Travel Tuesday: Off-The-Grid Glamour at 6200 Feet

by Kim Weiss on March 21, 2023 in Travels,

It would be a new moon, or as I like to say, “no moon,” and the great big New Mexican sky would be as dark as it gets.  This meant optimal celestial viewing as we stepped into the Chaco Canyon Glamping Overnight Tour, a signature Heritage Inspirations tour. We had read a bit about this mysterious prehistoric Puebloan place and were ready to enter another world.

As a wonderful launching pad for our time at the Chaco National Culture Park, we met our guide Angelisa, driver, and co-explorers at the Hotel Chaco in Albuquerque. As soon as we hit the circular lobby we were enveloped in a peaceful oasis, then ambled about the gallery-like interior with its breathtaking displays of indigenous artwork . Aesthetically we were preparing for the light, texture, and magic of the place that would be our home for the next two days.

Clearly, Hotel Chaco was a place for pampering and indulging oneself so here the term “glamping” made sense. My question: how does one glamorously camp in a rustic venue where culture dates back from 830 to 1250 A.D.? We expected ruins, caves, and petroglyphs. Where would we find the glamp?

Casa Rinconada is an example of Chacoan architecture and building styles. Photo Amanda Powel and Heritage Inspirations.

After a bumpy three-and-a-half-hour ride navigating deep ruts in the dirt road, we welcomed a little comfort and Chaco Canyon Visitor Center was a site for sore eyes. We stretched our jackhammered spines, refilled water bottles, and grabbed last-minute snacks. From there we headed for our inaugural hike and first petroglyphs sightings on the walls above Una Vida Great House. We marveled at the myriad hues of sand, scrub, and rocks

After our short hike and lunch, we drank in the view and piled back into the van to be shuttled to our next hiking destination. Our van served as much a history and anthropology classroom as it did transportation. Our driver was equal parts pothole-traversing expert and docent. He took us to the much-celebrated Pueblo Bonito for an interpretive guided tour. We strode along the Cliff House Sandstone cliff on the Petroglyph Trail to connect with The Great House, one of many “houses” we would come upon on our journey imagining each time that civilization actually lived in or visited there. Fun fact: the great houses were often oriented in solar, lunar, and cardinal directions. Some had sophisticated astronomy markers. It is said that communication was enabled by the lines of sight among these great houses.

Another highlight was learning about fossilized sea life that adorned much of the cliffsides. This life occurred during the Cretaceous period, a new word for most of us.

Now for the glamping

 We headed for camp – or should I say glamp? Filled with lots of indigenous lore and many miles since our hotel departure, we were greeted by our Glamping Crew, drinks in hand and munchies to share. Just beyond our hospitality area, I spied an enclave of well-spaced, large white yurt-like tents, tall enough for my 6’3” tall companion to stand in. Paying attention to every detail of our comfort, they were equipped with heaters and exotic rugs covering the entrance and interior floors. Plush platform beds with puffy duvets could rival any bedroom suite. The tents were well-lit and we were set.

Dining at New Moon Glamping. Photo Amanda Powel and Heritage Inspirations.

Our Glamping Crew outdid themselves

Among these almost Lawrence of Arabia movie prop tents was the great big supper tent. Here we were spoiled beyond imagination, shoes removed and ready to relax.  Out came multiple trays of indescribably delicious food to be washed down by pure New Mexican-grown wine. We were happy campers, all nine of us.

With bellies full, the sun melted onto the horizon and the night grew chilly.  We cozied up to a bonfire and applauded the chef for a meal worthy of 5 stars. Now, for a good night’s rest to prepare for the other side of our glamorous adventure. The night sky was the pitchest black I’ve ever seen. Safe and reasonably sound in our tent, howling coyotes provided the perfect soundtrack to our Chaco initiation.

Into the wild

The bold and the brave rose at 5:45 a.m. to watch the spectacular Chaco sunrise a short climb from camp. With our coffee cups in hand, we kept the shivers to a minimum and reveled in the magnificence of where we were – by my calculations – the middle of nowhere.

Pueblo Bonito is a must-see cultural site in Chaco Canyon. Photo Amanda Powel and Heritage Inspirations.

Next, a pit stop for a full gourmet breakfast, pack up what we wanted with us for the day’s trek, and return to the van. We had the option of hiking Pueblo Alto Trail to the legendary Pueblo Bonito Overlook.  Pueblo Bonito is an important part of the ancestral homelands of the Hopi and Pueblo people of New Mexico. It was important to be mindful that where we walked is sacred land. In the 1800s, before the first archeological protection laws were put in place, there were vandals, pot hunters, and even archeologists who did irreparable damage to Pueblo Bonito.

Along the trails and miles in the van we learned about kivas, great houses, vigas, and latillas. We listened to stories about the Chacoan people.  Stories vary depending on who’s telling them and all that is left are great oral traditions. Although Chacoan peoples began to move away in the 1100s, Puebloan descendants continue to pray at Chaco and honor the spirits of their ancestors. 

Elk sighting as we left – a mighty Buck. Photo Kim Weiss.

Taking it all in our hearts, minds, and spirit, and the callouses on our feet, our return trip to the hotel was the perfect amount of time to absorb and process our amazing experience.  A grand finale moment for me was seeing a massive herd of elk grazing to the left of our van. With a tired crew, I begged the driver to stop and let me out of the van to photograph these gorgeous wild beasts. Babies, mamas, and fully-racked bucks posed unknowingly as I was fortunate to snap a few memories. Spirit animal elks were the icing on my Chaco cake.


Cover photo Amanda Powel and Heritage Inspirations

Kim Weiss has worked as a PR Professional for decades, most notably heading up the publicity department from 1994-2019 for the major book publisher, HCI Books, best known for launching the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul series. While at HCI, she helped put several authors on The NY Times Bestseller list.  Prior to entering the book business, Kim ran her own PR firm in Boca Raton, FL. Currently, she runs Kim Weiss Publishing Services and freelances as a publicist for numerous authors. Her website is Kim has contributed to the hugely popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series and The Ultimate Bird Lover with “America’s Vet” Marty Becker. You can also find Kim’s stories in Arielle Ford’s acclaimed book Hot Chocolate for the Mystical Soul. Kim is also the author of her own book, Sunrise Sunset: 52 Weeks of Awe & Gratitude (HCI – 2012). Currently, in her spare time, Kim sings with the Zia Singers, manages a book club and is assisting with the Santa Fe International Literary Fest. She lives with her husband John, and cats Sachi and Anabelle in Santa Fe, NM.