Arizona- Canyon de Chelly
We're traveling from the Northeastern part of the state down to the border or Mexico. I was definitely reconsidering my choice for riding in Canyon de Chelly in the Navajo Nation in the Northeast in the winter, as I stuck my cold, gloved hand in my pocket to feel for the warm pouches that I used to use on ski trips as a kid. That is, until we reached the cliff dwellings. Carved high into a sandstone cliff peppered with snow lay the homes of the Ancient Pueblo People, known by the Navajo as the Anasazi. I was in awe. I had seen the photos online and in magazines, but nothing prepared me for seeing them in person.
I was riding with Lee Bigwater, a Navajo guide from Totsonii Ranch, who guides riders into the canyon year-round. Lee explained that this ruin, which he called the “First Ruin” may have housed 25 families. Its walls would have been covered in plaster and consisted of timber and adobe style bricks. People have been living in the canyon for thousands of years, leaving behind these cliff dwelling, petroglyphs and pictographs in the canyon.
My horse Quarter Moon and my guide Lee’s horse Chase, our Mustang/ Quarter Horse mixes, got along really well, as they are brothers. They were adept at navigating the flat dirt trails that line the canyon floor. As you ride further into the canyon, the canyon, the canyon walls grow taller, reaching 1000 feet. It is quite spectacular.
You can ride into the canyon year round, but if you are going in winter, be prepared for snow covered terrain and cold temperatures. Dress in layers. I might trying those electric socks for my riding in Quebec in the coming weeks. Until then, we’re heading south to the warmer parts of Arizona, but I sure am glad that we were able to ride in this historic and peaceful canyon.
Darley Newman is the host of the Emmy Award-winning Public Television series Equitrekking®, which takes viewers on horseback riding vacations around the world. Equitrekking is broadcast on PBS stations and on international networks in over 30 countries.
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