Part I: Navajo Nation Weekend Drive – Canyon de Chelly South Rim

Hello, all! For this post, I wanted to share my last weekend’s drive to the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona and New Mexico. What’s to see there, you ask? Try this place!

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This is Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Despite the spelling of “Chelly,” it’s pronounced, “shay.” A wise man once told me, (that would my grandpa) that the Navajo call it “Tseyi,” which is pronounced slowly as “Tsay-yee.” The Spanish/English heard “shay,” so there you go. This 83,000 acre site full of red sandstone formations, various species of pine, yucca,  and juniper trees is very sacred to the Navajo.  The canyon was carved by the streams that flow  from the 8,000ft+ Chuska mountains to the east. This is one of the most visited national monuments in the United States.  No way was I going to see this magnificent site on my own. I was accompanied by my roommate, Jouhl and we were to meet our friends, Tyson, Adam, Joe and Joe’s dad, Roger. Guess what we were all driving?

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Yup, it’s another Acura group drive!

Badges

Here’s what you’re looking at from left to right:

  • Joe’s 1995 Legend Coupe automatic with 161,000 miles
  • Tyson’s 2013 ILX 6speed with 72,000 miles
  • My 2010 TL 6speed with 41,000 miles

Despite my not being as active on this blog as I’d like, I’ve still been racking up the miles on the TL. Just a few weeks ago, she turned over 40,000. Sadly, I was distracted and didn’t capture the even number.

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The trip specs:

  • ~1,000 miles
  • 2 days
  • 16 + hours on the road
  • 500 + photos (don’t worry, they’re not all in this post)

mapping

Jouhl and I started out mid-day Friday, April 25th. We made it a priority to avoid as much of the boring interstate as possible. This stretch of I-25 leaving Las Cruces was the only strip we took to Arizona.

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We hooked up with the Lake Valley scenic byway toward the ghost town of Hillsboro and then to Silver City, NM.

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Love it when the going gets twisty!

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Here’s the town (or village, should I say?) of Hillsboro. Founded in 1877, it was one of those towns that started because of the discovery of gold. Even though it’s regarded as an official ghost town, there is still a sum of 124 residents there. 

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After Hillsboro, we stopped at the old Percha Bridge. This 1927 bridge is still standing, however it’s not in use for a weakened structure.

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As you may have noticed now, I love taking shots of the road. This is what remains of the bridge.

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Percha creek still had a little water trickling down below.

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Jouhl really liked including graffiti in the background. Added to the whole experience. IMG_0037_2

Onwards!

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I calculated that about two hours were tagged on to our drive just for exploring little side roads and villages off the beaten path. Totally worth it!

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Here we stopped at Emory Pass to check out the scenery. I was here last year in my Accord after a White Sands drive with Tyson.

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Coming from the flat, dry Rio Grande valley, we just had to soak up as much forest and fresh pine air as we could. Even though I had just given the TL a bath, I wanted to give the Michelin tires a little taste of pine needles.

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Oops! This dip in the trail didn’t look that bad, but my front end wasn’t very appreciative of it. This would be my  first front end scrape since taking ownership in Nov of 2013.

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I had planned to stop by the scenic ghost town of Mogollon, NM (just north of Glenwood). Tucked away in the Mogollon Mountains, this old mining town was founded in the 1880s with a population of about 5,000. It had a reputation as one of the wildest mining towns in the West.

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Here are some photos I snatched from Google of the town.

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Looks like a perfect place to do a little exploring. HOWEVER, plans had to be ditched as there apparently was a massive flood in 2013 that wiped out the road and most of the town. Good news is it will be reopened in 2015. I loved that the sign read, “Please respect road closure…”

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Another Google search gave me some horrid images of the damage left by the wet 2013 monsoon.

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Still, the trip through western New Mexico on Hwy 180 was very satisfying and scenic. IMG_2207

State line achieved!

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In addition to being great company, Jouhl is the photographer while we’re in motion. IMG_0135_2

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As we neared our overnight stop in Show Low, AZ, there was a casino coming up called “Hon Dah.” “HON-DAH.” Get it?

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The next day, we drove through the Petrified Forest National Park. This park is known for its fallen tree fossils that lived in the late Triassic period. This is also part of the colorful “Painted Desert.”

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Here are some scenes of petrified logs lying around the park’s south entrance. IMG_0211_2

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From the north end of the park, you can see a good bit of the Painted Desert. If you squint, looks like a live lava bed!

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Here’s a shot with the park’s road we were traveling on.

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The photos don’t convey how bad the weather was getting. Despite being late April, we had to endure 60MPH gusts with sub-50˙ temps!

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Here are the park’s “Teepee” formations.

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After the park, we drove on towards Chinle, AZ where we’d meet the guys and spend the night. Chinle (Chʼínílį́) is a small town in the Apache County with a population of about 4,500 according to the 2010 census. The town is just a mile or two from the Canyon.  First we encountered, rain…

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But the elevation climb turned that into snow for us.

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This was pretty solid for about an hour.

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The southerly winds blew into the TL head on. She looked like a cocaine addict by the end of the storm.

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Reminded me of when the front end of my old RSX would get snow packed in Flagstaff, AZ.

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Form here, Chinle was an easy 30 miles away.

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*Shivers*

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We soon arrived, met with Tyson and his friends, and then we wasted no time to go to the Canyon. Tyson took the lead.

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First stop, the visitor center for some info and gift shopping.

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On site, there was a hogan for tourists to see. These are the traditional homes of the Navajo. To this day, there are still hogans scattered across the reservation still in use. Though this looked to have been built for tourists, it is placed in the traditional fashion with the front (and only) door facing the east. This is to welcome the rising sun for good wealth and fortune.

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From the visitor center, Tyson and I switched cars and I was able to get a taste of his ILX with 76,000 miles.

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First time I drove the ILX was last year when it had 40,000 miles on the clock. I must say, it hasn’t changed a bit. Still felt as solid and perky as before. The manual gearbox and clutch were still the best I’ve experienced.

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It’s strange to see this point of view. Never witnessed my TL driven by someone else. IMG_2678

There are two rims of the canyon to explore. The south and the north. This post is of the south. First stop, the White House Ruins trail.

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When we pulled in and looked over the edge, this is what we saw.

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Pictures don’t do this justice.

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The weather was iffy: small little bursts of rain/snow with some strong gusts of wind. IMG_0329_2

However, a little weather wasn’t going to keep us from challenging the 2+ mile trail down to the ruins.

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So, we all put on our warm clothes and set out.

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Most of the way down, we had to be mindful of where we stepped as the bare rock was quite slippery!

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Here’s a shot of Roger and Joe (the Legend owners)

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Several times, we had to stop and take in the views. Here we reached the bottom of the canyon. Now where are those ruins?

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This “sturdy” little bridge led us in the right direction.

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Along the way, we met a nice Navajo lady and her daughter selling hand crafted jewelry and pottery. Yes, she does take credit cards!

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Check out the scale of these formations…

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And there are those ruins!

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Perfect back drop for a group photo. Here we have from left to right: Roger, Joe, Jouhl, Jason, Adam and Tyson.

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On our way back up, the wind gusts started to slam snow pellets in our faces. Hang on!

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Here’s where the Acuras (Acurae?) were waiting for us.

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After the hike, we conversed for a bit before taking off to the next stop. IMG_2936

Next viewpoint…

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The canyon was still as impressive from here.

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Zooming in revealed that there are small plots of land still in use.

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After that, it was time to call it a day and find some grub. Chinle doesn’t exactly have an extensive list of places available for dining. We ended up eating at the hotel. Here’s my green chile enchiladas. Very spicy!

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That concludes day one. More to come in Part 2…

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4 thoughts on “Part I: Navajo Nation Weekend Drive – Canyon de Chelly South Rim

  1. tysonhugie says:

    Oh man, you and your green chile! Hahahaha! Loved this post, Jason. I still can’t believe how much snow you guys encountered! In late April, no less! Wow. I like the shots of the old Percha Bridge and I MUST gamble someday at Hon-Dah Casino! It might just be my lucky day! Great post 🙂

    • pawela says:

      Thanks, Tyson! Yeah, that snow was pretty crazy. We should make Hon-Dah another drive someday. Haha! Oh, and I had green chile the next day after getting home.

  2. […] this town and both times the area was closed off. First time was in the Accord and second in the TL. A pretty wet monsoon season in 2013 turned the one and only road to and from the town into a huge […]

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