☼ PHOTOGRAPH PARTICULARS ☼
Anasazi ruins in what became and still is the heart of Navajo land. Mummy Cave ruins. On March 1st 1998, my wife and I shared our lunch beside the large tree you can see on the valley floor in this photo (with the dirt road looping around it) and stared off at the cliff dwellings and the grandeur of the canyon itself.
You can’t resist letting your mind drift back and try to imagine the history that has taken place and the many lives, who’s history came together here. The Anasazi, the Dine (Navajo), the Spanish, the anglo-Americans and Kit Carson.
Ed and I stopped at most of the rim overlooks above Canyon del Muerto on our way into Chinle, Arizona. It was a nasty windy day and taking photos from the rim was a bit of a chore at time. But as I often mention, with bad weather came few other people.
The next morning, after a good night’s rest at Chinle, we drove out to the Canyon de Chelly canyon rim and found ourselves the only ones there at the White House ruins overlook and trailhead. So all things being equal, I will take plenty of elbow space to perfect weather, each and every time.
Canyon del Muerto has an interesting and sad history for the Navajo people. In 1805 Spaniards found a group of Navajo hiding on a ledge below the rim of Canyon del Muerto (canyon of death), and though they were mostly old men, women and children, they opened fire and killed over 100 Navajo.
Then in 1863-64, Kit Carson led a U.S. cavalry into Canyon de Chelly and set about destroying the Navajo food sources. They burned all the corn fields and cut down thousands of the Navajo’s prized peach trees. The Navajo were defeated by threat of starvation and marched away from their homeland.
In 1931 Canyon de Chelly was made a National Monument. Today it is “administered” by the National Park Service though all the land still belongs to the Navajo people. Navajo still live in the canyon, growing corn and many have peach tree orchards.
You can only go into the canyon on one trail and one place and that is the White House ruin in Canyon de Chelly. All other travel in any of the canyons, including Canyon del Muerto (one of three main canyons of Canyon de Chelly), requires having a Navajo guide or going on a tour led by Navajo.
March 1st, 1998, my wife and I were in Arizona, camping and riding my dual sport motorbike on back roads throughout the state. We went to Canyon de Chelly and hired a Navajo guide to ride with us and show us the way and sights up Canyon del Muerto. He was a wonderful person with an interesting history. We shared a lot of conversation and lunch at the end of the dirt road near Mummy Caves.
At one point I asked if we could hike up to a ruin I saw part way up the side of Canyon del Muerto. He said “Why walk. You have four wheel drive and a good vehicle”. So he had us drive straight up the side of the hill to close walking distance from a ruin.
Then near the end of our trip we came to an iced over creek crossing. I debated whether or not it would be wise for me to try the crossing in our truck. “You can make it” said our guide, so I went plowing through the stream breaking up a considerable amount of ice on the way across. The water came up to our front bumper, but we made it across. We set together the three of us under a large tree, bare of leaves, looking up at Mummy Caves. I invited our guide to join us in eating our picnic lunch we had prepared, which he did.
On the way back out of the canyon, I was in for a surprise. The ice I had broken loose with the pickup truck on the way in, had floated down and formed an ice dam of sorts, raising the water level considerably in the creek. This time when we plunged through the creek in our pickup truck, the water pushed up to the headlights and I was VERY relieved to arrive on the other side with the engine still running.
I mention all of this, because on this windy day in March of 2011, I could look down over the rim of Canyon del Muerto and see the creek crossing from 1998 and the very tree we shared our lunch near the Mummy Caves. Memories stir easy with sights, sounds, and fragrances.
Here are a couple of links to photos taken on the guided trip my wife and I took together on the March 1st 1998 trip:
Canyon del Muerto March 1st, 1998:
The ruins our guide had us “four wheel drive” up to (rather than hike):
☼ ACTIVITIES DAY SEVEN OF TWELVE ☼
This would be an interesting day of travel on this road trip but not a particularly good day for photographs. In fact, there is only one photograph that I took the entire day that I’m proud of. The rest do little more than share a story of road trip travels and preserve good memories.
After a now customary big breakfast at Denny’s, we left Grants, New Mexico for El Morro National Monument. El Morro had perhaps the most interesting history of any place we visited on this road trip. There are few “knock out” photos to be had here but hiking along the inscriptions panel on the face of the cliffs; the water pool that “made” the place; or up across the top of the cliffs where there are kivas and masonry ruins and views for hundreds of miles – – certainly made this a great place to stop and visit.
Leaving El Morro, we drove to the Zuni Pueblo. I got my favorite photograph of the day of a young Zuni girl clutching her precious puppy, she said she had named “angel”. Zuni Pueblo though, is one of two places we visited on this road trip that I would not highly recommend. The pueblo itself is so run down it is a bit depressing, even though all the Zuni people we met were friendly, helpful, and wonderful people.
The women working the official Zuni crafts outlet store will never make a living working on sales commission but in their own unhurried way, they went about life. I bought a jet bear fetish here with an inlaid turquoise rain cloud. A card came with it telling of the Zuni craftsman, who created it. It is something I will long treasure, though a return trip to Zuni Pueblo will never be high on my list. The church at Zuni Pueblo, like most else there is in bad need of some care.
One of the many guide books I had with me said that highway 13 coming in from the Northeast of Canyon de Chelly was scenic, so Ed and I plotted a route to Chinle, Arizona that would take us north up highway 491 from Gallup, New Mexico, then over the mountains on highway 13 to the north edge of Canyon de Chelly (Canyon del Muerto is the north canyon).
The weather was windy and often with lots of clouds on our drive to Canyon de Chelly, but the back roads were interesting to drive. My wife and I had taken our four wheel drive truck with an old Navajo guide up Canyon del Muerto and we had revisited the rim several times. Still it was a place I enjoy and Ed hadn’t been there, so it was a worthwhile place to visit along the way.
We got rooms at Chinle and Ed helped me back up all the photos I had taken thus far on the road trip (LOTS), by unloading them to his computer then saving them on an 8 gb flash drive that I had purchased for the purpose at Moab.
By the way. Ed has taken two photo safaris to Africa in the last few years. His photographs of those trips on his “oldwrangler” Flickr photo site are outstanding. He used an Epson external hard drive and photo viewer “back up” on those trips. He had the Epson along on this trip and I fell in love with it. Probably too pricey for me, but I have looked at the P2000 and P4000 models on the internet, since our return from this road trip, with interest.
Here is the link to Ed’s “oldwrangler” Flickr photos: www.flickr.com/photos/31726639@N04/sets/
☼ 3,875 MILE/12 DAY ~ 4 CORNERS ROAD TRIP OVERVIEW ☼
At the start of year 2011, I made tentative plans to take a two week solo “road trip” through the Four Corners area (The Colorado Plateau), during the last half of March. Then, if my wife could get the time needed off from her part time job, I also planned a “road trip” vacation to the Southwest, in April with her.
When I put the plan together for the March trip, I decided to see if an old friend of mine, Ed (Flickr’s: OldWrangler), might be interested in joining me. I volunteered to take my old four wheel drive pickup truck and split the gasoline expense with him. We would each get an inexpensive motel room on the road to serve as “base camps” to hike, photograph, and explore back roads in the Four Corners area.
Not only did Ed accept but he also proposed that we take his brand new 4-door Jeep Wrangler instead of my old pickup truck. That didn’t take any thinking on my part. I LOVE Jeeps and Ed and I have always got along well (decades ago, I worked for him and we had taken a fun road trip together back in 2008, along with my friend John and my youngest son). The deal was sealed.
We left my house in Central Washington early Monday morning on the 14th of March. We returned 12 days and 3,875 miles later on Friday evening March 25th. We spent a lot of time drinking Diet Pepsi from the ice chest and keeping the hits of the 60s (and occasionally the 70s), cranked up high on the Jeep’s Sirius satellite radio sound system. Sing along music! “Road trip” tunes.
Weather often dictated changes to our proposed route and activities. We stayed flexible, and in the end we visited the large majority of places we had hoped to see, when the road trip began. We had sun and clear skies, snow, dust storms, and high winds at times. Ed’s Jeep had an outside temperature display. We drove in everything from18 degree weather to temperatures in the 70s in New Mexico.
Here in outline form are the places we saw, hiked, photographed, and visited during the 12 day road trip:
* Interstate travel from my house in Central Washington to Lehi, Utah
* Scenic back roads ( Hwys: 6, 89, & 31) from Spanish Fork to Huntington, Utah
* Dirt road travel to “The Wedge” and down Buckhorn Wash to I-70.
* Side trip to the Head of Sinbad petroglyph and then on to Moab.
* Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands NP (Mesa Arch & Upheaval Dome)
* The Shafer “Jeep” Trail down to the White Rim road and back to Moab.
* Hike to Delicate Arch & visit Windows section in Arches NP.
* Newspaper Rock in the Needles district of Canyonlands NP
* Attempt back road travel thru the Abajo Mountains to Monticello
* Edge of the Cedars museum in Blanding, Utah
* Hovenweep – Square tower group loop hike
* Shiprock and then on to Farmington, New Mexico.
* Bisti Badlands hike (My favorite hike on the trip)
* Chaco Canyon (Chetro Ketl and Pueblo Bonito) visit
* Scenic highway 96 and then down into Santa Fe, New Mexico.
* Santo Domingo Pueblo (turquoise & pueblo oven bread)
* Cerrillos and the Turquoise Trail (highway 14)
* Acoma Sky City pueblo
* El Morro national monument hike
* Zuni pueblo then on to Grants, New Mexico
* Scenic highway 34 through Crystal to Canyon de Chelly national monument
* Canyon del Muerto rim of Canyon de Chelly. Stay in Chinle, Arizona
* White house ruin overlook at Canyon de Chelly
* Drive through a major dust storm getting pelted with flying tumbleweeds
* Highway 264 across Hopi Mesas to Tuba City then to Page, Arizona
* Try “walk in” lottery for “The Wave” (failed…….again)
* Visit Upper antelope slot canyon
* Big Bend of Colorado River
* The Toadstools hike
* Cottonwood wash/Paria River dirt road to Grosvenor (Butler) arch
* Kodachrome Basin (hike “Parade” and box canyons loop)
* Bryce Canyon National Park then on to Escalante, Utah
* Cancelled all our dirt road travel when we woke up to snow in Escalante
* Goblin Valley State Park then on to Ogden, Utah
* Interstate (through some serious snow in Northern Utah) back home.
Part of the fun of any “road trip” is the many interesting and wonderful people you meet along the way. We met more than our share but a few honorable mentions:
* Fred (Sawtooth photo) joined us for a Cracker Barrel lunch in Boise
* Al Hamann (a colorful character to say the least) CEO of Sun’s Inc. Passive Solar Products at Cindi’s Café in Huntington, Utah
* 15 year old “life is good” waitress at the Moab, Utah Pizza Hut
* Ana and daughter Tina ~ Santo Domingo Pueblo (turquoise & bread)
* Patricia (owner) at the Cerrillos, New Mexico turquoise mine museum
* “Love’s his job” and knowledgeable ranger at El Morro national monument
* Acoma Indian waitress at Grants, New Mexico
* Young Zuni girl with her special puppy “Angel”
And I just as well get the big confession out of the way. I gained back 6 pounds on this 12 day trip (and it is no mystery how that happened), of the hard lost pounds I from the preceding two and half months (“New Year’s resolution”). We ate a LOT at a LOT of family cafés and had many Denny’s specials. We found a few places to eat that were just flat out fantastic:
1. Homestead Steak House in Blanding, Utah (Order the French dip sandwich, which is served on fresh doughy bread, lots of beef, onions, green pepper, and cheese). Oh my!
2. The Family Hogan in Tuba City, Arizona. They were out of the Navajo mutton stew so I had the open face hot beef sandwich and a pizza sized Navajo fry bread with butter, sugar and cinnamon on the side (a vanilla milk shake too). I enjoyed each and every bite. The food was excellent and portions – generous.
3. Escalante Outfitters café (Pesto chicken pizza). Always good food can be found here and friendly people working there.
* Skip Chu Chu’s restaurant outside the Zuni pueblo. It was worth the view and a try, but the food was just not up to “road trip” standards.
I hope you enjoy some of the selected photographs I post from this road trip.
Posted by oldmantravels on 2011-04-05 13:19:57
Tagged: , Mummy caves , Canyon del Muerto , Canyon de Chelly national monument , Navajo land , Dine land , southwest canyons , Arizona , Chinle , four corners road trip , colorado plateau , canyon de chelly , navajo indian reservation , mummy cave , massacre cave , white house ruins , raven , chinle arizona , cliff dwellings , anasazi , ancient puebloan