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Thread: Tent camping in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

              
   
   
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Portland, OR
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    Default Tent camping in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

    It is an official campground... but not like any I'd ever been to before or since. It is out in the high desert of New Mexico... way off the pavement.

    It is a primitive, pack your own firewood and water kind of place. Now, they is some water available but I'm not so sure about it.

    To get there we went down a dirt road that turned into followed up a natural arroyo. For those not familiar with the term - an arroyo is a dry creek bed which often only flows when heavy rains in the mountains finally make their way out to the desert floor. The are dangerous places because it could be clear skies where you are and raining in the hills. Suddenly, a wall of water will fill the arroyo to the tops of the banks as the water rushes down the sun-baked sides.

    So there we were drying up the dry bed when we were forced to come to a complete stop. Right in front of us was a Brahma bull. He's just standing in the middle of the 12 foot wide arroyo. The sides were vertical to the tune of 3 feet on one side and over 5 on the other. Neither one of us wanted to get out and try to pull a "Crocodile Dundee" on him... so what were we to do? We were easily hours from anyone and really didn't want to back up and try to find another place to camp... so we sat there and waited him out. Seemed like a good time to break for a snack... and little nap. After what seemed like hours (probably no more than 40 minutes) he wondered back up and out of the arroyo.

    When we got to camp, I swear we were the first ones there in the last couple years. It is a remote camping spot way out there in the desert.

    It was quiet... very quiet.. very eerie to not hear birds, frogs, or anything. Really weird because both of us had the strongest feeling that we were being watched. You know the kind where the hair on the back of your neck rises causing you to look around to the source. This sensation came and went.

    When the sun set it lit up the sky with quite possibly the most brilliant and intense horizon I'd ever seen. Simply awe inspiring. As the color faded and dusk set in, I started feeling a little disoriented. Not dizzy.. just like I'd lost my bearing a little. We'd been in the same 20 yard circle for over 4 hours and now that the sun was setting, my camp landmarks seems out of order... or just not quite where I remember them. It was weird. just plain weird.

    If you've never been out hours of driving from any electric lights, it's hard to explain just how bright a clear night sky can be. You could very clearly delineate the Milky way and several constellations. Being in the high arid desert on a clear night meant one thing - the temps were dropping and dropping fast. I loved it! It cooled off quickly making it very easy to fall asleep under the stars.

    The ruins in Chaco Canyon are impressive. It is incredible to see this wall still nearly laser straight for over 100 feet that is thousands of years old and not the tiniest bit of mortar ever used. Very cool place to see and experience. After the third day, I started to lose the feeling that we were under close watch.... but that was only after we were about 15 minutes back down the trail heading back to Albuquerque.

    We found some other great short, legal routes on the way back. We went from the valley floor to the top of the rim here and there. The dirt was red. Not a redish brown but pretty much a red. When we hit some shady areas that were tucked near the canyon walls it, we found muddy patches... ok it's hard to pass by a little mud when your out wheeling... it was just sitting there in the edge of the "road" all legal like and practically daring us to dip a tire or too in the cool muddy edges. What could we do? Just had to give it a try... and that's how we found out just how red mud can be both very slick and very sticky at the same time. I think that stopping somehow made it slipperier. Getting out and walking around to check things out, we learned that the mud would suck in our feet with a fairly firm grip. Throwing down some more rocky dirt from the road behind that front tire helps as we slowly crawled back up onto the dry area of the road. As we climbed up the rim, near the top we came some small ledge rocks that needed to be climbed at a slight angle... well they weren't too bad only a few 4-5 inches but it seemed much easier to hit it one wheel at a time. The view from the top was worth it. We looked out through the pinyon trees over the valley floor to the mesas across the way.

    I've got some photos from the trip packed away somewhere around here..

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Oregon, USA
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    96

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    Quote Originally Posted by AdventureDad View Post
    ...I've got some photos from the trip packed away somewhere around here..
    Unpacked them yet?
    "Speed doesn't kill, suddenly becoming stationary does." - Richard Hammond

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Portland, OR
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    42

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    They didn't make it in the 1st move which mean they are in storage and will be a few more months before they are shipped out here. Will post them when they are here.

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