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This diary begins where part 1 left off and will take the community deeper into the web of intrigue of the most fascinating, if not the most enigmatic, archeological ruin on the planet.

I say enigmatic because there has always been a veil of mystery cast over this setting. Cultural scientists have debated the matter from a variety of perspectives, and there is some consensus about Chaco's fundamental purpose in Ancestral Puebloan society. Still, there remains seeming impenetrable answers in view of Chaco Canyon's occult-like reputation. If, as some people claim, the Hopis have the answers, then it's also a given such knowledge is held in secret. Thus something to do with the clandestine affairs of certain Hopi clans that may have once served as Chaco's high priests (or similar functionaries) here at Chaco. Of course, saying this merely adds to the stealth and conundrums that have withstood prying questions over the centuries and hardly any forthcoming answers.  

(Continues after the fold.)

Geology: Geology, as I have always noted, dictates a region’s natural history, that is, if the materials of the landscape are conducive to a flourishing natural history. It follows if this is the case, then human history can be established, even where water resources are sparing and the climate is typically arid. This description especially matches Chaco Canyon’s geography.

However, there is a wash (actually, an "arroyo" in proper Southwestern terms), fittingly named the Chaco Wash.

Its conduit flows across the upper strata of the 400 foot Chacra Mesa.

Over a course of millions of years water has cut into the terrain and gouged out a broad canyon topography. The mesa is made from sandstone and shale formations dating from the Late Cretaceous Period (99 to 66 million years ago), and known as the Mesa Verde Formation. Chaco's bottomlands were further eroded, which eventually exposed a bedrock of shale subsequently buried under some 125 feet  of sediment. Both the canyon and mesa are within the so-called Chaco Core, which is different from the ranging Chaco Plateau geography (itself a fairly uniform region of mostly grassland with sporadic stands of juniper and piñon pine). East of Chaco Canyon is the Continental Divide (15.5 miles), whose geological characteristics and contrasting patterns of drainage distinguish two separate regions, including the neighboring Chaco Slope (the northwestern portion of New Mexico), the Chuska Valley (close to Chaco and Chacra Mesa), and the Gobernador Slope (lies south of the San Juan Slope and drains into the San Juan River).

Because Chaco's alluvial canyon floor slopes, Pueblo Bonito, like Kin Kletso and Neuvo Alto, has elevations ranging from 6,200 to 6,440 feet. Chaco's terrain is thus noticeably bent downward to the northeast and bisected by the Chaco Wash, which is mostly dry throughout the year. There are, however, canyon aquifers, the largest located at a depth beyond the means of the original builders and inhabitants of this setting to draw its precious groundwater. Only smaller and shallower sources supported the minimal variety of springs in the region. Perennial water was therefore not an obtainable resource for the otherwise rustic and dry setting these people selected for their great complex and religious retreat. Perhaps the aridity accounts for the seasonable use of Chaco, while summer monsoonal rains were a blessing to the parched landscape. Likely, from spring-to-fall, Chaco Canyon would have realized its greatest population.

Climate At Chaco: Climate plays a major role in the American Southwest. One can also say here the sun rules with a fusion fist, as it were, on the fact precipitation is often miserly. Chaco's typical landscape is a high xeric scrubland and desert steppe (a biome, meaning a community, characterized by a mere 8 inches of rainfall annually, albeit centuries ago the amount of precipitation was more substantial. The park itself averages 9.1 inches. The low precipitation has to do with the fact Chaco Canyon sits on the leeward side of extensive mountain ranges to the south and west; indeed, affected by a rain shadow that sits in the lee of rainfall for neighboring regions. Chaco also endures striking climatic extremes, where temperatures range between -38 and 102 deg. F (-39 and 39 deg. C). Temperatures may also swing 60 deg. F (33 deg. C) in just one day! The region averages fewer than one hundred-fifty frost-free days per year, where the local climate swings wildly from years of plentiful rainfall to years of prolonged drought. The question naturally arises, “Why, then, did these people choose to build and live here?” There is uncertainty about this, though it’s thought by some cultural scientists the reason has to do with the geography of the setting, and that setting has something to do with the special archeoastronomy significance Chaco is famous for. Thus something both temporal and religious.

Flora And Fauna: Life forms of Chaco Canyon are typical of the high and sandy desert. For example, sagebrush, cactus, and a drought-resistant pygmy forest consisting of piñon pine and juniper trees. The most notable species of mammals include coyotes, mule deer, elk (at times) and pronghorn (antelope), along with bobcats, badgers, foxes and skunk. Rodents and prairie dogs are ubiquitous, as are avian species such as hawks, vultures and ravens. Snakes of many kinds, as well as lizards, also live here in abundance.

Archeoastronomy And Fajada Butte: The basis of this discipline is mentioned in this diary due to the archaeoastronomy significance of Chaco. To further address the question stated earlier, Fajada Butte's significant relationship with this science is likely the sole reason why this Ancestral Puebloan layout was originally created. In this broken mesa country, the elevated landmark rises nearly 443 feet above the canyon floor. It's also one of the more prominent features for miles around. Analysis of pottery shards found here show that these structures were used between the 900s and 1200s. What's so special about this butte is what the famous sun dagger petroglyph reveals: the position of the sun on specific and key days throughout the year. Remains of the ramp leading to the petroglyph are still evident on the southwestern face. The magnitude of the ramp-building project, although not relating to an obvious utilitarian purpose, indicates the considerable ceremonial importance this prominent and squared landmark had for its star-minded observers. The sun dagger site is also the most famous feature of Chaco relevant to archeoastronomy and the cosmological significance of why these people chose to build their complex in such an isolated setting.

The hallmark of this celebrated glyph is located at a southeastern-facing precipice near the top of the butte. There, three relatively large stone slabs lean against the cliff, channeling light and shadow markings onto two spiral petroglyphs inscribed on the wall. At about 11:15 a.m. on the Summer Solstice (between June 20 and 23), a dagger-shaped light image pierces the larger of the two spirals. Similar sun daggers mark the Winter Solstice and both equinoxes. At one extreme in the moon's 18-to-19-year cycle, called the lunar minor standstill, a shadow bisects the larger spiral. This event happens just as the moon rises, while at the other extreme, and precisely 9.5 years later, the lunar major standstill is highlighted, wherein the shadow of the rising moon falls on the left edge of the larger spiral. In each case, these shadows align with precision grooves that are part of the spiral design. At two other sites on Fajada Butte, and located a short distance below the sun dagger site, five other petroglyphs are also marked by visually compelling patterns of shadow and light, indicating solar noon, and distinctively occurring during the solstices and equinoxes. It’s apparent these star gazers had acquired an amazing knowledge, possibly even long before the architects arrived and built the Chaco complex. It also takes countless generations of keen-minded observers to track the cosmos and figure out what the changing light and shadows on select days indicates. The knowledge to predict such science is nothing less than extraordinary. Indeed, the meticulous instruments, in this case the stone slabs and their alignments with the petroglyphs, are in themselves amazing products of human ingenuity.

For these people this is where they first searched to balance their lives in temporality:

Bonus Details: Access to Fajada Butte in the 1980s was closed due to the delicate nature of the site, but also following damage and erosion caused by tourism. Fortunately, my first time visiting Chaco, in the early 1970s, provided an opportunity for me to see the sun dagger site. Who could have predicted such a misfortunate and minor earthquake event that damaged this valuable glyph?

Nevertheless, the site has historically proved invaluable, as well as just about everything else Chaco Canyon offers. For instance, scholarly studies by the Solstice Project indicate that the major buildings of the ancient Chacoan culture of New Mexico also entails solar and lunar cosmology in three separate articulations: the orientation of Chaco’s structures, internal geometry, and geographic interrelationships that were developed in relationship to the cycles of the sun and moon. From this evidence it’s apparent Chaco’s inhabitants directed their lives, at least their religious ideals, using such knowledge. Otherwise, we have only the modern day Puebloans (the cultural successors of the Ancestral Puebloans), particularly the Hopis, to suggest what religious significance the cosmos had for their ancestors. On the other hand, Hopis are reticent about betraying too much of their culture's spiritual or religious insight. This general rule equally applies to most of the other Puebloan tribes (number twenty-one sovereign nations).

Principle Ruins: The Chacoans built their site along a 9-mile-stretch of hard-packed canyon floor, with the walls of some structures aligned cardinally, while others align with the 18.6-year-cycle relative to minimum and maximum moonrise and moonset. At the base of massive sandstone mesas, nine Great Houses are positioned along the north side of Chaco Wash. Other similar structures of prominent importance and design are found on mesa tops or in nearby washes and drainage areas. Altogether, there are fourteen recognized Great Houses. These, the more important structures of Chaco, are grouped below according to geographic positioning within the canyon. Chaco's smaller kivas numbered around one hundred, each hosting rituals for fifty to one hundred worshipers; the fifteen much larger Great Kivas each hosted up to four hundred people. Kivas, incidentally, were only open to males, while females had their own special ceremonies in other dwellings throughout the Chaco complex. (Today’s Puebloans also deem certain activities for either males or females.)

The central portion of Chaco Canyon contains the largest dwellings. The most studied is Pueblo Bonito (meaning "beautiful village"). This site covers almost two acres. It's plainly the largest Great House in the complex, as well as in the region. Built like a gigantic beehive, and possibly replicated from such, its single, half-moon-shaped design is larger than most contemporary skyscrapers. The builders use of core-and-veneer architecture and multistory construction entailed massive masonry walls up to 3 feet thick. This major pueblo is divided into two main sections by a wall precisely aligned to run north-south, bisecting the central plaza. A Great Kiva was placed on either side of the wall, creating a symmetrical pattern common to many Chacoan Great Houses. Originally, Pueblo Bonito was four stories high and contained over seven hundred rooms, possibly as many as eight hundred. It also contained an amazing thirty-six kivas. In its longest dimension, the structure measures 492 feet. It was one of the two largest structures in the Chacoan cultural region. Notably, its semicircular shape is unique among Chacoan buildings. Some cultural scientists think the scale of this complex upon completion rivaled that of Rome's Colosseum.

Pueblo Bonito's Colosseum from high above:

Nearby is Pueblo del Arroyo (Spanish for" town of the gully," while to the Navajo it means "home beside water's edge"). The pueblo was planned and constructed in two short stages from about 1026 to 1126 and sits at a drainage outlet known as South Gap. Its most unique feature, the tri-wall (which has a single tree-ring date of 1109), suggests a connection with the northern populations of the Animas region. As with other tri-wall structures, its function is uncertain.

Almost directly across from Pueblo Bonito, Casa Rinconada is a great subterranean kiva that sits to the south side of Chaco Wash. Its structure is also next to a Chacoan road leading to a set of steep stairs extending to the top of Chacra Mesa. With its numerous T-shaped windows and doorways, Casa Rinconada is constructed like a massive stone compass. These openings are like eyelets intended for alignment during seasonal changes. (Indeed, Chaco’s Great Houses appear to have been specifically designed to function as architectural calendars marking these four major seasonal events. Such precision to the finest details demonstrates how the sun or moon casts light into and through certain rooms by way of the windows and doorways. Some of the dwellings are also oriented toward the 18.6-year lunar standstill cycle, while others are aligned toward the spring and fall equinoxes.) Casa Rinconada’s sole kiva stands alone with no residential or support structures whatsoever. At one time it had a 39-foot (12 m) passageway leading from the underground kiva to several above-ground levels.

Lunar standstill between Colorado's "Chimney Rocks" archeological site:

And such a rare celestial event it's worth howling about. . .


Chetro Ketl, also located near Pueblo Bonito, is another famous Chacoan structure that bears the typical D-shape of many other central complexes, but is slightly smaller. Begun between 1021 and 1051, its 450 to as many as 500 rooms shared one Great Kiva. Experts estimate that it took nearly thirty thousand man-hours to erect this structure. (The derivative of this name might mean rain pueblo, or else it's the Navajo translation of corner house.) Some industrious archeologist also estimated that its construction took five thousand trees and fifty million stone blocks.


Kin Kletso ("Yellow House") was a medium-sized complex located 0.5 miles west of Pueblo Bonito. It shows strong evidence of construction and occupation by inhabitants from the northern San Juan Basin. Its rectangular shape and design are related to the Pueblo II Era cultural group, rather than the Pueblo III style or its Chacoan variant. It contained around 55 rooms, four ground-floor kivas, and a two-story cylindrical tower that may have functioned as a religious center. Evidence of an obsidian-processing industry was discovered near the village, which was erected between 1126 and 1131.

Pueblo Alto, another Great House with 89 rooms, is located on a mesa top near the middle of Chaco Canyon, 0.6 miles from Pueblo Bonito. Its structure was begun between 1021 and 1051 during a wider building boom throughout the canyon. The location of Pueblo Alto made the community visible to most of the inhabitants of the San Juan Basin; indeed, it was only 2.3 miles north of Tsin Kletsin, on the opposite side of the canyon. The residing community lived at the center of a bead-and turquoise-processing industry that influenced the development of all the villages in the canyon. Chert (a silica-rich micro fibrous sedimentary rock) tool production was also common. This particular site suggests that only a handful of families, perhaps as few as five to twenty, lived in the complex. This small number may imply this pueblo served a primarily nonresidential role.

Yet another Great House, Nuevo Alto, was built on the north mesa near Pueblo Alto, founded in the late 1100s during a time when the Chacoan population was declining.

Outliers––The Other Sector Of Chaco's Singular Layout: In Chaco Canyon's northern reaches, there lies another cluster of Great Houses. Among the largest are Casa Chiquita (meaning small house), a village built in the 1080s when Chacoan culture was expanding and during a period of ample rainfall. This pueblo's layout features a smaller, squarer profile; it also lacks the open plazas and separate kivas of its predecessors. Larger, squarer blocks of stone were used in the masonry, and kivas were designed in the northern Mesa Verde tradition. Located 2 miles down the canyon is Penasco Blanco (meaning white bluff). This arc-shaped compound was built on top of the canyon's southern rim in five distinct stages between 901and 1121. A cliff painting (the "Supernova Platograph") nearby may record the sighting of the epic supernova of 1054.

It was said the supernova's light was so bright it was possible to read by it (that is, for those who had reading material):

More Bonus Details: On July 4, 1054, Chinese astronomers were the first to note a guest star in the constellation Taurus. This engaging and mysterious light in the night's sky was about four times brighter than Venus during its brightest light, and was even visible in daylight for twenty-three days. The Chacoans were compelled to record it, as did other North American tribes. Europeans, however, ignored it because it was dubbed heresy by the Catholic Church to consider any star brighter or more important than our own sun. But the Ancestral Puebloans were an astute people and recorded this stupendous event now preserved as a famous Chaco glyph:

Directions: From the north, turn on US 550 at County Road (hereafter, CR) 7900 3 miles (4.8 km) southeast of Nageezi and about 50 miles (80 km) west of Cuba (at mile 112.5). The route from 550 to the park boundary is 21 miles (33 km) and includes 8 miles (12.8 km) of paved road (CR 7900) and 13 miles (21 km) of rough dirt road (CR 7950). From the south, there are two routes to Chaco from Hwy. 9 (between Crownpoint, Pueblo Pintado and Cuba). Both routes vary from very rough-to-impassable and are not recommended for low clearance vehicles or RVs. If traveling from Hwy. 57 (which is listed Hwy. 14 on some older maps), this turnoff is located on Hwy. 9 and is 13 miles (21 km) east of Hwy. 371 (at the former Seven Lakes Trading Post this includes 20 miles/32 km). If traveling from Pueblo Pintado, turn north on Navajo 46 for 10 miles (16 km). After this rough dirt stretch, turn left on CR 7900 for 7 miles (11 km), then left on CR 7950. From there follow the signs 16 miles (26 km) to the park entrance).

Caution: Both the northern and southern routes include, respectively, 13, 20, and 33 miles of unpaved roads (21, 32 and 53 km). Although these sections of road are infrequently maintained, they are sometimes impassable during inclement weather. For current road conditions call the park: 505-786.7014

Watch for these signs––both approaching and spent storms over Chaco:

Contact Information: Chaco Culture National Historical Park, P. O. Box 220, Nageezi NM 87037. Phone (Visitor Center): 505-786-7014. Fax 786-7061. Email embedded in NPS site’s URL (click on “Email Us”)

I hope the community has enjoyed this tour of a bewildering, sensational, and primal window to the past, where spirits (or some unusual presence or atmosphere) hovers about this hallowed ground. Each time I have visited the site it was like being there for the first time, yet somehow I felt an historical connection, but don’t ask me why I felt this way. Let me just quote the Bard, where he wrote: There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. (Hamlet Act 1: Scene 5, I believe)

And from another Shakespeare play. . .Is this a dagger I see before me? Yes, but by now I am sure this image is firmly embedded in the DKos community's mind. . .

As always, intelligent and thoughtful commentary is welcomed.


And if you've never been to Chaco Canyon, may you one day enter through a portal of this magnitude. . .

Originally posted to richholtzin on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 07:52 AM PST.

Also republished by National Parks and Wildlife Refuges and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Many thanks for introducing me to Chaco Canyon (10+ / 0-)

    I've never been there and didn't know what I was missing. I'll add it to travel plans this year.

    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

    by ybruti on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 08:46:50 AM PST

  •  Thanks again Rich for another amazing (9+ / 0-)

    series. Hopefully there will be more to come.

    I am a work in progress. Still.

    by broths on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 09:36:05 AM PST

  •  A privileged reader thanks you! (6+ / 0-)

    Rich, thank you for another great series on the Southwest and  Colorado Plateau. I feel like a lucky person to be able to ride along with you on this great journey. It is like taking a special seminar from one of the best professors of the internet age! The breadth of material that you cover is quite amazing and I find myself learning in every paragraph. I also find myself taking detours along the way to click your instructive links, or to follow up and learn more about an observation you make. Also, quite often, I find myself looking up the park or monument sites to see how to get there and where to stay!! So thanks again, over and over, for the presentations, wonderful writing, the incredible research, the commentary, and the terrific pictures. You are creating a significant body of work here on DKos that will be appreciated in the years to come.

    Although I thought I had many of the major markers down for the Colorado Plateau, it is clear that I was wrong! The Chaco is an utterly fascinating site. Would that some day the cultural scientists are able to develop more answers to the mysteries you note. The architecture and the construction of the buildings is of great interest and it is noteworthy that major parts of the buildings have held up for so long, e.g., the three story walls and wooden window and door upper frames.

    You are delightfully complicating our trip planning for our visit to the Southwest! We look forward to reviewing all of your past and future materials as we proceed with this delightful task. Meanwhile, we do have Zion in our plans as well as some of our favorite hike there, so we look forward to that forthcoming diary among others.    

    •  Howdy, bon voyage, and gracias. . . (5+ / 0-)

      for your kind remarks, Don Enrique. I take it you're still on the road having fun and exploring. YOU, and the rest of this fine community, is why I write these missives. I have a friend (at least I think he's such) who thinks I'm nuts to give this stuff away, and that it should be ePublished or some such. Well, I'll get something published one of these days; lots of manuscripts I'm trying to curry and comb (a bad thing for a writer to do, by the way, edit his or her own works*). . .but these somewhat downsized diaries taken from larger works give me a lot of pleasure sharing with others. I'm at the age where it's better to give than it is to receive. Besides, I have made one hell of a live living and teaching and sharing as an educator, and to think I got paid doing what I loved doing best! Anyway, your happiness, and others who commented similarly, is truly my happiness. I love writing these pieces for the community and I will continue doing so as long as there are good folks, like you, to read and enjoy them. Which reminds me: next weekend will be a geology 101 course, for those who like such stuff, followed by a tour of Zion National Park. And I hope I don't continue "complicating your trip planning" when you come back to the Southwest. Catch you on the email (the one you sent) and let's get caught up on that. I have some new ideas for you. Thanks, again, for posting your remarks. I was, to say the least, tickled to read your words.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 02:13:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  That Supernova Became The Crab Nebula (6+ / 0-)

    That's why modern astronomers were able to identify the event in 1054 - it's still there.

    There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

    by bernardpliers on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 01:56:28 PM PST

    •  it sure is. . . (4+ / 0-)

      and thanks for posting your thoughts and comment on the matter, bernardpliers. Just think: there was such a huge Aristotelian and Platonic freeze over Europe's religious-dominated mindset that people were actually forbidden to say anything about it, much less look up at the sky and take note how easy it was to read by that epic supernova's light. Read Arthur Koestler's "The Sleepwalkers" for more about this. Meanwhile, I have seen the remnants of this star's luminosity (through a high powered telescope, a Questar I think it was. I'm not sure if it's identifiable with the naked eye, however.  I know M31 is visible, however. Anyway, I love supernovas for other reasons: they are not only the dying stars that brings death in their outward explosion, but also create new life and possibilities. How strange! How wonderful! Om!

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 02:18:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  How Close Was That To Frying Us? (0+ / 0-)

        A nuclear blast that lasted two years and lighting up the earth must have givenus a lot of radiation.

        There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

        by bernardpliers on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 05:20:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Dunno. . . (0+ / 0-)

          the answer to what you just posed, bernardpliers. I had heard from an astronomer friend many years ago there was only light, not radiation and such, from the nova. I wonder if that's something you or I could Google and find out for sure. One thing is for certain though; I didn't get the hit of dosage because I wasn't even born. HA! Anyway, interesting question to see the least. Thanks for posting it.

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 07:17:50 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  If You Go There (7+ / 0-)

    Be sure to try the Indian tacos on the way to the park or out of for that matter. Delish!
    Chaco is as incredible as anything I've seen in Europe and in a way more so as they had no beasts of burden or anything rivaling the technology used by the Romans.  And yet they were able to construct these amazing structures.

    •  Indian tacos. . . (3+ / 0-)

      yes, I forgot to mention those yummies. I'm a vegan, so it's not my choice of food, but I sure know they look tasty, people tell me that they are tasty, and once in a great while I get to sample the fry bread and trimmings sans meat, so I can even vouch for what you just passed along to the Dkos community, leftcoastindie. You might also be a fan of mutton stew, a main dish and preferred meal of Navajos. As for Chaco and its comparison, I've never seen a site anywhere in the world that is both solar and lunar-aligned (have you?). This aspect, I think, is just one of the special attributes of this exceptional ruins. A person can spend weeks, not just a day or two, visiting and thinking and slipping back in time. I mean, it's kind of like a time machine in a way, especially if you're away from the others and can hear the breeze, almost like whispers from the past. Thanks for posting your commentary!

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 03:49:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Many thanks Rich! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shortgirl, surelyujest, foresterbob

     You actually answered the question I had in mind to ask you, i.e; which approach is best for inclement weather travel. The Mister and I are not strangers to 4-WD washboard roads by any means. We know how mile after mile of ruts and bumps can be physically and mentally challenging. As we would most likely travel to Chaco during the monsoonal season, it's nice to know the route with more pavement involved.
      Muchas Gracias for your writings on The Colorado Plateau. This Central California native has a hard time explaining to people why she has fallen in love with the Four Corners area. Your diary series has helped me share my fascination with the folk I'm closest to.
        My best to you and yours.  

    All I pay my psychiatrist is the cost of feed and hay, and he'll listen to me any day. ~Author Unknown

    by CA ridebalanced on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 02:58:56 PM PST

    •  well, now that's quite a lot to say. . . (4+ / 0-)

      and all things good, CA ridebalanced. Sounds like a cyclist, to me. The handle. Anyway, listen. . .you really want to, need to, get road advisory info when traveling into Chaco (or out of) during the monsoonal weather. It's a mess, or it can be. I don't know which way is better, either coming in from I 40 (headed toward Crown Point) or from Bloomington (Hwy. 550), because the road is only partially paved. I also know those ruts can be a bit much for low-clearance vehicles. The good news is the roads are seldom closed. And, yep, central Californians, like these others, may not know what you do about the Colorado Plateau country, but I think now you have a lot more to share with these folks. . .so here's my idea: run your own tour and get paid to return. Hey, stranger things have happened before in your life, right? Anyway, thank for your compliments and I really am happy you and so many others are enjoying these diary-missives. Zion Canyon's upcoming (next weekend), just so you know. Stay tuned. Ciao and be well.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 03:40:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I will stay tuned....... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        count on it. I look forward to your Zion piece as it is a place I've wanted to return to as soon as we left.
          My better half and I want to take a very extended retirement camping jaunt come May through August of 2014. I'm counting on a good six weeks worth being spent  traveling to the lesser known and harder to reach parts of the Four Corners. We have a 4-WD truck that will be our transport. We're still debating the pros and cons of a camper shell, a lite trailer to tow, a truck-tent, or the familiar tent camping. Decisions....... decisions.
          My handle comes from a phrase I used over the years in teaching kids to ride horses. I'm a life-long equine fanatic. Mr Balanced is the mechanical horsepower fan. He still has the little motorbike he used to ride on as a kid (50+ years ago), believe it or not.


        All I pay my psychiatrist is the cost of feed and hay, and he'll listen to me any day. ~Author Unknown

        by CA ridebalanced on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 05:08:37 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Nicely done, nicely done. (6+ / 0-)

    I'm looking forward to the diary(ies) on archeoastronomy.

    Regarding the water supply in Chaco: I believe I've read somewhere they've found evidence of a retaining dam, diversion dam, and potential irrigation canals in Chaco Wash.

    Are you familiar with any of those?

    Thanks again for the great diary.

    Also looking forward to the one(s) on Mesa Verde. Mrs. Wheeldog and I have been there a couple times. We camped once and stayed in the Lodge once. Nothing better at the end of the day than sitting out on the balcony of your room in the Lodge, checking out the vista for (literally) a hundred miles in each direction. With a bottle of wine, of course.  

    When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

    by wheeldog on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 03:42:25 PM PST

    •  right backacha. . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and are talking about the check dams at Chaco, wheeldog? There are prehistoric canals and such, even some makeshift reservoirs. The Ancestral Puebloans were expect and so-called "dry farmers," who made the most of a typically arid landscape, such as the majority of the Colorado Plateau. They learned how to bring water to their fields and gardens (and not the other way around). These people I strongly admire for all of their innovative ways, including the sophistication of their dwellings starting from the Pueblo IV Era onward. And Mesa Verde will soon have its own diary, as well as a multi series on the Ancestral Puebloans and their successors, the Puebloans. Stay tuned for that. Next week will be a Geology 101 fun course, and on Sunday we'll be spending time at Zion National Park, in a continuing armchair virtual tour. As always, thanks for posting your commentary and, of course, your stories along with. By the way, Chaco Wash was mostly dry, and so these people had to learn how to 'read the clouds' and gather moisture and trap it when the monsoonal rains came (in the summer). The wash could not be relied on for same. Just so you know.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 04:59:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Continuing our conversation from an earlier diary, (5+ / 0-)

    I took the back roads today from a horrible weekend spent with family in the ICU with a favorite Uncle. I wandered through Quivira National Wildlife Refuge really noticing the terrain, the trees, the deer and the other wildlife. I credit your diaries with making me take "the road less traveled". It gave me time to think of some great memories of my youth and time spent on the back roads of Kansas exploring those sandy roads.

    It gave me some peace that taking the highway hurrying back & forth to a destination doesn't. Thank you inspiring me to do something that I have neglected to do for years and years.

    "I came for the politics and stayed for the community" - h/t the fabulous earicicle

    by shortgirl on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 04:24:57 PM PST

    •  another nifty commentary. . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      shortgirl, and I really get where you're coming from given its import. I love traveling the roads less traveled. And Quivira is one of my very favorite places, which I am thinking you are talking none other than New Mexico's ruins. Lots of big, wide open country in that part of the state. Anyway, the next time you visit you uncle maybe he won't be in the ICU and you can cheer him up by telling him about the virtual places you've been to lately, such as Chaco. And whenever possible, take the side roads. Life is fast enough without our trying to speed it up. Highways and such. Thanks, as always, for posting a comment. You and the community is what keeps me posting these missives. Next weekend, Geology 101, and on Sunday, a trip to Zion National Park. Hope to have you on the tour and many others.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 04:55:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I went to Chaco 25 years ago-ish. (6+ / 0-)

    The road was so poorly marked, like the whole thing was kind of a secret, that I wasn't sure if I was heading the right way after leaving the paved road. There were cattle wandering around and very little to indicate that I was on anything like a public road. It was more like a rancher's access road at best, when I could even make out something like a path through the New Mexico red. I burst out laughing and knowing I had plenty of gas, I sallied forth.

    We finally got there and we were all alone. It was eerie, beautiful, mystical.

    Thanks for this diary full of great information and spectacular photography. Chicago Parade for Post 9/11 vets on Saturday, Dec 15th.

    by lexalou on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 04:46:19 PM PST

    •  and that reminds me. . . (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lexalou, shortgirl, YucatanMan, bartcopfan

      lexalou. . .the folks have done a much better job in recent years marking the road. Much of it is still not paved, however; but it's not the 'mystery into the mystery canyon' road as we used to call it. As far as range cattle goes, yep. . .those slow-moving bovines don't seem to mind the vehicles, though it's not quite the case the other way around. By the way, to you and all the other folks visiting in this part of the country, the sign OPEN RANGE means what is implies. . .open range for livestock. What people don't know, however, is if you hit the animal, you bought it. No kidding. (In Mexico, it's the same thing, except there the owner can charge you for all sorts of extras, such as figuring on offspring it might have had, or some such.) Anyway, I love your apt description about Chaco: eerie, beautiful, mystical. Can't top that. Thanks for posting your comment and fun story.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 04:51:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Got to this late. Worth the wait. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thank you for another interesting diary.

    One comment, from personal experience - for those of you who look at the lovely pictures and think you know what a place looks like - you don't!  When you finally get there, the reality will blow your mind.

    "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

    by Most Awesome Nana on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 08:01:38 PM PST

    •  oh I like this. . . (0+ / 0-)

      what you said about the big difference between 'pretty pictures' and being there in person. That's exactly the impression one gets seeing Chaco for the first time. Talk about ghosts from the past. Or something haunting. Thank you so much for posting this comment, Most Awesome Nana!

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 05:36:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for these wonderful diaries. (0+ / 0-)

    Mrs. Patriot and I once visited many of the sites in the southwest (by motorhome, which led to many misadventures caused by the ignorance of yours truly).  

    We visited Zion.  I had read about a little known site there.  Right off the main road, maybe ten or twelve feet from passing traffic, is a rock shadowed by another rock and it had a glyph like a wound up snake.  We had visited on the morning of autumnal equinox (equal day/night) specifically to see this site.  At first light, there it was, a light dagger right alongside that wound up snake.  Magical to see with one's own eyes.

    There is evidence all over the Southwest of advanced ancient cultures (we have Montezuma's well, Tuzigoot and several others nearby).  Most are not very well publicized because idiots will come and ruin them.

    Just a few miles from our house is a very widespread (and locally well known) site with many glyphs.  

    Thanks again - we've never been to Chaco, but plan to someday soon.

    •  And so. . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      you and "Mrs. Patriot" will be headed to Chaco one day in the future, I'm thinking. Thanks for posting your commentary. I used to teach for Yavapai College (in Prescott) and I'm thinking you're over there in the Verde Valley. Well, I was with the U. S. Forest Service, doing some GPS and topographical mapping for same, and what I didn't cover as an instructor in those years, I got more than my fair share of outings with the greenies (the uniform), only to mention I've seen a mess of 'glyphs' in my time, but that particular one you mentioned with the snake...that one I'm not sure I've ever seen. Are you talkinga bout some of the glyps left by the Sinaguas in, say, the Perkinsville area or in the Woodchute Wilderness near Jerome? Maybe you can drop me an email on my profile and let me know. I am VERY curious about this site. Anyway, give my regards to Tuzigoot. Taught many classes in that region and love that site quite a bit. Again, thanks for posting your comment PrescottPatriot (I used to live on Mt. Vernon St and enjoyed being in that quaint little town and former capitol of Airyzony.)

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 05:35:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Chaco is truly a magical and mystical place (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TerryDarc, lgmcp, bartcopfan, seattlebarb

    I've had the good fortune to visit Chaco Canyon a number of times in the daytime as well as at night for a star party.

    Access is rough to be sure. Many of those who reach the visitors' center are furious "because of THAT ROAD!" It is a challenge. No matter, the efforts to get it paved all the way have so far failed. That's for the best as far as I'm concerned.

    Part of the magic of the place is the challenge of getting there, a challenge that must have been compounded when the only way in was on foot.

    I'd be careful about overinterpreting the ruins and pictographs and artifacts that are found there, however. Sometimes the smiles or the laughter of the contemporary Puebloan peoples is a clue that maybe the archaeologists are on the wrong trail. For many years, it didn't occur to them to ASK the Native Peoples what they knew about Chaco; and still there are many who try to fit the ruins and artifacts their own pet theories and schemes.

    At Pueblo Bonito especially, much of what we see now is stabilized and partially reconstructed to match the appearance of other parts of the ruin. But the appearance we see today is not necessarily what was found by explorers and archaeologists back in the day, and the reconstructions
    don't show the variations in appearance of the ruins, nor do they show the original appearance of the structures.

    For example, some of the rooms at Pueblo Bonito and other sites in Chaco were found in almost pristine condition, with ceilings in place, floors and walls fully plastered, looking as if they had been left only yesterday. You wouldn't know that from the appearance of the ruins today.

    Many rooms contained extensive collections of intact and extraordinary pottery and other artifacts, most of which have been dispersed to collectors or acquired by museums. Apparently little or none of these items were made in the area, though, and it is thought they were brought to Chaco from all over the region for trade or other purposes unknown.

    While the ruins appear to be constructed mostly of stone, an enormous amount of wood was required to build the structures, wood that is widely thought to have mostly come from the mountains many miles distant from the canyon. There are some signs that the floor of the canyon and the mesas surrounding it were heavily forested at one time, however, and whether deforestation was a factor in the eventual withdrawal of most people from the canyon is something for future investigation.

    The site was never completely abandoned, and it certainly isn't abandoned by Native Peoples now. There are frequent pilgrimages and ritual uses by nearby and distant Native Peoples who say they have always had strong ties to Chaco Canyon and other Chacoan sites.

    It's well worth the challenge of getting there to explore the Canyon and its extensive ruins and to connect with the very strong spirit of the place.

    Blogging as Ché Pasa since 2007.

    by felix19 on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 06:52:49 AM PST

    •  felix19. . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TerryDarc, lgmcp

      thank you for your insightful commentary and for posting same. Everything you mentioned is very true. The thing about Chaco is most of its dwellings have been painstakingly reconstructed. Most of its booty had also been, well, usurped over the years, starting with the likes of the young officer, Simpson, and of course the Wetherills types. Over interpretation is also what most people do, especially when it comes to trying to decipher the more intriguing and cryptic glyphs. Each to his or her own, I suppose. I was lucky to know and work with a Hopi Indian, and some few others of the tribe, and so I was able to glean other information that isn't generally broadcast, and for the most part, not broadcast. But since it's private info I don't need to espouse on same. I just know the Hopis, mainly, have a direct ancestral connection with Chaco, and anything that they know on a more clandestine level remains with the tribe. And, yes, all the wood came from far away, perhaps up to 100 miles. Those heavy logs were transported, not so much by carrying, and likely by rolling. No wonder the roads can reach up to 30 feet wide, but average about 15 feet. Easier to navigate that way. Anyway, your commentary is very insightful. Write a diary. We're listening; waiting.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 09:39:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hopi (0+ / 0-)

        I understand the Hopi and Navajo tell radically different stories about Chaco Canyon and its peoples in times gone by -- for example, the Navajo say they built the structures as slaves of the "Anasazi," regardless of the fact that both the Hopi and archeologists claim there weren't any Navajo in the area until long after the structures in Chaco Canyon fell into ruin.

        I'm glad you have direct contact with Hopi descendants of Chaco residents. Their ancestral memories could help clear up some of the ongoing controversies and mysteries about the place, but then, the mysteries and controversies keep people interested as well!

        Regardless, the structures and pictographs and artifacts and roads and all the rest of what we can see at Chaco Canyon today is proof of genius. Experiencing it at night takes your breath away.

        Hearing about or imagining what it was like in the long ago is magical.

        I may write more about it after another visit later this year. Thanks for your kind words and for your extensive work and study!

        Blogging as Ché Pasa since 2007.

        by felix19 on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 06:44:00 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  This looks like a good place to comment.... (0+ / 0-)
      Access is rough to be sure. Many of those who reach the visitors' center are furious "because of THAT ROAD!"
      I enjoyed the diary and pix greatly--thanks so much--and the insightful comments as well.

      My family and I finally went to Chaco a few summers ago and found it "eerie, beautiful, mystical" as another commenter put it so well.

      I just wanted to mention that we navigated our way in following the adequate if not ample signage in a 2WD rental van.  The dirt/gravel roads are rough, but seemed well-maintained and, as long as we kept our patience and didn't try to go too fast, were perfectly fine even w/o rough country transportation (of course, I'm sure a rain would change things in a hurry).

      The other thing I'd mention is that one is not going to stumble across this place by mistake--it's in the middle of nowhere and on the way to nothing else.  But, boy is it worth it (IMHO)!  

      I guess I'd also mention that there is a fair amount of other interesting sightseeing to be done along US 550, which is the path we took from Albuquerque until the turn-off toward the canyon.  

      I also gotta give a big thumbs up for the Range Cafe in Bernalillo (the town where US 550 ties into I-25) north of ABQ.  Dee-lish!  (And many interesting celebrity-autographed plates on display as well.)

      "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

      by bartcopfan on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 12:22:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Trying to get there sets the stage (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TerryDarc, lgmcp, bartcopfan

    I went to Chaco 13 years ago.  The map showed a left turn shortly after Nageezi - a proper dot of a town.  Well it turns out, "Nageezi" was just a boarded up shack of an old trading post.  Not a "town" of any kind at all.  The long unpaved road takes you farther and farther from any sort of civilized supports.  No gas, no food, no lodging.  The journey itself to get there removes you from our current techno society so by the time you get there you are a little spooked and open to the unseen forces that comprise this mysterious place.

    There is a campground there and we were lucky to score one of the remaining campsites.  Camping at chaco really enhanced the experience of being immersed in this time/space warp.  

    You can still feel the spirits of the people who built these structures, this whole complex.  Of all the places I have been in the US, this is THE most haunting, most magical, most extraordinary place.  Go if you can  - but make sure you have a full tank of gas and good tires and high clearance is very helpful.  this is no Disneyfied experience, it is the real deal.

    Thanks for posting this and bringing back such amazing memories.  Might have to make the trek again.

    •  Camped there a few times. (0+ / 0-)

      Once during the gathering for the "Harmonic Convergence."

      That was a trip.

      I'd agree that it's once of the most enigmatic places in the country.

      •  tell us about this. . . (0+ / 0-)

        the Harmonic Convergence. I remember hanging out with a few of my guide-educators who partook in all sorts of mystical reunions, or some such, but I was always on the road with clients, or teaching, or something. Anyway, sounds like the makings of an interesting diary, OutcastsAndCastoffs, especially given where this gathering met. Thanks for posting your comment.

        Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

        by richholtzin on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 10:53:29 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  When we camped at Chaco Canyon (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bartcopfan, seattlebarb

    the Ranger who did the evening talk around the campfire said something so inneffably beautiful I've never forgotten it.  Gesturing from his feet up to the stars he said,

    Modern astronomists have done us a disfavor by emphasizing how far away the stars and planets are, making the heavens seem like they have nothing to do with our daily lives.  But space actually begins right here at our very feet and swirls upwards around us, all the way to infinity.

    REMINDER: California now has a balanced budget.
    All they had to do was get rid of most of their Republicans.
    ~~ @LOLGOP

    by smileycreek on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 11:24:54 AM PST

    •  oh how wonderful... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      this comment that you shared, smileycreek, and how right on the ranger was in expressing what he or she said. Thank you for sharing this thought with all of us. I am going to keep this saying as a keepsake. How great of you to mention this.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 01:11:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Spring is the perfect time to go (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

     --- don't wait for the summer heat because most of the day becomes virtually unusable.

    Given the remote location it's a bit daunting as day trip there-and-back-plus-sightseeing from Albuquerque.  You're better off planning to camp onsite.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 11:34:31 AM PST

    •  yep, you said a mouthful... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      lgmcp. . .the best time to travel. But it's a "dry heat," as we say out here on the Colorado Plateau country, so it's not as bad as some places in the country that have both high heat and high humidity. Of course, monsoonal time can mean iffy roads and travel. Still, you're right. . .spring and early summer and post summer and early fall are great for seeing Chaco. Thanks for posting your comments.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 01:09:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I went first week of May (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and it was below freezing at night.  Those temperature extremes he mentioned are for real!  If you are planning to camp in the spring, be prepared for cold and windy weather.  I remember our tent was full of sand by the morning, just from the wind blowing it in through every crack and crevice.

  •  LOVE the series! (And a small request) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I love your Southwest series! Just discovered it this morning, and intend to read every installment. Chaco Canyon is without doubt one of the most mysterious places on Earth. I began following news and views of it after the PBS special, and it has only become more of a mystery, IMHO. Thank you so much for doing this series, too; I can't wait for your Southwest set to be published.

    Perusing your other diaries, I've noticed that at least one, "Glen Canyon," no longer has photos available. Photobucket problems maybe? Is there any way you could restore the photos that go with the diary? The text is great, but with the photos it must be magnificent...

    "...greed and selfishness and striving for undue riches can never bring lasting happiness or good to the individual or to his neighbors." FDR

    by CodeTalker on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 12:14:42 PM PST

    •  thank you for commenting. . . (0+ / 0-)

      CodeTalker, and, yes, that darn Photobucket lost those photos. But in the subsequent diaries posted after that particular diary, and I think especially the 'Lost Atlantis' diary, as well as the two diaries posted for George Steck's "Beauty Lost" film, I restored those photos, though of course the text was changed. It might have to do and I do apologize to you and all others for that messed up Photobucket snafu. They get on my nerves sometimes, and are exceedingly slow to boot (to mount photos, that is). Thank you, again, for posting your comments, and if I can ever answer any personal questions, please let me know. Contact me via my profile's email. Glad you enjoy the series, too.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 01:07:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What Everyone Else Said (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks for the diary, Rich. I try to read the Dkos travel pieces as infrequent as they are and maybe under-appreciated.  Front page, anyone?

    Anyway, we're traveling to Utah and Arizona in March, hoping the roads will be decent, uncovered by snow and not washed out from the rains. Not sure that we'll get to Chaco, already a medium full agenda and heading a bit west of four corners - which a buddy and I visited, while doing duty but staying out of harm's way at White Sands during the Vietnam war. That area of the US is a fantastic geology lab and a marvel at the same time.

    Since retirement the Missus and I have traveled to the stone cities left by the Maya much further south. Their stories, like the Hopi's I expect, have largely been lost to time and the predations of the Catholic church. The stone is most of what we have of their society - plus some pottery, jewelry and some very precious cloth.

    The single best place we've been to see a different side of the Maya is by are their tiny mud sculptures like this:
    fuji_369_pix 134b.jpg a humanity and beauty lost to modern people. These clay figures are a bit hard to find but Merida's Museum of Anthropology has the best collection I've seen although the (for me) unvisited National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City doubtless has much more of this type of very human art.

    Someone should write a book with lots of pictures. That would do much more for the Maya than the end of the world stuff last year. The big stone structures are important as those of Chaco are, but the humanity gets lost, I think.

    Time is an enormous, long river, and I’m standing in it, just as you’re standing in it. My elders are the tributaries, and everything they thought and every struggle they went through & everything they gave their lives to flows down to me-Utah Phillips

    by TerryDarc on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 12:35:02 PM PST

    •  your comments. . . (0+ / 0-)

      precede, I hope, a diary on this matter. Really. I am blown away by what you (and the 'missus') just sent. Your insights on the matter are also keen and I urge you to get something posted given the import and direction you've already taken by responding to the Chaco series. And, you're right. . .so much has been lost over time, and for various reasons. But not entirely. The Hopis, and I think some few other Puebloan tribal nations, keep to themselves what is private and therefore more telling. Same with the Mayan Civilization. It is figured by many how their input and influence given Chaco's layout and destiny is there to be read in everything having to do with Chaco's purpose. We don't altogether understand just what the ultimate purpose was, but it's likely a former religious and/or spiritual mecca (the two realms are not the same, you see), and of course all of the prized artifacts that were once stored here (most of which was stolen) lends credence to the belief people brought gifts, traded items from far south of the Colorado Plateau, and of course the ceremonies held in kivas remains enigmatic; abstruse. Catch me on the profile's email and we can discuss the matter further. I'm rooting for you to draft a diary and share more of what you have already amassed from your travels. Good luck with the wintry weather in parts of the Plateau. You'll make it. You have thus far, right? Thanks, again, for posting TerryDarc.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 01:05:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  ...just outstanding... (0+ / 0-)

    Ignorance is bliss only for the ignorant. The rest of us must suffer the consequences.

    by paradise50 on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 12:37:11 PM PST

    •  nicely put. . . (0+ / 0-)

      and thanks for the comment. Of course, we both know it's Chaco Canyon that is the most outstanding. I'm just the observer trying to capture in words that ultimately fail to describe the inner reality of this wholly other singular locale.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 12:58:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I took an almost identical picture.. (0+ / 0-)

    of the "portal" in the final pic above that I've used as my computer screen "desktop" for years.  If you're in the 4 corners area, also don't miss Bandelier and Canyon De Chelly

    •  so many places. . . (0+ / 0-)

      so much time for me to have covered the Colorado Plateau practically with a fine tooth comb. But I'm glad you mentioned both places. De Chelly is awesome and Bandelier and those tuff cavettes, I believe they're called. . .quite a sight. And you even get a chance to climb high and into one or two of the caves at Bandelier. Thanks for the suggestions, ibjg. The Dkos audience appreciates them. Both sites will one day be put on the diary virtual tour series.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 04:36:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Really appreciated the diary (0+ / 0-)

    But it bums me a out a bit-in 1992, I drove 550, wanted to go to Chaco, but was in a rented Ford Focus, if memory serves. Not doable. This past summer, I spent a week in NM,in an SUV, but stayed in the eastern part of the state. Just did not have time to fit every wonderful place into the itinerary.

    I STILL want to see Mitt's taxes.

    by Van Buren on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 03:06:52 PM PST

  •  House of Rain by Craig Childs (0+ / 0-)

    I'm curious to know your thoughts, Rich, on Childs' book, assuming you've read it.  He spent quite a bit of time doing his own research into what happened to the Chacoan people and the Anazasi in general. He traced their roads both north, into Colorado and Utah and south and west into Arizona and Mexico and he is skeptical that they became the Hopi.  I personally share that same skepticism.

    I'd like to share a little story about Fajada Butte. While camped there last summer, I got to talking with the campground host who'd been doing  that job for a number of years. I asked whether he ever had the opportunity to go along with Park Service people to the butte. He hadn't but he mentioned an event that happened some time back. An Air Force helicopter had made an unscheduled, non-emergency, and highly illegal landing on the butte.  Park personal used one the telescopes at the Visitor Center, used for nightly star gazing, to get the tail fin number of the helicopter.  An ex-military employee made a call to a high-up officer in the Pentagon to report it. When the helicopter finally landed at its final destination, the pilot and copilot were arrested.

    Any way, another great article. I look forward to more from you.

    I don't get mad. I get stabby!" - Fat Tony D'Amico

    by sizzzzlerz on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 06:59:32 PM PST

    •  just mentioned this to you. . . (0+ / 0-)

      on the email you sent. Childs, I think, is one of the brilliant minds in the business. I have all of his works; most of us who pretend to be educator types have to read an enormous amount of stuff in our line of work, and I find his search for those roads and where they end (north or south of the Plateau) quite interesting. 'Rain' is quite a good read. I've done my share of crazy backpacking over the years, but some of what he got away with, especially there in the Comb Ridge sector, is a bit nuts. Still, when you're sleuthing you sometimes have to climb or descend where angels fear to tread. His point on the Hopi, the one you brought up, I have to side with him (and you). The Hisatsinom, which is the Hopi word for the Ancestral Puebloans, are never clear, nor are any other Puebloans, about their former names. I mean, take any Puebloan established in New Mexico, who use a Spanish derivative name given to these people after the Conquistadors arrive. . .though each taking the locale's name in conjunction (i.e., Taos Pueblo; Zia Pueblo; Isleta Pueblo), and so on. . .it's still a Spanish name. And so cultural scientists use Ancestral Puebloan for the Puebloan's ancestors in lieu of Wetherall's iconic name, Anasazi, that has stood for well over a hundred years, including Kidder's use of same (the Pecos Classification guy). That's all changed since the 1990s, because that name is entirely Navajo. Anyway, I digress. The Hopi maintain their name and do not call their landholdings by a Puebloan designate. Instead, it is the Hopi Mesa country, and I believe they, more than any other Puebloan tribal people (there are 21 altogether) claim "direct" ancestry to the Ancestral Puebloans. Childs, again, remains skeptical. As for the helo story, since I am more or less affiliated with the NPS, as an educational outreach program (the field institute segment), yes, I heard about that story from a fellow instructor. I am so glad the NPS made the arrest. That was a sacrilege; a very country bumpkin thing to do. So, I will have to dig up some more stuff and send it to you via email, since you obviously opened up Pandora's box regarding the Hopis. I still say they hold the trump card over all others. In this, I respect these people very much. More later.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 07:36:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My Visit in 1993 (0+ / 0-)

    We spent the night there and the next morning discovered a low tire and a seriously under-inflated spare.  I met a park employee (maintenance guy) who, using a compressor from the maintenance yard, helped me put enough air into the spare and flat to make it to a town.  While he worked he explained a "short cut" that actually worked.  But . . . it was the person and his story, which he also shared, that I always remembered.

    His "real name" was T'wizun (as near as I can recall) but he was a native American that was taken from his family and sent off to the "Indian Schools" - these were boarding schools where students were not allowed to speak their native language and were taught trades (in his case shoe making).  The teachers refused to call him by his name (it was "too difficult to pronounce" according to them) and they gave him the name Tucson (after the city in Arizona).  Such a kind and gentle man, he seemed to bear no ill will - but was glad to be helping care for such a cultural treasure.  I will never forget his story or Chaco.

    One detail that I believe is missing from your tale is the fineness of the Chacoan stone work, which is unlike that of any of the other pre-Columbian sites in the Southwest.  The flat finely joined stones with such cleanly finished facings are completely unlike the ruins at Mesa Verde, Hovenweep, Betatakin, etc. that I think people need to realize how exemplary that workmanship is.

    Thanks again, Rich!

    When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and the purity of its heart. - Emerson

    by foolrex on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 11:33:30 PM PST

    •  A common story. . . (0+ / 0-)

      about an uncommon people, the Navajo. Thanks for sharing that tidbit and I know many similar and personal stories. Most of the tribal people, from all tribal sectors, who work in such places are all pretty darn terrific. The Indian boarding schools are also true as they are graphic. What was done to all Native Americans in the way of assimilation was nothing less than shameless. And to think today how well most of our mixed cultures and races really do get along. By the way, tomorrow's special mid-week offering is on ethnobotany. I once lived in Tucson and that's where I learned quite a lot from the Native Seeds people, particularly the Pima and T'ono O'dham tribes. And, of course, later worked with the Navajo and Hopis on same. So, if you have a hankering to know what wellness is as derived through native plants and seeds, tune in tomorrow. Oh, by the way, in the two part diaries series I have planned on archeoastronomy (one of these days soon to come) I do delve into the intricate stone work of the Chacoans. I more or less had to choose what to concentrate in the shorter diary just posted in two parts. But your point is well taken. As always, thanks for your commentary, foolrex.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Tue Jan 29, 2013 at 05:58:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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