An anthropomorphic form appears at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
Looking north on the Kin Klizhin Road, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
An ancient masonry wall at Una Vida Ruin in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
Two old A raven in flight over Pueblo Bonito Ruin, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
Rust and polish An elk herd stands alert near Kin Klizhin, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
Hand-laid A whiteware potsherd near Kin Klizhin at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
“ Visit Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Ancient home to a mysterious Pre-puebloan civilization"

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 7:27 PM Posted by Jim McGillis

Welcome to Chaco Jim

Dust Storm envelopes Fajada Butte, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Chaco Canyon

A Place of Sand and Rain

 
On Wednesday, May 21, 2008, I hooked up my travel trailer and drove from Homolovi Ruins near Winslow, Arizona to Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, via Interstate I-40 and Gallup, New Mexico.  During my transit, a cold front swept over the High Southwest deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, providing a forty mile per hour tailwind to my highway travels.  Although I ate dust and sand every time I got out of my truck, the good news was that I got excellent gas mileage.  As I approached my destination, the temperature dropped from 100 degrees f. to 65 degrees f.
 
Chaco Culture National Historical Park, my destination, is located over Rainwater leaves rivulets on the canyon wall at Gallo Campground, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)thirty miles off the nearest paved highway, regardless of which road you travel to get there.  If you are seeking an “off the grid” experience, with no mobile telephone, broadcast TV or electrical services, Chaco might be the place for you.  Gallup, New Mexico is the nearest city, almost 60 miles to the south, so the night sky is as dark as what I experienced camping at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
 
Besides the allure of peace, quiet and solitude away from our over-amped contemporary culture, Chaco Canyon, lies at the nexus of an ancient and long vanished Pre-Puebloan culture, popularly known as the Anasazi.
 
Having visited Chaco Canyon the previous autumn, I wanted to see and experience its stark beauty again, this time in the spring.
 
Winter and summer are the long seasons in the high deserts of New A late afternoon dust storm turns into a rainstorm at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Mexico, with spring and fall often last only a few weeks.  As I blew in to Chaco, along with the dust of a desert sandstorm, spring appeared to be over. Shriveled spring flowers along the roadside foretold of the coming dry season.  Or so I thought at the time. Before I could set up camp, the weather had changed to colder and wetter.
 
From the west and south, clouds quickly began to build.  Soon I saw virga, hanging like a veil in the sky, with rain clouds following not far behind.  By the time I unhooked, leveled and secured my coach, the rains started in earnest. The sound of rain on the roof of my coach did not let up that evening, and lasting well into the night. 
 
A common raven perched atop a sign, pointing the way to the Una Vida Ruin - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As I made my way to the visitors’ center the next morning, it was a cold and breezy 43 degrees f.. After paying my user fees, I sought a recommendation for a short hike. I did not wear foul weather gear, so in the event of a downpour, I wanted easy access to my truck. The friendly volunteer in the old visitors center suggested the Una Vida ruins hike. Its trail started from the parking lot where my truck already stood. 
 
Taking the volunteer's advice, I shared the short path to the ruins with a friendly couple, but saw no one else in the area until my return, an hour later.  Looking back down from above, a north-facing masonry wall at Una Vida intrigued me.  It appeared to have a face on it, as created by its symmetrical windows and door.  To me, it looked like the face of the world's largest Hopi Indian kachina (or katsina) doll."Kachina Face" on an ancient masonry wall at Una Vida, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
 
Above the Una Vida ruin (Una Vida means “one life” in Spanish), sheltered by a stone overhang, was a collection of well-preserved Indian petroglyphs.  They stood out well for my camera in the morning light.  Similar enigmatic rock etchings abound throughout the High Southwest.  Because of their protected location, few acts of defacement or vandalism were evident here.
 
Upon returning to  my campsite, I walked among the ruins of an ancient Pre-Puebloan petroglyphs at Gallo Campground, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)farmhouse, which lay beneath the overhang of a cliff, less than fifty yards away.  Simply by readjusting my gaze to look for telltale signs, there too, I found ancient Indian rock art.
 
To my surprise, I came upon what appeared to be a face staring out at me from the canyon wall. This little character had sorrowful, yet knowing eyes. Splashed with ancient red ochre, Cracks and crevices above and around his eyes evidenced a large cranium made no sound and never moved.  Still, his eyes followed me wherever I moved throughout his rocky domain.
 
A countenance appears on the canyon wall at Gallo Campground, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Having traveled as much as I have in the southwestern US, I have learned to keep an eye out for the spirits that dwell in these canyons.  Like the Egyptian carvings of the Pharaonic Period, were these silent sentinels formerly human? Or are they representations of non-physical spirits trying desperately to gain the Raven in flight, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)attention of those humans who pass by their yearning, yet immobile countenances? 
 
Such is this place, Chaco Canyon, where people are rare, ancestral Puebloan spirits abound and history lays enigmatically all around, even within the public campground.

Wednesday, September 17, 2007 7:27 PM Posted by Jim McGillis

Chaco Canyon - The Early Days

Jim McGillis at Kin Klizhin, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico in 2007 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) 

Chaco Canyon  Memories 2007

 
After two days “off the grid” at Chaco Culture National Historical Park, I reemerged into my normal “wired” lifestyle. As of this writing, I am in Taos, New Mexico, where I will attend the Quantum Leap Celebration. The Celebration starts later today and will extend across the next two days.
 
If you visit Chaco Canyon, you will find its geographical features as interesting as its ancient culture. The Pre-PuebloanChaco Culture” is on of the great mysteries of the past millennium. In the high and dry Canyonlands of Northwestern New Mexico, native cultures rose and fell between 600 CE and 1250 CE. During that time, the populous built masonry buildings of great elegance and unique architectural style. 
 
This corner wall is one of the tallest remaining structures at Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)These “great houses” or “great kivas” flourished throughout the Four Corners area (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah). Then, in the thirteenth century AD, the high culture of Chaco disbanded, with evidence of deconstruction and destruction by the Anasazi, who originally built these huge structures.  As they disbanded, possibly heading south to greener valleys, their Great Disappearance became one of the enduring mysteries of humankind. When they were done with Chaco Canyon, the ancients set fire to many roof timbers and toppled many walls. It was as if they did not want anyone, including themselves to settle again in that place.
 
Everyone loves a mystery. Why else would people flock to this desolate and long-deserted place? We all want to know who they were, what they were doing here and where they went. To learn more about this now vanished culture, I suggest reading House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest”, by author Craig Childs. With scholarly detail and down-home story telling, Craig brings ancient sandstone haunts back to life.
 
Kin Klizhin "Great House", or "Great Kiva", Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
While in Chaco, I sought out the least-visited great house, known as Kin Klizhin, which is nine miles out a 4-wheel-drive road. On the road, the only living things I saw were birds and a herd of elk. When I arrived at the Kin Klizhin Ruin, the visitors’ register indicated that I was the first person to visit there in the past six days. With no mobile telephone, no radio and no sounds other than the wind, I spent a couple of peaceful hours there.  Occasionally, I ducked behind ruined walls, seeking shade from the hot afternoon sun.
 
Sometimes, our lives feel overfilled with actions and activities. Although there is apparent loneliness to places like Kin Klizhin, I found it ironic that it was once a “welcoming center” for the Chaco Canyon Culture. For the fast-walking Pre-Puebloans, Kin Klizhin was less than one day away from the combination Mecca, Las Vegas, World’s Fair, Vatican, Angkor Watt, Taj Mahal, which we now call Chaco Canyon.
As I approach the Kin Klizhin elk herd, the Alpha Bull Elk has me within his sight.  - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) 
Why did they come to Chaco Canyon? Why did they leave? These questions are simple, but definitive answers continue to elude us. From my perspective, I believe that a unique, but inexplicable group consciousness arose then in the Four Corners, centering itself in Chaco Canyon. With its celestial aspects, geographical features and ancient cultural alignments, we look forward to our next visit.
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