You might have thought that I fell off the face of the earth...actually I just fell off of my blog for the past couple of months! I had forgotten my password to access this page and it took me a while to figure it all out! I'm back - at least for a bit! I have found that instagram is so much easier for me to fit into my day...so if you haven't found us on instagram yet...look up frenchgeneral...you will see a daily look into what we are up to and where we have been!
Meanwhile...I thought I'd write about an amazing journey I took a couple of weeks ago to the Navajo Nation. I called the trip my Rug Tour because I was going in search of old Navajo Rugs - something I have been collecting for the past ten years.
Saturday, January 18th
JZ and I flew into Phoenix, rented a car and hit the road - we headed straight up to Prescott to visit Ogg's Hogan - one of the best collections of old American Indian artifacts and history. Ogg's feels like a museum but everything is for sale. I quickly found a couple of Navajo rugs that looked right up my alley...but decided to hold off since we were only on day one.
From Prescott, we headed north to Flagstaff and jumped on Highway 40 Eastbound to Winslow. I had read about the world's largest Navajo Rug at La Posada Hotel and wanted to see it. We arrived early evening and were given a choice of almost any room in the hotel - we looked at over six of them and finally settled on the Barry Goldwater Room - all of the rooms are named after people who have stayed at the hotel over the years.
La Posada opened in 1930 and was one of the Fred Harvey Hotels along the Santa Fe Railroad. Mary Colter was hired as the architect and designer and became one of America's most influential designers. In building La Posada, she was inspired by the great haciendas of the Southwest. The hotel, which over the years served as the offices for the Santa Fe Railway, has now been beautifully restored by a couple from California who purchased the hotel in 1997.
The Turquoise Room Restaurant at the hotel was our best meal of the week...we could have stayed a a few more days and never gotten tired of the food!
Sunday, January, 19th
After a quick breakfast of prickly pear bread pudding and coffee we got back on Highway 40 and headed towards the Petrified Forest. The most interesting part of this detour was the small museum at the Petrified Forest Trading Post - filled with turquoise, old baskets and rugs...real beauties!
JZ getting his cowboy on....
After stretching our legs a bit, we drove north on Highway 191 towards Ganado. We headed straight to the Hubbell Trading Post, the oldest continuously operated trading post on the reservation, established in 1876. This is the mecca - where it all began. The post still operates as a general store - one can purchase groceries and sundries, as well as American Indian crafts. There are two rooms filled with arts and crafts - one being the rug room. The rug room is filled from floor to ceiling with old and new Navajo rugs...breathtaking!
The paintings on the wall are samples of weavings that the original owner, Lorenzo Hubbell commissioned so weavers would have patterns to follow.
Here's an old rug I almost purchased but decided the black was just a bit too strong for me, the asking price of $450 was a real deal!
After leaving the trading post we continued north to Chinle and ate a meal of chili and fry bread...and no wine! There is no alcohol served or sold on the Navajo Nation.
Monday, January 20th
We were up at the crack of dawn (amazing what you can do without drinking wine!) and walked over to Justin's Horse Ranch right at the entrance to Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Shay). We saddled up our horses and started off on an all day tour of the canyon with Justin Tso - he is third generation of his family to be leading tours into the canyon on horses...an amazing way to see this area.
Justin took us deep into the heart of the Anasazi world...we visited weavers that had lived in the canyon for four generations.
My trusty horse and his saddle blanket - we only had one minute of complete terror....but I didn't fall off!
That's me...getting my cowboy on!
By nightfall, we had driven north, through Kayenta to Monument Valley. I had read about a hotel that had been recently built, on the same land where we used to camp as kids. The View Hotel looks directly out in to the Valley - and every single room has an amazing view.
Tuesday, January 21st
After enjoying a big breakfast of flapjacks and coffee, we drove down to the visitor's center where we met Duffy Holiday, a Navajo guide who, with his cousin, offers Jeep tours through Monument Valley. Duffy took us deep into the canyon, past all of the historical formations - amazing to be so close in such a historical area.
I asked him if we could visit a weaver in the Valley...and sure enough, Duffy knew the the renowned weaver, Effie Yazzie, who has been weaving in the Valley since the day she was born. Her mother, Susie Yazzie is well known throughout the weaving world also....she died last year at the
ripe old age of 93!
Effie's hogan where she lives and weaves in the warmer months.
Of course, no trip to the Navajo Nation is complete without the oohing and ahhing over all of the beautiful silver and turquoise pieces in the trading posts....
This was a weaving we saw at the museum at Goulding's Trading Post...I had a hard time not taking it off the wall and packing it in my suitcase!
And a painted picture in their guestbook from 1941...."We followed our map across the country to find that where the least was shown, we found the most"
Wednesday, January 22nd
We woke at the crack of dawn...I was getting used to the lifestyle...and took a 2 1/2 mile hike through Monument Valley - out and around the mittens.
All of the native plants are used for something, soap, dye, tea...nothing goes to waste and they are prepared for anything.
JZ and I...thinking we are cowboys now!
The afternoon found us back on the road and we stopped by the Kayenta flea market where we ate tamales - the best I've ever had - and found a 90 year old wood crafter who carved weaving tools...needless to say I purchased a handful!
We stopped by the Teec Nos Pos Trading Post about an hour east on Highway 160. This trading post had a rug room as well as a weaving supply room. I filled the trunk of our car with hanks of naturally dyed wool for my next weaving project.
Since we were so close to Four Corners - that special spot in the US where four states touch each other...we thought we should give it a try. I remember as kids, we were always told to lay down and have one limb in each state....JZ tried it but I somehow cut his head off....
Then, we saw an older couple simply sit and put a limb in each state...duh...why didn't I ever think of this?? So much easier and you get to see who is in all four states! No more spread-eagle!
Finally, we made it to the spot I had dreamt about going...the Toadlena Trading Post a few miles off of Highway 491. Years agao I had met a man in Santa Fe named Mark Winter, who told me he owned this post...and how he was trying to revive the craft of traditional weaving in the Toadlena/Two Grey Hills area. This trading post is a gem - with an amazing textile museum attached to it. My biggest find here - besides the amazing selection of antique rugs - was a huge bag of antique mohair skeins in shades of brown and natural...more weaving supplies!
Maximilian period saltillos seen at the Toadlena Trading Post Museum
By nightfall, we had made it to Gallup for a stay at one of my all time favorite road hotels...
The lobby...filled with Navajo rugs
Thursday, January 23rd
After another hearty breakfast of deep fried french toast (I kid you not!) and coffee, we knew it was time to start the road back to Phoenix...but decided there was time for one last trading post...one that I had never been to before...
The Burnham's have been trading with the native people for five generations and have, hands down, the most beautiful selection of Navajo rugs and baskets that I have ever seen.
Here's JZ and Sherry Burnham laying out some of the rugs that were meant to go to auction the next day, luckily we intercepted and brought them back to our house LA!
When we were finally able to pull ourselves away form Burnham's, we knew we had seen some of the best American Indian craft and were content to head back home. We drove south to Phoenix and boarded the plane back to the real world.
I loved being in the Navajo Nation - I felt like I was a million miles away - even though I was practically in my own backyard. If you have any interest or desire to see this amazing area of our country, go now, don't delay...the people, the landscape, the crafts and the history are something that everyone should experience at least once....although I will go back again and again!
Next up....my trip to Oaxaca! Trust me - I never travel this much - but somehow these amazing adventures keep coming my way and instead of thinking "Oh I'll do that next year..."
I am doing it now! More soon....