Thursday, June 10, 2010

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Despite living 32 years of my adult life in Colorado I had never been to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, which is now a National Park. Brian had been there before and had memories of his shaking knees while looking down the sheer 2000 foot cliffs. The Black Canyon is named for its steepness, which makes it difficult for sunlight to penetrate very far down the canyon. As a result, the canyon walls are most often in shadow, causing the rocky walls to appear black.
Unfortunately there is no way that I can capture the feeling of looking down these sheer cliffs with my camera - I guess it's something that just has to be experienced.
We drove both the north and south rim with stops along the way. The narrow canyon walls dropping down to the Gunnison River are almost vertical and induce a bit of vertigo while carefully peeking over the edge. In the picture to the right the river can just barely be seen far below.

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly (shay) National Monument is in northeast Arizona. The spectacular canyon is unique in that it is on Navajo Tribal Trust Land. Ownership of the land remains with the Navajo while park matters are administered by the National Park Service. The canyon floor is inhabited and cultivated by members of the Navajo nation, and cattle and horses can be seen grazing 1000 feet below the rim.

The ruins of early indigenous tribes including the Anasazi and Navajo are preserved at Canyon de Chelly. With the exception of the White House ruin, visiting the ruins is only allowed when accompanied by an authorized Navajo guide or park ranger. Many of the ruins can be seen from both the north and south rim of the canyon.

 One of the park's most distinctive features is Spider Rock, which rises 800 feet from the canyon floor and has been used in a number of television commercials. The Navajo believe the taller spire is the home of Spider Woman, who is one of their most revered deities. She taught the Navajo to weave on looms, and chose the top of Spider Rock as her home.

The Petrified Forest and Painted Desert

In our quest to visit all of the National Parks we headed for the Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert in northeast Arizona when we left Fountain Hills. They cover a large area and while they weren't the most exciting places we've been we still found them both to be worth a stop. While exploring them we stayed in Holbrook, Arizona where we came across an old motel which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It doesn't appear to be in business anymore but they have preserved it much as it probably was years ago, right down to the old cars parked in front of each room.