On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
On the Road will continue, but it will be forever Alain’s.
What a great set of photos! Gorgeous skies, stunning blooms, greenery growing out of rocks, a cool underground chamber, a lizard that looks distinctly not happy, and of course, beautiful birds.
After two weeks dedicated to people who had never submitted anything to On the Road before, we are doing two weeks of On the Road After Dark to catch up on our backlog. Chaco Canyon in Winter, from this morning’s On the Road ~WaterGirl
A visit to Chaco Culture National Historical Park in the late spring or early summer is a very different experience compared to a winter visit. For one thing, the campground is usually more full, and the guided tours and night-sky viewings are much more popular. And, as expected, there are more birds and other critters to see. So here are some images from a few warm-season visits.
Here is Fajada Butte on a fine day in May. It is apparent that this formation dominates the landscape in the canyon, and yet is still dwarfed by the vast and luminous New Mexico skyscape.
Cacti have very showy blooms, and there are cacti aplenty in Chaco Canyon. I think that this one is the Claret-cup or Hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus), but if I’m wrong about that, I suspect that some jackal will let me know.
Just like the cacti, lots of desert plants find cracks in the rock to grow in, and seem to thrive in those inhospitable places. This grass was along a trail leading to one of the outlier great houses a few miles from the center of the canyon.
Here is a detail of one of the corners of a Chacoan great house, just to show the precision stone-masonry that exemplifies Chacoan architecture. This wall is actually two walls of finely-fitted stones with a space between the walls. That space was filled with stone rubble and air; that insulative layer may have allowed for more stable temperatures inside the house in both the winter and the summer.
One of the kivas at Casa Rinconada, seen from the bluff above.
There are, as you might expect, a lot of lizards to see in this high desert habitat. Here is one of the less common ones, a Greater Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii), looking kinda grumpy. But these guys always look grumpy…
The Black-throated Sparrow is a common bird of the desert Southwest, from Texas to California. Their songs are a common accompaniment on hikes in Chaco Canyon in the spring and summer.
Another sparrow that is common in the canyon, the Canyon Towhee is a very accommodating photo subject sometimes. If you have an older field guide you might not find a Canyon Towhee there. Formerly these were called Brown Towhees, but taxonomists have now split that species into two, the Canyon Towhee of the desert southwest and the California Towhee, found in coastal and chaparral habitats in California. These two species look pretty similar, but their ranges do not overlap, so you can usually ID them by looking at a map.