We spent Wednesday hiking through Chaco Culture National Historic Park and absolutely loved it! The weather was gorgeous and the park has a lot of really cool ruins to see. We took a tour of the Pueblo Bonito and were able to learn a bit more about the ruins, again the ranger had the humble approach of explaining the difference between facts ("that is a wall built by the ancestral Puebloans") and theories ("they may have used this room for storage"). There were many differences in masonry, some from different timeframe, others from different craftsman. These ruins were mostly occupied from ~850 - 1200 AD and are decent shape considering.
There was also a lot of discussion about the importance of that canyon to the native people to that area and to the Chacoan culture. Whether it's because of the centuries of importance to these people, or perhaps this is part of the reason for the canyon's importance to them, Chaco canyon has a very warm feeling to it. It's an absolutely desolate place, in a rather inhospitable environment, but the feel there is just overwhelmingly comfortable. It's almost hard to know how much of a negative impact settlers had on the way of life there. In fact, there was a massive rock named Threatening Rock by the Euros that existed above the major greathouse, Pueblo Bonito. It was larger than this example, but something like:
Sometime in the 40's or so the rock crashed down, taking out much of the back rooms of the greathouse. The sole reason the rock fell was due to the CCC removing a restraining wall that had been in place for centuries. Apparently, they thought that since the masonry wasn't the same quality as the walls of the ruins that the wall wasn't worth as much. Oooops. Here's the aftermath:
There is an impressive amount of structure still in place. Even the original roofs have survived in some rooms.
Surprisingly, many of the rooms in these greathouses would have been difficult to access, and would have been completely dark. Sunlight was not a problem for most of them today.
Some of the ruins even had evidence of corner windows, which is a testament to their structural confidence.
We then hiked up to Pueblo Alto. There was an overlook of Pueblo Bonito along the way.
On our way back down the trail, just as Jill started talking about rattlesnakes, this little fella was directly next to Mike's foot, about a foot away. given the timing of the conversation, and Mike's general dislike of snakes, some Monty Python-esque, high steppin', fast dancin' took place for a few paces.
We also hustled out the trail to see the pictograph of what may or may not have been a super nova from around 1100AD. It seems like it definitely could have been a record of that, and the timing is right and matches with other records (Chinese included). But you can decide for yourself.
We were able to see some other outlying ruins along the way, but jammed back down the trail to the visitor's center before it closed at 5.
We got to the visitor's center around 3:30 to try to get change back from our self service camping envelope from the night before. We put $20 in the envelope, and wanted our 10 bucks in change. That's almost a full tank of gas! Apparently, no one working at the park has ever given change for camping before, and insisted on calling our request a Request for Refund. So now we've got some beauracratic forms filled out, have tracked down our camping receipt, and will send the request to some accounting office in North Carolina who may or may not decide to send us a check for 10 bucks. I found it incredibly ironic that the preferred method of refund (not change, mind you) was to wire us the money. That's economical and efficient and all, but seriously, we put $20 in a post in the middle of the desert and we have to send paperwork across the country and have money WIRED back to us? Really? We'll see what happens...
We headed north out of the canyon towards Farmington, where we had a place to stay thanks to hosts from couchsurfing. First of all, it felt great to get a shower. But once cleaned up, we had great conversation with our hosts Cecilia and Monica. They knew Farmington well, steered us towards the couple of errands that we had to run in the morning, and were fantastic hosts! Hopefully we didn't rile Patrick up too much, but Jill and I are both fans of playing with pupppies.
It was nice to stay in a bed instead of sleeping on the ground, especially since we have some more camping ahead.