Bicycle touring the Colorado Plateau, part one: Chama River and Chaco Canyon

No, I am not in the US, not cycling the Colorado Plateau. We’re stuck at home in Antalya, another under round of covid 19 restrictions. Spending too much time on the internet, I came across a couple articles about the mysterious appearance and disappearance of a metal monolith in the Utah desert, specifically in Lockhart Basin. I looked at the map and thought, “wait a minute — I’ve cycled there!”

It took a little more internet searching to find my trip write-up (from before I started this blog) and a bunch of photos that needed some work. I’ll repost everything here, but the story’s kind of long so I’ll break it into four one-week chunks, with photos of course. This is the first installment, starting at the Chama River in April 2009.

Oh, and maybe you’ve also come across articles about a very similar metal monolith appearing and disappearing near Piatra Neamţ. I’ve bicycled there as well! Hahaha!

Sorry, back on track:

El Vado, New Mexico by bryandkeith on flickr
El Vado, Chama River, New Mexico

This tour was born from the anchors on either end: a float trip in mid-April and a White Rim trip in mid-May. The decision to bicycle between these two trips was not a difficult one. Briana, Jaime, Suzanne, Eric, and I drove south from Boulder, put two boats in at El Vado, and spent three wonderful days floating the Chama. We took out at Big Eddy (just upstream from Abiquiu Reservoir), and it was from there I started cycling.

Eric, Suzanne, Jaime, between El Vado and Ward Ranch by bryandkeith on flickr
Eric, Suzanne, Jaime, between El Vado and Ward Ranch
between Huckaby Canyon and Big Eddy by bryandkeith on flickr
between Huckaby Canyon and Big Eddy

Chaco Canyon, Canyon de Chelley, and Cedar Mesa are probably the most well-known places I visited along the way. My first full day of cycling included the longest continuous stretch of pavement of the trip. That afternoon I crossed the southern edge of the Jicarilla Apache Reservation with “no trespassing” and “no camping” signs at every side road. I wondered if the Navajo Reservation would be equally inhospitable to bicycle tourers. It wasn’t. The 7 days and nights in the Navajo Nation were wild: few people and few signs, lots of roads, desolate desert, challenging mountains, Anasazi ruins, beautiful canyons and arches, and lots of wind.

between Big Eddy and Abiquiu Reservoir by bryandkeith on flickr
between Big Eddy and Abiquiu Reservoir
between Abiquiu Reservoir and Coyote by bryandkeith on flickr
between Abiquiu Reservoir and Coyote
near Counselors, NM by bryandkeith on flickr
near Counselors, New Mexico

But first, between the two reservations, I made a quick afternoon visit to Chaco Canyon where I visited Wijiji, Hungo Pavi, Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl, and Casa Rinconada. The National Park at Chaco Canyon preserves some of the Anasazi Great Houses, large villages that are built out in the open unlike the more famous Anasazi cliff dwellings from the Pueblo III time. The park also preserves some of the Chaco Outliers. I had Kin Klizhin, one of the outliers, all to myself when I walked around the site the following morning.

Chaco Culture National Historic Park by bryandkeith on flickr
Chaco Culture National Historic Park
Hungo Pavi, Chaco Culture National Historic Park by bryandkeith on flickr
Hungo Pavi, Chaco Culture National Historic Park
Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Culture National Historic Park by bryandkeith on flickr
Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Culture National Historic Park
Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Culture National Historic Park by bryandkeith on flickr
Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Culture National Historic Park
Chetro Ketl, Chaco Culture National Historic Park by bryandkeith on flickr
Chetro Ketl, Chaco Culture National Historic Park
Chetro Ketl, Chaco Culture National Historic Park by bryandkeith on flickr
Chetro Ketl, Chaco Culture National Historic Park
near Kin Klizhin, Chaco Culture National Historic Park, NM by bryandkeith on flickr
near Kin Klizhin, Chaco Culture National Historic Park

From Chaco Canyon I took a direct route west to Canyon de Chelley. But, wait, that’s for next time…

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2 Responses to Bicycle touring the Colorado Plateau, part one: Chama River and Chaco Canyon

  1. Mike Painter says:

    I love Chaco! Happy Holidays to you!

    • Bryan Keith says:

      Hi Mike,

      Yes, Chaco Canyon was great. That was my first and only visit there. At a bookshop in Turkey I came across an English language book, “People of Chaco”. There aren’t a lot of English language books here, and subject, well — what a strange find! There’s a photo of Pueblo Bonito on the cover. I haven’t read the book yet.

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