The Adventure: Canyon de Chelly


Sunrise Canyon de Chelly

The morning of my adventure, the day had dawned like all the others. Across the vast horizon, the sun slowly rose to its place of honor. The golden orb reflected rays of light that painted the desert in warm, vibrant colors. A cloudless blue sky stretched across the skyline then suddenly tipped and touched the rugged, open lands. Nearby an elderly Navaho woman shouted ancient commands to her dogs as she moved her herd of sheep and goats to precious grazing grounds. Another breathtaking morning had dawned on the Navaho Reservation in Chinle, Arizona. 

Impatiently, I hurried through morning chores, so I could explore the local sites. After climbing into my old ’67 blue and white Ford pickup, I soon bounded along one dusty road after another. Living on the reservation was an experience of a lifetime. Knowing my time was limited, I did not want to waste one precious moment.


Chinle Wash

While driving along the rim of the Canyon de Chelly, several outcroppings offered an amazing view of the river valley and the Chinle Wash. To my delight, mysterious ancient dwelling of the Anasazi hugged the canyon walls. My excitement mounted, yet the day had just begun. I could not even begin to imagine what the day held in store. The ancient valley held wondrous secrets. Unknowingly, I would soon step into the mysterious past of ancient people and behold the craftsmanship of long ago. My adventure would transport me back into time. My adventure would forever make me curious about the Ancient Ones and stir a passion within me to learn more about them.

Entrance to the trail that leads to the White House Ruin

Meanwhile, by accident, I discovered a trail that promised to lead me to the White House Ruin, a long abandoned Anasazi dwelling. The journey to the site whispered of adventure. Wandering along the shelf of the ravine, the steep path pressed against the walls of the canyon. Dry, heat-scorched earth disappeared as the rich fertile valley of Canyon de Chelly came into view.

Like a brown velvet ribbon, the path wound around the canyon walls. Approaching the valley floor, I noticed doves fluttering in and out of the basin. A red-tailed hawk soared in the distance. With the rising heat, the native animals, deer, black bears, raccoons, coyotes, and mountain lions, rested in the inviting shade of the many cottonwood trees, eaves and overhangs.

Everywhere I looked, I found some new pleasure. After rounding a bend a Navaho Hogan came into view. Merrily, I laughed with delight, for a goat happily grazed on the native grasses that grew on the roof of the earth covered dwelling. Quickly, my attention soon focused on the tinkling sound of laughter as children sped past me. Beautiful copper skinned children, arms laden with inner tubes, raced to the Chinle Wash to tube along the muddy waters. Slowly, not to miss a single detail, I followed the laughing children.

Soon, I too reached the slow moving river and gaped with pleasure, for across the “wash,” the White House Ruin proudly loomed. Ancient dwellings nestled close to the canyon wall. A mysterious presence filled the canyon and surrounded me. Changing emotions flowed through me. My adventure had transported me back in time; the very presence of the Anasazi still filled the arroyo.

Swiftly, I pulled off my boots and socks. After rolling up my blue jeans, I carefully tested the water. Quietly, I waded into the water, so I would not disturb my ancient “hosts.” As I crossed over to the other side, I had entered another world.

White House Ruins

In truth, I will never forget my journey that day; it was a day like no other. I entered in to the presence of a lost people. I walked along a sandy riverbank where the ancient ones worked and visited, and their children played. I viewed the mysterious paintings that decorated the canyon walls for many centuries. I ran my hands along primitive adobe walls that have withstood time, nature and even man. The Anasazi’s noble presence swirled around me. Feeling humbled and somewhat unnerved, I flinched at the sound of the wind whispering through the gorge. I half expected to see my mysterious hosts suddenly return to their native dwellings. Everywhere I turned, and everywhere I walked, their presence magically touched me. The mysterious people have forever teased my senses and captured my imagination. I will never know enough about them.

My time spent in Canyon de Chelly was like no other day. Time too swiftly sped by. When the time had come to return to town, I did not want to leave. Something held me there. The Ancient Ones charmed me, and I know a part of me, like the Ancient Ones, will always roam among the desert canyon and ancient structures. When I close my eyes and daydream, I once again find myself at a trail head that leads me on a timeless journey: an adventure that transports me back across the barriers of time.

Sunset – Chinle, Arizona

April, 1982

One thought on “The Adventure: Canyon de Chelly

  1. What a wonderfully written piece, Ann Marie.

    Many moons ago (way too many), while in grad school, I taught for a month (January) at the Navajo Reservation. One of my weekend excursions was to Canyon de Chelly. We arrived early that cold winter morning and hiked up through the snow to the White House Overlook. Other than our small group, no one else was around. When we arrived at the overlook, all chatter ceased. We stood silently, looking in awe at the ruins.

    Thank you for sparking my memory of that beautiful, tranquil morning.

    Liked by 1 person

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