Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

Ruins in Devils Chasm

Posted in Southern & Central Arizona by canyoneering on April 19, 2010

Devils Chasm
approximately 4 miles
Tonto National Forest – Sierra Ancha Wilderness

Devils Chasm is a rugged canyon hike in the Sierra Ancha Mountains culminating at well-preserved ruins high in the cliffs above the canyon floor. The canyon hike began in the cool shaded forest. David, Briscoe and I followed a flowing stream past many small waterfalls as we steadily walked up canyon. I think the prettiest portion of the hike was through a slick rock bowl with clear inviting pools and waterfalls.

Climbing up to the ruins from the canyon floor proved to be the most difficult part of the day. The route took us up a very steep scree slop of loose rock, dust and dirt where solid footing seemed none existent. With our feet constantly slipping, the two steps forward one step back seemed to be the pattern of progression to our objective. About half way up the scramble the ruins came into view on top of a protected cliff in an alcove above.

The dwellings were well worth the unpleasant scramble. The ruins consisted of multiple rooms, doorways and windows. The walls and the ceiling structural beams made of wood were still preserved and intact. It appeared the structure consisted of multiple levels. According to the sign along the road before the trailhead, “They were built between 1280 and 1350 AD by Indians known presently as the ‘Salado’. Why they chose to utilize this challenging environmental zone is not yet fully understood.” After relaxing in the structure and very carefully and thoroughly exploring it, we made our way back down the scree slope. Going down was much easier and way more fun then going up. David and Briscoe went first with David sliding on his feet and butt while Briscoe was body surfing on his back all the way down.

Because the location of these ruins are identified in a number of sources it is important that visitors explore them with the utmost in sensitivity and care.


History in Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Posted in Northern Arizona & the Mogollon Rim by canyoneering on August 14, 2009

History in Canyon de Chelly National Monumentt

Canyon de Chelly National Monument
04/01/09 – 04/02/09

Within these canyon walls is the longest continuously inhabited landscape in North America. Beginning with the ancient Basket Makers dating back to over 1,500 years ago to the modern Navajo who still farm and herd sheep in the canyon bottoms in the summer months, Canyon de Chelly has housed generations upon generations upon generations. These walls have seen birth, death, love, family, murder, brutality, spirituality and tradition. They have been the building materials for homes and villages. They have been the canvas for works of art. They have been the arenas for hunting, gathering, herding and farming. A full history within sandstone chasms.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument consists entirely of Navajo Tribal Trust Land that works in partnership with the National Park Service. The majority of the 84,000 acres within the park boundary is off limits to non-resident Navajo without the company of a designated Navajo guide.

After pressing play on video, press pause & allow a minute for video to load & buffer before viewing. Thanks!
  ©Arizona Republic 2009            

In April of 2009 I was on a travel assignment for the Arizona Republic covering the national parks, monuments and historical sites on the Navajo reservation. While at Canyon de Chelly National Monument I hired hiking guide Ben Henry Jr. to not only see more of the park, but to hear first hand of this history. Ben grew up in the canyon and still farms the bottom. Ben took me down an informal trail across shelves and down sandstone walls as he told me about being a child growing up in the canyon. In the steeper sections we used hand holds and footholds carved out by earlier generations of Navajo. We walked along the canyon bottom as Ben talked about a mixture of the ancient past and his own personal experiences. We stopped to look at ancient Anasazi ruins, Navajo petrolglyphs from hundreds of years ago and a piece of land where Ben’s family still farms. Before we parted ways Ben invited me to meet his family during the farming season.

As I said goodbye to Ben and left Canyon de Chelly National Monument I felt a deep sense of peace. To hear the stories first hand, to walk on that earth and to share the company with someone from this history was a rejuvenating experience.