Unique Bed And Breakfast Offers Navajo Experience

By Laurel Morales
October 20, 2015
Laurel Morales
Baya Meehan and her son Jack show off the inside the ceremonial hogan, where guests can stay.

Experience what it’s like to live on the Navajo Nation. That’s what one Navajo entrepreneur is advertising. She offers a bed and breakfast — Navajo style.

It’s peaceful and rustic. And it’s missing some creature comforts that many would expect from a typical B&B. But it’s booked solid for several months. 

To get to Shash Dine Bed & Breakfast, you have to travel along a bumpy dirt road, just like tens of thousands of Navajos. It’s a short distance from a busy highway. And when you arrive to find your lodging? It’s a hogan a traditional Navajo dwelling often made of logs and mud. This one is a bit more modern with a wood stove at its center. 

“It’s a dirt floor,” said Baya Meehan, who runs the B&B with her husband. “We thought we would put some carpet down or some rugs. It might be more civilized and comfortable but it wouldn’t be genuine to Navajos. That’s the connection to Mother Nature.”

Laurel Morales
Baya Meehan's grandmother lived in this Navajo hogan that is still used for ceremonies.

Four cots are set up on the floor with thick camping pads, pillows, linens and colorful pendleton blankets. Baya said she tries to give guests a genuine modern Navajo experience.

“Every person they get a five-gallon bucket when they arrive here,” Baya Meehan said. “That’s exactly how we still take a bath. We try to educate our guests. We’ve been in a drought the past 20 years. Water is a very precious resource here.”

Baya sends visitors a lengthy email so they know what to expect. There’s no central air, running water or flushing toilets. Instead the family hauls water and wood and everyone uses outhouses. Guests trade conveniences for bucolic views, incredible stargazing and cooking over an open fire. 

Laurel Morales
Guests can stay in a hogan or one of two large tents. This is the inside of one tent. Baya and Paul Meehan call it "glamping."

Miranda Taylor recently visited northern Arizona from Seattle with her husband and arthritic aunt and stayed at Shash Dine. 

“I’m a backpacker so it’s not totally unusual, but to teach my auntie how to do this when she’s coming from Germany and has never been without running water,” Taylor said.

But now she said every time she turns on the faucet she thinks of her Navajo experience.

Laurel Morales
Guests experience what it's like to have no running water, no flushing toilets and no electricity. Many Navajos must haul water and wood from great distances.

“Running water is something I no longer take for granted. It’s a good experience everybody should have it,” Taylor said.

About half of the Navajo Nation are unemployed. Many travel off the reservation to go to college and to find work. That’s what Baya did. And that’s where she met her husband Paul Meehan, a non Native. They both had a dream of running a B&B. At first they looked at Bisbee in southern Arizona. But when Paul came to the Navajo Nation to meet Baya’s parents, he saw opportunity. 

The sheep ranch 12 miles south of Page is just off Highway 89 where thousands of visitors from all over the world travel to see the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Lake Powell and Zion National Park.

“It’s like the billion dollar highway here,” Paul Meehan said. “There’s got to be stops that bring development and monies to the Navajo Nation. It can be done. Attitudes have got to change.”

Both Paul and Baya hope their retreat will serve as a model. And more people will stay and work on the Navajo Nation in similar small businesses.

“I want to show people here on the Navajo Nation that you can live here,” Baya Meehan said. “You can work here. You can be successful here. You can make your own path.”

Initially, getting word out was hard. They handed out fliers at nearby tourist spots. But they quickly gained popularity on travel sites like Trip Advisor.

Business has been so good, they plan to add more tents to the property next year.