Late in the afternoon, we left the Natural Bridges behind and headed for Chinle, our base for Canyon de Chelly National Monument. On the way we crossed the San Juan River where “Fall”, in all her glory, was on display. Hundreds of magnificent Fremont cottonwoods lined the river banks. Nature truly is the best artist. Each tree was crowned with leaves painted in every imaginable shade of green, yellow and gold.
We rose early the next morning to meet, Ronald, our Navajo guide. He greeted us with “Ya at eet”. We could have chosen to take a horseback ride or hike on the canyon floor, but jumping into a jeep for our 3 hour tour seemed a better option for us.
The three canyons, de Chelly, del Muerto and Monument cover almost 84,000 acres and are entirely owned by the Navajo Tribal Trust. As far back as 5,000 years ago Ancestral Puebloans, referred to as Anasazi, lived in dwellings along and in the canyon walls. Hundreds of these communities were linked by trails and secret pathways. Many ruins can be seen today, White House Ruins being the most famous. Less than 100 Navajo families now make their homes, raise livestock and farm the lands on the canyon floor.
The North and South rims can be toured by car. We chose six of the seven overlooks on the South rim. It took us several hours. We stopped at Tunnel, Junction, White House, Sliding House, Face Rock and Spider rock overlooks. Spider Rock, which soars over 750 feet, is the most photographed spire and is located at the junction of the de Chelly and Monument canyons. We were especially careful hiking out onto the sandstone ledges to get the best photo. There are no guardrails and it is a long, long way down.
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