It’s hard to believe that it’s been 2 weeks here. In some ways it feels like I just got here, and in some ways it feels like I’ve been here forever.
This weeks adventures started out on Wednesday. We had a get together with a bunch of my coworkers and made Navajo Tacos. It was so much fun getting to hang out with everyone outside of work and getting to make fry bread and eat delicious food.
Saturday was the started of visiting the different parks and attractions in the area. Up first was Canyon de Chelly which was amazing to see. The billboards advertise it as “grander than grand,” and I’ll let you know after I visit the Grand Canyon if that’s true, but it was still breathtaking and gorgeous. We stopped at all 10 overlooks, and it was really neat getting to see how different the canyon looked at different spots and how big it really was. Some of the overlooks had amazing rock formations that were all unique, while other overlooks let you see pieces of history and where people lived and died years and years ago. Other overlooks gave a glimpse of what life is like today with rich farms at the bottom of the canyon. Each rim took around 2 hours to complete stopping at all the overlooks, and it was completely worth the time to see the different views. Canyon de Chelly was also the only free venture for this weekend, and it was probably the most naturally beautiful of the weekend as well.
The second stop for Saturday was four corners. It was neat to get to stop by, but the wait took a very long time. It was different than I was expecting with a lot more going on than just the four corners spot. There weren’t any informational guides or anything, but I was able to read a little online while we were waiting to take a picture on the four corners spot. It costs $5 a person to visit the four corners monument, and while it is a national monument, parks passes aren’t accepted. It probably took around an hour and a half to get through the line to take pictures on the four corners spot, and there is no shade while waiting in line (it’s also on concrete so it was pretty hot waiting in line). It was neat that it’s the border of six different groups coming together (4 different states and 2 different Indian Nations), and overall it’s definitely a neat stop to check off a bucket list, but probably not worth making a trip just for the four corners.
Sunday brought it’s own adventures. We started out the morning at the Aztec Ruins (not ruins of Aztec people). The ruins were totally different than anything I’d done before here. They were somewhat similar to Machu Picchu, but the construction was definitely different which was really neat to see. It was a self guided tour through half of the settlement where the Pueblo Indians had lived, and the gift shop had guide books to loan out during the tours and also available for purchase (I ended up purchasing one because along with the information and interpretations of what you were seeing, there were also stories from the Pueblos about some of the sites and rituals). The Great Kiva (their ceremonial church-like building) was really amazing to get to visit. It had been restored, but most of the work was original and the restoration was guided by the first person to find the ruins. It was really cool to get to see how their traditions came together, and also to see how much we still don’t know about the importance of different aspects of their culture. It was also really cool to get to see how their building techniques improved over time in different parts of the ruins. Only half of the ruins at the site have been excavated so far, and it was really neat to think about how expansive this city would have been, and how much it could change now with further excavations. Entry to the park is $5 a person, and I decided to go ahead and purchase a parks pass which is good for entry into most of the parks for 1 year. The parks pass costs $80 for the year, and covers one vehicle or up to 4 adults. Since most of my planning for adventures this summer has been based on the national parks, I decided this would likely end up being the best option for me.
Sunday afternoon we went to Chaco Canyon. It was not at all what I was expecting. Chaco Canyon is supposed to be one of the higher rated parks, and the entrance fee was higher than any of the other we did this weekend at $20 per car. Parks passes work at Chaco Canyon which was very convenient. The park was a few hours from the Aztec Ruins site, and as you get close to the park it 20 mile unpaved and somewhat un-maintained drive in to get to the park. Once you are in the park, it is a 9 mile one way driving loop with several points to stop along the way to hike and see different things in the canyon. The guides for these trails were for sale only at the visitors center, so you have to plan ahead for which stops you want to make. No free trail guides were available at the visitors center, though the brochure did include a map. The canyon itself is not very deep so the cliff faces were not as spectacular as Chelly. We went on a guided tour of Chetro Ketl ruins. These were the ruins of where lunar celebrations and ceremonies would have happened, and also served as a trading hub for a long time. The ruins were slightly older than the ones in Aztec,and it was neat to get to see more of how the Pueblos were learning building techniques and how their strategies changed over time, but there was still a very similar feel to the Aztec Ruins. We were pretty tired by the time we got to Chaco Canyon (and the drive in definitely did not help), but it felt like a bit of a let down compared to the other places we visited this weekend. A lot of the information on Chaco Canyon’s website is about camping and how wonderful star gazing is in the Canyon, so maybe a night time adventure would have been better. While I’m glad we went, I would definitely say that Aztec had better ruins and Chelly was a neater canyon. If you can’t stay the night, Chaco is probably an ok one to skip.
Overall this week was full of a lot of new experiences, and I can’t wait to see what next week has in store.