CANYON DE CHELLY NATIONAL MONUMENT, ARIZONA TO MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK, COLORADO


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Valerie and I have tried to figure out why our parents never traveled up this way to see these parks. They traveled for a year all over the USA in Rosie I, but seemly missed this area of the country. It is really sad as Dad, with his interest in archeology, would have thoroughly enjoyed them. The only thing we can come up with is that it isn’t on the west-east route to El Paso, Salt Lake, or Flagstaff, which were the routes we usually traveled as kids to see family, and I believe they traveled after we were raised.

Friday, May 4th

Canyon de Chelly campground. Starting mileage was 24830 with blue sky and 77 degrees at 1:30 when we began our exploration of the South rim of the park.

The park consists of several canyons that include both Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto. Near the town of Chinle, which is at the mouth of the canyons, the rock walls are only about 30 feet high but, they rise quickly until the stand over 1000 feet above the valley floor.

Evidence shows that people have lived in these canyons for over 5,000 years—longer than anyone has lived uninterrupted on the Colorado Plateau. The first residents built no homes, but left campsites and images on the red sandstone walls. The Basketmakers and the Pueblo built compounds and multistoried villages under the overhanging cliffs. The Navajo entered the area about 300 years ago after the other peoples had moved on further west and south. They farmed as they do now, the valley floors, growing corn and peaches, and raising sheep and goats. Today on the floor of the canyons, along the streams, you can still see small farms and orchards, hogans, and ranches with horses and cattle.

The south rim drive is 37 miles round trip and offers views of Canyon de Chelly from various overlooks. White House Ruin was built by Puebloan people and was occupied about 1000 years ago and can be seen quite well from one of the overlooks. The last stop on this canyon rim drive, looks out at the very impressive 800 foot sandstone spire called Spider Rock, which is very sacred to the Navajo people.

After we completed the drive, we went back to the Lodge to check on the prices of canyon truck tours given by the Navajo. After looking at what the tours cover, and considering the bumpy ride over rough terrain, we decided not to pursue them and went back to the campground for the night.

Saturday, May 5th

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!! 9:42 and 64 degrees with blue skies and a few clouds. Starting mileage is 24869.

This morning we drove out of the campground and drove the 34 miles along Navajo Road 64, which runs along the north rim of the Canyon del Muerto. It is so named because the Spanish Military in 1805, shooting from above, killed about 115 Navajo who had taken shelter on a ledge of this canyon. Two cliff dwellings, Antelope House Ruin and Mummy Cave Ruins, can be seen from overlooks along this drive.

We drove out of the park boundary and then continued northwest along Navajo Road 12 joining back with US 191 at the town of Round Rock. This route took us through several medium size Navajo communities, one that had a Navajo College in it.

We continued north on 191 until we met highway 160 just west of the restaurant/gas station/picnic spot [no discernible community] of Mexican Water. We decided to have lunch at this obvious Navajo restaurant. Valerie had mutton stew that came with a huge round of fry bread and I had fish and shrimp. The stew consisted of pieces of mutton in a broth with “dumplings” like long fingers of German spatzle. Not at all like the bread-like dumplings Mother used to cook on top of stewed chicken. We took doggy bags of food back to Rosie II.

We continued east along US 160 to the Four Corners Monument. For years we have heard the term “four corners area” as a reference point. We thought since we were this close we needed to see it. What a disappointment! In the middle of nowhere, with no town around, in the middle of the desert landscape, the Navajo have built this monument and charge you $3 per head to look at it. We took pictures of each of us with our hands and feet in the 4 different states and then went back to Rosie and drove away. It was clear enough to see Shiprock Mesa standing 27 miles to the east from the road.

We drove from the Navajo Reservation in Arizona onto the Ute Reservation when we crossed into Colorado and there US 160 and 491 join and go due north. What a difference water makes! Irrigated fields, nice ranch houses, neat and tidy looking businesses. Everything looking prosperous. We drove by a busy Ute Casino/ Resort/Conference Center and then drove into the town of Cortez. Mountains in the area still have some snow on the tops and in shady ravines. Very nice looking town situated in the Dolores Valley and larger than we thought it would be from the map. Even has a Wal-mart!

Topped off the gas tank at $3.859 per gal before entering Mesa Verde National Park. We entered the park at an elevation of 6950 feet and immediately started climbing up to the top of the mesa. Moreland Campground had just one loop open for dry camping only. The Park officially opens May 15th and you could see evidence of work in progress at the campground. Surprised some does as we entered into the campground. Found a level, shady spot and set up camp, which for us, means turning on the propane gas if we don’t have any hook-ups.


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