Thursday, September 24, 2015

Day 19: Chaco Canyon National Park

Chaco Canyon is known for two things.  It is the greatest collection of Native American pueblo ruins north of Mexico, and road to get to it is a bitch. 

We woke to rain and decided to risk the nasty road and headed back south towards County Road 7900, the turn-off to Chaco.  The problem with the road is not the first eight paved miles.  Those are great.  It isn’t the next nine miles of county paved road.  That was well graded and was an easy 50 mph ride.  It was the last four miles that was quite a bit dicey.  At its best the road is washboard with groves and washouts, plus a crossing over a very large wash.  If it is raining at all you are looking at an ugly ride in which you might have a problem in the wash.  If it is raining hard there is no way you are passing that four miles, meaning you might be stuck in Chaco Canyon for awhile.  We got through but were constantly watching the clouds all day.

Chaco Canyon is a community with different townships and a history that is unbelievably deep.  We spent over five hours just exploring the different houses on the loop road but never worked up the nerve to hike up the canyons, mainly because we kept hearing thunder throughout the day.  The Great Houses of Chaco are some of the largest in the entire country.  My wife and I read all the signs, bought the guidebooks, and walked all over the ruins trying to imagine the sights and thoughts of the inhabitants.  There is a feeling that overwhelms a person walking within the remains of such an ancient civilization.  What were they thinking when they looked at what I was looking at?  Why did they leave?  How did they manage to irrigate crops on only nine inches of water a year?  The entire afternoon was about investigating the massive structures of Chaco, and it was an experience. 

But the rain started around 2 p.m. and the thunder was closing in.  The road left us little choice; it was time to leave.  We were sprinkled on as we went across the wash and made our trek back to the highway, and ended up being thankful because a thunderstorm warning went into effect about the time we entered Farmington. 

After a small picnic on the Angus River we wine tasted some New Mexico bottles at a local place in Farmington and found that the bubbles were excellent, the Syrah was god-awful, and that the Cab Franc was very pleasant.  But none of it was really worth the Napa prices they wanted for it.  We bought a bottle of bubbles and a cheap Zin and called it a day.     

Trails hiked:  All those really neat houses at Chaco Canyon.

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