Navajo National Monument
A different perspective on the cliff dwellers and on the solar eclipse. For now we are concentrating on planning our 17 mile hike to visit Keet Seel tomorrow. We have had a half hour briefing presentation with hints like 'here walk where the horses walk as they know where the quicksand is.' The sandstone here is very unstable so we mustn't sit under any rocks. We were told not to worry about mountain lions as they prefer eating deer. In any event they will see us but we won't see them. A military style presentation that kept us upright at our desks.
The Ancestral Puebloans used to build a fire in the morning then be out all day. Not surprisingly they would often return to find their house burnt down. People did move out and others would move in. Sometimes the old dwelling would be converted into a grain store, (hence all the different size stores) and they would build a new dwelling. The Navajo called them 'the ancient ones' but a misspelling turned their name into something insulting like 'the old enemy'. The ancient ones could also mean 'the ones who came before'.
When the Navajo arrived in the area there were only 4 clans and they had inbreeding problems. So initially they stole people from the puebloans for marriage purposes. The Navajo also talk about a people called something sounding like 'Yeti' who were violent and possibly cannibals, but we know nothing about them. The Hopi are very artistic like the ancient ones and are descended from them.
Keet Seel (broken pottery in Navajo) was full of stored corn and pieces of pots as any damaged pots were heaved over the village wall. The main outer wall was constructed as a whole village project, where everyone from miles around helped build it. The village had the only Kivas for certain religious ceremonies, still carried out by the Hopi people today at this site.
You feel as though the people just walked away yesterday, not in the 1300s when they went south and to New Mexico. It was great to have a tour given by a Navajo ranger with connections nd roots in the area as the Monument is within the Navajo Nation.
The park staff also have a competition to see who dares climb the highest. In the right light you can see the foot holds around Keet Seel go all the way to the top of the cliff. To climb safely your feet must be exactly and correctly placed in the foot holds. The record is currently held by one of the maintenance men. The area around the village was once flat but regular burning of roots meant many trees were felled by erosion leading to the collapse of the land.
The only way in to Keet Seel for us is by ladder
Our path through the canyon – your shoes definitely get wet
The walk is undoubtedly a strenuous day walk and the last 2 miles of the 17 are uphill, partly on soft sand which is very hard going. As it was the Ranger's last day on site we followed him back at a cracking speed until the last 2 miles or so when he let us get ahead. A pick-up passed us en route to collect him, so we were very happy to cadge a lift for the last mile. We both felt great and apart from a wonky toe nail, no aches or pains. Without a doubt, Keet Seel is a most impressive and relatively intact cliff dwelling.