Bikepacking wit Dzil Ta’ah Journeys of the Navajo Country in Coalmine Mesa Arizona

Today we’re turning over the Surly blog site to Jon Yazzie, a full-blooded Dine (Navajo) from Kayenta, Arizona. Jon is Proprietor and also Chief Executive Officer of Dzil Ta’ah Adventures, a company giving backcountry social experiences via bikepacking, with a concentrate on mentoring Navajo young people. Surly lately contributed some bikes to the initiative, and also we eagerly anticipate sustaining them as they proceed their job. Check out along as Jon takes us to western Dinétah (Navajoland).

View of desert canyons and hills from overlook on sunny day

Beginning: Searching for my location in a typical Navajo way of life

I can really feel the shed in my upper legs, my throat breaking down, and also the sweat painful my eyes makes the rather acquainted dust roadway dark and also international. I proceed pedaling, pleading my fatigued legs to maintain relocating. I have actually been riding my bike in circles from homestead to homestead within 5 miles of our Hogan looking for my granny. And also some water.[Editor’s Note: A Hogan is the primary, traditional dwelling of the Navajo people] Weeks previous my mom discussed the signs and symptoms of warmth stroke after I obtained a migraine and also incredibly dried out while out riding my bike. I remained in full-on panic currently.

View of mesa at sunset with brown yurt-style house next to gravel road.

Two mountain bikes loaded with bikepacking gear parked in shade out in desert under shelter on sunny afternoon

It was this warm August day, in Coalmine Mesa, Arizona, at 7 years of ages when I understood that my granny’s duty as a typical herbalist and also therapist would certainly need that I make sacrifices and also find out to be independent. There would certainly be a lot more times when she would certainly be blended away to often tend to area participants seeking conventional recovery. It remained in her obligation as a medication lady to assist the ill; rejecting somebody in demand since I had not get home from college yet was NOT an alternative. We produced a prepare for when I left the bus and also she was bustled away to execute events. She would certainly leave a vital surprise and also advise the pets to maintain me secure till she returned.

Elimination from our Genealogical Homelands

Before staying in Coalmine Mesa, we stayed in a huddle with a handful of expanded household additionally eastern along Freeway 264, nearby the Navajo and also Hopi appointment boundary. We had a significant area of plentiful plants, great deals of pets, gorgeous residences and also [were] growing off the land. Throughout the 1950s, Arizona took a look at coal gets situated close by on joint genealogical lands as a remedy to the west’s expanding power demands.

Both the Navajo and also Hopi people denied the deal to create a coal sector in the location. Quickly a media-fabricated fight in between both people would certainly separate us.

This resulted in brand-new borders being attracted with the 1974 Navajo-Hopi Negotiation Act, which caused our household and also 15,000 even more Navajo being displaced.

After our animals was by force minimized, plants delegated perish, we were urged to transfer. My expanded household was off to brand-new places. My mom, granny, and also I mosted likely to a tiny Hogan off the brand-new Hopi dividers lands while we awaited a residence someplace, anywhere. My mom would certainly invest the weekdays trying to find operate in Flagstaff, while I stuck with my granny so I might proceed mosting likely to college from our short-lived homestead.

Living the Desire

Quick onward 40 years and also this is simply among the memories that appear as we pedal bent on camp at Coalmine Canyon close by. In the last years, Navajo households influenced by the Negotiation Act were enabled to go back to their homelands. My auntie has actually developed a residence near the Hogan I stayed in with my late granny. Considering that returning, I have actually constantly wished to bikepack the location. We were ultimately doing it. I was taking household to oversleep the dust ignoring Coalmine Canyon where coal was likewise extracted in the 1960s.

Eroded desert canyons showing sedimentary levels and water lines

After assembling sufficient equipment and also packing up a couple of given away bikes from Surly, we avoided to delight in western Dinétah (Navajoland). The bikes, the equipment, the entire experience is one I will certainly constantly hug. The bikes really felt great and also riding them filled was a genuine reward for our team.

Four mountain bikes parked loaded with bikepacking bags

Mountain bike laying on ground as person removes water bottle from fork attachment

Three mountain bikers riding near edge of canyon with view of opposite facing cliff

My impression of Surly remained in Anchorage at Solitary Rate Globes 2014. Being in among the several breweries on an obligatory bar creep my friend stated “Guy, the Surly group is below.” Anticipating lycra and also limited packages, rather we were welcomed by lengthy hair, beards, denim with spots and also double-fisted beer aficionados.

The very best I might explain it was traditional Anthrax satisfies Hank Williams III, and also sprinkle in some physical fitness. I desired in. I wished to ride a Surly. When I remained in secondary school, I took satisfaction in my lengthy hair, my love of BMX and also steel bands. And also currently on this Coalmine Canyon scenic tour I was living the desire: riding a Krampus and also utilizing even more of the brand name to carry out even more young people and also household bikepack trips.

Bikepacking a Ghost Community

Signing Up With on this SO24 (sub-24 hr flight) were my cousin-brother Sean, nephew Jaron and also niece Jodessa. From my residence in Kayenta, the beginning factor for the path has to do with 2 hrs away. Sean got here from Tuba City and also Jaron and also Jodessa from their residence in Chinle. Jaron and also Jodessa have actually been bikepacking with me for some time currently, however this was Sean’s very first bikepacking journey and also he was delighted to ride an ECR. All of us assembled the night before separation to arrange equipment and also established bikes. The path would certainly take us from my auntie’s house to the northwest for 10 miles to the mouth of Coalmine Canyon. From there we would certainly come down to camp on among the canyon rims far from neighborhood website traffic. Wikipedia explains Coalmine as a ghost community, which appears suitable since I remember a tale my late mom informed me regarding a Navajo lady that was being prosecuted by the Spaniards as they frequently looked for Navajos to offer as servants to operate in copper mines in Mexico. Not wishing to be apprehended, she determined to embark on the side of the high cliff. Her ghost still dancings on an only apex at the facility of the canyon.

View of small desert shrub growing on edge of canyon cliff in the desert sun

Four mountain bikers standing with their loaded bikes for a group shot on mesa

Three mountain bikers on high elevation prairie double-track road with fence on one side and radio tower in distance

We left at night, enabling us simply adequate time to establish camping tents and also enjoy the sunlight established over the western perspective. The views was as magnificent as any type of I have actually seen. We were until now from light contamination that any type of grandiloquent picture would not do any type of justice defining the 3 layers of celebrities that demonstrate to our late-night jolly babble. I likewise had the very best rest in 2 months that night, in a camping tent without the rainfall fly. Momentarily round of awesome sights, we made it an indicate establish our alarm systems for pre-dawn so we might enjoy the dawn. The very early wakeup phone call enabled us adequate time to damage camp and also defeat the warmth back to our beginning factor.

Three mountain bikers descend rutted gravel road toward the open mesa

Sun setting over mesa and canyon, small tent set-up with loaded mountain bike laying on ground next to it

Two people getting gear from bags on their mountain bikes, tents set-up near edge of canyon post sunset

Four loaded mountain bikes laying on ground, two people getting bikes ready to ride out after packing up camp

Spreading Out the Stoke

My companion Nadine and also I have a bikepacking experience business that concentrates on lasting business scenic tours. The profits from those journeys assist us money a young people program to obtain youngsters and also their households out on bikes.

Inevitably, our objective is to develop a bikepacking area on the Navajo Country, beginning with the young people.

We have actually likewise produced a mentorship program to assist us instruct future travelers exactly how to ride crammed and also discover convenience oversleeping the dust under the celebrities. Considering that the begin, we have actually not had the stress to offer scenic tours as a result of charitable individuals that have actually given away bikes, equipment, and also financial funds to buy equipment that we hand off to our individuals in hopes they proceed bikepacking. We are constantly happy for the assistance from our enrollers and also eagerly anticipate sharing even more tales with our fans.

Two mountain bikers taking a break on gravel road, one digging in framepack

Large mud puddle on gravel road, mountain biker rides around

Mountain biker stopped to pet white and brown horse near side of gravel road

Jon Yazzie standing with loaded mountain bike wearing cycling helmet and riding glasses in front of slick rock

It Has Become Beauty Again. from Austin Smock on Vimeo.

Regarding the Writer
Jon Yazzie is a full-blooded Dine (Navajo) from Kayenta, Arizona. His clans are Looming home individuals, birthed for the Zuni-Edgewater clan. His mother’s grandparents are Red moving with each other individuals, and also his concerned grandparents are of the Black steaked woodland clan. Jon is an ambitious experience bicyclist and also author with hopes of sharing a lot more backcountry social experiences using bikepacking and also pack rafting. You can discover more regarding them on their internet site at

Editor’s Note: Thanks for sharing your words with us, Jon! If you wish to adhere to along on future adventures with Dzil Ta’ah Journeys, you can discover them on Instagram.

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