If you’ve never visited the ruins of Chaco Canyon in Northwest New Mexico, put it on your list.
We’ve been fortunate enough to make 3-4 trips out there in the past 5 years which takes some doing, but the payoff is well worth it. Whether seeking solitude near the Great North Road, studying the grandeur of Pueblo Bonito or fixating on star formations painstakingly following peak lines against a black and crowded sky, there is plenty to get lost in at Chaco – it truly is a magical place.
Despite Chaco’s fabled and spooky history as a place where dark forces were awoken, there is an overwhelming feeling of calmness and awareness that occurs there as you explore the ruins and listen for the ancients in the wind. We abslutely love it there and being the curious smart-asses that we are, we are always trying to learn from our visits. This was the case on our second trip to Chaco when we encountered some odd snottiness from the National Park caretakers.
We had been out scouting the area around the pictograph supposedly denoting the supernova that created the Crab Nebula in 1054 when we happened to notice a petroglyph carved in the stone wall nearby that could easily go unnoticed. In fact we had missed it entirely on our first trip. Thrilled and intrigued by this find we darted back from the ruins to the visitors’ center to share it with the park ranger on site, who was there speaking to a colleague when we arrived.
We approached and handed the ranger the camera with the photo we took and offered, “Hello sir – we saw this glyph out there by the pictograph of the crab nebula, looks like it could represent kivas, do you know anything about this?” The Ranger left my eyes to focus on his colleague, who remained tight-lipped and fixated on him as he turned back to us and explained, “These are just naturally-occurring markings.” Shocked, we replied, “Really? Look at those lines, looks like kivas doesn’t it?” The Ranger handed the camera back to us while saying “kivas huh?” He sat wallowing in his authority, remaining stone-faced and leaving us stonewalled with a skat-nibbling grin. Why?
Why would the entity we support with our taxes and entrust to protect our most cherished antiquities work so hard to prevent us from understanding them? This was one of our first dour experiences on the road to ruins, and a great lesson in the depth of dysfunction that dominates our educational system. Was Ranger Richard protecting someone’s grant who was researching this glyph? Was he just being a dick? All we know for sure from his reply is that he’s either a complete idiot or withholding knowledge of the site he claims to care about, neither of which speaks well to his experience on site in the position he holds.
With disinformation efforts like this to navigate, the only way you’re going to learn anything is to teach yourself. In the meantime I’ll leave my favorite ranger the immortal words shared between ancient indians when welcoming their neighbors to dine: Eat my corn.