Travels to the Heartland, Page 6. June, 2007 by Earl Cook

We needed to be in Salt Lake City for a conference but the price of the direct flights were prohibitive. We both needed to be at the conference, but it looked as if we could only afford one ticket. That was until Gail discovered that it was cheaper to fly to Phoenix, rent a car, spend two nights in a motel than it was to fly direct. So, this pilgrimage began to take shape in an attempt to save money.

We have always considered Sedona, Arizona as one of the most beautiful places on Earth. To revisit this place which was our home for almost two years back in the late 1970's was going to be a highlight of our journey. In many ways, we were not let down. In other ways, we were very shocked. From the photo at left, you can see one of our disheartening discoveries...Sedona has exploded in population and visitors and now has a smog problem!

30 years ago, we arrived in Sedona before there was a traffic signal. Now, there are many. There are many more houses than before, which is OK because most blend into the landscape. The haze that can be seen in this photo, though, is reason for concern. Paradise has become too popular!

This photo was taken from Schnebly Road Hill, the old way into Sedona. We had not been back to this special spot in over 30 years and we were very excited as we returned.


The red rocks of Sedona almost totally surround the small town. Multiple energetic vortexes are found around the area. Indians considered the area a special spiritual place and seekers from all over the world converge on Sedona to experience the special energy of the area.

To date, over 100 movies and TV shows have been shot in the Sedona area. Most people have seen the rocks and vistas from Sedona in movies they watched. When we lived in Sedona during the late 1970's, we were watching a late-night Western. There were about a 1,000 calvary and 1,000 Indians about to do heavy battle and then I recognized the scenery and yelled to Gail, "They are about to do battle in our back yard! We are right in the middle of the battlefield!"

Battles still continue today in Sedona, but today, they are battles to control growth and maintain the beauty of the area. It is definitely a special area and living here is similar to living in the middle of a national park.


When you are in Monument Valley, time stands still in views like this. The majestic buttes stand isolated in a vast land of activity.

Our travels took us north through Monument Valley. To get here, you leave Arizona, enter Utah, leave Utah, enter Arizona again and then enter Navajo Land. You also change time zones whenever you make one of these transitions. Arizona tried Daylight Savings Time once and did not like it. "It was too confusing!", said many Arizonans. "Besides, God made time zones and they shouldn't be fooled with!", said others. Utah and Navajo Land support Daylight Savings Time.


This is a mostly dry, open and, sometimes, windy part of Earth. This is the land of the ancient Pueblo People, ancestors to the modern Navajo and Hopi nations.


A wind storm blows up. While driving through the desert in this area, I saw a lot of 'dust devils' blowing around. Desert legend has it that these little storms that blow around the desert have an intelligence associated with them.

When I was working on the Roden Crater Project in Northern Arizona back in the late 1970's, I had spent a very late night drawing up plans for the next day's work at the crater. As I worked the next day, I was referring to my plans as I measured and sawed. I noticed a dust devil several miles off in the distance. About ten minutes later, I noticed it bouncing around, but only about a mile away now. I kept working and, a little later, I noticed that the dust devil had begun to climb the side of the fumarole where I was working. Wow! I stopped working and watched it climb the side of the volcano cinder cone towards where I was working.

It headed straight for me and then at the last second swung to my side. Whew, I thought, "That was close!" Then, it went straight for my plans so nicely laid out. Whoosh!! They went up a hundred, two hundred feet and then I watched as my plans went blowing away in the wind! I watched for about 15 minutes as my plans fluttered in the wind for many miles. So, do dust devils have an intelligence? I do know that they are pranksters!


The Navajo Code Talkers of WWII are recognized as modern American Heroes. Even after their treatment in the settlement of the American West, the Navajo participated in helping the U.S. prevail in the viscous battles of the Pacific. They are recognized in a special part of the museum at the Monument Valley Visitor Center and in other highly visible places in Navajo Land.

Arches National Park, in southeastern Utah, is a menagerie of large rock formations that resemble many different things. To me, this arch looks like a large elephant with an arch that is shaped like Africa. This area, now fairly high in elevation, was once at the bottom of an ancient sea. Now exposed to the winds and occasional rains, these shapes have been taking shape for millions of years.


The eye of the elephant



These are known as The Windows. To me, they look like two elephants that have met at an ancient watering hole.


It is difficult to imagine the size of some of the arches unless either standing in them or looking at someone else standing in them. For me, I had to climb up and stand there and look through this eye on the world and see the other side.

I was surprised once I reached the top as the other side dropped off steeply! There were several ways to reach these spots, but, sometimes, the way you get up is not always the way you get down! A couple from France scampered up, but as she starts to go down, she found several tricky spots. When I'm going down, I have my toes and center of gravity pointed towards the cliff! Everyone made it down in one piece, but it was an experience being with people from all over the world as we viewed vistas and challenges that we don't normally see in our everyday lives.

Doing something like this really centers your focus and makes you forget the things that were nagging you minutes before and that you thought were so important!


Still balancing after these years. Gail and I spent four months in 1976 touring the western parks of the western and northwestern U.S. We have many wonderful photographs from that trip, but one that has been in our bedroom ever since has been a photo of Balancing Rock.

Seeing Balancing Rock in the same position after so many tumultuous years have passed here on planet Earth was a symbol to me of how steadfast and amazing our natural systems are.


The view out the window of our room while at the Energy Medicine - Theory to Practice conference in Salt Lake City (Sandy), Utah.

We had reached our destination.


When we arrived, the high temperature for the day had been 92 F. A day later, a huge Pacific storm blew in with 70 mph winds and then two days later it snowed! The snow was mostly up in the higher elevations, but it was incredible to go from summer to winter in two days.

We looked out at the Wasatch Mountains in the background and we had driven up through Ashley National Forest. We looked back towards these mountains and the Rockies are behind them. Most of America is on the other side of these mountains. This side of the mountains used to be Ute Indian, English and Spanish territories before American explorers like Astor, Lewis & Clarke, Henry and Ashley made their ways over the mountains.

It was William Ashley that laid claim to a route over the mountains through South Pass that would later become the Mormon Trail, the California Trail and the Oregon Trail. 90% of the wagon trains going west would follow this route.

Ashley was also known for establishing the Mountain Man and Rendezvous system of conducting exploration and commerce. These trappers were the explorers and trailblazers that opened the West to the young U.S. Brigham Young followed this trail to Salt Lake City.

Are the Mountain Men Heroes, scoundrels, men of steel independence and resourcefulness, or blood-thirsty trappers? These explorers and trappers have been both revered and condemned in history.


This pilgrimage was particularly important and symbolic on many levels for me. As I faced the snow-covered peaks, I realized that I was at this conference to meet and learn from many of the people that possess high levels of knowledge in a subject important to all of mankind.

This Rendezvous was, like many in the past, full of adventure, surprises, danger and wonderful opportunities all wrapped into a few power-packed days. A lot of similar but disparate groups were coming together for the first time in the presence of these great mountains.


The opening and keynote speakers, Donna Eden and James Oschman, PhD, provided huge amounts of background and scientific evidence for why things work the way they do and why when we use Energy-Kinesiology/Medicine/Psychology, positive things happen!

Donna Eden is the author of Energy Medicine

James Oschman, PhD is the author of Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis


As we left the conference with all of its huge input of knowledge, challenges and opportunities, we headed for Zion National Park in southern Utah.

Once at Zion, our primary goal was to hike the Zion Narrows. This narrow canyon can only be hiked at certain times of the year and when there is NO threat of thunderstorms.

Those familiar with the deserts know that dry stream beds can turn into huge roaring rivers when it rains.


The trail leads along the side of the river for a mile. Once you reach that point, the trail ends and you enter the river. From here, the trail is basically the river. Sometimes, the canyon narrows to less than 20 feet with the sides being 2,000 feet straight up!

As we entered the stream, I checked the sky to make sure that I didn't see any storms brewing.


You can tell from this photograph that when the water is raging, it can get very deep and has tremendous force.

As Gail, researched our trip, this was her #1 destination and we had reached the spot.


Lake Powell and Glenn Canyon Dam.

This dam forms a lake named after the explorer John Wesley Powell. This American Civil War hero is credited with being the first American explorer to navigate the Colorado River.

Downstream is the Grand Canyon where thousands of people are rafting and walking the canyon trails.


Lone Rock in Lake Powell. This was a real shocker to us! In 1978, we camped on the beach that used to be just feet in front of where this picture was taken. The lake is down 93 feet from full pool in this photo.

We loved to bring our Hobie Cat to the lake and sail. Here is a link to some photos taken in front of Lone Rock in 1978.


This lake is controversial because it holds the melted snow water from the Colorado Rockies and the Wyoming Wind River Mountains in the middle of the desert.

To us, the lake looked like a skinny, dried-up representation of what it used to look like. It still holds a tremendous amount of water and has more coastline than the western U.S., but there is a lot less water here now than used to be.


Flagstaff, Arizona lies along the famous Route 66 and sits at approximately 7,000 feet of altitude. As we were driving in town, we saw a stretch of old 1940's - 50's style little motels. For years, they have just gotten older and some are on the verge of collapse.

There were some that looked as if they were in a state of restoration. These are little museums to the thousands that made the cross-country travel across America. Route 66 is truly the heartland of Amercia. Luckily, there is a new awareness of the history involved of this era so there is hope for these little motels before they get destroyed.

Long transcontinental trains come through Flagstaff on a regular basis every few minutes.

We saw one train with over 100 cars loaded with UPS truck trailers. UPS has its headquarters several miles from where we live and seeing this long parade of UPS vehicles crossing the U.S. was very impressive.


In 1993-94, Lowell Observatory was also in the news as astronomers
Schumacher and Levy discovered and photographed a comet hitting the planet Jupiter.

Lowell Observatory is located at the western edge of Flagstaff. It was founded over 122 years ago by Percival Lowell in 1894 when he began observing Mars and looking at what he thought were 'artificial canals' on its surface. In 1905, he began searching for what he termed, 'Planet X' and with his mathematical calculations had defined generally where it would be.

From 1905 until 1916, Lowell and his associates searched for Pluto using photographic plates which would later be compared to see if there was any difference in the stars captured on the plates. Ironically, in July of 1916, the search ended and the planet had been captured on the photographic plates, but had been missed since it was much dimmer than expected. Tragically, Lowell died of a massive stroke in November of 1916 without realizing that he had succeeded in finding the planet.

Later in 1929, Clyde Tombaugh, a young Illinois farmboy who built telescopes made out of tractor parts arrived on the scene and continued the search with his new telescope. On February 18, 1930 he finally saw what he was looking for and on March 13, 1930, Lowell's birthday, the discovery was announced. Pluto was known as the ninth planet until 2006 when its planet designation was removed.

Another astronomer in Flagstaff is artist, James Turrell, who is building a natural-light, open-air observatory in Roden Crater. Not yet fully constructed and not open to the public with no date given for completion, this project has been in the works for over 30 years. Turrell, an artist of light and perception has also been using the clarity of the desert air and the altitude of the Flagstaff area much like the Lowell Observatory has been doing for over 120 years.

On a trip that honors pioneers, creators, healers and masters of consciousness, Turrell stands with the leaders. We did not see James on this trip, but we were able to see the Master Plans and the large format photographs of the progress being made since major construction began in 1999. The images were absolutely incredible. The progress so far is beautiful in its simplicity, but technically awe-inspiring in the preciseness of the planning and alignments.

Many wish to visit the project, but it is not open to public until the completion, which is not determined at this time. Please do not try to visit the site (you will stand out if you try!) without permission and please respect the schedule of the artist and construction personnel.

The photo at left is from 1978.


The Oaxaca Restaurant in Sedona is a landmark that I will always remember. Back in 1977, Gail and I went on a trip travelling out West and we ended up staying three years! My first job was as a breakfast and lunch cook at the Oaxaca. This was one of the toughest jobs in my life as tour busses would arrive for breakfast or lunch and I was the only cook!

One day, in the middle of a rush, I suddenly left my body momentarily and I watched my left hand cooking some orders while my right hand was flipping eggs all while I stood and watched this symphony of movement from a new perspective!


Several months ago, a television program about a house in Sedona was on the Travel Channel. The house belonged to the sculpture, Susan Kliewer, and as I was watching, she looked very familiar. Suddenly it hit me, "That's Susan! We worked together at the Oaxaca 30 years ago!"

As it turns out, Susan had just arrived from her native California and this was probably, like me, one of her first jobs as she arrived in Sedona. Later, Susan would spend five years running a trading post at Marble Canyon on the Utah-Arizona border. She worked and lived with the Navajo and they became her subjects.

When we first lived in Sedona, most of the sculptures were 'cowboy artists' in that most of their subjects were the American cowboy. Susan's works include more women and Navajo subjects than most other sculptures. Her sculptures can be seen around Sedona and in Tlaquepaque, where her Mountain Trails Gallery is located.

The Travel Channel show was about her house. When living in Sedona, I spent an afternoon walking through the desert finding large boulders that we would bring back and put into a form that was for the external walls. So, I may have helped build the house that was being featured in the show!

Another interesting fact about Susan is that her father was a fire prevention official in California and invented 'Smokey the Bear'! As a kid, Susan wore the Smokey the Bear costume for commercials!

We stopped by twice to see Susan at the gallery but missed her both times. On a trip where we were looking for pioneers and trailblazers, Susan meets these attributes.


Arizona State University (ASU) is a leader in the study and application of alternative energy sources and sustainability. A pioneer that we read about while in Phoenix is ASU President, Michael Crow. He and ASU are leading the way as more than 200 colleges and universities pledge to take dramatic steps to reduce their greenhouse emissions. This is an important step as the colleges begin courses in sustainability and train their students in techniques that will have practical applications in the real world.

While driving through Tempe on the way to dinner, we drove past the ASU solar research and collector farm. We saw a lot of very interesting designs of collectors. It was sunset and I took several photos of the solar collector farm, with the sun setting and the colors of the sky above the collectors. It was a beautiful scene. But, none of those photos turned out! So...the photo at left is one we took from 1999 taken of a Solar Raycer.


The Saguaro Cactus. These endangered cacti grow very slowly and can have stems 18-24 inches in diameter. Those with more than five arms can be 200 years old. When it rains and the cactus absorbs water, the ribs in their trunks and stems expand like an accordion to hold the water. A large Saguaro can absorb up to 1,000 lbs. of water. They can grow to be 50 feet tall.

The Saguaro is the state flower of Arizona and we were lucky to find these guys outside the Arizona Lottery building.

Sanguaro Cactus - Wikipedia

During an extremely rainy season in the desert in 1977-78, we once saw a field of exploded Saguaro that had absorbed too much water and had not turned off their absorption process.


Here you can see the cactus in bloom. If these cactus did not have thorns, I would like to go up and give one a great big hug!

This Saguaro has been damaged by either disease or birds and its top tilts to give it a shape resembling, Kokopelli, a popular hunchbacked figure known throughout the Southwest.

Kokopelli's image has been found on ancient wall drawings of the pueblo peoples. With his flute and bag of seeds over his shoulder, he was and is a symbol of good luck and fortune, a symbol of fertility and of good crops. Some call him the original rainmaker and whenever he came to town and started playing his flute, a festival would break out with dancing and good cheer.

It is with these images of good fortune and good cheer, that Page 6 now ends.


Preview of Page 7

Overall, things went fairly smoothly on this trip, except maybe for the bear incident! Stay tuned for Page 7...




©2007 Earl Cook