By Jean Strauber Travel Editor
Is your hobby photography? Bob Dean, a freelance nature and wildlife photographer, will be leading a five-day Photo Workshop Tour of the geologic and archeological sites of the Four Corners area in Colorado, Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly from October 8-13, 2012. Starting in Durango Colorado, drive to Canyon de Chelly to spend a full day with a Navajo guide, traveling up and down the bottoms of two major canyons. You’ll photograph magnificent cliffs over 1,000 feet high, monoliths, the “White House” and other cliff dwelling ruins, plus petroglyphs and pictographs drawn over a 1,300-year period. You’ll also be given the opportunity to photograph the canyons from the overlooks along the rim drive. From Canyon de Chelly it is about an hour’s drive north to Monument Valley.
Here, too, you will be given an opportunity to tour the back country with a Navajo guide and view and photograph the monoliths that have been seen in so many Hollywood movies. On the last day, head back to Durango via Hovenweep National Monument on the Utah-Colorado border. Here you’re going to be able to photograph some of the best preserved Anasazi ruins in the area. The cost is $2,195. For more information go to www.firstlightphotography workshops.com. Tour West America is offering a tour to three-day/two-night tour of Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly from Wednesday March 14-16, 2012 for only $399 per person/ double occupancy. The tour begins in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, the first stop is the historic Cameron Trading Post for lunch, then you’ll admire the scenery as you follow the scenic route into the Monument Valley and to Gouldings Lodge. You can view some of the monoliths from the lodge, and you’ll want to visit the Trading Post Museum, a showcase of varied artifacts from another era. The museum is housed in the “social hall” that was built by John Ford for the movie, “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.” During the next day, board an SUV or a half-track for a 2-1/2 hour guided tour led by a Navajo guide into the Monument Valley Tribal Park. Fans of John Ford movies will be able to spot the “Mittens,” “Totem Pole,” or “Three Sisters,” to name a few.
Your no-host lunch will be at the View Hotel which is built at the edge of the valley. You’ll also find a visitors center and gift shop where you can purchase fine silver, basketry, or blankets made by the Navajos. After lunch, reboard your bus and travel to Canyon de Chelley (pronounced Shay) National Park Visitors Center where you’ll have a drive along the rim with plenty of photo stops. You’ll want to photograph “Spider Rock” which has been featured in many commercials. Your third day will find you touring Canyon de Chelly with a Navajo driver guide. You’ll learn about the Southwestern Indian history from the earliest Anaszai basketmakers to the Navajo Indians who live and farm here today. For more information or to make reservations call (480) 237-08888 or (800) 900-8687. I also found an On-Your-Own Tour of the Navajo Nation Indian Culture at navajonation. com that includes both Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly.
This tour of the Navajo Nation begins in Tuba City, Arizona. There are several methods for reaching Tuba City where your on-your-own tour will begin. You can begin with a flight from your city to Phoenix (Sky Harbor Airport) or Flagstaff (Pulliam Airport) Arizona where you can rent a car for this excursion. Or, for those that live in the United States you can drive your car on Interstate 40 to reach Tuba City AZ, which lies on US Route 160 near the junctions with Arizona State Route 264. Or, if you’re averse to flying (and there are many people who are), take Amtrak’s Southwest Chief to Flagstaff and rent a car. US Airways, Mesa Airlines and Ameriflights also arrive and depart from Flagstaff’s Pulliam Airport from Phoenix’s Sky Harbor if you’d rather not drive the more than 200 miles from Phoenix. Now that you’ve reached Tuba City (Navajo: Tó Naneesdizí) the headquarters of the Navajo Nation, I recommend you begin with the remarkable Explore Navajo Interactive Museum. There is also a Navajo Code Talkers Museum which features a transcript of a Code Talk, exceptionally detailed photos and also machinery and tools used in battle. If you arrive on a Friday you can shop for Navajo and Hopi arts and crafts at the flea market held every Friday. On the second day, climb into your car and take US Highway 160 for a scenic 72 mile drive to the town of Kayenta Arizona. From there you want to go north on US Highway 164 for 24 miles to IR 42 and the entrance to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.
You can book reservations at the Navajo-owned and managed Quality Inn or any number of other motels in Kayenta. Another option is to make reservations at the View Hotel (opened 2008) which was built at the entrance to the Navajo Tribal Park. A third option is to stay at the historic Gouldings Trading Post and Lodge. I strongly urge that you take a tour of Monument Valley. There are many companies that offer a half-day or even a fullday tour of the park. You can even book a night in one of the few cabins within Monument Valley but be prepared to live very rustically with none of the comforts of home. On day three, rise early to view the sunrise. It’s spectacular to see the spires and monoliths with the sun rising behind them, a truly spiritual moment. Tours through the canyon range from two hours (on-yourown) to a full day complete with Navajo guide. I strongly suggest the latter as he can interpret the many petroglyphs and pictographs that you’ll see on the sandstone cliffs which rise to more than 1000 feet above the canyon floor. He can also explain the heritage of the ruins of the several cliff dwellings, including the famous White House Ruins. Later, after breakfast you’ll leave Monument Valley and head south.
Drive back to Kayenta, jog a short distance northeast on US 160 to Indian Rt. 59, turn south and travel 60 miles to Many Farms and US Highway 191. Turn south on 191 and drive 15 miles to Chinle Arizona. It was on my first visit to the canyon that there a Navajo woman was demonstrating how to prepare Navajo Fried Bread and providing the spectators with delicious samples. Really yummy! On day four, drive south from Chinle on US Highway 191, and then east US Highway 264 to Window Rock. In Window Rock, the Navajo Nation Capital, be sure to visit the Navajo Nation Council Chambers with its murals depicting Navajo life, culture and history. Next to the Quality Inn Navajo Nation Capital you’ll find the Navajo Arts & Crafts Enterprise which has represented the Navajo artisan since 1941 and fine authentic Navajo fine art and collectibles.
Just a few steps from the Navajo Nation Council Chambers is the Window Rock Monument and Veterans Memorial Park where you’ll see the symbolic statue created to honor the wellknown Navajo Code Talkers. Another attraction in Window rock is the Navajo Nation Zoological Botanical Park where you’ll see indigenous wild animals from the Four Corners region. On the last day, drive from Chinle to Gallup, New Mexico, the Indian Jewelry Capital of the World. Every August there’s an Inter-Tribal Ceremonial held in August with a gathering of Indian Nations and several days of dancing, music and food and crafts by the Navajo, Hopi, Acoma and Zuni. In Gallup you’ll find a 10-mile strip on old Route 66 (The Mother Road), trading posts and many vintage and historic structures. A second choice would be to take a state road to Interstate 40 and head south, past the Petrified Forest and Meteor Crater to Winslow AZ for an overnight stay. Thirdly you can take Interstate 40 south to Phoenix and your flight home. Or, you can take Interstate 40 and head west on State Highway 264 to Williams AZ, and take one of the Grand Canyon’s steam locomotives to the Grand Canyon for an afternoon or an overnight stay before traveling on to Las Vegas or Phoenix Arizona to end your exploration of the Navajo Nation. Time Changes: If you journey through the Navajo Nation from March through November you’ll find that, though the state of Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Times, the Navajo Nation does. Alcoholic Beverages: Alcoholic beverages are not bought, sold or consumed in the Navajo Nation.