Wednesday, May 20, 2009
We got back to Raleigh on May 19th. Bill the rode the Divisidero trail outside of Taos, New Mexico, where we also visited an old mission church that has been well kept. From New Mexico, we pretty much drove I-40 all the way back. We did stop for a few days in Palo Duro State Park in Texas which has some great mountain biking. They also have some big wild turkeys that woke us up with their mating displays and gobbling. We stopped at Red Canyon State Park in Oklahoma which was actually more of a big ditch than a canyon, but again, this is Oklahoma which is supposed to be flat as a pancake, so I guess that they can call it a canyon. We did a brief stop over in the Osark Mountains of Arkansas where a group of armadillos wandered through our camp. I wonder where we we will go next.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
We spent three days camped at the Black Canyon Forest Service campground just a few miles outside of Santa Fe. We hiked a trail out of the campground and spent a day touring the Governor's Palace - the oldest continually occupied public building in the country ( since 1610!) Bill rode the "Dale Ball" mountain bike trail system as well as part of the Winsor Trail, considered to be one of the best and most challenging rides in New Mexico. To ride bikes on trails out here, you need to bring lots of water and have thorn proof tires.
Bandelier National Monument is northwest of Santa Fe and like Canyon de Chelly, it contains a beautiful green canyon where Native Americans and their ancestors have lived for centuries. The unique thing about this area is the fact that the Indians enlarged the caves that are naturally formed in the volcanic layers by erosion. They built peublo structures in front of these caves to form multiple storied buildings high on the south facing wall of the canyon. One of the sites, Alcove House, we reached by climbing up a series of wooden ladders until we were 150 feet up the cliff face. The bottom of this canyon had a beautiful little creek shaded by groves of cottonwood and ponderosa pine trees.
Venturing further south still on the largest Native American reservation in the country, we arrive at Chinle Arizona. This is a small town at the mouth of an idylic, oasis-like complex of canyons that stretch nearly forty miles. Again access is only permitted while accompanied by Navajo guides. This catch is that there are no roads into the canyons! Access is only through a sandy wash which while dry most of the time, was completely flooded during our visit. The guide companies use war surplus all wheel drive troop trucks to haul their vistors through the water and sand. There were times that I thought that we were on a boat rather than a truck. The canyon is full of ruins dating from around 1,000 years old to some more recent. There are also innumerable pictographs and petroglyphs dating from the Anasazi period to more modern Navajo occupation of the area. This is a unique national park since it is administrated by the National Park Service, but the land itself is actually owned by Navajos whose ancesters have farmed the small plots for centuries.
As we did in Arizona two years ago, we again almost stepped right on a rattle snake during our tour with Gary, our Navajo guide. He said that he rarely saw one, but that he wanted to gently remove it from the area since he did not want anyone to encounter it the next time he brought people to the area.
After a quick stop at Goosenecks SP where we saw an incredible view of the meandering Colorado River (this is the spot where Thelma and Louise drove off the cliff in the movie), we entered the Navajo Indian Resevation and Monument
Valley. We camped right at the edge of one of the most breath taking views in the world. The local wild dogs imediately came over to ask for a handout. That afternoon we hired a Navajo guide, Gary, to take us into Mystery Valley, one of the lesser visited parts of the reservation and only available to outsiders if accompanied by a native guide. We spent four hours climbing into caves and stone arches containing Anasazi ruins dating back almost 1,000 years. We savored the quiet of desert and the awsome landscape. Gary added to the moment by chanting in his native toungue and playing his cedar flute.