Aztec Ruins (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source, Science, and Nature.

Thu, 21 Oct 2004

Aztec Ruins

Driving around Farmington, NM is a little different from driving around California.

Heading out of town, we passed the Permian Power Tong building. I guess you'd better be careful when complaining about your electricity bill in Farmington! Especially if you want to assert that it comes from the Mesozoic, or something. Not long after that, we passed Jimmy's Swabbing Service. I don't think I want to know too many details about that, nor about the Four Corners Bull Test Station we saw later.

Update 11/8/2006: Someone from the Permian Power Tong wrote to let me know that they're an oilfield service company, not an electric company.

We stopped at the Aztec Ruins, so misnamed because early white settlers apparently thought these Anasazi ruins were left by the Aztecs (?). It's a small park, with one trail, but the ruins are excellent and the guide is full of information about the architecture. The structures were originally built by Chacoans and most of the lower masonry is similar to what we saw in Chaco Canyon, but was later modified (for repairs and additions) in a style more similar to Mesa Verde. Then, much later, some of the masonry was re-done by the park service in a well meaning but misguided attempt to stabilize the fragile structures, with the result that there's a lot of modern concrete, metal drains, and other anachronisms and apparently it's sometimes hard for modern researchers to be sure what came from which era.

The Chacoan work is the most beautiful. They liked to alternate layers of large bricks with small, or red with other colors, whereas the Mesa Verdeans used fairly uniform large bricks everywhere. Someone who came along later (perhaps the Mesa Verde group, perhaps a later tribe) added rounded river rocks in places, from the nearby Animas river. The Animas may also have been used to float the hundreds or thousands of logs needed for the roofs of the structures; the wood apparently came from the mountains, near Durango, since it's wood which wasn't available locally.

Although the park service tries to be much more careful now, we saw some modern repairs on the structure while we took the self-guided tour: Navajo bricklayers pounded sandstone with a hammer, chipping flakes off to make it the right shape to fit into the spot being repaired.

Outside of the park, we explored the town of Aztec, which has a nice little suburban downtown area surrounded by miles of scrubland with residential trailers. We noticed that the downtown area had a predominance of Kerry signs, unlike Farmington and the rural areas outside Aztec where Bush signs prevailed.

We took back roads from Aztec, eventually passing through Mancos (the Mancos Motocross, Now Serving Elk Burgers -- what more could you want? -- and the Reptile Reserve of Southwest Colorado) and the poshest highway rest stop we've seen anywhere, at Sleeping Ute Mountain, which offered its own hiking and pet exercise trails.

Our plan was to stay tonight in Monticello, UT, which is close to Canyonlands' Needles district and lots of other interesting places. The first hotel we tried should have given us a clue as to what was coming: the sign proclaimed "Big Buck Display!" A big dollar bill? wondered Dave. But it turned out this is the beginning of Utah's week-long deer hunting season, and that Monticello is the deer hunting capital of southeastern Utah (for some reason). We pushed on to Blanding instead.

Blanding looked like a bigger town in the AAA guide (more hotels) but isn't really. Fortunately, the Best Western has wi-fi (the only place in town, unlike Monticello which has two hotels and a cafe). The router gives the wrong address for the DNS server, but we guessed at the right address and edited /etc/resolv.conf, and things work okay as long as you remember to do that before making any net connections (otherwise the wrong DNS info gets cached by some proxy server somewhere).

Dave went to the office to see if anyone knew about this. He was told: "They just fired up the system two weeks ago, and it has been slow," but no one knew any more detail than that.

Photos.

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[ 20:08 Oct 21, 2004    More travel/anasazi | permalink to this entry ]