Day 23- Bandelier National Monument

A trip like this, with people like us, is fraught with compromise. Would we love to stop at every National Park and see every giant yarn ball? Of course we would. Would we love to spend four weeks in Santa Fe instead of four days? Without a doubt. This is a huge trip and an even bigger country. I was rather upset when we came to the conclusion that we were not going to be able to go through Mesa Verde and see the cliff dwellings because it was too far out of our way as we head North towards Nederland to visit one of Scarlett’s friends. But as they say, if you try sometimes, you get what you need. Enter our trip to Bandelier National Monument yesterday.


This 33,000 acre national monument located about 40 miles northwest of Santa Fe was definitely worth half of one of our 50 days. With over 72 miles of backcountry access Bandelier is worthy of much more than a half day but not for this trip (especially in the mid summer’s heat!) We opted for the 2.5 mile self guided tour through Frijoles Canyon of an ancestral Pueblean cliff dwelling community.

Canon 5D 5000 F 5_24-105mm

Aside from the throngs of fellow way-ward traveling, chaco wearing, fully sun screened tourists that accompanied us through this accent time capsule in the hills, the day was both educational and painterly. Many of the petroglyphs are still very visible on the canyon walls and it is easy to tell that they also shared a deep admiration for the daily thunder storms that we have been marveling at since arriving.

3 shot HDR Canon 5D F 4_24-105mm

Lighting bolt

With as much respect as possible, we meandered along side Frijoles Creek and marveled at the pockmarks in the cliff walls where the Pueblean people lived and worked the lands for so long. One interesting factoid about the holes in the canyon walls are that they are naturally occurring. The Puebleans would carve out proper living spaces using tools made of obsidian and basalt, but the swiss cheese holes in the tuff rock of many of the areas canyons and mesas develop over many rain, wind, and snow storm cycles. The tuff rock is actually volcanic spew from the now dormant Jemez Mountains which paint the background of Frijoles Canyon.

3 shot HDR Canon 5D F 4_24-105mm

Scarlett the tour guide

After climbing the 140 feet of wooden ladders up to the Alcove House cliff dwelling, we became fully aware of our current altitude. For coast folks like ourselves, 7000 feet of elevation can have an effect on your ability to do anything and everything. If nothing else, it makes you feel out of shape! With that knock to our pride taken, we decided there was no better remedy then to eat a hearty lunch and leave.

3 shot HDR Canon 5D F 4_24-105mm

A traditional Kiva

On our way back to Santa Fe we decided that we had no better use for all the change we had been collecting for months in Boston then to go try our luck at one of the many highway Casinos. We walked in with $8 in change and walked out with empty pockets about 8.5 minutes later. We took the school of hard knocks approach to learning the intricacies penny slots. Oh well. As a farmer recently said to us at the market in Memphis…. nothing ventured, nothing gained. Something tells me he does not play the penny slots.
We took our injured pride back to our apartment above Christie and Michael’s house for one more night of solid internet, running water, and a full kitchen (I had so much fun cooking on the full stove – ST).
Now it is off to see Taos and then on to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument for the night. We may not have internet for a little while, so don’t hold your breath. If the quicksand does not get us, we should have more fun from the road to come soon.
Until next time, stay classy working world…


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