Tag Archives: horseback riding

‘Canyon de Chelly’ A Jeep On The Canyon Floor.

by Anura Guruge


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Anura Guruge Canyon de Chelly


We were on our 3-hour riding trip with “Justin’s Horse Rental” when we ran into this Jeep. Looks like it was a Canyon tour jeep. From what I can see it maybe even driven by a tourist. Pretty cool. The Canyon floor, which is mainly a dried up river bed, is the place to be.


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by Anura Guruge

The Dogs Of ‘Canyon de Chelly’ — At “Justin’s Horse Rental”.

by Anura Guruge


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Canyon de Chelly


This was at “Justin’s Horse Rental” — the folks we used for our 3-hour riding trip into the Canyon. These two dogs were adorable. We had met them the day before when we stopped to make the reservation. This was when we were getting ready to leave on our ride. It was hot and they were tired from playing. I would have brought them back, if I could. Cute as can be. Sharp teeth. But, that was worth it.


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by Anura Guruge

The Raw, Rugged Grandeur Of ‘Canyon de Chelly’ — On Horseback Towards The ‘Junction’.

by Anura Guruge


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Continuing my series of posts where I strive to share with you both the unsurpassed splendor and the history of this incredible Canyon in Arizona. I took this picture during our horseback ride to the ‘Junction‘ and back.


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by Anura Guruge

The Raw, Rugged Grandeur Of ‘Canyon de Chelly’ — Wild Horses By The ‘White House’ Ruin.

by Anura Guruge


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As I pointed out in yesterday’s post, horses, both tame and feral, are a feature of this tranquil and beautiful Canyon. We saw quite a few in our travels. These two were when we hiked down to the famous ‘White House’ ruin. The drought is taking a toll on the horses. You can tell from these pictures. We heard on the radio that upward of 400 had died of thirst!


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by Anura Guruge

The Raw, Rugged Grandeur Of ‘Canyon de Chelly’ — Wild Horses At The Bottom.

by Anura Guruge


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Horses, both tame and feral, are a feature of this tranquil and beautiful Canyon. We saw quite a few in our travels. Kind of off putting to come across wild horses when you are horseback but they all seemed to know what to do.


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by Anura Guruge

Canyon de Chelly: The Legend Of The Upside Down ‘Kokopelli’.

by Anura Guruge


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Bigger picture of where the upside down Kokopelli is located.


Click to ENLARGE and read here. Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kokopelli


Canyon de Chelly’s upside down Kokopelli is a ‘pictograph‘ (i.e., painted as opposed to carved) within the valley, fairly close to the entrance to the Canyon. You can’t see it from any of the overlooks. You have to go into the Canyon, with an authorized Navajo guide, on horseback, by ‘jeep‘ or by foot. We did both, on consecutive days. Hence, the two pictures at top (with two different cameras). As such we also got to hear about the legend, from two separate Navajo guides, 24-hours apart. And we did 3-years ago. So, I have heard the legend multiple times.

This Kokopelli is pretty close to the entrance, way before you get to the First Ruin — or even the area below the first South Rim overlook, i.e., Tunnel Overlook.

The Kokopelli, indubitably, is a fertility spirit — with the fertility also extending to farming. This agricultural aspect is important in Canyon de Chelly since they try and farm in the Canyon as much as they. They could NOT in 2018 because, atypically, they did NOT get any snow and as such there was no snow melt in the Spring.

The Canyon de Chelly Navajo think of Kokopelli as a ‘womanizer‘ who seduces women with his flue — that being the connection with fertility.

That he is famously depicted upside down is said to do with his ‘womanizing’. I can relate to that. {Smile}

His hunchback is also said to relate to his ‘womanizing’! It is said to carry his extra ‘seed’. So, the ancient Navajo had much to learn about human anatomy.

Per some Canyon de Chelly Navajo folks would hear Kokopelli’s flute, in the Canyon, in early Spring. That was a good omen and they knew that the coming years would be good.

Now you start getting divergence in the legend.

One Navajo guide was adamant that his grandmother, who grew-up and lived on the Canyon floor, told me about 10-years ago, that ‘they’ stopped hearing the flute about ’40-years’ ago. “they’ think that that is not good. You could understand why.

Other Navajos disagree. They claim that Kokopelli is still around and all is good. Hhhhmmm!


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by Anura Guruge

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

by Anura Guruge


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

by Anura Guruge


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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

Selfie At ‘Canyon de Chelly’ Horseback Riding (Without Getting Photobombed).

by Anura Guruge


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Second time we have gone horseback riding in ‘Canyon de Chelly‘ with a Navajo guide — after getting the necessary permit to enter the Canyon. This was a 3-hour ride to the Canyon ‘Junction’ and back. I took this picture towards the end. This is the home stretch. The end of the Canyon was in sight.


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by Anura Guruge

My Selfie At ‘Canyon de Chelly’ Photobombed By A Girl On A Horse.

by Anura Guruge


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Canyon de Chelly horseback riding


You get photobombed in the most isolated of places. This is horseback riding, with a Navajo guide, in Canyon de Chelly last Wednesday. Nobody around. Desserted in the parched desert. Take a selfie and I am photobombed.


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by Anura Guruge