Dotted by both juniper and pinyon pines, the landscape is flat, but also consists of pastoral lands that give way to vast sandstone canyons with unobstructed views of Lake Powell, the Echo Peaks and the Vermilion Cliffs.
Located on the last mesa before the descent into the town of Page, 12 miles away, this is the home of Shash Dine’ Eco-Retreat, a bed and breakfast business created three years ago by an enterprising couple, Baya and Paul Meehan.
This off-the-grid retreat is open year-round and was designed to attract guests who want to experience the peace and simplicity of the Navajo cultural life, to simplify their lives and reconnect with nature, if only for the duration of their stay.
Guests can sleep in a hogan, the traditional log-and-earth Navajo home, or in two white, wall-and-bell canvas tents, with doors facing toward the rising sun.
The tents come down in the winter when guests can use the hogan, as well as a small cabin that will soon be finished.
Accommodations have no electricity, no running water and no carpets.
The land has been in Baya’s family for generations.
“I don’t know the acres of land we steward, as there really isn’t a concept or a sense of ownership of land,” she said. “We think of all the land that surrounds us as part of our responsibility to steward.”
Paul says they are able to make a living with their ranch activities, as well as the income generated from their growing B&B business.
“We decided to do this, and we both desire a more fulfilling and simpler way of life,” he said. “Additionally, Baya felt a calling to her land.”
Her connection to the ranch is strong, as this is the place where her grandmother, mother, uncles and aunts actively worked the land.
In accordance with tradition, Navajo-Churro sheep, Nubian goats, horses, chickens, livestock, peacocks and some very unique ducks are being raised on the ranch.
“Baya is a Navajo woman who may seem a bit of a contrarian as she wished to live her life to the fullest here on Dine’tah,” said her husband. “She wishes to live where she works, and work where she lives – an effortless blurred line so as not to ever allow for drudgery.”
The sheep flock fluctuates in number. Currently there are 50 Navajo-Churro sheep, which is a rare breed.
“They are penned on our ranch,” Paul explained. “They are free range and guarded by our livestock guardian dogs.”
The guardian dogs include three Great Pyrenees, a Spanish breed, and three Maremma sheepdogs, an Italian breed.
“The Dine’ are known for adaptability,” Baya said. “We will embrace modernity, but not at the expense of our tradition. The land, culture and language are us. It defines us. The Navajo in these modern times are a living, breathing culture that’s ever evolving. And it’s crucial to preserve our ways, our language, our culture.”
The Shash Dine’ Eco-Retreat falls into the category of “glamping,” the new trend of so-called glamorous or luxury camping. Campsites offer a large fire pit, and guests cook whatever they wish to grill, such as sausages, vegetables and steak.
Breakfast consists of blue corn porridge made in the traditional Navajo way, a seasonal fruit medley with nuts and a choice of hot coffee or Navajo tea.
Each tent is equipped with cots for two to three people, linens, bedding and lanterns. Drinking water and a solar shower are included, and visitors can enjoy the games and books that are provided.
“We’ve hosted hundreds of guests from all over the world, as well as right here from the United States,” Baya said. “They are adventurists at heart and curious about Navajo culture. The average stay is one night. They remark how brilliant the star field is and how calming the land is.”
The couple met through a mutual acquaintance and dated from afar, finally getting together in Bisbee, where they lived before moving to the reservation to start a working ranch and the B&B.
Baya, 35, was born in Page, and Paul, 46, was born in Providence, Rhode Island.
They have two children, Brigitte, two, and Jack, eight months.
“Our children will be raised here,” Paul said proudly. “They will know their language, their culture. It is our grand design to have a full sustainable off-grid retreat that will champion both the traditional as well as the modern.”
A bear claw sign leads up to the driveway, where guests are greeted by the hosts. In fact, the “Shash” in the retreat’s name means bear in Navajo.
Accommodations are booked through September, and reservations for the fall months are filling fast. FBN
Guests should provide an approximate check-in time and arrive before dark so they do not get lost in this remote location. The hosts will guide them to their campsite.
Currently, prices are $90 per night. For more information, visit the Shash Dine Eco-Retreat website, www.shashdine.com or call 928-640-3701.
The address of the retreat is Highway 89, Indian Route 6211, Page, Arizona 86040.