May 24 & 25
Jon & I dropped by the Navajo National Monument on Friday during our drive to Monument Valley. The site is operated by the US National Park Service.
They offer tours of two different Ancestral Puebloan dwelling sites. For one of them, Keet Seel, they only gives out 20 permits a day during May 25 – Sept 6. To reach the site, a strenuous, 17-mile roundtrip hike is required.
Jon & I asked if there was any availability on May 25, the first day of the season. There had been a few cancellations, so Jon & I signed up. As part of the permitting, everyone is required to attend an orientation session either at 3:00 the day before or 8:15 the morning of the permit.
Jon & I headed over to the Visitor Center on May 24 after we finished our Monument Valley tour. We were a little early, so we wandered around the outside where there were examples of Native American buildings, like this hogan.
The orientation session was highly detailed and included a slide show. The slide show included photos of a number of important landmarks where Max, the ranger, presenting the material, quite often mentioned that it was a place where either people became lost or injured. He said it in a tongue and cheek manner, but you could tell that he spent a lot of his summer rescuing hikers.
After receiving our permits, we went out to find a campsite. We decided to stay at Canyon View which was within walking distance of the parking lot for Keet Seel. It was a beautiful campsite with wonderful views.
We headed out around 7:30 Sunday morning. There was one car parked in the lot already. We assumed that it belonged to the only other day hikers to Keet Seel. After a couple of miles down a steady grade, we came to a sign about the hike to Keet Seel.
Here is a view of the canyon.
This is a view from partway down.
Most of the hike down was on sandstone although there were stretches of sand and areas of dirt and loose rock. The sandstone was easier to walk on than the others. We were fortunate that it had rained yesterday, so the sand was relatively firm.
See Part 2 for the rest of the story.