Saturday, January 3, 2009

Road Trip 2008: Canyon de Chelly NM

From Betatakin ruins in Navajo NM we drove to Canyon de Chelly NM. When we arrived there it was already way after sunset. The nice surprise was that the campground in the park was free of charge and there were even plenty of free camping spots left to choose from.

Canyon de Chelly is unique among National Park service units, as it is comprised entirely of Navajo land and because of that it still remains home to the canyon community. That also means that if you want to either hike within the canyon (everywhere except the 4-km long White House Ruins Trail) or drive on its bottom, you have to hire an authorized Navajo guide. Needless to say, such guides put high numerical value on their time.

As on the park brochure we saw that on the next day there would be a free ranger-guided tour leading to several Anasazi ruins, we decided to go for such "official" tour rather than for a "private", Navajo-operated. Even though with a big effort we woke up at 6 am to join it, we still missed it. It took as some time to figure out how that happened. In the end we realized that The Navajo Nation operates on different time then the rest of New Mexico or Arizona... Because of that we were 1h late for the guided tour and we had to come up with our own plan for the rest of a day.

We started with driving up and down both South and North Rim Drives and stopping at their multiple vista points overlooking several different Anasazi ruins. Then we went for a very nice hike to the White House Ruins. Canyon de Chelly is very beautiful and we were also lucky with weather. It was warm, but not too hot, and sunny. On our way down we also met a nice Navajo Indian, who shared with us several stories about his life and who recommended to us trying Navajo Nacho (which we later did in Mesa Verde NP). At the bottom of the canyon, near the White House Ruins, there were
several other Navajo Indians selling various hand-made items. Agnieszka and I were mostly interested in jewelry and each of us found something interesting for herself.

In conclusion, even though we still did not manage to see any of the ancient Indian ruins from up close, we both liked Canyon de Chelly a lot. I would strongly recommend stopping there at least for a day.

Canyon de Chelly:

Antelope House:

Other ruins, which name I do not remember anymore:

The Mummy Cave in Canyon del Muerto, built AD1200:

On the way down the Canyon de Chelly:

White House Ruins on the bottom floor of the canyon:

Spider Rock: