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The International Writers Magazine: Seeds of Oblivion
- Travel Archives

2500 Miles to 250,000 Seeds
Mia Efantis
Russian thistle is what drove me to the Grand Canyon this time. That big, bushy weed you’ve seen bouncing across the silver screen in old western films.  They call it “tumbleweed” down south and it’s all over the Colorado Plateau, but it really came from Russia a long time ago. Somehow the seeds got tangled up in the wool of Russian blankets during the weaving stage and ended up in the American southwest as the whimsical ghost of the desert. 


But did you know that that fluffy, bouncy tumbleweed is now reckoned to be an “invasive species” down there?  Experts say that a single plant can disperse up to 250,000 seeds; it has taken over the entire southwestern desert, spreading across the Colorado Plateau and even tarnishing the sacred grounds of the Grand Canyon.  And according to the Sierra Club naturalists that has got to stop.  So out went an S.O.S. for some serious weed whackers from far and near to gather at the Canyon.  It was a plea to congregate at the South Rim under that blazing sun and high flying condors and wage a battle against that Russian invader, once and for all.

Route 66 The most direct road route to the Grand Canyon from Toronto is Interstate 80 past Chicago across the central plains, then 76 southwestwards through Denver and over the Rockies. I’ve done it before and it’s a hog of a drive.  A straight, meditative stretch to be sure, through a persistent ocean of placid corn fields all across the central plains of Iowa and Nebraska.

Steady and resolute indeed all the way to the crescendo of the Colorado Rockies, where the prairie ocean culminates at the foothills of the Rockies, and the eyes become glued to the gigantic fortress that demarcates the sky in the distance. 

After fifteen hundred miles on the road, this is really where my special journey begins.  Here, atop Loveland Pass in the Colorado Rockies, at the gate of the legendary Anasazi and Navaho lands of the great southwest. The Colorado Rockies is where the shift of two different worlds takes place, a significant passage from one to another. I have finally arrived at the gate of my domain once more. 

It’s the start of the Colorado Plateau, where the eastern phantom succumbs to the Native-American spirit of the desert.  Standing here between two worlds, east and west, under transparent blue skies, soaring condors and crisp mountain air is where the human spirit begins to awaken. I’m now able to shake that urbane eastern feeling and enter the mystical world of the Anasazi through sacred canyons and eternal desert columns.

My mind returns to Russian Thistle and the everlasting Grand Canyon that still needs to be liberated, or so those experts say.  I push westward as the road drops into Glenwood Canyon where the great Colorado hisses, roars, caresses, growls and cuts deep through the ancient rock of the desert.  Great canyons take enormous force and eons to create, and the Colorado knows it well. Such magnificent canyons are ancient and rare on this earth, the work of a master creator, one whose patience never fails over time.

I rest the night at the soothing Glenwood hot springs pool, soaking my bones under the flickering stars of that illuminated southwestern sky.  The clarity of the universe above signals that I am now part of the great Colorado Plateau and about to descend into the sacred desert lands of the American southwest, past and present. Time and space stand still through the timeless temples of the southwestern desert.  I long to visit the old town of Moab, Utah, walk the ancient earth along the footsteps of the great environmentalist Edward Abbey, roam the special place he sought to work on his compelling eulogy of the land, Desert Solitaire, and put it straight. “[In the dessert] Life is not crowded upon life as in other places but scattered abroad in sparseness and simplicity, with a generous gift of space for each herb and bush and tree [to flourish]…”

The next day brings a mixture of sunshine and cloud in the big sky and I abandon myself to the great expanse of the outlandish rock formations around me, soothing earth tones and exotic desert vegetation. Fragrant desert sage dominates this area, skinny tall yuccas, chubby leaf prickly pear, spiky cholas, bright desert senna and yellow marigold, abound. And voila! Here is the clear cut evidence of my mission.  Russian Thistle “Salsola Kali” is starting to creep up all over the surrounding desert just north of Moab. Fresh, greenish bundles of tumbleweed, some in full bloom with pretty little red flowers about to turn into a quarter of a million seeds and bless the desert.  This is early September, and some old dried up bundles have done their deed already, and are now trapped in thorny cholas. Their cycle is over; they’ve become ghosts of the desert.  Grand Canyon here I come!

Arches 191 The road follows the Colorado River past Grand Junction, taking a sharp turn southwards along Utah Route 191, dropping into the spiritual land of the mighty Navajo.  I now become the euphoric observer through an exhibition of spooky looking hoodoos and unique rock formations of wind-sculpted sculptures, some almost human like that stand guard as eternal witnesses from the past, unveiling mystical stories of earth’s amazing transition through eons. 

A cool chill runs down my spine as the wind hisses around them in the lonely, midday desert.  Now I can see why the Native Americans had a mystical perception of their hoodoos and told children that they could come alive at night and can hurl rocks at invaders. 

The road rolls gently through the old town of Moab, Utah, where the great writer, Abbey, walked the walk through town to load his mule with monthly supplies and escape back to Arches National Park to continue his Desert Solitaire masterpiece.  I sit back and fall into meditation here at the patio of Slickrock Café on Main Street Moab for a while, abandoning myself to the warm southwestern sun, soothing earth tones and fragrant desert sage.  It’s the perfect the place to ponder our journey and purpose on this very special earth.

Later on, Route 191 takes a sharp turn towards Southwestern Utah, crossing the placid San Juan River at Mexican Hat and heading for the desert town of Goulding.  Suddenly, a dramatic colonnade of unearthly outcroppings appears in the distance. My eyes are now glued to the gigantic rock formations pointing to the sky over red earth. Some resemble prehistoric space shuttles, ready to launch into space, and others are immense fortresses propped up over decaying sandstone, it seems.  Here at the Arizona-Utah state line, in rightful Navajo land stands the miracle of Monument Valley.  A gigantic wind-sculpted gallery of red rock molded by nature, absolutely unequaled by any artist or mortal being out there.  A unique and timeless universe altogether where my spirit wants to stop and forever rest.  What kind of god created the superb sculptures and commanding rock formations in this special place? Why here?  If this is not taken as evidence of a divine power, then what is?  But the Grand Canyon still lies ahead and I must push on.

My arrival at the Canyon during a mid-Sunday afternoon brought my spirit home. Crystal clear skies all around, warm breezes caressing my face, bright sunshine over the temples of the Coloraro, and a pair of stately condors circling above the East Rim at Desert View.  Attempting to describe the beauty of the Grand Canyon would be like trying to build a road from earth to heaven. 

After all, this is the eternal GRAND CANYON, a miraculous 277-mile long schism in the belly of our mother earth with endless columns, shrines, sub-canyons and an infinite number of ever changing colours to gaze at and forever. 

The magic spell of the Canyon compels me to the rim at Desert View.  Although I have stood here at the Great South Rim many times before, the powerful energy vortexes of this unearthly place replenish my spirit in a flash.  After five days and four nights on the road, I have arrived once more, and every time I stand here above the temples of our mother earth, the great canyon has yet another secret to share with me.  A gust of warm, earthly breeze welcomes once again as a surge of raw emotions rush through my inner being ; my legs start trembling and my heart races to the rhythm and beauty before me.  “I’m home,” I whisper to myself, I have arrived once again. I’m thankful to be here and contribute, even if it means humbling myself to uprooting Russian Thistle.

planting © Mia Efantis, Toronto, Canada November 2010

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