The sun was quickly sinking and we were losing valuable daylight hours. Bumping along the long rutted and muddy road, my family wondered if we would ever reach the Chaco Culture National Historical Park Welcome Center.
In fact, if it wasn’t for the sign we had passed, they would have thought I was delusional. We had been driving for miles through desert, the children hurriedly rolling up their windows as dry sand billowed from our path. They were a little freaked out at the sight of cattle roaming with no fences between us and them. We closed in on another vehicle that was head our way, swerving to the side of the road as they hurtled by.
Finally, about 20 minutes later, we approached the Chaco Culture Welcome Center. It was closed. We deflated at the thought of not being able to go into the center, but we used the outdoor bathrooms and I suggested we take advantage of the light we had left and make a drive through, stopping at a few of the ruins since we were already there.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park is “home” to 5 major Chacoan sites. They offer Ranger programs throughout the year and other programming between April and October. You can call the number on their website or check in with the Visitor’s Center to see what they are offering on any given day.
Each set of ruins has a parking area and a box of pamphlets with information and numbered stops that coincide with the marked path. Chills raced up my spine as we walked where ancient Puebloan civilizations before us walked-where the people carefully created large maze-like homes from roughly hewn stone and in carved rock. You can read more about the history and culture of these talented and resilient people here.
Where to Stay
We had great plans to camp here for the night but with the lateness of our arrival and our experience camping at Carlsbad, we forfeited our $15 and headed for a hotel in Albuquerque. Sometimes you need to know your limits! You will want to note that this National Park is rather remote so there isn’t much lodging close by. However, the experience is well worth your time and travel.
Where to Eat
There are some nondescript places to grab a meal along the main road but we think the very best thing to eat for this part of the trip is a “pressed” sandwich with fruit and veggies on the side. You will want to prep it that morning or the night before, using Italian bread.
- Create a family sized sandwich with all your favorite meats and cheeses.
- Add your favorite condiments.
- Add Italian dressing or a balsamic vinaigrette.
- Wrap the sandwich tightly and put it on ice or freezer packs.
It’s very dry out! Don’t forget to drink your water!
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