RV.Net Open Roads Forum: And So It Begins - Navajo National Monument

RV Blog

  |  

RV Sales

  |  

Campgrounds

  |  

RV Parks

  |  

RV Club

  |  

RV Buyers Guide

  |  

Roadside Assistance

  |  

Extended Service Plan

  |  

RV Travel Assistance

  |  

RV Credit Card

  |  

RV Loans

Open Roads Forum Already a member? Login here.   If not, Register Today!  |  Help

Newest  |  Active  |  Popular  |  RVing FAQ Forum Rules  |  Forum Posting Help and Support  |  Contact  

Search:   Advanced Search

Search only in Truck Campers

Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > And So It Begins - Navajo National Monument

This Topic Is Closed  |  Print Topic  |  Post New Topic  | 
Page of 3  
Next
Sponsored By:
seldomseensmith

Flagstaff, AZ

Senior Member

Joined: 09/18/2006

View Profile



Posted: 09/24/09 12:43pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

There's lots of places I haven't been, and that's just in my home state. Given unlimited time and freedom, I might get around to all of them eventually. Of course what I want and what really has to happen seldom coincide, so I do the best I can. Take this trip for instance.

Located in the northeast corner of Arizona on the Navajo Nation is one of the best preserved (and least visited) ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings around. Navajo National Monument contains three separate settlements - Betatakin, Keet Seel, and Inscription House (currently closed to the public). As I've passed this way many times I always told myself that someday I would visit. This time as I drove past the turnoff at Black Mesa on US Highway 160, something made me turn around and go back, just to check it out.

As Arizona Highway 564 leaves the junction, it immediately climbs up onto Shonto Plateau where a forest of pygmy juniper and pinon pine awaits. 9 miles from the intersection you reach the Visitor Center, and the first pleasant surprise - no entrance fee.

[image]

[image]

I wasn't sure what to expect - all I knew was that somewhere in the canyons below there were cliff dwellings, and that they weren't easily accessible like some others I've been to. I went inside and was immediately greeted by a very helpful staff person. I was curious about ranger led hikes into the canyon, which are the only way to get to the ruins. During the summer months, they are scheduled daily, and I suspected that since the peak season was over the hikes would be far less frequent.

To my surprise and delight there was a hike into Betatakin (the closest and most accessible ruin) scheduled for the following morning, and I did not hesitate to sign up - and no charge for the guided hike. My plans for the next 24 hours went from nebulous to concrete in about a minute. I then asked about camping - one thing at a time, mind you. I learned there are two campgrounds at the Monument, one with pull-throughs and running water (flush toilets, but no hookups) and another with no water, composting toilets, and much better views of the surrounding country.

The campgrounds are first come, first served, and don't charge a fee. Anyone who knows me even a little can guess which campground I wound up in [emoticon] There were plenty of spots, and the ranger told me that in his experience they had never seen both campgrounds completely full.

[image]

O.K., so far so good - I am finally getting around to visiting a blank spot on the map, and to this point it has cost me zero, nada, zilch - I can't remember the last time I went to any National Park, Monument or any place that had developed facilities and programs as nice as this for free. An auspicious beginning to the trip, I'd venture.

Before leaving I was given information by the ranger - Meet at 9:45 at the Visitor Center, bring water and food, wear sturdy shoes, blah, blah, blah. The trip is five miles round trip, descends 800 feet into the canyon, everybody must stay together, etc. All pretty straightforward stuff. Now I have the rest of the afternoon to explore the area above the rim.

For those who don't feel up to the challenge of a fairly strenuous hike into Betatakin, there are a few rim trails where you can get a look from above. The Sandal Trail is one of them:

[image]

[image]

[image]

[image]

In addition to the spectacular scenery, the Visitor Center has some very nice indoor displays of ancestral Puebloan culture, with examples of pottery, baskets, textiles, construction, and art. Outside is a reconstruction of an early Navajo hogan.

[image]

[image]

After a very leisurely afternoon exploring the area, I retired to my campsite to enjoy the displays of the artist in residence - Mother Nature.

[image]

[image]

The Hike

The next morning dawned bright and clear. The previous evening there had been extensive thunderstorms to the north and east, putting on quite a show. Today however looked to be sunny and warm with just a few cumulus clouds to interrupt the vault of sky. As instructed, those folks wanting to visit Betatakin where waiting at the Visitor Center at the appointed time.

[image]

There we met our guide: Jimmy Golden, a Navajo volunteer who retired from the Park Service several years back, who obviously still enjoyed being involved.

After giving us a brief orientation, we piled into vehicles for the short drive to the trailhead. During the peak season, shuttles are provided, however this time of year that service is unavailable. As we carpooled, it was nice in that it gave folks a chance to get to know their fellow hikers a bit before we ventured out. I met Tom, a retired ironworker from Michigan, Gary who worked as an art historian doing research for a book on John Wetherill (an early anglo trader and explorer of this part of the country), and several others who added additional color to the outing.

The hike starts simply enough, following a closed road that ventures out to Tsegi Point. The walking is relatively easy over gently undulating terrain although there are several very sandy spots that slow things down a bit. The views are great as the trail/road parallels the ridge, offering glimpses into deep canyons on both sides.

[image]

Here is a view to the north, looking down at Laguna Creek. Keet Seel ruin is located to the northwest - it is much more challenging to get to, being located 8.5 miles upstream. A strong day hiker could make the trip in a day, but most folks will do an overnight backpack to visit. In fact, I have already made reservations to go back in mid-November for a visit to to see these even larger dwellings.

[image]

Soon the easy part is over, and the trail makes an abrupt descent into the canyon on the south side.

[image]

[image]

[image]

After steeply dropping through the sandstone formations, the trail begins to level off just above the canyon bottom. Here it resumes a gentler grade upstream, through forests of pinon, juniper, scrub (gambel) oak, and other high desert vegetation.

[image]

[image]

[image]

Finally the alcove holding the prehistoric remains of Betatakin emerges above the treetops.

[image]

Betatakin is a Navajo word meaning "ledge house" It is appropriate as the ruins occupy a niche below a soaring roof of sandstone. The houses were occupied only a relatively short time, from around 1250 to 1300 A.D. The location is strategic to say the least. In summer, the dwellings are shaded from the direct rays of sunshine overhead, and in winter the south facing aspect receives maximum warmth from a low angle sun. The people here were farmers, and they traveled a mile downstream to tend crops of corn, squash, beans, and cotton.

[image]

[image]

The rooms are small, with low ceilings. Archaeologists and paleontologists who have studied these and other ruins in the southwest still know relatively little about the people here, but clues are present to give hints and suppositions to how life was lived. Rooms with blackened walls indicate living quarters (from warming and cooking fires), other rooms built with tight structural integrity and sealed entrances are granaries for storing food away from plundering rodents. It is obvious the people spent most of their time outside in pursuit of survival.

[image]

[image]

[image]

Our guide Jim was very knowledgeable about the culture and people. His heritage is Navajo (his father was Hopi, as is his wife) and his direct experience of life today in a world that is still in many ways very different from what we are familiar with provided a new perspective to appreciate what I saw. The people who once lived here are believed to be the direct ancestors of the Hopis, who today live not far to the south on the mesas.

The ancient residents may have abandoned the area, but some still call this beautiful setting home. This packrat living on a ledge is likely a direct descendant of those that plagued the people who left. I guess I might leave too if I had to put up with that messy nuisance!

[image]

There are some petroglyphs found near one of the dwellings, and one of them constitutes more evidence of the link between the old inhabitants and the Hopis - the sign of the Fire Clan.

[image]

Here are a few more.

[image]

[image]

After spending a good deal of time viewing the ruins, it's time to head out. I really enjoyed the hike and the interesting information Jim presented along the way and at Betatakin. As I mentioned earlier, my curiousity was piqued, and I will return in a couple of months to make the longer journey to Keet Seel.

I thoroughly recommend making a visit to Navajo National Monument. The facilities are first rate, the staff, is friendly, the scenery is amazing, and the chance to visit a well preserved and fascinating cliff dwelling is unparalleled. Best of all, it's free!

For my part, what a great way to start a trip.... Stay tuned!

Happy Trails!


The Road Goes Ever On



2008 F250 SD 4x4 Supercab, Detroit TrueTrac, Hellwig LP 35, 2006 Outfitter Caribou 6.5


eubank

bosque farms, nm

Senior Member

Joined: 01/17/2004

View Profile



Posted: 09/24/09 12:51pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Isn't it a great place?! We've been there on a good number of occasions and plan to return. I've got a couple of shots on the blogsite ("Trip to Zion and Back" and "Trip to Grand Canyon and Thereabouts"):

http://forum.aardvarkrv.com/blog/

Oh, the campgrounds at the moment are probably not the best for larger rigs.

[emoticon]
Lynn


Pics and stuff at my Flickr pages


HarmsWay

Victoria

Full Member

Joined: 09/20/2009

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 09/24/09 12:52pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Amazing! Thanks for posting that.

Bob

seldomseensmith

Flagstaff, AZ

Senior Member

Joined: 09/18/2006

View Profile



Posted: 09/24/09 01:09pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

eubank wrote:



Oh, the campgrounds at the moment are probably not the best for larger rigs.

[emoticon]
Lynn


Serves you right for not having a truck camper! [emoticon]

JCGibson

In the Missouri Ozarks

Senior Member

Joined: 08/01/2006

View Profile





Offline
Posted: 09/24/09 01:15pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

That is so neat. I love studying this type of history. Thank you for sharing.


John (USAF Retired) Cheryl (Mid School Teacher)
'16 Newmar Ventana 3709 Sold
'16 Tiffin Allegro 36LA traded
'11 Dodge 3500 Crewcab sold
'14 EverGreen Bayhill 295RL sold
'12 Voltage V3200 sold
'09 BigHorn 3400 sold
'06 Jayco Octane sold
'04 Jayco Baja sold


Nemo667

Louisiana

Senior Member

Joined: 10/28/2004

View Profile



Posted: 09/24/09 01:34pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

seldomseensmith,

Great trip report and pictures. The views are fabulous...we cant wait to get back to that general vacinity. Thanks for the destination tip. [emoticon]


2007 F-350 SRW 6.0L CC SB 4X4
2006 Outfitter Apex 8, 220W Solar and 3 AGM's
2013 Jeep Rubicon


hard3

southern Illinois

Senior Member

Joined: 07/10/2009

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 09/24/09 01:34pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great pictures, I just put this on my list of places to go and see
Thanks

Sandia Man

Rio Rancho, NM

Senior Member

Joined: 08/09/2008

View Profile



Posted: 09/24/09 01:35pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Awesome pictures!!

silversand

Montreal

Senior Member

Joined: 09/12/2004

View Profile



Posted: 09/24/09 02:02pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thorough and thoughtful Trip Report!

Very well done in Seldomseensmith style [emoticon]

I always look forward to reading your thoroughly professional Trip reports!

Cheers,
Silver-


Silver
2004 Chevy Silverado 2500HD 4x4 6.0L Ext/LB Tow Package 4L80E Michelin AT2s| Outfitter Caribou

reddrum

Central NC

Full Member

Joined: 02/06/2007

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 09/24/09 02:48pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

You'll love Keet Seel, it is awesome. I think the hike in adds to the experience. Don't underestimate the hike though as it is tough.

This Topic Is Closed  |  Print Topic  |  Post New Topic  | 
Page of 3  
Next

Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > And So It Begins - Navajo National Monument
Search:   Advanced Search

Search only in Truck Campers


New posts No new posts
Closed, new posts Closed, no new posts
Moved, new posts Moved, no new posts

Adjust text size:




© 2020 CWI, Inc. © 2020 Good Sam Enterprises, LLC. All Rights Reserved.