Navajo Mountain culture and archaeology: Rare Opportunity to Explore and learn about Prehistoric and Contemporary Native cultures in this remote area of Utah
Join noted archaeologist Sally Cole, CFI director and co-founder Karla VanderZanden and Navajo guides from the Atene family on this very special trip at Navajo Mountain. Our hiking takes place between Navajo Mounain and the San Juan River, an area seldom explored except by the families that live there. Finding from early archaeological surveys from the 1930’s and 1960’s will be featured, with sites ranging from some of the oldest Archaic known in the region up through Ancestral Puebloan and modern day Paiute and Dine (Navajo. ) Navajo Mountain sits on the Arizona and Utah border and rises to a height over 10,000 feet. Navajo Mountain is considered sacred by many; the Navajo call this place Naatsis’aan, which means “Head of the Earth Woman.”
Our trip meets the first evening at Recapture Lodge in Bluff, Utah for orientation. We travel the next day to Navajo Mountain, highlighting geography, geology, and historical features along the way, including a short hike late afternoon to a major ruin site. We will spend the first night at the guest hogan of Rose Atene, traditional Navajo basket maker. The next few days we hike in the area south of Navajo Mountain with day packs only. We will see prehistoric sites dating from Archaic to Pueblo III Ancestral Puebloan in age as well as old picturesque hogans, springs, plants, and grazing areas still used by the Dinè today. We will get up on the mountain for one of the most fantastic views on the Colorado Plateau and explore the maze-like wonderland that lies between the Mountain and the San Juan River. This is a rare opportunity to hike where few “Anglos” do.
This trip’s itinerary remains somewhat exploratory in nature, varying with time of year and interests. From Rose’s hogan, a truck takes our personal duffel and all we need for a comfortable two night’s base camp in the canyons. We spend two nights in this spectacular location and have options for half day hikes to cultural sites the next day. The first day’s hike is about six miles steadily downhill with shorter optional hikes out from base camp. The hiking difficulty level is “moderate” both on sandy trails, old roads and cross country. The next few days there are optional half day hikes to different cultural sites. The last morning we hike about two miles out and visit another archaeological site then meet the CFI van after lunch. We return to Bluff by 5 p.m. the last day.
“I had long wanted to explore the Navajo Mountain area. This trip turned out to be the perfect way to do it I was again in touch with the Colorado Plateau but experienced a new part of it…Highlights of the program? Eric Atene and Charlene Valentine Atene! They and the family members we met made the land come alive in a way that would be impossible without Navajo knowledge and perspective. The place and the people are woven together… And the congeniality of the group. I enjoyed this group, both guests and staff. ”
– Tom Wylie, 2011 participant and National Park Service retiree, Denver, Colorado.