|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.
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....
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
American Indian Art Museum, red Corvette.
Early 1980s Vanagon a few spaces from the Westy.
No shade at the campground.