Next up was a trip to the Bisti Badlands, Chaco Canyon and Shiprock. All I can say is WOW!!!
The Bisti Badlands are so desolate and so beautiful that you can't help but stand in awe of the sheer power of nature. This place is scary. You definitely want to take a compass with you because if you get lost out there, no one will be coming to look for you any time soon. And don't forget water! Those movies where you see the guy crossing the desert and getting turned around and going in circles and running out of water? This is that place. Everything looks virtually the same and that's if you're paying attention. If you're not, well, you're definitely out of luck.
After driving into this wilderness area on roads that are barely passable and go on for miles, we parked and walked another six miles or so - in 90+ degree heat. There was even a guy out there RUNNING! Over hills, over boulders...I thought I was hallucinating, but I got a picture of it, so I guess it was real. Food and wine were definitely in order post visit.
The following day was similar with 90+ degree heat, though not nearly as barren. We went to Chaco Canyon. Again, there are no words adequate enough to describe it. Suffice it to say that I was amazed! After leaving the main highway, we had to travel another 21 miles over roads that were once again, nearly impassable. I keep promising my car that her rough road days are behind her, but I don't think she believes me any more.
Chaco Canyon was once a thriving community - and not a small one. There are a multitude of dwellings, each one more impressive than the next. Especially since these dwellings were built between 800 and 1250 A.D. The most interesting thing is, no one knows where they went. Vanished. Much like the Mayans.
The buildings are huge for the most part with multiple rooms, though the rooms themselves are incredibly tiny. I had to bend nearly double to walk into the rooms - and I thought I was short! It took well over six hours for us to work our way through the ruins and up and down the huge boulders - where there were many petroglyphs as well - and we only made it to the first two sets of ruins after the ranger station! Like I said, this place was a very ginormous community. In addition, it was teeming with wildlife that came right up to us and posed for pictures! It was awesome! Almost like they were welcoming us to their home.
We had planned on coming back that night for the night visit, but we were so exhausted, we decided to make that a separate trip so we could take our time photographing the night sky. Chaco Canyon was recently designated a dark sky park and we want to witness the beauty for ourselves when we're fresh.
On our final day, we decided to go a little further northwest and visit Shiprock. Once again, roads that are in very sad shape, but that lead to some of the most beautiful landscape in the state.
Shiprock is, in reality, the core of a long extinct volcano and is shaped like the bow of a ship. There is a long eruption leading up to the rock - called a spine - where the earth separated and tall walls of rock shot up and still stand today. It is a truly amazing display from Mother Nature.
It is ripe with legend and stands all by its majestic self in the middle of the Navajo Nation. It is unattended and while people used to climb it, that all came to a screeching halt when a climber fell to his death from the vertical cliffs back in the 1970s. It's now believed to be cursed. Queue the twilight zone music...
And finally, the El Malpais National Monument lava flows. If you've ever been to Hawaii and seen the lava flows there, it's pretty amazing. These flows look like they've only been here twenty years, at least according to the Ranger who accompanied us. She studied Volcanology in Hawaii and said the flows there that are twenty years old look the same as the El Malpais flows. However, the El Malpais flows are over 3,000 years old. The reason they look so new is because our climate, unlike Hawaii, is dry with 362 days/year of sun rather than hot and moist, like Hawaii, where the flows age and deteriorate much quicker than ours have.
This landscape is dark, hot and eerie. For miles all you can see is black with intermittent trees and cactus growing up through the lava. Lots of lizards as well. I failed to get as excited as everyone else over elk droppings, but apparently, it's not common to see that on the lava flows. Additionally, it's a bit unnerving to be standing on the edge of a collapsed lava tube wondering if it can hold your weight. I guess if it can hold a full grown elk, it's not a problem for mere humans.
Lastly, if you're standing on a lava flow in the middle of a lightening storm, it would be wise to run...quickly...to an area with no lava. The iron in the lava attracts lightening and you DO NOT want to be there. Unless, of course, crispy critters have some kind of weird appeal to you. Just kidding...
All in all, we've had some very interesting location travels for our Walking Enchantment project. I've seen things I'd never dreamed of, people I didn't know existed, and places that create a need for me to pick my jaw up off the ground because I'm so stunned by the natural beauty. Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with and honestly, I'm so very grateful for the opportunity to have witnessed her strength.
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