Monday, June 23, 2014

Chaco Canyon on a Very Windy Day

We headed out to visit the ruins at Chaco Canyon National Historical Park. The drive was 2 1/2 hours of very beautiful landscape. The drive goes off into the middle of just plain empty space and it makes you wonder why a group of people would live in such a remote and harsh area. The ruins here show complex architecture that began in the 800s and lasted around 300 or so years. The buildings were multiple stories of hundreds of rooms all arranged according to solar, lunar and cardinal directions. This complex is believed to have been the ceremonial and economic center of the San Juan Basin with roads connecting dozens of great houses in the region. When you drive into this big Canyon you end up on about 13 miles of dirt road that in good weather (like we had) is bumpy but not too bad. Although the ruins themselves are pretty large they are dwarfed by the landscape they sit in. Huge cliffs are behind and just the canyon itself makes everything look miniature. There are some campgrounds that have what appear to be toy RV's in them and the visitor center is a little speck as you wind down the single road toward the ruins. It is $8 per car and that is good for 7 days. Camping is a steal at $15. The visitor center provides maps and a lot of good information about the trails, self-guided tours and there is a guided tour. We arrived a little later than I would have liked and decided to try to hike up to the top so we could look over the ruins from above. There is a 5 mile loop trail that lets you look at the ruins on one side and then out forever on the back side of the mesa. We had to be back down by noon to catch the guided tour so we only managed to over look the ruins and turn back. Looking down you can see the organization much better than from is a very alien view. As we went through a virtual wind tunnel we reached the top and the wind was really howling. I would say maybe 35 miles an hour or so. I couldn't really photograph much because we were getting blown around a bunch and the dust was sand blasting us! We definitely need to return when there is a light dusting of snow or at least a lack of wind! Camping would be great so I could catch the light and sky as it changes. By the time we got there the sun was all the way up and the sky was pretty bland. We did see the wall of dust come in the gap between cliffs and that was pretty neat but scary!
We made it down and decided to walk over to Pueblo Bonito for the tour. There are six sites along the 9 mile Canyon Loop Drive and we only visited two of the sites. The talk was at Pueblo Bonito which is the one we looked down on so we figured we would at least visit this one from above and below. The others would have to wait for an overnight trip. Maybe an over night trip with the bikes? Stay on a night they offer telescope viewing of the night sky? The tour guide offered a lot of ideas about why people would build in that particular location, why they built things the way they did etc etc. Information is pieced together from descendants and archaeologists and the reality is that not much is really known. Nothing was left in the rooms to indicate what they were used for, why there there weren't any windows or ventilation etc. A complete mystery. That leaves some room for imagination which is something I have got! I would like to listen to the tour again on a non windy day when it is more pleasant to stand around. We did get to enter some buildings which amazes me! Here in the southwest we have visited a lot of places already and it amazes us that we can actually enter many of them. Yes a lot of the rooms are roped off and you can't enter or photograph from where you want to but seriously, you can stand a foot or two away from petroglyphs and they are undamaged, graffiti free and accessible!

We headed back to the visitor center a few minutes before it closed and watched a couple ravens playing in some water near a faucet. Then it was off on the long journey home. We were happy to be in the protection of the car! On the way back I got to be the passenger and got to look out at the landscape more. There were neat hoodoos and black sandy hills and rose colored ones and neat stuff everywhere. We stopped in Cuba for dinner. Out in the middle of nowhere I was hesitant to stop but we had another hour or more before we would get home. We went into El Bruno and I was expecting bad things. The place was charming, clean, had super fast service with good Mexican food and a great margarita! Nice ending to the day and somewhere we will stop again when we are in the Jemez Mountains. The southwest is a good place!

1 comment:

Liz said...

breathetaking. miss SW desert. DO you know what tribe,clan or these ancients are from? 1st husband was a MD archeologist or PreColumbian area.