Bus Tours on Hilton Head Island for History Day

This sounds like a lot of fun if you’re around the South Carolina coastal island of Hilton Head on March 28. According to an article about the event,

More than a dozen sites on Hilton Head Island will be accessible by guided tour bus on March 28 for History Day, presented by the Coastal Discovery Museum and Heritage Library. Sites on the tour include several historic forts, Greens Shell Park, Mitchelville, the Gullah Museum, historic churches and Simmons Fishing Camp. The event begins at 10 a.m., and guided buses will leave every half hour from the museum’s free parking area at Honey Horn.

For more information, including information on how to purchase tickets, check out the event’s official webpage. You may also like the event’s Facebook page for updates. Tickets are $10 and $5 for children between the ages of 4 and 12.

The Baynard Mausoleum, built in 1846, is the oldest intact structure on the Hilton Head Island. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.
The Baynard Mausoleum, built in 1846, is the oldest intact structure on the Hilton Head Island. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

Travel tips for Chaco Canyon

This is the last post of my ongoing series about visiting Chaco Culture National Historic Park. If you’re planning to visit the park, there are several things you need to know to have a more pleasant trip. To read my posts about hiking and other activities in the park, here are links to my other posts:

First, you need to know that Chaco is in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t see any hotels or any grocery stores within two hours of driving there from Santa Fe. If you’re coming in from the northwest, Bloomfield is probably the last town with any real supplies. Take what you need with you, especially if you’re planning to camp. Cell phone service is somewhat spotty in the area (and forget about cell service if you have AT&T). The last unpaved portion of the road is really awful. It took me about an hour to drive that little section of road. I ran into a couple who drove in from the south route–they got a flat tire. The southern road is evidently a lot worse than the northern route. Don’t take the southern route if you’re driving an RV or towing anything. I wouldn’t even try it in a car, only a truck. Also be sure to call the park before you head out to check on road conditions.

Road to Chaco Canyon

Beware of taking a cooler or food that needs to stay cold. I thought it would be pretty mild weather while I was there so I took a cooler full of food. I had milk, cheese, lettuce, and a few other perishables. The ice melted in a day. My lettuce wilted and turned into a bag of green mush. The cheese started to smell really, really bad. Luckily, I also had a good supply of dry foods and canned food so I didn’t starve.

Things to bring with you:

Must-haves:

  • Large water container: Individual campsites don’t have water. You can find a water pump near the visitor’s center
  • Small water containers: If you plan to hike or even spend lots of time exploring the ruins, take a small water bottle with you and fill it up before leaving the visitor’s center. No water is available at individual ruins or along trails.
  • Plenty of cooking fuel: If you run out of fuel you’re out of luck. There isn’t a camp store.
  • Food: No food is available at the park, either. Take everything you need.
  • Sunscreen: Even the in cooler times of the year, you’ll get a sunburn!

Nice to have:

  • Binoculars: There are lots of things I wish I could have looked at through binoculars. Staircases on distant cliffs, the ramp up onto Fajada Butte, and distant views while hiking. Next time I’m definitely taking binoculars.
  • Firewood: If you visit in the cooler months, you can bring firewood with you and build a campfire at your campsite. You can’t buy or collect firewood in the park.
  • Telescope: If you have a telescope, this is one of the best places to use it. It’s very, very dark at Chaco and many of the park rangers and campground hosts are astronomy enthusiasts.
  • Tarp for shade: There are no trees or anything to provide shade at the campground. I didn’t haveĀ  a tarp and one hot afternoon ended up sitting on the ground in the little piece of shade my car offered. A tarp/shade tent would have been better.

General tips:

  • Try to plan your visit during the week in the spring and fall if you’re planning to camp. The park is most popular when the weather is mild and the campground can actually fill up. If you can arrive during the middle of the week the campground will likely be pretty empty. If you must arrive on a Friday, try to get there pretty early in the day so you can grab a campsite. The campground filled up while I was visiting. If you don’t mind really hot weather or really cold weather, you can probably find a campsite anytime in the summer or winter.
  • When you first arrive at the park, stop by the visitor’s center and watch the introductory video. It’s really helpful. You can also pick up guides to the various great houses and a wide variety of books.
  • The campground bathrooms don’t have hot water. The bathrooms at the visitor’s center do. I would wash my face in the mornings at the visitor’s center.
  • There are no showers. If you can’t stand going without a shower for a few days, don’t camp. I took a baseball cap to hide my hair.
  • If you’re going hiking on any of the backcountry trails (Penasco Blanco, Pueblo Alto, South Mesa Trail, or the Wijiji Trail) buy the Backcountry Trail Guide from the Visitor’s Center. It’s only $2 and provides an awful lot of information about things you’ll see on the hike. It’s totally worth it.
  • Either borrow or buy the guides to each pueblo. They contain really interesting and useful information.

Helpful books:

The reason I visited this park was because I read Craig Child’s book House of Rain. There are other fabulous books about Chaco, the Anasazi, and modern pueblo cultures. Reading about the area before visiting will help you better understand the culture and get more out of your visit. Some of my favorites are:

Museums:

If you have a chance, visit some pueblo museums in Santa Fe or Albuquerque before heading to Chaco. That way, you can see some of the artifacts recovered from the area before you visit. Ireally enjoyed the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe. There’s also a good museum at Mesa Verde National Park.

Exploring Chetro Ketl

After I spent several hours drooling over the fabulous masonry in the pueblo at Chaco I really wanted to see, I decided to explore some of the many others easily accessible from the main road winding its way through the canyon. But I decided to do it right. Instead of just jumping in the car and zipping around, I drove back to the visitor’s center to collect the information I’d need to get the most out of my trip.

The Chaco visitor’s center is really nice considering it’s in the middle of nowhere. The only thing missing is a museum to really educate visitors about the park, the people who built Chaco, and the beautiful items found in the ruins. I was looking forward to actually seeing some of the pots and art excavated in the early 1900s, but the visitor’s center doesn’t have anything like that. What the center does have is a nice introductory video about the park and the Chacoan culture as well as many different print resources. I watched the video with a couple other visitors then browsed around the bookstore. Of course, I have a weakness for books (argh) so I got one about the people who once lived there. The visitor’s center also sells guides for each ruin that you can visit from the main road. They’re cheap, between $0.50 and $0.75. A few are free. I also picked up a guide to backcuntry trails for $2.00. It was SO worth it.I went back to camp and started to read.

The morning of my second day at Chaco, I drove out to Pueblo Bonito and wandered around by myself for several hours. Then, I headed over to the giant complex to the southeast of Pueblo Bonito, called Chetro Ketl. It was almost as impressive as Pueblo Bonito, but you can’t wander as freely there.It’s the second largest complex in the park.

Kivas at Chetro Ketl [Read more…]

Pin Crazy

I discovered Pinterest about six months ago, long after many people were already hugely addicted to it. At first, I didn’t really get it. Is it for posting your own pictures? Sharing funny stuff? A shorter and faster version of Facebook?

But I now love Pinterest. I’m currently planning a trip to New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona to visit a bunch of fabulous archaeological sites and museums and Pinterest has been a really fun tool to help me plan my trip. When I find a destination or museum I think is worth checking out, I pin it to my trip board. Every time I visit my board to add something new or to review the pins I’ve already placed, I get even more excited about my trip. Look at all of the gorgeous places I’m going to visit! The only problem is that I’d need to stay out there for two months to visit every single place I’ve pinned.

I can see how Pinterest is a fabulous tool for travel planning and also for travel blogging. I see many, many for travel boards in my future. Next up: boards for historic hiking trails and museums. And what about backpacking/camping meals? That would be fun too. The possibilities are endless.