After a fun family filled Memorial Day, Tim and I packed up the van to head north. We had 10 days to make the drive back to Jackson in time for meetings in June. We could take our time.
First stop – Flagstaff. We’d been through this Arizona city a few times before, but it was always too early for good mountain biking. Now that we were arriving in late May, we knew it would be better. We spent our next 3 days exploring Mt Eldon and Fort Valley Trails (thanks to the knowledgeable advice from the exceptional staff at Absolute Bikes) and working at our favorite coffee shop, Macy’s.
But we couldn’t dawdle so by Friday we were back on the road. We decided to take a detour from our typical northern route in order to explore Arizona’s eastern corner, an area neither Tim nor I had seen. We took the suggestion from our AWESOME Arizona photography book (we love this book) and drove into the boondocks of Chinle just outside of Canyon de Chelly (pronounced d’Shay) at 10 pm to camp. Our goal was morning sunrise over Hope Arch, a rarely visited geological masterpiece in a remote sagebrush filled field 5 miles outside of town.
The 5 am wakeup paid off with a spectacular morning hike. We then drove out of the desert for breakfast at Thunderbird Lodge and a day of exploration of Canyon de Chelly.
For 5000 years, Canyon de Chelly have been one of the longest continually inhabited locales in North America. From the ancient Anasazi to its current Navajo residents, Canyon de Chelly is a spectacular and dramatic timeline of Native American architecture and culture.
With limited access to the Canyon bottom without a local guide, we explored the ruins with a telephoto from the rim.
Despite today’s tranquil feel, Canyon de Chelly’s history is not a peaceful one. Here massacres of the Navajo occurred through the 1860’s until the natives were forcibly marched 400 miles by foot to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico for internment. Here they remained for 4 years until they were finally allowed to return to their homes.
Tim and I sat on the canyon rim for an hour as we waited for the sun to shine over the Mummy House and read the history of Canyon de Chelly. As we talked, we were joined by another couple. We started to chat and it didn’t take long to be blown away by how much we had in common. Mark and Emily are fellow travelers who spend 1/2 the year in their RV exploring the States and the other half in their gorgeous 44 foot Hunter sailboat in the Baja. Mark even rides the identical model Ellsworth Mountain Bike as Tim.
We camped together that night and hiked to the White House the next morning, trading sailing tales and camping advice.
After our hike to White House with Emily and Mark, Tim and I were back on the road again. We drove north towards Moab but not before stopping for our gratuitous tourist shot at Four Corners. We smiled for the camera with feet in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.