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The only thing we planned was to meet Ina and Allan (folks from the Nanaimo Park we stayed in that Vancouver Island winter) in Butte, MT and decide from there.
Avoiding the Salt Lake City traffic fiasco had been desirable but I & A wanted to do the Canyon thing so our non-planned adventure changed direction.
Off to Utah and the Canyon area; the Arches around Moab, UT; Canyon de Chelly, AZ; and so forth. This area of the States gives you a taste of what happens after millions and millions of years of climate change and is a paradise for geology and archaeology enthusiasts alike.
Arches National Park is just north of Moab, UT. I do keep forgetting how commercial some of these places can be. Moab is another tourist town. From what I could see, it caters to those "Canyoneer" types - young, VERY physically fit – that hike, tent, buy L. L. Bean clothes and equipment, drink Cappuccino, and frequent expensive eating places. Beyond that, the Arches (Arches National Park) is another natural phenomena.
Apparently, there are massive salt beds underneath the park that resulted from evaporation of the sea water that covered the area about 300 millions years ago. As the climate and natural forces changed, much of the debris was compressed into rock and the salt layer shifted, buckled, liquefied and reposited itself, thrusting some of the rock up into domes and down in cavities. Underground faults resulted in vertical cracks. The movement of the salt layers and surface erosion helps create the environment we see.
Gigantic tall, narrow phallic towers grow up from nowhere and dot the landscape where you least expect them. The process continues . . . you can just imagine all the power and forces that must have existed to create all the waves, windows (holes) and arches.
The Four Corners – is where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet. A rather unspectacular site: as one fellow put it “it was hardly worth the cost of the gas to get there”, but then you could say that you had been there.
At the Arches NP, I had watched a gal from Europe photograph her silver teddy bear in front of the various formations and thought it looked like a fun idea so Nikita (my black Russian seal fur teddy bear) took centre stage at the Four Corners. That gave it a bit more interest. They are trying to liven up the site and are building structures to house venders all along the outside the perimeter of the monument.
Now Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a totally different story. I must admit it comes in a very close second to Zion, my most favourite canyon area.
It is unique in that, even though it is a National Park, it is on Navajo lands and very much controlled by this First Peoples Nation.
There are no fees to enter the park or stay at the campground. They call Canyon de Chelly National Park a labyrinth of canyons. Canyon del Muerto is the north leg and Canyon de Chelly is the south leg of the National Monument and each branches out into smaller, less significant canyons. You can tour along the North and the South Rims unescorted but you must have a Native guide to travel down into the canyon or explore any of the ruins except the White House. There are many Overlook (lookout) sites situated on both rims to view the canyons below and the ruins across on the other side of the rim.
It is not difficult to pick out the various geological layering in the canyon. They have found plant fossils that give evidence that about 280 million years ago this area was subtropical. Over the next few hundred thousand years the climate changed from subtropical to desert thus creating the de Chelly sandstone, then the conglomerate layers. Massive shifts in the earth's crust along with the forces of mountain building, stream cutting, wind and erosion resulted in canyons we see today.
The reminiscent of campsites date back to between 2500 and 200 B.C. but the farming and communities and then villages began to appear around 200 B.C. and dispersed after 1300 A.D. Even so, there are still Navajo who live and farm in the Canyon today.
So many of the ruins are built into the cliffs, they say for defence as well as protection. The only trail you are allowed on without a guide is from the top of the South Rim to the White House Ruins. They think the first structures were constructed by the Anasazi, a farming people who preceded the Pueblo, Hopi and Navajo (also connected to the Athabascans) around 1040 A.D from a rather crude masonry style called Kayenta.
The cliff dwellings were built first and then the canyon floor structures with rooms that were built up to reach within 4 feet of the upper level. At its prime, this community contained as many as 80 rooms inhabited by 10 to 12 families . . . from 50 to 60 people.
Evidence indicates that the "kivas" (circular rooms) were used for religious ceremonies similar to those Pueblo, Hopi and Navajo of today.
Spider Rock rises about 800 feet above the surface at the junction of Canyon de Chelly and Monument Canyon. a lesser spiral to the west is called the Face Rock.
A Navajo story tells how Face Rock would inform the Spider Woman (a holy woman who lived on top of the Spider Rock) about naughty children. She would then carry the children to the top of the Rock. The story goes that the white band near to top of the taller of the Spider Rock spirals represents the bones of the bad children eaten by the Spider Woman.
The Navajo have many wonderful stories.