We were up early, tanking up on fluids: juice, water, yogurts. Today’s plan was to hike to Penasco Blanco, up at the top of the canyon, about seven miles round trip. We took the alternate trail that followed the shady side of the canyon to see the petroglyphs and pictographs that decorated our way to Penasco Blanco. The trail turned to cross the canyon and we could see remnants of the old Navajo wagon roads. (Pueblo Bonito became a trading post in the late 1800’s – early 1900’s.) We threaded our way up the opposite canyon wall along the terraced sandstone, passing the “supernova” petroglyph, and landing at the foot of Penasco Blanco. Like Pueblo Bonito, the first view does not reveal the full extent of the site. Even in its partially excavated state, it is clear that Penasco Blanco was large. If all the walls were still standing, we probably would be dazzled even before we started up the canyon.
The ranger clued us into the ancient roads near Penasco Blanco constructed by the Chacoans. We wandered around, and were able to find the change in topography that indicates a large road. We also found surveyor flags and pieces of rebar planted in the ground – someone is studying (and mapping?) this site.
We hung out in the shade of one of the ruin walls for awhile, snacking on apples. The heat is building, so we head back towards the trail head near Pueblo del Arroyo. By the time we get to the parking lot, we hang out on the picnic tables under ramadas. The wind has picked up, but the air is hot, and it just intensifies the desiccating effect. Water bottles empty, we head for the visitor center. Hmmmm…it’s only noon. I retrieve grapes and other snacks from the truck, and stick my head under the water faucet. Knowing that any shade in the campground is hours away, we hang out on one of the shaded picnic tables next to the visitor center. I felt like a homeless person, hanging out at a picnic table, reading books and napping, because I had no place else to go. I emptied my water bottle several times, and stuck my head under the faucet more times than I can remember. I don’t know that I have ever been in this intense of a heat before.
Enough time had finally passed that we could retreat back to the campground. A quick pasta and bagged salad dinner, and we were once again reclining in our tent, admiring the show overhead. Sometime later, I woke up with stomach pains, and I found myself fishing for my shoes and headlamp to get myself to the bathroom pronto. After flushing my dinner, I stopped to rinse off my face in the non potable water. Without warning, several coyotes started their yipping and calling just outside the bathroom. Well, I wasn’t sure I was ready to go back to the tent anyhow, so I enjoyed the canine serenade. Eventually, I headed back to our site, making enough noise to make my presence known without waking up the entire campground.