Exploring the Four Corners area
We took a four day trip in the Four Corners region of the USA: where New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona meet. Check the map – it is actually the only Four Corners in the entire USA. An amazing part of this great country! We drove from Santa Fe, past Abiquiu, to Farmington, Aztec, Shiprock, to Cortez. Then Mesa Verde, a quick visit to Utah and the Hoovenweep National Monument and back to Cortez. Then rode our bikes at Phils World and continued to Durango, back south to Aztec, then east past Navajo Lake and Dulce, Chama, Abiquiu and back to Santa Fe last night. What a trip! A few photos and some history lessons:
Looking south from Shiprock, NM. Vastness.
Desolate landscape. Beautiful skies.
Sunset. Shiprock rises 1583 feet above the high desert plain of the Navajo Nation in San Juan County, NM. The peak elevation is 7177 feet. The rock can be seen from very far as you drive around the Four Corners area. Shiprock plays a significant role in Navajo religion, mythology and tradition.
Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde. Ancestral Puebloans lived here for around 100 years and moved away around 1280-1290, probably due to a severe drought. A young Swede, Gustav Nordenskiöld, arrived here in 1891 and explored, excavated and photographed the ruins, which led to nationwide recognition of these amazing national treasures and eventually this became a National Park. According to National Geographic it is one of fifty MUST SEE in a lifetime.
In this picture it is easier to get an idea of the size of this amazing dwelling, where approximately 150 people lived.
Here it almost looks like some kind of Legoland.
At first the people lived on top of the Mesa and at some point they moved down and built these amazing buildings of stones, many shaped like bricks.
At Cliff Palace there are several Kivas, which are circular rooms used mainly for religious and ceremonial purposes, maybe they were also used as dwelling places in the winter. They had roofs resting on six pillars. The round pit is for the fire, the small hole is a Sipapu, which symbolizes the portal through which their ancient ancestors first emerged to enter this world. There is a rectangular hole behind a small wall, this is where fresh air is entering the Kiva. The little wall apparently creates a vacuum which makes the airflow help the smoke go up and out of the small opening in the roof, which also functions as the entry to the Kiva. A ladder makes it possible to go down into the Kiva. The present day Pueblo Peoples who live in the Santa Fe / Taos area use Kivas like this for religious and ceremonial purposes even today.
We had a very interesting tour by a charming and funny Park Ranger. It was very cold and we had to smile and laugh to stay warm.
These walls are about 700 years old. Built of rocks which had to be hand carried from far way. Built by people who basically had only sticks and rocks as tools. With this they made elaborate pottery and much more. But they had no written language and not much is known for certain about them. Much has been learned about them from the present day Puebloans.
Spruce Tree House is another dwelling which is amazingly well kept. Two Kivas in the foreground have been rebuilt with stone roofs resting on large beams (vigas). The ladders are sticking up from the small holes through which you enter the Kiva below. Note the T-shaped doors. Amazing architecture! Very inspiring.
From Mesa Verde we continued towards and into Utah. We noticed a sign for Hoovenweep National Monument and drove off the main road and entered a vast wilderness. At one point we turned off onto a small dirt road and eventually found a number of ruins in the desert.
These beautiful walls have been standing in the harsh wilderness for around 700 years. Small stones have been pushed into the mortar and archeologists believe that is one reason why the walls are still standing. This is similar to how stone houses in Mallorca have been built!
On the way back to Cortez, southern Colorado. Mesa Verde at sunset. In the deep canyons atop Mesa Verde is where both we and Gustav Nordenskiöld were awed by the ruins of the Ancestral Puebloans, formerly called Anazasi.
Next history lesson: these are the ruins at Aztec, New Mexico, not very far south of Mesa Verde. The first explorers/archeologists who came here believed this was the origin of the Mexican Aztec people, but later they have learned that to be wrong. These are buildings made by the Ancestral Puebloans as well. The large circular building to the right was rebuilt by archeologists in the early 20:th century.
These ruins are located just next to the Animas River, so it was probably a good location. But the square brick-like stones had to be hand carried from far away in order to build these beautiful walls.
Inside the large circular building – a truly amazing room! I am not sure it is entirely ok to take pictures here, did not see a sign forbidding it, but a plea to be quiet and respectful.
A beautiful ceiling/roof. Much can be learned…
There are two circular walls, between these there are small rooms. Note how the windows have been built in order to allow more light to enter the large room inside.
The building seen from the outside. I would love to build a studio inspired by this, but am not sure the Pueblo People would approve?
After mountain biking, driving, hiking, and history lessons, we returned home to Santa Fe. A short lunch break outside of Aztec – Coke is it! What would the old Ancestral Puebloans think if they knew how we so easily travel, consume and waste today? We felt humble and thankful on our way home. A great trip and probably lessons for life.