If there were a contest for the best authentic Indiana Jones alive today, this guy would be on top of the pile of candidates. As we traveled the sites of the ancient Pueblos in the Southwest, I asked a couple archeologists if they knew him. One archeologist who was restoring a wall at the Aztec site, said that he’d run across Craig Childs during his the ten years work in the Canyon of the Ancients preserving the past before the dam was in place.
I’m glad Craig is real. I was fortunate to pick his book, House of Rain, in the Chaco Culture Center gift shop. It was a great adventure for me just to follow his description of how he made his way through impossible territories we were viewing.
Here’s one example from his book:
“It was a route I had used off and on over the past ten years, a thin outcrop of rock over a free-fall drop, the only way through. it is the checkpoint through which all travelers must pass when moving from one region of Canyonlands into the next.
“Dangling off this rock shelf, I would have to cross it, then jump down to another ledge below. I took off my pack–no room to climb down with it on my back–and as I turned to make my jump, I noticed above me pieces of a ruin I hadn’t seen before, simple stones neatly placed, the grin of a low wall in an overhead cliff.
“I scrambled up to see if a human hand had really made this place. Teetering on the tips of my boots, trying not to leave footprints in the dust, I found a chamber filled with rubble, many of its stones having fallen away. It was Anasazi. Right above this pinch, they had built a guardhouse from which they could see anyone coming, a natural bottleneck controlling the entire region.
“Among the archaeological sites I have seen in Canyonlands, many are positioned in a way that makes me think the Anasizi were constantly checking their backs, keeping an eye on movement in these canyons. Pressed by the thrust of war and overcrowding in the thirteenth century, they vanished into this hard, convoluted desert to escape the burning pith of their civilization.
“If you wanted to hide somewhere, guaranteeing no one would follow, this would be the place to go.
“I turned around and shot down from the ruin, jumping over the edge of the pinch. I reached back with the full extent of my fingertips to grab my pack, then disappeared down the deep, stone rabbit hole below.”
Craig roams in the worst of weather, rain, sleet, snow, extreme heat, often setting caches of water along a proposed route. Not only does he do what seems impossible, he puts a reader right beside him. As an added bonus, he adds his knowledge of the area, the people and their lifestyles.
Exciting stuff in a world with so few heroes.