We had a rather arduous trip to the Land of Enchantment. Our plane had issues and we had to be moved to another. Then we were moved to yet another flight because we were not going to make our connection. To really top it off, they lost our bags. Two days later they caught up to us. Not the best start to our trip. We were undeterred. We intended to make the most of our trip.
In many of the native American cultures the raven is a rather important element. The raven is an animal believed to be able to shape shift between the human world and the spirit world. Some cultures believe it was responsible for creating humans. It has been said by some that the raven pecked at the ground and from the hole, people emerged. When we came out of the rental car agency, this raven was calling to us. It seemed that every where we went, he was there. We named him Ray.
Because our bags were missing, we changed our itinerary and stayed our first night in Albuquerque. We did this in hopes the bags might arrive sometime in the night. They did not. We took a drive over to the Owl Cafe because we were hungry. For many years we have heard about the chile cheeseburgers at the Owl Cafe. Many say they are New Mexico's best.
The Owl Cafe was once on a road, famous to the generation before my own. Route 66 no longer is a highway, but the memory of it holds incredible nostalgic value to the baby boomers. The Owl Cafe has the Route 66 thing down.
We were lucky to have DJ as our waitress. 28 years at the Owl Cafe, DJ knew how to take care of us. We told her our baggage story and she took it upon herself to upgrade our beers. Halle was served ice cream after the meal. What I liked about DJ was she knew exactly what we wanted and needed before we ever asked. We liked her so much she is the first ever to receive a 100% tip.
So, this is the quintessential New Mexican Chile Cheeseburger. I have had a lot of these over the years. No two are alike. This one was, hands down, the best one I have ever had. The burger itself was incredible. Grass feed beef is really so much better than grain finished. We found it on just about every menu. It really makes a huge difference to the consumer. This burger was perfect. Just enough slop but never sloppy. The green chiles were spicy but not too over powering. It was complete nirvana for a burger lover like me. Did I mention everything is home made here?
The next morning I took a spin over to the airport in hopes our bags had turned up. They had not. We headed North and West. The plan was not going to be affected by anything but serendipity.
Every 10 miles or so, Ray was standing right at the edge of the shoulder. He would just be standing there looking in our direction. As we passed, he would take off and fly ahead of us. It is a 155 from the ABQ airport to Chaco Canyon. We saw Ray, waiting for us at least a dozen times.
I have been asked why I am so in love with NM. There are a dozen reasons. One of them is that any where you look, it is an epic photo.
Montana is called the Big Sky State. The New Mexico sky is way bigger. Living on the East coast, I tend to see the world around me in a 4:3 viewing box. Out West the view is more like 21:9. The turquoise sky goes on forever.
Halle had been taken out of school for this trip. We felt she needed to see where she would would be living someday. Since she was missing school we felt it important to learn something. We took her to Chaco Canyon.
Chaco Canyon is said to be one of the most important Native American cultural sites. It is in an incredibly remote part of NM. You will drive an hour from the highway through some incredible landscape to get here. Ray guided us the entire way. A few hours is not enough time to see it all. You will need to get out of your car and do some walking.
Unlike most of these sites, at Chaco Canyon, you can go just about any where. I highly recommend you rent the self guided tour book at the head of each trail.
Anything I might say about Chaco Canyon will just seem trite. I recommend you see it for yourself. They have a nice, first come first serve campground. Chaco Canyon is noted as being one of the darkest places in America. I would love to be there during a meteor shower.
Unfortunately, because we stayed in ABQ the first night, we did not arrive till mid day. This severely limited how much we got to see. We already feel the need to return.
We headed further North that day. Durango Colorado bound to see friends.
Yes, once again, Ray was leading the way.
Yes, once again, Ray was leading the way.
The next day we took in Mesa Verde. I absolutely loved the visitor center. This is a fairly new building. It is one of those net zero building. A massive solar array powers everything. Water is caught, recycled, reused. Nothing taken for granted, nothing lost.
Unlike the visitors center at Chaco Canyon, the displays here explained everything about this site. It was actually so complete that I jokes with Beth that I felt I didn't need to go any further. In the past the habitants of Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon were called Anasazi. That is apparently an improper name. They are now called Ancestral Pueblo People.
We came to see the cliff dwellings that Mesa Verde is known for. This is Spruce Tree House.
We came to hike also. I highly recommend the Pictograph (they are actually petroglyphs) Trail. We saw only one other group during this loop trail. The trail you see above is not said trail. The Pictograph Trail is but a mere goat path running 30 feet below the mesa rim.
At about the half way point you come to this rather large picture wall. It is thought to be a map of all the clans and their relation to each other. I know some of the symbols.
A signature of the artist
Mountain goat. This is also thought to be the Goat Clan symbol.
Below the picture wall and 8 foot off the ground is a very tiny ledge about 5" wide. It was from this ledge that the drawings were pecked into the rock. I climbed up on the ledge and when I put my hands up as far as I could, my hands and the two signature hands lined up perfectly. It was an incredible experience because as I hovered my hands in front of the ones on the wall, Ray and his friends went crazy. It was as if they all were laughing. It almost caused me to loose my footing. I was deeply moved by this. Maybe ravens really are spirit guides.
Please note, I did not touch any of the petroglyphs. Oil from ones hands can stain the rock.
130 or so rooms. About 90 people lived here.
I was architecturally inspired.
The proportions of some of the structures will come into play someday when I build my forever house out of mud bricks and straw.
The landscape here in South Western Colorado is very spectacular. It is a darker green here. It is less blue than in New Mexico.
Ray and a few of his buddies lead us to a classic tourist trap. It had some nice Navajo blankets made in Mexico. Ray was laughing the entire time. I think he set me up.
That night our bags were delivered to us at our hotel. SouthWest Airlines drove them 215 miles by express currier in hopes of making it right with us.
The next day we slipped back into the Land of Enchantment. I will tell you about that in my next post.