Chaco Culture National Historic Park

Chaco Culture National Historic Park Travel Blog

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Free range horses off of the dirt road.
After spending the night in Bloomfield, the nearest town boasting a hotel and restaurants, my mom and I rose with the sun to head toward Chaco Canyon.  Not only is Chaco Canyon at least a few hours drive from either Albuquerque or Santa Fe, it is also a significant distance off of the highway by way of a dusty dirt road.  The road careens mostly through open range, and moments after turning off the highway, we encountered some horses. 
For the first time, I saw jack rabbits, and also ground hogs or prairie dogs...not sure which.  Mom spotted an animal butt up ahead.  It turned around enough for me to notice it was a badger!  As in, Mr. Badger from Wind In the Willows?  Amazing.  I had no idea a badger's environment was a desert.
Kin Kletso, at the base of our Pueblo Bonito Overlook hike up the side of the canyon.
  I really don't know about badgers, or deserts.

Sometimes I wonder if travel is as much of a healthy distraction from my mind as writing music is therapy for it.  With so much new input, how can one dwell on the subjects that lead to writing music? 

In any case, we arrived at Chaco Culture National Historic Monument just before a scheduled free tour was to be taking place at Pueblo Bonito, the largest pueblo that has been excavated in the canyon. 
We had just enough time to stop at Fajada Butte Overlook, which has astronomical significance in Chacoan Culture.  At the top of the butte, which is not accessible for visitors, there is a spiral petroglyph which gets pierced by a 'sun dagger', a glint of sunlight.  The location of the dagger on the petroglyph varies throughout the year.
Pueblo Bonito guided tour--taken from the plaza area. Yeah, there was more behind me.
At the solstices a dagger can be seen either through the heart of the spiral or to either side of it. It is proposed that this petroglyph was created to mark these events.

Our tour guide at Pueblo Bonito was a volunteer who had a lot more info to share than time to share it during our brief two hour tour.  Her sense of humor made for a fun experience learning about blunders of archaeologists throughout the history of excavation in Chaco Canyon, and also about how much we really don't understand about the Chacoan people.  This Chacoan great house has sections that date to some of the earliest construction in Chaco Canyon, which were built starting in A.D. 850, and also some of the latest construction, finishing around A.D. 1150. 

After our tour, we walked to the nearby Chetro Ketl ruins, by way of a trail along the base of the cliff featuring petroglyphs.
Mom at Pueblo Bonito by a doorway.
  Since I was no longer paying attention to a tour guide, I spent more time with the camera, and more thoroughly inspecting the constructions.  Chetro Ketl construction began around A.D. 1010 and continued until around A.D. 1100.

I absolutely love photographing, touching, and viewing ruins; imagining them filled with people who have lives and relationships.  Who doesn't?  What could be better than withstanding 100 degree Fahrenheit temperatures in the desert all day to hopefully get that one amazing money shot? 

The highlight of my day was the hike to the Pueblo Bonito Overlook, which was on top of one of the canyon walls.  We began this little adventure by picnicing with some chipmunks or other such similar creatures by Pueblo del Arroyo.
Digging into the B/W film at Chetro Ketl.
  After lunch, mom and I walked out to the ruins where our trail began, at Kin Kletso.  We saw some folks up on the side of the canyon.  They appeared to be up to some unofficial rock climbing.  Mom mentioned that she thought they weren't supposed to be off of the trails, and I concurred that it was too bad people had to be so lame. 

We soon discovered our assumptions were wrong - that *was* a trail.  And not just any trail, but *the* trail we were in fact heading toward.  This brings me to the highlight of this hike, and thus the whole day.  I will mention the views later, which were indeed grand, but watching my 60 year old mom climb the canyon wall with me, sans ropes or climbing gear, and overcoming her fear of heights or failure or lack of strength was beyond any other satisfaction I may have experienced at Chaco.
Ponderosa supports for the second story floor were hauled from 20 miles away!
 

I repeatedly told her during the climb that we could turn back at anytime; that our safety was much more important than the view or the photo that I might take with me; that my heart was not set on this little hike.  But she persisted.  I tried not to think about how we would get back down.  I hope I am that adventurous at age 60.  What a blessing.  My mom rocks.  It has been amazing watching her adjust to retirement and simultaneously embrace some independence.

The views from the top were spectacular; not just of the ruins below, but of the whole canyon and beyond.  I geeked out with the camera for awhile, and mom even took a few pictures of me posing with the landscape. 

Climbing back down was easier than the catastrophe I had feared.
Pueblo Bonito from the Pueblo Bonito Overlook.
  I cracked jokes to keep our minds off of the climb and we took photos to show dad.  We scooted down the 'trail' on our butts most of the way down.  The heat and dryness were sapping us, and we finished our hike both thirsty and beat, ready for our adventure to be over.  We still had a 3 hour drive to Socorro left before we could finish our day.

For more information on Chaco Canyon, please check out the following website.
http://www.nps.gov/chcu/

All text and photographs copyright 2008 Erin Brassfield.
All photos taken on 35mm Canon RebelG SLR
lonlee2 says:
It's amazing how similar or photos are! it's all in the eyes!
Posted on: May 07, 2009
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Free range horses off of the dirt …
Free range horses off of the dirt…
Kin Kletso, at the base of our Pue…
Kin Kletso, at the base of our Pu…
Pueblo Bonito guided tour--taken f…
Pueblo Bonito guided tour--taken …
Mom at Pueblo Bonito by a doorway.
Mom at Pueblo Bonito by a doorway.
Digging into the B/W film at Chetr…
Digging into the B/W film at Chet…
Ponderosa supports for the second …
Ponderosa supports for the second…
Pueblo Bonito from the Pueblo Boni…
Pueblo Bonito from the Pueblo Bon…
Pueblo Bonito guided tour.
Pueblo Bonito guided tour.
Pueblo Bonito guided tour--taken f…
Pueblo Bonito guided tour--taken …
Petroglyphs on the cliff-side trai…
Petroglyphs on the cliff-side tra…
Chetro Ketl
Chetro Ketl
Chetro Ketl Talus unit
Chetro Ketl Talus unit
Chetro Ketl row of windows.
Chetro Ketl row of windows.
Chetro Ketl
Chetro Ketl
Great Kiva at Chetro Ketl great ho…
Great Kiva at Chetro Ketl great h…
Chetro Ketl
Chetro Ketl
Chaco Canyon, from the wall of the…
Chaco Canyon, from the wall of th…
Pueblo Bonito, from the overlook.
Pueblo Bonito, from the overlook.
The turn-around spot of our Puebo …
The turn-around spot of our Puebo…
Pueblo Bonito, from the overlook. …
Pueblo Bonito, from the overlook.…
Pueblo del Arroyo as seen from the…
Pueblo del Arroyo as seen from th…
Mom precariously making her way al…
Mom precariously making her way a…
A poser...
A poser...
Me goofing off in a ravine near th…
Me goofing off in a ravine near t…
Pueblo Bonito Overlook trail...yea…
Pueblo Bonito Overlook trail...ye…
On our way down the side of the ca…
On our way down the side of the c…
Fajada Butte from a distance on ou…
Fajada Butte from a distance on o…
Free range horses.
Free range horses.
Chetro Ketl
Chetro Ketl
Friendly lizard
Friendly lizard
Pueblo Bonito
Pueblo Bonito
Fajada Butte (and me)
Fajada Butte (and me)
Fajada Butte
Fajada Butte
A butte along the drive from Chaco…
A butte along the drive from Chac…
Driving from Chaco to Socorro
Driving from Chaco to Socorro
Driving from Chaco to Socorro
Driving from Chaco to Socorro
Driving from Chaco to Socorro
Driving from Chaco to Socorro
Driving from Chaco to Socorro
Driving from Chaco to Socorro
Chaco Culture National Historic Park
photo by: lonlee2