The summer Fly-in season got off to a great start at Canyon de Chelly in Arizona. Fourteen airplanes made the trip to the desert. Enough planes that we filled all the parking spots and had to park several airplanes on the desert. There was some excitement getting to and from the desert parking spots from the ramp, but all worked out well. Cool drinks and camaraderie on the ramp while watching the fleet arrive were quite enjoyable. The Front Range was well represented, of course, but we also had attendees from GJT, Pagosa, Monte Vista and two Comanches from the Comanche club in Phoenix/Prescott.
Once the aircraft were secured we headed to the Thunderbird Lodge at the mouth of the canyon. Canyon de Chelly means where the water comes out of the rock canyon. After lunch at the Thunderbird we headed up the canyon quite literally in that water. WW II Pinzer six-wheel drive vehicles splashed through the river with their load of recently arrived pilots, friends and Navajo guides. The flow of the river was greater than usual due to the wet winter and spring.
The canyon is quite impressive with its tall cliffs and serpentine walls. Until recently some Navajo families still lived in the canyon. They would farm the bottom lands and raise sheep and cows. Currently some of those families maintain the native six (or 8) sided Hogans as seasonal cabins. We also saw the amazing cliff dwellings where the Anasazi, or ancient ones, lived 800 years ago. It is truly remarkable that many of the structures still survive.
The Canyon has a significant history more recently, too. In 1863 Kit Carson was sent to the area to remove the Navajo. Many were killed and others were forced on the “Long Walk” to their internment at Bosque Redondo in New Mexico. We saw the high rock ‘island’ where many Navajo hid from the troops. After a long siege those Navajo were forced out as well. The native people returned to the canyon several years later and the Navajo Reservation was established.
The traditional happy hour was enjoyed Navajo style, without alcohol, as we all shared stories of the day and caught up on events since we last got together .After dinner , a Navajo dancing ceremony topped off the evening.
Sunday morning the Chinle airport was as busy as ORD for a bit. Fourteen planes departing made for quite a sight!
The weather was perfect for the whole weekend, hardly a cloud in the sky. Fun flying, a fascinating locale and a great group of friends made for an enchanting visit!