A Canyon Caravan Part 5

Canyon De Chelly and Tent Night #2

Canyon De Chelly-Ruins

It looks closer on the map from White Sands all the way to Canyon De Chelly. It’s not close. At all. In fact it is about 400 miles.

We drove all day, and we had to stop for groceries and dinner on the way. My brain was fuzzy about when we arrived at our campground. I think it was close to midnight. We were working with a time change as well, and we had added some elevation to our lives. All I really remember is that it was cold. Brr. I grabbed a jacket, and I went to find the owner of the place. When five cars including a diesel truck hauling a camper arrives at once to a remote campground in Arizona, it is inevitably loud. The owner was trying to be gracious and help us find our campsites, but I could tell we were pretty annoying at that hour.

Once everyone (with flashlights) found a spot for their tents, we unloaded and set up camp. Most of the kids were asleep in the car, but some woke up and began running around in the dark. Some kids were crying because it was so cold. Finally everything was set, and every person got in their bags and went to sleep. My two sister-in-laws with babies were worried about the cold and decided to put the babies in their bags with them. I made sure all my girls were zipped in tight and then crashed.

In the morning, we had a nice breakfast of eggs, bacon, and coffee. Before the trip we had put together a menu and assigned cooks for each meal. The kids’ hair was starting to look fuzzy. Spider Rock Campground is not for sissies. But, there are toilets! The toilets (I think they are compost toilets–cool!) are a short walk, and there is only one solar shower which you have to pay to use. My husband built a compost toilet once, but that’s another story.

So, we cleaned up without bathing, and we headed out to explore the canyon. I had my doubts when planning this trip about adding this leg, but I am so glad we did. I loved the campground we chose. Even with our large group, it felt like we had our own space. Even the air felt different–like surviving here was true living. It was very quiet at night, and the stars popped my eyes out. The campsite is also a grazing area for animals, so you never know what you’ll encounter behind your tent.

We went to the Canyon De Chelly National Park center to get maps and suggestions from the rangers. We made a plan to drive along and stop at the different views of the canyon, have lunch, and then do our hike to the bottom in the afternoon. At each stop, the canyon drew us in. The colors were vivid, and the drop down was breathtaking. I imagined coming across this canyon as a pioneer and all the beauty and trouble this canyon would have brought.


As parents, I’m not sure how many times we told the children to be careful of the edge. The warnings were many. What’s interesting is that all those edges only seemed to energize the kids more and more. There was a little respect for the danger, but I sensed that we were all motivated by the rugged beauty of the canyon. I wondered what it would be like to raise your children in these canyons like the Navajo people did and still do.  I learned that the National Park Service works in conjunction with the Navajo Nation to manage the park.

With kids-there is a letting go that parents must embrace. This letting go is not just free for all, but it involves heavy investment and teaching.  What if I pushed my kids to the edge, readied them heartily for the long hike of life, and encouraged them to go down deep? Wouldn’t God smile at that?

To be continued…

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