Saturday, August 09, 2014

Pony Ride Canyon de Chelly

Other horses ran away but he was curious
 I've been riding a lot, Gentle Readers, and need to keep up on the blog.  Pretty much my choices for a ride are the quick after-work dashes to the first Pull-Out of the Park - Mummy Cave - or ride to Antelope House Pull-Out (where I need three water bottles to get there and back) or down to the Visitor Center.  Each time I ride I get a little bit faster!  Used to be I'd huff and puff - at 13 mph average speed - now I feel very strong and I'm averaging 15 mph.  Mostly because I'm not taking photos for the blog.

Anyway, horses - tame, wild, semi-wild, are everywhere.  Up here the rain has been good and things are green.  Cows, sheep, horses, are fit and healthy.  Unfortunately it means there are too many.  It is a touchy subject here on the Rez.  Many of my Navajo friends are pretty upset - mostly because they say other Navajo let their horses run wild-don't take care of them.  He said his aunt, or other relative, let her five ponies just run wild and fend for themselves - soon those five turned into 40 - wow forty head of horses!  No wonder they are starving during the winter.  There's too many and they are over-grazing. 

One of my Navajo friends, Foster, was not around for awhile - and then I saw him a few weeks ago on crutches.  He explained that coming home in the evening, he came around a corner and hit a horse in the road.  It totaled-out his truck (totaled-out the horse as well) and he badly bruised and tore ligaments in his ankle.

The next day his brother went out to try to find the horse and the brand - if you can find out who the horse belonged to, they, the owner of the animal, is responsible for the accident.  Foster's brother said that someone (the owner) had dragged the carcass of the dead horse off and hid it, or buried it.  His brother even hiked around the area for several miles to see if he could find where it was either hidden or buried - but he couldn't find any trace.  He found lots of footprints, but the trail went cold.

Visitor Center
I rode down to the Visitor Center at Canyon de Chelly averaging 19.7 mph!  I was flying!  It was early and there was no traffic this beautiful weekend morning (I forgot already if it was Saturday or Sunday already!)  But anyway, I was feeling alright! 

I pulled in just as a very large group of tourist were getting set up to go for the White House Ruins Hike.  So I just kind of chilled out and tried not to be noticed.  I was waiting to go inside to fill up my water bottles, and waiting for them to regroup then head out before I myself took off back for The College.  

I had the Mighty Trek back from Farmington, and Bradly at Haven's Bikes had fixed my cable and done a good once-over, and said I was good to go.  After the bunch drove out, I got my cold water inside the Visitor Center, and then took off back up to the mountains.

Yearling in the Park
Small bunches of Yearlings hide in the Pinon trees and watch me intensely as I ride up and down the rollers of the pull-outs.  They don't hear or see me right away, and are startled and dash for cover.  They're used to hearing a car go over a cattle guard, which is quite loud, so they know they can simply walk right into the trees and hide - you would never notice them as they stand perfectly still.  Anyway, as a tourist, you'd be looking at the scenery so you wouldn't be trying to see them.

I keep an eye out.  The first time I came through Antelope House Pull-Out, three ponies were standing in the road looking a bit baffled as I came speeding around the corner on one of the Park's awesome rollers.  It was like they heard me go over the cattle guard - but they weren't sure because it sounded different - the suddenly there I was and man, they bolted like arrows! 

Down at the parking area of the Pull-Out, I could see them in the trees looking at me more with interest than concern.  And when I made the tough, slow climb out of the parking lot back to the main road, they watched with excited glances, bunching together close to assure each other.  

On my way home, a group of yearlings suddenly appeared, and they ran off like scared little kittens.  But one came back, the guy up there, and he trotted along the fence the same pace as me.  As you can see, he looks a bit thin.  I talked to him and he just could not figure out who or what I was.  Actually, the Park Boundary if fenced, so poor fellow is trapped inside.  If he can't find enough to eat, or if he can't get out of the Park, he may starve.  I hope not, Gentle Reader.  Let's hope he makes it.

Riding on the Park Boundary back up to The College
I'm doing okay getting out of the Visitor Center, right there on the North end of town, Chinle, Arizona (Navajo Nation) and making the big climbs.  Going back is a tough one - but it's gotten me in shape.  All the climbing, and finally, Gentle Reader, getting conditioned to the altitude, has paid enormous dividends as I can tell my lungs and heart are much stronger.

Climbing!  As you come down the mountain, which is a very dramatic and hair-pin turn, you get your first real look at the ancient and beautiful, and sacred Canyon - this is actually Canyon del Muerto, very close to where both Canyon del Muerto and Canyon de Chelly converge.  Driving by car you only get a brief glimpse - but on a bike, you get to really take in the awesomeness of the canyon!

Dead Man's Curve
Folks are trying to see the Canyon, but there is a hair-pin curve, and this is where people crash.  Also, the local people often, but not all of 'em drive really fuckin fast on Hwy 64, which is the road on the Park Boundary.  I've had fuckers pass me on this road going 90 mph.  The road is not that great and I hear about a lot of people killing themselves - and other people by just recklessly speeding.  

Well, with no traffic in front or back, I took this curve pretty vast myself!  After the curve, the road drops suddenly several hundred feet almost right into the parking lot of the Visitor Center!  I cruise down the road, which narrows a bit, easily at 40 mph!

Of course, you gotta climb out.  After a quick rest, water re-fill, a Cliff Bar - the real work begins - about a five mile very difficult and hard climb.  Even though I feel in shape, it takes everything I've got to get up and out of here.  I'll have to climb about 1000 feet before things get any easier.

Top of Benally Hill, looking down into Tsaile
One the way back, the wind came in and the clouds too.  Whoa but did I have a headwind!  This was a tough one, mes amis!  I mean I'm used to a tailwind coming home - a tailwind while you're climbing?  Oh it is the best!  Now I get to experience the full-force of the Monsoon, High Country Rain Storm.  It is an awesome power to behold - you can only get this on a bike - the air is cool, there's rain on the way and a scent of the pines.  The clouds seem to  be rolling in,  parking on top of the Chuskas, and I'm just wanting to be back at my little trailer for breakfast.  Lightning zips up ahead.

I make it finally to the top of Benally Hill - 7200 ft - and I have a very fast descent home for about four miles - I can imagine the smell of the coffee.  I have it set to brew at a push of a button while I peel off the sweat salt-caked jersey and shower away the grime-sunscreen mix on my face and arms.

The College Trailer Park 'O The Gods
I get home - take this photo for you - and then the big rain drops plop around as I get my door key and slip inside the little trailer.  As I sip coffee and make eggs and toast, the down pour cools and soothes my place on the Nation.

Cheers!  Bruce

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