I have a confession: one side goal of all this travel to the SW USA is to scout out a possible future residence that would have winters more amendable to our outdoor lifestyle than the Pacific Northwest. So far Sedona (maybe Flagstaff) is the only town that seems worth a second look.
We visited a few sites around the area in addition to taking a few outstanding hikes. The above photo is from Fort Verde.
We greatly enjoyed seeing Montezuma Well (as poorly named as Aztec Ruins). The ecology and geology are fascinating.
The first photo in this post is from Devil’s Bridge. The photo above is from the West Fork trail, a beautiful 6 mile out-and-back hike in the canyon above Sedona.
The hiking highlight was the climb to the top of Bear Mountain, a 2,000+ foot climb in about 2 miles.
We took a break from camping and spent two hotel nights in Chinle, AZ to get a deep dive tour of the Canyon de Chelly. The canyon and park is within the Navajo Nation, and most parts of the canyon are only accessible via tours from certified Navajo operators.
Julie and I have mixed feelings about this visit. The tour was average at best. The Jeep four wheeling through the river and mud may have been the highlight. The river was flowing fast and hard and we were glad to have an experienced driver.
The rock art was ubiquitous, a beautiful mix of petroglyphs and pictographs ranging from ancient to modern.
The ruins were also plentiful, though inaccessible and only viewable from a distance.
Our tour guide started off strong, but deteriorated to personal stories for the last 2-3 hours, forcing us to interrupt just to ask questions about what we were seeing. At times she seemed annoyed that we were asking.
We also developed some strong opinions about the town of Chinle, AZ. It is the reservation town closest to the canyon and launching point for tours. Julie and I both wonder about the value of these large reservations. Our take: high poverty and a slow drift further and further behind the USA in technology and infrastructure. How is this good in the long term for the children born into this situation? Maybe it is time to revisit this model.
Leaving Chaco Canyon there were three additional sites for us to check out. The first was Pueblo Pintado, an outlier site that is part of the Chaco National Park. We like these outlier sites as we often have them to ourselves.
Many of these sites have middens rife with pottery sherds. We love walking along the trails and scanning the adjacent terrain for these sherds. Some folks like to gather sherds and arrange them on large rocks, which is strictly verboten. The sherd above (which I placed back on the rock where I found it) is an example of the black and white Chaco style pottery.
Next we found some awesome burritos at this food truck.
Salmon Ruins is a very well done county museum in Bloomfield NM. It is named after a settler and has a great mix of Puebloan ruins and example dwellings of other more recent tribes native to the area. Above you see a large partly reconstructed kiva.
The above color coded bricks have some significance that is currently unknown, possibly sun spotting.
Aztec is possibly notable for the Chaco meridian hypothesis, which espouses that a single contiguous (in time and location) Anasazi empire may have existed from southwestern Colorado down to Mexico, with key sites laying on the same longitudinal meridian.
I won’t give enough words for the awesomeness that is Chaco in this post. A few highlights and photos will have to suffice.
Chaco is a unique national park. It is in the middle of seemingly nowhere, requires some light off-roading to get there, and is mostly devoid of cell service. Carl Sagan talked about it in Cosmos, Jared Diamond wrote about it in Collapse.
You’ve seen a lot of photos of ruins from me here, so I’ll spare you the zoom in details and instead share some of the zoom out awesomeness. Above is Pueblo Bonito as viewed from the mesa above.
Next is Chetro Ketl, probably my favorite of the ruins. Check out the long and tall wall running bottom center to middle right. I can’t describe how amazing it is to stand next to that and witness the beauty in engineering and masonry.
We also participated in two night sky ranger programs that focused on the use of astronomy and solar / lunar positioning at Chaco. I guess you can see why some thought extraterrestrial intelligence may have been involved.