This was a hike that I originally planned on doing barefoot, but my soles were still a little tender, so I went with a pair of moccasins.
And discarded them pretty quickly.
The Tzin Kletzin hike was on the south side of Chaco Canyon; the Pueblo Alto hike is on the north side, and starts behind the Kin Kletso ruins.
Here’s a map of the hike (click for a more readable version).
The trail starts by heading up a narrow crack in the canyon wall.
Once up top, there are spectacular views of the whole Canyon. This is a view of the side canyon that starts out the Tzin Kletzin hike.
Continuing along, the trail heads east to the overlook with Pueblo Bonito, the largest complex of buildings at Chaco Canyon.
As you can see, I already shed my moccasins by this point.
Podiatrists are often quoted in articles with the ridiculous claim that our feet just didn’t develop to walk on concrete (and thereby need support). What poppycock. Almost the entire hike was on this surface, and it was heaven. What is difficult to do barefoot and which leads to being a bit footsore is the gravelly trails, not pure bare rock. There was a bit of the gravelly stuff, but not much at all.
So I took off the moccasins and was the happier for it.
Here’s a better view of the Pueblo Bonito complex.
The trail then headed up to an even higher level of the canyon. Once again, there was a very narrow cleft I had to climb.
From the top, there was a good view to the east of Fajada Butte.
Also notice the stone cairn. In the east, where there are trees, cairns are cute, because they are not necessary. Out here, there simply are no trees. No trees at all. On the bare rock, the only way to mark a trail is with a cairn. And somebody did a nice job of marking the trail with them.
Here I am at the edge, looking back over the trail I’d already come along, only one level of rock below.
The Chaco people were very creative in climbing these mesas. For Jackson Staircase they carved footholds into the rock. I think I could still climb them (except that off-trail hiking is not allowed).
Finally, Pueblo Alto came into view.
The well-defined structure is New Alto. Pueblo Alto has not survived so well—it’s that lump to the right. (Up close, you can see the ruins.)
Getting near the end of the hike, I had a couple ask me if the rocks weren’t hot (obviously referring to my bare feet). No, they weren’t. As I explained to them, the rocks reflected most of the sun. No, the fine dust was hot. I think that the sunlight can penetrate a bit between the particles and then not reflect, so the dust heats up more.
At the end of the hike (5.4 miles), it was time to descend again through that crack. I met a nice German family coming up, who were interested in my barefoot hiking. The mother even wanted to check out my soles: “Oh, not thick at all.”
Here’s the crack from near the top.
And here’s an artsy shot most of the way through.
All in all, I think this is my favorite hike so far.