Camping in Chilchinbeto

by Bonnie ’17

This weekend, we trekked out to Chilchinbeto for a “tech-less” camping experience at Lena’s ranch. Unlike last weekend where we had the luxury of comfy hotel beds and wifi in Page, we were expected to sleep in a hogan without any access to electricity or running water.

On Saturday, we rolled out of our sleeping bags at the crack of dawn (6 a.m.-ish) for a morning hike up the Black Mesa with Lena. Throughout the hike, she stopped the group to talk about the significance of various rock formations, wildlife, and histories of her family and the Navajo nation. She noted that the summit was a place where she could hear the voices of her ancestors in the wind and where she could relinquish her burdens that she carried during the hike. Overall, the six mile hike lasted until lunchtime where we had sandwiches and snacks.

Saturday afternoon was fairly relaxing, as we prepared for our nighttime festivities. For dinner, we made Navajo tacos over the fire, and Lena let us make our own fry bread. As the sun began to set, we all gathered around the campfire for family stories. As each one of us spoke, we shared our family heritage (as traditional in Navajo culture), a family story, a positive comment, and “something for the fire.” This was a chance for us to talk about the importance of family and the lessons that we learned; but everything shared around the campfire stayed with the campfire. We concluded this with some s’mores–a perfect way to end the day.

On Sunday, we woke up to the morning sun streaming through the ceiling of the hogan. We slowly woke up early morning card games and strong coffee. For breakfast, Lena made tortillas over the fire, and Kevin made bacon and sausage. To wrap up the weekend, we came together for a meeting for worship in the hogan. Though we were anxious to return to Kayenta for running water, air conditioning, and cell phones, we reflected on this weekend as an opportunity for us to connect with one other and nature. Camping at Chilchenbito was great way to spend our last weekend in Arizona, and I know that it is an experience that none of us will ever forget.

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