Leaving Moab was bitter sweet. Such is the case with most travel--you love being where you are, and you treasure returning to the place you call home. But well before getting there, our journey still has some pleasant surprises ahead as we venture the 7 hour drive back to Albuquerque. This of course is the home I grew up in, but as a Southern California transplant, I'll still have an airplane ride ahead of me to what I now call home.
Our return road trip deviated from our way up to Moab, this time passing Shiprock New Mexico and then dropping in to Gallup New Mexico where we picked up Interstate 40 for our final leg into Albuquerque. That last leg was not without its photo opp as we passed a vista of Laguna Pueblo, accessible from a raised turnout from the highway….but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Our first stop was in Monticello Utah. This is one of those necessary stops prompted by drinking too much morning coffee... Anyway, to a photographer, any stop is a photo opp, and while wandering around the filling station, I noticed a scene out back that beckoned for the creation of a photograph. A church, surrounded by trees, cast against a mountain with snow--does it get any better than this? For a photographer sitting in a car itching to press the shutter release, NO!
Ok, on to Shiprock... The town of Shiprock is named after the nearby Shiprock rock formation, and is home to the annual Northern Navajo Fair, held every October. Shiprock is a key road junction for truck traffic and tourists visiting the Four Corners, Mesa Verde, Shiprock and the Grand Canyon. The town lies at the intersection of U.S. Route 64 and U.S. Route 491 (formerly U.S. Route 666). We stopped just long enough to get a couple of photos of the famous rock formation.
A short distance down the road, there was another amazing rock formation--and only the most discerning eyes will recognize that it's not Shiprock--it's Cathedral Cliff!
This area of New Mexico is vast, and it's barren. It's a part of the country that gives one pause...why would people live here...what do they do...what are their stories... So many questions, and from the highway, so few answers. Yet, there they are, there they live, and a photograph forms the question...why?
Finally we hit Interstate 40 and Gallup New Mexico. Gallup was founded in 1881 as a railhead for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad and is known as the "Heart of Indian Country" because it is in the middle of the Navajo reservation and home to many tribes. This town has a rich cultural history and is a destination unto itself, but for us today, it would only be our lunch stop. A quick search of special spaces to eat took us to a local café mostly frequented by the locals—Jerry’s Café. I was in the mood for the quintessentially New Mexican green chile cheese burger. I was not disappointed! Will our bellies stuffed, we were prepared for the next, and almost final leg of our journey.
One very special photograph remains to be captures... A year ago I had been on a drive to Albuquerque from the west coast and nearing Albuquerque noticed a small town on a hill just north of the highway. Sitting prominently was the church…I learned later that this town was Laguna Pueblo. At the time, I wanted to stop and create a photograph but I happened to be in the left lane and was blocked by a truck from escaping to a pullout that I was unprepared for. Today’s trip would be different as I was on the lookout for this same pullout, and I stayed in the right lane so as to not miss it. As I could see the pueblo appear, I was excited to be finally getting a second chance… After satisfying my last photographic interest, we dropped in to Albuquerque along its famous “nine mile hill”…
There is no real summary for this amazing trip other that the fact that with travel comes adventure, and if approached right, involves some amazingly positive experience. This was one of those trips that allowed me to enjoy the company of a very old friend (i.e., I've known him for a long time) and enjoy some amazing photography and scenery with him. A week is a short time, but the memories will last my lifetime. Moab awaits my return!