“I walk in Beauty”After a visit to the Navajo Nation, it’s easy to understand why so many of the Dineh (their own name for themselves) songs and sayings reference beauty; the landscape is awe-inspiring and beautiful. Canyon de Chelly is no exception – scenic drives, awesome overlooks into the canyons, cave dwellings, and glimpses of the on-going farming along the canyon floors that have long sustained the people who inhabit this region.
While the National Parks certainly capture spots of great beauty and cultural importance, the scenic highways leading to and from the Canyon reinforce the fact that the beauty of this landscape is wide-spread.
Spider rock is an example of the gorgeous rock formations that have been cut into the interconnecting canyons. The canyon walls are 6-900 feet tall.
Even assuming that the canyon floor was less deep a thousand years ago, it’s difficult to image how people accessed some of the cave dwellings. Clearly, they were younger, stronger and less afraid of heights than I am!
There are cave dwellings in that big horizontal crack!!
Most of the ruins and park are accessible only through a guided tour. The exception is the “White House” – so named because the upper dwelling was, at one time, white-washed stucco. There is a well-switch-backed 1.5 mile trail to the bottom of the canyon (about 600 feet down) to the ruins and the river. I don’t have any pictures of the hike because, frankly, I was terrified the whole time. There are a couple of places where the trail goes through blasted holes in the wall – that was cool. Benches have been placed strategically along the lower portion of the hike to catch your breath on the not-terribly-steep climb back to the top.
Proof that I did the hike down the canyon to view the White House ruins up close! Why is it that so many things I want to do/see involve peering over very high, very scary (to me) overlooks or hiking down precariously narrow, no guard-rail (“how am I not going to go plunging off this cliff to my death’) switchback trails. Never mind that small children and grand-parents are skipping along happily all around me while I cling to the cliff-side rock face, fingers trying to dig their way into the rock trying not to throw up in abject terror. I keep my eyes riveted on a spot about 3 feet in front of me looking into the rock wall for the duration of the hike.
More views and ruins. As the winds pick up, so does my fear of falling (even with guard-rails and stout stone retaining walls) – so my picture-taking becomes a bit more haphazard.
I love the pictographs and petroglyphs!!
Later that evening, I’m limping about getting ready to ice my knee. The more I hike, the more steadfast is my resolve to have a second knee replacement soon. As my surgeon said, viewing the last set of X-rays, “that is one worn-out knee!”