Arizona – Utah RV Trip Part 2 Canyon de Chelly

It’s a scenic drive from Gallup, through Window Rock and Ganado, to Chinle and Canyon de Chelly. For the first time in almost four years I had reservations for a campground. I don’t like the obligation to be a place at a set date. When I arrived at Spider Rock Campground, there was no one around, so I just found a space. It had rained here recently and the roads were rutted and muddy. It wasn’t a good fit for me. The only hiking/walking was around the campground and there were several loose dogs. But I settled in.

Spider Rock

The guide book says to tour the south rim, where I was, in the afternoon. The light is better on Spider Rock, but I was too tired to go out again. By morning I had decided to leave and go to Cottonwood campground near the mouth of the canyon. And I would stop at all the overlooks on the way. So I left at 8AM. The light will be good on something. In all fairness, people I talked with later had truly enjoyed camping at Spider Rock and found the owner to be delightful.

Every overlook was spectacular. I even like my Spider Rock photos in the less-than-perfect light.

Sometimes the ruins are difficult to see.

Care to walk on this trail? Only for residents!

Cottonwood campground has 92 spaces, but they are not crowded together. The namesake cottonwood trees were just leafing out. It is $10/night (no hook-ups) and there’s potable water and a dump station.

Cottonwood Campground

It is a short walk to the Canyon de Chelly visitors’ center, where they had a wonderful image of the canyons. Alas, not for sale.

iPhone photo of the map of the canyons of Canyon de Chelly.

This would become a different way of camping for me. Previously I’ve gone to one place, stayed several days, not moving the RV. Now I’d go sightseeing almost every day. I still like those days of rest and reflection. It’s certainly easier now to stow everything and go. I remember when I first started, it seems like a big task. Now it’s an easy routine.

One of my early neighbors was a couple from Wisconsin in a travel trailer. They tour from February to May every year. Sounded like a good plan. On the other side of my site, a couple moved in, but other than greetings, we didn’t speak. They are from Connecticut and carried bicycles and kayaks.

A big contingent moved into the group site. Seventeen people with several tents and boxes of gear. Quite an operation. And to my surprise, the next morning they were packing up. I stopped to talk with the man doing most of the work to tell him I hoped he didn’t have to do that every day. Turned out they are part of an REI tour that will spend the next several days camped in the canyon. That’s a tour I would like.

Mummy cave

The north rim overlooks took a morning to view. I like to go early, but light is an issue when you’re looking into a canyon. I had almost every stop to myself. Only a few kindred folks out early. At the Massacre Cave site, I didn’t see the cave. I later went to the visitors’ center and asked to see a photo. The overhang has collapsed so it doesn’t look like a hiding place any more. I went back on my way out to see it again.

The cave is now that narrow ledge with all the rubble.

I met the new neighbor across the road, a retired veterinarian from Vermont. He and his wife travel for months in their car and teardrop trailer.

And now for that occasional day of rest. Reading, napping, and hanging out in the campground. I seem to need these days. I watched ravens long enough to see that they flew to a certain place – there is a nest there. Not a great photo, but fun to watch them. I think the ravens were smart to make their nest in a campground – lots of snacks available.

I also like watching people (thanks Mom for that habit), especially those arriving in the afternoon influx. Campers are part of shifting communities – overnight or for a week here. Then shuffled to new places, some to meet again. Tents, truck campers, vans, RVs, fifth-wheelers, and travel trailers. Full-timers v. vacationers; older v. younger; friendly brief encounters with strangers and occasionally tense words between traveling companions.

I decided to stay two more nights.

It’s been an unusually wet Spring, so the jeep tours must adjust.

I had been sitting outside on a warm but windy day. Suddenly it cooled and the wind was ferocious – and dusty. I moved inside quickly. The wind was hitting the RV broadside, really rocking it. I was uncomfortable enough to move it slightly to put the back-end into the wind. Much better. And then it rained for a few minutes. And then still. It all lasted about 30 minutes. Glad I wasn’t driving in it.

On my last full day, I checked out some of the north rim overlooks again. Antelope House ruins are at the base of a southeast facing cliff – definitely needed later light to see it.

Antelope House

I stopped in town for a few supplies, filled up the gas tank, filled the fresh water tank, and dumped the waste water tanks. These are things I usually do on my way to the next place. It felt so good to have all that done. Nothing left for the next morning, but stowing a few things and just leaving.  I must remember this.

Early Spring colors in the trees.

Part 1 is here.