Canyon de Chelly Part Two

I read another great chapter in the book, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, https://milkweed.org/book/braiding-sweetgrass. The chapter was titled, The Honorable Harvest. She talks about receiving.

Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.
Introduce yourself.  Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life.
Ask permission before taking.  Abide by the answer.
Never take the first.  Never take the last.
Take only what you need.
Take only that which is given.
Never take more than half.  Leave some for others.
Harvest in a way that minimizes harm.
Use it respectfully.  Never waste what you have taken.
Share.
Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.

These words resonated with me and I pondered them for quite a while. Right before we went to Canyon de Chelly, some one asked me if I was going to take pictures. That was a very normal question but I was struck by the word, “take”. It went clunk. Would I go into this place and “take”? I started to consider how else I might approach this trip and, in the end, I decided that my intention would be to receive the images in whatever form they chose to arrive.

As I let my imagination loose on this way of thinking/being, I considered how I saw myself in relation to this place. Was I this sentient being who would enter and exit this static ‘place’? Or, is it possible that I would engage with this place? – that we (this place and I) would breathe each other in and out? Would we effect and be effected by each other’s presence? So, it was in this spirit, that I received these images and I am profoundly grateful for them and to the canyon and to our guide, Howard, who held the space.

The rock art was inspiring. Howard shared his and his people’s views of some of the images. He described the horizontal zig-zag design as a description of life with it’s ups and downs – as one way of life ends, another starts. He returned to that theme many times on the tour especially when referencing with old ways of his people and the new ways of current times. In the picture below, the outline of a person represented one who was still alive on the earth. The subsequent filled in drawings of people were of the elders who had died and who’s spirits were still present.

Antelope
Phases of the Moon
Mineral deposits or echoes of the Ancestors?

Being in the canyon was very moving. Rock cliffs lift almost 1,000 feet straight up. The presence of that much rock, with its own unique elemental vibration was palpable. It was above, below and all around me. I felt the deep solid peace of the place while being present to the horrors of death and destruction that occurred here to the Navajo, the Spaniards and the US troops.

Spider Rock

According to Navajo legend, Spider Woman lives at Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly.  She was first to weave the web of the universe. She taught the Navajo how to weave, how to create beauty in their own life and to spread the “Beauty Way” teaching of balance within the mind, body & soul. To learn more about Spider Woman, click here https://www.navajorug.com/blogs/news/spider-rock-center-of-the-navajo-nation

As Larry mentioned in Part 1, the canyon has been inhabited for over 5,000 years. The remains of the structures are a testament to the builders’ skill and to their artistry.

So, the trip to Canyon de Chelly was a deeply moving one for me. I feel that the canyon gave way more to me than I would ever return to her. I give thanks to the canyon, to Howard our guide, to our new friends, Donn and Judy who explored with us and to my ever trusty travel mate, Larry.

Canyon de Chelly Part One

According to archaeologists, Canyon de Chelly National Monument (Chelly is pronounced Shay) has held Native American inhabitants for over 5000 years and it is one of the longest continually inhabited places in North America.

Canyon de Chelly is located on Navajo land near the Four Corners area of the Southwest, just outside the town of Chinle, Arizona. Map of Canyon de Chelly

Above photos by Susan Warren

Canyon de Chelly National Monument is administered by the National Park Service and admission is free but, since it lies on Navajo land, access is restricted to overlooks and one trail that leads down to the White House Ruins. All other excursions down into or along the canyon require a Navajo guide.

There is one campground inside Canyon de Chelly, called Cottonwood. It’s run by the park and is located near the visitors center. There is also one private campground just outside the parks boundary along Rt 7 on the southern rim called Spider Rock Campground.

With our new friends Donn Fowler & Judy Kerry (whom we met at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument), we set up camp at Spider Rock Campground. The whole area was flooded a month before our arrival and you could see the damage at Spider Rock Campground. Some sites were deeply rutted and washed away but we found a nice spot to set up camp.

The owner of the campground, Howard Smith, met us and made sure we were comfortable and asked us if we had any questions. Howard is also a Canyon de Chelly guide and one of the most laid back people I have ever met. Not much bothered him with the exception of deviations from the old Navajo ways.

The next day with Judy feeling under the weather Donn, Susan and I toured the overlooks on the southern rim.

All the photo’s above were taken by Donn Fowler.

On the third day, six of us hired Howard for a guided tour.

Photo by Donn Fowler
L to R – Howard Smith our guide, Larry Warren, Susan Warren, Judy Kerry, Donn Fowler, Dorthy, and Dennis

Howard used a 1993 Chevy Suburban as his tour vehicle. I have to admit that as he pulled up and I heard vroom vroom because he had no mufflers and then I opened the front passenger side door to get in and it creaked and clanked and dropped down 3 inches because the door hinges were worn out, I wondered if we should have chosen a guide with a more modern vehicle. As it turned out we made an excellent choice!

Striking up a conversation with Howard, I mentioned that in another life I use to repair 1993 Suburbans. Later when we were stuck in the middle of the wash with knee deep water rushing by us, unable to move seemingly because of a transmission problem, I regretted mentioning that to him.

Howard told me that he had only owned the suburban for 2 years and that he was not yet “one with it”. I think he is well on his way to accomplishing that undertaking because somehow he got the old girl moving again.

On several occasions Howard compared his Navajo ancestors with the ancient Egyptians. To prove his point he pointed out the image of an Egyptian on the canyon wall.

Photo by Susan Warren

Howard stopped the suburban once and said to us “You all know that in a National Park you are forbidden to remove any rocks”. I’m ashamed to admit that at this point my first thought was that this comment was directed at Sue. But then he said “That one over there we will let you take home” and pointed his finger. I snapped a picture.

So it turns out Howard also has a keen sense of humor.

A couple other interesting things about the tour that come to mind. Howard mentioned that he had 11 grandmothers. I took this to mean that his grandmother had 10 sisters.

If you Google “How was Canyon de Chelly formed” You’ll quickly learn that it came about after millions of years of land uplifts and stream cutting. Howard had a different take on the subject. He stated that it was formed at the time of the Meteor Crater impact, insinuating that the impact of a meteor 50,000 years ago created the canyon. Interesting.

Howard mentioned that the canyon is always changing and told us a story about one tour he did in 2011. They got to a certain point in the tour and came upon a spot where one side of the canyon wall had fallen down during the previous night and created a damn blocking the road. They had to turn around. They, meaning all the guides, later got permission to detour across someone’s property so the tours could continue.

Photo by Susan Warren

If I was going to hire a tour guide for Canyon de Chelly, I would make sure the guide used a private vehicle like a Jeep or in Howard’s case a Suburban. In the picture above you can see a vehicle that holds 6 or 8 people. They sit across from and face each other. You can also see the guide standing on the ground talking to his clients. The problem is you can never get out of the vehicle but once at the turn around where there is a rest stop and some Native American vendors. We were able to get out on numerous occasions to walk around, getting as close as allowed to the canyon walls, ruins and rock art. We received from Howard a much more personal tour in my opinion.

More pictures of Canyon de Chelly all taken by Susan.

Someone asked Howard how old he was. He replied 67. Someone else asked how much longer he would be giving tours and he said with a chuckle “until I’m 97”.

Howard stopped the vehicle in front of a small ranch and told us that just recently 3 mountain lions were killed there after they killed some of the owner’s sheep. Surprisingly it seemed that he did not hold the big cats in high regard.

And a few more pictures by Susan.

One last memory before I turn the narrative over to Susan. At one point as we were looking at a set of ruins someone in the group asked Howard if, as a child, he had ever climbed up into any of the ruins. No, my grandmother and my grandfather told me to never go near them, I would only hurt the people if I did.

A taste of what’s to come in Canyon De Chelly Part 2 – photo by Susan Warren

Susan will write about the rock art, ruins and legends of Canyon de Chelly in Part 2

Monument Valley, & Moab

It was close to a 300 mile drive north on route 191 from Luna Lake Campground to Monument Valley, number 4 on the map. That’s twice as much driving as we like to do when we move. Ya I know, we’re spoiled. We would have loved to break the drive in half by stopping at Canyon de Chelly but it was closed due to Covid. You might remember that Canyon de Chelly was one of our rare Streamin-In-Shiny Gems.

We decided to use private campgrounds as our weather app predicted rather warm temperatures. The weather app was correct. We talked it over and decided if it got too hot we’d get a motel room with air conditioning. It never got “too hot”.

We decided to stay at Goulding’s Resort RV & Campground. Local Airstreamers from the Apache-Trout Airstream Rally recommended it and the campground had good online reviews. As far as private campgrounds go Goulding’s is pretty good. They have everything a nomad needs, laundry, full hookups (electricity, water, sewer), grocery store, gas station, and a very nice view.

In the last picture you can see the Smoky air from the wildfires further west. The smoke from wildfires would harrow us all the way across the country to New Hampshire. One of our dispersed camping sites in Colorado would be destroyed by fire after we left. Oh dear, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Susan does a good job of keeping Shiny as cool as possible in the 105 degree heat. Those trees don’t look like much in the picture but they gave us some luxurious shade in the afternoon.

Something happened here when we first arrived that Sue and I still talk about. We were getting Shiny set up and right behind us was a feller in one of those Aliner campers with a pit bull like dog. It was chained to the picnic table. I noticed it was a heavy chain. The owner told us not to pet the dog. Hmmm Ok I thought. Weird.

I little while later when we were inside we heard an unholy racket. Apparently the dog somehow got off the chain. It had run over to a smaller dog being walked on a leash by a women and started attacking the small dog. The woman was putting herself in-between the two dogs. Not good! The pit bull owner ran over and got his dog away. OK shit happens. But later I looked outside and the pit bull was not on a leash at all, just sitting in the shade. Neither Sue or I felt safe walking around outside with that creature unleashed. I kept my baseball bat close at hand.

Ok, back to the main story. Have you every heard someone say “but it’s a dry heat”? It’s true to a certain extent. Hot is hot don’t get me wrong. But 105 with 9% humidity is better then 90 at 75% humidity as far as I’m concerned. Our friend John Beland back in Sierra Vista likes to say “it’s a dry heat—like an oven”.

The unthinkable happened here at Goulding’s when, during the heat of midday, the power went out. 😓 We thought it might be out for some time when we noticed the cell towers were out as well. My first thought was go find that motel room.

Susan calmed me down and we opened up Shiny and sat outside in the shade under one of those trees. There was a nice breeze and in about 3 hours the power came back on. During the outage a office worker came around with a tray of half melted ice cream sandwiches, handing them out to the campers. Susan grabbed 3 of them and put them in our freezer, which was still cold because it works on propane as well as electricity. I have to admit I later regretted not grabbing a couple for myself.

One of the attractions in Monument Valley is the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Unfortunately the Tribal Park was still closed while we were there due to Covid. The Navajo were hit hard by the virus. As a result they take Covid very seriously. For instance the Navajo people are seldom seen, where ever they my be, without a mask on.

We found other things to do. Have you ever heard of The Valley Of The Gods? We had not until one of the Goulding’s Campground maintenance workers recommended it to us. It’s a 17 mile scenic dirt road drive. High clearance, 4W drive vehicles are recommended but the day we were there we saw a couple passenger cars driving it. We were told that it will be impassible when it rains though, so beware.

Pictured above are a few of the rock formations along the drive. It was fun to have a list of the rock formation names and then try to figure out which was which along the drive. My favorite is Lady In The Bathtub.

And for our dispersed camping friends, there are lots of places to set up camp along the 17 mile stretch. I would not take Shiny the full 17 miles but if you start the tour from Highway 163 there were plenty of spots within a mile or two. If towing a trailer I would unhook at the pull off just off of 163 and then drive in to find a spot. That way you can check out the road first. The road was good the day we were there but…

My oh my I can get side tracked.

We took a day and drove north to Bluff, Utah with the sole purpose of exploring the petroglyphs at Sand Island Recreation Area. The recreation area is located on the north bank of the San Juan River about 3 miles west of Bluff, Utah, on the south side of Highway 191. It includes a campground which has 27 first come first serve campsites, drinking water, picnic tables, fire grates, pit toilet, and a boat launch. Some camp sites are right on the river, just a gorgeous place to set up camp. If it hadn’t been so darn hot we would definitely have camped here. But with the heat we thought it better to have electricity. Regretfully we did not take any pictures of Sand Island Campground. But we did get some pictures of the petroglyphs of course.

Sue finally got her petroglyph fix, and it was a good one at that.

Of course, while we were in Monument Valley, we had to take the obligatory picture at the famous spot where Forrest Gump ended his run. This turned out to be harder than we thought as it was always crowded with people trying to do the same thing. But as we left Monument Valley for Moab we found an opening!

We’d like to go back to Monument Valley when the Tribal Park reopens. For now we will leave you with this beautiful sunrise picture that Susan took from Goulding’s.

Monument Valley Sunrise

Moab

Moab has been on our bucket list since the day we decided to lead this wandering way of life. We said damn the heat and continued ‘head first’ into the inferno.

But first, just before Moab in Monticello, Utah, near Canyonlands National Park, and along highway 191 is an odd rock formation worth mentioning. Apparently local lore has the opening at the base of the formation being carved out by a religious group to make a church. Hence it’s name, Church Rock. In fact it was dynamited and cut out of the stone by the property owner during the 1940s to store salt licks and feed for cattle.

After passing another big wildfire just south of Moab, we drove through Moab and set up camp at Archview Campground just north of the town. We turned Shiny’s air conditioner on high.

But It’s A Dry Heat!

This is the hottest Shiny has ever experienced. Again we were blessed with two shade trees. Then we had a tall bus park beside us that shaded us even more!

I think that what surprised me most about the heat was all the people still tenting and hiking and rafting like it was a normal 75 degree day. Sue and I did not stray far from the air conditioner, you can be sure about that! Yet thousands of people were outdoors with no break from the heat. Ah the resilience of youth!

116 degrees is too hot to be playing outside for this NH boy. But guess what! Moab has a rock art auto tour! Yes, yes, I got to stay cool in Blue while Susan got another fix for her rock art obsession. Here is a little slide show of what we found on the auto tour.

I gotta say I had almost as much fun as Susan did. I think the Moab Rock Art Auto Tour is worth the effort, heat or no heat.

Moab Rock Art Auto Tour
Larry Having Fun!

Our National Parks are so overcrowded that Sue and I tend to avoid them. The Arches National Park was no exception. We drove pass the park entrance every day we were in Moab. It was amazing to see the long line of cars and campers entering the park each morning. By 9 or 10 o’clock touists were turned away as the park reached their ‘people quota’ for the day. Not much fun in my book. It’s a game we have no interest in playing.

All the pictures above were gleaned from the Internet.

Another activity one can do in the heat of Moab, or anytime, is to drive one of the scenic byways. One afternoon we drove the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway which is Route 128. The first ten miles or so follows the river within a gorge supplying us with some fantastic views of the surrounding cliffs. Further on the drive opens up into a valley with campgrounds, picnic areas, and hiking trails. Further still and it’s desert country. Some western films have been shot here.

Actually, Moab has Three Scenic Byways. The rock art tour encompassed one of them, Potash-Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway, Route 279. The third is Dead Horse Point Mesa Scenic Byway, Route 313. Number 3 we are saving for our return to Moab, hopefully in a more pleasant climate.

One last thing about Moab. It is a Mecca for rafters!

Next up on our agenda is Nine Mile Canyon, just outside of Wellington, Utah. Nine Mile Canyon turned out to be one of our all time favorite places on this magical mystery tour. In fact Nine Mile Ranch, where we camped, turned out to be the next, very rare, Stream-In-Shiny Gem. And the setting for our, not to be missed, Shotgun Man story!

100th Edition!

I have been procrastinating on writing this post for about four months. I am a good procrastinator especially when my expectations for doing a really good job are high. Then, I somehow shut myself down and lock up. That’s when I have to remember one of the many lessons I learned from my Dad, Richard E. O’Shaughnessy. Dad always said, “any job worth doing is worth doing well.” And, he lived that. He seemed to give himself to the work whether it was teaching eighth graders about Earth Science, blacksmithing, or raising seven kids with my Mom. The key was to just do the work, even if you didn’t feel like it in the beginning. Just get going.

The flip side of this message was his, “let’s go for it!” attitude about life. He had a belief that things would work out and this was the source of great comfort to me when I was growing up. In a lot of ways, it was Dad’s and Mom’s approach to life that gave me the gumption to say, “Yes! Let’s do it!” when Larry suggested we sell the house and live in Shiny.

My Dad passed away at home on December 5, 2020. He leaves a big hole in my life but bigger than that is his legacy of doing what you can, using your gifts, helping others, and having fun along the way. So, I dedicate this 100th edition to my Dad.

Richard Eustace O’Shaughnessy 1931-2020

We started writing this blog in October, 2017. We were dreaming about hitting the road. We had bought Shiny 6 months earlier. Our daughter and son in law would be house sitting and we were just waiting for Larry to mend from surgery on his knee. Even though we had campers for years, this would be our first foray into living full time on the road. So, we were green horns in a lot of ways. We are happy to report that we love being on the road and hope to continue as long as we want to.

SHINY TIME

Shiny has taught us a lot. We call the lessons, ‘Shiny Time’. Pretty much the lessons are about slowing down and trusting that things will work out. We’ve had lots of practice and I am a lot more open to ideas when Larry says, ‘Shiny time. Shiny time’, instead of, ‘Settle down, for Pete’s sake!’ I guess Shiny time has become our mantra, our reminder that if you want life to be different, then you need to do things differently, respond differently. We have reluctantly learned a lot about Shiny Time thanks to COVID-19. Many of the places at which we usually stay like state and national parks, have been closed. We have been concerned that we might unwittingly carry the virus from state to state and would place innocent people in harm’s way.

We could have easily turned this adventure into a lot of work if we had wanted to. Some how we have managed to slow the heck down and to just be amazed at the beauty of this country. The other great benefit of slowing down is being able to meet and to get to know some really cool folks

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Shiny Time appreciation comes in handy when things get sketchy. We also find that the unexpected makes for a really good story. Most of the time I am too irritated to take a picture but I have caught a few. There was the time I learned about how to store plate ware while in transit.

Then, there was the time when it was about 30 degrees and icy at Edgar Evins State Park in Tennessee. We thought it would be warm in the south! Anyway, Larry thinks it’s safe to head down the ice covered road pulling Shiny. I’m not so sure. We make it out safely but, yikes!

We have had our share of wild weather and actually enjoy hunkering down in Shiny during a big rain storm. We’ve learned that heading north does not necessarily make things cooler as we discovered in the Dakotas. On the other hand, higher altitudes can bring relief during a hot summer.

Blistering heat in Delta, CO. at 4,800 feet June 20. Over 100 degrees F
Alpine, Arizona. June. 8,000 ft. 60 degrees on a sunny afternoon

Lone Pine, CA. March 10. 3,700 feet. Mountains in the distance 14,000 ft. 30 degrees with 50 mph winds.
Edgar Evins State Park, Silver Point TN. January. Elevation 1,000 feet. 30 degrees. Snow and ice
February 2020, Nevada. 70 degrees. 6,000 feet.

We have been trying to think of our favorite places we’ve been and we’ve decided that there are a lot of things to consider such as the feel of the air, the number of people there, the night sky, and perhaps that thing that I have no words for – some sort of vibration, a story, the presence of ones who have come before us. The poet, David Whyte would call it the ‘genius of the place’. Feel free to click on the green links to get to an earlier post on the location with more details and photos.

We had a hard time narrowing down our contestants because we have seen so many beautiful places. After much debate, we have decided that Canyon de Chelly is our favorite so far. The landscape was stunning and location was remote. There were few people. It was steeped in history and we had the honor of being shown the area by our guide, Howard. Canyon de Chelly is Larry’s #1 favorite.

Spider Rock in Foreground. Canyon de Chelly, AZ.

Organ Pipe National National Monument is another favorite. We were there in March and the Spring flowers had just blossomed in the nearby mountains. There were lots of good hikes and we met some great folks. We got a closer look as issues around illegal immigration and the hazards the immigrants face.

Organ Pipe National Monument

Next on our list of Favorites is Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve in Chase County, Kansas. I had always wanted to see the prairie and to imagine what it was like when, for thousands of miles, that’s all there was. We enjoyed the wide open spaces, the really big sky and the sense that the landscape had been touched little by mankind (thanks to the flint in the ground that made it unfit for farming).

White Water Draw Wildlife Area in McNeal, Arizona was a birder’s dream especially because we were so new to many of the birds of the Southwest. I will always remember the sight and sound of hundreds of Sandhill Cranes flying up into the sky at dawn.

Sand Hill Cranes at White Water Draw

Goose Necks Canyon State Park in Mexican Hat, Utah was some kind of crazy raw energy! You could walk up to the edge of a 1,000 foot cliff down to the San Juan River. We never got that close because the winds were blowing steadily at 40-50 miles per hour. We were in a very remote area with few folks around.

Windy day at Goose Necks State Park

We had Clayton Lake State Park in Clayton, New Mexico all to ourselves except for the bald eagles, osprey, deer, ducks, wild turkeys, snow geese and rabbits. Oh, and the fossilized dinosaur tracks were pretty cool too! We spent a lot of time sitting and watching.

Eagle grabbing a duck at Clayton Lake

Chiricahua National Monument in Wilcox, Arizona was definitely my (Susie’s) favorite. It was (you guessed it) remote. The rock formations were provocative and astounding. And, that thing that I don’t have a word for…the energy of the place was old and grounding and rich. It felt like a home coming.

Our last stop before COVID arrived was in Lone Pine, California. It was March and we thought since we were in California, it would be warm! Haha! There’s that little matter of the altitude. The mountains, streams and sheer wildness of the winds and snow made it a great place to be.

Alabama Hills in the foreground. Sierra Nevada Mountains in the background

Last but not least is Swan Creek Recreation Area in Selby, South Dakota. Swan Creek is off of the Missouri River and it is, yes, remote. The hikes on the hills were lovely. The winds were wild. We had visions of the Lewis and Clark Expedition that had passed nearby over two hundred years ago.

So, that winds up this edition of Streamin’ in Shiny. Every day we feel so lucky to be able to write this post and to have these adventures. It remains hard to be away from loved ones but that seems to make me love and appreciate them all the more. Best wishes to each of you. Hopefully we will see you around the bend.