Day 2 New Areas

I discovered that Aztec Ruins National Monument was only a few miles away and since I slept in from being out late at Bisti Wilderness I decided to go there first. Aztec Ruins in noted because of the beautifully reconstructed great kiva.

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The site had been looted by pot hunters and many of the stone from the pueblo had been hauled away by locals to build their own houses. Earl Morris an archaeologist with the American Museum of Natural History started excavations in the early part of the 1900’s and reconstructed the great kiva. Kivas were meeting places for religious activities. It is fortunate that this one was rebuilt so people can see what it was like.

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Interpretive trails lead through the pueblo. The doorways are quite short making it a challenge to get through at least for me.

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The pueblo must have been impressive when occupied. Even in the 1800’s, probably 500 years after is was completed and 400 years after it was abandoned some of the walls were 25 feet tall and some rooms had never been really disturbed after abandonment. Earl Morris stabilized what was left of the pueblo to the state it is in today.

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After Aztec Ruins I went to explore an area new for me. Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah wilderness area. This is another area managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah  Navajo for gray salt. I had to travel on Navajo Route 57. This road is a mix of hard dirt, sand and little asphalt at the beginning. It is a rough road and many spots are wash board. There are warning signs that the road may be impassable during inclement weather. I can well believe that. The first 10 miles or so has lots because of the oil and gas extraction.

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From the parking lot it’s a one mile walk in. Then it’s a matter of how best to get into the lower areas. I did finally find he way in. It helped that cattle use the area and they usually know the way. You just need to follow their foot. As far as I know I might have been the only one exploring the area. There were no other cars in the small parking lot.

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The area consisted of clay covered hills that drop off sharply. The hills have many different colors in them. Water erosion has shaped the hills and caused the steep drop-offs at the edges.

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Here the clay hills drop off to reveal chocolate colored hoodoos many of which are shaped like mushrooms. It’s difficult to get into some of these areas. The sides of the hills were too steep although I suspect if you search long enough there is a way in. There are so many canyons and passages that it’s difficult to know which one is the way in and which just leads to another dead end.

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Here you can an idea of some of the interesting colors of the clay.

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Lots of interesting hoodoos and balanced rocks. The clay base erodes from rain faster than the sandstone so many of the hoodoos have sandstone caps.

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Hoodoos are everywhere and come in all sizes and shapes. The cap looks to be pretty heavy and this hoodoo probably won’t last too long. Things are always changing with erosion.

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Here’s a couple of more hoodoos. Tomorrow I plan on coming back to search for Sternberg’s stump. You’ll have to wait to find out what Sternberg’s stump is.

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