Riding in the Canyon De Chelly By Elzy Kolb
Horseback camping in the Canyon de Chelly National Monument on the Navajo reservation in northeastern Arizona offers a real change of pace. Once you’re out on the trail, there’s no electricity, running water, or cell-phone service. There are also no clocks or schedules, unless you bring your own.
What the canyon does have is more than 100 miles of riding trails through glorious red-rock canyons full of Anasazi ruins and petroglyphs, or rock carvings and inscriptions. In a wet year, the canyon’s streams create swimming holes perfect for a refreshing splash, and the desert is abloom with purple tamarisk bushes, yellow and orange prickly-pear cactus flowers and white datura, the blossoms Georgia O’Keeffe often painted.
Sightseeing on horseback provides a unique perspective — a timeless sense of viewing the land the way our ancestors may have seen it. In addition, horses are capable of reaching pristine areas inaccessible by car. You travel far more slowly than you would on wheels, enabling relaxed and quiet contemplation of nature’s beauty. Sitting tall in the saddle, you have a higher vantage point than in a vehicle or on foot, and you also have the added advantage of covering distances in far less time than you would hiking.