Monument Valley, AZ, 11/10.
This is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and write a post for over a week because it’s been busy, busy, busy with travel and adventure. I left Santa Fe on Friday morning after a pleasant day and a half of “big” city sightseeing. Thursday evening I did get a chance to go to the La Fonda Hotel and see Bill Hearne perform his Western music in the hotel bar. The bar had a small dance floor and it was jammed all night with locals and visitors doing the Texas Two Step and other Western dances. It was an entertaining time.
I had only a few hours to drive on Friday morning and pulled into the Acoma/Sky City Casino, RV park right about noon. Fifteen bucks gave me a nice site with full hook-ups…and a place to meet Guitar before heading to Canyon de Chelly. While I waited for Guitar I did some much needed cleaning of the trailer. A couple of days of boondocking had left both the inside and outside of the trailer pretty messy. Guitar arrived in early evening and we shared dinner and made plans for the trip to Chinle and the Canyon.
We only had about 150 miles to travel on Saturday but there was a lot to see along the way and I needed pick up some supplies before heading to the rather primitive area of Chinle, AZ. Our route was 1-40 West to Gallup and then to angle northwest through Window Rock, Ganado and into Chinle. Gallup was the last big town offering full service grocery stores so we stopped at an Albertson’s to get a last few things to take with us. Guitar and I had travelled through Gallup about two years ago and said that the next time we went through we would explore it more. Unfortunately this time we had other priorities so after a grocery stop and a lunch stop we proceeded on.
About 50 miles up the road from Gallup is the old Hubble Trading Post. This famous trading post was established in the late 1800’s and is now a National Historic Site. It’s been on my “to see” list for a number of years and I finally had the chance to see it. It was like a trip back in time. The trading post still sells supplies to the local native population and jewelry, blankets and other crafts to the passing tourists. It’s an adobe building with low ceilings and large timber rafters holding up the roof. The traders old desk and filing cabinet still occupy a place of prominence in the jewelry room. It’s hard not to feel the history and wonder about the lives of the people that traded, bought and sold in this establishment. It was also hard not to become a buyer because they had a lot of very attractive Indian jewelry at prices as good as you will find anywhere in the Southwest. By 4 pm we had reached the campground at Canyon de Chelly. This is a very nice campground with forty or fifty campsites and only about a third were full because this is the “off” season. The best part of the campground is the price….free. There are not many National Parks/National Monuments that offer free camping so this is just a bonus to the fabulous scenery and history of the place.
On Sunday, Guitar’s cousin Jamie, joined us and we did the driving tour of the north and south rim of the canyon. The weather was spectacular with temperatures in the high 50’s to low 60’s and just a few clouds. I was glad to see the clouds not from a weather perspective but from a photography perspective. In the summer and fall in the Southwest the sky can be brilliant cobalt blue and cloudless. While it’s great weather it can be a bit boring photographically speaking. A few clouds can really make an otherwise so-so picture, pop.
This canyon has been home to native people since around 300 AD. The Anasazi reached their peak in this canyon between about 1050 and 1300 and then the Navajo came to the canyon in the 1700’s. In 1805 the Spanish came through the canyon and massacred many Navajo for reasons unknown. One of the coolest petroglyphs I’ve ever seen was drawn by the Navajo to document the Spanish incursion. There are plenty of other older petroglyphs and pictographs but for some reason this one just fascinates me. I got the chance to see it because after doing the driving tour of the rim of the canyon, we all decided to take a guided tour of the canyon itself. We took that tour on Monday and used a local native guide. It was an unforgettable experience! Not only was the weather perfect but the trees were in full fall color. Our guide had been bought up in the canyon and entertained us with not only the history of the canyon but stories of his childhood in the canyon. Along the way we saw lots of Anasazi ruins and rock art.
The Spanish weren’t the only ones to bring destruction to this beautiful place. In 1866 Colonel Kit Carson under orders from his superiors came to the canyon and destroyed crops and orchards and basically starved the Navajo into submission. Once they surrendered they were taken to Fort Sumner, NM and didn’t return to the canyon until they signed a peace treaty in 1868.
Having spent two days exploring both the top and bottom of the canyon, we decided on Tuesday, to widen the circle of exploration. I had read about a relatively unknown and unvisited arch about 10 miles from the canyon and Tuesday we went looking for it. It wasn’t really too hard to find but it entailed a hike of about a half mile to get to it. The rewards for the hike far outweighed the effort involved however. Not only was it a beautiful arch but along the way we also found a tall sandstone spire. In the picture below I’m standing next to the spire and way in the background to the right of the spire, you can see the arch.
Battery power is getting low so I’ll post this now. Stay tuned for more!