Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 21, 2012. The Hawthornes Check Out The Navaho National Monument.

On the way from
Tuba City, Arizona, To Farmington, New Mexico,
the Hawthornes stopped at Navaho National Monument.

Navaho National Monument is off US 160,
about 50 miles northeast of Tuba City
and 20 miles southwest of Kayenta,
where I made Mr. Hawthorne make a special stop
 for me so I could eat once again at Amigo Cafe.

Now get this:
We're driving down 160
and suddenly we see a sign
for the Navaho National Monument.
What is this?
I immediately open up my AAA Tour Book
for Arizona and quickly turn to the page
for the Navaho National Monument,
and read the description out to Mr. Hawthorne:

Navaho National Monument
Reached via US 160 and a 9-mile paved road (SR 564), Navaho National Monument preserves some of the largest and most intact of Arizona's known cliff dwellings in perhaps the most awe-inspiring area in the Southwest.  There are two areas that can be visited by ranger guided tours, each of which contains a remarkable 13th century Pueblo ruin.

The monument lies within the Navajo Indian Reservation.  Traveling off paved roads is not permitted.  Most of the unmarked dirt-surfaced roads on the reservation are private driveways;  private Navajo property is not open to visitors.  


Note:  In summer the Navajo Reservation observes daylight-saving time, which is an hour later than outside the reservation.

At an elevation of approximately 7300 feet, the visitor center at the monument headquarters offers exhibits of ancestral Native American artifacts, a 20-minute videotape about the prehistoric culture.

Betatakin Area is 2.5 miles from monument headquarters by way of a strenuous 5-mile round trip trail.  This is the monument's most accessible area and is home to its headquarters.
The cliff dwelling also can be viewed across the canyon from the end of the Sandal Trail year round via a 1-mile round trip self-guiding walk.

Keet Seel Area is accessible by hiking a difficult 17-mile round trip trail.  The area contains the largest and best-preserved cliff dwellings in the vicinity, which date 1250-1300. 

I guess you know which 2 out of 3 hikes
the Hawthornes are NOT going on.

After seeing the sign
and reading the information,
the Hawthornes do a u-ey,
maybe 1/2 mile down the road,
and travel back to
the Navajo National Monument turnoff.

Now, here's the golden part:
Backtracking to NNM,
(Mr. Hawthorne HATES backtracking.)
Mr. H. turns to me and says,
"You know?
  You really should do better research."

Rosie has shown so much restraint,
what with Mr. Hawthorne's diet issues.
And now I get this comment from him.
A mere mortal woman
would have disposed of him by now.
Tiny pieces.
All across the United States.

We have talked about this utterance since
and he has said,
"You know, as soon as I heard that
coming out of my mouth,
I knew I'd eff'd up."

He has since apologized profusely
for this gaffe on his part.

All you need to know
is that I'm a very capable navigator.
I would say - an excellent navigator.
I coordinate everything -
our route,
physical maps, AAA Tour Books,
and smart phone,
 which I'm not smart enough
to properly utilize.
And sometimes,
just sometimes,
 things might fly underneath my radar.
This happened with the Navajo National Monument.

But, at least,
I caught the sign.

On the way to Navaho National Monument,
we stopped at the Tsegi Overlook.

This is a maze of canyonlands stretching before us -
the continuing work of millions of years of 
powerful and pervasive geological forces.

Upside-down Mountain

On the left:
Hidden away in Tsegi Canyon's wilderness of bare rock, sand, and sparse vegetation are surprising pockets of luxuriant growth.  Betatakin Canyon - home to a village of prehistoric cliff-dwelling farms - is one of these oases.  Fir canyon, over to your right, is another.
From top to bottom:
Zone 1 - Aspens, Douglas firs
Zone 2 - Ponderosa pines
Zone 3 -  Pinyon

On the right:
The deeper and narrower the canyon, the less sunshine reaches into its depths.  Less sunshine means less evaporation of rainwater, so plant life flourishes.  You could say the the climate of Fir Canyon is like an inverted mountain:  there's a gradation downward toward cooler and more humid conditions in the bottom - with plants and animals to match.
From bottom to top:
 Zone 1 - Aspens, Douglas firs
Zone 2 - Ponderosa pines
Zone 3 - Pinyon

Water scours and down-cuts channels
 in the soft sandstone plateau.
The process is augmented by the forces of frost, plants,
and alternating expansion and contraction of the rock
due to temperature changes.
A gradual uplift of the land
further promotes canyon-cutting
by increasing the speed and cutting force of water.
Flowing water is the "freightline"
that will carry the entire canyon landscape to the sea.

After checking out the Tsegi Overlook,
we went to the ranger headquarters,
where I grabbed a map
and Mr. Hawthorne sat down to watch the video.

We have about a mile walk to see where the
prehistoric Puebloan Ancestors 
built Tsegi villages within the 
natural alcoves of the canyons.
These villages date from AD 1250-1300.

On the walk down,
please enjoy the scenery.
I was amazed at the beauty
growing in this desert.
We're actually walking through a pygmy forest -
a complex community of plants and animals
that dominates the high, semi-arid plateaus
of the American Southwest.

At the beginning of our walk down the path
to the overlook of the Puebloan homesite,
there are relocated footprints of a small dinosaur
that apparently walked on his hind legs.
About 180 million years ago, he left a lasting signature
by walking through the mud.
The print then filled with sediment
and both print and cast eventually turned to stone.
Tracks of these three-toed Jurassic reptiles are very common
in the limestone formations of the Navajo Country.

This miniature forked-stick hogan 
without a smoke hole is actually a highly effective bath -
an ancient solution to the problem of keeping clean
in a land where water is scarce.
Stones were heated in a fire,
then rolled in, or carried in on a wooden fork.
The bathers undressed outside,
and then crawled inside.
A blanket was hung over the door opening.
Now, all it took was patience
while the radiant heat did its work.
This was the time for relaxing tired muscles and conversing.
Afterward, the bathers emerged from the sweathouse
to rinse off with water,
if any was available, or to rub dry 
with the soft absorbent sand of Navajo country.

The Navajo Indians resourcefully met the demands 
of desert dwelling when they came up 
with this comfortable and sturdy fork-sticked hogan -
so called because its main structural support 
is made up of three poles 
with their forked ends interlocked at the top.
These old-style hogans are rarely seen around
the Navajo Reservation today.
Instead, one finds modern multi-sided log hogans
and earth-covered hogans,
and more the more popular mobile homes
and rectangular frame homes.

No matter how modern the dwelling,
you'll usually find a hogan of some sort nearby.
Navajo tradition dictates that
important curing ceremonies can't be held anywhere else.

Navaho land encompasses some 27,000 square miles, 
including parts of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico.
Larger than the state of West Virginia,
the sovereign nation is the
largest Native American nation in the country.
Navajoland is home to more than a dozen national monuments.

Heritage is important to the Navajo, 
and singing and dancing give the Navajo a chance 
to wear their traditional attire.
Tribal dress includes knee-high moccasins, velvet vest,
concho belts, and silver and turquoise jewelry
for both men and women.
Pow-wows often are performed
throughout the Navajo nation 
and visitors are invited to observe.

The Navajo, or Dineh, consider themselves
an extension of Mother Earth
and therefore treat nature with great respect.
Not only rich in culture,
the Navajo live in an area rich in minerals:
oil, gas, coal, and uranium lie beneath the arid desert.
The discovery of oil in the 1920s prompted the Navajo 
to form their own tribal government to help handle
the encroachment of mining companies.

Reorganized in 1991,
the Navajo government consists of an elected president,
vice president, and 88 council delegates,
 representing 110 local units of government.

As we walked down the path,
we saw markers identifying the different plants.

Over centuries, Indian people have deepened their dependence
on these arid lands by gathering native plants
for subsistence and well-being.
Steadfast Pueblo Indian farmers once foraged for 
greens, nuts, and berries 
to supplement their meager crop harvests.
Contemporary Hopi Indian religion sustains
a profound relationship with the
natural world through plant allies.

Searching continually for food among the dry mesas,
the nomadic Navajo gleaned hard-won knowledge
about plants that were vital
 to their desert survival and harmony.
With patient study and skill,
they also practiced herbal cures
under a system of traditional medicine
that still functions today.

While many visitors may only see desolation here,
native ceremonial gatherers find healing and value
in almost every plant along this trail.
Ethnobotany, the study of traditional plant use,
continues to enrich modern medicine.
It is a precious heritage.

This is Big Sagebrush
(Artemisia tridentata)
and I've seen it growing everywhere out West.
It is not known if the prehistoric Indians of the canyons
used this plant,
but both Navajos and Hopis make medicine from it,
to cure stomach aches.
The Navajo use it to cure colds and headache.

This trail leads through a pygmy conifer forest -
vegetation typical of the plateaus of northern Arizona.
Although the trees are small,
they make up a true forest -
the pinyon pine-juniper forest.
The stunted trees and plants here
may seem an unlikely source of food, tools, and clothing,
but for the people of Betatakin,
their Hopi Indian descendents, and the Navajo Indians,
it was a natural storehouse of these things.

A sneak peak of what's to come.

Dwarfed and gnarled pinyon and juniper trees
"pose" at odd angles, postures, and configurations,
sprouting peculiar limb growths and
bearing tangles of exposed roots.

This plant is roundleaf buffaloberry
(Shepherdia rotundiflolia),
apparently not used by the Indians
until the white man came to the Southwest.
Its only use was to make a salve to treat irritation
in sheeps' eyes.
How they figured out to do that,
I have no idea.


The is the pinyon pine (Pinus edulis).
The nut of this little tree,
eaten raw or roasted,
is a favorite wild food of the Southwestern Indians.
These are the pine nuts used in our
contemporary pesto;
however, I don't like the piney flavor of pine nuts.
I use pecans in my pesto.

Prehistoric Indians used the pitch
to fasten stone arrowheads and knives
to wooden shafts and handles,
and to repair broken pots.
Navajos waterproof baskets with it.
Pitch can also be chewed as gum.

I love the contorted configurations.

This is cliffrose
(Cowania mexicana, var. Stranburiana).
Hopis made arrows from the wood of this plant
and shredded the soft bark to make a padding
for babies' cradleboards.
Like many of these plants,
it provided medicine,
and was used as an emetic
and as a wash for wounds.

Broadleaf yucca
(Yucca baccata).
All parts of this plant
provided something for the Indians.
They ate the fruit,
shredded and twisted the leaves into cord and rope.
Soap came from the crushed roots
and is used as a shampoo
in Navajo and Hopi ceremonies.

Mormon tea (Ephedra viridis),
when made into a brew, 
was a multipurpose medicine,
prescribed for stomach trouble,
kidney afflictions, venereal disease, and coughs.

Utah juniper had many uses.
Many of the roof beams in Betatakin are juniper.
Fires were started with juniper fire drills.
The shredded bark was used for tinder
and the wood was used for fuel.
The shredded bark was used for tinder
and also served as diaper pads.
It was braided into rope
and was coiled into rings to support pottery jars.
The wood was used for fuel.
A brew from the leaves
 was used by the Hopis as a laxative.
The berries could be eaten.

Descendants of the Hopi people who built this place
call it Talastima,
a Hopi word for "Place of the Blue Corn Tassels."
They called their ancient relatives Hisatsinom.
The Zuni, also pueblo builders, 
knew that several of the clans began in this area.
Later, San Juan Southern Paiute,
famous for their baskets,
moved into this area and lived near the cliff dwellings.
"Betatakin" is a Navajo - or,  Dineh, as they call themselves -
word, meaning House on a Ledge.
Today this place is surrounded by the Navajo Nation,
as it has been for hundreds of years.

The Ancestral Puebloans were great traders.
Here they made excellent ceramic pottery for trade.
Rocks from elsewhere were used for grinding
stone, tools, or arrowheads.
They traded for turquoise, shell, parrots, and macaws.

We're at the point overlooking Betatakin Ruin -
a multi-level cliff-village,
home to a community of 13th century Anasazi farmers.

The Ancestral Puebloans often chose
south-facing alcoves like these for their cliff villages.
Here are all the basic necessities of life -
benefits of winter sun and summer shade,
shelter from the elements,
and springwater for drinking and cooking are inside.
Animals are nearby to hunt.
There are plants to gather and open streamside lands to farm.

The Puebloans grew cotton,
using dry-land and irrigated farming techniques.
The climate back then was much like today.
Turkeys and dogs were domesticated.
The Puebloans used everything the land provided -
pinyon pine, prickly pear cactus,
ricegrass, and sunflowers.
Archaeologists discovered the remains of
400 different plants here.
The people here knew this land well.

Tree-ring dating shows that a 20-year drought
ended about 1300.
For farmers who had a close relationship 
with rain and the land,
this was a message.
It was time to move on and continue their life journey -
the migration to find the spiritual center of the world.
The people left this place intact,
storing food and supplies for their future return.
Hopi oral history says this sacred site is not abandoned.
The builders are still here with us.

By 1286, Betatakin village housed 100-125 people
clustered into 20-25 households.
Tsegi farmers raised corn, beans, and squash,
and supplemented their diets by hunting and plant-gathering.
They fashioned objects of utility and beauty
from the wood, clay, bone, stone, and fibers that lay close at hand.
They cultivated an impressive, intimate knowledge
of the plants, animals, and cycles of the land.

This pitiful plant looks like a poppy to me.

I found none in bloom -
only spent blooms and buds.

This is a grizzlybear prickly pear
(Opuntia erinacea).
The fruit of the prickly pear cactus
is widely eaten by Southwestern Indians.
It is picked with a forked stick or wooden tongs
and the spines are broken or burned off.
It may be eaten fresh or dried.

Aspen forest overlook.