6-24-00 - Bandelier Nat'l Monument Anasazi Ruins - Santa Fe - Cochiti Lake A.C.E. Campground

I got up early this morning, about 6:30 so I could eat, break camp and walk the short 1.4 mile trail near the visitor's center. There is an Anasazi village along the trail and cliff dwellings. My first up close look at the real thing.

As I was packing things away and completing my pre flight inspection of the Westy I noticed that the front right bumper end cap was missing. A bumper end cap is a piece of black plastic attached to the end of the chrome pumpers to give it a "finished" look. Most Vanagons I see with chrome bumpers are missing at least one end cap. I lost the one in the right rear about a year ago. I got a new one mail order from GoWesty and put it on. The replacement had more holes and real bolts to attach it to the bumper with. The originals were attached by one single screw with a sort of crimped end keeping it in place. A joke. To think that a single dinky little screw would keep the end caps on through years of vibration and highway miles is nuts. So I bolted the replacement rear end cap, it's not coming off anytime soon. I replaced the original screw in the end cap on the left rear with a nut and bolt combination I found in a little box of screws and nuts and bolts that my dad and brother have been accumulating for the past 25 years....see guys, that's why we KEEP things. I didn't replace the screws up front though, and I don't know why. Now the right front is gone forever, in any event it isn't imperative to vehicle operation....I'll go on without it.

I took off down the park road towards the visitor's center and was on the trail by 8:00am. I was hoping to be at the ruins as the sun made its way down the valley casting good light for photographs. I had plenty of time, the valley was still in the shadow of the tall mesa. I followed signs from the visitor's center to the Main Loop Trail. It was very developed, paved concrete, so there was no chance of getting lost or anything. I still took a small pack: compass, 2 qts. water, the cameras, Swiss army knife, and the map....and a sweatshirt as it was still cool in the valley. It was a self guided tour with numbered markers on the trail with corresponding explanations in a little booklet. I set off.

The valley was formed by a river that ran through soft porous rock deposited by a series of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. Today the river is a mere stream running between steep rock cliffs. According to the Bandelier Official Map and Guide the ancestors of today's Puebloan peoples inhabited the cliff dwellings and pueblos of this valley. I walked the short little trail quietly watching for early morning wildlife. I saw two mule deer, a bunch of chipmunks and a few Albert squirrels. These little squirrels are grey and look like regular squirrels except for the extra tufts of black hair on their ears that stick straight up about an inch. Strange looking little creatures.

Before long I came upon ruins of a pueblo built on the valley floor, not far from the stream. It was made up of a dozen or so rooms and a number of kivas. Kivas are probably best described as underground ceremonial chambers used by the Pueblo peoples throughout the Southwest. The sun came down the valley and illuminated these ruins as I walked on. I approached the cliffs and began to see the caves the indians dug out of the soft stone to act as back rooms and back walls for their dwellings while they'd use stone and mud to build their structures toward the center of the valley. These sorts of dwellings are what the Warner Bros. cartoons and old Tom and Jerry, and Droopy cartoons try to represent when characters chase each other into indian cliff dwellings and take up the ladders behind them. That's what this place reminded me of anyway.....So then I guess I learned of this place when I was about four years old, eating dry cereal by the handful right out of the box as I have never liked milk on my cereal, sitting in front of the T.V.

I wondered what such a place must have sounded like when it was a flourishing community. The people went through each day doing what they had to do to survive, working hard...planting crops, grinding maize, hunting game. Religion played a large part in their daily lives as they tried to understand the things happening around them, things that we see as simple natural occurrences were products of pleased or displeased deities. Thunder and lightning, seasonal changes, day and night. When the sun went down, they prayed it would come up again because they just didn't know if it would or not if they didn't. To us it's static electricity between storm clouds and Earth. Winter is just a time of year when the sun isn't quite as close to North America as during the Summer. To these early indians it was a constant struggle to be in tune with a moody Earth.

The caves dug into the cliffs were great. They really look pretty comfortable. I mean back then, if I were an indian I'd want to live there. Keep in mind that's coming from someone who has lived in a walk in closet for the past two and a half years and now calls a 1982 Volkswagen bus home, but anyway. You can see round holes dug into the cliff walls, two rows of them. This village was made up of two separate stories. Round wooden beams extended out from those holes acting as floor and roof, depending upon which story you were on. I took a lot of black and white photos there. There was a marker along the sided of the trail directing my attention to a large, naturally made crevice in the soft rock, there are many natural crevices in the cliff walls. Not all of the holes you see in the pictures of the cliff walls are man made. In fact, most are products of erosion. I looked up into a large gash in the stone and could hear high pitched squeaking. The marker explained that the pungent odor I was smelling was bat guano from the colony of Mexican fruit bats that migrate north for the summer, always to this particular crevice. They actually had to re-route the original hiking trail due to falling guano hitting park patrons.

I completed the trail in a little over an hour with my frequent photo stops. It was about 9:30 when I pulled out of Bandelier and headed to Los Alamos to get a look at the recent fire damage. There were police directing traffic at a few places, lots of streets blocked off, etc. I drove down the main drag just looking around. I saw lots of bull dozers, back hoes, and heavy machinery rolling around, but no burned out city blocks. Those areas were all well roped off by the police. The hills around the town were quite obviously charred though. the hills all around looked like hills covered by black telephone poles. All that remained of the trees were the charred trunks, all around.

I filled up with gas in Los Alamos and headed to Santa Fe. It kind of springs up out of the desert too. I came from the north, into town and parked on a side street not far from the plaza. My Mom had told me that the plaza in Santa Fe reminded her of the plaza near my house in Chile, in Concepción. I didn't have much of a recollection of my previous trip to Santa Fe....just that it seemed lively, vendors selling their wares in the dusty streets. The plaza reminded me of Concepción too, large trees shading a common area for people to congregate. The plazas in Spain are the most lively I've seen though. Every evening the plazas would fill with people. Old men on some benches, old widows on others wearing all black as they will for the rest of their lives mourning the loss of their husbands. Little kids playing....soccer balls rolling around, strollers everywhere with young parents huddled around them. Santa Fe's plaza was full of tourists instead.

I walked along the sidewalk in front of the Palace of the Governors and looked at the jewelry the indians were selling outside. I may have mentioned that I think the indians have always been very shrewd traders. By selling their wares on the sidewalk in front of the Palace of the Governors, a national landmark, thus federal land, there is no need to charge or pay state or local sales tax. There was a lot of silver and turquoise. Everything from rings and necklaces to money clips and golf ball markers. It felt strange, listening to other people looking at the things....a group of fat women from Texas walking in front of their husbands...one of them had on a purple t-shirt that said "Las Vegas" in red sequins, her husband had a matching Las Vegas baseball hat. I refrained from going up to them and asking....
"Hey, have you guys ever been to Vegas?" although I was tempted.
I walked behind them:
"Oh, Barb, look at this. Isn't this lovely?"
"Oh yes, I saw something kind of like that in Cozumel last year."
"Oh, look at that, isn't that just awful?"
"Oh yes, I could never wear that."
The indians just sat there staring off into space as if they were living a hundred years ago in their minds. Some of them get into the salesmanship a little bit, they might reassure you that you can pick things up and try them on.
I guess I just learned never touch anything. If you pick something up in Andalucia you might as well just buy it because the guy won't let you leave without buying it. If you pick it up, he'll convince you that you can't live without it. Or you'll end up paying him something just to let you walk away.
It all felt kind of depressing really the indians still at the mercy of the cash economy the Spaniards introduced so long ago. On the other hand I guess it's nice that they get to make and sell their own merchandise rather than selling to wholesale department store rep who'll put it in shopping malls from Boston to L.A.

There was a hot dog stand on one corner of the plaza selling "Chicago Vienna Beef" hot dogs. I used to drive past that hot dog factory on the corner of Fullerton and Damen Ave's every day on the way to and from work.

I walked East off the plaza, popping my head into shops from time to time. One of them had a great patio, like the patios in Spain and Chile. I was beginning to get confused as to where I really was, it could have been Cordoba or La Serena. I came upon one of the oldest churches in the United States, maybe the oldest. San Juan Mission....constructed by indian slaves the Spanish brought up from Mexico in 1609. I paid a dollar to get in. It was a small little place with a stone floor and wooden ceiling, a replacement ceiling from the 18th century after a church fire. There was a tour of sorts...a recorded voice spoke from hidden speakers.
"Now direct your attention to the retablo above the altar."
So I'd look here or there as the history of the place was revealed. There was a family in the church with me at the same time, two parents and two young teenagers.
That voice had directed our attention to a retablo above the altar...a 300+ years old painting of Saint Theresa of Avila. The mother of the family kept remarking, "That's so old. Oh my god, that's really old. That painting's 300 years old."
I drifted off with my thoughts of old stuff.... A few years ago I stood in what was once Saint Theresa of Avila's bedroom, in Avila, Spain, one of the few European cities that still has it's medieval walls intact. Avila was always a very devoutly Catholic place, the walls around the city have only preserved that devoutness, forever keeping some things in and others out of Avila. The greatest treasure in Avila? Easy....They have one of Saint Theresa's dried rotten fingers with a big fat ring on it. Now, that's old.

I sat in the park next to the cathedral for a little while. I saw several men in their 40's and 50's with backpacks walking through the streets, guys who looked to be on some sort of journey. I can see how Santa Fe might end up as a destination for guys like that, an attractor of free spirits, wanderers, adventurers.

I began to look for a good place to eat lunch. I walked up and down the main tourist streets, but didn't find anything too interesting. I was walking down a little back street and looked down the alley....what did I end up eating for lunch in Santa Fe, New Mexico? A burrito? Red and green tamales? Tex-Mex? Something involving the words "Maria's" and "salsa"? Nope. I looked down the Alley of the Burros and found Café Paris. What initially caught my attention were a few tables out in the alley with red umbrellas and a large mural of a French cabaret woman dancing with wine bottles in her hands painted on the alley wall. I ended up having a nice lunch...a roast beef sandwich on real French bread with horseradish. It was great. The owner of the cafe was a woman who I would have taken for an indian woman, but she spoke fluent French. It turned out she was from Tahiti, which would explain her French language skills. She went from Tahiti to France for several years and worked in a number of cafes and restaurants and finally saved enough money and worked out the proper arrangements to come to the U.S.
"Most people around here think I'm Navajo, but I'm not. I come from Tahiti." she explained.

When I tried to order a Corona to drink outside with my lunch she explained to me that the city won't let her serve alcohol outside....she gave me an idea of the political landscape in a place like Santa Fe.
"This is the first year the city has let me have tables outside, but they won't let me serve alcohol outside. I have to pay the city $400.00 to have these tables out here for the Summer, and I had to pay them $300.00 to be allowed to put the painting on the wall." she claimed. I guess I should mention that this mural was painted on a temporary wall that separates a construction project from the rest of the alley, it's not on a permanent or historical structure of any kind.
She went on..."You know, a man from Italy did the painting for me. I asked my neighbors, at the restaurant," she pointed to the restaurant next door, "and at that store there if I could put up a painting and they said they didn't want a painting, but I went to the city and fought for my rights and when the neighbors see the painting they tell me, 'Oh, we like the painting. The painting's great.'" she laughed and and whisked her hand up with the cloth she was wiping down the other tables with, "So I guess now they like the painting."
"Well. the painting is what caught my attention when I was walking by." I admitted.
"Having restaurant in Santa Fe isn't easy," she began, "You need to have energy, believe in yourself, and be happy." she nodded, she wasn't lacking energy, that's for sure. "Some days I work 16 to 18 hours and I don't mind it, it's my place and I like it."
Her young Hispanic assistant came out to get her attention......she acknowledged him and turned back to me....."Okay, excuse me, I be back." and she ran inside.
As I waited for my food I read an article in the local freebie paper, the "Santa Fe Reporter". The front page and headline caught my eye as I walked past...."Paradise Lost! - Five Ways to Take Back the Plaza". It was an article about the growing amounts of pedestrian and auto traffic around the central plaza. Different people in the community voiced suggestions on how to go about managing the already overwhelming amounts of cars and people around the plaza.......Pizzaro and the boys didn't take Ford Expeditions or Texans into account when they drew up the plans for the plaza. Suggestions ranged from closing certain roads around the plaza during peak Summer months to closing the roads around the plaza completely to auto traffic turning the whole area into a pedestrian mall. The amount of tourists in Santa Fe was amazing, too many for my liking actually. I finished lunch and walked around some more. I went by the American Indian art museum. When I walked past the cathedral there was a wedding party arriving, the bride and groom in a buggy drawn by a white horse.

I walked towards the Westy, parked in the shade of a few trees...there was a blue and beige Vanagon a few cars down the street.

I left Santa Fe by about 3:00 in the afternoon and headed Southwest to Cochiti Lake Army Corps of Engineers reservoir and campground. It was an interesting place. Quite obviously man made. I crossed the reservoir by means of a narrow road built atop one of the hills built up to contain the water. I picked a camp site...none of them provided a drop of shade, it was probably as hot a campsite as I've had yet. I drew the curtains and turned on the fan to get some air moving. At least it's only dry heat and not humid. The sun went down and it cooled off considerably....good sleeping weather.


Bandelier National Monument indian dwellings.


Carved out of the stone cliffs.

Cacti in the foreground

Recently charred hillsides above Los Alamos

Central plaza in Santa Fe

Santa Fe patio

San Juan Mission

San Juan Mission interior

Wedding party outside Santa Fe cathedral

Cafe Paris

American Indian Art Museum, red Corvette.

Early 1980s Vanagon a few spaces from the Westy.

No shade at the campground.
 
 


 
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