Tag Archives: guide

Diorama Of The Canyon de Chelly ‘White House’ Ruins At Boston’s ‘Museum of Science’.

by Anura Guruge

Click to ENLARGE.

I am not sure whether this is a new exhibit or whether it never fully registered with me previously. We go to the ‘Museum of Science‘ at least thrice a year, and have done for years and years. So, not much I haven’t seen.

But, I saw this yesterday. I knew what it was as soon as I saw it. Reading the accompanying sign only confirmed what I knew.

Neat. But, I am not 100% happy with the depiction. They seemed to have it garbled. It was unlikely to have been a ruin, in such disrepair, when folks were still living there! So, don’t call it ‘the ruins’ and show people still climbing it with ladders.

Also doesn’t explain why it is called the ‘White House‘. Yes, you can just about see the white building at the back. They believe it was painted white to reflect heat.

Well I have a LOT of posts on this blog about this ‘White House‘.

So, if you are interested just do a search on ‘White House Canyon‘.

With 10 pictures and a real-time GPS track. Click image to access the August 2, 2018 post.

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by Anura Guruge

Daniel Draper, THE BEST Licensed Navajo Guide At ‘Canyon de Chelly’ National Monument.

by Anura Guruge

Click to ENLARGE.

Click to ENLARGE. This is his business card. I highlighted the phone number and e-mail to make it easier to read. He checks his e-mail and returns calls.

He is active on Facebook too.

Daniel Draper driving a 6-wheeler in the Canyon.

National Geographic” featured him and his daughters in this video.

Click to ENLARGE and read what “National Geographic” said about him.

His pictures of the Canyon.

Daniel Draper has been a licensed, native Navajo guide at Canyon de Chelly for over 26-years. He, in my opinion, is THE BEST. He is well educated, reflective and has seen the outside world — even traveling to Beijing, China in the 1970s to represent the U.S. in an International youth athletics games. (He was a long distance runner before becoming a professional, rodeo bull wrangler.)

I have visited the Canyon four times and have done four tours (two on horseback). I had the pleasure and honor of meeting Daniel Draper on my last visit, in July, when we did a 4-hour, 6-wheeler tour. The day before I had done a 3-hour tour on horseback. It was like chalk and cheese. Daniel knew so much more and could articulate it clearly.

Both sides of his family are from the Canyon and he grew up there. They still own land inside the Canyon as you can see from the “National Geographic” video.

His knowledge, understanding and experience of the Canyon is beyond reproach. He can take you places, show you things and explain them better to you than anybody else.

He, a photographer himself, specializes in photographic tours — which is how the “National Geographic” video came to be.

If you are visiting this BEAUTIFUL, breathtaking Canyon, my FAVORITE place in the whole world (and I have travelled some), contact Daniel Draper. No other guide comes close. Daniel will ENRICH your visit and allow you to enjoy the Canyon in ways you will cherish for life.

Check his contact info above.

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by Anura Guruge

The Government Has To STOP Persecuting The Navajos At Canyon de Chelly!

by Anura Guruge


2015: Navajos permitted to sell on the pavement &
sell art featuring the local stone from the Canyon.

One of the paintings on stone shown above —
which we bought.

Notice the thickness of the stone.

Other example of paintings on stone.

The persecution of the Navajo at Canyon de Chelly by U.S. government authorities, now in the form of the National Park Service, is still happening — on an accelerating basis.

They are getting pushed around. The Navajo Nation is not doing much to protect them. They do not have the skills, experience & the resources to take on the Park Service. Plus, they are petrified of harassment at the personal-level. Being barred from access to the Canyon — chief among them.

It is true that they are no longer being shot, made to undergo ‘Long Walks’ or have their children forcefully send to Christian boarding schools. But, nonetheless, the persecution is cruel and hurtful.

Between our visit in April 2015 and our recent trip at the end of July, THREE very specific attacks have take place.

  1. Navajos can no longer display their wares for sale to the tourists on the ground or on tables. Their displayed good have to be on a parked vehicle. So, if they have a truck they can use the tailgate. Many do NOT have trucks. So, they put towels on the hood and trunk of their cars and display their wares that way.
  2. Navajos can no longer sell any art featuring stone from the Canyon. They have to use purchased slate.
  3. The Park Service is threatening to stop them living in the National Monument part of the Canyon.

This persecution in inane and very distressing.

In the end this is THEIR land. What is left of all the land that used to be theirs by right.

Having them sell their art and jewelry from the ground or tables did NO harm. They did NOT get in the way. This is not the Grand Canyon or Yosemite. The car parks are rarely packed. Plus the Navajos provide a VALUABLE service — since you will never find or see a Park Ranger on the Rims. The Navajos acts as FREE guides and narrators.

As for the stone … What can you say. Yes, I agree that nobody should be allowed to chisel any new stone from the Canyon. But, there are tons of stone lying around. And here is where it gets crazy and very frustrating. There are NO such restrictions re. stone at ‘Monument Valley‘ and that is Navajo land too. Difference, NO Park Service.

They say they want to build a pavilion in which the Navajo can sell their wares. They have one of those at ‘Monument Valley’. It is EMPTY!

Monument Valley. The EMPTY shops in the ‘pavillion’.


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by Anura Guruge

Canyon de Chelly: YouTube Video Of Hiking The ‘White House’ Trail.

by Anura Guruge

Post from last week with 10 pictures and a real-time GPS track. Click image to access that August 2, 2018 post.

OK, I already did one post re. this rewarding hike, BUT I still had over 200 pictures I had NOT shared with you. I knew that a short video would be the best way to try and share them with you.

YouTube, inexplicably, no longer allows you to make photo-montage videos. So, I had to use Picasa 3. I am new to this. So, please bear with me. Videos are not my thing.

I intentionally chose the fastest slide change rate. Maybe it was too fast. But, if I increase it, it will double the length of the video.

So, I am sorry if it is too fast, but it is pretty close to the speed I walked down.

Enjoy. Tell me what you think.

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by Anura Guruge

Do You Know Of Any Famous Navajos?

by Anura Guruge

Click to ENLARGE.

I don’t, BUT do YOU — other than, of course, the justly famous Navajo Code Talkers?

Well when we were at Canyon de Chelly (AZ) last week I asked this from five ‘educated’ & ‘articulate’ Navajos: two licensed Navajo guides, two very bright and talented students and one gifted artist. They could NOT come up with any names — other than ‘you know there is that actor‘. I didn’t know, and had to Google him. Not sure he is that famous.

So, what gives here? This bothers & worries me.

There are supposedly (per what I heard on the radio while out in the ‘Navajo Nation‘) close to 400,000 Navajo in the U.S. That is a respectable number.

So, I started by checking it out on Wikipedia. I found this, NOT counting the native artists — and they, with all due respect, don’t really count because they have no competition so to speak.

Click to ENLARGE. Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navajo

Maybe I am being unrealistic or missing something. But, I, however, don’t think so.

Let’s go back to the start. You would have expected the five Navajos that I spoke to rattle off a list. A list they knew. One guide told me that nobody had ever asked him that question, i.e., who are the famous Navajo.

Yes, they have issues and problems. I have seen it first hand. This was NOT my first rodeo with Navajo. It was my fourth visit to the Navajo Nation and I have been spending time in Arizona Indian reservations since the early 1980s.

Things, ALAS, are NOT getting better. If anything worse. Yes, of course, you see a few exceptions — youngsters doing real well and that give you hope — but not as much as you would like,

I intend to write more on this because I did spend a fair amount of time talking to as many Navajos as I could to try and understand their issues and lives.

My goal is to try and help them as much as I can — and I know that I can’t do much. But, maybe I can give them a voice, some visibility and a platform.

Click to access post and the YouTube video of the haunting prayer song.

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by Anura Guruge

Canyon de Chelly: The Navajo Nation’s Guide To The Canyon.

by Anura Guruge

Click to ENLARGE.

This is a modified version of ‘Planning Your Visit‘ information included in the National Park Service Guide.

The Navajo Nation has added the ‘Visiting Navajo‘ section right at the start. The first sentence of that is IMPORTANT. Canyon de Chelly, like the rest of the Navajo Nation, is on New Mexico time rather than Arizona! That can be confusing. My Garmin Fenix 5, which gets its time (when it can) from GPS, took it in its stride. But, for the first few hours I was never sure whether my Fenix 5 was right or wrong.

This guide, in photocopied black & white, is on the back of a b&w map of the Canyon — again taken from the National Park Service Guide, which, however, is in color.

They have this guide in the small Navajo Nation Office, adjacent to the ‘Thunderbird Lodge’, that you have to visit to get backcountry permits to enter the Canyon with a Navajo guide, either by jeep, horseback or on foot.

Hope this helps.

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by Anura Guruge

Canyon de Chelly: 4-Hour 6-Wheeler (Jeep) Tour With “Thunderbird Lodge Tours”.

by Anura Guruge

Click to ENLARGE the Pictures & Map.

In reality this is the ONLY way to see and get to know Canyon de Chelly. Going into the Canyon on horseback is fun (and we have done it twice) but you can’t cover as much ground and, from our experience, the guides that do horseback are not as ‘proficient’ as those on the ‘jeeps’. (But, there could be exceptions and we LUCKED out in that we got ‘Daniel Draper’ who has been doing jeep tours for 29-years). Yes, you can hike down to the ‘White House‘ (which we have also done twice) but you don’t get to see any of the key ‘pictographs‘ (painted) or ‘petroglyphs‘ (carved).

This was the second time I had done a ‘Thunderbird Lodge Tour‘ — albeit 19-years apart. The first time, in 1999, was in the BIGGER Korean-war era Army vehicles they used to have. But, then there was the infamous 2012 roll-over that (eventually) killed two. Everything changed after that — including the ownership of the iconic & historic ‘Thunderbird Lodge’. The 6-wheelers they use now are smaller and newer.

We lucked out — as was invariably the case during this entire 4-day trip to the Canyon (my 4th). Very few people. Most of the time, wherever we would be the only ones there. That is nice and highlights the trademark serenity of the Canyon (which is my favorite part).

We did not book a private tour. We just booked (in the morning) the 4-hour, 4pm (sunset) tour. We were told be there 20-minutes early.

Well it was just the two us, Teischan & I, and that was special. I, with extensive experience with Navajo, soon established a good rapport with Daniel — and I think he enjoyed it too, in that I was not a total novice when it came to the Canyon or the Navajo. We had such a good time that I invited Daniel and his two daughters for dinner with us (at ‘The Junction‘) and they accepted. We had a great time and the two, extremely talented daughters, regaled us with songs after the dinner.

The tour was good. We learnt a lot.

Totally recommend it. Yes, there are other tours. From what I can see they are roughly the same price, i.e., ~$70/person for 3-4 hours. But, I liked the tour we took.

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by Anura Guruge

Canyon de Chelly: Where To Eat In Chinle, Arizona.

by Anura Guruge

Click to ENLARGE Images.

Mutton sandwich in Fried Bread at ‘The Junction’.

I am no stranger to Canyon de Chelly & Chinle, AZ. I have been there a total of four times, spanning 33-years.

33 years ago there was really ONLY one place to eat ‘Thunderbird Lodge Cafeteria‘ — and it WAS GOOD.

19 years ago you had the option of eating at the ‘Holiday Inn’ restaurant as well — BUT, the ‘Thunderbird Lodge Cafeteria’ was still the best.

3 years ago ‘Thunderbird Lodge Cafeteria’ (then called ‘The Sacred Lodge Cafeteria’) still rocked.

Not anymore. The ‘Thunderbird Lodge Cafeteria’, under new management (as of 18-months ago), SUCKS and sucks badly. The quality of food as plummeted.

Luckily there is the NEW ‘The Junction‘ attached to the ‘Best Western’ Hotel. ‘The Junction’ is GOOD. Very good and furthermore offers everything on the menu at the ‘Thunderbird’ and more. Yes, the common items between the two menus are typically $3 more expensive at ‘The Junction’, but that is well worth it since the quality and service is so much better. Plus ‘The Junction’ is full-service.

There is also a new “Denny’s” and a “Burger King” — the latter offering the ONLY reliable Wi-Fi in town.

“Denny’s” was OK. We had breakfast their once. Service was a tad slow but the food was OK.

We ate three nights in a row at ‘The Junction’ and even took some new Navajo friends there for dinner. They told us that they go there too — rather than the ‘Thunderbird’.

So, DEFINITELY recommend ‘The Junction’.

I personally also like “Church’s Chicken” and we have eaten there twice. It is fun and good.

Also do NOT forget the outstanding ‘Bashas’ supermarket with their deli that has an extensive range of hot food — including LOTS of great mutton. Their pot roast is very good.

So, my recommendations (at least for 2018): ‘The Junction’, “Church’s Chicken”, ‘Bashas’ supermarket, “Denny’s” & “Burger King”.

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by Anura Guruge

Canyon de Chelly: Horseback Riding With “Justin’s Horse Rental”.

by Anura Guruge

Click to ENLARGE the Pictures & Map.

From 2015 When We Did A 2-Hour Ride.

Horseback riding in the Canyon is magical. It is so quiet and peaceful. We did a 2-hour ride 3-years ago (in 2015) and loved it. So, we were definitely going to do it again. And we did. Except this time we made it a 3-hour ride.

In 2015 we went with “Tso’s Horse Tours” — the first ‘compound’ you come to when you enter the Navajo area at the mouth of the Canyon. That worked out quite well for us and we went back to them. They are NOT doing horse tours this year.

Appears that in 2018 the ONLY company, permitted by the Park Service, to conduct horseback tours is Justin’s! Has to do with ‘insurance’ and the lack thereof.

All the Navajos are ‘related’ and Justin is supposedly an uncle of “Tso’s”.

We had no trouble with Justin or the guide he provided us, 29-year old, local Urwin Yazzie. We got a 2:50 minute tour for $140 and my horse ONLY try to roll over me ONCE! But, I was too quick for it. Luckily it was in DEEP sand so there was no damage and I kept kicking it away so it would not roll any further onto my body. It could have been serious, but it was not and I was cool.

The next day, Teischan and I did a 4-hour 6-wheel ‘Jeep’ tour with ’40-year’ old Daniel Draper. He knew much, much more about the Canyon. So, between the two tours we learnt a lot.

Definitely recommend horseback riding in the Canyon. All tours into the Canyon are expensive. Given a choice I would do horseback THOUGH, of course, you see (and learn) much less.

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by Anura Guruge

Canyon de Chelly: Hiking The ‘White House’ Trail.

by Anura Guruge

My Map & Data from my Garmin Fenix 5.

Click to ENLARGE.

This is a wonderfully rewarding hike. It is also the ONLY hike to the bottom of the Canyon open to the public. For all other hikes (or trips, on horseback or ‘jeep) within the Canyon you need to be accompanied by a ‘certified’ Navajo guide and have a Backcountry Pass issued by the ‘Navajo Nation‘.

This is an easy hike! The biggest challenge is the heat. Check the numbers above. We waited till it was past 5pm to start because of the heat. We could have waited longer, but as we had expected there was a fleeting ‘storm’ later in the evening. Did not want to get caught in that.

When we got to the bottom (and the ‘White House’) around 5:50pm the last of the Navajo vendors were packing their jeep for the day. So we had the whole ruin to ourselves for about 45 minutes! That was special. That was actually a feature of this trip. Very few people. Most of the time we were the ONLY folks around. That is always nice.

I as you can see from the GPS map wandered a fair amount at the bottom, around the ruins. I also followed the dry stream bed back to the bridge. A family of horses were milling around.

This is not a hard hike by any standard. The last .25 mile is flat. You do the elevation quickly. I met a man who had done it 5-times, in the day, running parts of it. Impressive. I think I could have run it once. But, he was at least 20-years younger than I.

This hike is a MUST.

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by Anura Guruge