See Stillernator's triplog first.
Chris posted an invite on HAZ and we thought it looked interesting. Then it became iffy because of the monsoons closing down the Keet Seel Canyon. Thursday Aug 02 1330 Chris called to say that he had received word that the Park Service had opened the trail but could close it again if they got more rain. But Betatakin (Talastima) would be open as a Plan B. So we were on. I knew it was Chris's birthday so I bought cupcakes, birthday candles and a big Tervis insulated Pittsburgh Steelers tumbler.
The Navajo Reservation observes Daylight Savings Time so they are 1 hour ahead of AZ at this time of year.
You must take the official orientation before the hike. We went up on Fri Aug 03 to take the 1515(Navajo) orientation so that we could get an early start on Sat Aug 04 to hike this as an 18 mile dayhike. Otherwise we would have had to take the Sat Aug 04 0815(Navajo) orientation and not been able to start the hike until around 0930
Eric & I connected with Chris and Gordie at the Lowe's at I-17 and Happy Valley. About 0615(AZ) we began our caravan to Keet Seel with the Stillermobile in the lead.
Arrived at the Navajo National Monument Visitor Center at 1130AZ (1230Navajo). Sunset View campground was empty. We chose campsite #9 (the jersey number for Daniel Sepulveda - a punter for the Steelers). We set up camp. Chris doesn't just camp - he lives large and tailgates. He set up the official Steelers tailgate chairs, hauled in 3 big coolers filled with food and beverages, fired up the gas grill and starting grilling brats with his official Steelers grill utensils. He set up a 4 man Coleman bug screen and cots.
Headed to the Visitor Center for orientation. Got to the orientation 5 minutes early so we could get the good seats at the back of the class, but we were the only ones at the orientation. The Ranger spoke so softly that calling his volume a whisper would be exaggerating. Since Chris was the Permit Holder and would be the one getting into trouble if we screwed up, we just cracked jokes and dozed in and out.
After the orientation, we hiked the Rim trails. Great views of Betatakin (Talastima). Hiked down to the Aspen relict forest overlook then back up and over to the historic Contact Center and historic Ranger Hogan. Then headed back to camp for Chris's Birthday Party. Chris unwrapped the Steelers drinking glasses. Since we were on Federal land but inside the Reservation, we weren't sure if liquor would be allowed, so we stuck to juices (that's my story and I'm sticking to it). Chris gave us some different Serbian fruit punches. But after a couple of glasses, I kept getting them confused. One was apricot and another one was plum. I shared some blue agave nectar. And Chris kept grilling. He grilled brats and chicken and veggies and steak. We need to buy him a Steelers chef apron.
Chris and Gordie started talking about heavy metal bands. Since the only heavy metal I listen to is Neil Diamond and Toby Keith, I turned in anticipating an early wake up.
And the rain started pattering on my tent.
I heard some heavy metal ringtone and then some grumbling. I had expected to hear a ringtone of Steelers Coach Tomlin announcing morning practice, but Chris must not have that one downloaded. It was 0315 and time to break camp and hit the trail.
The forecast was mid-80's on the Rim and mid-90's in the canyon. Partly cloudy with about a 20% chance of rain. The cloud cover and some light breezes kept it acceptably comfortable. I had 3liters in my hydration bladder, 2L in an MSR cache bag, 1L of Elete electrolytes in a Nalgene in my pack and 2-750ml bottles of Elete electrolytes in the pockets outside my pack. So 7.5L total . I ended up with about 1.5L in my hydration bladder at the end of the hike. Eric carried 6L. He carries Accelerade powder and mixes his electrolytes as he needs them. I think Chris had about 13L of water and Gordie about 9L.
Drove to the Keet Seel parking lot and started hiking about 0600. I got a good pic of dawn breaking from Tsegi Point. Going down the steps, Gordie had lagged a little behind Chris. As we approached the caching point by the junipers just before the drop into Laguna Creek Canyon we heard Gordie shout "Where's the trail?" He had blown through a turn and dropped below the trail into some juniper scrub. We could see the trail above him. Eric gave him verbal directions and I started hiking back up the trail if needed. The kid is a very good athlete, but a newbie to this kind of hiking. His big dSLR camera bag must have weighed 8-10lbs and Chris had set them up very conservatively and carrying plenty of water. Eric loaned his hiking poles to Gordie to mitigate Gordie's discomfort.
Because of the monsoons, there was an incredible amount of water and mud and quicksand in the canyon. I had a comfortable old pair of Five Ten Campfour approach shoes that I was willing to ruin. They worked perfectly. Time will tell if they are ruined. Eric wore Salomon lowcut dayhiker boots with mesh. The mesh drains really well and kept out pebbles but let in all sorts of silt and sand that built up under his toes. In hindsight he would have probably been happier with some Gore-tex trail runner and gaiter. We tried to keep our feet dry for the first half dozen crossings, then just gave up and realized we were going to get our feet wet sooner or later. We found 3 different types of quicksand. The mud pudding - the sort of quivers under foot. The muck - where you sink in a few inches. And the deep - where you sink in above your knees. The worst quicksand is around the bigger rocks. It appears that the flood must create an eddy around the rock that then fills in with the silt sand. We became pretty good at recognizing the different quicksands and negotiating them. The actual stream itself seemed to have less quicksand than outside the streambed. Eric sank past his knees in one area. I scrambled around and held out my hiking poles. All he could do was balance with the poles, slowly raise his leg and foot and move it forward then repeat with the other foot. As he got closer to solid ground I was able to help with pulling on the poles. I told Chris and Gordie to go on the other side. I did not say ". . . Eric almost died". If I had been thinking quicker I should have thrown Eric's hat on the quicksand and yelled that I needed help getting him out. Eric & I were in cruise mode and would get a little ahead of Chris & Gordie - who were both busy taking photos - but we would occasionally wait so that we maintained intermittent visual contact. Heard a raptor, spotted its nest, then watched it glide down and over us. Light underbelly - maybe a Cooper's hawk.
We got to the ruins and connected with Patrick Joshevama, the Park Service guide on duty. I greeted him in Dineh not realizing that he is Hopituh Shi-nu-mu (Hopi) and Sun Clan. If I had known he is Hopi the proper greeting would have been "Haw" or "Um waynuma?" I had been to the Hopi Festival in July so we talked about some of the festival and some of the Hopi that I know. He is a carver and was carving an atlatl and making atlatl darts. Keet Seel and Anasazi are the words used by the Tavasu (Hopi name for Navajo). The Hopi words are Kawestima and Hisatsinom so I used these words in talking with him about this place. He brought us some binders of photos of what Kawestima looked like years ago. We moved to the second set of picnic tables closer to the ruins, ate lunch, rested and put our packs in a metal storage container. Patrick arrived and told us to wear headlamps if we had them. Chris had been a little anxious about the ladder, but when he actually saw it and started climbing it he realized it wasn't that bad. I think he got a little out of his comfort zone getting on and climbing down one of the ladders in the ruins, but he quickly got comfortable with these ladders. Patrick was very knowledgeable and very patient. We kept making wisecracks and joking and we had him laughing at us. He showed us the tool stone and we joked "Oh, this was their True Value hardware store!!!" "this is a big storage room, did it have always low prices, was it the Hisatsinom WalMart?" He explained that the Kivas were the men's social clubs so we joked about them having an app for football scores. I asked about two holes in the Kiva and he explained that the loom fit in them. I asked "Women were allowed in the Kiva to weave?" Patrick explained that Hisatsinom men were weavers. Just before we left Patrick said "Ok now I have to show you the museum". He had hidden some unique items under some stones. He pulled the stones off and had some yucca cord, some "yucca and turkey feather cordage", a weapon head and some incredible small and intricate beads on a thread. Patrick explained that the Hisatsinom raised turkeys in pens near the spring below Kawestima. They used the feathers to make a cord that they wove with yucca fibers into yarn for blankets and rope. I shared the only joke I know in the Hopi language and Patrick laughed. As we were leaving, Patrick went back to working on an atlatl dart and shared the secret for making straight shafts for arrows and atlatl darts. I thanked Patrick. Kwakway is the male form for Thank You in the Hopi language. I asked about kawayo and he told me maybe. I bid him "Nu' pay nimani".
I agree with Chris that on the way in we were enthralled by the approach to Kawestima. On the way out we saw that the ground was covered in pottery sherds. I disagree a little with Chris, I did not feel like a tourist (but I didn't take as many photos). I felt like I was visiting the family home of a friend.
Eric and I led on the way out but would wait and occasionally make visual contact and verify that they showed no unusual signs of distress. Approaching Laguna Creek we did see kawayo - a mare and a foal. We tried to get close but the mare watched us warily and when we got within about 100m she and the foal would trot a 100m away.
We regrouped at the cache point. Chris hit the jets and was gone. Gordie was hurting a little and I later learned that he was developing horrible blisters. I wish I had known because I would have stopped right there and shown him how to treat them. So Gordie and I hung together and he was amazed that an old fart could hike so well. I mentored him on hiking and training techniques. Eric had spent some extra time at the cache point taking care of his feet and changing socks so he started a little after us. I made visual contact but soon he passed us. We got to the parking lot about 10 minutes behind Chris and Eric. Eric and I went to the Visitor Center so he could buy some gifts for his daughter.
We drove to Tuba City to the Quality Inn. We checked in and had some complimentary Navajo Fry Bread. Shared some with Gordie. We asked the Concierge at the Quality Inn about fine dining in Tuba City. She told us the best was at the Hogan Restaurant at the Quality Inn. I did not tip her for this advice. We went to the Hogan Restaurant. We started with the fresh salad bar. I had grilled salmon and steamed vegetables. Eric had the Taco Plate but was not brave enough to have Fry Bread tacos. Chris and Gordie came in for dinner. A British couple came in for dinner and asked the waitress what kind of beer the restaurant had. A little sheepishly she explained that they were on the Rez.
Went back to Chris's room for Serbian fruit punch. The trail had beaten Gordie up pretty bad so he nodded off. Chris wanted to hike Mormon Mountain by Flagstaff but with Gordie being tired, we called that off and retired for the night.
Eric & I woke early. Had the complimentary breakfast at the Hogan Restaurant and came home. Great trip with great buddies.
||Wildflowers Observation Light