“…the experience is breathtaking on many levels.”
How about riding a Navaho horse, with a Navaho guide, into the second largest canyon in the US? How about seeing evidence of civilizations that lived centuries before Columbus discovered America? The canyon is Canyon de Chelley in the northeast corner of Arizona, and the experience is breathtaking on many levels. You see ruins of Native American culture, the Anasazi, a civilization that mysteriously disappeared around 1200 AD. You ride close to petroglyphs and pictrographs that recorded their lives and observations in and on stone walls of the canyon. You also see the ruins of their graineries (rock storehouses where they kept their corn safe), and the footholds carved high up the canyon walls to reach where they lived in mud brick dwellings, safe from animals, enemies, and flash floods. Your guide explains how all these sights came to be…and weaves in the lives of the Navaho people that live there today.
You enter the canyon in the morning, have a picnic lunch in the midst of these wonders, and by late afternoon you have reached your camp site for the night. This is another level of breathtaking because we are camped beneath a canyon wall, surrounded by a field of daisies. Our horses are released to wander amid the area below. Our 2-person tents are in a semi circle, and outfitted with foam-padded cots, luxuriously soft down sleeping bags, towels, battery lights, and an adjacent table that has a mirror, toiletry items, pitcher of water, and basin. There is also a portable shower with hot water, lovely soap and lotions, located a discreet distance from the tents.
In the center of the camp area a table is set with china and crystal, complete with fresh flowers! Our outfitter, Bruce Sawyer, also the owner of Touch the Southwest, is making hors d’oeuvres of brie and pear on tortillas..with a gourmet dinner of grilled salmon waiting in the wings. It should be mentioned that Bruce is a Culinary Institute of America chef…so you can believe the meals are exceptional. Australian wines compliment, and flow freely. Dinner finishes around a roaring campfire, where chocolates and port wine are passed, while a Navaho storyteller narrates the age-old lore of the canyon and how things came to be. Two nights are spent in the canyon, both of them memorable on historical and sensual levels. The horses allow us to travel the entire length of the canyon. Other tourists come in 4-wheel drive vehicles or huge overland carriers, look around the first part of the canyon, and leave after a few hours. Our campsites are accessible only by the horses, so night fall finds us in an empty canyon, with the silence, the stars, and this time, a full moon.
The third morning we ride out of the canyon..a winding rocky path that is a thrill in itself! The horses are left at their ranch and we get into our civilized suburbans and drive to the Hopi Reservation. We meet Gary, one of 2 Hopi guides with access to the second largest petroglyph in North America, painted from 300 to 1100 AD. It tells of the lives of the former desert dwellers. Gary has guided photographers and writers from National Geographic. We gain a history of the Hopi civilization thru walking “Old Oraibi”, and visiting a protected ruin of a Spanish village, amid the lithic scatter of pottery chards from many centuries.
The days are a history lesson of American, the West and the Native American culture that came before us. All in all it is a hands-on experience that only Bruce Sawyer and his incredible contacts can provide.