Sunday, June 24, 2012

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

After our visit to Navajo National Monument yesterday, we drove south east through the reservation to the town of Chinle and Canyon de Chelly National Monument. We stopped in the visitor center and then got a campsite at the Cottonwood Campground. We set up camp and relaxed for a bit and then set out to drive the South Rim Road. I had driven the road before on a visit in 2005, but still it was nice to guide Noelle around and see things again.

Our first stop was Tunnel Overlook. We admired the view and then checked out some of the wares some of the locals were peddling in the parking lot. We then moved on to the other overlooks.
Noelle at Overlook
Noelle at Overlook
Noelle's Footprint
Finally we stopped at Spider Rock, one of the most impressive rock formations found anywhere.
Spider Rock
From Spider Rock we headed back along the South Rim to the campground.

Staying in the campground turned out to be a mistake. I know last time I visited Canyon de Chelly I decided not to camp there when I saw the barbed-wire that encircles the campground like a prison. This time I decided to stay anyway and I highly regret it. We did not get very much sleep. Random people would drive into and out of the campground at all hours of the night. What they were up to I have no idea. In addition, there were lots of barking, stray dogs and at about 2 am a guy in a pickup decided to blare music just outside the campground. I would not recommend staying at the Cottonwood campground if you ever find yourself visiting Canyon de Chelly.

This morning, Noelle and I awoke not-so-well-rested. We packed up our stuff and headed over to the Thunderbird Lodge for our truck tour into Canyon de Chelly. The tours had been suspended for a few weeks due to a fatal accident that happened there on May 29th.   Luckily, the park service has investigated and it seems that all is safe now. Still, it is disconcerting to hear that someone lost their life on the same type of tour we were embarking on.

Our tour embarked a few minutes late and headed into the canyon. We passed a group exploring on horseback and the vehicle crawled through the deep sand as the canyon walls rose higher and higher.
Horseback Riders
We stopped at some interesting white pictographs and then moved further up the canyon.

PictographsView from Truck
Soon we could see the aptly named First Ruins.
First Ruin
From there more ruins came into view.
Cliff Dwelling
We would stop briefly to see the major ruins and our guide talked briefly about each.

We got out at Antelope House Ruins to peruse the ruins,
Antelope house Ruin
the rock art
Antelope House Pictographs
and shop for Navajo crafts. From Antlope House we headed even further up Canyon del Muerto past Fortress Rock
Inner Canyon View

Fortress Rock
to Standing Cow Ruins, part of which had been adapted for modern use by some Navajos living in the canyon.
Standing Cow Ruins
We turned around at Standing Cow and headed back to the junction with Canyon de Chelly.

At the canyon junctions we headed up Canyon de Chelly to White House Ruins. Again we stopped and got out to explore and shop.
White House Sign
White House Ruins
After that we headed back down and out of the canyon to return to Thunderbird Lodge. Altogether it was an interesting experience, but our guide did not seem as knowledgeable as Bill Little, our guide at Navajo National Monument. I think having a better guide would have added tremendously to our experience.

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