Monday, May 06, 2013
April 30 Chaco Canyon National Monument
Up early and on the road to Chaco Canyon. We had received so many conflicting reports from rangers as to taking the northern or southern entry road. We decided to take the north and continued on 6?? to 550 through rolling empty country. Many many large pickups with welding rigs, tall flags off teir cabs kept passing. We think they are service trucks for the single oil pumps you see scattered all over. The flags are so they can either find their truck if they walk off or so another driver can see them coming up over a hill.
We found route 7900 at Negezzi, very well marked. After a few miles, you turn onto routhe 7950. The pavement stopped and reality set in. This is a washboard, rutted, unmaintained single lane dirt road that is 17 miles into Chaco Canyon. By going between 25-30 mph you can sort of surf the tops of the washboards. However beware the grey colored areas as they are washboard set in cement.
Nothing to do but creep along and enjoy the birds and cows along the way. The truck and camper handled the extreme rough road well. Tie downs didn't loosen, truck was very responsive. We expected inside the camper to be shaken up a bit but the gear was well packed. Got a bit of sawdust and foam insulation out of the ceiling air vents but that was it.
Finally the dirt ended and a paved two lane NPS road appeared like a blessing. I'm glad I got to drive the road in and will be doing so to get back out but wouldn't want to do it often.
Pulled into the visitor center to pay the entry fee and obtain a camp site and who is there in the parking area but Angela and Gordon White of Truck Camper Magazine. They were headed off for a ranger led tour through Pueblo Bonito. As huge as our country is, we bump into someone we know and in a truck camper too! Read all the exhibits in the visitor center and then took a walk to Una Vida Petroglyphs. Warm and windy but beautiful. It was the first time I'd walked out into the sagebrush and could not see another person - except Joe.
Chaco Culture Nantional Historical Park has a paved loop road that runs through the canyon. All along the way are places to stop, walk, and view the ancient ruins, petroglyphs and geology. We stopped at all of them and endup up walking over four miles per my pedometer. Even though it was 80F, sunny, the wind and low humidity made it tolerable. We've learned while travelling not to leave the truck without hats, sunscreen and two pints of water each. The air is bone dry and sucks the moisture out of you. Living at sea level like we do, walking mileage at over 6500 feet, we take frequent breaks. There is so much to see here that is easy to do.
SNAKE!!! Will have to research snake photos to see what this one was. It was resting on a rock and started moving when it saw us coming down the trail. Needless to say we waited until it was well away before passing. Snakes are not my fondest creature so we steered clear. It was an honest three feet long and actually quite beautiful - no rattles and it didn't have the typical pit viper head - but still !
Caught up with Angela and Gordon and traded tales for a bit. Harley was bored so took a nap. They are off to Canyon de Chelly as are we so maybe we'll see them again.
The architecture of the kivas, masonry buildings and walls are fascinating. These were built during a period from the mid 800s to the mid 1100s and what remains is straight and strong. I was expecting small one family stone structures but there was a small city in stone. Chetro Keti had over 500 rooms when it existed as a dwelling and worship place. You have to wonder why this culture didn't stay in the canyon. We theorized that it was climate change that dried up the source of water but will stop at the ranger station to ask and to also show the snake photos.
We are currently dry camped for the day. There is an Arctic Fox, an Eagle Cap, what I think is an Alaskan and two popups. Think truck campers are the way to go? Even though it is 83 it is not uncomforable though the wind is really starting to howl. Tonight there is a ranger talk on the ancient cultures and how they used the night sky for navigation and worship. We also visited a bit with a TC couple from MT who gave us some great tips on places to go.