Desert Cold, November 2003

Last light falls on the canyon walls near Pueblo Bonito Great House at Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
Last light falls on the canyon walls near Pueblo Bonito Great House at Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
The "Mohedrus," our nickname for a sign at El Comedor steak house, Moriarty, New Mexico
The “Mohedrus,” our nickname for a sign at El Comedor steak house, Moriarty, New Mexico

• The Road from Oklahoma to Chaco Canyon

I drove to Norman, Oklahoma and loaded in David Martin‘s car. We got an early start. As usual, we drove through gloomy weather until we hit the New Mexico border, where the clouds parted. Forecasts for our destination indicated a slight chance of rain. Snow would have been nice.

At the visitor’s center near Tumcumcari, we got materials about all kinds of stuff we don’t have time to see. Next time, next time.

Military truck: NPOKUS. Sign at Cline’s Corners: “Mugs, spoons, shotglasses: huge selection.”

In Moriarty, New Mexico, stopped at El Comedor restaurant to photograph large spiked, rotating sign, later nicknamed “The Mohedrus.”

We camped for two nights at Chaco's Gallo Campground.
We camped for two nights at Chaco’s Gallo Campground.
The author poses at the sign for the Canyon Overlook Trail, one of the shorter trails at Chaco Canyon.
The author poses at the sign for the Canyon Overlook Trail, one of the shorter trails at Chaco Canyon.

We made camp before dark, then hiked the Chaco Canyon Overlook Trail for a brief sunset image.

We made a huge fire and huddled around it for more than two hours.

I spotted this evolving afternoon sky during our first night at Gallo Campground.
I spotted this evolving afternoon sky during our first night at Gallo Campground.
Cairn, Chaco Canyon Overlook Trail
Cairn, Chaco Canyon Overlook Trail
Deep yellow hues decorated trees in Chaco Wash as we made our way to Peñasco Blanco Great House.
Deep yellow hues decorated trees in Chaco Wash as we made our way to Peñasco Blanco Great House.

• Peñasco Blanco, Canyon Overlook

It rained off and on all night, but was dry by morning.

We hiked the Peñasco Blanco Trail, the longest in the canyon, in the morning, in some very unusual light, with a cold wind swirling around us. Peñasco Blanco is an outlier of the main Chacoan community.

Masonry at the Penasco Blanco great house, Chaco Canyon
Masonry at the Penasco Blanco great house, Chaco Canyon
The author poses with some arch-like formations long the Tsin Kletsin trail on South Mesa at Chaco Canyon.
The author poses with some arch-like formations long the Tsin Kletsin trail on South Mesa at Chaco Canyon.

A spur trail took us to the famous Supernova Platograph, which is believed to represent the sighting of the Crab Supernova of July 5, 1054, which was also recorded by Chinese and Arab astronomers, and may have been visible during daylight hours for 23 days after it occurred.

The night at Gallo Campground was very cold.

The legendary Supernova Platograph, Chaco Canyon
The legendary Supernova Platograph, Chaco Canyon
Your host sits on a boulder to enjoy sunset at Chaco's Canyon Overlook Trail.
Your host sits on a boulder to enjoy sunset at Chaco’s Canyon Overlook Trail.

We took another hike to the Canyon Overlook, then drove to last Pueblo Bonito to photograph the sunset on the ruins.

Walls and moon, sunset, Pueblo Bonito
Walls and moon, sunset, Pueblo Bonito
Masonry window, Pueblo Bonito
Masonry window, Pueblo Bonito
Shadow falls on back walls of Pueblo Bonito.
Shadow falls on back walls of Pueblo Bonito.
Stone walls at sunset, Pueblo Bonito great house, Chaco
Stone walls at sunset, Pueblo Bonito great house, Chaco
Looking down Chaco Canyon to the northwest at sunset
Looking down Chaco Canyon to the northwest at sunset
I shot these clouds and cliff looking west about 15 minutes after sunset at Chaco.
I shot these clouds and cliff looking west about 15 minutes after sunset at Chaco.
The Chaco sunset continued to evolve dramatically and elegantly.
The Chaco sunset continued to evolve dramatically and elegantly.
David poses at the top of the canyon rim above Casa Rinconada.
David poses at the top of the canyon rim above Casa Rinconada.

• Tsin Kletsin and Wijiji

Pearl blue skies and bright sun greeted us for this morning’s hike to Tsin Kletsin, one of the best in the canyon. We made the loop, starting at Casa Rinconada, and returning via the south gap. We have now hiked every trail in Chaco Canyon.

After lunch we broke camp, then hiked Wijiji, one of the lonelier trails in the canyon, under perfectly blue skies.

The trail to the Wijiji Great House passes quite close to Chaco Wash.
The trail to the Wijiji Great House passes quite close to Chaco Wash.
David stands under a stone in gap on the easternmost trail at Chaco's Wijiji Great House.
David stands under a stone in gap on the easternmost trail at Chaco’s Wijiji Great House.
Most of the Wijiji trail follows a service road.
Most of the Wijiji trail follows a service road.

• Aztec Ruins and Angel Peak

Aztec Ruins National Monument; I shot more and better than I expected, including some interesting black-and-white. Amidst cold air and blue skies, I shot the cliché view inside the great kiva.

Window in the great kiva, Aztec Ruins
Window in the great kiva, Aztec Ruins
Restored kiva, Aztec Ruins National Monument
Restored kiva, Aztec Ruins National Monument
Your host poses at a doorway at Aztec Ruins National Monument.
Your host poses at a doorway at Aztec Ruins National Monument.
The reconstructed great kiva at Aztec Ruins National Monument, Aztec, New Mexico
The reconstructed great kiva at Aztec Ruins National Monument, Aztec, New Mexico
David poses for a photo on a gas well access road at the bottom of the slopes below Angel Peak.
David poses for a photo on a gas well access road at the bottom of the slopes below Angel Peak.

We spent the rest of the day at Angel Peak Recreation Area, which we found to be visually very interesting, but lacking in trails and facilities. We hiked to the bottom of some canyons and arroyos before positioning ourselves for sunset.

Intricately eroded alkalized soil carved from Kirtland Shale and the Nacimiento Formation stretch to the horizon at Angel Peak National Recreation Area, New Mexico.
Intricately eroded alkalized soil carved from Kirtland Shale and the Nacimiento Formation stretch to the horizon at Angel Peak National Recreation Area, New Mexico.
Although there are no marked trails, we hiked some distance amidst the erosions at Angel Peak. We found the experience hauntingly lonely.
Although there are no marked trails, we hiked some distance amidst the erosions at Angel Peak. We found the experience hauntingly lonely.
The moon rose behind us as we awaited the golden moment at Angel Peak.
The moon rose behind us as we awaited the golden moment at Angel Peak.
This view of Angel Peak looks west-northwest from atop the ridge.
This view of Angel Peak looks west-northwest from atop the ridge.
Angel Peak is visible as the peak on the left as sunset approaches.
Angel Peak is visible as the peak on the left as sunset approaches.
These prominences similar to Angel Peak are just to the east.
These prominences similar to Angel Peak are just to the east.
This tighter view of Angel Peak was made at last light.
This tighter view of Angel Peak was made at last light.

• The Road East

At the “Plague Town,” made better pictures than the last two times combined.

Odd event, near the New Mexico-Texas border: we saw state troopers stop the entire flow of traffic in the opposite direction on I-40. About five minutes later, they stopped all traffic in our direction of travel. After about 15 minutes, with no explanation, they opened our direction.

The signature formation of Chaco Canyon, Fajada Butte, and a cold desert sky after sunset
The signature formation of Chaco Canyon, Fajada Butte, and a cold desert sky after sunset
Mission graveyard south of Farmington, New Mexico; I consider this one of my most successful photographs from the American southwest.
Mission graveyard south of Farmington, New Mexico; I consider this one of my most successful photographs from the American southwest.
Stop sign at sunset, northwest New Mexico.
Stop sign at sunset, northwest New Mexico.
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