We ended up spending all afternoon here at Canyon de Chelly, with free dry camping at the adjacent NPS campground. We had NO idea that this place was SO spectacular. Let's put it this way: most national parks/monuments you can look ahead and see what's coming: Yosemite's Half Dome, giant redwoods at Redwoods NP, et al.
Canyon de SHAY
As in t-say-ee (morphed by the Spaniards into de Chelly)
But these canyon parks...you drive along the canyon edge without seeing anything, really. Then you walk to the viewpoint (sometimes quite a distance) and then, holy breathtaking view, Batman! This place is so very special not only for its scenery and archaeology (one site was continuously inhabited for 1000 years!), but also for the fact that the Navajo people live and work amidst the national park. There are still farms on the canyon floor (1,000 feet down from the rim). Native craftspeople ply their wares at most of the overlooks. (We caved to one particularly charming boy. A faithful reader out there is getting this for Christmas ;-) We were behind a school bus at one point and had such a kick watching the little ones, especially the little girl to whom 2 puppies came RUNNING to greet as she walked home.
The canyon floor:
Spider Rock (800 feet tall):
We had to almost force ourselves to the last overlook yesterday, but we were amply rewarded. As we stood looking down to the Mummy House ruin, we all paused and looked around to see if the others heard what we heard: Navajo flute music drifted up from the canyon floor over 1000 feet below. Turns out that there was a tour down there. We could barely see the people from that height, but we all heard the lovely music, given the lovely rock canyon wall acoustics.
Then we settled into another free campground. Pretty tough surroundings, eh?