Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bandelier National Monument

One of our goals for Tuesday was to see Jemez Falls. Here the Jemez River drops 70 feet through a spectacular series of falls.  Unfortunately the trail from the road to the falls was covered with snow and, as we kept loosing the trail, we gave up on that idea. We drove on to Valles Caldera, called the  "Super Volcano of New Mexico".  It's eruption was ten times bigger than Mount St.Helens and it is the third largest volcano in our nation. The one at Yellowstone comes in second. We stopped at Valle Grande, largest of the numerous valleys within the crater. It is now mainly a preserve for elk and cattle who graze here during the summer months. Unfortunately the road into the preserve was closed for the winter. We do need to come back during warmer weather! I would love to hike some of the trails within this caldera.
It was fortunate that we did not get to do all the things we had planned to do Tuesday, because then we would not have had the opportunity to tour Bandelier National Monument. There are over 1,000 archeological sites here, and evidence of human activity dating back 10,000 years.  The pueblo sits in a beautiful valley within the Frijoles Canyon. A creek of the same name flows nearby year-round. In this idyllic setting Ancestral Ancient Pueblo people planted crops and built large communities.
The pink rock of the canyon wall is volcanic ash which has become compacted over time into a soft crumbly rock called tuff, which is easily eroded by wind and water. Over time the exposed rock takes on a Swiss cheese appearance. Ancestral Pueblo People used stone tools to enlarge the small openings in the cliff face.
What a thrill it was for us to walk the ancient footpaths, climb the ladders and peer into the homes and kivas of Native Americans who had once lived here! There are also stone houses built next to some of the natural openings.The soft rock also made excellent building material. The homes of the ancient people were  not confined only to the canyon. The ruins of an ancient village dating from the 13th century sits near the cliffs. It is one of several large pueblos located within the park. One last picture I have here is that of a petroglyph, one of many which are painted on the rock walls. This particular one was found on a part of a back wall of a second-story dwelling. It had been uncovered from a layer of plaster and preserved for display purposes. We took a paved trail to see the main archeological sites, which was all we had time for as it was getting late in the day. There is a lot more to explore at this national monument, it has over 70 miles of trails.

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