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Long Weekend in Chaco Canyon | Saturday

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On Saturday morning I got up a little earlier than Amanda and headed out to try and get a photo of Fajada Butte at sunrise (since they don’t open the gates to the main park until 7:00am). When I arrived there were some nice clouds behind the butte, but they cleared out before the sun finally came up.

Early morning sunlight on Fajada Butte.

Fajada Butte by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Once the sun was up, I made my way back to camp and found that Amanda was awake and ready to go. We had a little breakfast and then went into the park just after they opened the gates. We wanted to get an early start since we were going to hike the longest backcountry trail in the park to Penasco Blanco and we wanted to do it before it got really hot out. Along the way we took the Petroglyph Loop trail and searched the sandstone walls for petroglyphs. We ended up finding quite a few.

A well defined sheep petroglyph overlooks some faded designs that are rather unique. I see the heads of two sheep below the designs facing each other, too.

Sheep Designs by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A bighorn sheep petroglyph with some more recent scratchings. Above the sheep is a faint pictograph that might represent a rain cloud?

Sheep & Pictograph by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A spiral with a head…plus some more recent scratchings.

Spiral Serpent by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

This one was located high above and hidden. I would have missed it if Amanda hadn’t spotted it.

Curly Tail Sheep by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

My favorite petroglyphs along the loop which were located high above us.

Chaco High Panel by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The last panel along the loop trail.

Lizard Men Panel by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After finishing the loop, we continued on and eventually crossed Chaco Wash. Once on the other side we reached my main destination for hiking this trail: The Supernova Pictograph.

Some believe that this pictograph in Chaco Canyon represents the supernova that created the Crab Nebula on July 4, 1054.

1054 Supernova Pictograph by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After passing the Supernova Pictographs there’s less than a mile to go until you will reach Penasco Blanco. Along the way we passed a large boulder that had this large shield-like petroglyphs on it. Maybe it is more recent as I’ve not seen anything like it before, but I don’t know? I do know I saw some similar claw-like hand petroglyphs near the campground, too…

Shield & Claws? by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Finally we reached what’s left of Penasco Blanco. I don’t believe this site has been excavated. Amanda found some shade to sit and rest in, while I walked around the site and explored. There were actually a lot of potsherds here, which I had noticed were absent from the excavated sites that are easier for people to get to.

Penasco Blanco by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The hike back was a bit hotter, but we were pretty lucky and there was a nice breeze the whole time to help keep us cool. We even found a little shade on the way back and sat down for a while to relax and cool off.

Once we were back from the hike, we stopped by camp for some lunch and to relax until evening. When we were rested up I went back to the petroglyphs between Chetro Ketl and Pueblo Bonito for some photos.

Snake Man and Sheep by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Snakes and Spirals by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Even though it was mid-day and the light was pretty harsh, I just had to get a photo of Richard Wetherill’s grave while I was nearby.

Richard Wetherill by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

This panel was located high above Richard Wetherill’s grave. It’s hard to see, but there’s quite a few figures in this one with a large hand petroglyph and a number of figures holding hands.

Hand Holding Panel by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Next we explored Pueblo del Arroyo for a little while.

Pueblo del Arroyo by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

For sunset I decided to head up to the Pueblo Bonito Overlook. The trail leading up there was pretty cool, and there was a lot to see along the way. Next time I’m at Chaco, I will need to complete the loop to Pueblo Alto while I am up there.

Pueblo Bonito Overlook by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

On my way down I stopped for a few last photos at Kin Kletso.

Moon Over Kin Kletso by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

View Through Kin Kletso by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A sun circle caused by my polarizer. I like the colors in this shot.

Polarized Circle by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

From there it was back to camp and right to bed. It was a long, but fun and interesting day!

>> Long Weekend in Chaco Canyon Photo Gallery


  1. Christopher
    Christopher October 13, 2013

    Thanks for all of these lovely photos from all around the southwest. For your next trip to Chaco I wanted you to know about some amazing petroglyphs and pictographs that are on the way to penasco blanco. After you pass the petroglyph trail there is a turn to the right and over a wash before the trail comes back out to the canyon and thins. Just after this there is a large boulder about 10 feet off trail that has a gorgeous crow and spirals. The details in the crow are amazing, with feathers and an open beak. Also, further along the trail high above on the canyon wall is a small round alcove and inside can be seen a dozen or more blue figures that are dancing. So, keep your eyes open the next time you go, there is lots to see on this route! Thanks again for all of your photos.

    p.s. Also, I think the round petroglyph near penasco blanco with the bear claws is in fact a newer Navajo petroglyph. There are a number along this route. I have seen a horse and also a boombox/radio.

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat October 13, 2013

      Thank you for the info Christopher!

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