Escaping the Heat, Day 1

Honey, have you seen my snowshoes?

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Mike and I left Peoria this morning at 8 am, setting out on our “Escape the Heat” road trip. I never tire of the drive through northern Arizona. The terrain is so beautiful that we are not bored even as we move beyond the range of our streamed music.

We left the suburban sprawl of the low desert reached an elevation amenable to the state’s treasure: the saguaro. A small patch of land is the earth’s home for God’s gift to this state.

Beyond the saguaro, climbing higher, as if at the peak of an amusement park ride, we reached the great mesa, flat land for miles covered in dirt, sand, and dried plants, signs of the ongoing drought and naturally hot summer. In the distance, the Mogollon Rim beckoned. Marveling at the expanse of land, we continued on, popping our ears as we reached 4000 feet. Replacing the dry grass, green shrubs teased us until we received our reward: the tall, fragrant ponderosa pines.

We stopped for breakfast at Kota’s coffee house in Munds Park, AZ, luxuriating in the relatively cool air and bouquet of the northern clime, before heading north towards Flagstaff. Although we love Flagstaff, on this trip we bypassed it to move north towards Page.

Shortly out of town, the landscape resembled the setting of a lunar movie: little vegetation; large, smooth gray boulders. The tall electrical towers in the distance reminded us we were on Earth. From then on, a continuously shifting landscape of spacious, flat plains of dirt and scrub punctuated by the modular homes on the Navajo reservation, but always a hint of the next surprise. The mountains heighten and take on a reddish hue accented with white, blues, and greens, before once again the ponderosas engulf us.

Driving through the Vermilion Cliffs, we see the red rocks of southern Utah. I marvel at their beauty and offer a prayer of thanks that I am approaching them in an air-conditioned vehicle traveling 70 mph on a smooth highway rather than a Conestoga wagon at 10 miles a day across the desert.

Throughout the trip we witness the ravages of nature and man: drought and fire. Trees are stripped bare either by flames or bark beetle. Having read “The Overstory,” by Richard Powers, I mourn for lost trees.

We stop for lunch at the Wild Thyme Café in Kanab, UT. This attractive cafe was much more elegant than we were expecting. If we had known what awaited us in Panguitch, our night’s destination, we would have enjoyed a more elaborate meal.

Panguitch, per social media, appears to be a historic, bustling tourist destination convenient to Zion and Bryce National Parks. When I started looking for accommodations several weeks ago, choices were few as hotels declared “no vacancy”. Perhaps it was the annual Old Skool Panguitch Motorcycle Rally taking place this weekend. Although I’ve seen more motorcycles in Cave Creek. More likely it was the lack of activity in the town itself.

Once checked into the Purple Sage Motel, we toured the town to get our bearings including its self-proclaimed landmark of the Quilt Walk Park. We spent ten minutes in the park, five more than we would have because of a name that caught my eye.

It is a testimony to its history that the town holds up the quilt walkers as heroes. Personally, I think they were ill-prepared pioneers. You could say the same about my planning for this trip, but I do have a cell-phone and a car that will go 70. In short, a group of LDS (Latter Day Saints) had left Nauvoo, IL and established a community in Panguitch, UT. Having grown up in Illinois, I would guess that winters in Nauvoo are milder to those in Panguitch and that the hardy souls had not done their homework. In any case, winter came early, destroying their crops, leaving this humble colony with no supplies. Evidently failing to unpack the snow-shoes ahead of time, a group of men came up with the idea to spread their wives’ handmade quilts on the ground to reach an outpost with supplies. I imagine the wives eagerly awaiting their husbands’ return: “As soon as the snow thaws, I’m moving to Arizona!”

You may read the noble version of the story here:

What set me back an extra five minutes was the name of one of the walkers: Thomas Jefferson Adair. Adair is a special moniker in my family, bestowed upon girls as a middle name. It is my middle name. I heard that an aunt had seen it in a magazine, liked it, and thus began the tradition. Please note that it was not a family surname name, so Tom is no relation. His inability to plan ahead has nothing to do with my poor trip planning.

Now you want to know about my poor trip planning. That will come later.

Author: Mary Cornelius

I am an aging woman who writes three blogs.