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Canyon de Chelly

To: frog report
From:Zelda Queen of the Night<zelda@valley.net>
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Sunday, June 21, 1998

Huh. Well here we are at Mathers Campground in Grand Canyon National Park. Day before yesterday (the day we decided to blow off camping here) we drove down through El Malpais, the "bad country" and those conquistadors certainly had it's number. It is some nasty country all right, nothing but scrub pine and volcanic rock for miles and miles. We kept imagining the poor conquistadors trudging through this stuff wearing their boot leathers out every other day, after a while we had quite a bit of sympathy for the conquistadors even though they WERE conquistadors. We stopped and hiked up to the rim of the Bandolero volcano ($10 for this privilege) Chris was terribly disappointed by the fact that it was no longer active, he wanted it to be spouting fire. However it was pretty impressive to me, the trees are all gnarled and twisted by the wind and there is nothing but old hardened lava flow everywhere.

Then we headed back up to I-40 and went west into Arizona intending to get part way to Canyon De Chelly. We ended up staying in a Best Western on the Interstate, I got about 5 miles up the road towards Ganado when I decided to check the books to see if there was anywhere to stay in Ganado, lucky thing I did. There wasn't. There aren't any state parks in this part of the country as most of it is reservation land so we've been relying on the campground book Julia sent us for privately owned campgrounds. Anyway there we were heading off into what looked like miles of nothing with half a tank of gas and nowhere to stay at the end of it so we turned around and checked in at a Best Western on the highway. This was probably our most boring evening to date and we got into the first squabble of the trip. There were only four TV channels, one of which was HBO with a movie on that Chris had already seen, one with news, one with something else and one with a series of infomercials about miracle seaweed soaps that melt away cellulite and stuff like that. This was the channel that Chris elected to watch and after about an hour I had had it. I wanted to watch the movie. Chris did his best to tell me everything that was just about to happen right before it did, but finally we settled in and watched it right through to the end while I got my toenails painted.

The next morning we got up extremely early and gassed up, we were headed up to Canyon De Chelly about 100 miles north.

Canyon De Chelly has lost some of the enchantment I remember as a child. The canyon is just as beautiful as ever with sheer, smooth, pink sandstone walls but you can no longer get to most of the ruins unless you have big bucks. The only one you are allowed to approach on your own is the White House Ruin, for any of the others you have to hire a Navaho guide for $20 an hour or go on one of the tours offered by the hotels near there in Chinle ( $75 for the two of us). I don't blame the Navaho for trying to make a buck but it felt like the Canyon was strictly for the moneyed set. You can hike down into the canyon to the White House ruin and this we did and it was a spectacular hike. In some places (only a few thank god) the trail along the rock is about 3 feet wide and the drop to the canyon floor 5 and 6 hundred feet straight down. For someone with a fear of heights such as myself this was cold sweat time, at these spots I inched along looking either at my feet or into the canyon wall, anywhere but down. Chris of course was completely unconcerned. The hike down and back is only 2.5 miles, it took us almost 4 hours. When we got down to the Anasazi ruin it was much much less than the impressive "ancient place" that I had promised Chris. For one thing the white house ruin is one of the smaller ones (I think the one we must have gone to when I was a kid was the Antelope House as I remember it being quite large) Also you cannot get close to it, it is surrounded by fencing as I suppose must be necessary now but you can't get the feel of these places unless you can duck your head and enter the rooms, unless you can lay your hand against the rock and feel how old it is. Looking at it with your nose pressed up against a fence just isn't the same. However Chris saw 3 species of wild lizard including several blue-tailed skinks for him this was the biggest thrill ever so the trip was not at all a loss.

When we finally got back up to the canyon rim it was only about one or two o clock and looking at the map we thought that it looked possible to make the Grand Canyon even taking the scenic route that we had planned on so we decided to put the pedal to the metal and try for it. We did, even with several unplanned scenic detours, (they don't believe in labeling roads around here I don't think). It was a really super spectacular scenic drive too over to Tuba City, every turn (there weren't many) and rise brought new shrieks from the front or back seat. "Arragh! Scenic shock ! Help, help scenic shock!" Beautiful snow-capped mountains (the San Franciscan Peaks I think) and mesas in the distance, countryside that looked like the moon or Mars possibly. Just unbelievable.

 

 

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