Thursday, July 19, 2012

Navajo National Monument

Wednesday, July 18

After leaving Desert View, we exited the park and continued east, where we passed Cameron and Tuba City. About 30 miles north of Tuba City is the turnoff for Navajo National Monument. For over 20 years we've passed this turnoff, and have said over and over that someday we'd stop here. This time it was the perfect location for a stop (especially since we like shorter days now).  Navajo National Monument is 10 miles up a nice paved road, and sits at 7200 feet on the Shonto Plateau. There are several huge canyons that are part of the Tsegi Canyon system - miles and miles of Navajo Sandstone. I never knew this was here! 

The monument protects and preserves three major Indian Ruins, two of which are semi-accessible to the public. Inscription House is closed to the public - it's in the shallowest alcove, and is therefore the most fragile. Keet Seel is open only to hikers who sign up in advance for the 17-mile round trip hike. Once they get to the ruins, they have to be led through by a ranger. Most hikers stay overnight at a primitive tent campground before they hike back to the main part of the park. I asked where Keet Seel was on the map, and the ranger at the visitor center said they don't show it since it's off-limits except to the ones who sign up.  He also mentioned that they often get people here who think they're going to Monument Valley. 

Betatakin is close to the visitor center. There's a paved hiking trail from the visitor center - 1.3 miles round trip - that goes to a viewpoint across the canyon from the alcove.

Looking west towards the top of the canyon - all the sandstone is Navajo Sandstone.

The path we took. See the canyons ahead?
First glimpse of Betatakin

The alcove in the center is where Betatakin is.

Home for about 75 people back in the late 1200s.

Free binoculars to view the ruins.
We had hoped that the high altitude would mean cooler temps - but it was HOT today. We're in the free campground provided by the park - there are 3 sites large enough for our trailer. Ours is a bit slanted, even after levelling, but it's just for one night so it'll do.

We spent the afternoon sitting in our chairs chasing the shade. The door side of our trailer was getting the sun full-on, so it wasn't cool enough to go inside until about 7 pm. 

Sleep was difficult - we never needed any covers at all since it stayed pretty warm.

Thursday, July 19

Happy Birthday to my big brother Chuck!

We decided to not cook breakfast this morning - and went the 20 miles to Kayenta where we ate at McDonald's.  When we left the restaurant, an old woman sitting in a car yelled (nicely) at us that she had jewelry for sale.  We said "no thanks" and continued towards the truck. Three men were sitting in the shade nearby, and one came over to ask for $ so he could eat. We said no, and he went back to his friends. We saw them taking turns asking people for $.  Then, after we got in the truck, another man knocked on our window and held up a gas can. He said his truck was out of gas and wanted us to give him a gallon. Don thinks he saw our 5-gallon cans in the back of the truck (locked inside the camper shell). Once again, we said no.  I think that if we had said yes to one, or showed interest in the jewelry, we might not have made it out of the parking lot without being approached by many more. It's a very sad situation there in Kayenta. It wasn't like that the many times we've been there before - must be the economy.

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