Today, Friday, is our last full day here in the Southwest. Eager to see the sights, we rolled out of our toasty sleepingbags and were on our way to Canyon de Chelly National Park in neighboring Arizona. I think I can speak for the group by assuming that our “off” day served as an educational experience all on its own. After a two hour drive west, we found ourselves peering over the edge of huge red boulders and onto the canyon floor. Each lookout provided a entirely new perspective on this massive cut through the plateau. Many of us were in awe at the sights that are specific to this region, and are not likely photo opportunities in rain forest-esque Portland, sunny California, or farscaping Japan. We were all excited to spend time in the landscape that we had learned was a symbolic and necessary aspect of native culture.
By mid-afternoon, we found ourselves trekking down a muddle mile and a half trail to the canyon floor. The farther we walked down the trail, the smaller and smaller we began to feel. Once we reached the bottom, most heads were arched upward, trying to take in the massive size of the surrounding canyon walls. Native tribes had spent the past 5,000 years living in this canyon, and as we passed agricultural fields and hogans, we saw the evidence of present habitation. Although the area is a national park, private ownership by tribal members gives the park a unique edge. Our walk ended at White Horse Ruins where remnants of Anastazi pueblos are driven into the side of the canyon. Cameras, that which flew out of our pockets, documented the interesting structures. Art sellers at the ruins served as valuable information on the region.
The canyon was an amazing combination of present and past peoples, all melded into one landscape.