Since I took it easy the first day, I ended the day with a walk around the campground to see the Alcove Homes, and petroglyphs. There are a tons of them in this section.
I made myself a decent meal that didn’t involve opening up cans for a change, and spent the evening downloading images to my storage for safe keeping. I usually give them a glance over to make sure I’m not having any technical issues. The view from my window is peaceful…. soft pinks and blue pastels. There is no light pollution here: the stars are plentiful, and I can almost reach up and touch the moon as it seems so close.
Side note: Since I was there, in January of 2020, sections of the campground have been closed due to possible collapse of cliff formations surrounding it. When that occurs, many of the petroglyphs that cover the canyon walls will disappear in the rubble.
Nageezi, NM – Day 7
When I awoke in the morning, I was surprised to see quite a few tents out there. Over the years as my body has aged and suffered many injuries, I guess I’ve come accustomed to traveling within the comfort of hotels, soft beds (questionable at locations), and heat. It had been 20 years since I officially camped out, though I have used the back of my SUV to sleep in plenty of times in the wilderness: with cushions of course. But with winter in full force here, I wouldn’t have survived in those temperatures outside, a chilling 9 degrees. Even in the RV under heavy flannel sheets, and blankets, I had to turn on the heat in the middle of the night for a little while to take the chill out of the air before I would get out from under the covers. One thing I can say is they are clearly determined, and courageous to withstand those extremes for the experience. I’m glad I no longer have too!
This was a big day for me. I’m testing myself and concurring my fears. As you sign in at the trailhead, you are warned ‘not’ to travel alone. This is cougar country. And I have already seen tracks in the valley. The large cats take down 500-700 lb elks with ease….so it’s pretty unnerving. I am aware there is a family of cougars that reside here. That means at least 4. And though elk is abundant here, I sure don’t want to be in the crosshairs of the cougar’s gaze. I know other people have hiked alone here, I’ve spoke with a few. I can’t say I’m not a little scared. But I expel my worries, and start my trek on Pueblo Alto trailhead. The 4.8 mile loop which includes Stone basins, New Alto, Pueblo Alto, Jackson Stairway, ramp, Chetro Ketl Overlook, and Pueblo Bonito overlook. The trail begins at Kin Kletso great house. You go straight up a crevice and climb to the top of the canyon.
When I reach Pueblo Alto, I came across very large cougar tracks. I’m miles from where I started, and it puts one on constant alert, always looking over your shoulder, and scanning the empty space that surrounds you. Not like I wasn’t already doing that, but now I’m doing it with a rapidly beating heart. I haven’t seen a soul since I began, besides a jack rabbit who darted off, and a crow that appears to be following me at times when I’m near the rims of the canyon. I’m grateful for the company, though the first time he showed up, he nearly scared me to death. You don’t want to be startled in big cat country! While I do conceal carry when traveling alone, I’m not naive enough to think I can react faster than a known hunter attacking its prey. These cats could weigh 100-220 lbs, and are designed to go for the throat with pinpoint accuracy and take down animals three times their size. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. I keep moving.