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Old 08-22-2017, 11:55 PM   #1
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Location: ..., New Mexico
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Chaco Canyon Culture

Just a word of caution. If you find yourself anywhere near the Chaco Culture National Historical Park (AKA Chaco Canyon) and decide to visit, there are some things all trailer folk should know.

First, itís well worth seeing the extensive ruins of multi-storied dwellings Chacoans built supporting a lively trading economy in the 900ís and mid 1,000ís. Camping is in the open, spots are good. Gone are the pit toilets of 30 years ago, replaced by clean, pleasant rest rooms that flush well. We had reserved a site with no hook ups - $7.50 a night with my Senior Pass. There are also first come first served sites. The visitors center is excellent.

Bring everything you need with you because this place is in the middle of nowhere. There is water, an observatory, good hiking and a dump station. I doubt the campground is ever booked full.

Nothing comes without a price. Hardly any road signs to guide you getting there. Do not rely upon your GPS (we used Garmin). You will end up lost.

Next, if it is raining, has just rained, or will rain soon, unless you are experienced with snow and ice, or fearless, towing your Escape from the paved state roads onto the 30+ miles of dirt road leading to the park entrance can easily become the uh-oh, thrill ride of the year. Even with 4WD. When the dirt is good you will not do more than 30 mph in between the spots where doing 7 mph is very wise. It took an hour to get to the campground. I rate it the worst towing road in America. Keep your fridge doors and cabinets tightly tied.

Going to Chaco, we drove on that road this Sunday last. 15 or so miles in we met up with a stopped couple and their flat tire. I stopped to help. Evidently he hadnít been aware his front tire was going flat. Maybe he damaged it going over the many horrid cattle grates. The noisy, washboard rumbling of driving this road masked his problem. Finally he stopped to check. Tire is totally shredded. Heíd been riding on the rim and didnít know it. His jack was 90 percent toy, car frame nearly touching road. Did I mention this is in the middle of nowhere?

I got out my jack for the guy and then a truck of Navajo locals stopped to help. They quickly got his donut on. Now he still had to drive another 30 miles on a Sunday evening, where there are also no motels, on a donut. I wished him good luck.

Washboard is one thing, but when you hit the big wet spots you face a major decision. Drive fast, so your momentum carries you through, or drive slow, putting your faith in 4WD. Know now if your wheels are spinning and you stop, you are towing toast.

It rained that night. Next day we are back on that dirt road going home and dealing with serious sections of muddy road. It does grab your attention, watching your trailer fishtailing wildly behind you while speeding and struggling to keep the front wheels from running off the road into a ditch of mud. More fun than an eclipse.
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"A billion here, a billion there...add it all up and before you know it you're talking real money." Everett Dirkson
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Old 08-23-2017, 05:53 AM   #2
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Thank you so much for this helpful post! Chaco Canyon is on my bucket list and I'm sure glad to know about the road conditions, especially if there is rain. Most helpful!
Sarah Kochanowski
5.0TA Travel Blog: WildThingEscapes
ďTell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?Ē Mary Oliver
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Old 08-23-2017, 08:20 AM   #3
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We left our Escape at the RV park (Angel's Peak) in Bloomfield and were glad we did. On dry roads the washboard and ruts were really bad. We saw trailer plumbing lying at the side of the road. Your experience driving it wet is on a whole other level. WOW!
Bob K

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Old 09-22-2019, 06:06 PM   #4
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Myron, thanks for the tips. We had a great visit in the canyon. We stayed for 3 nights and were able to do the full moon night ranger led hike as well as day excursions. What a wonderful place. The roads were rough but were well marked at this point. We came in from the south and went slowly. We spent 1 hour and 40 minutes on the dirt road. We left on the northern route and spent an hour on dirt road. Well worth a visit.
Howard and Kim Brewer
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Old 09-22-2019, 08:44 PM   #5
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Location: Humboldt County, California
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We went to Chaco a few years ago with our A-Liner. This is a truly "must see" site. Plan on taking your time on the gravel road, and spending a couple of days to see and learn all there is to be seen and learned.

Myron left out a few things that we experienced--both good and, ahem, not so good. We visited in late spring and encountered some very strong winds, primarily in the afternoons. Certain camp sites are more susceptible to wind than others, so be careful with your sun screens. It would probably be best to stow them if you are going to be away from your trailer on a hike for a while. The primary roads within the park boundaries are paved, making it easy to get around within the park, especially since I'm sure you fueled up before heading off the main roads and into the park (that's a hint!). If you are an astronomer, bring along your best telescope--Chaco Canyon is a world heritage dark site, and the night sky is astounding. You might even want to plan your visit to coincide with either the full moon or the dark moon, according to what you might prefer to see at night. There are lots of hiking trails, but you are in the high desert, so carry lots of water. If you are not an experienced wilderness hiker, it might be best to stick to the well marked primary trails.

This place is really special, so enjoy it!
Fog Lark
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Old 09-22-2019, 08:50 PM   #6
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I'm glad to hear that the northern road is open again. When I was there two years ago it was closed, so the only access was the long road from the south. And as others have said, it was a rough ride.

I was only visiting Chaco with my trailer parked elsewhere, but I'd like to go back sometime and camp there for a few days.
Mike Lewis
She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie-- propane
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