This morning we drove back to Cuba and up US 550 to just south of Nageezi where we turned off for Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The pavement ended after 8 miles and a sign said the campground at Chaco was full. The RV in front of us gave up and immediately turned around. The now gravel road passed widely spaced homesteads, most with a small house and hogan. The road deteriorated to rough dirt for the last few miles the turned to pavement again at the park boundary.
There is one small campground in Chaco and the sign at the entrance also said it was full. We planned to just spend the day and went into the visitor center to pay our entrance fee where we learned that the signs always say full. Apparently by evening the campground is full so they don’t bother to drive out and change it. We drove back to the campground and sure enough the host said there were a few spaces. We secured #23, a nice level spot with a table and fire ring. There are ruins and petroglyphs in the low cliff that borders the campground.
We drove to the Pueblo de Arroyo parking lot where we ate lunch under a ramada and hiked a 3.2 mile loop to Pueblo Alto, New Alto, and the Pueblo Bonito overlook. The pueblos are massive and the style of the rock walls varies depending on when they were built. The trail climbs the cliff through a slit in the rocks and passes by fossils in the sandstone, Chaco stairs, a Chaco road, grinding holes in the rocks, and a stone circle. We only saw a few other people while we were hiking. The scenery, sky, silence, and many pueblo ruins makes this place feel intensely spiritual.
Back at our campsite we ate a quick dinner and drove the mile back to the Visitor Center with the camper top up for a great evening program on petroglyphs and pictographs followed by star gazing. Chaco is a dark sky park with a 25 inch telescope and multiple portable scopes. The rangers told us to “p and c” when we camp: note the location of constellations when you go to bed and look again when you get up in the night to pee and you will see that they have rotated.
Today’s Lesson: Make sure the cassette toilet valve is tightly closed and not just shut to prevent stinky camper syndrome.