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The Canyon de Chelly (pronounced “d’SHAY”) in Arizona is a confluence of
nature and Indian heritage. It’s in the Navajo Nation, and has both
Anasazi cliff-dwelling ruins and Navajo residents. The only way to visit
the canyon is on a tour with Navajo guides. Their distinctive turquoise
trucks have high clearance to travel on rutted dirt roads and to cross
the flooded washes. The guides and drivers speak Navajo over the radio.
Sometimes they need to summon help if a truck gets mired.
Visible from an overlook on the rim of the canyon is Spider Rock, over 244 meters high and particularly striking at sunset. In Navajo mythology, Spider Rock is the home of Spider Woman, the deity who taught the Navajo weaving and saved them from monsters.
The best-known destination in Indian Country has to be the Grand Canyon, in northern Arizona. It’s one of the great shrines of American Family Summer Vacation pilgrimage, with nearly five million visitors per year piled into SUVs, campers, and minivans. Because all those vehicles were turning the scenic road along the South Rim into an unreasonable facsimile of a Los Angeles freeway at rush hour, the National Park Service has closed the road to private vehicles from March through November. If you’re not hiking, free shuttle buses are now the only way to visit the viewpoints along the rim.
There is good reason for the popularity. For one thing, the canyon
really lives up to its name. It’s 446 kilometers long, over 16
kilometers wide, and more than 1500 meters deep. Carved over millions of
years by the Colorado River, the canyon’s layers of sediment form an
array of shapes that change color throughout the day. The numbers alone
don’t tell the story, though. Seeing it in person is really the only way
to appreciate the majestic immensity of the canyon. It’s maddeningly
difficult to convey any of it in a photograph. Of the 100 or so pictures
I took during my visit, these two are the only ones that come close to
An easy recipe for petrified logs: Bury a tree in the right combination of water, volcanic ash, and minerals. Wait 225 million years for the silica in the ash, along with colored minerals, to dissolve and replace the cellulose in the wood, literally turning it to stone. When mountain building and erosion expose the petrified wood, you get Petrified Forest National Park in eastern Arizona.
The red rock Echo Amphitheater is north of Espanola, New Mexico.