Saturday, November 14, 2015

On to Indian Country

After Albuquerque we pressed on to the other reason for our trip. We were here to visit  Tony Hillerman country. We have read all of his novels about two Navajo cops and were here to fill in the landscape in which they are set.
 We drove north to Farmington, NM. We had a brochure from there that made it sound like a good base for general exploration. We also needed to stay put for several days so that a new Visa card could catch up with me, since the old one would no longer be usable in a couple of days. Checking ahead for campgrounds, we learned that none of the campgrounds in Farmington itself had showers. So we connected with a new one in Kirtland, five miles to the west. We ended up staying at that one for a week.
The first day was spent mostly catching up with various tasks and business that  needed to be taken care of. The next day started out the same; the shelf in front where the table is stored  collapsed (probably from rough roads) and one of the leaves was gouged by the screws that were supposed to hold it up. They were installing the laundromat in the campground, so I went through their scrap heap and found a couple of pieces of 2X4. After removing the offending screws, I dropped in the 2X4s and set the shelf on top of them. That helped but the table still sat too low. I went back to the scrap pile and found a piece of 2X6. It was too long, but the workers cut it for me. Very nice guys. That worked perfectly!
After a late breakfast, we headed out. The first place we went to was Hogback Trading Post that Jean had heard about. We had a long, interesting talk with the proprietor. That trading post has been in his family for something like four generations. There were lots of beautiful and interesting things in there, and Jean bought a couple for gifts.
One of the places that figures into Hillerman's stories is Shiprock. This is a large, free-standing rock that figures in Navajo history and religion. They call it "The Rock With Wings," and it is considered sacred. No one is allowed to climb it. Whites called it Shiprock because from certain angles it looks like a schooner under full sail.
It sits in the middle of a large, flat area just south of the town of Shiprock. We drove around it on a couple of roads to see it from several angles.

There are a couple of lava dikes extending out from it, especially on the south side.

 We were finally back in touring mode. The next day we drove to the town of Aztec, east of Farmington. We wondered about the name, since there were no Aztecs anywhere near this area. We found that early Spanish explorers often called any natives they met Aztecs. 
First we went to Aztec Ruins. Free seniors day, Yay! We saw a good film and toured the ruins for a couple of hours — very informative. This site is operated by the Park Service and is very well run and maintained. Aztec was an offshoot of the large Chaco Canyon settlement and the architecture is the same style. Typical of Chacoan ruins, it was a large, pueblo-type collection of apartments, as high as three stories in places. This large building faced a plaza that contained two large kivas.

One of the kivas has been restored to show what it was like inside.

These rooms, that include elements of the much older pit-houses, were used as ceremonial and community centers.
Unlike the later-period adobe pueblos that we usually think of, Chacoan buildings were made of stone with mud mortar. Roofs and ceilings were supported by timber beams, which often had to be brought in from the mountains, thirty miles away.

 There are many similar ruins scattered about northwestern New Mexico. Ancestors of the modern Indians conquered the desert, living off game and crops like corn, beans, and squash. Then about the year 1300 they seemed to just pick up and take off. No one really knows why. But their descendants are the Navajo, Hopi, and Utes who live scattered across the Four Corners area.
We had lunch in the Roadtrek and then went off to find Salmon Ruins (named for the owner of the land on which it was found). We missed it and had to turn around. We got there at 4:30, one half hour before closing — but we could walk the ruins after the museum closed. We paid our admission and got a guide book. This ruin was much like Aztec (both are Chacoan) but it had a well-restored tower kiva. It is privately owned, and the paths were rough and difficult. 

One of the kivas at Salmon ruins is on the third floor
This site had some interesting stone work, consisting of small stones placed in the spaces between the bigger stones. 

 Archaeologists have classified three different types of ancient stone work. I don't know if they represent different periods of construction or perhaps just different styles. 
After stomping around ruins most of the afternoon we were tired. Having to climb a hill to get back to the motorhome didn't help much. So we just went in to Farmington and found a Fuddruckers for supper. More old stuff tomorrow.

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