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 > Returning to Canyon De Chelly

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Centennial Colorado

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Posted: 05/16/12 06:32am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Returning to Canyon De Chelly

Retuning to the places of great attraction to us is some thing we relish doing.
We got our first truck camper in 1966. We have been to a lot of places and we liked all the trips. Certain of the "grand views" strike an emotional note that sings in our memories. We return to these places to see more, find different light, maybe experience the "Magic Moment" of atmospherics and light that happens so rarely. You have to be out a lot to see these moments and be ready to capture the scene with your camera or just your mind. By returning to a great place, you have a good idea when the time of day is best.

I am fortunate that my wife of 58 years has patience to wait with me for the right photographic light and not ask, "when are you going to be finished".

Not all the return trips have a pleasant outcome. The secret places have been discovered by herds of people or new "developments" have poisoned the atmosphere. Maybe the weather does not favor you.

On May 5th we started a reprise trip to Canyon De Chelly in northeastern Arizona. We have been there four or five times beginning in the spring of 1967 during our kid's spring break. The last time was 2006 when we took friends on the truck trip up the canyon bottom. As I thought about it, it had been a long time since I photographed the overlooks on the rim. That was to be the main purpose of the visit. Much of my original film had faded with time before it could be scanned.
Canyon De Chelly (pronounced d'Shay) has been lived in for about 5000 years by different peoples. The Navajo are the latest and have been there for 300 years.. The Anasazi built the stone structures for which the canyon is famous.

We had a pleasant drive to Bloomfield, NM from Colorado.

Our first night was spent at The Desert Rose RV Resort listening to a barking dog that cracked the night slumber until four o'clock in the morning. I kept waiting for a gunshot to silence the beast. Management must be deaf or the wretched cur was not on their property. Either way, we wont be back.

An interesting feature of the "Resort" was the largest cottonwood we have ever seen.

We estimate it is some 30 feet in circumference.

RVers have a lot of worries about leaky roofs. Here is a solution:

I wonder what this does to fuel mileage,

Going west on Hwy 64 we enter the Navajo Reservation, and off to the south is famous Ship Rock near the town of Shiprock.

We notice the usual vast numbers of lost items decorating the highway.

Not everyone on the reservation approves of the glittering roadside.

Just past Mexican Water AZ we turned south on Hwy 191. We are back in the wonderful red sandstone country. It is about 65 miles to Chinle as the road follows the Chinle Wash most of the way.

We stopped at the Canyon De Chelly National Monument Visitor Center where we look down on Cottonwood Campground. The camp offers lots of shade.

We find a nice level spot and reminisce about old times.

Our second time at De Chelly was in 1967. Our first TC was an Open Road on a 1966 F250. Margot, baby John, Martha and Sarah (who will be 55 yrs this June).

After we found our site we headed up the North Rim Drive.

Mummy Cave Overlook.

Mummy Cave

Antelope house Overlook

Margot facing a heavy wind.

We went back to camp for some "adult beverages" and dinner. The night delightfully quiet with nary a bark. It is a dry campground which is just fine with TCers. We "don't need no stinking hookups".

At morning light we vectored to the South Rim. I hoped to get some images before the clouds became disruptive. A few clouds are a good thing, but heavy unmoving blotters turn the landscape flat, reducing the appearance of form.

The South Rim Drive. The first stop was Tunnel Overlook

Tsegi Overlook

I wait for the light at Spider Rock.

Spider Rock Overlook

Spider Rock 2012

1967 Spider Rock. John must have been sleeping in the camper. He wasn't much for walking at 6 months old.

2012, Margot studies the scene.

We moved to the White House Overlook, and the clouds have move in.

A closer view show the white wall to the rear, thus the name White House.

Looking up stream from White House Ruin.

This guy came to see use. It is either a Sharp Shinned hawk or a Peregrine Falcon. Not being a "birder" I'm not certain.

In years past we have taken the truck trip up the canyon bottom with Navajo guides. It is a superlative ride. We highly recommend it.

1968 , John does not remember it.

The wisdom of a different culture lined the face of this wonderful Navajo woman.

2006 We came with friends. The same old military trucks were still being used. Interestingly the truck run in a low gear without brakes. They simply shut down the engine to stop. The brakes had to be removed because the daily running in sand ate them up.

1974 Spider Rock from the bottom.

1974 White House Ruin

Calm green against the fiery sandstone.



1967 we hiked to the White House from the rim trail. This is the only place you can go without a guide. Margot carried John, I carried 40 lbs of camera gear, and the girls carried food and water.

Our children grew up traveling and camping. Our grandchildren are doing the same with their parents. They are all good people.

2008 SD F450 Pickup PSD 6.4L CC 4X4 DRW, Lariat Auto trans 4.30 LS, 2013 Lance TT 1885, Toyota 2014 Tundra Crew Max 5.7.


Middle Tennessee

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Posted: 05/16/12 06:54am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

What a lovely post of your great memories. You have passed down a wonderful heritage to your grandchildren. Thanks for sharing.

2006 Toyota Sienna
Single empty-nester in Middle TN



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Posted: 05/16/12 06:57am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great pictures! Thanks for sharing.

Mello Mike

Mesa, AZ


Joined: 05/14/2003

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Posted: 05/16/12 07:13am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Wow, great shots over the years. Thanks much for sharing.

2016 Northstar Laredo SC (being built)
2013 Ram 3500 4x4/6.7L Cummins TD/3.42/Buckstop Bumper with Warn 16.5ti Winch/Big Wig Rear/Talons w/Fastguns
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SW New Mexico

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Posted: 05/16/12 07:17am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great photos certainly and great memories to boot.

However, I think you minimize the negative impact of the surrounding Navajo Reservation on the experience. When we tried to visit the canyon in the fall of 2010, the CG was closed at the monument. No warning anywhere driving down from Colorado as you did. Plus it had an ominous sign warning of risk to personal property left outside your RV. Where else to stay? A VERY FILTHY private CG 10 miles up the road on the south rim. NOPE.

Nowhere else. Period.

Boondocking not possible (Navajo land). All of the motels had fenced parking lots. Hmmm. Not a choice for us, even to abandon the camper for a room. So had to drive 4 hours (until 10PM) to get back out of the reservation where camping was available.

A shame really, given the quality of the canyon itself.


2004 F-350 4WD Crew Cab Dually w/ Airlift air bags, Luverne brush guard, side steps and splash guards.
2007 LanceMax 1181 loaded, wider aftermarket custom mattress (driver's side locker omitted).
"Leave the trail a little better than you found it."



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Posted: 05/16/12 07:25am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Beautiful pics and post! What wonderful memories (and pictures) you have of your travels. Thanks for sharing them.

I think we can work Canyon De Chelly into our trip this year!

Paoli, IN

Traveling in a 2011 Ventana 3433
with 1 Hubby and 2 Boxers!

the tc life

colbert wa.

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Posted: 05/16/12 07:29am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

loved the 60's photo then the new photo comparison. thanks for sharing.

2010 adventurer 810ws
1999 c3500 dually 12' flatbed


Less Stuff


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Posted: 05/16/12 07:42am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great trip report thanks for posting.
Adding photos of past trips is a great idea.

We've only been to Canyon De Chelly once but it's worth the trip.

Former user name: "Lots of Stuff"
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Angel Fire, NM, USA

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Posted: 05/16/12 07:53am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

The canyon is a bit of a shrine of sorts to what happened there in 1864:


To get more of a full story, check this book:



Pics and stuff at my Flickr pages



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Posted: 05/16/12 09:54am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Beautiful pics and incredible landscapes.
Added the "old" pics are so romantic and moving, back to the future !
A great thanks for sharing.

Lance 815 2007
France, Normandy

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