Well, I’m finally in a spot that I can access the internet. I arrived in Gunnison, Colorado this morning at about 9 am. Waste tanks were full, laundry needed doing and I was ready for a very limited shot of civilization.
The last week has been terrific. Wednesday I drove as far as the Great Sand Dunes National Park and spent the night in the park. I’m lovin’ the Senior Pass I got last month. With the pass I got into the park free and the campsite cost only $7.00.
The Great Sand Dunes is a magical place. A bit of the Sahara Desert in the high mountains of Colorado. I have been to the park before but it always amazes me. The picture at the top of the post was taken on Thursday morning as I was headed for Cortez and the Pecos Conference. The pictures just don’t come close to portraying the beauty of the place.
My trip from the Great Sand Dunes to Cortez required me to go over Wolf Creek Pass, a notoriously vehicle hating piece of road. I had to stop once on my way down the pass because I had overheated my brakes. When I got to Pagosa Springs at the base of the pass I discovered that I had a flat tire on one of the rear dual wheels. About two hours later and $200 poorer I was back on the road. By 6pm I had made my way to McPhee Reservoir and the camping site for the Pecos conference.
The Pecos Conference was a real experience. I really didn’t know what to expect as I had never participated in something like this before. It was part hippie, part academia and part archaeology….and I enjoyed it immensely. Over 700 people attended during the two day event and about half of them camped in the large open field that served as a campground.
The presentations were short 10 minute reviews of what the authors had accomplished on their projects. Sample titles of the presentations are;
Turkey, Dog & Cottontail – A Kiva Floor Animal Burial at the Greenlee Site
Some of the presentations were a bit over my head but I still enjoyed the majority of them and I learned a lot about the ancient people of the Southwest.
The highlight of the conference was a talk by the author Craig Childs. I had read his book “The House of Rain” about a year ago and was entranced by it. The book is very much like a travelogue of the author’s hiking and camping trips to most of the ancient Chacoan sites in the southwest. Because Craig is not an archaeologist he gets to say things that most professional archaeologists wouldn’t dare say.
In his talk, Craig urged the archaeologists in the audience to make sure they told their stories to the public. He said that to not tell the story and just write a report and file it away was a disservice to the profession and negated the importance of the information they discovered.
Sunday morning I headed back towards Gunnison but I stopped late in the afternoon to tour the Chimney Rock Archaeological Site. This is another fascinating place. About 1000 years ago residents of Chaco Canyon travelled 90 miles north of their canyon and built a Great House on the top of a high ridge so that they could observe the lunar standstill through the two upright pillars of stone at Chimney Rock. These ancient people knew enough about astronomy to know that this event happened only every 18.5 years.
The stone work on the Great House is absolutely beautiful and most of it was done without mortar because the closest source of water was over 1000 feet below the structure in the valley below. Like Chaco Canyon itself what became of the people is a mystery. After all the work they went to in building this structure, they abandoned it and disappeared without a trace.
Sunday night I camped at a Forest Service campground about a mile from the site and spent the evening thinking about what might have happened to this ancient culture.
I spent last night at another Forest Service campground about 50 miles from Gunnison. While speaking with the campground host I learned about a very special memorial to those of all nations killed in the Vietnam war. This site is on Forest Service land but the Forest Service does not publicize the existence of the monument. The designer and inspiration for this monument was a former Special Forces officer and wanted the monument to be without fanfare and to remain unknown to the public. It’s my intention to come back to this area and locate the monument. When I do I will tell you the story. It’s located near the Continental Divide and over a mile from the nearest 4 wheel drive road.
I will leave this commercial campground tomorrow morning and head back into the mountains for my Passport In Time project. There won’t be any more posts until I return home on the 19th or 20th.
Thanks for visiting.