The Calendar Continues… More Photos from Southwest National Parks

Monument Valley

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been having fun reliving our trips to the Southwest and it’s gorgeous national parks. I’ll wrap this calendar photo journey up today and tomorrow. In 2021, that’s next week, I’ll return to our backroads adventure, this time traveling down highway 191 as it winds through Utah and Arizona. Or maybe I’ll cover our most recent trip to the Oregon Coast where we watched impressive waves roll in and crash against the shore.

Petrified Forest National Park
Monument Valley
Canyon de Chelly
Capitol Reef (Very Recent Blog!)
Grand Canyon


The final calendar photos tomorrow on New Year’s Eve.

Next Tuesday I return to the Sierra Trek with a tale you won’t want to miss. And no: The American Lung Association was not running a pot smoking orgy in the mountains!

The Hubble Trading Post, Canyon de Chelly, and Monument Valley…

We expected to find impressive stone monuments in Monument Valley and weren’t disappointed. A convenient stump added to the magic of this scene. Many a Hollywood star ranging from John Wayne to Johnny Depp saddled up here and made Westerns.

Peggy and I are sitting in our van on the edge of the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Reserve on the Rio Grande River in central New Mexico. It’s supposed to be a major winter gathering place for numerous species of waterfowl, even the close to extinct whooping crane. We are watching as sandhill cranes return to the reserve in long lines after a day feeding along the river. At least a thousand have flown by so far. 

We were greeted by a road runner when we came into the campground. The owner told us to watch out for wild pigs.  I wonder if he meant peccaries. They are nastier than pigs and come with razor sharp tusks, great for rooting up food— or doing serious damage to pesky tourists. Here piggy, piggy, piggy. We saw lots of fresh tracks this morning when we were hiking up a desert wash near Los Lunas looking for petroglyphs, but there were no peccaries. 

Other than the train that just roared by and the sound of sandhill cranes settling in for the night, it seems extraordinarily quiet here. If you travel 30 miles due east from where we are, however, you come on the Trinity site where the first atomic bomb was blown up on July 16, 1945, forever changing the world. A bit farther east, Smokey the Bear was discovered in a tree hiding out from a wildfire in 1950, and Billy the Kid practiced his fast-gun draws in the Lincoln County War of 1878. Continue on and you come to Roswell where UFO fans will forever declare that flying saucers crashed in 1947 and the government hid the fact. Traveling the opposite direction into the Rockies some 60 miles, the Very Large Array of radio telescopes searches the skies for alien life and other astronomical wonders. Lots has happened in this quiet place.

I rode my bike through here in 1989 as part of my 10,000-mile bike trek around North America. I crossed the Rockies in one day, bicycling 100 miles. If that seems a bit daunting, like it did to me at the time, the second 50-miles were all downhill. Woohoo!

We have just completed a delightful few days of exploring Taos, Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch following in the footsteps of Georgia O’Keefe and her friend Ansel Adams. It should make a fun blog. But that is all in the future. Today I want to share a few of the photos we took at the Hubble Trading Post, Canyon De Chelly and at Monument Valley.  (Written a few days ago.)

Sheep are important to the Navajos, both for their wool and meat. This four horned fellow, looking down his nose at me, decorated the walls of the Hubble Trading Post. He was joined by…
A buffalo and…
A magnificent elk.
Hubble provided the Navaho with a means of making a living by encouraging them to make rugs and then buying them to sell. I was amused to find this one in his home, which is now part of the National Monument. The face reminded us of petroglyphs that are found throughout the Southwest, which we will feature in a later post.
Rugs continue to be made and sold at the post in the traditional way.
A view inside the Hubble Trading Post, which is still open for business and looks very much like it did a hundred years ago. We bought post cards to send to the grandkids.
Navajo made baskets cover the ceiling of the Hubble Trading Post.
We left the Hubble Trading Post and drove on to the Canyon de Chelly (pronounced shay) National Monument which is jointly operated by the Navajo Nation and the National Park Service. We were driving along the south rim of the Canyon when we came on a herd of handsome Navaho sheep. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Visitors are welcome to drive along both the South and North rim of the National Monument. Several overlooks provide gorgeous views into the Canyon. Fall cottonwoods added a splash of color. Navajo still live in and farm the canyon.
A number of ancient cliff dwellings are also found in the Canyon. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
As might be expected, prominent landmarks are incorporated into Navajo mythology and beliefs. The monument is Spider Woman.
The power of erosion on various types of rocks creates marvelous land forms in the canyon. Check out the face on the right!
Shamans of Native American tribes were known for the other-worldly journeys they took. Peggy and I thought this eroded rock looked like a window or door into such a world. Stare at it for a few minutes and you may see other beings looking out at you. Grin. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
As we returned to our campground, we were treated to a sunset that lit up the canyon walls.
If you wish to journey into Canyon de Chelly, you have to have a Navajo guide. I highly recommend the experience. While you can appreciate the beauty from the rim, being inside provides a totally different perspective! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Even the well traveled tracks that your guide takes you over provide a unique look.
The views in the canyon went on and on, enhanced by the fall colors as they were from the rim.
We visited a number of petroglyph sites. The fellow lying down is Kokopelli, known for his mischief and playing his flute, which he used to seduce women. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Our guide, James Yazzie Jr., added considerably to the enjoyment of our experience. In addition to being a guide, he was a horse rancher, welder, Native dancer, and movie extra. His grandfather had been a ‘Navajo Talker’ during World War II.
Monument Valley is also part of the Navajo Nation like Canyon de Chelly and once again we went on a Navajo guided tour. This monument is a beauty but somehow I couldn’t help but think of Rowan and Martin’s Fickle Finger of Fate award. Those of you who were around will probably remember the award that was given out weekly on the TV show. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
My imagination jumped to petrified Tyrannosaurus Rex claws when I saw these rocks!
While I was focusing on ‘Rex’s claws,” Peggy captured these rocks in their golden setting. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson>)
Monuments come in many sizes and shapes in Monument Valley.
Peggy and I both took photos of this monument reaching for the sky.
Our tour took us to the appropriately named “Big Hogan.” One of our tour group provided a perspective on just how big it is.
The hole in the “Hogan” was quite colorful. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Our guide, Roz, broke out her flute and played while we were admiring the ceiling of the “Hogan.” It was quite haunting. Kokopelli would have been jealous. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I found the “Eye of the Sun” rock very dramatic.
I am not sure the Ancients who created petroglyphs had a sense of humor, but I often find their petroglyphs humorous. This was in the Big Hogan and Eye of the Sun area.
I’ll conclude this post with a view of the sunset in Monument Valley. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

NEXT POST: The New Mexico world of Georgia O’Keefe and Ansel Adams.