Close Encounters of the Sacred Kind

The day I was planning of leaving Santa Fe, an odd family with 4 pitbulls on chains and looking like they might be trafficking meth, moved into the campsite next to mine the night before. Was considering lingering another day, but decided I'd be get on with it.

On the long way around toward Chaco Canyon and around lake Abiquiu, I was behind this old woody station wagon moving along at a real crawl. Figured he was just taking it slow or perhaps the car only went that fast. When it became clear to pass, I made my move. There was a truck coming in the other lane, but plenty of room given the woody's very slow speed. Just as I made my move, the guy floored it and started racing just as the truck approached. I barely made it over avoiding a collision, but I looked over at the guy as I passed. His head as shaved with prison tats. He smirked maniacally as the on-coming truck and I nearly collided. Made me wonder how often alleged road accidents are really accidents and not some crazed maniac using their care as a weapon.

The ride was smooth and so peaceful in that region. I'm told it was a refuge for Georgia O'keefe. It's clear why that area would be magnificent for any painter. Wanted to stop for more images, but I'd read the road into Chaco was a challenge and a storm was coming.

At the turn-off toward Chaco, there was a gas station store where I could get food supplies for 3 nights or so, but I figured I'd just get my campsite then jaunt back to the highway to get food.

There's a sign that says there's only limited camping and to have alternate plans if full. Alternate plans? There's nothing out there so if there was no camping available, I had no other plan. Continued over some extremely rough washboard dirt interspersed with soft powered sand where I almost lost control at least a dozen times. Hoping it was just a mile or so, I pushed on. After about 10 miles of the 17 miles of dirt, I started to panic that if there was no camping I'd have to ride back out on this road. Hit the gas to make time and just gritted my teeth with the intense vibration. Shook a couple bolts out and my handlebars went loose, but I made it and found camping. Very primitive, but serviceable. Only problem is I didn't stop for food and wasn't about to ride that road again until I was leaving. The 4 packs of tuna and can of sardines would have to be rationed.

The park has an energy to it that's hard to describe. It feels peaceful and makes you sort of feel an intense balance. I can see why the Anasazi decided to build here and revered the area as sacred.

Tried to buy some food from some other campers but they felt sorry for me and wouldn't take my money. The extra bag of homemade jerky, a can of tuna, and one evening I even got a couple glasses of chablis and some carrots... all helped to get me through almost 4 days.

The hikes around the area were pretty brutal in the intense sun, especially as I forgot to bring a hat. Had plenty of sunscreen through, so along with not having any showers, I walked around pretty greasy for the duration. The first night of rationing, I drank the oil from my sardines to kill my hunger. It worked, but I also smelled like fish for 4 days.

I figured the fire theme spell was broken for this destination, until the last night. Chaco has an excellent dark sky that presents amazing views of the stars and the staff astronomers often have star parties with their donated large observatory microscope. Just before I left the campground for the star party, I noticed a small group of young folks with a giant blazing fire going at their site. They were all laughing and dancing around wearing red touristy feathered indian headdresses. I thought, "Guess they aren't going to the star party." ;)

Seeing Saturn for the first time through a giant telescope was an incredible experience. You could even see the rings! There were other clusters and nebulas the telescope was pointed at and as I stood in line for my turn, I smelled weed and booze on the breaths of the folks in front of me. It was the partying kids who laughing and playing indian around the campfire.

After a good couple of hours staring at the heavens and asking questions, the days brutal hikes were taking their toll and I needed sleep. I hadn't eaten, but since I was leaving in the morning I figured my last pack of tune would suffice. Still, I with the intense sun and lack of food, I was beginning to feel a bit delirious. My imagination wandered to thoughts of U.F.O.'s and alien/anasazi influence in the sacred Chacoan world. The Hopi say this is the place the ancestors originated up from underground, etc.

As I approached the campground, I noticed some very bizarre lights flickering all over the canyon walls that bordered the primitive campground. At first I thought the imagination and delirium had got the best of me... then pondered my first close encounter with aliens. When my senses took hold, I figured the party kids must be making themselves a little rave out there and brought some lighting with them. But I knew the park host and rangers wouldn't allow anything like that.

When I got close enough to make out the lights, I discovered they were either police or ambulance lights. Someone had likely had a heat stroke or something. They were near my campsite and I pulled up to the party kids in a line in front of a police SUV. They looked pretty scared and were lit up by the police headlights and flashlights. The police marched them to their campsite and took one of them away.

Turns out the dimwits took off from their campsite with their fire still ablaze so they could check out the star party. Thats a big no-no in wild fire season. The police fined them $500 for leaving the fire unattended, busted someone for drug paraphernalia and ticketed them for speeding through the campground. So, no close encounters with aliens this time, but I did feel relief that I wasn't standing in that line-up in front of the police SUV. And, the fire theme at each destination continues.

Really dreaded the ride back out of the canyon on that horrible road. The hunger kept my mind occupied and taking a bit slower while standing up on my pegs a bit more... it was easier getting out than entering for sure. Those first gas station snacks were divine, only beat by the first hot shower in 4 days and cleaning off all the layers of greasy sunscreen, etc.

Found a replacement bolt, tightened up the handlebars, washed all the dirt out of my chain, bought more camp supplies here in Farmington, NM and am ready to get back on the road. Will stop off at the Aztec Ruins National Monument since it's on the way, and will continue to Hovenweep in Utah to camp tonight. After there, it's all tentative, but I've heard good things about camping at the Navajo National Monument. Will update when I get wifi again and will continue updating my Instagram Feed when possible.

If you're enjoying the trip so far, PayPal gratuities are very much welcome via the tip jar link top right. Or, if you'd like to own a signed fine-art print from this trip, check out my patron support options HERE

Below are a few more images made with the Nikon & a rough timelapse sequence I made in the canyon. It's a little shaky due to high winds, but will suffice for now. Will steady it up later. Enjoy.


~ Skip