Day 12, Grants to Flagstaff. Uranium and off-road driving.
23/8/11 woke up in Grants, New Mexico.
Since we seem to specialise in NOT making it to the museums on time, today we started the day visiting one. New Mexico Mining Museum includes a simulated underground mine allowing visitors to explore tunnels and get the taste of the mining experience.
We headed there not only as it was the only attraction in Grants, but also due to the fact Shane’s dad and brother used to work in a mine and it’s good for Leah to see that and get accustomed with family tradition. It did have an impact on her, as I think she starts to realise that money doesn’t grow on trees and different people have different jobs, most of which are hard and do not allow for a month off for holidays in a row. It was definitely a good eye opener.
The next attraction we visited may just hunt me forever.. I seem to have this rare talent of finding the most remote locations with “must see” ruins or museums.. I have ticked that one with this excursion to Chaco Culture National Historic Park.
The word “Park” is an overstatement. It’s a desert.
Also, I have not read the back of a leaflet inviting to visit the site: “Chaco CANYON is quite isolated – plan on bringing plenty of food and drink if you go”.
We drove north from Grants for maybe an hour and then the road went.. well.. off road. It was all sharp rocks, gravel, stones, sand.. for over an hour. We must have missed another sign, that we spotted on the way back: “Rough road, may be impassable. Travel At your Own Risk.”
Shane did not let it go lightly: “First McQueen exhibition, queue for 6 hours, now this?! It better be worth it!!”
Chaco Canyon is one of the key sites in this region exemplifying prehistoric culture in America. There are dozens of impressive sites here, two of the major being Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl.
The area was settled as early as the ninth century and the culture reached it’s peak around AD 1150. The complexity of architecture, community and social organisation is astonishing. Chacoans quarried sandstone blocks and hauled timber from great distances, assembling 15 major complexes which remained the largest buildings in North America until the 19th century.
Many Chacoan buildings may have been aligned to capture the solar and lunar cycles, requiring generations of astronomical observations and centuries of skillfully coordinated construction.
Climate change is thought to have led to the emigration of Chacoans and the eventual abandonment of the canyon, beginning with a 50-year drought in 1130.
I think we must have spent a good two hours trotting around, even though the heat here was unbearable.
I think I have managed to convince Shane (not sure about Leah, as she did not feel well with all the sun frying her dark locks, it was REALLY hot), that the off-road driving was worth it…