Utah/Arizona ATV Club Road Tour
Roaming the Reservations by Vehicle May 13 to May 21, 2015
Participants: Eight couples
Bain & Arlene Swapp,
John & Lorraine Scribner,
Chris & Gail Dvorak,
Chuck & Kathleen Lybargar,
Tony & Linda Wright,
Sam & Jan Smith,
Price & Connie Nelson,
Garry & Drue Naccarato,
*Ken & Susie Hodson, departed Kanab with the group, they left the group on Friday when Charlie & Jackie Liebfried arrived traveling on their own and returning early.
Highest Elevation reached: 8814 Lowest 3163
Vehicle information: Miles traveled 1393
Days traveled: 8
Motel Nights: 7
Native America Reservations visited: 5
Breakfast at Parry’s Lodge in Kanab at 7:00 AM nine couples were eager to get on the road and explore the reservations. A group photo is taken, as we did almost every morning. We depart Kanab going S/B on US 89A up over the Kaibab, Jacob Lake and down across Houserock valley to Lee’s Ferry, where we take a rest stop and watch the Colorado River pontoon boats being loaded with tourists ready for the ride of their life down through the Grand Canyon. We stop by Lonely Dell, where some hiked to the orchards and picked almost ripe apricots. We returned to US 89A stopping at the old Navajo bridge visitors center for lunch next to the new bridge over the Colorado. The old Navajo bridge built in the 1920’s put Lee’s Ferry out of business. Below the bridges we photographed Calif. Condors roosting. Continuing S/B we pick up US 89 at Bitter Springs continuing S/B to US 160 turning E/B. Within a short distance and before Tuba City the signed turn-off to the Dinosaur Tracks were followed, you will see the Navajo venders who will signal for you to stop for them, we stop our vehicles where we find our guide “Pat”, who gave us a tour of the Dino tracks site. We observed many Dino Tracks including a ‘T’ Rex track 4 foot in size, the petrified bones of other Dino’s, Dino Eggs, and actual exposed claw of a million year old Dino. It is well worth the $5 that I gave her as a tip for her guide service. That would be combined with the other tips she received. (The information given here is disputed by paleontologists).
Afterwards, a Navajo man suggested a back route into Tuba City, we followed his directions for the 8 mile drive into Tuba City stopping at the McDonalds for a rest stop.
(In 1878 a Mormon named Erastus Snow established Tuba City, naming it Tuve in honor of a Hopi headman. Tuve was mispronounced by so many newcomers, the reason why travelers roll into town expecting to hear some anecdote about a horn instrument. Snow's flock moved when the Navajo Indian Reservation was enlarged to include Tuba City and established its western headquarters here. The terrain around town includes sediments deposited 200 million years ago in the Jurassic period. One early dinosaur stalked across a nearby mudflat over 70 billion days ago, leaving tracks preserved in Moenave Formation sandstone).
We continued out of the town and stayed on SR264 S/B at the signal light. We drive about 14 miles and finally find a turnoff to the Coalmine Canyon Overlook; (14.4 Mi. from US 160 on SR264 turn left (north) between MM 336-337 look for windmill), which is on the Navajo Reservation, what a beautiful sight after crossing the featureless mesa to the abrupt view of an Canyon with multi colored spires, points somewhat like Bryce Canyon, however, with different colors. Group photo taken there.
(Coalmine Canyon, located on Navajo Lands, close to the border of the Hopi Reservation, is a breathtaking sight if you can find it. Many beautiful areas on the reservation where you can photograph such natural beauty or go hiking are unmarked and down dirt roads. Such is the overlook at Coal Mine Canyon. As you gaze over the edge of the sand and stone rim (no guard rails), you'll find a magical deep canyon with red mudstone, bleached white rock and coal streaks. At sunset the light can play off the colors in the stone and make for some fantastic photography).
We continued on entering the Hopi Reservation onto First Mesa, passing the 500 year old Hopi site of Oraibi, where people still live as they have done for all of these many generations; with no power, no water. We continue E/B arriving at Second Mesa; Kykotsmovi, and the modern Hopi Cultural Center where we check into a modern motel and restaurant complex. No alcohol consumption permitted at or in the motel.
We had plans to visit the Hopi Heritage Center museum which we were told at check in was opened until 9:00PM. On the Reservation you soon learn that often, times or schedules do not matter to the inhabitants, the museum was closed. That evening we enjoy our first group dinner at the very nice motel restaurant. Some of us tried the Hopi Taco, and some lamb stew the traditional style. There were no complaints on the quality of the food.
(The Hopi can trace their presence in this country back at least a thousand years. A pueblo people, they live in centuries-old villages grouped around three caprock plateaus called First, Second, and Third Mesa, adjoining one another along a 37-mile stretch of AZ 264. The First Mesa villages cluster atop the plateau, look for signs of the village of Polacca to Sichomovi, built circa 1600 but, like all pueblos, appearing ancient. A Hopi guide is mandatory to visit tiny Walpi, the quintessential pueblo stronghold. Its stone houses, grouped on a finger of the mesa's broken edge, have looked out across the plain for more than five centuries. Fewer than ten families live here, without electricity or running water. Second Mesa is where we stay overnight. Farther west is the foot of Third Mesa and Kykotsmovi, a village nestled between canyon walls and among peach orchards).
Beautiful morning on the Hopi reservation we gather at the designated time and have a group breakfast together speaking of yesterday’s events. All excited to get on with the explorations. Continuing eastbound on SR264 we continue reentering the Navajo Reservation. We go from mesa to mesa on this scenic route and pass through Keams Canyon. Turning onto the dirt reservations roads, all unsigned and searching for Eagle Crag ruins, near Steamboat AZ, we have a GPS coordinate, however, cannot find the ruins, taking some back roads we get some of the locals riled up who come to investigate. They say they don’t know of any ruins and don’t go to them anyway.
They offer no help and we decide to head out via some back routes, after all it is all about roaming the Navajo Reservation. Finding our way back to SR264 again, we head east to Burns Jct. for fuel. On to the historic Hubbell Trading Post, near Ganado, AZ we pause for lunch. Unfortunately, the museum is being restored but the visit is worth the sights and history of this old trading post with the little store much like it has been for more than a 100 years.
(In 1878 24-year-old John Lorenzo Hubbell bought the establishment where Navajo and Hopi traded wool and blankets for brass and tin tokens that they redeemed for store goods. Hubbell's carries on, little changed since its construction in 1883. This is an excellent place to shop for Navajo rugs and Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni jewelry, baskets, and kachinas. Weavers work in the visitor’s center here, on wooden handlooms. Hubbell himself, who learned to speak Navajo and Hopi and championed Indian causes as a territorial legislator and state senator, lived at what is now the Lorenzo Hubbell House. The trader's extraordinary personal collection of paintings and Native American rugs, baskets and other handicrafts remains on view inside).
Continuing through Ganado on SR264 at about 12 miles we begin the search for the Kinlichee Ruins Tribal Park: 8 miles east of Ganado near the Cross Canyon Trading Post and N/B 2.5 miles via a dirt road. When we arrive in the general area we find a maze of roads and no signs. Finally with the help of a Navajo lady, we get directions, her looks tell a story written on her face: “Crazy Whiteman”, why he go there? But we do and find some ruins, and a very old but small kiva, a kiosk, which says this Tribal Park was developed in 1964, and it is apparent that nothing has been done to it since. It could take some exploration, however, I don’t believe anyone was in the mood to do so. We moved on.
Back on SR 264 W/B towards Ganado, we find Indian road 27 to Nazlini where we turn N/B passing Ganado Lake, and much scenic country. We stop at an overlook of the mysterious Nazlini Canyon country, deep canyons and rough terrain; it is said to be full of Anasazi sites but difficult to get to. Dropping off the mesa the road becomes a hard packed dirt as we pass through ‘Beautiful Valley’ and a Dust storm that has welled up, as we head to Chinle, AZ. Whoever named this valley Beautiful had a vivid immigration because it is far from that. Indian 27 intersects with Indian 64 in Chinli, at the intersection of this paved road and Indian 7 is the Canyon de Chelly visitor’s center. We turn onto Indian. 7 to the signed directions to our motel. After checking into the Sacred Canyon Lodge, located within Canyon de Chelly, for two nights, we all visit the Thunderbird Cafeteria and do our best to enjoy cafeteria style dinner offered there, a little pricy, and it was not our favorite place to eat. Rains overnight, temps becoming colder. Charlie and Jackie was there we were surprised to find. They had been sight-seeing on their own.
We breakfast at ‘the Cafeteria’ and at least the coffee was hot. Out we go after our group photo was taken in front of the Thunderbird Cafeteria. Quickly visiting the aforementioned visitor’s center, it had been suggested that rather than taking the planned south loop tour we start at the north viewpoints. Plans are made to be changed so we head out onto Indian 64 to north viewpoints of Canyon de Chelly, a total of 4 locations to be viewed. Some with strenuous walks.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument north overlooks.
(Reservation Route 64 becomes North Rim Drive as it reaches the edge of the caprock mesa overlooking Canyon del Muerto. The monument actually includes three converging canyons: The heel is the canyon mouth near Chinle; the middle toe is Canyon de Chelly, Canyon del Muerto splays northeast, and Monument Canyon points southeast. On Reservation Route 64 watch for the turnoff to Massacre Cave Overlook. In 1805 Navajo braves and their families retreating from Mexican dragoons took refuge in this cave high above the canyon floor. The militiamen aimed their muskets at the roof of the cave, bouncing slugs down and killing more than 100. As you return from the overlook, bear left onto the fork leading back to the canyon rim and an overlook of Mummy Cave Ruin, a handsome prehistoric village with a tower rising three stories. In 1882, archaeologists searching here found mummified bodies, for which the cave is named. The canyon's abundance of pictographs rivals any site of Indian rock art in the Southwest).
The weather had become blustery, and threatening rain and storms. It was decided not to attempt the round trip around Canyon de Chelly and the dirt roads. Back tracking and moving to southern Viewpoints on Indian highway 7. We have our lunch to eat at the first viewpoint, attempting to find some shelter out of the windy weather. Seven in total viewpoints to see on the south side of the right finger of Canyon de Chelly, every viewpoint was visited and walked, at the last one, Spider Rock we were feeling it, according to Lorraine’s pedometer, we had walked 5 miles. The weather had turned to storming, with some rain and sleet. We were happy to return to the warmth of our accommodations and to sip our medications. A group went out to dinner in Chinli at the Junction restaurant which received good reports. Others remained in their rooms and ate in. The Hodson’s and Liebfried’s said they would go on their own and will leave us early tomorrow.
Rain most of the night, and no group photo. Now minus the Hodson’s and Liebfrieds, we depart with a storm brewing going back to Indian 64, snowing as we gain altitude, and turn south on Ind. 27 we have decided not to attempt Buffalo Pass in such conditions, so S/B through Wheatfields, we continue on paved road as the weather became colder and snowy as we gained altitude. The Chuska Mtn. range was obscured by low clouds as we continue through Navajo Lands, the pull outs were muddy but the paved road, though wet, and we had good traction by staying on highway. We enter New Mexico as we turn on Ind.134 to climb over snow packed mountain pass which had inches of snow. We see herds of deer grazing in the pastures in the high country with horses. Over the top we find a steep descent into the valley and on to Sheep Springs. The girls enjoy the Navajo bathroom accommodations, yeah right!
After a much needed break we turn N/B on US 491 to go to Shiprock, NM. There we meet Keith and Anita Perkins, at the Burger King who are on an LDS Mission, in this area. We enjoy our lunch and our short visit. Moving onto US 64 we head E/B through Farmington, NM to the Salmon Ruins and our first large Ruins, Kiva and Museum. Salmon Ruins is signed and is just off the south side of the US 64 and a few miles west of Bloomfield. This a San Juan County operated museum and nicely done. Below the museum are the ruins and a walking tour is available. When everyone was satisfied with their explorations and viewing. We are on our way just a short distance to our Super 8 Motel located at the intersection of US 64 and US 550. Reaching our destination and checking in for two nights.
At the motel we briefly see the Hodson’s and Liebfried’s who are off to dinner on their own. The remaining group hears that it is prime-rib night at Sonya’s on the south side of Bloomfield on US 550 and that is where we head. Our group has an ‘as usual’ fun evening being entertained by the personality of our pretty waitress, serving up generous portions of prime rib and baked potatoes to most of us at least. John gets shorted but later treated. Have you ever heard the Navajo custom that; “Those who speak first are served last”? This is true!
After our fine meal we retreat to the motel for a night of rest and recovery of the many overlooks we visited yesterday and the wintery drive over the mountains.
Up early and saw that our friends were leaving early and as some tried to get to them to say goodbye, no luck, they were gone in a flash. As planned the remaining eight couples gathered at 9:00 AM. Took the group photo, and depart for our drive to Chaco Canyon on a glorious day, beautiful clear and short sleeve weather. The drive takes us southbound on US 550 about 37 miles to a clearly signed turnoff to Chaco Canyon World heritage site, just pass Najeezi on NM Road 7950. The road is paved most of the way then turns to a gravel mud mixture, it was good that we waited to go over this part of the road later as it was just dry enough to take our convoy of vehicles without slinging mud everywhere. Arriving at the visitor’s center we watch a film of the sites and visit the gift shop.
(Operating Hours & Seasons: The Park is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to sunset and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. The campground remains open).
This is an all-day adventure as pre-planned, everyone was on their own. After stopping at the visitor’s center, everyone started their own self-guided tours of five different Chacoan ruins some over three stories tall. You are allowed to borrow guide booklets at the various sites that allows you to explore the various complexes. There are trails along the canyon walls with petroglyphs, and you are allowed to explore some of the inside passage ways throughout the Bonita Ruin complex. This turns out to be an outstanding adventure, especially for Sam, getting through the small passageways of the ruins. Reading about and seeing the many Kiva’s and the intricate engineering of the three distinctly different patterns of masonry efforts of the Anasazi or Chacoan peoples. We are led to believe many versions of where these peoples went to, and many different theories. Yet no DNA proof. Moreover, there is much ‘politically correct’ rhetoric to hear from those who claim to be the descendants. And, now the word Anasazi is no longer used. Whatever!
After hours of explorations, and walking, our bunch seems to be everywhere. A few of us after our lunch were leaving the canyon floor via the return route. We had a map and saw where there was another Anasazi ruin at what is called now Pueblo Pintato the eastern most and first discovered ruins in the 1600’s. To get there will take us over dirt roads and highways about 50 miles out of our way to find this site, although it is actually only 20 miles east of the Bonita ruins. It takes a while to find this ruins, we can see it standing on a tall hill but cannot find the road to it because there are no signs. Finally, a very nice Navajo lady not only directs us to the correct road she ensures we find it. Up to these ruins we find them different because they are situated up on a hill at the beginning of Chaco Canyon. No one was there and we had this site to ourselves to visit the ruins and enjoy the solitude. This was fun to enjoy this unique Anasazi Pintato ruin, but the time was getting late and we had to find our way back across this vast plain. We take the Counselor dirt road 25 miles back to US 550 leaving us about 50 miles south of Bloomfield. Back to town we go finding our friends already at the Texas BBQ restaurant having dinner. We join them and tell of our various adventures of that day.
Wakeup to another glorious morning, after our group photo we head down to Sonya’s for our group breakfast. Then moving on north a short 8 miles on US 550 to Aztec, NM and the Aztec ruins National Monument, another highly rated site with Anasazi ruins a great covered Kiva, allowing the visitor more of the internal experience of adventure by going through the ruins yourself with a self-guided directory. Again it seems everyone enjoyed the visit, the museum and the adventure of self-exploration and having the time to enjoy it. The rebuilt replica of the old and large Kiva was set up with lighting and a sound system. This site is compact and easy to explore, well worth the visit.
(Like Montezuma Castle in Arizona, the Aztec Ruins were mistakenly thought by early white explorers to be relics of the great 15th century central Mexican civilization, though as with most other ancient settlements of the Southwest they actually date from around the 12th century and were built by tribes indigenous to this region. In this case the people were probably related to the Mesa Verde group in Colorado though they also had close ties with Chaco culture, the center of which was 55 miles south. What remains today is a walled village with almost 400 rooms on three levels, over a dozen kivas (circular ceremonial areas), and which since excavation and limited reconstruction may be toured in a very good state of preservation).
We depart and have an adventure finding our route to Colorado, the leader takes the wrong turn and wham, and we are in Farmington! Radios came in handy and Arlene our tail gunner keeps the rear flock moving through the numerous signal lights and mid-day traffic. Finally finding NM 170 NB along the LaPlata River and delightful drive gaining altitude all the way into Colorado and Hwy. 140 to the mountain town of Hesperus. Onto US 160 taking us over the pass we view Elk in the fields as a huge storm gathers to the NE. We find Mesa Verde, and as usual it is very busy with flatlanders. They have a new visitor’s center and research center with storage of thousands of Anasazi relics. We take our time visiting.
Then take the curving mountainous drive out to the Mesa Verde viewpoints. Although having been there before, we enjoy our new renewed experience immensely. Be sure to have a good pair of binoculars and a zoom lenses on your camera to get the full appreciation of the views of the Cliff Ruins so numerous it is hard to count. Though very windy, we cap off the day enjoying the easy day of driving from one viewpoint to another. The urge to physically touch them has been easily satisfied by our previous explorations. But the visit all within itself was enjoyable. Our friends from Apple Valley have made arrangements to go to Durango and ride the Silverton Train, and continue on their adventure from there. We wish them the best and adieu.
On to Cortez, CO we go, now down to six couples, to our Super 8 motel while a storm is brewing to the north. (The Cortez Super 8 is not recommended).
That evening we gather to a fine restaurant east of town, the Fiesta Mexicana Restaurant where we celebrate birthdays of Kathleen Lybargar, Arlene Swapp and Lorraine Scribner, with Mexican sombreros and margaritas. The restaurant staff serenade these lovely ladies at this festive little party. It was also farewell or Chris and Gail who would be leaving early in the morning. We wish them safe travels home.
Our last group photo, (five couples) at the motel then after fuel, we go through Cortez east to SR 145 N/B towards Delores, then turning on SR184. Our ruins explorations are not over, this morning we head north to the Anasazi Cultural Center, purported to be the finest museum of Anasazi artifacts in the world. It was not disappointing, furthermore there are more ruins on site. This is the headquarters of the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. We enjoy the presentations and a massive museum with hands on viewing. This site is reputed to be one on the finest and on the top ten list with Chaco, Mesa Verde and Chaco. Another interesting thing; few visit the Canyon of the Ancients national monument, and this heritage center, just as we like it.
We get directions to the Lawry ruins complex north in Pleasant View, Colorado. More large thunder storms are bearing down on us as we depart the museum and head out, following SR 184 to US491 N/B to the small town of Pleasant View. Turning W/B following a signed turn. Nine miles out on a local improved road we reach the Lawry site, no one is there upon arrival. Another complex Anasazi site with a covered Kiva, which was outstanding. You could really feel the history here with storm clouds above and rain falling. The second ceremonial Kiva is explained in detail, that is, in the terms of current Tribal beliefs as to the meaning of the structure. Being rained out we head north to Monticello on the same highway turning N/B on US191 north to the Canyonlands turn off, SR211 and drive to Newspaper Rock, going towards Canyonlands, and the Needles district. Arriving at this site deep in a canyon, there is a large parking area and toilet here. This must be one of the largest Petroglyph Panels, at least for me it was. (See the photos). We take numerous photos of the site, and when ready, decide to return via the mountain way back through the pine forests of the Abajo Mountains to Monticello. With it being late afternoon we head S/B on US 191 for Blanding and our motel. We had to forgo our planned return to Montezuma Canyon. After checking in to the nice Super 8 motel in Blanding we head for enjoying a great farewell dinner at the Homestead Steakhouse discussing our favorite places over our fine dinner.
Everyone was on their own to return home. I took US 191 to Bluff, UT then US 163 through Mexican Hat, across the San Juan through Monument Valley, W/B on US 160 from Kayenta to SR 98 to Page, AZ and finally US 89 to Kanab. A five and a half hour drive with a lunch break. Five hours and we are home.
Area of exploration the Reservations
Humans have been part of this landscape for at least 10,000 years. The pre-Puebloan people called Basketmakers migrated into the area about 1500 BC. They were primarily hunter-gatherers but, unlike earlier inhabitants, they are associated with the earliest traces of corn agriculture. They excelled at basketry, and interacted with a wider cultural region including Mesa Verde and beyond. By about AD 750 their architecture had developed from pit house clusters into square-roomed "pueblo" style villages. They developed excellent pottery and farmed extensively. Factors including population growth, soil exhaustion, and changing rain/snow patterns began to reduce the natural resources of the area. By about 1300 AD the Ancestral Puebloans had migrated south, east, and west to where their descendants live today as the modern Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona. Soon afterwards nomadic Ute and Navajo bands began to frequent the area's mesas and canyons. Forked-stick hogans, brush shelters, and wickiups remain as evidence of these later occupants.
Writers Note: The Newspaper rock panel show a man on a horse shooting an arrow at a deer. The government sign says the petroglyphs are from before the 1300’s, leading those visitors to believe that the Native Americans had horses in the fourteenth century. Most history books contradict this. Such as the use of ‘Anasazi’, a Navajo word meaning ‘Ancient People’. To be politically correct, Anasazi is less used and now we see the Government and science saying that the New Mexico, Rio Grande Pueblo people are the descendants of the Anasazi’s. Let’s see the DNA evidence.
Note: Photos by the day will be uploaded as soon as possible. The website does not accept the size of the photos at this time.