We had scheduled a Jeep tour of the canyon with highly-touted Bobby Vanwinkle, but Chinle Wash was flooded and too high to cross into the canyon. Someone had tried, but his pickup truck remained stuck in the flooded stream. We drove the North Rim to view the overlooks. We talked with a nice lady selling jewelry and pottery she makes. Having lived here her whole life, she said she had never seen the creek so high. It turns out there are two canyons, both pretty, but the first one has a larger creek.
One overlook was called Massacre Canyon, where Kit Carson chased the Indians up the box canyon, trapping and killing many of them. The creek in this canyon is not as big, so there was less flooding.
“For nearly 5,000 years, people have lived in these canyons – longer than anyone has lived uninterrupted anywhere on the Colorado Plateau. In the place called Tsegi, their homes and images tell us their stories. Today, Navajo families make their homes, raise livestock, and farm the lands in the canyons. A place like no other, the park and Navajo Nation work together to manage the land’s resources.” From https://www.nps.gov/cach/index.htm
The Ancient Ones, from whom so many tribes descended, built incredible homes in alcoves, protected from rain, snow, sun and others. It is incredible how many perfectly-formed alcoves there are on the Colorado Plateau, but this canyon is pretty special.
We chatted with our neighbors in a cool NoBo trailer with a tent on top. A lady was making pancakes. Martha went over to see the unique NoBo, similar to Ruff and Sandra’s, but smaller. they had five people traveling in it – two small children, a teen-age boy, two women and the mother of one.
Christine, with a big, beautiful smile, welcomed us, and showed us around. They were Hopi, with various links and marriages. With a slide-out drawer, she was cooking on an outdoor gas stove. There was a large cooler-like refrigerator behind it. Two cute girls said Hi from inside the tent on top of the trailer. The teen-age boy was sleeping inside where three sleeping bags appeared to take up the whole inside. The mother sat at a picnic table.
They were from the state of Washington on a two-week tour. Once they heard we were headed to Canyon de Chelly, the mother opened up, telling us about the Hopi Nation living within the Navajo Nation. They live on top of three mesas that was largely overlooked by the Spanish, who saw the area as unproductive land. She said the Hopi are a peaceful people who didn’t wander so much as the Navajo. They build homes and grew a lot of their food.
It was interesting hearing their stories, but we finally let them eat their breakfast. The teen-age boy came out and introduced himself. He said he was listening to music, which he then interprets and writes his own version. They were all very nice.
We drove south on 163 through Kayenta turning east on 160, then south again on 59 for a pleasant drive. For the third time we called Sirius XM to try to fix my weather app, always an important feature, but especially on this trip to see how hot it is going to be, or how much it will rain. We are in the monsoon season in this area, so it can get interesting. It is pretty amazing how big, dark storms gather each afternoon. You can see the rain traveling across the area, yet it might never touch us.
Martha got somewhere, but then lost cell coverage. We tried again in Chinle near Canyon de Chelly and got to the travel app division before loosing contact.
We pulled into a nice, little Visitor’s Center and looked around. A young lady explained we should drive the south rim of the canyon in the afternoon/evening and the north rim in the morning. There are various overlooks along the way. She also explained the two campgrounds, Cottonwood and Spider Rock Campground on top of the mountain. She explained Canyon de Chelly is pronounced de Shay, From Wikipedia: “The name Chelly (or Chelley) is a Spanish borrowing of the Navajo wordTséyiʼ, which means “canyon” (literally “inside the rock” < tsé “rock” + -yiʼ“inside of, within”). The Navajo pronunciation is [tséɣiʔ]. The Spanish pronunciation of de Chelly[deˈtʃeʎi] was adapted into English, apparently modeled on[clarification needed] a French-like spelling pronunciation, and is now /dəˈʃeɪ/də-SHAY.”
They had a very big rain yesterday, and the river or creek had flooded the area. We first drove through Cottonwood Campground. Signs said the bathrooms were closed due to water pressure problems, so we drove 15 miles to look at Spider Rock Campground. It was very rough-looking with trailers and trucks and old equipment at the entrance. With a huge, black cloud looming, we turned around and started back down.
We stopped at the first overlook and had lunch. I took a long nap since I was up early this morning. We walked over to the rocky edge to see what was below. We saw an incredibly beautiful valley surrounded by sheer rock walls. A stream ran through the middle. For thousands of years this valley has been farmed and lived in. We couldn’t wait to tour it with a guide tomorrow, but we could see how it might be difficult to drive through the valley with the stream so swollen.
We explored every overlook on the way down, and all were beautiful. The Navajo people still farm the valley and the top of the mesa where horses roamed free.
We set up camp back at Cottonwood after talking with a ranger. She said two bathrooms were open now with flush toilets, so Martha was happy. We settled on site 35, apparently a popular site. A tour group of kids set up behind us as that dark cloud crept closer. Fortunately, the bulk of it went around us. Depending on where the bulk of it went, we may or may not be able to take our tour tomorrow with the highly-touted Tsegi Jeep Tours and Bobby Vanwinkle.