Camping among the ancients is the theme of the Cliff Dwellings Campground in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. I did two camping trips at Chaco during the blustery month of May and both trips had some foul weather conditions to deal with. Spring is the season of fast moving windy thunderstorms in this part of New Mexico, so a sturdy tent will be needed when camping this time of year. The benefit of wet weather camping at Chaco Canyon is easy to see when viewing the ancient petroglyphs in this area, especially along the solid rock wall that borders upon the campground itself. With a little bit of rain, the ancient petroglyphs that cannot be seen on a bright sunny dry day are much easier to notice when the rock walls are soaked with rain water, so this is the motivation for doing a little bit of damp weather camping among the ancients at Chaco!
When the rocks are damp, it seems like the ancient petroglyphs that are nearly invisible on a dry day appear just like magic. Some of this phenomena is actually due in part by design. People that have viewed ancient hand outline pictographs know this is true, because the pigment compounds that were chosen for the paintings sometimes reflect light only in special conditions. Some of the painted hand pictographs only appear at times like the late afternoon or early in the day when the sun is positioned just right, so a magical visual disappearing and reappearing act can be pondered over while gazing at these intriguing displays. The same holds true with many of the carved petroglyphs, especially with the ones that are so old that they have nearly been erased by erosion over eons of time.
On the flip-side, the wet weather at Chaco Canyon also reveals the irresponsible behavior of past visitors in this highly protected native sacred place. Graffiti in the form of names and initials have been carved over the priceless objects of antiquity by law breaking individuals in the past and the damage also becomes easier to view after a rain shower. Depression and frustration are the feelings that caring visitors experience and it truly is a real drag on the overall experience. Fortunately there are many friends of Chaco that care enough to observe visitors and report suspicious behavior. It is the campground hosts and the loyal Chaco visitors that truly care enough to protect this majestic spiritual destination, so do not be surprised if you get a feeling of being watched over from afar! Penalties for destroying ancient archaeological sites can amount to spending the vacation in a Federal Prison and a lifetime of debt, so this is an effective deterrence too.
Wet weather does bring the vivid colors of the rock surfaces to life, as well as the ancient petroglyphs. For this reason, there is no need to dread a rainy day when camping among the ancients in the Cliff Dwellings Campground! Going with the foul weather mode only involves putting on rain gear to read the ancient newspaper rocks from an age long gone by!
Leave no trace!
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