Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley Meteor Crater
Canyon de Chelly is a National Monument that lies to the Southeast of Arizona near the “4-Points” (Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado) deep in the Navajo Nation. From Flagstaff, it’s a solid 3-hour drive so gas up completely and set your course before you leave as you’ll likely lose reception unless you have one of the preferred mobile carriers of the Navajo Nation (link). I wanted to see a place I had saw online called “Spider Rock” which was the most notable of Canyon de Chelly’s historic sites. Along the way, I got to see the gorgeous mountains and valleys of the Navajo Nation. There were colossal terracotta buttes that commanded the horizon along with a seemingly infinite number of rocky foothills, granite crags, blue sky, and desaturated lime-green, saguaro cactus. I was also able to take a more subtle mental note at how sparse the living seemed to be of the land’s inhabitants. I couldn’t properly tell if the distance, not only of the homes but also of the social infrastructure (grocery stores, schools, community centers, etc…) were intentionally so sparse for cultural reasons or because of communal access to wealth. Driving through the Navajo Nation was both an incredibly humbling experience, but also smacked of a sort of melancholy that was always on the edge of the mountains, just before the occasional trailer in disrepair or apparent lack of…everything. I couldn’t help but think about how their people got this land. I mean that with the fullness and gravity of the words. America’s history with its indigenous people is ugly, full stop. The atrocities they underwent compared to the coordination and daftness of their people to negotiate some of it back and the communial attempt was astonishing to take in.
In the Navajo Nation, I saw lots of horses roaming about freely. They had age to them but seemed happy, wild.
In a complete show of how plugged in I am, I probably went slack-jaw when I saw a Circle K and a Burger King come upon on a critical round-a-bout turn on the way up to Canyon de Chelly. It’s like I wanted to see it; it’s like I didn’t want to see it. I’m sure the native people might have this same sort of cognitive gripe. Gas is necessary, for sure but it looks odd set against such beautiful land. Nonetheless, I was a little before a half-tank, but I wasn’t going to risk driving without a sense of when I’d come across a gas station again. I filled up, got refreshed, and continued on my trek.