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The Chaco Phenomenon of the San Juan Basin

Tour of the Ancients: Chimney Rock National Monument, Twin Angels Pueblo & Lowry Pueblo
Thursday & Friday, May 20-21, 2021

After leaving El Malpais National Monument in the early afternoon on Thursday, we then drove north across the San Juan Basin on our way to Durango. There was a storm system moving into the area this evening and it was supposed to rain overnight and throughout the day on Friday, so we thought it would be best to get a hotel room in town tonight. On our way we made a short detour to visit the Twin Angels Pueblo, which is a Chacoan Great House located at the edge of Kutz Canyon, not far from Angel Peak. We were planning to visit Chimney Rock National Monument on Friday and had already visited the Dittert Site in the El Malpais National Conservation Area earlier in the week, so I thought it would be nice to visit yet another Chaco Outlier this week.

Twin Angels Pueblo was partially excavated by Earl Morris in 1915, which is why some of the walls are exposed today. Some of the ruins in the Ute Mountain Tribal Park that we visited the previous weekend were also excavated by Earl Morris.

Twin Angels Pueblo

Here’s a view of the Twin Angels Great Kiva over Kutz Canyon with Angel Peak visible over the horizon. It was very windy out when we hiked out to this site and the air was hazy and full of dust.

Twin Angels Great Kiva

Just as the weather forecast had predicted, the rain arrived overnight and would continue throughout the day on Friday. Diane and I had no problems continuing on with our plans to visit Chimney Rock National Monument in the rain and were actually looking forward to it since we thought it might keep the crowds away. We were a little worried that the park would not allow us to hike the trails in this weather, but we took our chances and headed over to the park anyway, arriving shortly before they opened at 9:00am. Although they tried to discourage us from hiking the Great House Pueblo Trail in this weather, they left the decision up to us, so of course we went! Since it rained the whole time we were at Chimney Rock, I left my normal camera in the Jeep and only took my little point and shoot camera since I had a better chance of keeping it dry, although I still had a hard time keeping water drops off the lens, so my photos from today aren’t that great…

This was our first view of Chimney Rock through the rain and clouds as we neared the park.

Chimney Rock View

Welcome to Chimney Rock National Monument

Chimney Rock National Monument Sign

First we hiked a short loop on the paved Mesa Village Trail.

Mesa Village Trail

The view from above the clouds was nice.

Cloudy View

Storage bins at Ridge House

Storage Bins

These metates and manos were soaked from the rain.

Soaked Metates

Chimney Rock Great Kiva

Chimney Rock Great Kiva

Over The Edge

Over The Edge

Hiking into the clouds on the Great House Trail.

Hiking Into The Clouds

The narrow and rocky trail was not difficult at all, even in this weather.

Rocky Trail

Looking back down the trail as we climbed higher towards Chimney Rock.

Down The Trail

Diane In The Rain

Diane In The Rain

Chimney Rock in the Rain

Chimney Rock in the Rain

The end of the trail next to the foundation of the old Chimney Rock Lookout Tower.

End of the Trail

Kiva In the Clouds

Kiva In the Clouds

A view from the ruins over the Piedra River Valley.

View From the Ruin

Above The Clouds

Above The Clouds

Great House in the Clouds

Great House in the Clouds

Ruins With A View

Ruins With A View

Trees & Clouds

Trees & Clouds

Headed back down the Great House Trail. We were soaked and cold by the time we returned to my Jeep, but it was worth it since we pretty much had the place to ourselves this morning!

Great House Pueblo Trail

Since the rain was still coming down when we left Chimney Rock I decided it would be best to head back home the long way around the mountains since I didn’t want to deal with snow on Red Mountain Pass. Later I would find out this was an excellent choice since the pass would get shut down for a couple of hours because a truck that didn’t chain up slid off the road. As we drove through the Montezuma Valley below Mesa Verde I realized that we would be passing near the Lowry Pueblo, which Diane had never been to before, so I figured we might as well make one more quick stop at our fourth Chacoan Outlier of the week…

The Lowry Pueblo

Lowry Pueblo

Lowry Pueblo Great Kiva

Lowry Pueblo Great Kiva

After our short foray into Canyons of the Ancients National Monument the rest of the drive home was pretty uneventful aside from some strong winds and on and off rain. I think Diane and I both had a great Spring Break this year and are already looking forward to her next break from school in August!

>> Chimney Rock National Monument Photo Gallery

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