None of us were prepared for what was to come. What we thought was going to be an ordinary drive, turned out to be a bumpy mystery.
Chaco Canyon, N.M., is a powerful and mysterious place. It is a place that leaves you with more questions and curiosity then when you arrived. Not only is Chaco Canyon a famous archaeological site, but it is also one of the most cryptic places in the American South West.
Finding enormous, intentionally built homes and kivas that are aligned with the sky, which were later abandoned for no reason known, leads to one of the most common questions asked in the Southwest.
Where did the people go? Why did they go?
Although Chaco Canyon leaves its visitors with questions that may never be answered, it also welcomed us into a bizarre story.
As the Castleton State College class turned onto the dirt road that leads to Chaco Canyon, a subtle feeling of uncertainty filled the vans. Rain, something that Chaco Canyon has not seen for years, began to accumulate in the sky. It turned black; we were not prepared for such a storm. All of a sudden, the rain began to come down – hard. The dirt road turned into mud. The car in front of ours had been sliding uncontrollably, finally coming to a stop, realizing they would not make it.
As we continued down the washed-out road, we too began to lose control.
“It’s OK everyone,” Professor Paul Derby explained, trying to be reassuring. He had both hands gripped on the wheel tightly, steadying the white van.
All of a sudden the van began to slide, spinning us sideways. The rain was coming down harder than before, making it difficult to see the road. Nervous yelps came from a few of the girls.
“Oh my God, oh my God,” one student said.
Josephine Barrale, an assistant teacher, was trying to calm us, but she too had a sense of nervousness in her voice.
“Girls, it’s OK, it’s … easy Derby, you’ve got it.”
Tapping the breaks, Derby eventually brought the van to a stop. The car was silent. We all took a moment and realized that we were experiencing something that people who had lived in Chaco their whole life had never seen before.
Hours later, we finally arrived at our temporary homes, exploring the landscape and trying to get a better understanding of what happened here in this unexplainable land. Studying the abandoned homes is compelling. It’s like searching for an answer and the only response is in your imagination.
It is not wrong nor right. That is what we learned; that some things may never be explained, but through experience, you gain knowledge about the people, the past, and the land.