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 Road from Oklahoma to Chaco Canyon

I drove to Norman, Oklahoma and loaded in David Martin‘s Saturn. 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.

David drives his Saturn on Interstate 40 on our way to New Mexico.
David drives his Saturn on Interstate 40 on our way to New Mexico.

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.”

The "Mohedrus" was our nickname for a sign at El Comedor steak house in Moriarty, New Mexico.
The “Mohedrus” was our nickname for a sign at El Comedor steak house in Moriarty, New Mexico.
We camped for two nights at Chaco's Gallo Campground.
We camped for two nights at Chaco’s Gallo Campground.
This view looks south from the cliff above our Gallo Campground camp site.
This view looks south from the cliff above our Gallo Campground camp site.
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.
This very large ring cairn was constructed at the top of the cliff about the campground on the Chaco Canyon Overlook Trail.
This very large ring cairn was constructed at the top of the cliff about the campground on the Chaco Canyon Overlook Trail.
David takes a moment to pose near the end of the Chaco Canyon Overlook Trail.
David takes a moment to pose near the end of the Chaco Canyon Overlook Trail.
Fajada Butte is visible from the Chaco Canyon Overlook trail.
Fajada Butte is visible from the 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.

• Casa Chiquita, Peñasco Blanco, and 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. The trail took us past the Casa Chiquita great house. Peñasco Blanco is an outlier of the main Chacoan community.

The canyon wall on the Peñasco Blanca trail included pictographs and Cliff Swallow nests.
The canyon wall on the Peñasco Blanca trail included pictographs and Cliff Swallow nests.
With cloudy skies and subdued light, I chose to shoot several items, like this masonry at Casa Chiquita great house, in black and white.
With cloudy skies and subdued light, I chose to shoot several items, like this masonry at Casa Chiquita great house, in black and white.
Cold light streams through a masonry window at the Peñasco Blanco Great House at Chaco Canyon.
Cold light streams through a masonry window at the Peñasco Blanco Great House at Chaco Canyon.
I photographed this puddle and sandstone formations near the Peñasco Blanco Great House at Chaco Canyon.
I photographed this puddle and sandstone formations near the Peñasco Blanco Great House at 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 many days after it occurred.

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.

This view shows Chacra Mesa and Gallo Wash from Chaco Canyon Overlook trail.
This view shows Chacra Mesa and Gallo Wash from Chaco Canyon Overlook trail.
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.
The signature formation of Chaco Canyon, Fajada Butte, and a cold desert sky after sunset, are visible in this view made near the Visitor Center.
The signature formation of Chaco Canyon, Fajada Butte, and a cold desert sky after sunset, are visible in this view made near the Visitor Center.

The night at Gallo Campground was very cold.

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.

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

I have now hiked every trail in Chaco Canyon.

The Tsin Kletsin trail starts at the Casa Rinconada Great House.
The Tsin Kletsin trail starts at the Casa Rinconada Great House.
Your host poses at the Casa Rinconada Great House.
Your host poses at the Casa Rinconada Great House.
A lone tree juts from the lonely desert landscape on the Tsin Kletsin trail at Chaco Canyon.
A lone tree juts from the lonely desert landscape on the Tsin Kletsin trail at Chaco Canyon.
David prowls the partially-excavated ruins of the Tsin Kletsin Great House.
David prowls the partially-excavated ruins of the Tsin Kletsin Great House.
Bright, clear November light shines on this plant on the Tsin Keltsin trail at Chaco Canyon.
Bright, clear November light shines on this plant on the Tsin Keltsin trail at Chaco Canyon.
A handsome Cliff House sandstone boulder stands in afternoon sunshine on the Tsin Kletsin trail at Chaco Canyon.
A handsome Cliff House sandstone boulder stands in afternoon sunshine on the Tsin Kletsin trail at Chaco Canyon.
The Tsin Kletsin trail descends from South Mesa into South Gap, forming a lonely, open-desert journey.
The Tsin Kletsin trail descends from South Mesa into South Gap, forming a lonely, open-desert journey.
This view shows the wall of South Gap, the canyon that forms the end of the clockwise loop of the Tsin Kletsin trail at Chaco.
This view shows the wall of South Gap, the canyon that forms the end of the clockwise loop of the Tsin Kletsin trail at Chaco.
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.
This view from the Wijiji trail shows Chaco Wash and Fajada Butte.
This view from the Wijiji trail shows Chaco Wash and Fajada Butte.
These massive Cliff House Sandstone blocks are common along the Wijiji trail.
These massive Cliff House Sandstone blocks are common along the Wijiji trail.
David found this clipboard at Wijiji, which we believed was a Park Service map of the rooms of the Great House. We put it back where we found it.
David found this clipboard at Wijiji, which we believed was a Park Service map of the rooms of the Great House. We put it back where we found it.
We notes several small arches near the Wijiji Great House.
We notes several small arches near the Wijiji Great House.
Most of the Wijiji trail follows a service road.
Most of the Wijiji trail follows a service road.
Your host poses at a doorway at Aztec Ruins National Monument.
Your host poses at a doorway at Aztec Ruins National Monument.

• 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
The author makes pictures at Aztec Ruins National Monument on a very cold afternoon.
The author makes pictures at Aztec Ruins National Monument on a very cold afternoon.
Restored kiva, Aztec Ruins National Monument
Restored kiva, Aztec Ruins National Monument
David's legs appear in doorways as her walks through Aztec Ruins National Monument.
David’s legs appear in doorways as her walks through 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.

Since we were at the bottom of the basic at Angel Peak during the middle of the day, the formations looked more commanding to me in black and white.
Since we were at the bottom of the basic at Angel Peak during the middle of the day, the formations looked more commanding to me in black and white.
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 sky was clear and the light was bright and contrasty as we hiked around the basin below Angel Peak.
The sky was clear and the light was bright and contrasty as we hiked around the basin below Angel Peak.
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.
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.
This is another view from the ridge near Angel Peak.
This is another view from the ridge near Angel Peak.
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.
David shows patience with the cold weather as we wait for sunset at Angel Peak.
David shows patience with the cold weather as we wait for sunset at Angel Peak.
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.
Years earlier we nicknamed this spot the "Plague Town" because it could be the set for a movie about a plague that destroyed humanity. In actuality, it is an abandoned restaurant, gas station and frontier museum.
Years earlier we nicknamed this spot the “Plague Town” because it could be the set for a movie about a plague that destroyed humanity. In actuality, it is an abandoned restaurant, gas station and frontier museum.

• The Road East

At the “Plague Town,” which is actually an abandoned service station and frontier museum, I made better pictures than the last two visits combined.

Light fills the windows of a garage door at the abandoned service station at the "Plague Town."
Light fills the windows of a garage door at the abandoned service station at the “Plague Town.”
This is the exterior of the service station at the "Plague Town."
This is the exterior of the service station at the “Plague Town.”
Some windows remained intact, but the mirror in which I shot a self-portrait in 2000 could not be found.
Some windows remained intact, but the mirror in which I shot a self-portrait in 2000 could not be found.
While having lunch in Albuquerque, we spotted and photographed this artistically-rendered wall and door.
While having lunch in Albuquerque, we spotted and photographed this artistically-rendered wall and door.

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.

We spotted this mission graveyard south of Farmington, New Mexico. I consider this one of my most successful photographs from the American southwest.
We spotted this mission graveyard south of Farmington, New Mexico. I consider this one of my most successful photographs from the American southwest.
I shot this stop sign at the intersection of the Angel Peak road with U.S. 550 near Bloomfield, New Mexico.
I shot this stop sign at the intersection of the Angel Peak road with U.S. 550 near Bloomfield, New Mexico.
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