I know I’ve been quite slow updating here. But I am (slowly) moving along. Now I’m up to August 19, 2016 at Chaco Canyon. That day I hiked out to the Wijiji ruins.
Actually, the early part of the day was spent at the Ranger Station. I’d taken a bunch of pictures of those barn owls and the rangers wanted to put them in their local newsletter. And I had also talked a fair bit to one of their volunteers, and he was really interested in all of my topographical maps. Thus, I spent much of the morning collecting them all and getting them onto a flash drive for him.
I was also trying to take things a bit easy. I had a couple of cracks in my soles that were starting to bother me.
You’d think that all of my hiking preparation would have strengthened my soles sufficiently. Two mistakes there: First, if you don’t train exactly for what you do in the main event, you can have a weakness. And up towards Pueblo Alto, there were a bunch of sandstone surfaces that were tilted (often at fairly extreme angles). That put a sideways pressure on my feet that they were not sufficiently used to and that led to the cracks across the balls of my feet. Second, I’d forgotten about the extremely dry conditions out west and I let my feet dry out. That made them more likely to crack.
Anyways, the path to Wijiji was pretty much simple sand and an easy hike. I just had to make sure that, at the end, I washed out any small sand particles that snuck their way into the cracks on the balls of my feet.
So, here’s the map of the trail from the campground to Wijiji.
In all of my other visits to Chaco Canyon, I hadn’t hiked to Wijiji before. When I completed this, I’d hiked all of the available trails there.
The trail itself was an old road that led up the Chaco Wash. Pulling up a (sunset) picture I’ve shown from my first day at Chaco, you can see the road coming in from the left and then heading up-canyon towards Wijiji.
Here’s what the road looks like in mid-afternoon at ground level.
I’m sure you’re able to spot Fajada Butte in the distance (and before making the sharp left to head up-canyon).
After the left turn, you can see another side canyon to the north.
The Wijiji trail is fairly short, only about 1.5 miles one way. As you approach, you can see the ruins in the distance.
And even closer.
The trail loops around the ruins. There are distinct, separated areas of preservation that you can see from this overhead (via Bing Maps).
This is what that looks like from ground level, at the southeast corner looking northwest.
In the overhead view, you can see the extra trail heading to the east. That heads an additional quarter mile to some petroglyphs (which seem to be a theme on this trip for me). Here I am in front of them.
I know. You can’t see the petroglyphs in this picture (unless you know exactly where to look). They’re on a flat rock face above and to the right of me.
Here’s a close-up.
Some of those are not petroglyphs, but are pictographs instead. Petroglyphs are carved in to the rock; pictographs are painted onto the the rock. It is the dry and sheltered conditions that have preserved the pictographas as well as they have.
Can you see the hands on the right (and another one in the lower left)? Hands seem to be very popular in petroglyphs. I got to wondering: do they ever do feet?
Yes. In fact, I even have a picture that I took when I was at Chaco Canyon 3 years ago, along the Peñasco Blanco trail.
You can see it in the upper right.
After heading back along the petroglyph spur, I got this panoramic, stitched shot looking even farther up the canyon.
[Of course, click for much larger version.]
According to my topo map, the Shabikeshchee ruins are supposed to be up that way, so I took a few zoomed pictures to see if I could spot them later. From last I can tell, the last time the Park Service conducted a tour there was in 2007. (Being off-trail, visitors are prohibited from visiting them otherwise.)
I think I can see where they are in this picture.
They’re atop that mesa mid-left in the picture, but they really don’t show up at all. There is another set of ruins in the valley in front of them, though, that seem to be visible. Look for the fairly large mound right in the middle of the picture (slightly to the right). I suspect those are the unexcavated ruins.
I then headed back, this time skirting the north wall of the Wijiji ruins.
Getting much closer to the trailhead, I could look across (and really zooming my camera) and see the Gallo Campground.
The trailers are the campground Hosts, and behind them you can see the restroom. My tent is invisible back behind and around to the left.
This was the end of my stay at Chaco Canyon. Fabulous visit. The next morning I headed out the south road on my way to the Grand Canyon.
But there was a reminder of what I’d already seen. Driving out the next morning I had a view of Mt. Taylor about 50 miles off in the distance.