Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stop 4: Canyon de Chelly

I'm not even sure where to begin with my Canyon de Chelly (pronounced d'Shay) post. Located in Chile, Arizona, it really is the middle of nowhere. We drove from the Four Corners Monument into Chinle though miles and miles of nothing. We'd come upon a turn off and gas station and realize that had been one of the small towns on our map. While not the most beautiful part of the trip, there is still something beautiful about seeing nothing for miles and being the only car on the road. 
Canyon de Chelly is simply amazing. That's all there is to it. It's a breathtaking canyon, and there to be explored practically by yourself. There were a few other cars driving through the canyon, and stopping in the overlooks, but this National Monument is very under-visited with its bigger cousin, the Grand Canyon, getting all the attention. You can't beat the Grand Canyon for its grandeur, but if you've been before, consider visiting this canyon next time.
This canyon has numerous ruins, and since it's on Navajo land, you need to view from the overlooks, or hire a guide to take you into the canyon. There is one exception, White Ruins.   

We took that hike down into the canyon and were totally alone with the ruins. It was incredible. The cliff faces are so sheer, streaked with colors and these cliff dwellings are there at the bottom. Just gorgeous.

Also in Canyon de Chelly is an overlook to gorgeous Spider Rock. This place is sacred to the Navajo because they believe this was the place where the Holy Spider Woman, the deity who taught the people how to weave, was born. As a weaver, I love the idea that the skill of weaving was held in such high regard that it was taught by a deity. (The middle two rocks in the bottom of this photo is Spider Rock.)
Navajo people still live in this canyon. You see small hogans scattered along the floor of the canyon where some Navajo still herd sheep. Along the rim are many houses and small neighborhoods where people also live. It was such a unique place, and so special for having it practically to ourselves.

We stayed one night in Chinle, but went back to the Canyon the next morning because we wanted more time there in morning light. 
From here, we got back into the car and drove to the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, and then on to Winslow, Arizona where we spent our last night. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Stop 3.5: Four Corners Monument

After leaving Colorado, we headed back into Arizona to visit the northeast of the state. On the way, we couldn't resist stopping at the Four Corners Monument for some geo-geeky photos. Despite there being nothing near it for miles, if you're doing a similar route, I definitely recommend stopping.
 A lot of people take silly photos of themselves in all states at once. Rather than look like I was playing Twister, I opted to hold a plank in all four states.

From here we continued on to Canyon de Chelly in Chinle, Arizona.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stop 3: Mesa Verde National Park

Next stop on our road trip through the southwest was into Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park. I love Colorado, so it was nice to see the Rocky Mountains again. I missed them! We drove straight from Moab into the National Park. The visitor center is 18 miles from the park entrance on a windy road up into the mountains. It felt so familiar, I loved it.

Mesa Verde was the first national park declared a park to preserve the work of humans. It contains over 600 cliff dwellings. We decided to do one guided tour of Balcony House for the chance to be inside one of the cliff dwellings. I highly recommend this, it was incredible to be inside one of these ancient spaces, and park rangers are great at telling the history of the spaces.

I was fascinated by this place, and also by some of the similarities we recognized from our time in Ecuador. In particular these corn grinders. These were part of the display at Mesa Verde.
Here was one being demonstrated in Ecuador. I remember that she told us a woman would be judged by a potential mother-in-law by how well she ground her corn, which made me glad I'll never be judged on any of my skills in the kitchen.
These tours definitely are not for those with major fear of heights, there were lots of ladders and scrambling to get into the dwellings. They definitely made it sound scarier than it actually was though.
Our tour ended just about dusk, when the park was closing, so we were surprised when cars were all stopped and backed up as we were exiting. They were all taking photos of these guys snacking by the side of the road.
Mesa Verde is a small park, so we tried to make the most of our afternoon since we were only staying one night. The next morning we were heading back to Arizona, with a stop at the 4 Corners Monument, to see Canyon de Chelly. More on that in the next post.