Canyon de Chelly, Four Corners, Cortez.
01.08.2012 - 01.08.2012 90 °F
We got up at 6am and head over to the office for BF. Pretty basic, but they have cereal, donuts. I fill up on both and hit the room to clean up and pack. I would not recommend the Econo Lodge in Holbrook. OK, but you can do better for the same price. We are off by 7am and head for Canyon de Chelly (CdC. We are there by 8:30 and go into the Visitor Center. CdC is a unique NP. There is no entrance fee and the canyon remains on Navaho tribal lands. You can drive around the North & South Rim for free, but if you want to visit the canyon, you must have a Navaho guide. There is a group tour at 10am for $55. I talk to them but they need 8 to go and have 2 when I call. While I was on the phone, an Spider Rock Tour Jeep pulls into the parking lot. Chris goes over to talk to him and we get good news. Oscar quotes us $50 each for a 3 hour tour. That is a bargain as it is usually $75. I guess business is slow because of the hard rain the day before. We jump at his offer and Chris goes inside the VC with Oscar to sign the contract. I pay Oscar and he calls another one of his guides. 10 minutes later Charlie shows up in his 4 wheel drive and off we go. It is very muddy and pretty good flow of water going through the canyon. Charlie tells us that they could not tour yesterday due to the rain and high water. It is pretty dicey in several areas, but we plug along. There are Navaho's still living in the canyon and their property is fenced off from vehicles. One stop shows some of the petroglyphs that are in CdC.
Everything is going along according to plan until we get to a washed out hill. The rain yesterday has eroded a steep section of the road and it is now impassable. There are 4 vehicles stopped and all the guides get out. They grab their shovels and start trying to fill in the eroded area. It takes about 15 minutes and then one Jeep tries it. He makes it after several attempts. Charlie has a hard time of it as his SUV has a longer wheel base than a Jeep. Both Chris and I get out for this part and after the 4 or 5th attempt, Charlie gets it up the hill and we continue on with our tour.
CdC is pretty, but the Indian ruins are mediocre at best. It is a pleasant day, plenty of water flowing, not a bad way to spend 3 hours. Not very exciting, but would recommend it. Once. I won't be returning to CdC anytime soon.
Back to the VC, we tip Charlie $20 for his time & expertise. We take the North & South rim drive, stopping at all the view areas. Several require a bit of a hike and after 4-5 of them I had about enough. The White House view area is the last one on our list and we get lucky. One of the Navaho girls from the VC is at the view area. We chat a bit about CdC and Chinle.
We heard from both Charlie and the VC girl that Chinle has a real drug problem. I guess it is mostly boredom, but they agree that many of the Navaho kids use drugs. Charlie told us that he won't send his kids to the Chinle schools because it is so bad. There is a school at Many Farms and that is where his kids go to school. Chris is hungry and so we stop in Chinle. There is an A&W on highway 191 and that gets Chris's vote. I pass as I had a granola bar on the tour. A few of the school kids stop in the A&W and I see what they were talking about. It is such a small town, 5K, that there is not much for a teenager to do. They all grew up together, so not many secrets in Chinle. We were happy to leave and head for Four Corners. We take US 191 and in about an hour we are there. Chris and I were in this part of AZ during our winter trip to Mesa Verde. Unfortunately it was after 5pm and Four Corners closes at 5 during the winter. Not a problem today and we pull in. $3 each as it is on Navaho tribal lands. The Navaho's must make a small fortune during the summer as it was packed. Chris and I go down to the monument and wait our turn. Plenty of families are ahead of us and they all take turns posing with feet & hands in different states. I get lucky and 6 girls jump on the spot for their photo. Dad has a tripod and sets up the timer. I like the one w/o him, so included that one. Now it is my turn, but standing their alone is not much of a shot. Chris cannot be bothered so we are there perhaps 10 minutes. We both have short attention spans, so it is not a problem.
We are going to stay in Cortez, so we head out on 160. Before Cortez we spot a sign at the Ute Mountain Casino offering rooms for $40. This is less than any motel in Cortez, so we pull in and head to the registration desk. There are only 3 rooms left so we grab one. We find our room, and leave our stuff. I am hungry and we head for the casino. We walk through the casino and find out just how small it is. They have a small coffee shop and I get in line. I start chatting with others in line and find out it is going to be at least a 45 minute wait. That won't do so we ask what else they have. A very small snack bar is the only other option. We abandon the coffee shop line and head over to the snack bar. Bad timing on our part as a security guard is the only one there. It seems the lone worker at the snack bar has left for supplies and the whole thing stops until she return. 5 minutes of small talk with the security guard gives us another option. There is a truck stop next to the Ute Mountain Casino. We drive over there and Chris fills up. I go inside and find a 4 table snack bar. Oh well, we are not going to drive into Cortez, so I order a grilled cheese sandwich with fries. Not a very good choice, but it is a very limited menu for a veggie. Back to the room, I unpack, shower and call home. All is well and I watch the Olympics while Chris edits his photos on his laptop. It seems our a/c is not working very well so the room is hotter than we would like. Not many options at this point, so we make the best of it. We call it a night around 11pm. Day 2 is over.