Keet Seel Hike In
“To the Navajo Tsegi Canyon is Dogoshzi Biko, a remote canyon of ancient death. Few Navajo come to these places. They are too full of ghosts-somone else’s ghost. The Navajo have closed these canyons off, as if boarding up ruins in a house where terrible things once happened, where human skeletons slowly erode out of steep graves. Dogoszhi Biko is hardly a place to be visited.”
— Craig Childs
Pelipa stopped at the administration center to check-in. “Hey, Mike any news from Marci?”
“Hi, Pelipa no. I'll get her on the walkie-talkie. I just talked to her not fifteen minutes ago.”
“No don’t worry just let her know I’m on my way when you speak next. Any other issues?”
“Okay, I’m off. I’ll see you in a week.”
Leaving the visitor center, she walked east following the crest of the hills for the first mile. A placard explained the rules of the monument; no open fires expect a drop of over a thousand feet in elevation, and she had seven miles to go to get to Keet Seel. She nodded happily accepting her lot. The sun was out, and the cool morning perfect for hiking. She walked on kicking rocks in the red-brown loose sandy dirt of the path.
Soon the descent began in earnest. The sandy trail hardened to smooth Navajo sandstone. It was brick red in color and tempered by the large green pinion trees scattered all over this upper-level area at the top of the mountains. Laguna Creek showed itself more frequently as she dropped down widening into a winding, twisting current.
She appreciated the openness of the Tsegi Canyons. Laguna Creek wasn’t as swift as the Colorado. It hadn’t cut the steep gradient the red river had as it made its way through the Grand Canyon. Here the valleys were broad and welcoming, and the creek wove its way lazily through stands of aspen, fir, and spruce.
There were lots of places for bogs to form and there was a lot of quicksand too over and around the trail. It was an ever-present danger. Pelipa had been taught to move slowly and carefully if she was sucked into the wet mucky quagmire. She could tell where the weak areas were because the shiny surface dulled when her feet stepped on it. These were the places she approached lightly.
Horses knew their way around; they sensed the dangerous areas and avoided those places. The danger of falling in remained small if she stayed near the edges next to the hoof prints.
She looked around for two wild buckskin mares when she neared the falls. The long flat stretch between falls was their favorite spot. Yep there they were! She saw them as she hiked to the top of the first waterway.
"Hey, Babe! Hey Shiloh!" she smiled and waved. They saw her, but they weren't interested. They kept their heads down but their eyes and ears focused on the woman hiking towards them. She was within ten yards of them before they lifted their heads. And yet they waited trusting her. These mares were comfortable with Pelipa as she always brought treats.
“I know why you’re here; you think I’ve brought carrots again. Well, I have,” she admitted.
The beautiful mares had the dark flowing mane and tail sets and black stockings characteristic of the breed; this dark combination on solid tan, gray roan or chestnut bodies created the buckskin the quintessential cowboy horse. Shiloh was a solid tan like Trigger Roy Roger’s horse, and Babe was a lot lighter.
Shiloh stopped and whinnied. Babe cried out as well as they turned and sprinted toward the ruins.
“Hey Pelipa,” Marci yelled over the retreating hoof beats.
“Hey, Marci.” Pelipa smiled and waved.
The horses were trotting around Marci fully expecting something.
“What do they want so badly?” Pelipa asked.
“I brought sugar cubes.”
“That’s cheating. There are no good vitamins in sugar not like carrots. You’re spoiling them Marci, and you’re ruining their teeth,” she teased.
“You’re just jealous.”
“Wait until you see how far I get with them next week,” Pelipa retorted.
The two workmates found a place to settle and talk.
“Hey, Pelipa how’s married life? How was the honeymoon?” Marci asked.
“It was fabulous. We went to Taos. Have you been there Marci?”
“No,” she laughed. “I’ll be lucky to convince Mike to take me somewhere past Tuba City or Towaoc. The horses are almost tame enough to start working with them. Is that why you wanted me to bring the halters?”
“Yep but I'll probably wait until next time when I drag René with me. I’ll see how they are this week. I can’t handle much tugging and pulling,” she explained to Marci. “I’m still recovering from the knife wound. I don’t have much strength in my arms yet.”
“You’re lucky to be alive Pelipa.”
“And it hurried René up to marry my ass,” she laughed and high-fived Marci.
“Well, there’s nothing to do tonight. No overnight groups are scheduled until Wednesday. Mike said you have a light load tomorrow just a few day hikers.”
Audiobook coming soon