Anasazi: The Chaco Canyon Collection, Part 6 - The Call of Chaco: Farewell

That evening we ate dinner under the tarp, the wind and rain returning once again. But it would be the last of the inclement weather. Very fortunate for us because later that night we observed Chaco’s most magnificent natural feature, …absolutely crystal clear skies. The night skies over Chaco Canyon are a protected natural resource. There is no light pollution. None. From horizon to horizon. Nowhere on this planet will you see more stars. Since I am at an age where multiple nightly trips to the bathroom are a regular occurrence, and on my second trip about 3:30 AM, as I was trying, and failing, to quietly exit our tent, watching my steps to keep from tripping over anything I, out of the corner of my eye saw something in that night sky that compelled me to look up. I have seen the Milky Way before. But never like this. At home near Houston the Milky
Way is just a dull, thin, and faint light gray cloud. Here, our galaxy is a bold and bright colored backbone of stars and dust. The sight was so astonishing I forgot that I had to go to the bathroom. How I wished I had a dual axis telescope mount for my camera. No matter though because that image is burned into my memory.

Because Chaco Canyon has excellent “seeing” skies there is an observatory next to the visitor’s center. The domed facility has two telescopes, the largest being a 25 inch Dobsonian reflector. The Chaco Observatory has a Night Sky Program for visitors that includes staff presentations on archaeoastronomy, cultural history, and other topics, and are followed by telescope viewing of celestial objects. Unfortunately we were there a week early for the April schedule of the program. That’s ok. It will serve as another reason for us to return to Chaco.

I thought about waking Ronnie and Sherisa so I could share the experience with them but decided to let them sleep, although how they slept through the noise I made getting out of the tent I’ll never know. While camping it always seems the harder you try to be quiet the louder the noise you make. I made just as much racket getting back in the tent. I crawled back into my sleeping bag and fell asleep thinking about what I had just witnessed. I wondered what the Chacoan’s thought about the “backbone of night”. They were astronomers and had their own observatories.

My sincere thanks to Ronald Roybal for allowing me the honor of using his song “Farewell” from his brilliant CD “The Buffalo Hunters”. Ronald is a Native American flutist and classical guitarist in Santa Fe, New Mexico. With his music these photographs convey a true spirit of this beautiful place. For more information about Ronald visit his website:
The site is very interactive with lots of media and ordering CDs & DVDs is easy.


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