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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Very Busy Few Days--Mesa Verde,Chaco , etc

Good Morning, Trekkies! Here we are back in Farmington--returned two nights ago from Durango, Co and staying until tomorrow morning-St Patrick's Day! Once more I'll try to make my narrative follow the pictures as closely as possible so you can " see " as you read. The pictures start with the magnificent sunset seen from our room in Farmington on Sunday the 12th. Then as we headed toward Shiprock on 64 West I took a couple of pictures of downtown Farmington--they are big on colorful fiberglass animals around here. They probably handle the weather better than most materials--kind of fun to look at. As we progressed westward what I think is Shiprock rose on the plains before us. This is a volcanic core that rises between 1400 and1800 feet from the plain bed. Here is an interesting Wikipedia page about its religious significance to the Navajo, upon whose reservation it sits. It is very difficult to get a good picture of it, since it is off limits to anyone who is not Native. The legends and myths surrounding it are very interesting, particularly the one about women and children stranded atop it. There is a very similar legend about the Devil's Tower in Wyoming--another volcanic core--a bit less eroded. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiprock As we got closer to Shiprock we saw before us a formation --a line of hills that appeared to be made of waves of alternating yellow and blackish brown sand--the waves moving from left to right in a vertical as well as horizontal plane. Fascinating optical effect. As we moved behind the hills the land was made up of scattered uplifted earth forming " fins ", the result of groundwater dissolving salts and the overlying ground tilting rather than uplifting actually. The landforms here just continue to fascinate me. At the town of Shiprock we turned north toward Colorado on 491 and soon saw a Navajo dog--like all dogs--lol--scrounging on the roadside. Here, once more, is the land of buttes and pinnacles --dry and bland in color. Before us loomed the mountains of Colorado and soon we crossed into that State. The land is desolate yet there is fencing so somewhere are animals grazing--cattle or horses or both. When we came to Towaoc, we found the town tucked tightly against the mountains. This is Ute land--another of the many tribes out here. This little community has a very large Casino. Unfortunately, I did not see a sign for a Ute museum that is apparently here. There is an exhibit about mountain lions going until Sept and another dedicated to Ute veterans. It would have been interesting since this is one of the tribes of which I know very little, other than they, like the Zuni are Pueblo Indians, which the Navajo are not. Eventually we descended into the town of Cortez, which still isn't exactly at sea level! We stayed here three years ago on our first foray to Mesa Verde. The motel was not particularly appealing so we decided to stay in Durango this time. On our way out of town we stopped at the bank which had given Bill nickels on that trip--not all banks will let you buy nickels, many require that you have an account with them. The Bank of Dolores ( a town in Co ) was, at the time, the Bank of Mancos ( another town) but as happens so frequently these days there was some kind of consolidation or other. Still, the teller asked Bill if he was looking for a particular year--one of very few tellers who know why he buys nickels--even after he explains to those who ask, most don't get it. He liked the fact that she was knowledgeable--also that they still give out neat calendars--although we were amused to have it be a Rockwell instead of local sites and wildlife, as it was in the past. We continued right by Cortez and up to Mesa Verde. Oh, my God, I did it---well, sort of. The ruins are 21 miles up and over mesas. That means 21 miles of heart stopping drop-offs and dips and curves before you even get to the whole reason for visiting the park and then there are about another 20+ miles roaming around more overlooks, dips and curves to look at them. The ranger lady who told me three years ago that the climb visible from the visitors' center was the worst part of the road--LIED! It is probably the easiest part of the road. I think if you study the pix you can see the switchbacks and where the road ascends before us and clings to the side of the mesa as it curves around blind corners or a horizon that drops away as though going off into the wild blue yonder. Going up. I sort of kept my eye on the mesa wall with occasional peeks over the edge. Then we came to two idiots on bicycles whom we had to pass on a curve--groan! We climbed to the high point, 8572 ft. We got almost to the Far Point Overlook when Bill asked if I'd had enough. I'm sorry to say that I really was pretty tense. If truth be known I think Bill also had enough--he isn't fond of height either, though he handles it better than I do. I'd NEVER be able to drive this road--he can and not super tense either. At any rate, we decided we'd seen ruins like these at Canyon de Chelley, though maybe not as high or large so we were happy with the views and drive we'd experienced and turned around to head back down. I put on my straw hat, turned toward the middle of the car and avoided the views. Still, I could not resist a peek through the holes of the hat and a few times even looked straight out over the open space and a couple of times looked slightly downward. I guess you do kind of acclimate to the height--but NOT totally. I really am proud of the picture of the Mancos River Valley and the road that cuts through it between Cortez and Durango. How beautiful the fields and HOW FLAT!!!! As we headed toward Durango I took one last shot of the opening butte and the elongated mesas up which we had climbed. Mancos is kind of interesting--an old mining town in which Louis L'Amour, one of Bill's favorite authors had a ranch. Some beautiful old buildings but don't think those miners and cowboys ended their days in art galleries and expresso bars. Drove by one of Durango's ski slopes and then continued down into town. Having had a long and tiring day we bypassed historic Durango and maneuvered through afternoon traffic to our motel. There on the reception desk, my name, not exactly in lights, but still rather flattering. Finished out the day demonstrating my" look --don't look " technique for heights. As I still had my five Asian Zing wings left I decided to eat in --Bill went down the street to the local brewery for a hamburger and some brews. Tuesday the 14th meant returning to Farmington. I made a reservation for two nights, bid good-bye to Jared, our very attentive and courteous desk clerk and headed to historic Durango for a look see. Betsy says that all of Colorado is Hanover. I think of it as Woodstock. It is like Sedona--all the old buildings are there--filled with boutiques, jewelry stores, bakeries, art galleries. These places ooze money--yours actually or what, maybe you wish you had. I just don't enjoy that kind of thing, but I suppose it is what keeps these towns going. It just creates a cookie cutter aura that takes away from the historic atmosphere I'd rather enjoy. The buildings are beautiful and well-kept--their architecture if not their contents invoke an image of how things may have been when the streets were crawling with the miners that the silver in the hills of Durango, Silverton and other towns brought here in the late 1800's. The Strater Hotel is certainly a jewel. We decided to return to Farmington by a different route that entailed climbing yet another mesa.The Animas River flows through Durango and down to Farmington along the valley floor. Jane, here is one of the differences in terrain between this part of Colorado/New Mexico and home. Where there is no water the land is dry, drab, lifeless but where there is water it is green and cultivated. In this section of pictures we are running almost parallel to the road we took from Shiprock to Cortez. That road had buttes and pinnacles--this one has cultivated fields all because the Animas runs through it. Trees and grazing land all the way. At Aztec there are also ruins of the Anastazi--the puebloans that populated the area. Bill and I went there several years ago and it is fantastically accessible. One of my favorite sites of these types of ruins though we have been to so many. We continued through Aztec to Bloomfield which is a hope, skip and jump down the road. Never having been here before we stopped at Salmon Ruins--named not after the fish but rather after the family who owned the land and spent at least 3 generations protecting the ruins and preventing, to the best of their ability , the collecting of sherds and other artifacts. There is a lovely small museum containing many artifacts but the exhibit I really enjoyed was of the pottery created by these ancient peoples commemorating the appearance of Halley's and other comets in their wide open skies. What views they must have been--another difference, Jane, the vastness of the sky and distances over which things can be viewed unobscured. It is breath-taking--it is impossible to determine distance in these places! The museum itself is made in the image of a kiva--the underground room of worship and ceremony--so important to all the tribes of the region. They instill in me the same feelings of walking into a cathedral in Europe or even the newer ones here, or the old Spanish mission churches--just a true feeling of spirituality and serenity. Here Bill is working out the complicated dual slide rule apparatus used to determine the age of wood used in the construction of these ruins. Reading various books and brochures at various ruins there is a bit of confusion about where these people were living at the same time as other sites or from which site they moved and to which site they did move. It appears as though a drought descended upon the Mesa Verde site and the people sought a better place in which to dwell--one in which water was present. Bloomfield and Aztec certainly have water--the Animas serves them both and in addition the San Juan River passes through Bloomfield, too. So, it would seem these areas were populated by the culture moving off that high mesa to these river valley locations. The first picture shows Chacoan wall construction--veneer and core. Tabular rocks are carefully cut and fit together to produce a wall that is smooth on both sides. Then mud and unshaped stones are poured down to fill in the spaces between the cut rocks. Bill is standing at the far end of the exterior eastern wall of the ruins--it extended 164 feet. The exterior western wall extended about 183 feet. Though I didn't photograph it, the back wall is 394 feet and stood, in places, three stories high. Walking along the front wall, and at the first level there are many individual rooms--the first, long and narrow, is a common feature of the ruins of the period, though its use is a mystery. The next few rooms were probably originally living space, eventually used for storage. The last room in the corner was a square room that was converted to a round kiva at some point. This is the case with the next room as well. At the top of the hill, there is a rather large room which was on the first level,below a room used to mill grain and cook. There were holes in the floor of the second story room through which trash was thrown into this room. It was so full of trash mounds that it was almost to the ceiling and the wood extending from the walls are remnants of this room's ceiling and prep-room's flooring. The large holes are where large logs called vigas were inserted as beams. At this point, I opted to take a picture of the remaining rooms looking toward the plaza and a large kiva. I am at second story level and the rooms are stepped--it is believed that way the roofs of the rooms could be used for outdoor activities. On the left there are several rooms that were open air rooms facing the plaza. There is a rounded air shaft protruding into one of the rooms--believed to have provided air to the kiva on the other side of the wall. Room 13, was for a long time a real mystery but one of the most important in the ruins. There had been a wall of juniper posts and mud that divided the eastern most third of the room from the rest but wall did not restrict access to other parts of the room. In the west portion were several milling bins and two hearths. On the far west wall was a long, low pedestal with tools laid out in an obvious intentional way. All of this was excavated in 1978 and remained a mystery until 2008 when experimental archeological techniques and time lapse photography was used. The pedestal was placed again in the original location and a reproduction wall was built. It was found that a hole in the first level roof was actually an aperture through which a beam of light entered the room and was restricted by the wall. As the sun rose in the sky the beam of light traveled down the west wall to the pedestal and illuminates a particular tool until too high in the sky. This happens around the 21st of June. It has also been found that light from different phases of the moon also illuminate the pedestal and its tools in various ways. How these phenomena were interpreted and used remains a mystery. Interesting, huh? AS Bill was moving along the upper reaches of the ruins, I was moving across the field to a huge kiva, reading as I went. The three rooms at number 12 were used as living space but were also built in such a way as to support a tower kiva above it. The room at number 11 is more important from early pictures taken during excavation because there were remnants of walls extending another story. They have since collapsed but without those old pix, there would be no knowledge of the third story since all remnants are gone. The room at number 15 is really interesting because the wall is bending inward and it shows reinforcement throughout time. It could not support the weight of the tower kiva behind it. It was a much larger room on this side, rather than smaller rooms that supported the weight better. As a result, eventually the room was abandoned for living and became a depository for garbage--and as a result of its positioning the materials were very well preserved--fabrics, string, rope, matting of Jupiter bark weave, cotton clothing remnants, pot rests, coiled baskets, wooden tool handles, dyed or painted textiles, braided hair and fur and feather remnants. Later it became a latrine and those deposits were helpful, too, in trying to analyze the diet and health of the people. A small room has been covered to protect unexcavated deposits. 17 is the tower kiva. An off center hearth which allowed a ladder to be placed in the smoke hole for entering and exiting. Behind it a board to prevent the fire's getting extinguished, and then a ventilator shaft connected to the plaza outside. A small hole in the ground symbolically represented the hole that the ancestors climbed out of to be " born " into this world. The boxes in the floor are mysteries since there have never been any artifacts found in any of them. Could they have had stretched skins over them to serve as drums?? A major fire destroyed the kiva and much of the pueblo--evidence found here shows that it occurred after a major and good harvest, that a ceremonial cremation was held here for some of the victims, others were buried among the rooms of the pueblo and the survivors abandoned the site. 20. is another square room converted to a kiva and mirrors the square rooms so converted across the plaza where we entered the ruins. 21. is the Great Kiva--it has been back-filled to protect the features of the floor found in #17--the Tower Kiva. This one has a small anteroom with stairs entering the kiva. There were three hearths in the anteroom--perhaps to prepare food used in the ceremonies. The anteroom was used by whomever was officiating the particular ceremony. Many pieces of turquoise and other precious stones, a mountain goat horn and burned corn husks were found in the floor of this kiva--perhaps offerings. This Kiva is used to compare these ruins, which are considered outlier to main communities, to other outlier communities and main communities such as Chaco. So as we walked back to the entrance I took pictures of the ruins and the trees etc that are growing from them. Soon we came back to the bench on the eastern wall where we sat beneath a tree of some sort and spoke of our own visits to various other ruins and how they compare. Then, I took a picture of an apricot tree, one of the trees of the orchard that the Salmon's grew while living here. Took a few pix of the Salmon homestead and the reproductions of various dwellings of modern tribes in the area. Soon we were back in Farmington and the huge room that was reserved for us this time. Tired I decided once more to remain in--Bill went to the Chinese buffet nearby and brought us each back a huge to-go box of a great variety of oriental goodies. AND, how clever is he, he brought me a Jimmy Buffet coconut-pineapple tea to wash it all down----delicious! While he was out I called Chaco to ask about the condition of the roads to that very large and elaborate set of ruins of the same age as Salmon. Tuesday night--good TV night--NCIS,Bones and The Americans! Read USA Today and did my puzzles. Then bed after another full day. Wednesday, on the road by 10 and down the road to Bloomfield once more. Then south on Rt 550 past oil fields and under a cloudless bright blue sky streaked with the contrails of shiny silver jets. Just gorgeous day--so hard to imagine snow to Betsy's knees and temps in the 30's and 40's in Vermont. Just saw a video on The Five showing Amtrak pulling into the Rhinebeck New York depot pushing an avalanche on the commuters waiting for it. AMAZING!!! At any rate, about 40 miles down the road we came to the turn off for Chaco. The first six or seven miles is paved but then the road turns to dirt. All along the road but spaced far apart are the trailers or small cottages of the local ranchers. Again not much water here so there are fields and fields as far as the eye can see of sage. At one point the air was redolent with its scent. I told Bill I wanted to get some of the aromatic herb to put in Douglas Bristlecone under his visors as a gift for the heights we made him climb and the shake, rattle and roll he had to endue getting to Chaco. We crossed over several huge washes that must be scary as hell when filled with racing water after torrential rains or major snow melt. I love the areas of the country where horses and cattle are free range. Sometimes, cars must stop because these animals know to whom the road belongs. The horses we came upon initially, however, had no interest in us and one dark brown horse lifted his tail to make clear in just how much distain he held us. Eventually, we came upon an equally disinterested partial herd of cattle. After crossing an even wider dry wash we came to that part of the journey ( 21 miles) the ranger had told me was very rutted and wash-board like. SHE, unlike that witch in Mesa Verde, did NOT lie. This last 4 1/2 miles is on private land and as the sign said we had come to the end of county maintenance. We had come to the end of ANY maintenance!! Bill had to move back and forth across the road to find the best way and for at least a mile he had to carefully straddle a high point in the road to avoid getting bogged down into deep ruts. We bottomed out, very lightly, just once. He's good. We watched the movie on Chaco which ran for 25 minutes and was extremely interesting. Hopi, Navajo, Ute and Zuni tribal members spoke of Chaco's importance both as an ancestral place of history and a sacred place. Though the Navajo are not puebloan, they too, hold Chaco in high regard. I think of this place as Mecca or Rome. Even in ancient times it is believed that, though it is huge,( look at the group of people on the outcropping overlooking the Great House, Pueblo Bonito to get an idea), that the permanent population was not huge. It is thought that Chaco was a gathering place for various ceremonies and celebrations, that it was a stopping off place for those travelling or moving to another place, that it was a trading place. Today, it is a place of pilgrimage and every native we have spoken to about it has spoken of it with reverence and awe. If you look at photo 8501, you will see what we saw--I said to Bill --is that a rabbit in that window? Pulled it in and there he was, staying cool, out of the sun. He heard the folks coming around the bend, jumped down and then back up into the corner window that was sealed on the other side--more like a niche than a window--they walked by and never noticed. LOL Safe jack rabbit! I can't remember any Western movie showing stairs on the cliff face like these--they must have crawled, they could not have stood upright getting up them. It was one of the engineering feats these folks used to keep their trails and roads going in as straight a line as possible--don't go around an obstacle, go over it, one way or another. As we departed the park we saw that another part of the herd had moved on the plateau above the camping ground and the ruins within it. If you look at shot 8542 you can see to the middle the ruts to avoid and straight ahead the straddling Bill had to do in this area. Once on the maintained dirt road we gathered some of that sage--heavenly! I would love to be able to grow it at home. If ever I moved out here, I'd plant aromatic sage as my lawn. Returning we saw the herd of horses had gotten larger and in numbers they stopped both us and oncoming car--they seemed really curious--especially the two white ones. A couple crossed in front of us, while another was on my side of the car and moving behind it to cross. Still, yet another dark horse lifted the tail to give us an odiferous farewell. And so, we reached the paved road that took us out to the highway. Followed 550 back to Bloomfield and on into Farmington where we were greeted by the Sinclair dino. Hungry we headed to Texas Roadhouse but they were closed until 4 so we went to Applebee's. Cute bartender, Mario, a little down. His parents were to leave tomorrow but left yesterday to move to Deming. He helped them pack up the last of his things before coming to work. Met another young man who lives right outside town--I couldn't hear him very well as he chatted with Bill. Then just before we left, probably the most interesting man came in. He was in his 40's--maybe early 50's. All these folks, Native. He had gone to a sort of private gr 4-8 school. In order to raise funds to keep going, they took kids for two months to travel the country and visit organizations likely to contribute to their cause. He was so excited because he got to travel all over--Maine, Fl, Ga , La , Cal all over. I asked if his mother missed him and he said that both of his parents encouraged their children to get educated and while she did miss him, she was pleased he was getting to see these places and learn. His sister lives in Japan and is a scientist, another lives in California. He has lived in many places and worked in Yellowstone for several years. All of them have educations and his mother, who has since died--just a year ago--was thrilled. Came back to the motel and another perfect night of TV. Lethal Weapon finale, Major Crimes and Designated Survivor. Read USA Today and did the puzzles. Of course, I'd watched The Five,Jeopardy, and Family Feud both nights, too. Decided we'd stay one more day in Farmington so I could catch up on many things besides my blog, which I've been writing forever--it now being 5 PM !!!! But, also did some filing, checking the bank accounts, etc, etc. Now, I'll do my nails while Bill watches basketball and then I'll read. Tomorrow we'll head for Las Vegas, NM--we are on our way home. Always makes me sad, but there are still exploits ahead. So, now you know what we've been up to these past few days. Hope you enjoyed the info. Until next time.....KandB

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