31 March 2010

The Ancient Ones 2: Return to Chaco Culture

Welcome to the 500th post of Land of the Zia.

I haven't posted anything in the past week because I wanted this post to be my 500th....as opposed to say... the dead giraffe that local zoo authorities chopped up and tossed in a dumpster or Virgin Galactic test flying the VSS Enterprise.

Yes, time travel is much more interesting.

For this journey into the past I returned to an amazing place called Chaco Culture, which is listed as a World Heritage Site along with such places as the Great Wall, the Acropolis, Rapa Nui and Machu Picchu --in fact, Machu Picchu was built 200 years AFTER Chaco was abandoned.

Chaco Culture is the sacred sight that the 17 tribes of the southwest claim their people, the Ancient Ones, originated from.

Chaco was the urban center and hub of ceremony, trade and administration for the prehistoric Four Corners area.

The structures date back between 850 A.D. to 1150 A.D. with the last occupants leaving around 1250 A.D. -- almost 250 years BEFORE Columbus and 370 years BEFORE the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.

Chacoans were architects, engineers, astronomers and artists -- and they were here FIRST.

[For more history on the Chacoans see my links to the right.]

From Albuquerque, Chaco Culture is only about three hours north on US 550. It is a beautiful drive!!

Keep in mind that the last 21 miles to Chaco Culture are NOT paved. It is a rough and rugged dirt road with washboard ridges at times.

Also, take water, good walking shoes, sunglasses and a cap. If you go in summer or burn easy you might want to consider 5000 sun block.

You might also want to consider going in Spring. The day we went it was in the low 60's. AWESOME!

Interestingly enough...we did not see ONE insect. Not even an ant.

I do have to thank the visitors, we also did not see one iota of trash. Nothing, nada, zilch. Not one scrap of paper. That was soooo cool.

On this journey my brother Steve and his friend Chad joined me.

We drove from Albuquerque to Cuba, NM and gassed up.

[Oh, and don't forget to click on any image to enlarge!]

As we were driving on the dirt road to Chaco, a coyote crossed our path from the right. Legend has it that if a coyote crosses your path from the right it is a good omen. Any other direction and it is not.

After making a stop at the visitor's center we headed out to the ruins of Chaco Canyon.

First up: the Ruins of Hungo Pavi.

Next was Chetro Ketl.

The pit you see above is called a 'kiva'. These are all over the southwest and were places where ceremonies were held.

The groove along the top part of the wall was for balcony platforms.

From Chetro Ketl we walked along the wall of the cliff above observing the ancient graffiti errr... petroglyphs.

The Petroglyph path leads you to the 'New York' of the prehistoric southwest: Pueblo Bonito.

In 1941 a section of the cliff wall fell into the city destroying about 37 rooms

Ancient fragments are everywhere. You are asked NOT to take any of them.


I kid, I kidddd!!

Here is where this report is different from my last report on Chaco.

Last year when T-Rob and I visited Chaco we took what could be considered the 'basic' tour. It was not until I got home that I looked through my trail guide book and found that we could have continued our hike in to open country and onto the mesa above.

Steve, Chad and myself decided to take the Pueblo Alto trail to the top of the mesa.

Man, what an experience.

An experience that begins at a crack in the wall. Literally.

To get to the top you have to squeeze and walk up this long sliver of a crack. It's rocky yet exhilarating. This is not for the faint of heart and if you don't hike regularly you might want to reconsider the Pueblo Alto trail. My brother is a husky fellow yet he was able to make it.

This is the crack in the earth you emerge from.

You will be glad you made the climb....what a view.

Along the way you will see rock cairns [rock piles] leading the way to Pueblo Alto. The entire hike takes about four hours, we stayed on it for about two.... we never made it to Pueblo Alto or the Jackson Stairway.... next trip maybe. We met one person on the hike. I guess every stops and turns around once they reach the Pueblo Bonito overlook.

Behold, Pueblo Bonito.

WOW is right!

End of March is definitely a good time to go. Keep in mind I was here a year ago this week and it was windy as hell. Not this time. I could not have asked for better weather.

Across the now dry river that cuts the valley in half we spotted a herd of elk.

I didn't see them at first either, here is a closer look.

It is a very good hike and unfortunately not for everyone. Especially in the heat of summer. There are NO rails on the cliff and safety is an issue so if you take kids, keep an eye on them.

Our last stop was at Casa Riconada, the largest kiva in the southwest.


Ancient Rome? No, but it sure felt like it.

As we were leaving the area we crossed a bridge over the dry river bed, and there they were, the elk. So cool.

The drive to Chaco Culture was not bad at all, especially with scenery like this.

In my next post I will have some amazing video footage so check back.

I'm out.


MACHU PICCHU re-opens:


It was a year ago this week that T-Rob and I hit the road for Walkabout 2.
Man what an amazing journey that was. To check it out see my link at right.

Next month, T-Rob and I hit the road again for Walkabout 3: Quest for Buffalo!! Stay tuned!