By the numbers:
- 32 miles – stayed in the Farmington area – Trip total = 1672
- highest temp: 102
- highest elevation: 5642.6 feet at Aztec Ruins – very precise because there was a USGS survey marker embedded into a step of a portion of the restored ruins
- no new states and no new license plates
- One new park, The Aztec Ruins, and another park stamp for the Old Spanish Trail – 11 different National Park sites and areas for the trip so far.
After skipping longer tours for a couple of sites in a row we did a very thorough exploration of the Aztec Ruins. First thing you have to know is that they have no connection to the Aztecs of Mexico. This area, when first explored by the Spaniards coming up from Mexico, was given that name. The people who built and lived here where the Pueblo people of the Chaco culture, the same people who built at Chaco Canyon and at Mesa Verde.
Our thoughts as we learned about these people kept comparing them to our ancestors at this same time period. At about 1000 AD there were at least 50 to 60 thousand people living in this valley. The ruins we visited were the cultural center structures. In a culture with no long term written language they designed and built, over a period of 30 years, a major structure that was 3 stories tall including very complex internal structures. The materials to build this were carried here from 5 to 30 miles away without any mechanical devices to assist and in an era when there were no beast of burden (no horses, donkeys, or cattle in the Americas at that time). The primary ceremonial place was an impressive piece of architecture. Some parts of the ruins included multi-layered wooden ceilings which have survived for 900 years. The primary ceremonial structure, or Kiva, had collapsed but has been reconstructed as exactly as possible. It took the better part of the year to build using all of our modern technologies.
The reminder for me from the day was how important it is to understand that the many peoples of our world and our nation have many different histories and backgrounds and we need to try our best to step outside of our own shoes from time to time to try to see the world from one or more of those other perspectives. This place has been labeled “abandoned ruins” by one group of people. Another group, the Hopi people who are descendants of the Pueblo, believe these ruins where never abandoned. They were built as footprints to mark part of their journey in this world and they believe their ancestors still reside here. In a time when so many in our culture are only concerned with being “right” and making sure they let others who think differently know they are “wrong,” I think we might all benefit from considering our situation from another view.