Desert Adventures

The Path of the Just

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Cliff Dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument, Arizona

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The LORD is my shepherd

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Teddy Bear Cholla

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This photo was taken in the Arizona Desert on Route 66 near Oatman, Arizona. I located a picture of this same plant on a website regarding desert life. Near as I can tell, this cactus is classified as Cylindropuntia bigelovii, but more affectionately called “Teddy Bear Cholla.”

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Cactus Flowers

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Photo taken in the Arizona Desert on Route 66 near Oatman, Arizona. (March 2016)

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Psalm 23:4

Sand Dunes at Death Valley National Park, California

Sand Dunes at Death Valley National Park, California

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Matthew 11:28

Oasis at Furnace Creek Inn, Death Valley National Park.

Oasis at Furnace Creek Inn, Death Valley National Park.

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Psalm 61:2

Cliff Dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Cliff Dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

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The Ruins of Canyon de Chelly, Conclusion

White House Ruins Trailhead

White House Ruins Trailhead

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.

White House Ruins Trail

White House Ruins Trail

Red Rock along the White House Ruins Trail

Red Rock along the White House Ruins Trail

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.

Fish Petroglyphs

Fish Petroglyphs

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.

White House Ruins

White House Ruins

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.”

White House Ruins

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!

Leaving the Ruins Behind (Chinle Wash)

Leaving the Ruins Behind (Chinle Wash)

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.”

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Psalm 27:5

Cliff Dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Cliff Dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

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The Ruins of Canyon de Chelly, Part 3

Sliding House Ruins

Sliding House Ruins

We skipped the next rim stop, the White House Overlook and Trail, postponing it until the end of the day as we journeyed on to Sliding House, Face Rock and Spider Rock Overlooks.

Like a glacier braking off into the ocean during the Spring thaw, the large flat pink rocks, which once held the ancient Anazasi masonry, had slipped down the side of the canyon wall and were scattered about in piles just below the cliff’s shelf at Sliding House Overlook. Only partial rock walls remained with their flat sides still attached to the cliff and the rough, deteriorating sides facing us.

Face Rock Ruins

Face Rock Ruins

The scent of pine, mingled with cooler air, was a pleasant surprise for us at Face Rock Overlook. Shadows along the north slope of the canyon wall shaded snow-covered Piñon pines. Scattered along this wall, these trees spilled down into the valley, where they eventually joined the cottonwoods. Ruins, tucked into long jagged cracks in the wall of the other side of the canyon, provided more photo opportunities for us.

Snow-Covered Pines

Snow-Covered Pines

Spider Rock

Spider Rock

At Spider Rock Overlook, we searched in vain for a rock resembling a spider. Instead, we discovered two smooth red and black monoliths of different sizes joined together and rising over 800 feet from the canyon floor. We soon learned that these magnificent twin towers of sandstone were named Spider Rock due to Navajo lore.

According to legend, Spider Woman once lived on top of this rock and taught the Navajo how to weave. The children, however, were afraid of her because they were told that the white residue on top of the rock tower represented the bones of bad children who in times past had been devoured by Spider Woman.

Spider Rock Ruins

Spider Rock Ruins

Large arch openings framed some of the ruins at this location. Unlike the ruins we had previously viewed, these were not sandwiched into rock cracks. Rather, they were built inside fairly large caves, resembling bee hives. They were considerably higher off the canyon floor than the others. I exhausted my brain deciphering how the ancients entered their abodes.

This completed our rim tour. As excited as I was to have viewed these early remains from this position, I was now anxious to get a closer view by hiking into the canyon on the White House Ruins Trail, our final destination at Canyon De Chelly.

To be concluded next Monday…

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