Sunday, April 13, 2014

Into the Canyon de Chelly

April 7 - 9, 2014:

We left Gallup at 10 AM, a sunny, but very windy day.  We took route 491 north to route 264 west, through Window Rock to route 191 north to Chinle, Arizona.  We made a stop along the way at the "Hubbell Trading Post historic site" in Ganado.  The Trading Post was started in the 1870's by John Lorenzo Hubbell who maintained excellent relations with the Indians and was a most successful trader. At one time he owned about 30 Trading posts all over the Southwest.  This Trading Post is in close to original condition, became a National historic site in 1965 and continues to operate as a real store. You can buy bread, milk and eggs, we left with some Pinto beans. 

Hubble Trading Post

Back room of trading post, everything is for sale

Front room of trading post

Horse in corral behind trading post

The route from Ganado to Chinle was very scenic with huge panoramic vistas and Navajo cattle and sheep range land. One thing that caught my attention, that you don't see much of in other areas anymore, was hitchhikers.  The Navajo's are out there with their thumbs out everywhere looking for a ride. Chinle is a large Navajo town, but like the others, rough and dirt poor looking.  One thing we can not understand is why so much trash, garbage and junk everywhere in the Indian lands, when their culture is so based on a love and harmony with the mother Earth ?  
We are set up at the Cottonwood Campground which is inside the "Canyon de Chelly National Monument" and operated by the Navajo tribe. It has no hookups, all dry camping, but is right at the entrance to the Canyon. 

Tuesday morning I go wash the Jeep at a local self wash to get some of the accumulated dust off it from the past week. There is dust everywhere, it needs much more than a quick wash.  We are then off for a drive on the South rim of Canyon de Chelly to the "White House" overlook and the trailhead for the White House Trail.  The White House Trail is the only trail that you can do without a Navajo guide and it is a great one.  It is 3 miles round trip, mostly uphill and downhill, hardly any level area and with endless spectacular views. It takes you from the Canyon rim down to the Canyon floor to the base of a massive sandstone wall where the "White House" anasazi cliff dwelling ruins can be seen.  Canyon de Chelly has many cliff dwelling, hundreds of archeological sites that for the most part are not excavated and very difficult to reach.  The land inside Canyon de Chelly is owned privately by Navajo's and people still live and have ranches and farms in it. We then visited several other scenic viewpoint along the Rim drive, the most prominent one being "Spider Rock".  The Navajo believe that "Spider Woman", the deity that taught the Navajo women how to weave, lives on the top of Spider Rock.

Sheep crossing road in front of us

Starting down the White House Trail

Twinkles on the trail with her new poles

Trail view

Solidified drifting sand layers of the rock

Close up view of the sandstone really shows the layering

View at bottom of Canyon, the red rocks and the green
foliage on the trees was a striking contrast

The White House ruins

The cliff dwelling in this immense rock wall were something
to contemplate, what it must have been like back in the day

The stream flowing through the canyon

Twinkles catching her breath, close to the edge

The Spider Rock from the Canyon rim overlook

Another Canyon view from the rim

Wednesday was a drive along the Rim of the Canyon de Muerto (Canyon of the Dead).  The Canyon of Muerto runs closely parallel to Canyon de Chelly and they connect near the mouth of the Canyon near our campground.  There are four viewpoints along the rim, all spectacular, with views of several cliff dwellings.  At most of the viewpoints there are Navajo's selling art and jewelry.  The stuff looks very nice, the prices are better than in any store, they look sort of poor, you feel sorry for them and it is kind of hard to pass by.  If you start to look at their stuff, they will start explaining it and offering deals and you are then hooked. We ended up with a painted rock.

Canyon de Muerto view

A zoomed in view of Cliff dwelling below

The same ruins from our vantage point on Canyon rim

Another view of the Canyon, it's quite lush and green and
Navajo's still live and have farms and ranches inside

A zoomed in shot of the Antelope House ruins 

The Antelope Ruins from our vantage point on the rim

Another cliff dwelling site, they are all over this canyon

A zoomed in shot

In the afternoon, back at the campsite there was a horse, a beautiful horse, eating grass very close to our RV.  I think he was from the horse tour operation across from the campground.  The Indians seem to allow their animals to wander around freely, no big deal, they know the way home.  After a while, one of the campground workers rode over on an ATV and herded him away out of the campground, back towards his home.  The Indian dogs are the same, they all look sort of wild and hungry, no pampered house pets, they also wander all over looking for food.  They are also very smart, they look before crossing roads, look at you with inquizative eyes and they know their way around, they are not lost. 

Horse behind our campsite

I also saw across the street, a lamb on the loose and the sheep dogs running around herding it back, it was amazing to watch.  There are lots of Navajo sheep herders out here still doing it like they have for centuries.  On Tuesday as we traveled down the South Rim Road, we had to stop to allow sheep to cross the roadway. It's a very different world out here that's for certain.

I am now on my 3rd Tony Hillerman book and find them fascinating with many references to this Chinle, Arizona area.

Thursday morning, April 10th, we are back on the road for Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

More Navajo on the way,
Twinkles and Slick

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