Canyon de Chelly Adventure

Early Sunday morning I met the group from the church where I take exercise classes for a road trip to Canyon de Chelly National Monument.  We left Tucson at 7 a.m. and arrived in Chinle, AZ around 4 p.m., standard time.  Chinle and the Navajo reservation are on Mountain time, so it was actually 5 p.m. there.  There were 10 of us, excited to tour the monument on Monday.  After a simple dinner we settled into our rooms in the Thunderbird Lodge to rest for the activities of the next day.

On the way to Chinle we passed through Globe, AZ and the Salt River Canyon, a windy, winding road with sharp turns and increasing and decreasing elevations.  It’s a beautiful thing to see; however, it is not that easy to drive.  My hat is off to the driver of our van (one of two vans) who negotiated this part of the trip with aplomb.

On Monday, after a difficult night of interrupted sleep my roommate and I set out for a good breakfast and the all-day tour of the canyon via a special vehicle – a military off-road truck, outfitted for about 16-18 visitors.  Although the seats were padded, I’m grateful to my roommate who provided extra cushions for our comfort.

Riding in one of these vehicles reminded me of riding a bull or bucking bronco, or perhaps a roller coaster that turns left or right all of a sudden – or perhaps a combination of those.  I’m surprised that it wasn’t my back that hurt, but my neck, almost like whip lash.  My shoulders and neck ached in the evening.  Some analgesic cream to the areas, however, and a couple of Tylenol helped a lot.

Regardless of the jostling our bodies took, the tour was well worth the price of the trip, with stops to see petroglyphs, pictographs, cliff dwelling ruins, and beautiful views of canyon walls and groves of cottonwood trees in their fall finery.  We had a few chances to meet Navajo people who live in the canyon and buy their jewelry and paintings.

The road into the canyon


Antelope Ruins pictographs

Free range horses

“First Ruin”

The first leg of the tour into the canyon ended in Canyon del Muerto where we had a bag lunch of roast beef sandwiches with chips, cookie, orange, and drink. On the turn-around, we headed into Canyon de Chelly where the tour ended at Spider Rock, named after Spider Woman who lived there, and who brought weaving to the people.  There we had some watermelon and a chance to prepare for our return to the Lodge.

It’s hard to present a history here, or a full description of this awesome place.  If you are interested in more information please go to other web sites that give that information.  The tour for me was a visual, emotional, and visceral experience.  I felt connected to the elements of the sandstone, trees, and streams, the wind and the colors.  The history was secondary to my wonder about this place.

Spinning Rock

Window Rock

Spider Rock

Cottonwood Grove

Golden Trees

Virginia Creeper

Our tour guide was a Navajo man named Ron.  He did a fine job driving through the pathway (it’s not exactly a road!) and offering us the story of the canyon’s history, adding in some humor along the way.  On our way back to the lodge we had a flat tire, which Ron quickly and efficiently changed.  He’s been doing these tours since the mid to late 90s.  So he’s had plenty of experience.  He said he’s had up to three flat tires in one trip.  Lucky for us we had only one flat tire!

New tire goes on

We arrived back at the lodge just before dinner time.  After getting cleaned up a little we had an early dinner and rested in our rooms.  I guess i was over-tired, and sore, so I had trouble getting to sleep.  In addition my roommate was suffering with allergies and unfortunately for me, she snored all night, keeping me awake until the early morning hours.  I finally fell asleep around 3:30 a.m. with a planned ‘wake up’ at 6:30 a.m.

Gift Shop

Our group left after breakfast, around 8 a.m. Mountain Time and headed for the South Rim drive to view the canyon from the overlooks.  I’m so glad we did this as it afforded a totally different perspective of the canyon. Awesome!

After viewing the canyon from the overlooks we began our trek back to Tucson.  We stopped in Show Low for lunch and in Globe for gas and a snack, and arrived in Tucson around 7 p.m.  When I got home I dropped my bags and turned on the computer to download my photos. I took a couple of pain tablets and went to bed, and slept like a baby!

I’m so glad I had this opportunity to see Canyon de Chelly, one of the spots I wanted to see while traveling in the RV, but didn’t get there.  I took over 350 photos, so it’s hard to select only a few to give a good idea of the place.  Perhaps this will be a place you will want to see for yourself!

4 thoughts on “Canyon de Chelly Adventure”

  1. Darn it! I should have given you money to buy something for me at the gift shop! The pictures thrill me as I may never get there in person. If I did I doubt I could handle the rough ride…horseback would suit me better. It is the rocks for me – I connect with rock formations on several reservations. It seems like elders surrounding me with their protective arms. I can actually feel them.

  2. For those traveling in RVs, there’s a pretty nice free campground there that can accommodate rigs up to about 35 feet. They have a visitors center.
    The ride isn’t rough if you view the canyon from the raods above.
    Also, for people not from the area, it is pronounced Canyon de Shay.
    Nice pictures, Su.

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