27 April 2010

Who Weeps For The Canyon

[...continued from Long Walk of Barboncito - see previous post]

Beyond the Painted Desert, much of the far northeast of Arizona is barren and not particularly scenic as the land forms wide empty valley and scrub covered mesas.

Much of the area is Hopi Indian territory; however, most of the northeast is Navajo land including the small town of Chinle, AZ, the gateway to Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

This little known canyon is not as spectacular as others in Arizona and Utah but it does have sheer sandstone walls rising up to 1000 feet, several scenic overlooks, many well preserved Anasazi ruins and an insight into the present day life of the Navajo who still inhabit and cultivate the valley floor.

Last time on Land of the Zia, your intrepid traveler had just walked down to what he thought was the floor of Canyon de Chelly.

Continuing on the path; however, I find a cave... a cave that turns into a tunnel that would lead me back in time over 800 years...........

Upon exiting the tunnel you walk into a wash of sunlight. Into a fertile and serene valley. Home of Barboncito and the Navajo people for over 300 years.

But this is just the beginning...

Not only is this the home of the Navajo but it was also home to the Anasazi, the Ancient ones. The culture that the 21 tribes of New Mexico descended from.

My quest is to find The White House.

The 'other' White House that is said to lie at the end of this particular trail. The ruins of The Ancient Ones.

I have arrived here in early spring. The canyon is just beginning its rebirth. Trees are starting to turn green again. The river is flowing. Life returns.

As I approach the back of the canyon, I find what I am looking for.

The western White House ruins.

It is at this point a sad reality sets in:

178 miles east of here lies Chaco Culture and a debate on whether or not to pave the roads to the site allowing more accessibility.

One visit to Canyon de Chelly and you find your answer.

The White House ruins lie behind a fence prohibiting the public from getting a close view. This is due to the fact that soooo many people have access to the park with well paved roads.

At Chaco you have to drive 21 miles of unpaved washboard roads to get there. This deters many travelers and allows the site to remain clean and well preserved.

When I was at Chaco last, I did not see ONE iota of trash. You were also allowed to walk into and among the ruins. This was a FACINATING experience.

But here, in Canyon de Chelly, there are empty bottles, food containers, trash and graffiti all around you.

It was very heart breaking to see such a beautiful and historic place destroyed by modern man.

The over commercialization is also visible by the native 'market place' along the river bank. Here Navajo's sell their wares. I am ambivalent about this. On one hand it is cool to be able to purchase authentic hand crafted jewelry, pots and paintings for a fraction of what you would pay in Santa Fe [yes, I purchased two pieces] but at the same time the canyon is becoming trashed. But this is the Navajo homeland and it is ultimately up to them.

The park is managed by the national park system in conjunction with the Navajo tribe.

There is no admission fee yet the price the canyon is paying is way too high.

I start my solemn walk back.

The beauty of this place is amazing.

All in all, not a bad way to spend my birthday...doing what I love.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed in the things you didn't do then by the things you did do. So throw off the bowliness. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails."




-- Mark Twain