A final entry in Jonathan’s epic road trip diary. I hope you have enjoyed his adventures as much as I do.
Dateline: Near Angel’s Peak, NM, coordinates 36.546576 / 107.863026, elevation 6,591′.
After our refreshing stay in a hotel we were ready to get back on the road. We stopped for fuel and groceries and then headed towards Chaco Canyon. I have heard so much about it that I hoped it would not disappoint.
The first bit of of a drive was quite easy, but as we got closer the road went to dirt. Not long afterwards it started in with washboard, the kind that will rattle the fillings out of your teeth and shake your vehicle to death. When confronted with washboard like that you have two choices: You can either crawl along very slowly or you can go faster and float over the top. I think you can guess which option I chose. The reason is that the average speed of a vehicle on the road determines how far apart the washboards are. If you go faster than average you go from the top of one washboard to the top of the next, skipping the trough. If you go slower you give your suspension a chance to react. But if you travel the average speed you will be visiting the dentist to get your fillings replaced.
Sadly, the visitors’ center was closed. Luckily, they had maps outside so Rio didn’t have to suffer from map deprivation. We scoped out the map and decided a plan of action to see as much as we could while we were there. We headed out for our first hike, which was close to the visitors center. A short walk and there were ruins right in front of us. I paused as I was about to duck through the doorway. There was something special and humbling to be the next in a long line of people to have passed through that doorway. I could imagine the pride and satisfaction with which the builder of this doorway must have felt when they went through it for the first time. I could image how grateful people felt going through that doorway when the weather was bad, so happy to be sheltered. And then how ordinary it became to do so over the centuries that followed.
The Anasazi who built these vast ruins did so over about 300 years, from 850 AD to around 1250 AD. At that time they inexplicably abandoned this center of spirituality, government and commerce. No-one knows why they disappeared or where they went or what happened to them. It must have been something they didn’t anticipate as you don’t build such a remarkable city with the intention of abandoning it.
As we continued to explore the ruins my respect and awe continued to build. The elaborate buildings built with such skill and engineering are a testament to the people that built them. They have far outlasted the modern construction of Fort Bowie which was built with modern tools and methods. The natives here knew how to use the materials around them to build something that would stand the test of time.
While we could have spent more time here it was getting late and we needed to find a place to land for the night. Here I have to give credit to an app called iOverlander. It showed a place not too far called Angel Peak. So we decided to go and give it a look. We found it easily and it was a short drive out a good gravel road. We found a nice little spot and parked Moby and went for a walk to see where we were.
In these reports I feel like I am running out of superlatives. Outstanding, beautiful, awesome, amazing, breath-taking, I feel like I have over used all of them in these reports. I can’t help it though as we are going through some very special places. As we walked up towards a little point I looked over at Angel Peak and was once again stunned and literally stopped in my tracks, struck dumb by the view before me. Off in the distance slightly above us was Angel Peak and about 1,500 feet below us were the most amazing badlands. Angel Peak actually looks more like a medieval fortress to me. It has towers and walls, what looks like a pyramid on one end and a set of stairs that a giant could have used. The badlands are impossible to describe, rough, tortured ground with some many bands of color and hills and washes that you really do just have to see them.
Until we meet again,