It took eight years to build the Glen Canyon Dam — far less to construct the scenic overlook that sits on the edge of the canyon, about a mile south.
Unlike the dam itself, a massive and complex project, building the overlook was a simple matter of putting in a road and parking, adding some steps to make the sandstone trail down to the overlook easier to negotiate, and putting up a stone wall at the base — to keep tourists from plunging from the top of the sheer canyon walls to the river 400 feet below.
The wall is short enough to look over, but its actual height varies, depending on where the wind blows the sand. Yesterday it was about four feet high in some spots, with one tiny section that, for reasons unknown, was built shorter than the rest — only about two feet high. Above the short wall, there’s a steel grate that rises vertically — bolted and cemented firmly into place.
And hidden on that grate — visible only if you look closely — are two names, scrawled with a soldering iron: Cisco and Sadie.
As you might guess, there’s a story behind that grate – previously untold, and very sad.
The ballad of Cisco and Sadie began in Idaho, which is where Dail Hoskins was living before he decided on a change of scenery and moved to Page, Arizona in 2000, bringing his two dogs with him.
Page, less than 50 years old, had emerged as a popular recreation spot by then, thanks to construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, which allowed — or forced, depending on your point of view — the Colorado River to back up and form Lake Powell.
Construction on the dam began in 1956. It’s the reason the town of Page exists, and it provides water and electricity to much of the west. It was also very controversial, and still is. While completion of the dam in 1964 allowed water and electricity to be harnessed, it also represented a huge disturbance to the ecosystem and meant the loss of much of the beautiful scenery of Glen Canyon. The controversy surrounding the building of the dam is viewed by some as the beginning of the modern-day environmental movement, and it still sparks debates pitting nature against industrial progress.
Partly to showcase the government-built dam — one of the largest in the U.S. — the overlook was built later. It’s part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, falling under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.
The trail down to the overlook is less than a mile. The view, minus the power lines, is magnificent. To Hoskins, who after arriving in Page had bought a little motel, the overlook seemed a good place to take his dogs, Cisco and Sadie, for a hike.
It was about ten years ago that he took the dogs there, and let them both off their leashes. They were generally good about sticking close by and not wandering off.
But, after a few minutes, when Hoskins looked around to find Cisco and Sadie, both had disappeared. He feared the worst, and what happened turned out to be just that. One of the dogs, not being able to see over the wall, had — maybe in pursuit of wildlife — leapt over that shorter section, plunging hundreds of feet to his death. The other immediately followed.
Hoskins blamed no one but himself, and watching his face as he retells the story, it’s clear he still lives with the guilt. In the days after losing his dogs, he hired a river outfitter to take him to retrieve their corpses, then gave them a proper burial.
Hoskins later learned that at least four other dogs had met the same fate, plunging over the same short section of wall. When he called government bureaucrats to tell them what happened to his dogs and see if that short section of wall could be built up, he was told that his dogs should have been on leashes.
He agrees that much is true, but the hazard remained. So he decided to handle things himself. He welded together slabs of steel, forming a large, barred grate, about five feet wide and five feet high. And without getting anybody’s approval, he snuck down to the site with a friend in the dark of night, carrying along the grate, cement, water and tools.
Amazingly, this being just after 9/11, and amid a period of heightened security at the dam, no one noticed he was there. He secured the grate deep in the ground using concrete, filling the gap that existed over the short section of wall. It took a few hours.
No one has ever traced the work to him, and apparently no one was angered by his addition. The park service has affixed a sign to the grate that reads: “Defacing natural features destroys our heritage. Graffiti is unsightly and illegal.”
It appears Hoskins got away with his dark-of-night, do-it-yourself construction project.
“I did it so it wouldn’t happen to any more dogs … or kids,” he says, though one gets the impression the covert project also served as both an outlet for his grief and a tribute to his dogs.
On one rail of the grate, he inscribed with solder the names of Cisco and Sadie.
Ten years later, the blowing sandstone has yet to brush their names off, and the grate still stands firmly in place, solid as a rock.
(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” from the beginning, click here.)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 2nd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: area, arizona, canyons, cisco, cliffs, colorado river, construction, dail hoskins, dam, danger, dangerous, deaths, dogs, environment, environmental movement, fall, glen canyon, grate, hike, hiking, hiking with dogs, lake powell, leash, leashed, national park service, national recreation area, overlook, page, plunge, rail, sadie, safety, scenic, scenic overlook, unleashed, wall
Life is good on the Street of the Little Motels.
Wednesday took us from Kanab, Utah, past Lake Powell and into Page, Arizona, a destination chosen only because it was where we were by evening, once again facing the prospect – having not planned ahead (ahead, of course, being the best way to plan) — of finding another dog friendly motel.
Crossing over the Glen Canyon Dam and pulling into town, I checked my AAA handbook, “Traveling With Your Pet,” which listed all the usual suspects – Motel 6, Best Western, America’s Best Value and the other lookalike big chains that rarely exude the slightest local color.
But as I was tooling down the main drag, I saw a little sign pointing toward what was called the “Street of the Little Motels,” and I followed it.
Actually, it’s two or three streets, occupied by row after row of squat cinderblock structures, many of them brightly painted, with names like “Debbie’s Hide A Way,” “Bashful Bob’s” and “Lu Lu’s Sleep Ezze Motel.”
I figured the little motels on the Street of the Little Motels — though none of them show up in most travel guides — were probably more reasonably priced, being little, than those on the street of big motels, so I stopped in one, the Red Rock Motel, and asked the proprietor, Dail Hoskins, if dogs were allowed.
He said they were, but that he liked to meet them first and interview them before making a commitment. So I fetched Ace from the car and walked back in. Dail and Ace hit it off right away.
Still, there were conditions. “I have three rules,” he said. The first was dogs can’t be left unattended in rooms. Though I disagree in principle, I conceded. I asked him what the second one was. “Dog’s aren’t allowed on the bed.” I conceded to that one, too. “What’s the third?” I asked. He rubbed the Fu-Manchu mustache that forms a grey horseshoe on his tanned face and looked up at the ceiling.
“Can’t remember,” he said.
With that we closed the deal — $44 including tax. On the street of big motels, with boaters arriving for the long Fourth of July weekend, I probably would have paid in the $70s.
By the time the paperwork was filled out, Ace had grown on Dail even more, and he invited him over to meet his dogs, Marley and Mo. He went so far as to offer his fenced backyard to Ace, in the event I wanted to go out.
I parked in front of my room, 108 B, and was pleased to see it had its own sand yard, a grill, and a picnic table out front. Inside was a full and fully equipped, if somewhat retro, kitchen, with a linoleum floor that, being cool, Ace found quite to his liking.
In addition to my spacious kitchen, there was a roomy bedroom, with TV, bath, and the all-important, in Ace’s view, air conditioner. It basically had all the comforts of home, which, not having a home, I haven’t had – at least to myself – in a while.
I unpacked, did a little nesting in my room for the night, and took Ace to meet Dail’s dogs before hitting the Safeway, where I bought a small bag of charcoal, a six pack of Shiner Bock (which I developed a fondness for while in Texas), some hamburger meat, a single bun and some beans. (They’re cooking as I write.)
The Street of the Little Motels in Page’s Old Quarter is just a couple blocks off the main road through town. The motels aren’t packed with amenities, but for my money (What! That’s all I have?), they’re a far better choice than the big name competitors. The big motels say sameness, the little motels ooze character.
I’m enjoying the hominess of it, Ace likes it better than any motel we’ve stayed in so far, and I’m pretty sure I won’t have a nasty note taped on my door. So we’ve booked a second night.
The structures on the Street of the Little Motels went up in the late 1950s, when work was beginning on Glen Canyon Dam. They were built to handle the influx of thousands of government-hired dam workers who moved to the then-isolated Manson Mesa, a portion of which was procured from the Navajo in a trade.
After the dam was completed in the 1960s, the cinder block buildings were sold, mostly to serve as motels, and for a while – what with Lake Powell having been formed, turning the area into a prime recreation destination – they prospered. Along with the boaters, though, the big motel chains moved in, making life a little harder for the little motel guys. Dam shame.
Some of the individually owned little motels are apartments now, or hostels, some are a little down at the heels, but a handful, like the Red Rock, are alive and well, well-kept and worth visiting – not just a room but a home away from home.
That’s all for now. My beans are burning.
(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” from the beginning, click here.)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 1st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, animals, arizona, chains, dail hoskins, dam, dog friendly, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, glen canyon, lake powell, little, lodging, motels, page, pets, red rock motel, street, street of little motels, traveling with dogs