New Mexico has many beautiful, well-preserved Puebloan ruins, but maybe none are more beloved than Chaco Canyon National Park. And after my first visit there a few weeks ago, I can see why.
I was going to save some of this for the newsletter, but it was like Sophie’s Choice: which photos to leave here and which to take away? I couldn’t do it, so I put it all here and will figure out the newsletter later.
So, Chaco Canyon. It’s not easy to get there – the road into the park will rattle the teeth right out of your head – and there’s nowhere to stay close by unless you get a spot in the small campground on site. But it’s worth it.
I stayed in nearby Cuba, and the drive there from Taos is my new favorite, a gorgeous route through towns with charming names like Ojo Caliente, Abiquiu, Gallina, Regina, and Coyote.
There’s not much going on in Cuba, a small town populated by people whose families have lived there for generations. I recommend the no-frills but clean and quiet Frontier Motel for your overnight visit, and don’t miss the terrific New Mexican food at El Bruno’s.
As I sat there enjoying my sampler plate I watched as three bikers on spotless, tricked-out motorcycles pulled up and parked out front. They looked a bit intense but I gave them the benefit of the doubt, putting on my nonjudgmental hat and figuring they were just playing at tough-guy macho.
They swaggered into the restaurant and sat nearby, ordered beers, and then proceeded to have an animated conversation about guns, a search warrant, and the “f-ing cops” (although the f-ing bit was exclaimed in full). So much for benefit of the doubt.
Back to Chaco. Many folks say they’ve had spiritual experiences there, that all those centuries of history have seeped into the stone and inhabit the place in a visceral way. I can’t say I had much of a spiritual experience, but I did feel a sense of hope. If ancient places like Chaco, with their elegant architecture and powerful cultural history, are still here for us to enjoy and learn from, that’s cause for hope, don’t you think?
Pueblo Bonito’s exterior front wall runs exactly east to west, so the Native Americans knew all about cardinal directions and orienting for the sun. Archeologists think 50 – 100 people lived in Pueblo Bonito, even though it was multistory and had 500 rooms. (Apparently most of those were for storage.)
Next up: Grand Canyon.
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