Monday, July 8, 2013

Awesome Arizona - Canyon De Chelly

The circles you see in the foreground are caused by ant colonies.

This valley, considered sacred by the Navajo, has been occupied for 5,000 years; settlers have left their mark in various ways.

The first residents left no permanent homes, but their "stories" are etched on the canyon walls in petroglyphs.

The people called the Basketmakers followed leaving a legacy of cliff dwellings that served as houses, storage units and ceremonial sites. 
They also created paintings on the sheer canyon walls (Walls vary from 300 to 1,000 feet.) as did the Anasazi who followed.

Today, several Navajo families live in the canyon during the summer raising crops and tending livestock. 
The black "varnish" streaking the canyon walls is caused with the minerals in the stone react with the weather. 
It is possible to experience the Canyon at a distance from the rim, with its north and south self-guided drives, but it's even better to see it up close.  The valley is easily accessible if you hire a guide.  As was true for Monument Valley, this is another of those places where you will be far better off with a knowledgeable guide and four-wheel drive vehicles.  Even then you're going to wonder how the driver manages to survive these deep-with-dust trails.
Horses run free here.

Before doing any driving, though, make sure you stop at the Visitor Center where a film will supply the history of Canyon De Chelly (d'SHAY), and rangers will answer your questions.
Sacred Canyon Lodge, built on the site of an 1896 trading post, clusters several buildings around a central courtyard.   The cafeteria was formerly the trading post itself.
David and I stayed at the only lodge in the Canyon, the Sacred Canyon Lodge* (formerly the Thunderbird Lodge) and ate most of our meals at the reasonably priced cafeteria.  There is also a campground adjacent to the lodge where the park rangers regularly give talks in the ampitheater. 

Practicalities -

Stop by the visitor center to get a list of tour companies.  Prices vary from $125-185 per couple for a half-day tour, but, if you can join a few other visitors, the price goes down to $100 per couple.   We used Canyon Jeep Tours owned by Deswood Yazzie. Tel:  (928)313-1020  Our guide, David Wilson, born and raised in the Canyon, as were his parents and grandparents, still farms there and raises horses.  He was extraordinarily knowledgeable, having served as a consultant to several archaeologists, and went out of his way to make sure we appreciated this incredibly beautiful place. 
Our guide.  Always ask permission before taking photo.

Don't worry.  There are porta-johns for visitors, and your guide will undoubtedly provide the opportunity for a visit.

The Navajo Nation follows daylight savings time unlike the rest of Arizona and the Hopi Reservation.  Remember that during the summer this area will be one hour ahead of the rest of Arizona.

No liquor can be bought or sold in the Navajo Nation.  If you will miss your evening glass of wine, be sure to bring it with you. 

*A Holiday Inn and Best Western are right outside the Canyon boundaries.
Four portajohns all in a row!  Two for men and two for men.


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