In the morning we arise and walk. There’s a group of 3 wild dogs running around the campground. One older slow one. One middle aged friendly one. One young, very playful one. The young one and Sherman play a bit. If we were in a place Sherman could run, they’d have a great time.
Back to the van. Eat. Head to Visitor’s Center. I go in for a map and suggestions. I ask the man at the counter where anthropologists think the original people here migrated from? We’re they from the Mesa Verda diaspora? He just said he has no idea, and laughed. OK. Me neither!
There’s one hiking trail into the canyon. But Sherman’s not allowed. So, no hike today. I choose the South Rim because it has more overlooks.
My first look into the canyon. The trees in the distance are a mystery.
We wake with first light, get up and walk to the end of the mesa we’re camped on. Standing there surrounded on 300 degrees by river gorge walls leading down to the San Juan River. It’s an amazing feeling, standing on a little rock point with half mile deep and three-quarter mile wide gorge filling all of peripheral vision. Sherman too is standing still, looking around at the view. We soak in it… We walk along the edge back to the van. The river gorge goes down in steps. The river is about 2000 feet below us. But the dropoff from the cliff we’re walking on is only 20-30 feet to the next layer.
On to Monument Valley. I’ve wanted to go here for decades. Today’s the day…!
We get up and walk the 2 miles into Painted Hand Pueblo.
This is a site with many petrographs. While walking down the road I notice that Sherman is a little on edge. As we’re walking I notice that the bushes growing along the road are mostly blocking his view of anything in the distance, so his other senses are on high alert. I wonder what it looks like from his view, so I hold by phone down at arms length. This is not as close to the ground as his eyes, but about a foot higher at my knee level. So… here’s an approximation of Sherman’s walk on this road.
The trail and jeep roads are calling. We walk for an hour.
Near the van I see a spine on the ground.
We get up, eat, walk, and go to the store/gas area to take a shower. First shower in a week. Though sponge baths work just fine for quite long stretches of time, standing in a hot shower is one of the miracles and pleasures of life!
i take a shower and find this sign posted on the shower door. Careful, weird people are about…
We then head toward The Long House Tour. It’s a 60 minute drive from the campground. This is on a completely different Mesa. So, a new community of dwellings. The drive is a slow, winding mountain road. Much of it along the knife crest of the ridges. The road plus an 8-12 foot shoulder is it! Steeply down on both sides. As we approach the end of the road we see a herd of wild horses. They are not afraid of the cars, but are cautious. I can see about 8 horses. Sherman’s lying down and doesn’t move as I try to act excited. A half mile past the horses is the parking area for The Long House and Step House.
It’s a cold night. The thermometer says 34 degrees in the van. That means it’s mid-20’s outside. There’s a breeze, so I start the van and turn on the heater. When the inside temp hits 50 I get dressed and we hop out — leaving the van running — to walk around the campground loop.
The inside van temp is 62 when we get back. We have breakfast and about 8:30 I head to the Visitor’s Center for tour tickets. The only one still available today is for Balcony House. I get one for 11. Long House is available tomorrow. I take 10 for that one. Unfortunately, Cliff Palace, the most photographed Pueblo structure in the US is closed for repairs until the 26th. So it goes…
Balcony House is an hour drive from here, so we have another hour to stop along the way at other sites.
We stop at Park Point. The highest spot in the park. It’s at 8572 feet.
Looking back toward the entrance.
Last night as I was rearranging boxes in the van I had a flash on where my other winter jacket was. I was right. It was in the box with my pants and shirts. Song I don’t have to be quite as layered to be warm. About this jacket before I came long trail last fall. Assistant. It’s a synthetic Phil Phil F I LL rather than down. I thought I might need it on the long trail since there was a good chance of it being a rainy time. It wasn’t, so I used my down jacket.
This morning I wake to about half an inch of snow on the ground and van and trees and everything! No wonder it’s cold. The van thermometer says it’s 40 degrees. It’s usually about 10 to 12° warmer inside than outside.
We get up and take a quick walk around our part of the campground looking for sites whose reservation list doesn’t include tonite.
I find this home right near our current site.
We awake early.
Where we stayed… Not my typical forest…
Go to Love’s for coffee and wifi. I know I’m headed into an area where I’ll have no signal, so want to download a few podcasts. I’ve been binge listening to “Philosophize This”. The story of Philosophy from the Pre-Socratics to current. Fabulous.
After about the 10th episode, I realize that this is what I would have done if I’d stayed in School. I had a math scholarship to Michigan State. I had no interest in a school that big. I was a very scared, shy, depressed young man at that time. They suggested I consider Oakland University, an experimental college affiliated with MI State. This was a small school with pass-fail grading. I did one semester in Physics, thinking it would be similar to Math. It wasn’t. I couldn’t imaging ever using Calculus. (The drugs probably didn’t help much.) I switched to Philosophy which I loved. And a year later was infected by clay which leads to today and both threads being present.
I check the map to Chaco. Lookup the website and read about the roads. From the south, where we are, there’s a 20 mile dirt road that is sometimes impassable. The northeastern entrance is 16 miles and sometimes impassable. There’s a map that say is important to look at. That relying on a GPS may get you very lost. And they recommend calling for road conditions. I call. I’m told that both roads are pretty good. Ok. We’re headed in from the south.
As I leave I-40 heading north I call a friend. As we’re talking and I loose signal. I turn around and call back. I say that I’m concerned about the dirt road. Sherman acts quite traumatized on bumpy roads. The 20 mile washboard dirt road at Organ Cactus National Monument did him in. If the road’s that bad, I’ll turn around and we’ll go elsewhere. She asks if there’s a pillow on the seat. There is a folded up fleece blanket. I get a towel and wrap my pillow in it then place it on the blanket.
The drive to Seven Sisters where we get on the dirt road is spectacular red cliffs.
It was very windy all night, the gusts rocking the van. At 2 AM Sherman does his typical move from his blanket and curls up behind my knees.
We wake up and I have to solve the morning pee logistics. If we just hop out of the van and pee like we usually do I’ll have to unsticker Sherman’s feet. So my solution this morning is to rearrange the van for driving. Drive a half mile up the road to a lookout point we saw last night. We can walk the perimeter of that paved area –surrounded by stones.
As were getting ready to drive away I realize I can’t find my phone. I haven’t been out of the van. Haven’t opened any of the doors. So it has to be in the van. I do a quick search in the back and don’t find it. OK… Pee first. Phone second.