What a find. Left our dreary commercial campground Thursday morning and set off on a small reservation road (that we had been assured was OK). Lovely road. Saw many, many hitchhikers (couples and families). Learned later that this is typical in the Navajo nation; drivers pick up hitchhikers in exchange for lively conversation.
Lost an hour (again) since the Navajo nation observes daylight savings (and AZ doesn't). We've been confused for days over what time it actually is, since we gave up changing our watches multiple times/day.
Reached our first destination, Navajo National Monument, around 1PM (noon, tummy time) and had a snack. Good thing, as what there is to do at this monument is hike out/down to various overlooks to see the amazing Anasazi ruins (1270-1300). This large alcove once housed about 145 souls in a complex housing system.
More things learned: alcoves like this are formed by spring water dissolving the sandstone, so not only does one get shelter one gets water in choosing this as a home. Also, a south-facing alcove like this is really prized for its shade in summer and warmth in winter. Apparently, a drought around 1300 drove the folks away, but archaeologists believed that the people intended to return, as they left many things behind. There was also an area showing a sweat lodge and traditional hogan, which Miss Lisa just marches into, ignoring the sign....
After our brisk walk (50 degrees-ish, at 7300'), we decided to check out the 2 campgrounds offered at this place, to see if we should press on with our driving or stay. Wowee. 2 separate camping areas, very different from each other. One primitive with canyon views, one with paved sites and a real bathroom with hot water and flush toilets. All of it: free. And we can get AT&T here, of all places.
We couldn't pass that deal up, so we donated $10 and settled in. We are really liking our short (100 miles or less) driving days. We went back to the visitor center to watch the film (a very dated late 70s/early 80s piece not written from a Native perspective, which was too bad) and talked with one of the Navajo artists that are allowed to work inside the visitor's center. (There were 3 ladies--a potter, a weaver, and one making some kind of craft, plus a fellow who was painting. The ladies all had signs saying that you could take their picture for $5. All looked very absorbed in their work, so we didn't chat.) We did chat with the painter, because he wanted to show off his work. Very interesting pieces; we ended up buying one of his small canvases--very nice Monument Valley scene.
Because we were camped in the "Sunset Campground" we prepared for that event at 5:30 (per the Weather Channel, but they didn't get the memo about the Navajos following daylight savings time). So, we grilled out and had dinner and THEN enjoyed the 6:30 sunset.
Planning on taking a second hike this morning now that the sun is finally rising and then heading over to Chinle and Canyon de Chelly, a place my brother has been recommending that we go for almost 20 years! Can't miss it again....