Welcome to the

Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

About Me

My photo
Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Back to Gallup for the Night!

Awake at 530 and up at 630, but today I didn't mind!  Got ready in record time, didn't even check email or anything. Went to breakfast at the Thunderbird cafeteria--fresh fruit cocktail, bacon, English and coffee. Then we waited outdoors in the morning sunshine for the start of our canyon floor tour. Wandering around I almost stepped on a bunny that had frozen at our presence as they usually do. Two crows took up their morning positions and reported back and forth to each other about their observations--"two white faces wandering over here, not dropping food. :  " Yeah, not so great over here either, no one at the picnic tables and no food dropped so far today."  Etc.  Looked at some interesting nests that we didn't recognize and a bird, puffed up in the crook of the tree, with the markings of a robin but the wrong bill. Not usually tree perchers either. Another couple all bundled up as if they were going to Siberia joined us. Don't know where they were from. A couple of young women we'd encountered last night in the canyon arrived--they have Alaska plates. They too dressed for the oncoming blizzard!  Then a couple chatting away in what sounded like German--you guessed it---hoods, gloves, heavy jackets. Eventually, our guide and his safari truck arrived and bid us to board. After a few minutes the last couple arrived--ditto on clothes--and we were off for a three hour jaunt on the canyon floor--a level at which I am comfortable.

To get to the Canyon Wash--not a river since it dries up totally in summer--we road at normal speeds along the main road. I was a bit cold then with no hat or gloves and just two layers. Soon, however, we were mid-Wash and moving much more slowly though far less smoothly! Our guide, David, had introduced himself before we set out and while we move along the entrance to the North Canyon I'll tell you a bit about him. He is Navajo, as all the guides are, this park lying on the Navajo Reservation. He grew up in the North Canyon and called it his playground as a child. He is 62 and has been doing this for over 30 years.

He also explained the tour--we would go up the North Canyon to Antelope House, where there would be a 15 minute stop and where there are restrooms and smoking is allowed off the truck. We would then return to the place where the two Canyons join and turn up the South Canyon ( the one along whose rim we have driven twice ) and go as far as White House. Another 15 minute stop with the same amenities. He also pointed out a plastic bag in the back of the truck containing blankets.

As we entered the canyon we passed through cottonwoods and along fences that are not visible from the top. The cottonwoods individually do not look green but superimposed they make a beautiful green haze against the blue sky and multicolored canyon walls. Our first stop is known as First Ruin since it was the first one discovered by a guy named Stevens(?) --have to look that up--in the 1800's. This ruin and the others we came upon looked like doll houses made of clay--which only goes to show how far below them we were, even though we had no sense of depth. The ruins were built by a very early civilization, now extinct, known to modern anthropologists, as the Anasazi. The Zuni, Hopi, Pueblo Indians claim these people as ancestors but the Navajo do not. As a result, the Navajo were unable to interpret the petroglyphs found here but the other Indians helped to explain some ,but not all, of them, many being mysteries to them as well.

At this first ruin there is a squiggly line representing a snake, a frog-like figure representing a dancing man, hands that represent hands elevated in prayer, and the reclining hunch-backed flute player, Kokopelli. A god, of fertility among other things.

Our next stop was a Navajo petroglyph representing a deer hunt.  We know this is Navajo since there are horses and they arrived with the Spanish, long after the Anasazi were gone. History does not explain how or when they disappeared.  The panel next to the hunters represents several traps used by the Navajo and a couple of diamondback rattlers as well as a man holding a squiggly line--a snake dancer. The area is very broad and open and since these glyphs are here it seems as though this may have been a gathering place to trade and tell tales. Today, it is a gathering place for the tours to stop and learn about the glyphs. Although, this picture of David and the other vehicles might imply that it is crowded in the Canyon and that other tours cause distraction, this is not the case at all. Especially since David preferred using the Draw to the road and thereby got in front of the other tours and left them in our dust!  LOL  I guess after 30+ years of doing the same thing several times a day, one devises ways to amuse oneself. Did I just say that???? Voice of experience speaking! Seriously, though, the guides spread out over this huge Canyon and there is a sense of being the only ones here. I'm sure they realize that is the best way to enjoy the surroundings and they do their best to share the home they love in the best possible way.

Sometimes it was impossible to get pictures without also including our fellow travelers: the blonde lady with the red gloves is the German (?) lady.She and her companion did not chat with us much though I think it was more a language issue than aloofness. He spoke to us more because I think he was more fluent in English. They were going to Monument Valley from here and " doing same thing--jeep ride"

The gentleman in front of her in the blue baseball cap and red jacket was part of the couple we met in the parking lot--again no conversation--but again, his wife was freezing and bundled up so tightly I don't think we'd have heard her anyway and he was on the other side of the truck.  In front of them was one of the girls in the Alaska car. Well, she is a nurse who lives in Flagstaff. I forget what the nurses are called who travel all over the world where there are nursing shortages but that's what she does. She is from Montreal, so we had a good chat about that city and the part of Vt where I once lived. She had her first assignment in Lebanon, NH so we spoke of her living in Eastman and of Thetford etc. Small world!

In front of us was her friend, a flight nurse with the same outfit, from Australia who lived four years as a nurse in Alaska, hence the plates. She now lives in Flagstaff and the two met in Alaska where they both had posted. She had been an ER nurse prior to changing over. The girl from Montreal is afraid to fly. Both of them were scurrying all over the edge of the rim last night but she says she can control her feet on solid ground but she can't control the plane. LOL Phobias are so interesting. I would also like to note here, that despite several layers of clothing they both wrapped themselves in two blankets but neither wore a hat!

Our second Anasazi ruin was in better shape than the first, primary because it is much higher and therefore was less easily reached. It therefore has been turned to rubble pretty exclusively by the elements rather than vandals and looters of artifacts. The round building is the kiva--the religious ceremonial room that exists among the pueblo, zuni and hopi to this day. The rest living and storage areas. It is believed that this civilization was primarily agricultural and that they build high above the floor for protection from predatory animals although possibly from more warlike neighbors as well. They used round logs out of which notches were cut to access the floor on which their crops were grown and if another level of building were present they also used these " ladders" to access them.

Once we had seen some of these ruins we began to see others as indicated by Scout Bill's pointing hand. David noticed everything, as you shall see, a very sharp-eyed guide and whenever movement from us that indicated a spotting or an interest he stopped to let us see it more closely and give an information he could.

Throughout the Canyon there are small homes and fences and horses and cattle. At one time, of course, the Canyon was filled with Navajo families year round. Now, however, with the need for children to go to school and families to work no one lives here in winter. Once school is closed some families return but mostly they come on week-ends and holidays. There are a few older folk with no children and who are retired who do come for the whole summer. Nevertheless, even though there are stores to buy food, the Navajo return to grow their own--beans,corn,squash--traditional, tomatoes and most of the other things gardeners grow. In addition, there are alfalfa fields and fruit trees, apple,pear,peach, apricot--it must be beautiful when those trees are in bloom!  Of course, like Acoma--no water, no electricity!  But instead of horse drawn plows there are John Deere tractors!

There is a picture you will see, in red rock clay, that appears to have been poked to make a dot design out and around and above an oval opening in the wall. Those are hand and foot holds to get from that opening which is really a cave, to the top of the canyon. David says that they are all over the Canyon as are other trails and that the Navajo still use them as well as vehicles to enter and leave. Oh, I guess I would not have been able to make it here in the old days-- who am I kidding, afraid of the dark, I probably wouldn't make it here now either!

When asked how deep the Wash gets David said that in areas where the floor is wide the water spreads out and is quite shallow but in narrow areas it can get up to about five feet deep. Seems unbelievable that by mid summer all that water is totally gone! As we rode under an overhanging shelf of rock the high water mark in that area was clear--about three or four feet. That mark creates a beautiful band of color along the bottom of the cliffs.

After about two hours we reached our turnaround : Antelope House, so named for the deer and antelope petroglyphs on the walls around it. This house is on the Canyon floor and David says there are many throughout the Canyon that are.  Having fifteen minutes allowed me to take many pictures and have Bill take a couple of me. It is here that I chatted up the nurses and learned all I've shared with you.

While the rest of the crowd are getting a closer look at Antelope House,or looking over the jewelry that several Navajo are selling, or using the facilities or in Bill's case, getting in a couple of cigarettes, allow me to tell you of the last couple in our entourage. The lady is quite frail and appears to be in her mid-seventies. The jouncing in the jeep has been quite difficult on her and I'm not sure her eyesight is all it could be so she may not have seen everything on the tour. Her husband has an arm that causes some discomfit so he wished he'd take a horse tour as opposed to the jeep. Both of them are pleased they opted for the half day tour. Still they were a cheerful pair, originally from Oklahoma but in Colorado since the 70's. He told us it costs something like $1500 to register his car, that property taxes are off the charts and there are sales taxes from the State level down to the City level. They live in Durango and their log cabin is snowed in--they got two feet of snow last week!  They have always left Co for at least a month in winter for they would surely go mad if they didn't. The last time in Hawaii it rained two of their four weeks, the past two years in Florida was overwhelmingly humid, so they decided to stay closer to home this year. I'm not sure if I understood his meaning--whether this was the only Canyon they hadn't come to or the only National Park. But they truly encouraged us to go to Monument Valley from here and then as long as we'd gone there to head over to Mesa Verde. I was game but Bill said there is too much to see in that area to do it this year. So,weather permitting, I know where we are going to set up a base of operations to explore next time. Well, break is over so we are headed back to the junction of the South and North Canyons.

The rock formation behind David is called Fortress Rock. Please note, that though there is a loudspeaker set up for him to use, David always stopped and got out to tell us the stories. I'm sure weather and tour group size have something to do with it. This canyon has been part of the Navajo tribe's lands for many generations. Initially, the tribe was agricultural and the crop growing that occurs today was the way of life they enjoyed. In time, the Spanish found them and took the men to Mexico to work as slaves in the silver mines, women and children were taken to work as house slaves and garden etc workers. In time, some of the people were able to escape and make their way back home to tell the remaining Indians what was happening. Fighting ensued and some of the tribe took refuge atop this structure. It lies between two canyons, the one to the left the way out and the one to the right ends in a box canyon that does have a small and difficult to find connection to the main one. It is a nice trap.  Eventually, the Spanish were gone and the tribe returned more or less to its peaceful agrarian ways.

Some of the young warriors, however, remembered the livestock of Mexico and decided that the tribe could use some of them. Although he didn't use the word rustling, that's what those young whippersnappers did. Causing more trouble and bringing more attacks. Nevertheless, with the livestock, the Navajo economy began to improve and jealous Hopi and Zuni began to attack to gain livestock for themselves. Word got back to the Cavalry that the Navajo were raiding throughout the territory--they were trying to get their livestock back. Excuses didn't work and the Government came in and burned the hogans, and fields and marched over 4000 Navajo to Fort Sumner in NM and some to Fort Defiance, closer by. Still, some of the tribe were again able to take refuge on Fortress Rock. Eventually, through lack of food and shelter many died and others surrendered and were taken to Fort Sumner. Kit Carson and a Calvary general were in charge of Sumner where conditions were abominable. Disease, heartbreak, lack of food took their toll. Eventually, the government checked up on what was left of the tribe and after almost four years the tribe was freed and allowed to return to Canyon de Chelly. 2000 walked back in what is known as The Long Walk and reestablished their homes. The rest had died. Since 1868 the Navajo have been able to remain here.

As an aside the Canyon is called Tsite--sort of pronounced like Say It except both the T and s are pronounced. It means made of stone. The Spanish couldn't pronounce it so they called it de Chelly--which is pronounced for some reason de Shay--and still means made of stone.

Soon we came to a wall long petroglyph--truly a story board. It represents the Navajo fighting the Spanish conquistadors. There are two moons over the mural indicating that they fought for two days. Legend has it that the Spanish leader came to a ledge overlooking a cave of Indians and that his forces wiped them out. This Northern canyon that we have been in is known as Canyon de Meurte ( spelling? ) --Canyon of the Dead. Some legends say it refers to this massacre. Others say that the Spanish seeking the Seven Cities of Gold entered the Canyon and found the skeletons of ancient dead--the Anasazi?  Who knows the truth--the legends are just that--the name remains.

Eventually, we came to Big Cow Cave--the hogan tucked under the cow is used in summer and the goal posts to the right are actually the loom the lady who lives there uses to weave her rugs.  It is a lovely place, secluded and peaceful. There is an unfinished hogan in front, and Anasazi ruins to the left. If there are ghosts, I wonder if they enjoy her presence and her work?

As we moved up the South Canyon we saw the farm I've viewed from above several times. The horses and cows have free range and from the top look like little toys.  I imagined a Roswell alien in one of the formations and a big eyed monster in another. Along this edge of the wash the bank gave out and Bill almost toppled off the top of the jeep. It was the only time we jostled quite THAT hard!

I don't know if you can make it out--but that tree with the solar flare behind it has a porcupine more or less dead center. If you look closely you can see him as a ball of fur with sunlight tipped quills.  Old Eagle-eyed David spied him as he did the mountain goats that moved swiftly and gracefully across the uneven rock faces.

Soon we arrived at White House--probably the most complete of the ruins. By this time the sun had risen high enough that it did not bleach to walls out as much. This house is really two different levels--the building which is most eroded is the lower building which is believed to have been at least 40 feet tall. Ladders from this building allowed access to those on the level above.

How many birds in that flock??

I  discovered, at the end of the tour, that I'd forgotten to change the mode of my camera from evening to daylight so the earliest pictures were taken as though there wasn't much light. Though a bit over exposed they are still wonderful and I can always retake them the next time we take the tour--I hope there is a next time--even for a full day , though Bill says half day was enough for him. I guess I'm never going to see Spider Rock then!

On the way out of the canyon we passed some of the same ruins we'd explored on the way in and I rephotographed them to show how the light had changed over a three and a half hour span. Interestingly, because the shadows had formed the mode was better for these.

Feeling thoroughly exhilarated by the wind and fresh air and sun and wonderful views we returned to our starting point--Thunderbird Cafe and lunch. A wonderful chicken salad plate that I should have photographed for it was a work of art, too. Cucumber, green pepper, carrots sticks and a halved hard-boiled egg on a lettuce bed surrounding a whole tomato quartered in which a large scoop of chicken salad was ensconced. V-8 juice to wash it down and a chocolate chip cookie freshly baked for dessert. Bill had meat loaf, mixed veggies and the best mashed potatoes and gravy with V-8.

Tired and well fed we decided to return to Gallup for the night. We didn't choose the Quality Inn and its awful internet but rather the Comfort Inn where we stayed last year and much better internet.

Tomorrow I think we are headed to Las Vegas---New Mexico and eventually the Oklahoma panhandle. So, though it is always sad, we are headed in a homeward direction but not necessarily hurriedly!

Have to spell check and send the pictures--then I have to see how I'm doing on March Madness brackets. Bill was gloating when I started this blog over two hours ago. Hasn't been saying much lately so I'm thinking I'm pulling it out. I also have to eat!  AND Big Bang Theory is on tonight if I haven't missed it!  Good night for now!

No comments:

Post a Comment