There aren't too many hikes where you can go and feel like you're walking on sacred, pristine earth. On my trip to see Three Turkey Ruins however, I have to admit I felt just that. At the invitation of a Navajo family I joined a father and his son into the ruins to see them.
The area, inhabited centuries ago by the many Anasazi, are thankfully due to their location pretty pristine. The original structures are still standing well in the main area, as well as parts of the ones above and to the right of them inside the canyon. Inside the perpetually dark kiva the artwork is stunning. I didn't get to see it firsthand, but my friend had and told me about it. I was able to see the three turkeys pained atop one of the buildings there in brown and white, which gives the ruins their name.
The road was rough and we got lost just trying to navigate the spider's web of dirt roads out in this area (many of these dirt roads dead end into personal property), but after a while he finally remembered which one it was. The roads were rough and not often traveled. When we finally came to the end of the road we realized that a dead, fallen tree was blocking part of the original road that leads almost to the edge of the canyon, but we just hiked the rest of the way as it wasn't that far.
Even the drive in was fascinating. On that final stretch we passed a very old, abandoned hogan and corral, as well as a sweatlodge on the side of this little road.
Hike: We hiked down into the canyon (also known as Tse Deeshzhaai Wash), and once we were in...all I can say is, WOW. It felt like I had just stepped centuries back in time, walking on earth that is very seldom trod. There are a few who get out there...when we were out there we ran into a couple of Navajo on horseback...but (thankfully) not very many. I had such a deep sense of appreciation for the canyon and ruins' pristine condition. There was a little bit of graffiti in there, but thankfully it was very minimal. I saw two small patches of it on the walls, dated as far back as 1969. But considering other areas I've seen around the state, it's not that bad. Along the hike through the canyon (which does have seasonal water running through it), we found a small set of ruins up on a ledge to the right that were easy to reach, though there weren't much to them.
As you're in the canyon, the views of the walls of the canyons are breathtaking. I felt like a country boy in New York City, with my neck stretched looking up all of the time! Sheer vertical walls, several hundred feet straight up, with echoes in there that could be heard for hundreds of yards.
When we finally arrived at the Three Turkey Ruins, I gasped. It was one of those feelings like when I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time. Situated halfway up the rock wall above the canyon floor, this site served as a very strategic position no doubt. It would have been impossible to reach by their enemies, and the echoes in the canyon would have warned them of intruders well before they got there. Anyone coming in there unwanted by the Anasazi you can tell wouldn't have even had a fighting chance!
I debated whether or not to even make this post...when someone like me sees something this pristine, this untouched by modern man, one feels the urge to keep it a secret and not let others know about it. In the end I decided that something this beautiful I can't just keep to myself.
For those interested, I do know that Totsonii Ranch offers guided tours into the area. It is located nearby (on the edge of the National Monument land) and run by a Navajo family. If you are interested in going in, please contact them rather than venturing out there on Navajo land on your own (Google "Totsonii Ranch" for further information.) They'll even take you in on horseback...check their website for further details. I didn't make the directions to the trailhead too user friendly, because I selfishly hope that the casual hiker that isn't as respectful of areas like this won't go in without a guide. Be forewarned...those deciding to venture out on their own down these Navajo roads risk easily getting lost. What's more, many of these roads actually just lead themselves onto homesites, and Navajo families don't take took kindly to outsiders driving/traipsing around on their personal property!
Navajo Recreation Permit $5 per person per day, camping $5 per person per day. Study the Permit Details
To canyon trip From inside the Canyon de Chelly National Monument, continue east on Indian Route 7. The paved road turns to dirt and continues on toward Ft. Defiance. Stay on IR7 as it turns to the south, and then head west on Indian Route 8015. West on IR8015 to Indian Route 8018. Follow IR8018 2/3 mile and continue on straight rather than veering to the left to stay on IR8018. Follow this unnamed road as far as you can, it gets pretty close to the edge of the canyon. Keep in mind that once you're off IR 7, you will need a 4WD...these roads are NOT maintained!! Also a word of warning...venturing out onto these unmaintained Navajo dirt roads can get one easily lost.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.