Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona
Canyon de Chelly is a beautiful red rock canyon that has several Puebloan ruins. The ruins are what is left of Puebloan towns that were occupied from 350 AD to 1300 AD. After 1300 Puebloan culture diminished generally in the Southwest and those living in Canyon de Chelly either left or perished. Navajo people resettled the canyon in the early 1700s. The canyon is within the Navajo nation and the monument is managed by the Navajo who prefer to be called Dine'. There are a few active small farms/orchards in the bottom of the canyon occupied seasonally by Dine'. Access to the ruins is restricted. There is only one trail that visitors can hike without a paid Navajo guide. The trail to the Whitehouse ruins (below) is a 2.5 mile round trip with a 1,000 foot drop and climb. I hiked down maybe 15 years ago but did not on my most recent visit in 2013. It's a fun trail because it winds down the shear side of the canyon on a path that is in many places cut into the stone. Once at the bottom you are not allowed to get very close to or walk within the ruins. Also at the bottom you will be approached by Navajo who will try to sell you handicrafts. The Navajo drive to the bottom of the canyon on a road that visitors aren't allowed to use. Navajo will also try to sell you stuff at most of the overlooks along the canyon rim road. When I was there in the summer of 2013 a man approached me and pretended to pick medicinal herbs by grabbing leaves off of random plants while telling me about Dine' culture. He claimed to be a medicine man. This all ended up being part of a heavy handed sales pitch for some paintings he'd done on rocks. For a moment I had been tricked into thinking we were having a conversation. He acted deeply hurt and offended when I refused to buy his crap. It was depressing.
A trip to the Navajo nation is interesting if you can get over the way that visitors are sometimes treated. Wild horses wander in the streets in Chinle. The Navajo are a very nationalistic and assertive people and everywhere you are reminded that you are in Navajo country. The Navajo or Dine' language is widely spoken and is amazing to hear. It sounds unlike any other language I've heard. Cottonwood campground is at the base of Canyon de Chelly. The campground is surrounded by development but has nice sites and is well managed. There are restaurants, shops and hotels in Chinle.
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