Gunslinger, Gunslinger

Monument Valley,  Bears Ears, & Lone Rock Beach

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January 4th, 2018:

       My pals and I had the gracious opportunity to stay at the coined “Mother Earth Hogan Dwelling” just outside the entrance to Monument Valley Tribal Park. We drove for what seemed like endless miles against pale pink skies to wind up at one of the most euphoric accommodations I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying at. Hosted by the warmest, most charming Navajo woman, Rosalyn, who spent hours telling us stories of her land and people. I woke up this morning craving her delicious tea blend and dreamt of the cozy coal-fueled fire…

   Above : A portrait of Rosalyn. Photo by Reyce Carrasco.

Above: A portrait of Rosalyn. Photo by Reyce Carrasco.

       While delivering her homemade Navajo tacos during dinnertime, she spoke of how the building of the hogan is often served as a traditional dwelling or ceremonial structure of the Navajo Indians. Early “female” hogans (pictured above) are dome-shaped buildings with log, or occasionally stone, frameworks that resemble the sacred womb of a woman. Each female hogan is supported by nine log pillars that represent the nine months a woman is pregnant. Once framed and built, the structure is then covered with mud, dirt, or sometime sod. The most important aspect of the hogan, however, is the East-ward facing entrance to welcome the rising sun for good wealth and fortune. Rosalyn passionately stated that all hogans not facing the East are not home to the Navajo people and should, in some instances, be burned. 

      Rosalyn’s soft voice sung like a song in the walls of the dwelling. She spoke of her husband’s father as the medicine man and told stories of her youngest daughter as a blessing after her father’s rigid death. Her graceful presence and feminine nature felt safe, like home. Your can see the memories etched in her emerald eyes. You can feel the love for her people and the fear of what a future might look like if the true Navajo identity is lost. 

       Sipping black tea by the stove, we sat through loads of albums. We come across one particular image that immediately struck us. 

       “Is that John Wayne?”,  we ask.

       “Yes, and that’s little-o-me!”, Rosalyn says under muffled laughter.

       The picture is of John Wayne in his usual cowboy hat holding a baby before the three major rock formations of Monument Valley, the baby was Rosalyn just shy of three years old. All scratched up with grain and light leaks from the film camera. 

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January 05, 2018

       Bears Ears is a U.S National Monument located in San Juan County in southeastern Utah, established by President Barack Obama by presidential proclamation on December 28, 2016. I had heard a great deal about this wondrous place this past year — both exciting and heartbreaking news.

   Above:  A grand shot from atop the Moki Dugway of the Valley of the Gods.

Above: A grand shot from atop the Moki Dugway of the Valley of the Gods.

       As of December 4th, 2017 President Trump drastically reduced the size of Bears Ears by 85 percent, marking it as the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history. The administration’s decision to minimize culturally significant monuments with little to no hesitation has since altered the course of land conservation in America. Activists argue Trump’s decision to threaten 100,000 sites of archaeological and cultural importance is an act of political assault to our nation’s identity. Our country is run by an administration that celebrates success on Wall Street while illegally taking back sacred land and pulling out of environmentally-positive initiatives: money and business, drilling and mining, over planet and people. Although I'm by the Native tribes who remain united in preserving Bears Ears National Monument to protect their shared ancestral homelands, they can't do this alone. Everyone needs to stand the good fight.

       Our buddy, Blake, and his two long-time friends from New Jersey came to see the Southwest in all of its glory on their mini vacation. When Reyce and I originally planned to take them through Monument Valley, we knew it would be worthwhile to make an extra hour or two and explore the southern lands of what used to be a fraction of the Bears Ears National Monument. 

       Before we took the Subaru up and over the Moki Dugway, we stopped at a local diner in Mexican Hat. Sipping hot coffee and munching on Navajo tacos while overlooking the muddy San Juan river. Upon checking out, a local cashier (whose name I can’t remember) spoke of his connection to Bears Ears and how the federal cut-back drastically affects his family. His father, a vital medicine man to the community, ushers him to gather appropriate botanicals in the Bear’s Ears backcountry needed for medical resources. Many Navajo people still rely on traditional medicinal practices as their primary source of healing, including many those I have spoken with during my short stay in the area. However, with Trump’s new executive prose, the tribe’s once precious public resources are being open to oil and gas extraction, mining, logging and other commercial activities. Such environmental stresses are raining havoc for the community’s health and capital.

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January 06, 2018

       It was in the middle of the night, maybe 2 or 3’clock, when we heard a drastic whine coming from River. It was cold, very cold on the shores of Lone Rock Beach. Reyce and I assumed he was just being a big ‘ole baby and wanted to snuggle up with us in our sleeping bags. Reyce smothered him with hugs and kisses as he nestled his way in the -20F (bullshit) down bag, but River wanted nothing to do with any of it. We awoke from the cold and kept whining, whining, whining. My heart pounded thinking a coyote or butcher was outside the roof-top tent wanted to feast upon our flesh — or forgotten chicken noodle soup from camp. Alas, River jumped out from the rooftop tent onto the ground and ran through the night to chase what was outside. 

       WHAT?! Reyce rushed to see what was outside, fearful of the snarling teeth just waiting to attack. 

       But nope. River just need to take a really long pee. Don’t know how or why we didn’t think of that earlier.

       We awoke that morning at the crack of dawn, our lips tangled in warm coffee by the toasty fire. I love visiting lakes and ravines in the wintertime. Everyone is back at home enjoying the convinces of home, while we’re out here bearing the harsh cold winds provided by the lake’s current. Blake and Stephanie play sweet tunes on their guitars as Lauren, Reyce, and myself take the kayak out for a few strokes against the glass-like water. I’ve picked up kayaking as a new hobby for 2018 and I’m more than elated to take this new baby of mine on new adventures. She’s a good one.

       I loved our time together on the road. It’s important to explore new areas of your backyard to gain a new appreciation for your home state. 

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‘Till next time.