Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sacred Ground in Arizona

Think you’ve got a rough commute? The next time I want to complain about mine, I hope to remember the young Navajo man I met in Canyon de Chelly (pronounced canyon t’shay) this summer. He came running up behind my family as we hiked down the steep, mile-long trail from the rim of this mini-Grand Canyon to the canyon floor. Each morning, he runs down the trail to water and graze his sheep on the canyon floor; once the sheep are situated for the day, he runs back up the rocky trail so he can go to his day job. Then, he repeats the process each evening.

Canyon de Chelly, in eastern Arizona, is a sacred place to the Navajo people. It has several beautiful, impressive ruins, such as the 800-year-old White House ruins, shown here:

The natural setting of these ruins is so stunning, it's difficult to capture it with a camera. Here's another photo that attempts to show the enormity of the canyon wall under which they are built.
Here’s another view of the ruins looking down upon them from the canyon rim:
The White House trail is the only hike visitors are allowed to do without a Navajo guide. It’s a beautiful hike, although a little rocky. My sweet sister Laurie and her husband Klayne were tough enough that they even took their son Gideon in a stroller down the steep trail.

Here’s a photo of Klayne and Gideon at the canyon rim:
For much of the way, they had to carry the stroller, as you can see here:

But carrying the stroller didn’t dampen their enthusiasm, as you can see from this video taken while we were resting along our way back up the trail

Isn't my brother-in-law great?

Not only was the hike very beautiful, but it was fun to pass the Navajo people going about their business, including an older Navajo woman who said she was born in a house on the floor of the canyon.

Here are some of my favorite images from the experience.

My parents are the treasure at the end of this Canyon de Chelly rainbow:

Here's my sister Kristy, sitting in a rock cove along the trail.

Some of the interesting rock formations along the trail

My sister captured this photo of me walking through one of the tunnels along the way

She also caught me as I sat on a wall, taking a photo:

I was amazed to see big flowers blooming where this rock wall meets the dry earth.

I loved the contrast between red and green visible in this shot:

Sunset over Canyon de Chelly

I enjoyed visiting with the Navajos selling jewelry, pottery, and other art. I was very interested to learn that the Navajo people are related to the Athabascan Eskimos from central Alaska.

The Chinle Holiday Inn where we stayed had a fun southwest decorating theme, including these dried peppers.

I had never heard of Canyon de Chelly until I read about it in the book “1000 Places to See Before You Die in the U.S. and Canada”, and I had to agree with the book: it was well worth the visit.