The White House Ruins Trail was the highlight of the whole canyon for me. Even though it was amazing to behold the Anasazi structures from the rim, they still felt remote. The distance from the observation points as well as our contemporary surroundings kept them that way. But with every step into the canyon, modern life slowly began to slip away while a much older one replaced it.
The ruins trail descended one and a half miles from the rim to the White House Ruins on the canyon floor. The steep switchbacks were soon swallowed up by the stunning beauty of the red swirling sandstone rock which rose from the canyon floor and surrounded us. Each swirl represented the angular directions of the geological layers down the canyon wall. They reminded me of red whipped cream. These crimson rock formations, contrasting with the deep blue sky, were the most beautiful part of the whole canyon for me. Carved into some of them were petroglyphs of fish, deer and people, reminding us on our downward journey of the ancients that once occupied this region.
We reached the valley in no time and walked the short distance to the White House Ruins. There were two sets of ruins here. One was sandwiched into a long crack in the cliffs, similar to many of the ruins which we had viewed from the rim. The other, however, was on the canyon floor, hard against the wall and protected by a modern chain-link fence.
Although in disrepair, it was easy to make out the square, rectangular and circular remains of buildings, because bare walls were still standing. Some appeared to have been two stories tall and their doorways and windows were noticeable. In fact, some of the white plaster that was once used on the structures was still remaining, thus giving this structure the name, “White House Ruins.”
My imagination was sparked. While my husband went off to take pictures of the dwelling, I sat on a log and soaked up the splendor of the crumbling bricks. I envisioned life so long ago. Who really were the Anazasi? Why and how did they build their homes so high into the clefts of the rocks? How did they even reach them? Why did the Anazasi leave them to fall to ruin? The more questions I raised, the more puzzling Canyon De Chelly became.
The hike back went much slower but I was in no hurry to leave. Again, I reveled in the beauty of the giant red swirling rocks. We met a young Navajo boy, also on his way out of the canyon. We learned that his home was in the canyon and that he makes hiking to the rim and back a daily ritual. How wonderful to have such a gorgeous piece of nature for a backyard!
To everyone who loves nature and history with a bit of mystery, I recommend visiting Canyon De Chelly National Monument and hiking the White House Ruins Trail. That trail was a memorable experience for me. Not only was I able to be physically and emotionally in tune with the natural world and an ancient time, simultaneously, but I was also able to momentarily escape modern life for a peek into the mysterious past of the Anazasi, the “ancient ones.”