Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

We are still driving through Arizona's Navajo reservation, and still enjoying the immense rock formations that just show up randomly out of the prairie floor. This one is called Church Rock, and it reminds us that we are still wandering His wonders through this northeast section of Arizona.

When the landscape is less interesting, we can be amused by the signs along the road. We have seen a lot of wildlife signs, but this is the first time we have been warned about wild horses crossing the road for the next 15 miles. We must say that we have seen more horses than cattle since we have been driving through the Navajo reservation.

Denisa is beginning to think that someone is getting paid for putting up signs along this road. She thought it was excessive when we drove into Utah, where they plant a "No Passing Zone" sign on the left every time the solid line at the center of the road indicates that one can't pass. But now we see that they have added a "Do Not Pass" sign on the right as well. Why do we need three reminders not to pass right now?

Whew! Sorry about that sign rant, but Denisa needed to get that off her chest. This is a pretty remote part of the country, with only an occasional home on this large reservation. Usually a manufactured home or a plain little rectangle house, most of them seem to be in need of a new roof. But almost always, there is an octagonal building in the yard. Our Navajo ranger guide explained those are called hogans, an important part of their culture.

After 98 miles in the motor home, we pulled into the campground of yet another national monument. Another no hook-up site, but we had to pay $14 for the privilege of camping among these big cottonwoods. This is our eighth night and fourth camp site with no hook-ups, and we're getting quite good at roughing it across Arizona. But visions of a long shower and having a television signal again are sounding pretty good to us.

We are parked at Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The first order of business is learning how to pronounce this new-to-us park. We learned that the name came from the Spanish borrowing from the Navajo word for canyon, adapted into English from a French modeling of the word. With such confusing linguistics, don't be surprised that it isn't pronounced anything like it looks. We must forget what the word looks like when we say Canyon de SHAY.

Because we are still in the middle of the Navajo reservation, this is a national monument not owned by the federal government. In fact, about 40 Navajo families live inside the canyon. We saw evidence of their homes and farms as we looked down from one of the many viewpoints. Just when we learned how to pronounce the name of the national monument, we find that the people that live here call it Tsgei--good luck with pronouncing that correctly.

We spent most of two days driving the two roads with viewpoints into the canyons. This park actually has three different canyons that snake through the sandstone cliffs Denisa is standing on.

Most of the time we had to be content with standing on the cliffs, looking down into the canyon.

We had to chuckle at the signs at the top. One said, "Warning - People Farming Below." This is obviously because they don't want visitors throwing objects into the canyon, but the first line made us laugh. The sign pictured below mentions controlling children and pets, but it doesn't mention husbands.

Husbands are obviously the hardest to control around these sheer cliffs.

For example, Mark wanted to get closer to this alcove, which was once inhabited by ancestoral puebloans. Denisa zoomed in so she could see Mark at the top center of the photo, and the rubble of the pueblo brick walls in the cave directly below him.

When she zoomed out, we get the full picture of the sheer cliffs and how small we are in our big surroundings. That sizable cave is in the right hand corner of the picture below, and Mark is now too small to see.

We couldn't run down to the bottom of the canyon here, and you wouldn't be able to see us any way. In fact, we can barely see the pick-up in the center of the picture below.

The most notable view into the canyons is this 750-foot double rock spire. This is Spider Rock, and we'd hate to see the size of the spider making webs between the two spires according to Navajo legend.

We keep learning about Navajo legends and traditions. It's another part of the education we get from traveling. Even though we are entertained by those Navajo legends, we still have to say that those grand spires are another of God's wonders. We are enjoying wandering His wonders here at Canyon de Chelly.

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