I continue on my way and soon reach the trail that leads to Chetro Ketl, my final destination for today.
The sign along the Petroglyph Trail points to Chetro Ketl.
The sun sits high in the southern sky, heating the desert around me. I take another, less than refreshing, lukewarm sip from my water bottle and carry on with determination. Keenly aware that my friend is waiting in the parking lot I don’t want her to suffer in the heat longer than necessary. I keep my camera close and capture a few more images of the weathered geological formations along the path.
Wind, water and weather have carved these intricate designs over countless years.
Sudden movement on the trail makes my heart skip a beat. I soon realize that I overreacted – it’s is a small lizard that is sunning itself on a rock.
A small lizard crosses my path, barely distinguishable from the desert sand – perfectly camouflaged!
From the path at my feet to high above the canyon wall: Wild life is staking out its territory.
High above me these birds are taking advantage of the updraft soaring along the northern edge of Chaco Canyon.
The desert around me is alive. Once I know what to look for I see small rodents, more lizards and insects. I arrive at an area along the path where the canyon wall transforms into a protective cove. I carefully scan the natural wall and find the promised petroglyhs in the distance. My 28 – 300 mm lens is perfect for bringing the line drawings closer.
Petroglyphs carved into the soft sandstone wall.
Faint markings turn out to be more petroglyphs along the path.
Sun circles and spirals are easy to identify on this sandstone wall.
I round another curve on the path and become aware that I have almost reached Chetro Ketl, the second most famous Anasazi settlement in Chaco Canyon.
Chetro Ketl impresses with its well preserved walls and multiple rooms.
The path leads toward a vast, sturdy wall that reminds me of fortress ruins I have visited in Europe many times.
Approaching the outskirts of Chetro Ketl.
I am soon walking in the shadow of the mighty wall, able to see every stone and brick that was carefully placed between AD 945 – 1116. This wall once protected nearly 400 multi-storied rooms, only 100 fewer rooms than Pueblo Bonito boasts.
An ancient Pueblo wall reminiscent of European fortress walls.
This well constructed window provides a glimpse of the inner court yards and buildings. My curiosity is piquing and I carry on with exploring the site.
Windows leading the eye to an inner court yard.
As far as the eye can see – wall beyond wall, witness to the Ancient Pueblo culture.
This Chetro Ketl wall detail shows the carefully constructed stone walls.
Soon I spot the elevated structure of the tower Kiva mentioned in research material I accessed before my actual visit to the site.
Chetro Ketl’s upper level of a tower Kiva.
I am fascinated with the construction details I inspect at close range. The windows, appear strong despite their age.
This detail showcases a small window and how it was constructed.
Two large ground Kivas open before me for closer exploration.
Chetro Ketl two ground Kivas are well preserved.
The second ground Kiva is expansive. Another photographer is setting up his tripod for optimum photos. The small figures in the image below provide a sense of scale and put into perspective how large the ground Kiva truly is.
The Kiva is viewed without any obstruction. Ceremonial altars are well preserved.
Another view of the Kiva.
A close up of a ceremonial altar in the Kiva, as viewed from above.
I am lost in the moment. Despite the unrelenting heat and the burning sensation that communicates “sunburn”, I find it difficult to turn away from this impressive ancient Pueblo site.
One last view of Chetro Ketl and its well preserved walls.
And then reality sets in – I check my watch and see that time did not stand still. I slowly bid farewell to this significant historical place.
Back at the parking lot Elaine is enjoying the shade and air conditioning of the car. We settle in for the long drive back to Santa Fe. The one way road leads over a small bridge spanning a dried up river bed. We stop the car and I attempt to capture the eagles soaring overhead.
Eagles are a common sight in Chaco Canyon.
A dried up river bed carved through Chaco Canyon’s desert landscape.
The sun is beginning to move well into the western sky, a strong reminder that it is time to leave Chaco Canyon. The rough dirt road awaits us – all 13 miles of extreme washboard! – before we cruise toward Santa Fe on smooth blacktop…
One last view of Chaco Canyon.