The narrow and desolate Highway 264, on the edge of the Painted Desert, takes one through the Navajo Reservation in Tuba City, Arizona to the unmarked spectacle that is Coal Mine Canyon. It is a weathered and vacant route that steams under the heat of a beaming sun. However, it is also a route that provides picturesque views of the colorful landscape, as it leads to a stunning and worthwhile destination. No road markers or signs point out the location of Coal Mine Canyon, and a person could easily travel through the deserted area without ever knowing it was there. Yet, Amizade volunteers have the chance to travel off the beaten path to this hidden wonder during programs in the Navajo Nation.
Coal Mine Canyon is a branch of the Grand Canyon. The canyon gets its name from the from the fact that it was once mined for coal. The coal proved to be of poor quality, so the mining was abandoned. However, remnants of a mining past can still be seen along the top edges of the canyon walls, where a clear contrast exists between rock that has been carved out through mining and drilling, and rock that has been shaped by water and wind. Though Coal Mine Canyon is not as large or deep as the Grand Canyon, its incredibly intricate rock formations make the canyon an equally breathtaking view. One of the most striking aspects of the canyon are the brilliant colors, warm red and yellow, that radiate from the rocks. These colors become even more vivid at sunset, the time that Amizade volunteers visit and marvel, as the reddening sun begins to rest over the desert horizon.
The trip to Coal Mine Canyon during an Amizade program in the Navajo Nation is a time of exploration and adventure for volunteers. Volunteers get to trek along the steep edges of the canyon walls and gaze out into the vast ravine with its assortment of hoodoos, soaring spires of colorful sedimentary rock that protrude from the canyon floor. As volunteers experience this unique landscape, they are walking the paths that people of the Navajo Nation have walked for centuries. There are stories within the canyon walls, those of ghosts and spirits, making the location an important part of Navajo culture within the area. When Amizade volunteers visit Coal Mine Canyon, they gain a better understanding of this culture, as well as a deeper appreciation for the beauty of the Navajo Nation landscape. As the sun begins to set over Coal Mine Canyon during an Amizade visit, and the radiant colors of the rock intensify, it becomes quite difficult not contemplate how such a marvelous place remains hidden for so long.
To learn more about the opportunity to serve and learn in Navajo Nation, click here!