In the pre-dawn chill at 7300 feet, our sleeping bags held us captive as we contemplated the two-day adventure before us in Navajo National Monument. Arizona’s finest ruin had been on our radar for a month; team Tara/Margretta/Kathryn was perched at the ready. Now we had to carry full backpacks 8.5 miles (and back) to earn the privilege of exploring this ancestral site that could be visited only with a permit and a ranger. We rolled out of our bags, greeted the just-lightening skies, and got busy.
Contents of pack: two gallons of water per person in the summer sun (that’s sixteen pounds of slosh) plus food for three meals, sleeping bag and pad, clothing, footwear, toiletries, backpack stove and tent. To lighten my pack I elected to forego the tent and sleep on a small tarp. Still, hoisting that weight onto my back was a reminder of how much I ‘need’ in my everyday life.
Dropping a thousand feet down switchbacks, I cached two liters of water at the bottom for tomorrow’s climb out, and we began following a meandering perennial stream that would be our guide. Thirty-two times we waded through 1-3” of spring-flow that morning, glad for Gore-tex boots. Shade was absent, but camaraderie plentiful — adventurers lured by twin siren songs of exploration and long-gone cultures.
Mile by mile, the canyon gradually narrowed and became even lovelier; with the dependable water source, I had no difficulty imagining why the ancestral people chose this site for cliff-dwellings in the thirteenth century. My mind could not have conceived, however, the marvels that lay ahead.