The Gift of Time

Dear Isaac and Maia,

I realize I went six months between June and December with no blog. Why? I love to blog about my adventures. And, even with COVID, we had adventures this summer. I think it is because the world isn’t giving me the gift of time. COVID has made my work busier and there aren’t nearly enough faculty to have work feel balanced. And, I have a new part time job because my full time job stops being full time this summer. Time is a gift – the most important gift we can give to a loved one or to ourselves.

Sunset at Mancos State Park

So, I am giving myself the gift of time because it is winter break and we have 5 inches of new snow outside. So, why not write about warmer adventures? I love this blog because it is also an adventure log about dogs.

Drive to the top of Mesa Verde

I though I would talk abut the Ancient Pueblo Ruins that we visited this past fall on our camping trips. There is something about ruins that reminds me time on earth is short. Worries matter less with time, but we have limited time to follow our dreams.

Square Tower House, Mesa Verde National Monument

Labor Day Weekend we loaded up and headed to Mancos State Park – the annual journey. I don’r remember now what inspired me to visit Mesa Verde this year. Perhaps that Maizzy is old and Sazi is disabled. National Parks are for lazy dog walkers. That being said, Mesa Verde is an awesome place because the homes in the cliffs are so unique. I always wonder how the parents kept their toddlers from falling. I’m guessing they didn’t always . . . but I think someone likely guarded the place 24/7. I remember driving this with your mom. I always through I would be taking you someday, too. I guess that is what this blog is for.

Sun Temple, Mesa Verde National Monument

By the time we headed off of the Mesa, the smoke from the wildfires was making life hazy. The next morning when we woke up, it smelled like the smoke was right outside the tent. I was glad we missed most of that during our day at Mesa Verde.

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park

Two weeks later was my annual DNP graduation trip. I usually go to Hovenweep Castle but it is closed because of COVID this year. Honestly, I wasn’t sure where to go but decided to stay at a State Park called Navajo Lake down in near the Southern Ute reservation in Colorado. We even took Red Mountain Pass over (I usually avoid it do to vertigo) and the fall colors were gorgeous. I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to do with the time there. I enjoyed the equinox sunset and contemplated plans as Maizzy shivered in my sleeping bag.

Fall colors on the top of Red Mountain Pass
Navajo Lake State Park, Colorado

I awoke knowing I wanted to visit the ruins in Northern New Mexico. I haven’t visited since one of my early roadtrips with Maizzy. So, we took the back roads out to Highway 50 and down to Aztec, New Mexico. While the weather was still warm, the nights were cool enough that the dogs hung out in the car while I made my way through the Aztec Ruins tour. Before I go on, let me just say that it was super weird at the National Monuments (Aztec Ruins is one of those), because the rangers are outside selling a few things from the gift store but no one is allowed inside. It will be something I remember about this summer for a long time.

Aztec Ruins National Monument, New Mexico

The Aztec Ruins are not Aztec, but I can see why early settlers thought they were. These ruins are unique in that they are structured like one grand building with many rooms. They look almost like I imagine the pyramids in Egypt to look. Big, elegant, formal structures. You start the tour in a refinished kiva and then walk through the various rooms.

Kiva at Aztec Ruins National Monument

From there, we headed just a few miles down the road to Salmon Ruins. These two ruins were part of the Ancient Pueblo culture that was in the Four-Corners region long before we were America. Mesa Verde is also related to this culture, although the architecture is a little different.

Salmon Ruins, New Mexico

Salmon Ruins is privately owned and dog friendly, so I loaded up the pups in the stroller and we strolled through the rooms. The ruins there are less formal looking than Aztec and not as well restored. They look more like common ruins that you run into around the Four Corners. It was hot by the time we finished and we headed back to camp.

Salmon Ruins, New Mexico

I was, once again, undecided about the next day. We usually spend the DNP trip seeing various ruin sites around Hovenweep because that is where I started my trip the year I graduated with my doctorate (2016).. It felt boring to hang around the lake. So, during the night of comforting old Maizzy, I decided to make the somewhat long trip to Chaco Canyon the next day. I mean, if you can’t see the Hovenweep Castles, then you might as well head to the mother of all the Ancient Pueblo Ruins!

Chaco Canyon National Monument entrance sign

Chaco is an amazing place – the Ancient Pueblo Indians thought it was the center of the Universe. They traded with people from miles around. One of the things that amazes me about the ruins is how much work it would have been to get the stones from nearby cliffs and haul them into the site without horses. I mean, I think it is a big deal to go to Home Depot for landscape brick in a Honda.

Chetro Ketl area, Chaco Canyon National Monument

Anyway, back to Chaco. This was like the capitol city of all the Chacoan ruins – Aztec and Salmon are part of this group, as is Hovenweep. Chaco is huge with lots of different ruin sites – different pueblos. The dirt road to get into the ruins is something else – and likely why I don’t visit very often (this is my 3rd trip). It is washerboard for miles and miles. But, once you arrive, it is a awe inspiring. It is also semi dog-friendly.

Pueblo Alto Trail, Chaco Canyon National Monument

This was better than any of my other trips because I loaded the girls in the stroller and walked around several sites. It was the day after equinox and we got there at noon. Why does that matter? Because Chaco is lined up to sun and moon cycles – the building walls are exactly N-S, so at high noon, there is no shadow. On solstice and equinox, some of the petroglyphs get daggers of light through the rocks that line up with the spiral carvings in the rock. The strange part is that people didn’t live there. It was more like a combination between church and a shopping mall, I guess. They made sacrifices of pottery and felt that North was the direction toward a higher power.

Great Kiva, Chaco Canyon National Monument

It was a long drive back, but an excellent weekend, especially after seeing Mesa Verde a couple of weekends prior. Life is short and you have to haul a lot of bricks to make something that matters out of your life. I hope what I leave behind is half as awe inspiring as the Ancient Pueblo ruins of the Four-Corners.

Pueblo Alto Complex, Chaco Canyon National Monument

Love, GMH and pups

Kachina, Sazi and Maizzy in the ruins

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