Vanishing Point, November 2001

Sunrise on the Bisti Highway, northwestern New Mexico
Sunrise on the Bisti Highway, northwestern New Mexico

Since my visit to Chaco Canyon in 2000, I have been drawn to that place, and the mystery that it holds. Something about its remote, elegant, lonely beauty calls to me, but I cannot explain what or why. From almost the day I left in 2000, I had wondered about returning, and I decided that since I would like to be in the canyon at sunrise and sunset, I would need to camp. When I explained this to David Martin, he said, “Invite me!” I also thought it would be a far more compelling experience if I visited in November. For one thing, it seemed unlikely that the area would be crowded in November.

We borrowed a friend’s tent and camp stove, and set out very early in the morning of Sunday, November 4, 2001.

At our Gallo Campground site
At our Gallo Campground site

• Drive from Oklahoma to Chaco Canyon

We set up camp without problems. We were one of just four occupants of Chaco’s 49-site Gallo Campground.

It was a perfectly still, cold night. I tried a two-hour star trace photo. Coyotes woke us up at about 4 am.

This structure is typical of the intricate masonry that was constructed by the inhabitants of Chaco between A. D. 800 and A. D. 1300.
This structure is typical of the intricate masonry that was constructed by the inhabitants of Chaco between A. D. 800 and A. D. 1300.
Rear wall of Pueblo Bonita, Chaco
Rear wall of Pueblo Bonita, Chaco
Window in Shadow, Afternoon, Pueblo Bonita, Chaco
Window in shadow, afternoon, Pueblo Bonita, Chaco
Large Stone and Crack, North Wall of Chaco Canyon
Large stone and crack, north wall of Chaco Canyon
Masonry and Dry Grass, Pueblo Bonita, Chaco
Masonry and dry grass, Pueblo Bonita, Chaco

• Pueblo Alto and Wijiji

On the Pueblo Alto trail
On the Pueblo Alto trail

Breakfast was couscous with trail mix. We made a long, productive, fun hike to Pueblo Alto with muted grey but beautiful light.

In the afternoon, we hiked the Wijiji trail and ruins, which were very beautiful and lonely.

Sunset shot at Fajada Butte.

The Pueblo Alto trail Passes through this narrow crack in the north wall of Chaco early in the loop.
The Pueblo Alto trail Passes through this narrow crack in the north wall of Chaco early in the loop.
Chacra Mesa and Fajada Butte, sunset
Chacra Mesa and Fajada Butte, sunset

• Breaking Camp and Aztec Ruins

It was a warmer night due to showers and cloud cover all night – clear by dawn.

We hiked some of the shorter Chaco trails. Beautiful light and sky, with moon in lots of my frames.

We broke camp around noon and headed for Aztec Ruins. Nice afternoon, but didn’t shoot a lot.

Ancient masonry walls, Chaco Canyon
Ancient masonry walls, Chaco Canyon

• Bisti Wilderness then Mesa Verde National Park

We were up very early in the morning in Farmington for the drive to Bisti Wilderness. It is one of the most amazing places I have ever photographed.

Hoodoo and eroded Kirtland shale, northern Bisti Wildernes, New Mexico.
Hoodoo and eroded Kirtland shale, northern Bisti Wildernes, New Mexico.
Boulder field and wash, Bisti.
Boulder field and wash, Bisti.
Pinnacle and stratocumulus, morning, Bisti.
Pinnacle and stratocumulus, morning, Bisti.
Bleached erosions and embedded hoodoos, morning, Bisti Wilderness.
Bleached erosions and embedded hoodoos, morning, Bisti Wilderness.

We had lunch back in Farmington, then drove to Mesa Verde National Park across the border in Colorado. It was very beautiful, particularly light and shadow in the burned areas from recent forest fires

David at Mesa Verde
David at Mesa Verde
Wildfire damage along the Knife Edge formation, Mesa Verde
Wildfire damage along the Knife Edge formation, Mesa Verde
Square Tower House just after sunset, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.
Square Tower House just after sunset, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.
Cliff Palace, afternoon, Mesa Verde
Cliff Palace, afternoon, Mesa Verde

• San Juan Mountains, Taos, and Sandia Peak, then the Long Drive Home

We drove the long way home, starting with a snowstorm in the San Juan Mountains where we saw the truck in front of us spin out and crash.

South through Taos where we decided we wouldn’t pay to see Rancho de Taos. Drove to the top of Sandia Crest, where it was SO cold!

Long drive home. It was an excellent trip.

Other possible names for this trip:

Your host poses at the Kin Kletso Great House, Chaco Canyon
Your host poses at the Kin Kletso Great House, Chaco Canyon

  • Anasazi Gold Grab
  • Chaco Taco
  • Treasure Among the Ruins
  • Triumph of the Will
  • Cheap Beer and Mexican Hookers 2001
  • In Search of the Granola Chick
  • Gotta P 2K+1
  • Doobiewagon
  • Butts and Buttes Tour
  • Welcome to Camp Lobotomy
  • We’re Sleeping in That?
  • Koyaanisqatsi
  • Desert Porno Bush
  • Clowns of Enchantment
  • Just Me, My Skills, and My Knife
  • Tiny Bladder Tour
  • New Mexico: A Good Place to Pee

Desert near Cortez, Colorado
Desert near Cortez, Colorado
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