Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. February 2020

Pueblo Bonito

I loaded up in Annie on a whim. Friday night. 5 PM. No clue where I was headed. South was all I knew. Away from the snow and cold. I dialed up a lady friend and told her to get her ass over to the house. I was leaving with or without her…….She decided she wanted to climb in, so off we went. Into the great unknown!

We headed south on Hwy 550. New Mexico bound! It was getting dark and a song by Chris Knight was on the sound system. “Enough Rope.” It says “you can’t hang yourself if you ain’t got enough rope……..”

EXACTLY how I was feeling……..

Hurtling down the highway without a destination in mind. Knowing that if I had enough rope I would probably hang myself. But I didn’t , and life isn’t that bad yet anyways……… And if it ever gets that bad I”ll take a different route out! More like Butch and Sundance or Thelma and Louise! I’ve always been kind of more of a blazing glory type………

I needed a little more warmth from the winter sun and a nice fire for company. To be able to see the stars. Away from civilization. No light pollution. Where? Where can I go?

A place I’d been many years ago popped into my mind. It fit the bill. CHACO!

We stopped and got groceries and water in Aztec (I call it Asskick) when we hit the border of New Mexico. We grabbed some fried chicken, a side from the deli, fruit, nuts, salami and some gourmet cheese. Plenty to get us thru a few days in the desert…….I really didn’t need much but Chaco is A LONG WAY from anything. Once you get off the pavement it is about a 25 mile drive in on a VERY rough road that says ” may be impassible when wet.” After a quick weather check we knew we were all good and started the long drive in. It is remote and isolated with very few amenities. No cell service, gas or food………just what I needed……

We arrived around 8:30 PM and found a place to park Annie in the campground along with the half dozen or so other vehicles. It was cold so I started a fire in the campground ring and kept throwing more 2×4 and 2×6 scrap wood at it (a perk of my profession of carpenter)…….. Soon I had the thing RAGING and we were quite warm and content. Sitting by the fire, checking out the bitchin’ full moon and enjoying the brisk night air…….Pretty soon the wood was gone and we retired to the warm bunk in Annie for the night…….

Panoramic view of the canyon

The next morning we awoke to a blue bird day and the soft warm greeting from the sun.

After a light breakfast of COFFEE, fruit and a hard boiled egg we set off to explore the canyon and it’s amazing ruins.

Chaco Canyon is a magical place where you can FEEL the presence of the ancient people that inhabited this valley as well as see their monumental engineering feats. It is IMPRESSIVE what they did here more than a thousand years ago. There are many settlements all within walking distance of each other on either side of a deep arroyo and its life giving water. Thousands of people lived here in harmony and working towards a common goal.

After a quick stop at the visitor’s center we ventured into the park. Between 850 and 1250 A.D. this canyon was home to thousands of Ancestral Puebloan people and is considered the center of the Anasazi civilization at that time.

Our first stop was Pueblo Bonito. Beautiful House in Spanish. This place was MASSIVE. There must have been hundreds if not a thousand people living here. The plaza was huge and the structure was probably 3 or 4 stories tall at one time. It had at least a dozen large kivas where religious or communal ceremonies were held. It was really impressive. The masonry work was highly intricate. Those Indians were damn talented stone masons! I don’t see work that good on most of the custom homes I build for a living today. I’d definitely hire them for my projects….. Probably could pay them in corn or beans also!

After wandering thru the small doorways and tight corridors of the ruin we made our way to the cliff band and the trail to the next ruin. The entire side of the cliff band was scattered with petroglyphs and places where the former inhabitants had sharpened spears , axes and arrowheads. It was amazing to wander along and marvel at all the beautiful rock art!

Sharpening grooves
Check out the schlong on that dude. Also note the bullet hole from some a**hole cowboy……..

At the end of the cliff band and about 1/4 mile up the canyon was another ruin named Chetro Ketl. There was an amazing long straight stone wall on the back cliff side of the dwelling and I have since learned that many of the ruins long walls are situated in North-South, East-West orientations or pointing towards events like equinoxes and solstices. The Ancient Puebloans had a keen knowledge of the sun, moon and stars.

A short drive down the road was the Wetherill Cemetery. The Wetherill’s were really the first “archeologists” in the area. Their methods were very rudimentary and primitive though. They were the first people to excavate the huge ruins of Mesa Verde to the north, and he was murdered by a Navajo in a drunken dispute at his trading post near the grave marker. The old west was pretty dog eat dog!

I definitely ain’t no cowboy and have absolutely no desire to try to be one! I like my flip flops, Danskos, Levi 501’s and board shorts too much……..

A little history of the man and his death
Wetherill’s Grave

Directly across from the cemetery was another large ruin. Sitting right on the side of the arroyo it is appropriately named!

This place was really impressive also. HUGE thick walls and amazing stonework!

Pueblo Del Arroyo

The canyon is chock full of ruins and my lady friend and I did not have time to visit all of them. Maybe this is why it’s named Chaco Canyon. LOL. Doubt it!

We contemplated staying another night, but I really wanted to head south to the Bisti Wilderness……..

Annie in the distance

The beauty of this place is awe inspiring. Its takes a little effort to get here but the reward is well worth it………


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