Helen is not a morning person (to say the least), so I was surprised that she wanted to get up for sunrise at all, let alone more than once during our road trip around the Southwest. Helen really loves her sleep and hates to be woken up; I’ve discovered that the quicker you can get coffee in her, the better. But on this trip she was motivated and ready for the early alarm call.
First stop on the trip was the Grand Canyon South Rim. The thing to do at the Grand Canyon is to watch the sun slowly rise above the canyon; The early morning sun is supposed to bring out the rich colors of the canyon and is not to be missed. We arose when it was still dark outside, quickly got dressed, made coffee and ran outside. The eastern horizon was just starting to brighten and in the low light the canyon looked like a black and white picture. But as the sun rose, it turned every shade of red. However, the colors were definitely at their best an hour after sunrise, when the rays of the sun lit up the canyon walls.
Damn, we could have stayed in bed longer.
The Canyon de Chelly is in the Navajo Nation and off the beaten path; it lacks amenities and is seldom visited. There is only one trail down to the bottom of the Canyon where a Navajo guide is not required; the White House Ruins Trail. We did not have a lot of time there, so if we wanted to do the hike, it would have to be early, really early.
As we descended into the canyon, the sun rose above the horizon. The trail switchbacked down the canyon wall, through small tunnels dug into the rock. The steep rock walls were rose-colored, smooth to the touch. Before long we were on the canyon floor, walking past small farms and hogans, the traditional Navajo houses, with small plots of vegetables, a few goats, no electricity or running water. A woman was selling her Navajo jewelry along the dry creek bed. We chatted and Helen bought a few beautiful necklaces. It’s great to see, but hard to believe, that people are living in this canyon the way they have been for thousands of years.
At the end of the trail, the White House Ruins are at the base of a monstrous cliff; they were abandoned centuries ago. They get their name from one of the rooms plastered white, high up in the canyon wall. Except for the fact that pick-up truck has maybe replaced the horse, this canyon is from a different time; ancient ruins, hogans; this is a truly unique and beautiful place.
Next up, Monument Valley Tribal Park. At 5:30 am the sun started to rise as we started The Wildcat Trail around the left Mitten, in Monument Valley, also in the Navajo Nation Reservation. We walked by monster mesas made famous by John Wayne and John Ford movies. The trail weaved through the desert, across dry river beds and around a mammoth sandstone butte. As the sun rose, the light first hit the buttes turning them bright red. We passed a couple of little Navajo family compounds with their packs of barky dogs that ran out at us to defend their territory.
With all of the beautiful scenery and the canine distractions, my eyes weren’t always on the trail, but luckily I looked down just in time to see a snake coiled up in the middle of the trail; Too small to be a rattler, but it definitely startled me.
I kept my eyes on the trail after that.
On the last night of the trip, we were back at The Grand Canyon, but this time on the North Rim. We had to drive back to Vegas to fly out the following evening and so had to get on the road early, but we decided to get up one last time for sunrise; it is the Grand Canyon after all. So at dawn we stumbled out of our cabin and walked out to Bright Angel Point that juts out into the canyon. The sun rose above the canyon and bathed the canyon walls in orange sunlight… Amazing sunrise… blah blah blah…Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world….yeah yeah…. seen it all before. Whatever, … I need a coffee. We went and got a early breakfast (with A LOT of coffee) and were on the road by 8 am.
In the end, I was the one having a hard time getting up early, not Helen. By the time we boarded the plane in Vegas, I was exhausted from the lack of sleep. The early mornings have taken their toll, but it was worth it; We saw some of the most spectacular sunrises one of the most scenic areas of the country.
We can always sleep when we get home.