People in the city go camping in the country to escape from the gradually maddening tedium of everyday routine. That’s why the best campsites are devoid of cellular reception. Nothing is more gradually maddening than checking your email every quarter hour. Chaco is one such campsite. Located 30 minutes away from the nearest paved road, this wonderful park allowed Pauline and I to escape from Today. And for a short while, we pretended in Yesterday.
Native Chacoan people constructed grand cities in this valley. During their stay on this land about 1000 years ago, they built hundreds of stone rooms that rose 3 or 4 stories into the sky. We saw the meticulously constructed walls, still standing after a millenium of time. Each stone was laid in place by a real person standing in the exact same spot I was. The walls helped us see our existence in perspective. On this planet, we have only so long to live. I wondered what we would leave in our place. Could our contributions last as long as these simple walls of mud and stone?
The sun set, and the ranger came to tell us the site was now closing.
Pauline and I drove to the campsite and picked a spot nestled in a small canyon. The wind was picking up and the site allowed for some protection. Clouds hastened the darkness that was beginning to obscure the desert, wind picking up sand and making hasty preparation necessary. After brushing our teeth and getting ready for bed, we climbed into our Tent and began reading the Chaco info pamphlets describing the history of the area. Against the muffled bumps of moths against the rainfly, I relished the cozy lamplight. To me, there’s nothing quite like being in a tent under the stars.
I awoke in the middle of the night to the rapid pattering of raindrops. Pauline woke me up and we sat up for a couple of minutes. She wondered if we would wash away in a flash flood. For a moment, we worried. But, our drowsiness overcame us and we deemed it unlikely. We quickly fell back asleep as the rainsounds drifted into the desert.
The next morning, we zipped out of the tent, shook off the rain, and headed off for some hiking. The road was closed because of repaving, but a pilot car guided us to the largest site which we had explored the other evening, Pueblo Bonito. We decided to skip a guided tour since we were getting too hot and impatient to listen for an entire hour and a half. After finishing the site, we hopped into the car and started driving back. Sandy roads almost got us stuck, but we managed to make it out alright. Thirty minutes of gravel and sand later, we were back on pavement. We turned on the radio and came back to Today.