Where have you been?
I was going to call this post "What I did on my Summer Vacation" but I'd hardly call the last few months a "vacation".
After about a nearly two month hiatus of writing it feels good to get behind a keyboard again. We've been really busy on the biggest single install we've ever done (on top of maintaining our normal business) and it has consumed our time like never before. So things like this took a back seat.
But it was obviously worth it... We helped a hospital move to Digium Switchvox and installed over 900 handsets. And aside from the normal monetary scale that a deal this size brings, it's been really rewarding to help these guys. They serve the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona/Utah/New Mexico so we've made several trips to the "Four Corners" region. The Navajo people are friendly, giving, and sharing in their culture. It's been an honor and a pleasure to spend some time in their world.
One night after work I decided that I was going to visit the actual "Window Rock". I had stayed at a hotel in the town of Window Rock on several trips and had never actually seen it! So I ventured off the main drag and over to the Window Rock Tribal Park and Veterans Memorial. A large hill blocks the view of the rock structure from the street, so I had driven past it dozens of times without venturing to see it.
I'm really glad I checked it out because I had an amazing experience there. A Navajo gentlemen who came to the park to unwind after work, saw me alone and approached me. From several yards away he said "You're not from around here, are you?" I wonder what gave that away? I immediately put my guard up because I had no idea what to expect. Was he going to ask me for money? Was he going to rob me? I know that's extreme but I remember being seriously scared for a second. He introduced himself and proceeded to give me a full tour of the site. Just he and I, a couple of guys de-stressing from work. It was just about one of the coolest exchanges I've had in my life. His father was a Navajo code talker. [I highly recommend you watch the Nic Cage movie "Windtalkers" if you're not familiar. It's highly fictionalized but still very good (trailer can be seen here).] He was very proud of his family and their history. He didn't want anything from me other than to share his culture. I'll never forget you Michael.
On one of our rare afternoons off we ventured out to what I believe to be one of the most under appreciated landscapes in North America: Canyon de Chelly National Monument. (Pronounced de-Shay). The Grand Canyon often trumps Canyon de Chelly (for obvious reasons) but de Chelly holds its own in both its beauty and its ability to make you feel really small. To get there we drove up an old dirt logging road, and that in itself was an adventure. (You obviously don't need to take that path to get there but we had the extra time so we went for it.) We passed wild horses, plenty of pine trees, and gave my SUV a workout. I still have some trail dirt on my vehicle, I can't seem to get it clean! (I don't recommend this road if it's raining or has recently rained unless you have a 4x4 vehicle that's good in the mud. It would be a difficult pass in the wrong vehicle.)
It was a bit of a last minute "should we" or "shouldn't we" go, type of decision. But we knew that if we didn't go then it'd be unlikely that we'd get there at all. Because it was last minute, we had no plan or itinerary. And because we had very little knowledge of the Canyon, we went in sort of blind as to where we should go. But once we arrived at the edge of the canyon we immediately stopped (where there wasn't even any parking) to get out and see the majesty of the outer edges where the canyon ends. There aren't any guard rails or protection from falling into the canyon so I stayed a safe distance in the beginning. But as you can see in the picture above and the one below, Jonathan didn't mind going all the way to the edge to take his pictures. It was a beautiful sunny day with a few puffy clouds. It was hot (around 95-100 degrees that day) so it made for a stopping for too long feel like a chore.
The official parking areas were not busy at all. The most we saw was maybe 10-15 cars at the busiest spot. You can hike the White House Ruin Trail without an escort (everywhere else inside of the canyon requires a guide) and this was the parking area that seemed the most occupied. The hikers who were coming back up the trail said that it was a great hike. We didn't have the right gear nor enough water so we opted to save that for another trip. It's a little less than 3 miles and according to most information it's an "Easy" hike in terms of difficulty.
We stopped at a few of the official parking areas and saw some stunning views of the canyon but we still didn't know where we were so we decided to head into town (Chinle) for some water and maybe a map. (GPS and cell service is very spotty so we couldn't use our phones.) What we didn't know was that we'd pass one of the coolest views in doing so. When we finally got a map (from the Holiday Inn) we realized that we had passed Spider Rock. A sandstone spire that rises 750 feet from the canyon floor. Oh well, we'll probably be back someday where we might sneak in a visit. We spent the rest of our Canyon visit on the Northern rim where we saw lots of ruins and the start of a gorgeous sunset (we wanted to start home before it got too dark).
So my advice in all of this is to get off the beaten path and explore. And if you're ever on the Navajo nation please visit Canyon de Chelly. Most people don't even know that it exists (including me before I started working in the area) and that's a real shame. Yes, it's off the beaten path but it's totally worth the trip. Then you can tell everyone where YOU'VE been...