If you hang a right at Gallup, New Mexico and head northwest into Arizona, you enter the Navajo Tribal lands. At 17 million acres, it covers the entire northeast corner of Arizona and spills into New Mexico and Utah. When we entered these tribal lands we lost all contact with the rest of the world. No cell service, no internet. (at least no Verizon or Sprint) The campground we stayed in at Canon De Chelly National Monument had no electric, so no TV either.
Since leaving Oklahoma, we had a few days of travel to get here. We breezed west, stopping briefly in Amarillo (it hadn’t improved much since our last visit) and Albuquerque (A sprawling town of 700, 000 or so. We had a great New Mex dinner at the Church Street Cafe n Old Town, but decided we liked Santa Fe better.) Now we were finally in the real west…the land of mesas, buttes and canyons, red rock and pink sand. This is also the land of the ancestral Puebloan people, their descendants are today’s Pueblo and Hopi Indians, often called the Anasazi, a Navajo word meaning Ancient ones.
People have lived in these canyons for 5,000 years. I won’t bore you with the archeological history, not everyone shares my fascination with it, but Canyon De Chelly (d’SHAY) National Monument, now home to the Navaho people, was established to preserve this record of our human history.
This canyon is really a labyrinth of several canyons formed over millions of years. Deep in the canyons the walls rise a thousand feet over the streams, cotton woods and small Navajo farms below. Many of the sites within the canyon hold spiritual significance to the Navajo’s. One very sacred spot, Spider Rock, an 800-foot sandstone spire that rises from the canyon floor was awe-inspiring. We also saw White House Ruin, built and occupied by those ancient Puebloan’s about a 1,000 years ago. On one trail I followed footprints carved in the sandstone to find the overlook. I have a feeling they were made a little more recently than that.