Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

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?

Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

The view of the largest house, Pueblo Bonito, from the rim trail.

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.)

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I can’t get enough of the contrast between bricks and sky.

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Our tour guide called this the “million dollar shot.” Not sure about that, but it is a good one.

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The walls of the house next door, Checo Ketl.

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I saw these on the petroglyph trail. Wasp nests? Or some kind of bird?

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This was up on the rim trail (a fun 5-mile loop hike) – like a lava flow.

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To get to the rim trail? You have to climb through this.

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I wish I were that hiker who knows the names of flowers along the way but, alas, I am not.

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Fajada Butte, which I kept thinking of as Fajita Butte. I took this at the end of a long day and hadn’t eaten in awhile.

Next up: Grand Canyon.

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14 Comments

  1. Deborah Dash May 27, 2015 at 4:50 pm #

    BEAUTIFUL pictures. I read “fajita” at first glance also, and I ate lunch only about an hour ago. So it’s not just you.

    I think those are bird nests. I can’t remember the type of bird.

    • deonne May 27, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

      Deborah – Thank you! Funny about the fajita thing – great minds, ha.

  2. Susan Embry May 27, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

    Stunning photos of a magical place. One of my all time favs for energy and excitement from the other side.

    • deonne May 27, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

      Susan – Thank you, it’s definitely a special place.

  3. Ron Hagg May 27, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

    wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

    • deonne May 27, 2015 at 5:54 pm #

      Ron – Glad you liked it!

  4. Tammy May 27, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

    Beautiful pictures. This makes me miss living in New Mexico! Those nests are indeed bird, they belong to the Swallow.

    • deonne May 27, 2015 at 7:57 pm #

      Tammy – Thank you for the kind words, and swallow nests! Good to know.

  5. Janet May 27, 2015 at 7:37 pm #

    A beautiful place and descriptions of Chaco Canyon makes me want to take the trip now.

    • deonne May 27, 2015 at 7:57 pm #

      Mom – It is a beautiful place. Maybe you and I can go together some day.

  6. Manisha May 28, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    Pretty sure that’s a birds nest up there (oh wait, I just saw that you figured it out so…confirmed! birds nest!). Gorgeous, gorgeous photos, Deonne! I too like the contrast between the sky and brick.
    Manisha recently posted…Accidental FloristMy Profile

    • deonne May 28, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

      Manisha – Thanks for chiming in on the nests! (Yep, apparently they’re swallow’s nests.) So glad you liked the photos, and I do hope you get to Chaco some day. The doorways are perfectly pint-sized for your little one.

  7. Sherry in MT June 10, 2015 at 7:01 am #

    What a cool place and those look like swallow nests to me! I love the history and thinking about how those people lived there back then! Now to catch up on your other post!
    Sherry in MT recently posted…Oregon FloraMy Profile

    • deonne June 10, 2015 at 9:27 am #

      Sherry – Swallows nests, yes! I love thinking about those things, too. One guy in the tour group at Pueblo Bonito was shocked to see that they didn’t have indoor plumbing (this would be 9th – 13th century), and I thought good grief, isn’t all this (architecture, astronomy, etc.) enough? People can be so clueless.

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