Chaco Canyon and Hovenweep

Lou and Nancy left us at Chaco to head to Overland Expo near Flagstaff, AZ. It’s a yearly gathering of worldwide off-road travelers who definitely have chosen the path less travelled. The weather this time of year at the event is always the wild card. Three years ago it was freezing cold, two years ago it was gale force winds and last year the event was nearly washed out with rain. Therefore, Pam and I decided to pass on the expo this year and continue our own exploration.

The weather system that had been over us for that last few days disappeared and our second day at Chaco was beautiful. We did a great hike to the Wijiji ruins that can only be reached by foot.

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Since it is off the beaten path, we had the ruins to ourselves. The construction of the buildings still amazes me, lasting now more that century of without any maintenance.

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Even the campground at Chaco has ruins in the cliffs nearby.

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The sunset that night in the canyon was beautiful.

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We planned to meet up again with Lou and Nancy on their trip home to Colorado after the Expo so we had a couple of days to kill. Where to go? We decided to head north out of Chaco, thinking that Mesa Verde or the Canyons of the Ancients in southern Colorado would be a good choice. We stopped in Farmington, NM to do some laundry and then headed to Shiprock, NM, the capitol of the Navajo Nation. Once we crossed the border into Colorado there was a sign that said Hovenweep 42 miles to the west in Utah, so that became the next stop.

Hovenweep National Monument is another example of Pueblo masonry that has lasted through the centuries. It’s a collection of sites in a 20-mile radius with ruins in many of the canyons. Most of the ruins are near the visitor center in a nearby canyon.

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The buildings are constructed on the rocks in the canyon, many a combination of home and storage for the food that they needed to protect after harvest.

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During our hike of the canyon we came upon a Park Ranger who was observing one of the many birds in the area, in this case a mother barn owl with several owlets. The owl had roosted in a cave in the canyon wall. She suggested that I could take a picture of it by holding my camera to the scope she had set up and it worked.

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We then took off to the other sites that were located along the many back roads in the area.

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The buildings were constructed with defense in mind to protect their families and the food from predators or raiding clans.

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The roads were also nice to drive on and luckily there was little traffic to worry about.

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Our campsite there was nice and we set up our alcove for shade and protection from the wind. However, after we returned from our exploration our alcove had lifted out of the ground and luckily wrapped itself around a nearby juniper tree. Thoughts of it taking out a 1000 year old ruin crossed my mind when we pulled up and it was gone.

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It was a full moon when we were there and it rose out of the mountains to the east to light up the night.

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