The first thing you need to know, is that it's pronounced Canyon de "Shay". I read about this canyon in college when I was on a Willa Cather binge, and it has haunted me ever since. The way she wrote about her character living here for a summer in "The Song of the Lark" was beautiful. I wanted to connect with the spirit of these ancient peoples the way the character did. In fact, that novel kind of inspired this whole trip. Looking back on our trip now, I feel like I got a much stronger connection to my kids, and nature itself --the size and scope of the cliffs we saw still bring tears to my eyes -- than I did to the ancient peoples. That kind of makes me sad, but maybe it's because they weren't my direct ancestors? I wonder if I'd feel differently about ancient Swedish, English, or Italian dwellings.
This was another National Park on Navajo land, and the interesting thing about this canyon is that people still live in it. I had planned for us to camp at a campground right near the park entrance, but we talked to a guy at Chaco who had just come from Canyon de Chelly, and he recommended a little campground in the middle near spider rock, run by a Navajo guy named Howard. We really liked Howard. In fact, every Navajo we ran into on this trip was striking for their kindness and softspokenness. The campground itself was a little rough. The toilets were very primitive, and the only water was in a tank on the back of a truck. At least you could drink it. We got there after dark (again), and I had carried a store bought birthday cake (this was my birthday) on my lap for the last 50 miles. Once we got the tents up and made a fire, everybody sang to me, and we ate hunks of cake while warming ourselves by the fire, and looking up at the amazing stars.
There were billions of them up there although we didn't have the camera to capture them. This was the prettiest place for stars on our whole trip.
We had all gotten cold the night before, so Jeff boiled water and filled up our Nalgene bottles to put in our sleeping bags with us for heat. We were all warm as toast that night.
The next day we drove along the rim, stopping at lookout points where there were cliff dwellings to see, and amazing canyon.
In Canyon de Chelly, there is only one hike into and out of the canyon you can go on by yourself. For everywhere else you need a Navajo guide. We decided to do the White House hike first, then decide about a tour guide.
There was a local school group right in front of us for the first part of the hike, but we soon passed them and didn't run into them again until our way out.
The hike took us about an hour and 20 minutes round trip, so just pleasant.
There were some tunnels, AND a river --the two things Kai likes most in a hike.
It is so easy to see that these were old sand dunes.
Everything was on such a massive scale! 600 plus feet from top to bottom.
At the bottom, you cross a river, and you can get pretty close to the White House Ruin. It is called White house, because some of the light colored plaster is still intact on one of the walls.
Notice the rounded kiva-like structures near the front?
Climbing back up out of the canyon was more challenging, but I just put myself right behind Ari, and after this siungle water break she just cruised right up to the top.
Looking back down on White House.
Afterwards we decided to just drive the rim, and see the rest of the lookout points instead of getting a guide.
It was so lovely to see the big farms down in the bottom with their neat farmhouses and sheds. Not all of the farms were picturesque, but many were.
Look at this. What do you think the bare circles were? I theorized it was where they'd tied up a goat on a chain maybe?
One thing we didn't love were the vendors. I appreciate people working hard to sell things and make a living, but we weren't in the market to buy anything, and I felt bad often. Killed some of the joy.
We finished driving the south rim, and headed towards Utah --our last corner.