Canyon De Chelly

By Patty Wilber

A few months ago, Mary Ann and I went riding.  I was riding Marcia’s horse, JD.  Mary Ann and I decided we should go to Canyon de Chelly.

Canyon de Chelly is a National Monument about 250 miles from Albuquerque, near Chinle AZ. Drive to Gallup, turn right.  It is federally administered, but it is in the Navajo Reservation.  Access to most of the canyon is restricted unless you hire a guide that is certified by the Navajo Nation.

So, for our partners, we recruited David, (who unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute), Peter (with Squirt), Marcia (with JD), and Chuck (with Dash).  Mary Ann brought Tulip (aka Petunia) and I brought Toots.

Chuck knew of a guide so I called him.  He wanted $800/day, and as I talked to him I felt as though my words were bouncing around at random.  Apparently, I do not speak the Navajo version of English.  It was sort of surreal.  Maybe that is how my students feel when I talk to them!

I looked on my favorite tool, the Internet, and found a couple of guiding services–ended up calling Justin Tso’s Horse Rentals.  He was willing to guide up for $15/ hour + $7/ horse.  With the five of us that went, it worked out to $50/hr + a good tip.  For 14 hours of riding over three days, we spend $850. A lot better than 800/day!

Had to figure out where to keep our horses.  Justin set us up with Pauline Martin, and her horse accommodations were right  across the street from the people accommodations: The Thunderbird Lodge–the only Inn In The Canyon.  It was kind of pricey, but it was fun and funky and within sight of the  horses.

Day 1: Arrived around noon, unloaded and let the horses out into a big arena to drink, relax and have a snack before our afternoon ride.  JD had trailered with Toots and had decided Toots was his.  Squirt rode with Tulip and Dash, but decided that no, Toots was HERS.

Toots ended up in the middle.   (She’d be happiest if they all just left her alone, but she’s too polite to say so!–or else she is a complete whuss in the world of horse-y hierarchies).  There was a lot of drama.

So much drama that JD threw a shoe.

JD also got put in a pen by himself, so Squirt won.

toots sis mine.  where ever she goez, i will be 6 inches away.  at all times.

toots is mine. where ever she goez, i will be 6 inches away. at all times.

Justin said JD did not need a shoe for the evening’s ride, but we were unsure, so put an easy boot on and “secured” it (as it was a somewhat too large), with my handy dandy roll of Duct tape that I keep in the trailer.

It fell off anyway.

But Justin was right.  The ride was in the canyon bottom in sand.  JD did just fine without his shoe.

Justin had asked if our horses were good trail horses, and I gave them all the highest ratings.  So, the first thing we came to was a water crossing and NO ONE wanted to cross.

How embarrassing!  Meanwhile, JD and Squirt were making evil eyes at each other. (JD stands for Just the Devil!  Not really! It is Just Dun).  Still, all that posturing did make the whole group a little antsy–then add on the Not Going in That Water dance!  Geez.

Fortunately, our intrepid guide was chatting with the park ranger guarding the canyon entrance, so we had a few minutes to get our act into the water and on our way.

Mary Ann on Tulip, Chuck on Dash, Justin on Freckles. Laredo tags along.

Mary Ann on Tulip, Chuck on Dash, Justin (our guide) on Freckles. Laredo tags along.

Peter on Squirt (we last saw Squirt when she completed the ACTHA ride last Dec.)

Peter on Squirt ( I think we last saw Squirt when she  and I completed the ACTHA ride last Dec.)

Marsha and JD--water became a piece of cake for everyone.

Marcia and JD–water became a piece of cake for everyone.

The entrance to the Canyon has beautiful rock, and the deeper you go the higher the walls!  We rode along the stream, in and out of the water, looking up at the sandstone.  Wow!

Our first guide stop was at some petroglyphs.

Nothing could have been more appropriate!

Nothing could have been more appropriate!

I gave my camera to Peter real quick so Toots and I could be in at least one picture for the day.

What is Squirt trying to do? Toots is not impresses!

What is Squirt trying to do? Toots is not impressed!

rode on

Up the Canyon!

We continued on to a really cool ruin–Junction Ruin?

Nice map but I could not get it to display, so you’ll have to click this link to see the location of Junction ruin, where we turned around on the first day. 

Turn around point for day 1.

We had a very fine ride and we were well prepared:

Like a Girl Scout--always prepared.  (or is that Boy Scouts?!)

Toots: Like a Girl Scout–always prepared. (or is that the Boy Scout motto?!)

Freckles is not a Girl Scout--1-he's a boy...2-Not so prepared.

Freckles is not a Girl Scout. 1-He’s a boy…2-Not so prepared.

All of our horses were carrying extra: water, rain gear, jackets, food, first aid kit, gloves, etc. etc.  We were ready.  You never know.  It could have turned out like Gilligan’s Island.

They set out for a three hour tour and ended up stranded on that sitcom!

Chuck and Marcia show their teeth?  I do not recall why!

Chuck and Marcia show their teeth? I do not recall why!


Justin Tso!

And one last closing shot:  There were lots of feral horses (busy decimating the environment) but here was a cute Appy foal.


Next Week:  Tso Anyway: Our harrowing descent down Bat Canyon! (you can see it on the map link!)  It was so harrowing, I did not have a free moment to snap any pictures.  But there are lots of other nice shots. And Day 3 we did Little White House canyon, which was quiet and had a nice ruin!

Until Next Week!













About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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6 Responses to Canyon De Chelly

  1. Marilyn says:

    Oh, that’s lovely! It figures the horses would try to make liars out of you about being trail-worthy, doesn’t it? I look forward to the next post. Sure wish I were physically able to do this kind of thing!

    • Patty says:

      Thanks Marilyn! It was magnificent! There are Jeep tours!

      • Marilyn says:

        Ah! Something to keep in mind! The next major trip I have planned is into the Canadian Rockies. My husband’s a train buff, and WHEN (not IF) I am declared cancer free next month (it’s been a long 5 years), we hope to plan a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer. But I lived in Farmington, NM for 5 years, and have fond memories.

        • Patty says:

          Hi Marilyn- Cancer Free! YAY! Have you ridden that Durango to Silverton train or the Chama one?

          • Marilyn says:

            We drove from Farmington to SIlverton many, many times, but never took the train. Sorry for the delay in answering — I have been away at the Dachshund Club of America National Specialty, which Babette Beagle will, no doubt, report on later on my FB page. I was not familiar with the Chama line, but will point it out to Harry — it looks like fun!

  2. Terri says:

    Cool pics and great commentary

Comments are closed.