Everyone made it back safe and sound and the photos, videos and reports should start coming in. For me, this trip was one of the very best. I have organized our report into the categories below.
Our deepest appreciation to the Navajo for the privilege to visit their land. We saw many parts of the Navajo Nation, but wherever we traveled, we felt the warmth of their welcome. We are deeply indebted. Thank you!
Most of the sites we planned to visit required not only the assistance of a guide, but in certain cases, we were required to obtain permission from the Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Department (HPD). We are deeply grateful and indebted to the HPD for granting us permission to visit some of the most exceptional Anasazi sites in the Navajo Nation. The HPD acted quickly and made this trip one of our most memorable. Thank you!
Our Navajo guides were our portal to the land of the Dine. They made it possible to understand and appreciate this most remarkable land and it’s wonderful people. Many, many thanks to Daniel Stayley, Donovan Andy , Carlos Mose (Trail Handler Tours) and Bill Yazzi for making this possible. The opportunity to visit the Navajo Nation will come again and there are no other guides that I would request than these men. They are all outstanding ambassadors for the Navajo Nation and its people. Thank you!
Lastly, my personal thanks and appreciation to all of the members of our group who helped to make this trip so memorable. Thanks, Bob, Chazz, Dani, Charlie, Dina, Frank and Tom. We were blessed with great cooks, great company and good friends. Thank you all!
For those who were able to make this trip, we discovered one of the most extraordinary places in the USA. Our entire trip was spent in the Navajo Nation and we were fortunate to get a glimpse of the immensely rich cultural and historic character of this remarkable place.
As we have mentioned before, this type of trip is not just about seat time in the 4WD. It is an adventure to explore the land, it's history, it’s people and, of course, the scenery. To do this, it necessarily meant that we needed to get out of our vehicles and enjoy the adventure up close. Full appreciation was not possible without knowing some history of the area and without some "foot" exploration. We did just that and have the worn out boots to prove it.
The Navajo Nation aggressively protects it’s archeological sites and artifacts and makes certain that they remain unaltered and undamaged. A great deal of our trip was made possible by the generous permission by the Navajo Nation allowing us to visit and experience some of the finest Anasazi sites in the Southwest. The most important ingredient to appreciating these sites were our guides. They were able to give us a cultural and historic perspective that brought these sites to life and helped us to understand what we were seeing. I cannot thank them enough. For those interested, I would recommend each of our 4 guides again, without hesitation, and I will provide contact information, if requested.
As with most trips, preplanning is a must. Several areas we visited, have been on my MUST-SEE list of places, and in some cases, they have been on the list for years. As such, a great deal of research and time went into the selection of locations as well as guides that could competently guide us. In ALL respects, we hit a home run.
Interestingly, for both travel days to and from the Navajo Nation, we were treated to snow. In between, we had mostly very good, but sometimes very cold, weather. In Monument Valley the temps reached the 80's during the day. In the higher elevations, we woke up to 12 degree mornings. We even had one day of fierce and persistent winds which whipped up some very impressive sand/dust storms. For most of this day, visibility in the entire area was very low due to sand and dust which would just not settle. During one of the days in Monument Valley, we received a light dusting of snow and the combination of this and the storm clouds made for some spectacular photography.
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT/ACTIVITY NOTES:
1. One of the most comforting aspects of a long trip such as this one, is the ability to communicate with family and friends. When we traveled beyond cell phone range, the field of communication devices narrowed considerably. In preparation for this trip, I set up the Airmail HF email program on my Ham radio. Because Airmail relies on HF frequencies for communication, there are virtually no limitations on where you can use the program. During our travels, I was able to both send and receive emails from every location and I was able to send pictures back to Hector in order to post here on the forum. Additionally, I was also able to have two- way communication with my family as I both sent and received emails from home.
Incidentally, our HF Airmail contacts were made through MBOs which were many hundreds of miles away including Shreveport, Houston Texas, Olympia Washington, Salem Oregon, Victoria BC, Edmonton Alberta, Montreal, Ohio, Illinois, and North Carolina.
2. APRS once again served us well as we traveled. On several occasions, Hector and I were messaging back and forth and our daily tracks were available for all to view on APRS.fi at: http://aprs.fi/?call=K6DTK-9&mt=m&z=13&timerange=172800
. Our entire trip track is available for viewing by clicking on the above link. In addition to my contacts through Airmail, I set-up my home computers so everyone could see exactly where we were, everyday, with a single click.
3. Hiking on this trip was often long and difficult and while the temps were not particularly warm, at the end of the day, one of our most pleasant treats was a hot shower, back at camp. These portable hot showers make long trips a pure pleasure!
4. Trips like this reinforce my belief that Ham radio is one of the most important pieces of equipment that we carry. In addition to our ability to communicate among our party while traveling, it served as a way for our guides, who traveled with us in the vehicles, to communicate information to every member of the group as we moved about. Additionally, as we hiked into very remote areas, our HTs allowed us to keep in touch with others back at camp or with local repeaters. And, in addition to the Airmail communications, mentioned above, we always had the ability to have direct voice contact through our HF radios. While I spent most of my HF focus on Airmail, we did make a contact with Tom’s son in Michigan. Nothing special, but a confirmation of our ability to reach out to communicate many miles away, if we needed to do so.
5. The temps during the night were very cold and in most cases, below freezing. I had the opportunity before the trip to upgrade my sleeping bag and I went for the Butler Bags “All Season Sleeping Bag”. The bag is exceptionally heavy duty, rated for very low temps (-20) and roomy enough to sleep comfortably. Bottom line - 10 nights of comfort and rest! Unless I backpack, I’ll never again squeeze into a mummy bag. Comfort, you are mine!!!
6. There were some very exciting moments at each end of the sleeping cycle. As mentioned before, things got very cold at night and especially in the morning. Despite these low temps, I was able to make the inside of my tent quite comfortably warm with the aid of a Coleman portable catalatic heater (which has a built in fan.) Nothing can be quite so invigorating as putting on cold clothes when the mercury drops below freezing. The Coleman allowed me to avoid this particularly invigorating aspect of the trip. Camp set up was never complete without the Coleman heater ready to go.
7. There was not a single day when I did not need to use my flashlight. Several months ago, I upgraded my belt light from my trusty AA Mag Light to a Fenix AA light. With up to 180 lumens from an LED, several levels of light, small size, and rugged construction, it never let me down. It was pressed into service for everything from seeing inside the dark rooms of the ruins to providing the last light before z-land each night. One set of lithium batteries were much more than sufficient for the entire trip.
We visited the following areas:
1. Canyon de Chelly
2. Red Valley
3. Monument Valley
Driving through these areas offered unrivaled views of spectacular beauty. The hiking trips we made gave us a greater appreciation of this beauty and an opportunity to see things that the overwhelming majority of people never see. Our two days in Red Valley involved a 16 mile hike the first day and a 20 mile hike the second. In Monument Valley, we hiked about 6 miles to a very large and well preserved Anasazi ruin. At Betatakin, we hiked 5 miles to another very well preserved ruin. For all other days, we made shorter hikes to get closer views of different sites and areas.
The Anasazi were very careful to build their dwellings in remote areas which were very difficult to access. I can confirm that appetites were significant for these hikers when they returned to camp in the evening.
Thanks to all for making every meal a treat. I believe that one of the best ways to enhance the outdoor experience is to plan for exceptional meals. We were successful. Dinners included Dutch oven chicken and rice, Dutch oven lasagna, marinated flank steak with baked potatoes, and pressure cooker chicken adobo. Lunches included chicken salad wrapped in tortillas and a variety of sandwiches. Breakfasts included French Toast, breakfast burritos, eggs, hash browns, bacon and sausage.
The pictures below are a good insight into the Navajo Nation. There will be a second set of photos for the ruins. Again, thanks to Tom, Frank, Dina, Charlie, Dani, Chazz and Bob.
Canyon de Chelly
ON THE WAY