Category: - NM&AZ 2011

Bandelier National Monument

Marsha descending one of three 30 foot ladders needed to get to the Alcove House
Bandelier National Monument is a small, yet complete testimony to the history of Ancestral Pueblo people -- the Native Americans who lived in the Four Corners area of the US.  Traces of this civilization go back 10,000 years to hunter-gatherers.  The cliff dwellings reflect a later period when the Ancestral Pueblo people build more permanent living structures.

Smaller than the well-known Mesa Verde settlement in southern Colorado, Bandelier is just as interesting -- and challenging -- as it's larger cousin.  We got a chance to test our woefully out of shape Eastern bodies which have been   hibernating all winter from much activity (speak for yourself, Harry).  I'm happy to report on the morning after that the muscles don't ache too much.

The loop trail takes you up to a set of small alcoves, some of which you can reach by ladders.  These were part of a long house which you can detect by holes in the rock where horizontal poles of the roof rafters were inserted in the past.  The look back down once you have climbed up is spectacular -- looking down on the ruins of the Big Kiva.

Near the return of the loop trail is a 1/2 mile spur to the Alcove House, a much larger -- and much higher -- alcove in the side of the mesa wall.  To get to the alcove you have to climb three thirty foot sturdy ladders.  The important thing to remember (and repeat to yourself) while climbing or descending is "One step at a time".  The alcove is very large and offers a lovely view down -- especially with the variety of colors of green with the Spring foliage.

After the long (for us) slog back to the visitor's center, we rewarded ourselves with a Cheesburger and a  Coke.  How decadent. 

There was a very nice museum explaining all that we had seen.  I never know the order in which to view the museum versus view reality.  I suppose if I had the discipline, we would view the Museum, go out and see the real thing, and then go back and view the Museum again.  But, we are too impulsive for that and so we always seem to view the Museum and think "I wished I had known that when we were out on the trail".  Note to self: it's time to stop being so impulsive... 

Scenes from Bandelier National Monument (placeholder)

Valles Caldera National Preserve

The second major trip of the day was to the Valles Caldera the huge area that collapsed into a immense valley after the volcanic activity ceased.  There is no question as your drive on the edge of the caldera, that something significant happened here a long time ago -- yet the impact of that event still is evident.  The expected forestation of this broad expanse has not happened -- and I have not figured out yet why this has happened.  Unfortunately, the visitor's center was not open yet for the season and so we just had to look from afar.  Actually, looking at the brochure about Valles Caldera, the is actually a lot more to see than just the part of the Caldera we saw from the road -- and a return trip is in order.

Scenes from Valles Caldera (placeholder)

End of Day

It was a dusty day on the trails and so when we returned, we both took short showers to wash the dirt off before a short siesta before one of our now normal great dinners with our wonderful hosts and friends, Jan and Seamus.  This visit reminds us of all of the interesting topics of conversations we get  into with people we are close to.