe before I head back to my campsite, to watch the sun set over the Grand Canyon. Well… more like sunset off to my left while I admire the colors that the canyon turns at dusk, I suppose. Very much looking forward to this planned peaceful night. ;)

Later: mmm, the cafe doesn't have milkshakes, but it does have fresh fruit, a very tasty make-it-yourself salad, and soft-serve ice milk! Excellent. Life is very good right now. ;)

Heh. There's an ad holder on the table with a handful of ads and announcements in it. One of them is of a sternly heroic looking young man in a backpack, and the headline blares: "OVER 250 PEOPLE ARE RESCUED FROM THE DEPTHS OF GRAND CANYON EACH YEAR…" Underneath, in smaller letters, it adds: "Most of them look like him." Made me laugh, since initially I assumed he was the "heroic rescuer"! Apparently young, athletic, healthy male humans often believe they're immune to the physics of heat. Gee, what a surprise. :)

That's an interesting thought, actually: many of the ads in Arizona are health-related public service announcements. There are a couple I've heard a few times: one about veterans needing help with emotional problems; one about not dropping out of high school; one about "look before you lock," or checking for the baby when leaving one's car. The music on the radio feels different too, even though country predominates in both Arizona, parts of California, and Utah. It's just a vague impression, but Arizona doesn't seem as happy a place as the country parts of California and (at least southern) Utah. I should write more on that in a future post.

Doing a final edit on this posting at lunch in a McD's in Flagstaff for the internet connection. Closing thoughts: there is an incredibly sensuous pleasure in clean clothes, clean hair, & a clean body! My timing was perfect too — I caught the Grand Canyon at dusk and dawn. Describing the Canyon, though… is going to have to wait for later, when I'm not quite so road-tired. It's so beyond normal descriptives that my brain just rolls over and groans at me when cudgeled for words. :)

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