Cag, Coca-Cola, and two buffalo burgers in the blazing Chaco midday heat for lunch do not make for a happy stomach if you're going to be going over bone-rattling, suspension-crunching backroads filled with monster washboards and ceramic chugholes the size of Volkswagons. But, like a fool, that is what I had for my lunch. I knew it was too much when I took the first bite of the second burger, but I didn't stop until I was halfway done with it. I didn't want to be rude, but I should have considered the consequences of my actions.
Loaded up into Randy's Ford, the three of us side by side across the front bench seat. Our destination? Pueblo Pintado - the only outlier that Mike and Randy hadn't visited the previous day, and seemingly a good alternate to the 4 mile unshaded loop hike to Pueblo Alto. But was it really? It was 33 miles down the dirt roads to Pintado, and by mile 15 the going had gone from bad to worse. We went over a stretch of pavement that made the transition back to horrible road that much worse. In addition to the bad beer, good food, and poor road, the sun was blazing down into the truck cab while the air conditioner worked full blast. The result was an odd clammy feeling while my face was baking. I'm not one who gets carsick, but I was worried if I'd make it to Pintado. At about mile 23 I needed to stop for a few minutes - no barfing, for those that are wondering, but I did need to release the turtle.
Back in the truck, feeling slightly better, we rattled our way past one ratty settlement after another, each one more decrepit, run down, and vandalized than the last. I got the feeling we were leaving the last vestiges of civilization and delving into a land of true wilderness, where people who tried to maintain harmony and order were slowly being pushed back as the badlands and their legions encroached, moving forward. We finally reached the Pueblo Bonito Chapter, and true to form it was the worst of the lot. "What a pit!" exclaimed Randy as we drove through it. I can't blame the youth who are forced to "grow up" in Pintado - driving 100 miles one way to get your groceries doesn't sounds like fun. I'd probably eat a gun, but they've taken to spray-painting anything they can get their hands on. Of course that raised the question of where they would buy the paint (and who would sell them such copious quantities), but I can't answer those questions. I can tell you what the Census tells us about Pueblo Pintado - 50% of the 200 people living in the settlement are under the poverty line, with the median income of all residents being about $14,000. This raises another question - where do these people work?
Anyway, the settlement of Pintado didn't improve my mood as we drove through it and back onto a paved road. We passed the turnoff to the ruins, but quickly doubled back. The Great House of Pueblo Pintado is distinctive, standing isolated on a bluff over the broad wash just to the north. We made our way to the parking lot, made sure the windows were rolled up and doors locked, and then walked through the hikers maze. The trail register was vandalized, as was one of the signs at the site. Some entries suggested that the NPS go suck a pumpkin, while others labeled all tourists as pumpkin sons of dogs. Lots of love in Pintado for everyone. While Mike and Randy began exploring the ruin, I found a shady room, laid down, pulled my hat over my face, and took a nap.
About 20 minutes later Mike showed up and woke me. Randy was not too far behind, telling tales of pottery. I felt remarkably refreshed after my siesta, so I followed them through the ruin. There was lots of pottery scattered to the south and east of the ruin, and we spent considerable time looking over it. Walking back to the truck we saw an isolated sign stuck in a grove of sage. It was pointing out the alignment of a Chacoan road. We all stood on the road and looked down the alignment. We could follow it for about 100 feet before it became indistinct. Imagine my surprise when I got back to Page and found I could trace it all the way to Chaco on overhead imagery!
I was feeling well enough that we decided to take a Cag shot before getting away from the awesome ruin and creepy settlement. The entire time I was walking around the ruin (not napping) I felt like someone was watching me.
We hit the paved road again, but unanimously decided to return to Chaco via Route 9, instead of the horrendous Route 7900. When we arrived back at the campsite, we determined that the roads had shaken one bolt completely out of Randy's tailgate, and several others were loose. The sun was still in the sky but sinking fast. We putzed around the camp for a little bit, making a new friend when we offered him a Cag to his wife's dismay, and tried to understand a firewood scavenger I named the Flemish Master. After we couldn't stand the sun any longer, we pulled some chairs up in the shade of a boulder, cracked some Guinness and some Cag and began making plans for the next day - The Solstice.
Next - Casa Rinconada: http://hikearizona.com/TL.php?ID=52477