canyon de chelly // a disappearing act

When I was in college, I worked for a man who frequently raved about Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona.

But I’m rarely passing through Arizona unfortunately, so it doesn’t often pop into my periphery.

On this trip, however, because of my planned route, a visit to the little known canyon that Ansel Adams photographed a half century ago began to materialize.

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Crossing into Navajo country near Four Corners was a whole new experience.

The vast, open, dry plains and amazing monuments rising out of the desert floor were simply awe-inspiring.

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And, at least for a while, the clouds didn’t disappoint.

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But then we got to the canyon…

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This ancient place was inhabited by the Anasazi first, it is believed, several thousand years ago.  Until, they seemingly disappeared.  Just like in Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon.

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Then the Navajo moved in and began cultivating and farming the fertile canyon floor, and are still living off the land there to this day.

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Since the Navajo own, and many of their families inhabit this land, it is illegal to venture into the canyon without a Native guide.

The only exception being the White House hiking trail.  And since we were just passing through, and didn’t have a tour planned, we decided just to hike down.

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It was the wrong time of day to photograph the amazing homes carved into the side of this sheer cliff, but it was fascinating none-the-less.

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The visit really was too short to properly take this magnificent place in, but I’m glad we at least got a glimpse.

It truly is a beautiful and haunting place.

all images and content © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2013