This week I am posting my article from the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise which relates to Footprints in the Dew.
Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale
Welcome back. This week since I’m on the road to LA I thought I’d tell you about a couple of high points of the trip so far.
Gallup, New Mexico is located in the heart of Indian country and in 1937 the brother of movie magnate and famed director D.W. Griffith opened El Rancho Hotel on Route 66. The hotel quickly became a home away from home for the many big time movies stars who stayed there while they were filming in the area. Photos of legendary actors such as Allan Ladd, John Wayne, Jackie Cooper and Ronald Reagan line the walls of the hotel which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Just a few miles from Monument Valley, the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest where dozens of films were made, the interior of El Rancho reflects this golden age of movie making. Beautiful animal mounts and authentic Indian artwork convey a sense of true western history which the new owner, Armand Ortega intends to preserve. He is the descendant of four generations of respected Indian traders in the region and is dedicated to maintaining the historical integrity of the hotel. The rooms bear the names of the famous people who stayed in them and the hotel register still has the signatures of celebrities like Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn and Kirk Douglas making El Ranch truly the home of movie stars. So if you plan to travel through Gallup like I did, its well worth your time to stop and at least take a tour of this wonderful place that is as much a museum as a hotel.
About six hours farther west and an hour north up 1-40 is the Grand Canyon where I am writing this column from my campsite on the stunningly beautiful south rim. According to the park service brochures, the canyon and the surrounding Rocky Mountains were formed about 70,000,000 years ago and the canyon is a mile deep and 18 miles wide in some places.
As early as 1540 the Hopi Indians were guiding Spanish explorers through the area and then in 1869 John Wesley Powell led a major expedition through the canyon. In 1901 the construction of a rail spur made travel to the canyon much easier and tourism began to grow. In 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a National Monument and in 1919 Congress made the canyon a national park.
Nowadays the thousands of visitors who come from around the world to experience its awe inspiring beauty are offered many different opportunities for staying on the rim and enjoying the Grand Canyon. There are guided mule rides to the floor of the canyon, rafting trips on the Colorado River, helicopter and bus sightseeing tours and of course, many hiking trails. Accommodations range from cabins and campsites to elegantly restored lodges which were originally built in the Roosevelt era. Numerous restaurants, a mall and a grocery store all make touring this national park a lot easier than it was for the first tourists arriving by train.
I found the $25 entrance fee cheap at the price and I would highly recommend reservations for any type of lodging, including camping. I can also report that at an elevation of 7,000 feet the temperatures during the two days I stayed in the park averaged 79 during the day and lower 50s at night which was a pleasant break from the 100 degree plus days we have been having lately.
Next week I’ll be in LA for a personal tour of Will Rogers’ ranch with his great grand daughter, followed by a tour of Joel McCrea’s ranch with his grandson Wyatt. Till then I’ll see ya down the road….