Later in the day (August 16) after seeing Una Vida, I hiked the South Mesa Trail to Tsin Kletsin.
This was a trail I’d hiked before.
I hiked the South Mesa Trail back when I was at Chaco in 2012. For some reason, that time I hiked the trail backwards (compared to the usual trail guide direction). You can see that here. But this time I did it “properly”.
Here’s the official map that shows the South Mesa area.
The trail itself is a bit “messier” than depicted, though. Here’s a topo map that can give a better feel for what the trail does.
As you can see, it starts off by ascending the cliff face (and it sends one through a narrow crack to do so). Once you get up on top, there is a very nice view across the canyon.
Here’s a labeled version of that same picture, showing the various structures labeled on the official map.
[As always, click on the pictures for much larger and clearer versions.]
It was a great place to take a couple of zoomed pictures. Here’s the Great Kiva at Casa Rinconada.
While my arrow points to this as “Casa Rinconada”, Casa Rinconada is actually the whole complex. In fact, “Casa Rinconada” means “Cornered House” or “House with Corners”, and a kiva definitely doesn’t fit that description.
The Great Kiva has some nice solar alignments to it. First, it is aligned with the equinoxes (today! and in fact there’s a special program today at Chaco). There are also cubbyholes/insets in the walls of the Great Kiva, and there are alignments with some of those and the solstices.
From that overlook above the canyon there is also a nice view of Pueblo Bonito.
Turning the other direction and hiking a bit, Tsin Kletsin was off in the distance.
From there you can also turn back around for another view. From here, the canyon almost disappears. It’s just a narrow line in the distance. But if you know where to look, you can still see Pueblo Alto on the high ground on the other side of the canyon.
(It’s to the far right in this picture.)
Or here’s the zoomed version.
That’s Pueblo Alto on the right, and “New” Alto on the left. It’s “new” since it was among the last construction (late 1100s) before Chaco Canyon was abandoned. Compare that to Pueblo Alto (built early 1000s).
And here I am as I go closer to Tsin Kletsin.
After passing Tsin Kletsin, the trail heads off to the west (look again at the topo map, above) and heads down a small canyon on the side of South Mesa.
I really like this picture. It lets you see how the trail works its way to the little saddle that connects the two higher points. Also notice the rock cairn to help mark the trail.
You can get a better feel from the topography with this image from the Bing Maps aerial view.
Tsin Kletsin is visible in the lower right. The trail takes that narrow neck halfway to the west, then heads down into that U-shaped canyon.
It stays along that small ridge heading north, then turns west to run through the gap.
One thing I found rather amusing about this hike is that, the next day one of the rangers in the Visitor’s Center told me that she’d pretty much tracked me hiking about an hour later. Since I’d been there a few days, many of the rangers came to recognize me and my barefooting ways, so she knew it was me. It’s kind of hard not to make distinguishable footprints when you are the only barefoot hiker around.