Go to Another Vacation
Southwest - May 2004
Canyon de Chelly
Canyon de Chelly
The flight to Arizona was uneventful, which is a good thing. Once again, Southwest Air takes good care of us and we and our luggage make it there in one piece.
Rental Car situations always tend to be a problem. one of the rental Enterprises rented out the last small 4x4 that we reserved for camping out of the back in. They tried to rent us something enormous with seats that come out so we could sleep, but they would not let us leave the spare seats with them. Then they tried to rent us a mini van with a low ride which would be a really bad idea for some of these roads, so we went to Hertz to bail us out and we got exactly what we needed for a bit more, but well worth it.
We stopped at Walmart to get the food we would need for the rest of the trip, and then tried to decide where we should go first. The original plan was to go to Petroglyph National Park then next day and then up to Bandelier. We changed our minds and decided to go ni the direction of canyon de Chelly instead.
A few truck stops later we happened upon Red Rock Campground and crawled into the back of the Blazer and slept peacefully.
Since we got locked out of the restrooms at the campground overnight, we left pretty early to find the nearest rest stop. The early drive was beautiful, with the flowers in bloom all through the desert landscapes.
We made a stop at the Hubbell Trading Post, which was a short stop, and then continued on to Canyon de Chelly.
When we arrived at Canyon de Chelly, we went to the Visitor's Center and signed up for a guide into the park. This park is different in that you can not go inside without a Navajo Guide whose family lives in the canyon. Without a guide, one can still travel the rim and see wonderful views of the canyon below and the cliff house ruins, or take the White House Trail. Seeing the canyon from inside was the real treat, though.
We camped that night at the campground at Canyon de Chelly. Free and with restrooms. No showers, but free.
We did the White House Trail (two thumbs up) and drove the Canyon de Chelly rim in the morning and drove our to Mesa Verde via Shiprock in the evening.
Clearly, there is a road that goes up to shiprock. We saw a car do just that with our binoculars. We watched as we sat ni the middle of nowhere on a criss cross of dirt paths in the desert. Glad we had 4x4, but did not want to take any risks as it was not our car, so we admired the tower from afar.
Camping at Mesa Verde appears to be pretty luxurious, albeit expensive. We got to the gates as the park was closing and decided to stay in town for the evening instead and find out what Sonic was all about. Probably should have stayed in the park, but we did have a fun evening in town.
We decided to try Denny's Diner for breakfast because the park was not open yet. Having eaten enough calories for the week in one meal, we were ready to take on anything.
We made our first stop at the Mesa Verde Visitor's Center which is a LONG way up from the front entrance. At the Visitor's Center, you can get tickets to the cliff house tours. We bought tickets for Cliff Palace and Balcony House. Both tours we would recommend to anyone not afraid of heights and healthy to do some stairs and ladders at a high altitude.
We then went and hiked the Petroglyph Trail which we loved, and then did the rim tour and saw beautiful sites like Square Tower Ruin from above.
We left late in the evening trying to make it to Chaco Culture to camp for the night. It was a long drive and we missed a turn and it was way past late so we paid too much to stay at a Super 8 along the way that had banging pipe problems all night. We reminded ourselves this was not meant to be the highlight of the trip and that we could camp the following evening.
It almost seems wrong to have notice the flowers first in a park that holds so much history and beauty, but the flowers were blooming like mad. Chaco Culture National Historic Park is an excellent park, albeit tiny and difficult to get to. The have two focuses, the obvious focus no the culture of the people before us, and the second is astronomy. If you ever go, call ahead to see if you can plan to be there on a night they do the astronomy talks. The have a huge telescope that is unimaginable to us. Very impressive.
We did two hikes that day, the Wijiji Trail and the Pueblo Alto Trail. We are sorry that we did not do any of the shorter petroglyph and ruin walks and hope to return one day to do so. Maybe on a night we can see the telescope!
An unusually large amount of visitors were camping that week so there were no camp spots left at the park. It was too bad as the campground looked comfortable and we could do some more walks. Because we had nowhere to stay, we decided to that the long long drive to Bandelier National Park and camp there.
Per the Chaco Ranger's recommendation, we stoped at El Bruno's Restaurant and Cantina. The food was excellent, atmosphere was very nice, wish the service was a bit better, but the food made up for it. We recommend this as a stop if you ever find yourself in the area.
We drove for several more hours through the mountains and found a mostly vacant campground with bathrooms. A very welcome site! (no showers again, but still a good place).
Tough we had never hear of Bandelier until a few weeks before our trip, apparently the rest of the world knows this park. Busloads of students and tour groups take the beautiful drive out to the park and often include the Main Loop Trail just behind the visitor's center as it is paved and low grades. The trail brings you up close to the ruins that were built against pockets in the cliff. We were fortunate to get up early after a night in a beautiful campsite at the park.
We also went and did the Kiva Hike which was neat for those who like ladders. But the best part for us was the Tsankawi Trail. It was the icing on the cake as far as the day went. From there we continued back to Albuquerque in search of Petroglyph National Park - finally!
We found Petroglyph National Monument squeezed in between many developments. The preservation of the petroglyphs in this park was amazing considering the setting. So may people are respecting the history in this park.
The ranger set us up with maps of the park, a plan for the afternoon, a place to camp in the evening (a KOA that had a campsite with electric hookup to charge my camera batteries) and maps for hiking the following day while handling several other visitors at the same time. Well done!
We went to the Boca Negra Canyon which contained the short trails in the park and made it to each of them before the park closed for the evening. We then found our way to the KOA and settled in for the evening.
We spent our whole day visiting different sections of Petroglyph National Park with a break in the middle of the day to go to the Pueblo Culture Museum for lunch and the museum.
Our first hike was in Rinconada Canyon which contained petroglyphs at every turn along a flat desert path.
We then drove back out to route 40 and up to the old volcano cones. The flowers blooming out there were astounding and added an aspect to the hike we would not have experienced any other time of the year. The bees seemed to like it as well.
The final trail we went to hike is a far section of the park called Piedras Marcadas Canyon. This petroglyph site is where we had to park at a development where a parking lot was still being constructed. It was a long walk and some of the petroglyphs were hard to spot at first, but with binoculars and patience we had a great time.
We tried our best to get a balloon ride over Albuquerque by getting up at the most ungodly of hours and being packed and ready to go, but the wind worked against up and the danger of going up increased. The operator of the balloon had to refund us and bring us back to the hotel.
We decided to brighten our day by visiting a ruin site before the flight out. We visited Coronado State Monument. An hour to visit is all you need. It helped round our lesson in Pueblo history and culture and made for a nice stop.