Navajo County Highpoint: Black Mesa

I looked at March on my calendar back in February, I realized that it was going to be a long tough stretch leading up to Spring Break. To combat that, I scheduled a day to head down to the Navajo Reservation to hike to the top of Black Mesa, the Navajo County highpoint.

I had to do a little bit of prep work to get ready to hike this one. Since I wanted to respect Navajo Nation sovereignty, I needed to follow their processes to obtain a hiking permit for the reservation. I was a little frustrated that I couldn’t pick up a permit in Kayenta but when I discovered I could pick up one at the Four Corners Monument that worked out alright (I would have liked to start an hour earlier but alas, I had to wait near the Monument until they opened at 8am.) It was a little difficult to communicate to them where I wanted to hike but since I’d set everything up ahead of time I had no problems at permit pickup.

I started from the gate just below the water towers as suggested by prior trip reports. The gate was open both on the way up and the way down but I didn’t want to risk being locked in. This only added about a mile each way on flat road so it wasn’t a big deal (Sprocket might have disagreed when it was warm on the way down).

The trail sticks to the top of one of the ridges before it makes one large switch back up the side of the mesa. I found that the lower part of the trail, especially the start of the swing to the left that starts the switch back wasn’t really obvious and it was nice to have the GPS track from a prior hiker. After that junction, the trail became much clearer as it moved up the side of the mesa. (In fact, this trail would be a great one for the Reservation to develop into a more formal trail!)

As one might expect in mid-March, the north facing slope still had some snow covering the trail in places. I sort of embraced this since it’s not spring around here without some postholing and scrub oak scrapes. Even though it’s sort of painful, it is a definite signal to me that spring is here (although I have learned that long socks and shorts are the jam for springtime hiking).

Once I reached the rim, the views were incredible! I could see so much of the Four Corners region from there!

The highpoint of the mesa is actually located a little ways east of where the Yazzie Trail reaches the rim of the mesa. Some of it is in the open but it eventually goes into a pinon-juniper stand where the highpoint is located.

We wandered around for awhile looking for the highpoint, again, using GPS to make sure we were in the right area and eventually found the summit cairn. It was fun to see all the familiar names on the register!

Since the summit wasn’t particularly photogenic, we paused along the rim on the way back to the Yazzie Trail for photos.

It was a glorious day for adventuring outside! Sprocket found it a little bit warm on the way down but old dog is a trooper. He even got a McDonald’s kiddie ice cream cone once we were back in Kayenta.

Arizona: Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

Hubble Trading Post

Traveling south from Canyon de Chelly, I stopped at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. Located in Ganado, the Trading Post is still “operational” selling sundries in addition to visitors center like merchandise.

Hubbell Trading Post

Hubble Trading Post

I poked around in the rug room and browsed the trading post, picking up few jars of salsa and jam for myself and a handful of small trinkets for Christmas gifts.

Rug room

Gun collection

The visitors center was closed for lunch so I spend some time wandering the grounds checking out the sheep, the fowl, the bread oven, and poking around.

Hubbell Trading Post

Hubbell Trading Post grounds

Sheep at Hubbell Trading Post

When the visitor center reopened, I paid my $2 to take a tour of the Hubbell residence. I didn’t take any photos inside but I found the house really compelling. It passed directly from the family to the Park Service so the furnishings are all original to the house and they even have the family china! It was just me on the tour so it was really informal but my guide was great and I really enjoyed it. (I was even a bit inspired by the hallway-less design of the house!)

Arizona: Canyon de Chelly National Monument

I spent a little time browsing the Canyon de Chelly visitors center and trying to get a sense for what I should spend some time doing. I really only wanted to allot time for one of the rim drives but I didn’t stress out about it too much because in the spectrum of western drives, this isn’t too terribly far from the San Juan Mountains.

I started out driving along the South Rim, pulling over at each overlook to enjoy the view. As much as this fit my MO for the morning, I can’t imagine letting something like this be my only interaction with canyons in the southwest! This really just gets back to my issues with national parks, I love them and understand why they’re run the way they are but I really struggle with the restrictions and the way that they seem to encourage very passive consumption of national treasures. BUT ANYWAY.

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly had been a place I wanted to visit for a long time, after having read a NYT piece about it. It really is gorgeous if occasionally it was sort of uncomfortable to politely turn down seemingly earnest Navajo jewelry and artist vendors in the park; I just don’t really know how to respond to someone trying to sell me a painted pictograph (when this area is characterized by petroglyphs) on a slice of sandstone. I don’t want it or need it but somehow I feel guilty for not buying it because, History. The world is complicated sometimes.

Canyon de Chelly

I decided to hike down to White House Ruins. It’s the only place in the monument where you can hike down to the floor of the canyon without a Navajo guide. Sadly, because Canyon de Chelly is part of the National Park Service, Sprocket had to wait for me in the Jeep.

No Puppy Service

The trail down to the White House Ruins is pretty great. It’s short, gorgeous, and pretty well constructed. There’s stairs carved into the sandstone at the rim and a couple of tunnels not to mention the ruins at the bottom.

Stairs in the trail

White House trail

White House Trail

White house ruins trail

Being on the canyon floor was pretty amazing. I’d really love to see more of the canyon. (Anyone want to go in on a Jeep tour with me?)

White House Ruins

After I got back to the car, we visited one more overlook and I let Sprocket walk out with me. I’m not sure if pets are allowed but I figured the warning sign implied that they were? Sprocket was delighted to get out and walk around on slickrock and no ranger chased us down so it all worked out.

Sprocket at an overlook