the last of california and the four corners

well well well. where to start? it is only a bit over a week since my last blog, but i have been very busy! after visalia, i decided to head toward l.a. – venice beach, to be exact: a place i’d never been before. i drove down toward the coast and once again rejoined the pch1 (pacific coast highway 1, for those not in the know). i’ve now officially taken that highway from oregon all the way down to los angeles, at various times, sometimes southbound and other times northbound.


on pch 1! found the sun!

i arrived to malibu in the early evening and found a hostel right on the beach called the venice beach cotel. it was just what the doctor ordered after the chilliness of the mountains and the oncoming rain in san francisco. the sun was setting as i walked for the first time on the famous boardwalk. my hostel was in the well known muraled building right along the arched walkways that were once reminiscent of the real venice, complete with canals and gondolas till venice was annexed by the city of los angeles in the 20’s.

venice beach loveliness

now there are just a few of the canals left and the atmosphere is more coney island than venezia, though i guess general seediness is a unifying thread. i walked north quite a ways before turning back around – it is more of a daytime place and everything was closing down along the boardwalk.

sunset on the boardwalk

skatepark on the beach

i got a falafel at cairo cowboy across from my hostel and then called it a night, feeling the weight of all my traveling and my lingering cold.

freakshow on venice beach

the next day i spent reading the mists of avalon on the beach and enjoying the perfect weather. that evening i wandered around the area and got a manhattan in a speakeasy also across from my hostel. i planned to head to joshua tree in the morning. two girls in my room were swedish, traveling together by plane, bus, train, for several weeks in the u.s. and mexico.

one more night in the quiet hostel on the sunny arched street, and then i was heading east at last. i left the city’s spaghetti of highways and wound toward the park. it was hot and bright and the landscape otherworldly with canyons and mountains and large boulders piled on top of each other, punctuated by the park’s namesake joshua trees.

skull rock

joshua tree

one of the trees the park is named for

the next stop was the much anticipated grand canyon. though i have driven out west before, i had never made the trip to the grand canyon when in arizona. i drove from joshua tree on to a little town just outside of flagstaff arizona, called williams. it was precious, though all motel 6’s are pretty much the same. the town, however, was kitschy and old west-meets-tourist attraction. had i realized it was so cute, i might have gone out to one of the saloons or even the little theater they had on the one main street. not a movie theater. i grabbed a strange arizona bagel that took half an hour to order – oh new york! – and headed north to the south rim of the canyon, the north one being closed already this late in the season. everyone kept warning me since yosemite that it would be snowing this time of year, but the weather was perfect, sunny and clear. i walked along the south rim and got yummy veggie chili at the restaurant there.

grand canyon

the air is so enormous and silent, hanging over the canyon. the colors were brilliant and it was a good time of year to go – very few tourists, comparatively.

it was too cold up there to camp in the park, so i headed back toward flagstaff for the night.

next morning, i continued on and went to the petrified forest that day and then made my way north toward chelly canyon national park, one of the canyons where the  ancestral puebloans made their charming cliff dwellings. i arrived after dark and found the campground near the park, luckily still open and only 10$ a night. i went shopping at the local grocery, basha’s, and found soup and bread and bananas and other essentials – including coffee and filters and a single cup brewer, thank goodness! i went back to my camp and set up the tent, filling it with my mattress and sleeping bag and blankets: my tent is more of a warm weather sort of rig, so i made sure to have all the reserve blankies at hand. i lit a candle for light and heated my soup over my little gas stove while i read mists of avalon. there was a ban on ground fires, so i snuggled into my indian blanket and read by candlelight, worrying about the outcome of the election, though my friends who are more “out there” than myself think that elections are a joke. as a woman, i had a personal stake in seeing romney stay out of the oval office and away from my ovaries!

i read late into the night, tucked into my tent, and then awoke to a golden day, the cottonwood trees in the campgrounds glowing in the sun against the blue skies. i breakfasted and steeled myself to look at my phone and see who the new president would be. a huge sigh of relief to see that it was obama, and i enjoyed my breakfast immensely.

breakfast at cottonwood campgrounds in chelly canyon – neil’s delish honey and yummy banana peanut butter sammich!

i took my time getting up and around and by the time i left the campgrounds, i was the last one there. it was warm and sunny and i drove into the park along the rim roads, stopping for periodic views of the canyon and some of the dwellings along it. there was one trail down into the valley that cut back and forth down the rock wall like garlands on a christmas tree.

canyon de chelly

the white house ruins

beautiful canyon

taken by a nice korean couple 🙂

i walked back up the path and finished seeing the ruins along the other rim road on my way out of the park. i decided i would head toward mesa verde, another ancestral pueblo settlement. unfortunately, the season was now so late that campgrounds were closed, but i stayed the night in cortez – what a name for a town mostly populated by native americans! next morning i drove into the park at mesa verde. it turned out that some of it was closed, which just made my decisions easier: i took an unguided tour of the spruce tree house and then had time for a picnic before a guided tour of the incredible cliff palace. it was another beautiful day.

spruce tree house

cliff palace

cliff palace with the canyon view

i visited more of the sites of the ancestral puebloans on my way out of the park and by 4 or so i was making my way toward crestone, co, where i have some friends i wanted to see.

a kiva, or ceremonial place

ruins from the other rim

spiral stone

it was a bit of a drive and i arrived near 10 pm. the night air was cold, as is to be expected, but the next morning i woke up to see snow covering the ground. all illusions of my endless summer are now dispensed with: i can no longer gloat over new york’s snowstorm and how i have lucked out.

crestone snow day

it isn’t so bad, though: the house here is heated with wood stoves and cozy and my friends andrea and chris have two young kids who are a lot of fun as well. the other night we went to see the little girl, uma, dance with her bellydancing group. yesterday chris and andrea organized a sweat lodge for me and for their other friend deborah, who is also a bit of a vagabond at present, having been untethered to a permanent living place for several years.
it had snowed again in the night and it was a very cold morning – the first round of the sweat lodge, we barely beat the chill out of our bones, but the next 3 rounds got us sweating and singing and seeing sparks in the hot stones of the inipi.

i got to play with a sweet pitbull pup and read the kids a bedtime story after dinner. then chris and i sat up late talking metaphysical, before he stoked the fires and we both retired.

uma and soma leaving for school in the morning

deborah and i hope to visit some of the hot springs near here today, and then i will depart: i plan to stop in oklahoma city on my way home to arkansas. and then to florida! miles to go before i sleep!

something of the path i am treading

love and miss,



2 comments on “the last of california and the four corners

  1. Kira, this is fantastic! It makes me feel like getting on the road with my back pack again soon… and actually I will! ahah! India in January… wanna meet? 😉 Silvia

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