Sunday, June 7, 2009

Day 8 - Canyon Del Muerto

Day 8 was the beginning of our weekend with Navajo Cultural Specialist Harry Walters. He taught Diné Studies at Diné College for 35 years and was director of the Ned Hatathli Museum at the College. Diné is the Navajo word for "The People;" that's how they refer to themselves.

(photos by Tom Grier unless otherwise noted)

(photo by Chops Hancock)

(photo by Jessica Larsen)

(above two photos by Chops Hancock)

Canyon Del Muerto is the north fork of Canyon de Chelly. It is the site of hundreds of Anasazi ruins and Navajo rock art from the 17th and 18th centuries. Many Navajo families live and farm in the canyon, which is also designated as a National Monument. 

Harry took us to a seldom visited part of the canyon that required a four mile hike down about 900 feet (then back up, of course). About halfway down the precarious rock path, we stopped at a cave that had stars painted on the ceiling. National Geographic did a film on Canyon de Chelly in the late 1980s that featured Harry describing this cave. Since then, only a very few non-Navajos have seen this star cave. This is because you must have a Navajo guide to go into the canyon, and most Navajo guides won't do this hike.

(Entrance to the Star-Ceiling Cave, by Cindy Killion)

(photo by Chops Hancock)

(above two photos by Cory Hinz)

(Photo by David Busse)

At the bottom, the canyon widens into a meadow with a couple large cottonwood trees and a small stream. Our group encountered a small herd of horses and spent some time coaxing them to come near. 
(photo by Matt Wandzel)

(above two photos by Jessica Larsen)

(photo by Chops Hancock)

(photo by Brandi Hagen)

(photo by Matt Wandzel)

We saw rock art on the walls, and heard Harry describe life on the canyon floor.

(photo by Cory Hinz)

(photo by Katie Boone)

The hike up took a lot longer, allowing for more resting and drinking lots of water. At the top, we enjoyed sack lunches, then went back to the dorms for showers before heading out to the Walters family sheep camp.

(photo by Chops Hancock)

Dorm Hogan "H" at Diné College:

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