02
Jun
14

Chaco Canyon: South Mesa

I enjoyed hiking in Chaco Culture National Historic Park.  I went every day there, except the first day and the last.  The first day I didn’t go because I set up my camp.  The last day I didn’t go because it was very hot outside.  The South Mesa trail begins at Casa Rincanoda with a gently rising path zigzagging up the side of the cliff.

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Hiking the South Mesa is generally easy except for two obstacles.  One is the constant sunshine.  There is no shade in Chaco Canyon, so the sun constantly shines on you.  The second obstacle is on the trail.  When you’ve finished zigzagging your way up the side of the cliff for about 200 feet or 70 meters, you’ll have to work your way through this crack in the canyon wall.

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Passing through this crack takes you through the last thirty feet to top of the canyon wall.

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The view from on top is rewarding and worth the extra effort to get on top of the canyon.  There are the ruins to see.

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And the impressive views of the desert.

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There are also distant views of other ruins such as Pablo Alto on the North Mesa.

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Hiking inside Chaco National Historic Park is challenging and enjoyable, but be prepared for distant hikes of five to eight miles (eight to twelve kilometers) in constant sunshine which makes the hiking dangerous.  Bring water and prepare yourself for the heat from constant sunshine.

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The ruins of Tsin Kletsin on top of the South Mesa are interesting but offer a historian no answers.  However, they do add to a growing collection of photographs and continue to add to my question about what happened to these people and the people of Cahokia.  The Chaco culture flourished from about 650 AD to about 1300 AD.  The Mississippian culture of Cahokia flourished from about 700 AD to about 1300 AD.  Both of these cultures flourished in two very different environments at roughly the same time and both of these cultures broke down at the same time.

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