Staying a week or more in one spot seems to be our new MO and I like it. Moving from Durango Colorado down into New Mexico, we opted to pay again and stay at an Elk’s lodge rather than at free camping in the area. We didn’t want to take the rig down miles of dirt roads with inclement weather coming, and there’s just more security in having hookups.
So again, I was ready to hunker down and utilize the rainy days to get some work done. But Tom had better ideas. So even with a threat of raid, we grabbed our rain gear and set out to Chaco Canyon to see the ruins there. It’s kind of what brought us to Farmington in the first place.
On our way, we stopped to drive around Angel Peak Scenic Area. Even though the clouds were threatening, the views were incredible.
And I’m always amazed at the variety of color out in the desert – even in the flowers – which are all over if you just look.
Chaco is a National Historical Park, but it is in the middle of nowhere and the visitor’s center access is down a long dirt road. We checked in and got some advice on what trails to take, then we headed out for the loop drive. Our first stop at the Una Vida great house ruins was impressive. The detail and precision in the construction impressed Tom. The fact that these buildings are still standing after almost a thousand years is almost unbelievable. It started to drizzle, but that didn’t stop us.
Our next stop on the drive was at the great house and the core of the Chaco complex: Pueblo Bonito. We were told a hike up the canyon would afford us great views. We put on our raincoats, gathered our backpacks and set out. We didn’t make it out of the parking lot before torrential rains and gale force winds attacked. Okay, so I may be exaggerating a bit, but we decided it was bad enough that it would not be fun and the view would suck. So we got back in the car (already soaked). This is an area we’re very interested in so we know we’ll be back. As we drove out the un-graveled parts of the red dirt road got slippery very quickly and we were sliding around a bit on our way out – then we heard they closed the monument later that day.
On the long drive back it looked like we had outrun the rainclouds, so we drove through the Bisti/De Na-Zin Wilderness Area. We found a place to park and hike, but there were no marked trails and we didn’t really know which direction to head.
The landscape was interesting and varied. Petrified trees had splintered and bits were scattered around. The rocks were quite red or very black.
Right when we found the most interesting formations, a couple of miles in, we saw the dark clouds nearing. Below on the left is the view ahead, and on the right the view behind – where we parked – so we quickstepped it back to the car.
There was so much to do in this area it was hard to pick. The weather was as cloudy as it was sunny and we’d just leave for the day never knowing what to expect.
Going to the 4 corners monument was a must for me, even though they say it’s a gimmick and it isn’t even in the exact geographical location of where Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico meet – the only place in the US where 4 states meet like that. But it was close enough for us. So we drove there from Farmington, and realized we had been much closer when we were staying at Mesa Verde! It wasn’t crowded at all when we were there, so we got our requisite photos and admired all the native shops and their wares and even bought a miniature sand painting.
Driving back from 4 corners, we tried to get as close to Shiprock Peak as we could. The Navajos have a name for it that means Rock with Wings, and according to the web it’s off limits for climbing, but we saw no signs to keep us off the dirt road to get to it. There were also no signs telling us how to find it!
This area fascinated us. The rock was the “throat” of an ancient volcano and sticks up about 1200′ above its surroundings. We turned along this giant wall that looked so manmade but it’s called a minette or dike and pictured above like a spoke. We headed down a long dirt road towards the giant monolith.
According to the other lone driver we encountered, we could have made it all the way to the base of the “mountain”, but with rainclouds threatening we decided to turn around.
We had already done our slipping and sliding for the day. We climbed a bit on the fascinating giant wall before heading back.
One more thing in the area to add to our re-do list when we return is another visit to this monolith.
Shiprock is only a couple of hours away from Monument Valley which we had driven through on our way to Moab. So it almost seems like we’ve been driving in circles – which is okay for us. Our goal this summer was to not drive long distances – like last summer – which is why we decided to hang our in the four corners area. There is no shortage of things to do in the area, and mainly is no shortage of Ancient Puebloan Ruins in all four states. And in Farmington, we were very close to the Salmon Ruins and Heritage Park, so of course we checked it out. These large ruins were on an old farmstead, so that made it unique and interesting.
We were also near the Aztec Ruins National Monument – named for the city, not the people. We almost didn’t go because we were starting to get pueblo’d out, but I’m so glad we did. The ruins there were some of the best preserved that we’ve seen and they still have original wooden roofs covering dozens of the rooms and we were able to walk under timbers that have been there for around 900 years.
They even have a re-built kiva so you can go inside and imagine what the excavated site might have been like when in use. Below left is the original, and recreation on the right.
This site is so big they have a whole section that still has not been excavated.
The town of Farmington was nice as well. They have all the corporate chain stores – like Khols and Hobby Lobby – so we were able to get needed supplies. The old downtown had some nice bars and restaurants and we enjoyed some delicious burgers. And we were able to walk along another stretch of the Animas River – as the town has a nice riverwalk and parks. The river was muddy and fast flowing, but the surroundings were beautiful.
Our week here was busy and flew by. Now we are making our way to the next Xscapers Convergence in Taos and Santa Fe. Again, we don’t have too far to go!
Peace & Love, Joy