Ranger Kathryn's Arches

April 7, 2012

Navajo National Monument

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:26 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

The alcoves in this deep canyon hold ancient villages. Douglas Fir and aspen populate the shaded areas -- not your typical Arizona desert trees.

Tucked away in deep canyons in the northern Arizona desert, ruined villages of ancestral Puebloans lie vacated — but not empty. After all the hubbub of our day in Antelope Canyon, Tara and I wanted to find a place to lay our heads that was quiet and restful.  Ninety minutes’ drive brought us at sunset to a small jewel of a National Monument that filled the bill. Delightedly, we found that there was no entrance fee for this lovely place.

The campground occupies a pinyoned knoll — all quiet and, much to our surprise, also free. The tent went up in minutes. Leaving the rain fly off ensured that we’d see lots of stars from our 7300-foot perch. After a cup of mint tea, we burrowed into our sleeping bags and studied all our park literature by headlamp before drifting off. I dreamed of kivas and potshards.

Friday dawned cool and clear and full of promise. The park brochure described FREE (!!!) ranger-led half-day tours to the Betatakin ruins, an exciting offer to two archaeology-oriented visitors with tons of questions. Alas… full staffing begins May 27 this year, and tours won’t be available until then. (Chapter 133 of “Budget issues create disappointment.”)

To take the sting away, we perused every incredible artifact in the visitor center’s displays and worked with the ranger to plan our return for the 17-mile overnight backpacking hike to Keet Seel. This best-preserved ruin requires permits (20/day maximum); a ranger actually lives out at the ruin site for a week straight in order to conduct guided visits. MY KIND OF TRIP.

Three short overlook hikes whetted our appetites for what will come. The ancestral people built stunning masonry villages in picturesque alcoves, which shall be thoroughly explored under our own power this summer.


  1. In his book, In Search of the Ancient Ones, David Roberts wrote about hiring an off duty ranger to take him to Keet Seel. That was in 1993 as I recall. Have you heard if that’s still possible today? I’m headed there with a hikIng buddy/photographer in another week or two, and we were hoping to make it in the Keet Seel. Any tips or contacts you have will be much appreciated.

    BTW, we’ll be heading to Arches and Canyonlands afterwards, and will try to stop in and say hi, if you’re not off in the back country when we pass through.

    Comment by Ron Carroll — April 7, 2012 @ 10:18 am | Reply

    • Correction — That was supposed to read “… make it in TO Keet Seel…”

      Comment by Ron Carroll — April 7, 2012 @ 10:21 am | Reply

      • Staffing does not permit guided hikes yet. I never thought to ask about hiring an off-duty ranger — you will need to call ahead and ask the lead interpreter there. I wish I knew more about these things but I do not and I want to avoid giving misinformation. The staff is tremendously helpful and will be happy to assist. I’ll be up here at Canyonlands all season and enjoy talking with my readers, so stop by if time permits!

        Comment by Kathryn Burke — April 7, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

      • We stopped in today and spoke with a ranger about possibly hiring an off duty ranger to take us to Keet Seel. She said they discontinued that practice about 15 years ago. Something about new management at the NM who implemented the new policy. Guided tours start May 27. No reservations available that day, but you can get a reservation for any other day until thru Sept 8, after which they close the site again until 2013.

        Comment by Ron Carroll — April 17, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

      • PS — Still hoping to stop in and say hi, sometime in the next week or so.

        Comment by Ron Carroll — April 17, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

      • Last year the summer monsoons washed the trail out so badly that they cancelled the rest of the season’s tours. At least a month’s worth of Keet Seel reservations had to be cancelled. I’m hoping to get in there in June this year before thunderstorm season.

        Comment by Kathryn Burke — April 17, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

  2. How exciting. Another adventure to come.
    Happy Easter!

    Comment by Deb — April 7, 2012 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: