Tag Archive | Pueblo Bonito

On the Ridge

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.

 

Arrival

Chaco Canyon

Chaco Canyon

Boy, is it hot here. Up early, more free motel breakfast, then off for fuel, ice and entertainment. We got the gas and ice, and arrived just after opening at the dollar store. No cribbage board, but at least we now have a deck of cards. We head south to the turn off to Chaco. It is clear that Halliburton is quite present in the area – lots of energy resources extracted from this area. While we have both written and electronic guidance, the National Park Service has done a fabulous job of signing the way, keeping the pilgrims from wandering all over the area, and onto ranches and Halliburton infrastructure.

We cross the park boundary – we are in the high canyon country that I love so much. We enter Chaco, and it is a broader, shallower expanse than I thought it would be. And one side of the canyon has a more vertical wall, while the other side is more broken and easier to access. Since we drive by the campground before anything else in the park, we stake out a site. It’s tough to choose: there is no shade, and we try to predict when a site would be shaded by the canyon wall. The campground host tells us that they had about 175-200 campers sharing 40 campsites for the solstice, but today there are about a dozen sites occupied. We did the right thing to stay in Bloomfield last night. I am surprised that while there is a plumbed restroom, there is no potable water. But, we can get water at the visitor center. Checked in, we head for the visitor center.

The regular building is undergoing renovation. No surprise: the research done at Chaco over the past decade or so has changed the perspectives of archeologists and anthropologists about life in Chaco at the height of activity in the 900’s – 1100’s. In place of the usual visitor center, NPS staff are working in an air conditioned yurt. The area natural history association has a well outfitted corner, selling books and DVD’s, and a few touristy items like coffee mugs and key chains. We chat with the ranger at the desk about best hikes, etc., drop $40 with the association on books and site guides, and then we are off to Pueblo Bonito.

Pueblo Bonito is the iconic ruin most often pictured in reference in Chaco Canyon. It is also the largest, most excavated, most studied, and mostly restored of all of the great houses. And it is breathtaking: approaching from the parking lot, some walls are evidently three stories high. The masonry work is beautifully crafted. The range and scope of the construction is remarkable. And, as we walked through, I realized that only half of the pueblo is evident from the parking lot. Pueblo Bonito is divided into two halves – it covers nine acres! Because it is the most excavated, we are able to walk through a number of rooms: contemplate, touch, marvel at the craftsmanship.

Many great houses are built on the canyon floor. There is no shade, and with the sun at its zenith, little shadow cast by the still-standing walls. Despite the heat, we move on to the neighboring Chetro Ketl, and then across the road to Pueblo del Arroyo. I can’t stop taking pictures. But, it’s really HOT, and we have consumed our two bottles of water. We retreat back to the visitor center to refill water bottles. We take the short hike to Una Vida, and then further up the hill to the petroglyph panel. We then headed to the campground, hoping that we picked a good spot.

Unfortunately, we did not. Our site was still in the sun, and might not be in the shade for yet another hour or so. But, it was definitely at a lower angle. We headed out on the 1.5 mile trail to see Wijiji, that might at least be in shade. The walk was nice and flat – no real effort needed – and it did eventually fall into the shadow of the canyon wall. With not many people around, a handsome coyote appeared on the trail in front of us. We watched him make a wide circle around us, appearing and disappearing in the scrub.

By the time we returned from our hike, our campsite was finally shaded – but it was also nearly dark. A quick chicken dinner, and we were tucked into our tent, wondering at the celestial display over our heads.