Aztec Adventures takes riders exploring in the Four Corners area - Albuquerque Journal

Aztec Adventures takes riders exploring in the Four Corners area

Pueblitos are believed to have been defensive in nature and are built on rocky outcroppings. A new tour from Aztec Adventures takes cyclists on back country roads to visit several of the historical structures. (Courtesy of Aztec Adventures)

Neil Hannum can think of no better way to enjoy oneself than engaging with history while cruising through the countryside on a bicycle.

He has merged these ideas into Aztec Adventures to help like-minded people explore the culturally expansive Four Corners area.

The initial offering, called Navajo Pueblitos Overnight Tour takes visitors back in time to the Spanish reincursion of the southwest following the Pueblo Revolt.

Also known as Dinétah Pueblitos, the sites consist of small stone-and-timber structures usually found in well-guarded, high-ground sites along mesa rims and on isolated outcrops and boulders. Although their history and construction are still being studied, archeologists believe Navajo people used the outbuildings in the late 17th and early 18th centuries as lookouts and defensive outposts, Hannum said.

“The interaction of the post-Pueblo Revolt when the Spanish come back into New Mexico, and the interaction between Navajo and Ute, that helped create the defensive sites,” he said. “When you see petroglyphs in most areas, you’re not going to see the Spanish influence. But with the Crow Canyon pueblitos, you see petroglyphs with people on horseback, so that’s after Spanish came here.”

Hannum’s overnight tour brings visitors to six of these pueblitos, which generally range from one to six rooms in the form of multi-storied towers, cliff dwellings and fort-like structures.

“We bring people out on a 30-mile tour, hit three of the pueblitos, come back to Aztec to a bed and breakfast, and then take them out again the next day,” he said. “Or if they want to stay out there, we’ll feed them and camp out there.”

The latter is particularly intriguing, Hannum said.

“You get to see a thousand stars plus a million more,” he said. “We found spots where it’s really nice to be in this open space, especially for people who aren’t familiar it being that dark out because their lifestyle revolved around the city.”

Many of the local petroglyphs found on the Navajo Pueblitos Overnight Tour near Aztec are more recent in nature, dating to the post-Pueblo-revolt era. (Courtesy of Aztec Adventures)

The idea, Hannum, said is to expose people to history and nature, how the two are entwined, and do so in a respectful manner.

The area is a true crossroads of history and culture in the Southwest, he said, as the many different Native Americans left their mark, as well as the Spanish and colonists.

“There are quite a few overlapping cultures, with the older Chacoan influence, through the Navajos, Utes, Paiute, Jicarilla Apache and Anglo-Saxon and Spanish. They’ve all been melding in this area.”

The rides themselves are on dirt roads carved through the back country for gas-field access, he said. While some of the conditions can be sandy, for the most part, the routes are wide and hard-packed.

Most of the way is relatively flat, “but a lot of times to access the pueblito, you have to climb a 500-foot bench,” Hannum said. “You can ride mountain bikes or fat bike across a lot of the roads just fine, but a skinny tire cross bike is not so good.”

And for those who prefer a ride with less of a workout, he said e-bikes will work on the routes, as well.

“If you’re coming in for a corporate, team-building event and bringing in say five executives and two people like to ride, and the other folks want to get out but don’t ride as much, we can all work together to get out to these sites,” Hannum said. “It’s all about learning and having fun and the e-bike is an awesome tool, especially in these areas where you can get to even in a truck.”

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