If it's not boatmen up from the river, you're likely to find skiers down from the mountain or archeologists in from the field. If it's not a climber returning from the big wall, then it's a photographer back from a shoot. Globe-trotting visitors continually pass through Flagstaff, but the flow goes the other way as well. Step out for a cup of coffee, and you might run into geologist Wayne Ranney who leads tours from the North Pole to the South, or Martha Clark back from floating down the Firth River to the Arctic Ocean, or biologist John Manygoats on his way to do research in the South Pacific, or Larry Agenbroad heading off to Siberia to retrieve a frozen mammoth.
A week doesn't pass without a friend returning from some far corner - it might be anywhere from Ellesmere Island to Tierra del Fuego. Looking around the office, I see a photo by Dave Edwards of an eagle hunter from western Mongolia and one by Bill Hatcher of a little girl staring out the rear window of a Guatemalan bus punctured with a bullet hole. There's a moose-hide pouch from a trapper in British Columbia and an earth-pigment canvas by German artist Ulrike Arnold. There's an email message from Katmandu and another from a research ship off Antarctica. There's a postcard from the west coast of Tasmania and a Sue Bennett photograph of a Yaqui deer dancer.
We live at a geographic crossroads where mountains, deserts, and canyons meet. It's a gateway for those heading to the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, and the Four Corners country. It's also a cultural crossroads. Fresh from Detroit, a black student attending Northern Arizona University knew something was different when he walked down the street and everyone said hello - Navajo, Hispanic, cowboy, Asian. But what really surprised him were the women. "I've never seen anything like it," he told me. "Out at the Museum Club they were howling when they danced - just like coyotes. It was unbelievable."
Flagstaff is a community founded on restlessness. When an engineer gives that long, drawn-out whistle you know a train is leaving just as fast as it's coming. And some days it can take your thoughts with it. The railroad put Flagstaff on the map and Route 66 kept it there. Next to the tracks runs John Steinbeck's "road of flight." Dust Bowl refugees passed through in overloaded Model-Ts, and the next generation returned driving Corvettes. When I first began living in town, it didn't come as a surprise to spot a cowboy riding down the side of the highway, duster flapping in the wind and leading a couple of pack horses. Now it's more likely to be a rancher in a tandem-wheel truck with a couple of hay bales in the bed. Styles change, but the love of mobility remains.
Whether you're equipped with an in-dash GPS or drive an old VW with topos crammed behind the sunvisor, the idea's the same - to find your way out there and then get back. The other day, a Navajo drove a dust-coated pickup into town. Wearing a hairknot, he sat upright behind the wheel with his Stetson hanging from the gunrack and a bumper sticker on the tailgate. It read, "Been There, Done That." No matter how far you travel, Flagstaff is the place to wash the dust off once you've seen it all.
Originally published in:
Scott Thybony is an anthropologist by education and a writer by profession. The former river guide and archeologist writes books and articles for major magazines and newspapers. His interviews have ranged from astronauts to medicine men, and his travels through North America have resulted in award-winning stories. Having lived with Navajo Indians in the American Southwest and the Inuit in the Canadian Arctic, he brings to his writing an enthusiasm for the natural world and those living close to it.
Copyright ©2010, 2011 JDI
Enterprises. This website is the property of JDI Enterprises , and may
not be reproduced or utilized in any manner without the written
authorization of JDI Enterprises. All Rights Reserved. Graphic art
copyright ©2010, 2011 J.D.I. Enterprises. All Around Flagstaff
All Rights Reserved.
This is a private website, owned and operated by JDI Enterprises. This site is not affiliated in any way with local or state government, and is published as a service of JDI Enterprises to inform visitors to Flagstaff and Northern Arizona. Advertisers in this website have paid for inclusion, and JDI Enterprises is not responsible for claims and offers made by such advertisers. Content of advertisements is the sole opinion of the paid advertiser. JDI Enterprises does not endorse or verify advertiser content. Please directly contact the advertiser as JDI Enterprises is not responsible for the content or subsequent acts of the advertiser.
For information on advertising services and rates, please contact JDI Enterprises at 1-800-847-6020.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED UNDER INTERNATIONAL AND PAN-AMERICAN COPYRIGHT CONVENTIONS.
Website design by
J.D.I. Enterprises. Website Design, Printing, Graphic Design.