Canyon de Chelly from the Rim

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Oct 26, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Sunday, October 10, 2010

Navajo land, driving north along highway 191 it was hard to imagine the wonders of Canyon de Chelly, the land was fairly flat with a few hills and mounds, it was a pleasant enough drive but not particularly remarkable.

We arrived in Chinle around 2 p.m.; it is a small town at the mouth of the canyon with the only services in the area, three hotels, a couple of gas stations and a few restaurants. Still we saw no evidence of the canyon . . . hmmm.  We learned at the Visitor Center (VC) that the Park Service campground was closed but that there was a private campground 9 miles down the south rim, near Spider Rock and we were given a list of guides that could take us into the canyon.  Visitors are only allowed into the canyon with a local guide.

We hoped to arrange a guided trip for tomorrow morning and since we had a cell signal in the parking lot began looking at the list of guides trying to decide how to choose – we had no recommendations and the park service couldn't suggest one over another.  As we were perused the list a jeep pulled in, just returning from the canyon so we went over to talk to the driver.  He was indeed a guide and said he could take us in the morning, meet him at 9:00 a.m. in the Holiday Inn parking lot.  We shook hands and headed for Spider Rock Campground.

It was late afternoon but we stopped at the pullouts on our way to camp and found that indeed there is a canyon and it is all that we had imagined and more.  It kind of sneaks up on you, beginning not far from the Visitor Center, only about 200 feet high at the first overlook, deepening to 1,000 feet at the farthest reaches.  The afternoon light was good and each overlook more dramatic than the last.  We could see Anasazi ruins tucked in ledges on far side of the canyon and fields still be farmed on the canyon floor. 

At one of the overlooks we heard flute music and at the head of the trail sat D’von Charley, a young Navajo, playing his flute reminiscent of a walk in the Andes where we ran across a flute player in the mountains.  On our return to the car we sat and talked to D’von. He explained that the canyon renews his spirit and inspires his compositions.  He was a very gentle soul, very much in touch with his spirituality and the magic of the canyon.  He considered himself a motivational speaker and enjoys sharing his beliefs and traditions.  He talked about finding a balance, one foot in the traditional culture and one foot in the modern world, using technology to record and sell his music.

We arrived at Spider Rock Campground and no one was around, a couple of other vehicles were also waiting for direction.  We finally decided to find a spot figuring our host would eventually find us.  It is a very primitive campground, set amid the junipers, adequate for our purposes.  Not long after we had set up camp a gentleman (Howard) came by and said to come on down to the office later and he would check us in.  He was followed closely by his friendly dog, Boy.  As I mentioned this is a very primitive campground, the roads are dirt and narrow and the pull-ins are small.   As we sat in the van enjoying a glass of wine we saw Howard and Boy leading an enormous RV down the narrow road.  Boy was out front, walking with great authority, head up, almost prancing; we chuckled, he looked like he had a job to do and was quite proud to be the lead man in this procession followed by Howard and the RV.

 At night, with absolutely no ambient light the stars were truly extraordinary, bright and appearing to be within reach, they filled the sky in every direction, awesome.
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