Nageezi, NM – day 6
- I’ve been restless all night, I arose way too early. The excitement overcoming my ability to sleep. My next location is Chaco Canyon a World Heritage Site – also known as Chaco Culture National Historic Park. If you’ve never been to a heritage site, they are world renowned for their greatness. “World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance. The sites are judged to contain cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. They may be ancient ruins or historical structures, buildings, cities, deserts, forests, islands, lakes, monuments, mountains, or wilderness areas. They may signify a remarkable accomplishment of humanity, and serve as evidence of our intellectual history on the planet, or it might be a place of great natural beauty. As of June 2020, a total of 1,121 World Heritage Sites (869 cultural, 213 natural, and 39 mixed properties) exist across 167 countries; the three countries with most sites are PR China, Italy (both 55) and Spain (48).”
I’m running a few hours early this time. I plan to fill up my tanks as I will be here a few days. I wait at the closest gas station, Red Mesa Express. They haven’t opened their doors yet, it’s almost 6 am. I’m not the only one here. Ten other cars are here waiting too. It is 40 miles from the Canyon. This is not a place to run out of gas. And with the nights expecting to be in the single digits, a full tank will only last a few days. I’ll have to use it sparingly.
As I drive through the reservation in Nageezi, I’m grateful the temperature is still freezing. The roads have deep ruts, some a foot thick in places. I’ll have to remember to leave before they thaw on my way out, or I might end up stuck! In just a few hours this will become a mud pit!
I arrive at the Gallo Campground and choose my spot. It’s a first come, first serve this time of year and they only have a few RV spots. Mine is almost small enough to fit in a regular spot. Each site has a picnic table, fire grate (with a grill), and a spectacular view of Fajada Butte! The campground has propane heated restrooms with flush toilets, but no showers or electricity. But they do have potable water and a dump station which is critical for an RV every few days. It’s primitive other than that. I register at the visitor center and figure out the game plan. I plan on spending a few days, though likely I will barely even put a dent in it. There is so much to see here. One of the resident volunteer park rangers, Marro, offers to give a few of us a special viewing of ‘roped off’ petroglyphs. We eagerly accepted!
Chaco Canyon is a remarkable Paleontology landscape. “In the late Cretaceous 80-75 million years ago, Chaco sat on the edge of an inland sea. Just offshore, fierce reptilian predators like mosasaurs and plesiosaurs hunted ammonites and fish, while bivalves carpeted the seafloor and mud shrimps burrowed beneath. The fossilized remains of this ancient ecosystem found at Chaco include plesiosaur bone, mosasaur jaw and teeth, shark teeth, ammonite, bivalve, and mollusk shells, and trace fossils of extinct shrimp burrows.”
The first day I travel the loop and walk at the many pueblos ruins reachable by car. It’s hard to imagine walking in the shoes of these ancient Chacoans who inhabited this land for hundreds of years. Many of these great houses Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl, and Hungo Pavi were built in the mid 800’s and the communities spanned far and wide. The Chaco culture ended in the year 1100, but they had thrived for around 300 years. Over the years, massive rock formations fell from the cliffs above and landed on many of the buildings. But by the time that had occured, the communities had already been abandoned.
One of my favorite images of this adventure was one totally unexpected. The canyon is full of metal, iron, I believe. Everywhere you look you see it in the rusted metal protruding from the rock. I’m a detail person, always on the lookout for something that stands out. As I was scanning my surroundings, this stood out to me.
CHACOAN WOLF – A natural masterpiece!