Sunday, September 25, 2011

Camping in Canyon de Chelly

Unless guided by a Navajo or certified park guide, all visitors to Canyon de Chelly must be satisfied with a drive along the top of the canyon and stops at overlooks, each of which are striking and breathtaking in beauty. Thanks to a Navajo Baha’i family with land in the canyon, a few NABI staff and volunteers had the bounty of spending a night in the canyon.

Spider Rock, home of Spider Woman, who taught the people how to weave

A few of us hiked down while others drove in with a truck loaded with food, water, and tent gear. Those who hiked experienced a rubble-strewn and occasionally steep trail which bottomed out and followed a creek bed along the canyon’s base. The creek bed was overgrown with tamarisk and Russian olive, and Western Bluebirds flew over our heads in small flocks as we walked. A Red-tailed Hawk let out a scream, no doubt sitting on a canyon ledge, the rust red of its tail complimenting the terra cotta canyon walls. As we walked along our guide pointed out the dark streaks along the canyon walls, called desert varnish. The Navajo say these streaks are the canyon’s hair. Our guide told us that if a girl washes her hair in the water which collects in the natural wells on the canyon top, it is said her hair will grow long like the canyon’s.

After setting up our tents, another volunteer and I played our flutes at different points near the campsite. The sound of our flutes echoed across the canyon. Then we all had a dinner of Navajo tacos (after learning how to make fry bread). And of course, we made s’mores. Anna Feria, programs coordinator at NABI, taught us to make chocolate bananas over the fire (see instructions below). We spent the night singing and talking as the moon cast its warm glow over the canyon walls. Now that’s what I call a perfect night, spent with kindred spirits. :)

I’m Buildin’ Me A Home (part of a song we learned at trainings in Pheonix):

If you see me praying
I’m buildin’ me a home
Well if you see me praying
I’m buildin’ me a home
Cuz this earthly house
Is gonna soon decay
And I’ve got to have
Some place to stay

Rae and Nani at the campfire

* How to make a chocolate bananaphone! Perfect for camping trips (could be used in junior youth group activities, especially sleepover events). It may be helpful to place a grill over the fire, although the bananas can be placed directly on coals. Cut banana on the inside of the bend to create a space where you can wedge chocolate chunks inside. Use broken up Hershey bar or other chocolate to place inside the cut. Wrap banana in aluminum foil (do not take the skin off!) and place over fire or coals. Let cook until chocolate is melted on the inside. Use spoon to scoop chocolate-banana gooeyness out of the skin.

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