Southwest Road Trip: Chasing the Solar Eclipse at Chaco Canyon

We heard that Chaco Canyon would be at the epicenter of the solar eclipse earlier this week. Little did we know when we planned this trip months ago that we would be at Chaco for the event! We bought the special glasses at the Mesa Verde visitor’s center, but the National Park Service rangers at Chaco gave them out for free for all the visitors. Thank you, United States government.

The closest place to stay is in Bloomfield, NM, about an hour and fifteen minutes away. We knew that the final fourteen miles to get to the canyon would be unpaved, and we also knew that there were only enough parking spaces inside the park for one hundred vehicles, and that entry would be allowed at 7:00 a.m. So, we woke up at 4:30 a.m. and were on the road by 5:45 after filling the gas tank.

We got there just in time to get a place in line and were assigned an official parking permit for Hungo Pavi, the first archeological site in the park. The site is not rebuilt to demonstrate to visitors how archeologists found the various Ancient Puebloan structures here before they underwent restoration.

There were ten cars parked at Hungo Pavi. We saw licenses plates from Colorado, California, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Michigan, as well as New Mexico. Eclipse chasers brought high-powered telescopes and cameras with long lenses mounted to tripods. The woman parked next to us advised that if we were using our iPhones, to put the special filters over the lenses so as not to burn them out.

Well, we figured out that if we did that, we might get some pretty good shots of the eclipse as it was happening. We did a lot of experimentation. Not professional, but good enough! As we waited for the 9:15 a.m. beginning of the eclipse, we stayed warm (it was 27 degrees Fahrenheit outside) inside the car, eating our breakfast of leftover blue corn pancakes and bacon from the day before.

We found a sheltered corner amidst the ruins that protected us from chill, and from there we shot most of our photos. Colin, a park ranger responsible for overseeing Hungo Pavi, struck up a conversation and gave us an explanation for why Chaco Canyon is so important in the development of the Puebloan Culture.

This was the center of the universe for Chacoans. They flourished between about 850 AD and 1200 AD. They believe they emerged from water, and this site with its river and abundant summer rainfall reinforced their origin story.

We will know more on Sunday, October 15, when we take a tour with a local Navajo guide.

This is the last leg on our journey. On Sunday evening we return to Albuquerque, and then on Wednesday we head back to Taos. I return to Oaxaca on Monday, October 23.

Buen viajes.

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