On Labor Day we returned to Chaco Canyon National Historic Park for the first time in almost eleven years. As soon as we checked in at the visitor center and campground we bicycled into the park. Cycling was a good way to start our visit and open up our senses to the landscape.
The ride from Gallo Campground into the park heads right for Fajada Butte. To glide into Chaco on a bicycle is spectacular. You can sense the ambiance of ancient space and time brushing up with the present. Things are joined together here. The remarkable silence. The wind, light, clouds, earth tones, and architecture past and present are one continuum here.
We stopped on our bikes a few times to explore ruins. Mostly we just enjoyed being enfolded by the cradle of the canyon walls. We saw an elk drinking in the ephemeral stream down the center of the canyon. The climate is harsher, drier now than when Chaco Culture thrived here.
It is a stark and beautiful place. Traveling to Chaco Canyon in a car like we did is not such a sustainable endeavor. But taking out the bicycles, and then spending most of our mornings, days and evenings walking, was the right thing to do. To travel the big distances during this transition time we need outside energy, sometimes oil. Once in place it is good to travel light and camp light. Starting out with a bike ride helped us get the rhythm of the place. Those direct unmediated contacts and immersions in place are how humans are built to interact.
The first night we had monsoons come in during evening and the tips of clouds glowed pinkish red. The clouds seemed all tethered together and hugged in the warmth and humidity. The second night it was clear and the milky way rise was astonishing. Living in Albuquerque we had forgotten what exactly the night sky sans light pollution was like. Stunningly bright with star light. I could stay up all night watching the sky swirl by. Coyotes yipped, whined and howled.
Everywhere we walked details emerged. The architecture of the ruins communicates order. The old roads radiating out like rays of the sun. The cryptobiotic soil textures so intricate and plant communities in symbiotic growth bunch together in tufts like islands in this great Southwestern desert ocean. A yarn of spider web glistens in sunlight on the trail. Sagebrush blooms, shooting tendrils of hopeful flowers in response to the waning monsoon. The sensuous landscape is met by an unending blue sky, with alternating calm and wind.
Here is a map showing light pollution and places with natural skies. Light pollution is a significant factor in celestial visibility. The night sky is something to behold. This is a project we should include in our vision for sustainability, livability and restoration, having dark night skies. It is an important reference and perspective, part of the good life.