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With only two options for leaving Chaco Canyon (neither one of them very good) and the forecast of rain and snow for the next two days we decided it was probably a good idea to cut our visit short by one day and get out while the gettin' was good.

I came to this revelation at 5:30AM while visiting my best friend John (aka toilet) and by 7:30AM we were driving past the Visitor Center on our way out of the park.

With 20-miles of gravel road and 37-miles to the nearest town, I was glad we made the decision to leave. Especially after we saw this sign at the exit gate, they don't have a similiar warning sign as you leave the pavement behind on the way in.

That's where we're headed! Blue skies and nothing but 15 more miles of gravel to get there.

And that's what we're leaving behind! Grey skies and the threat of rain/snow for two days.

Two days ago, on the way headed toward Chaco Canyon, we saw this smiling face on the side of the road. We had already driven past before I was fully aware of what it was that I had just seen. Anyway, I vowed that if he were still there on our way out we'd stop and say hello, take a photo and then wave goodbye as we proceeded on down the road.

We were so happy when he was still there, two days later, with the same smile on his face.

The land owner could purchase a black 5-gallon bucket to place upside down inside the tire to give him a proper tophat. Nonetheless, I applaud their sense of humor and thank them for making us smile on this otherwise dreary day.

We made a quick pitstop back at Bluewater Lake State Park to fill our fresh water tank and empty or waste tanks to prepare for 7-nights of camping without either of those two amenities.

We purchased the New Mexico Annual Camping Pass which allows entry to all New Mexico State Parks and free camping when there are no hookups, so I figured we were OK to use their facilities here today even though we aren't camping here.

After another brief pitstop to fill up with gasoline we were on our way to the El Morro National Monument's FREE First-Come-First-Serve campground for a 3-night visit. There are only nine campsites here and only three of them will comfortably accommodate THE POD and ROVER.

We scouted out this campground when we did the Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano hike earlier in the week, it's only 15-miles back down Highway NM-53 from here.

Lucky for us our first choice, Campsite #4, was vacant and we quickly moved in.

There's plenty of room to spread out on this campsite.

And plenty of sunshine for our solar panels.

We even have a distant view of the monuments headlands from our site.

Plus it's close to the bathrooms! Look how filthy dirty THE POD is!

It wasn't long after we were all set up that we were back in ROVER and headed a half mile up the road to the Ancient Way Cafe for a very tasty lunch.

After lunch it was back to the El Morro National Monument's Visitor Center to get my Passport Book stamped, watch a short documentary movie about the monument and inquire about the hiking trails here.

We were sad to find out the hiking trail that has the best view of Woodpecker Arch is closed because it's still covered in snow. We were told there was a very nice view of the arch from the roadway, but no good place to pull over and grab a photo. With the very light traffic on the road we were able to stop and get this photo to share with you.

It really does look just like a woodpecker!

SUNDAY - One of the trails that is open is the ¾-mile Inscription Loop Trail.

This trail takes you past a pool of water and nearly 2000 Spanish and American inscriptions, including some prehistorical petroglyphs.

The trail starts out easy enough, exiting from the rear door of the Visitor Center.

The pool of water, which is why so many have visited here, is in a protected corner of the cliff.

The pool is never empty and is not spring fed. Rain and snow melt fill this from above.

On top of El Morro National Monumnet is an ancient pueblo ruins,
but we've seen enough of them recently so we didn't climb to the top to get a look.

But the name of this trail is Inscription Loop Trail, so where are the inscriptions?

All along the base of these sandstone cliffs is where you'll find them. Some of the Spanish inscriptions are from as early as 1605, while the American inscriptions are mostly from the 1850-1890 era.

Here are a few of the more notable ones. I do admit I had to slightly adjust the contrast in some of the photos to make them easier to read.



The inscription reads "Miss A. F. Baley".
America Frances Baley was part of a wagon party headed to California in 1858.
This is one of only two women inscriptions to be indentified here.

E. Penn Long of Baltimore, MD was in a U.S. Army expedition in 1859.

P. Gilmer Breckinridge was a member of the same U.S. Army expedition in 1859.

The Spanish translation of this inscription reads:
"On the 25th of the month of June, of this year of 1709,
Ramon Garcia Jurado passed through here on the way to Zuni".

The Spanish translation of this inscription reads:
Pedro Romero passed through here on the 2nd of August, year of 1751.
This inscription was filled in with graphite (pencil lead) by the NPS in the 1920s as a way
of preserving it and making it more readable. This practice was stopped in the 1930s.

A lot of the inscriptions are like this one, very hard to read, even if is was in English.

This one is very hard to see because it's one of the oldest.
It translates to: Governor Don Juan de Onate passed through here
from the discovery of the Sea of the South on the 16th of April, 1605.

Spanish translation: The Ensign Don Joseph de Payba Basconzelos
passed through here on the 18th of February 1726.

R. H. Orton was a Captian in the California Column of the Federal Army
during the Civil War in 1866. He later became the Adjutant-General of California.

Spanish translation: General Don Diego de Vargas, who conquered for our Holy Faith and
for the Royal Crown, all of New Mexico, at his own expense, was here, in the year of 1692.

This is why we were unable to get an up close photo of Woodpecker Arch.
The trail is not yet open from the winter season.

This will be our last stop in New Mexico for now, we will however be back again later this year.

Next we're headed back into Arizona, and you know what their nickname is, right?

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