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New Mexico/Arizona: The Arizona Desert and Anasazi Ruins
June 9 - 21, 1999

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Pagosa Hot Springs

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Taos Petroglyph

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Dragon Masthead on our Raft

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Bandalier Kiva

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Pueblo Bonito at Chaco

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Hmmmm... Wonder if its real...

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The Painted Desert

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Painted Desert Badlands

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Agate Bridge, Petrified Log

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Boynton Canyon

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Sedona Chapel

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Petrified Tree

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Painted Desert Views (click one)

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Dwellings (center of pic) in Canyon de Chelly

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Canyon at Mesa Verde

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See ya in Utah!


June 9 - 11 - I lied.  I actually didn't leave Colorado right away.   I just HAD to stop at Pagosa Springs before heading into New Mexico.  Pagosa Springs is a beautiful little tourist town.  A number of folks keep vacation homes there, but most come to partake of the wonderful sulfur hot springs and for their healing powers.   Of course, once again, I had to hit the hot springs, and at  $10 for unlimited time (and open 24 hours a day), I could cook myself into a prune for as long as I liked.   "The Springs", as the establishment is called, had kind of a cheesy setup.  They had various pools scattered about for you to choose from ranging from 97 degrees up to 105 or thereabouts.  Each one was like a swimming pool... paved and somewhat sterilized for your bathing pleasure, but the wonderful natural mineral/sulfur stench permeated the entire place.  No chlorine in these pools!  As I kicked back in the relatively mild "Tranquility Pool", I had a conversation with some women who were building a home nearby.  As my skin started to shriveled up, they explained to me how they found where to sink the well on their new property... divining.  I guess that art isn't lost after all!  I managed about 3 hours in their pools while bathing through a beautiful sunset on the adjacent river.  I came out feeling tired, but wonderful.

After a night in the nearby National Forest, I updated my web pages from an ISP in Pagosa Springs.  Then it was off to Taos (long drive...).  Once in Taos, I dropped by the local bike shop to figure out where to ride near Taos.  I copied some stuff off of a map they had hoping I'd be able to figure out something from my scribblings later.  I spent the night right next to the trailhead and hit the trail in the morning.  FS 164 they called it... kind of non-descript, but the trail itself was great.  Starting in Garcia Park, I headed West through the Aspens and pines.   Beautiful forest, and no snow in sight... even though I was up at 10,000 feet.   I found this beautiful alpine meadow and sang "Climb Every Mountain" from The Sound of Music at the top of my lungs while my camera snapped a self-timer photo.   I passed some bikers on the ride who said that the ride I had chosen was one of the BEST in the area... and I literally just guessed after looking at a map!  A fantastic ride... 

Afterwards, I actually had to take care of some business.  I started this trip with 69,330 miles reading on the odometer of the rig.  I was already over 3000 miles since the start of my trip and it was oil change time... the odometer read 73,432 as I pulled into the oil change station.  Afterwards, I was off to see my friend Jen in Los Alamos.

June 12-13 - I met Jen earlier in my trip.  She was on the Spider Cave NPS trip I took down at Carlsbad Caverns.  At the time she was looking for a job and found it in Los Alamos, AKA Nukeville... home of the infamous Los Alamos National Laboratory.   I arrived at her place on the eve of June 11th.  The next day, a friend of Jen's from work named Richard was running a Rio Grand river rafting trip.  Richard actually ended up leading two trips that day.  We hit the first trip, and photographed the second.  Our sturdy craft was definitely recognizable with a dragon masthead!   Perfect!  After an exhausting day on the river, we hit Embudo Station, a brew pub along the river, and parted ways with our river crew.

Next day, Jen and I went to Bandalier National Monument to see some of the cave ruins and do some hiking.  Being a weekend, it was overrun with people, but we maneuvered our way through the crowds and got up in some of the cave dwellings and ruins.   Afterwards, we headed down a canyon that led to the Rio Grand to view some marvelous waterfalls.  On the way, back it started to rain on us so we found a cliff to hang out under as the rain passed over.  There is nothing quite like watching a thunderstorm roll over from a covered area.  The feel of the humidity change, the thunder and lighting... it was great.  As the rain slowed, we made our way back to the car.  An evening of X-files followed by crashing on the couch and I was off to Chaco Culture National Historic Park.  Kind of a bummer having to leave.  I felt like I was just getting to know Jen.

June 14 - My drive from Los Alamos to Chaco Chaco Culture National Historic Park was mostly on gravel roads which made things interesting.  The road between Los Alamos and Cuba, NM 126, is mostly gravel and traverses some beautiful country.  A few minutes of highway between Cuba and the turnoff for Chaco and you are on gravel/dirt roads again for the drive into the park.  Kind of strange that the entire park is paved, yet the only roads into the park are dirt.  That's government for ya I guess.  I caught a very informative tour of Pueblo Bonito.  Apparently, there are more questions than answers about the Anasazi, but Chaco appears to be the center of activity.  Many of the remaining structures are multistoried and hold some impressive architecture and masonry.

June 15-16 - After a night in the Cibola National Forest, I headed off to Petrified Forest National Park.  One thing's for sure... there wasn't any forest in sight, but plenty of petrified wood from ages long ago.  I managed to get there in time to catch a tour of the Painted Desert Inn on the North side of the park.  I was actually the only attentive person on the tour as the other four people kinda wandered off by the end of the tour.  Afterwards, I talked with the ranger for about another hour.   (I wrote his name down, but lost it!)  He was extremely kind to me and even ran back to the North Visitor's Center to give me a free photocopied map of the back country for my backcountry hike I was planning.  He recommended trying to make it out to Chinde Mesa... about 7-10 miles into the desert.  I thanked him profusely and headed out into the desert. 

The painted desert is really something that you MUST hike down into to fully appreciate.  It was fascinating to get right up next to the badlands to see they consisted of broken up clay.  It is amazing these suckers haven't just eroded away.   The colors of the desert, the open dry washes, the flat "fields," the mesas... all of the desert, seemed to reveal its secrets only to those who hike to the bottom.  As I left the crowds above, I felt thankful to be healthy enough to be among the few hiking to the desert floor.  Actually... maybe I wasn't healthy enough...   I didn't make it even close to my destination.  The hike was beautiful, but brutal.  I must have been three miles away when I gave into the pain in my left foot and the heat of the evening sun.  As the sun began to set, I tried to make camp just above the wash leading to Chinde Mesa.  I say "tried" because I'm a tarp camper... and the rain was lightly falling as I attempted to set up the tarp.  Thanks impossible soil and few trees, my shelter was marginal, but it worked and kept me mostly dry for the night.  Before turning in, I snapped a photo of a fantastic rainbow that was illuminated by the setting sun. 

My hike out the next morning was fairly uneventful, except for getting lost while trying to find the trail up to the Painted Desert Inn, but I found it relatively quickly wandering over the rocks, canyons, petrified logs, and badlands until I came upon the trail.  Off to Scottsdale (near Phoenix).

June 16-17 - I arrived in Scottsdale, took care of some shopping/haircut, and met up with my long lost friend Cott.  Cott left Atlanta to work for a company in Scottsdale called www.vstore.com which is about to invent a new way of doing business on the web.  Being the second employee in the company, I think he's about to become a millionaire.  The concept is great and should take off.   Check it out.  After dinner, I hit the sleeper sofa and a fitful night of sleep thanks to Jill's cat. (Jill is Cott's wife who was out of town at the time).   Actually, the cat's meowing was so loud, it kept both of us up.  The very next morning, Cott went off to work and I went off to Sky Harbor... as in the airport.   Pretty cool name for an airport!  Cathy's flight was on time and we were off heading towards Sedona before noon.

Scottsdale seemed like a pretty nice area to live, but the heat was brutal.  Shorts and air conditioning are almost a must.  However, I've got to imagine the winters being wonderful there.  The area of Phoenix we drove through on our way out of town was pretty seedy however.  I was thrilled to see Saguaro along the drives around Phoenix though.  Check out the size of that sucker!  After a very long drive thanks to the "scenic route" we chose, we arrived near Sedona that evening and set up camp in the Coconino National Forest a good 10-20 miles South of Sedona.  Not much of a forest, but the views of the red cliffs were fantastic.

June 18 - Sedona is supposedly an incredible energy center... an area where unseen energies, galactic beings, and UFOs like to hang out... not to mention the varying type of residents that live there.  Many call it the capital of the New Age.   One person told me that the "energy" of the various vortexes (energy swirls) could be measured with electromagnetic devices. 

The next morning, we were off to hike into Boynton Canyon to see if we could catch some energy shooting out of the vortex in the canyon.  Unfortunately, I was hardly in the right state of mind to experience the vortex.  The info we had on the hike said 5 miles round trip.  BS!  It was at least 7 miles.  And we only brought one small water bottle for the two of us.  Once again, the heat and dehydration got the better of me.  We were, however, rewarded with some fantastic views both through the canyon and at the canyon end.  Didn't get to see any medicine wheels though.  The info I read said that most were destroyed by the Forest Service... kind of a bummer.  I think a medicine wheel would have blended wonderfully with the vibes of the place.

After drinking a liter or two of water,  we were off to check out some more of the views around including Cathedral Rock.  The most beautiful view we had in Sedona was from Airport Road.  Check out the panorama!  We headed to the "Hub of the New Age" to fully experience the groove of Sedona.  Upon entering, a man in a shimmering white robe approached Cathy... she was soon sucked in and before I knew what was happening, she was shelling out twenty bucks to have her aura read.   (OK... it didn't quite happen like that, but it sounded good!)  Like she said, "When in Rome..."  In the meantime, I headed out to the meditation gardens in the back... complete with power pyramid, Mother Mary garden, medicine wheel, and vortex tree (with a sign that said "Hug my vortex!".  Actually, this was the first place where I could sense the energy and I felt a wash of peace flow over me.  Kinda cool.  I sat down just outside the Meditation Garden to finish writing a postcard.  

Cathy came out of her aura reading and had that "This is BS!" look on her face.  The man had told her that she was meant to heal and had wonderful green healing energy coming out of her aura (hands especially).  He was able to pick up on a number of things regarding her family life too.  Overall, I thought it was pretty cool, but Cathy wanted a second opinion... which would have to come later.  We drove out of Sedona and pulled into a Recreation Area stop, we saw a map that had some wilderness area on it called Wet Beaver Wilderness.  Both of us nearly busted out laughing.  What a name!  We decided that this opportunity was too good to pass up and we decided to try to find a road that reached the wilderness boundary so we could get a picture with the sign.  No such luck, but we did find a good place to camp in the Coconino National Forest surrounding the wilderness area.

June 19 - Cathy had this hankerin' to see Homolovi Ruins State Park because there was active archaeological work going on there.  A sore disappointment.   Compared to all other ruins we had seen, this had to be the least excavated and therefore the least impressive.  It was the weekend, and the archaeologists were no where to be found either.  I figured since Cathy was into to Geology, we could drive through Petrified Forest.  I could then see some of the stuff I didn't have the chance to see earlier.  Next it was off to Canyon de Chelly.  A pretty long drive that day... we caught some nice views of the canyon sunset and then headed into the FREE campground (unheard of in a National Park/Monument!). 

June 20 - I'm not sure whether I can recommend that anyone visit Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon de Shay).  The canyon itself is beautiful.   However, the unfortunate demise of the Navajo people is very evident here.   The Navajo people essentially still have a retained right on the entire canyon, allowing them to drive into the canyon and pester tourists with the sale of various touristy items such as fake petroglyphs made with a drumel tool.  I didn't have time to fully research the Navajo... however, if they were like other tribes, they were repressed and were denied the ability to practice their ancient way of living and their religion by the government.  They were and continue to be forcibly educated in our school system.  Nowadays, the repression of customs and living skills is no longer evident, but damage has already been done.  The result is what you see today in Canyon de Chelly.  A downtrodden nation of people, caught between two worlds... the world of their ancestors and the world of the mighty whitey... our well known civilization.  Some manage to strike a balance between the two and are successful.   Others aren't so lucky and have resorted to drugs and alcohol.  As we hiked out to one of the vistas, we were approached by a fellow by the name of *.  He spoke slowly through his missing two front teeth with a thick Navajo accent.  He actually told us some great stories about the surrounding canyons, even though the alcohol on his breath told a different story.  Afterwards, we told him we had no cash, but would be glad to take his address down.  He said he had a home in the canyon and on the rim and would gladly show tourists around... and he promised his prices would be much cheaper than the NPS approved Navajo guides.  (A Navajo guide is your only ticket into the canyon.)  I took his address down.  If any of you would like to experience Canyon de Chelly, feel free to write this guy.  If alcohol on the breath and slow talking doesn't bother you, you'd probably have a great time with him:

Samuel Thomson
PO Box 2231
Chinle, AZ 86503

The canyon is stunning and there are definitely some incredible views to be had.  A good guide would probably make all the difference.

June 21 - After a night in the San Juan National Forest, Cathy and I headed off to Mesa Verde... It was nice to be out of the desert/semi-arid landscape for a while.  Mesa Verde is chock full of beautiful canyons... and almost all of them contain some type of Anasazi cliff dwelling/ruin.  There are hundreds of archeological sites in Mesa Verde.  We picked up one of their pornographic brochures (whoah... bare breasted women!) and headed to the visitor's center to catch a tour of Balcony House.  The tour guide was probably the best tour guide I've had a in a while.  Very humorous and he led a wonderful tour.  These ruins are the best I've seen... or at least the most intact.  Although the architecture wasn't as impressive as Chaco, the beauty of the canyons made up for it.   Due the the number of archaological sites, they have no backcountry access.   Even so, we did about 5 miles of day hiking before driving halfway to Moab and setting up camp in the Manti-La Sal National Forest outside of Monticello.

I have to say, it very nice having company on the trip.  It definitely has changed the type of trip that I had planned, but it has changed it in a good and welcome way.  At this point, I have to say, I'm think I might scream if I see another Anasazi ruin!  They are neat, but I think I've got the hang of their elaborate lifestyle.   Well, enough babbling for now.  I'm off to Moab!

Oddities From the Road

  • Furrs - What is it with the names of these grocery stores across the country!   "Yes... I'd like a mink!"
  • Man picking nose on motorcycle... very dangerous habit.
  • Highway 666 - The evil highway.  Highway to Hell.

Reading and Listening

  • Conversations With God Book 1 by Neale Donald Walsh - The most inspirational book I've ever read hands down.  Although the source of the information might be questionable to many, the simple truths contained in this book are extrememly powerful figuring out this great mystery called life.  I recommend it to anyone who is tired of the struggling in daily life and looking for a way to get out of the rut and get some kind of control of their life.  As with any works of this type... take what works for you, toss the rest.  That is the only way to grow.
  • Honorable Sky by Peter Kater and R. Carlos Nakai - One of my favorite albums... new age piano, Native American flute, cello, and a few other instruments combine to weave a beautiful sound that is meant to explore men's feminine side.  A beautiful improvisational album.
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Rio Grande's Beginnings

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The Hills are alive with the Sound of MTB

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Rafting the Rio Grande

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Chaco Petroglyphs

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T-Door at Chaco

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Painted Desert Rainbow during Sunset

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Dry Wash in Painted Desert

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Coyote Poop?!

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Sedona Panorama View

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Sedona Cathedral

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Trash or treasure?

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Bad hair day!

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Canyon de Chelly

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Balcony House @ Mesa Verde

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The Evil Highway!

Coming Next...

Southern Utah, Northern Arizona

My E-Mail address is: andrew(at)koransky.com

Copyright (C) 1996-2020 Andrew Koransky

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