So, I left David the next morning with a heart heavy with worry for my kitties, although I had managed to reach out to some folks that I knew could help me. My facebook page bore testament to this, as advertising asking for help with the cats took over from my usual travel stories. At the time of writing this – my cats still do not have a home.
On that first day walking I made Truxton, a tiny town with one gas station right outside the Hualapai Reservation didn’t have much to show for it. As I walked this day the faces inside the cars that passed me became more often tawny, red and it was clear I was heading towards Native American Indian territory. As I always experience graciousness on the road – so did I on this stretch, but it was a little different. People continually stopped to offer me food. I picked up something to drink in the Truxton gas station and they directed me to sleep behind an abandoned building. I set up my tent due to the cold and turned in early. The next morning I was awakened by another couple of people dropping off warm food for me. Thank You!
It was incredibly difficult to get started that day. It was a nice sunny spot and the sun felt fabulous, but it was now the day of New Years Eve and I didn’t want to be alone that night. Finally, I decided to write something that had been circling in my head for a while, and it made me feel better to get it down. After that I packed up and got on the road – way too late – it was almost 3 pm. Peach Springs was 8 miles down the road and mainly uphill. I decided to walk after dark and hope I would find some spot in Peach Springs to either party or at least sleep.
On the way I stopped into a tire shop and used their restroom. The owner warned me in dire tones about “partying with the Indians”. According to him they would as soon kill me as party with me. Baffled I moved on, thinking about the 5 or so people who had already given me food.
A little further down the road Police Officer Padilla and his partner stopped me. As usual, they checked my ID, and talked about my journey. They forcefully reminded me that camping on the reservation was forbidden and they too echoed the sentiments of the tire shop owner – Native Americans – when drunk, are not safe and I was now on their reservation. Which is of course true, I was on the Hualapai Reservation by then. I withstood the warnings and continued to walk. Between that stop and Peach Springs I was stopped many times by locals offering me rides and asking if I was ok. Each one was gracious and helpful. I was also given food a couple more times.
Finally, at almost 9:30 pm I arrived in Peach Springs, tired, chilled to the bone, and worried about were to sleep. The warnings of the officers that camping would be illegal ringing in my ears. I was hoping the local hotel would sponsor me, but they had closed by then. It was an icy cold night and my thighs were incredibly cold. I sank down on a bench looking around. It was quite deserted around me. It was cold. Freaky COLD. Damn, but it was cold. Not kidding here, I was getting cold!
All of a sudden three young people appeared and handed me a sandwich. More food! I told them I really didn’t need food. The next thing out of their mouths were I could come to their place if I needed a spot to sleep. I asked if they had permission to invite me in – they were quite young. Yes, their Auntie Rosalita extended the invitation. The young people had charming lilts to their voices, showing me that English was not their only language. This was the Wonga Family on the Hualapai Reservation. Their house was on the hill right by the hotel and the youngsters helped me up that hill with the cart.
It was a large home, with a huge kitchen (the kind of kitchen I would give my right hand for) and that is a good thing as we had 4 generations living together and helping each other. I was invited in to the living room where the head of the household – Grandma – was watching Netflix. Grandma was really a Great Grandma. On the floor next to the stove slept three very young children. That stove was divine on my chilled self and I gratefully sank down on the couch to talk with Grandma. While we were talking the youngsters were worried about keeping me warm at night and started to take blankets from their own beds, I told them I had a lot on my cart and not to take from their beds. They promptly went and got my blankets for me.
I was soon curled up on the coach looking at the clock ticking towards midnight. Right around midnight we heard fireworks and the young people rushed outside to see it. I was still working on heating up my thighs and decided to stay by that blessed stove.
The next morning the youngsters on the floor woke up early and started to watch cartoons. Rosalita woke up with them and we started to talk. I soon recognized some faces of a family that had offered me a ride yesterday. That is how they knew to look out for me!
Rosalita told me about her family, about the Grand Canyon Skywalk that provides funding for their families and about their land. And make no mistake – the Reservation is their land – they own it. She even mentioned an ongoing project to restore wolves to the area. I started to pack up to get on the road – but of course – Rosalita was not going to let me go without a solid breakfast. I was also given a Grand Canyon Mug and Glass image. I was on the road around noon, more than well fed and an experience richer. As I started to walk I was thinking about the life style I had just been exposed to. The Wonga Family lived in close quarters with each other, but it created a truly wonderful atmosphere. I was enamored, and part of me wished to live like that. The other part of me wondered if my introversion would allow me to. Thank you so much to the Wonga Family!
The contrast between the dire warnings of violence on the Reservation and the gracious hospitality I met is rather stark. I have no doubt that many Native American Indians are still angry at the white man – and frankly – it makes sense. That said, I believe that there are wonderful people every where and when I approach people with a smile and an open heart then I am much more likely to encounter exactly what I encounter – amazing, generous, interesting and gracious people.
My goal had to be to get off the reservation before dark so I could camp legally. Ahead of me was the Grand Canyon Caverns Inn who had offered to sponsor me for a night. THey were 10-12 miles down the road, and uphill though so I didn’t figure I would make them by night fall. I was hoping to make them early the next day to have time to see the Caverns before settling in.
When, ohh, yes, more complications! My other wheel broke. I was a few miles still on the reservation. Damn! I initially sat down, figuring someone would offer me a ride to the Inn. I was out of luck. Then I started trying to flag people down, I couldnt stay where I was, but was rather stuck. If nothing else, Officer Padilla had assured me the night before that they would help me if I needed it – I needed it. My phone had zero connectivity though so I had to try and get messages to them. A few hours ticked by. A rude guy with a truck filled with crap and green painted finger nails stopped and offered a ride. His rudeness made me uncomfortable and I begged off. No, he had no desire to call the police for me.
Finally a family stopped with a phone that had coverage and they had me call the police. Less than five minutes later I was surrounded by two large police trucks. We got my stuff in Officer Heimland’s truck right fast, and I was off to the hotel. Not a minute too early – it was getting dark and cold again. Thank you to Officer’s Heimland, Padilla and their partners of Hualapai County Police for your support. This was a 6 mile drive.
The hotel was happy to host me one night earlier than expected, and even picked up the tab for my entire stay there – 6 nights for free! I am sure it was because it was the low season they were even able to do this, but I am deeply grateful.
While there I initially got deeply depressed again. I was out of phone reach and the wifi wasn’t overly strong at the hotel. I was tired, but so, so, so worried about my kitties. It was hard with so little connectivity to stay positive and not walking those distances made me more susceptible to the depression as well. The first two days was really a struggle, and then I managed to shake it off – first with a solid hike in the mountains. I figured I had to make up for that 6 miles. On the 4th I decided to spend $18 of my last $25 to see the caverns, and it was worth it.
First off, I got a solid extra 3 mile hike going up to the caverns, walking the caverns and then walking back. Now my 6 miles were recovered, and it felt so good to move again. I could feel my depression gently lift and drift off in the wind.
The caverns – 270 miles below the surface – had plenty to see – mineral deposits creating solid formations and gorgeous colors. These caverns were completely dry, and apparently the air came into the caverns from the Grand Canyon 100 miles away through cracks in the limestone. The pressure between the temperature in the caverns and the canyon created a “breathing” effect. The air got filtered through those stones and it took 2 weeks for it to travel to the caverns. There was also a prehistoric “ground sloth” that had fallen into the caverns and died that they had preserved. They could even see the scratches in the stone as the sloth had tried to climb out. There was also a hotel room set up in the caverns for the courageous to spend a night. I think it would be an amazing adventure. Several other neat things to see in those caverns – so if you pass through – it is a must-stop.
The next day was my birthday, and thankfully I felt a whole lot better after yesterday’s trek in the caverns. I had been eating out of my pack and started to worry I might run out of food there, but I was also now down to my last $8. I purchased a flavored package of pasta from the hotel store and cooked it, adding tomato soup to the pasta + a kitkat bar, and that was my birthday dinner.
Finally, on the 7th, the wheel arrived and I was back on the road immediately. Eventhough I only had 1 hour to walk with daylight I figured I could just as well get started. I managed just over a mile up a very steep hill before I turned in for the night. And after a few hours walking the day after I started to pick up a solid phone connection again – what a relief that was.
By now the nights were the coldest I have yet to experience, and when I woke up in the morning the walls of my tent was covered in ice. As long as I was in my bag early I was completely fine. Although, the tent came out every night to help insulate me against the cold. The land was stunning and so gorgeous. The days heated up nicely and I walked well, although it was hard to get started early. Waking up to frost on my tent made me want to sink deeper into that warm sleeping bag.
I finally made Seligman yesterday and will stay here until Wednesday waiting for some money for food.