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Chaco Canyon

Last weekend we did another mini-roadtrip. Destination: Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Adventurers: Auntie Ann, Auntie Jude, Paul, Silas, Ivan and me. Temperature: HOT. Overall experience: AWESOME.

We had been talking about doing a trip to Chaco since pre-Ivan, having spawned the idea on a trip to the Hopi Mesas with Jude and Ann 3 years ago. And now finally here we were, out in the middle of nowhere (and I mean NOWHERE!), gawking at the densest concentration of ancient pueblos in the American Southwest nestled in a breathtaking natural landscape. This was a first-time visit for Paul and I and we were completely blown away to say the least.

First off, the remoteness of Chaco had us hooked immediately. Chaco is not a place you see a sign for on the side of the road and decide to take a short detour from the highway to go check out in an afternoon. It’s not ‘on-the-way’ to anything. The canyon is accessible only by long and desolate washboard dirt roads…no matter which direction you choose to come from. And once you’re “there” the only establishments are a small campground and even smaller visitor center. It’s mind-blowing to imagine such a lonely, quiet, remote place once being a cultural hub of ancestral Puebloan peoples.

Then of course are the ruins. The engineering precision and complexity in which these structures were built is truly impressive, even to a 4 year old. The night sky was just as impressive. It was so perfectly clear and dense with stars there was almost no blackness between them and the Milky Way looked like a cloud. Add to that some incredible petroglyphs and really sweet-looking boulders and cliffs and this family’s socks were blown right off….if we had been wearing socks, that is….which we weren’t because it was scorching hot.

We had planned to stay four days and three nights. We ended up only staying three days though on account of the steadily increasing heat. It wasn’t so bad the first two days thanks to the lovely monsoon cloudy skies. But then the clouds disappeared and the mercury rose and we had to bail.

Heat or no heat, the trip was outstanding and Chaco Canyon is a wild place. And we’re clearly not the only ones who think so. Despite the high temps the campground was booked on Friday night! Going back is a absolute must for us.

Approaching Chaco Canyon from the south

Tired travelers

Setting up camp. Tip for future visitors: Site 40 has morning AND evening shade thanks to these boulders.

Good morning Chaco

Yes, that’s a petroglyph on the rock RIGHT THERE in our campsite!!!

Aunt Jude and Silas approaching Pueblo Bonito

Pueblo Bonito, the largest pueblo. This photo doesn’t do it justice. Unless you’re up on top of the mesa, you can’t really get a photo of the entire thing

And you can explore inside of it! I still haven’t decided for myself whether I think this is a good thing or not.

Silas, an expert identifier of grinding holes thanks to Hueco Tanks, points one out to us

A bit more of Pueblo Bonito from a higher vantage point

Our Junior Rangers in-training, headed to Una Vida pueblo and petroglyphs

Fajada Butte

Petroglyphs on the scooped rock overhead

I don’t believe I’ve ever in my entire life seen so many stars

Another breakfast in the shade at camp

Silas and Ivan with their hardcore adventure Aunties, Ann and Jude

Hiking to Kin Kletso

Kin Kletso

Ahhh, shade

Kin Kletso from part-way up the mesa. There is a really fun “trail” that takes you up a slot in the wall to get to the top of the mesa. It’s the same slot used by the ancients long ago – there’s rock art and grinding holes all the way up

On top of the mesa. Pueblo Bonito and Pueblo del Arroyo below

Headed home and sharing the road with free-range beef

Thank you Aunt Jude and Ann for this awesome adventure!

posted by arr

This entry (Permalink) was posted on Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 at 8:43 pm and is filed under Astronomy, Cute Kids. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response , or trackback from your own site.

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