I got up very early again, in order to get to Bandelier National Monument right as it opened. So early, I saw the sunrise.
You have to drive through Los Alamos to get there, and you can see the lab at several points along the way, but can’t really get close to it at all.
satellite dish at los alamos national laboratory
I got to the visitor center an hour before it opened, but the park grounds were open for hiking. There was one other car in the lot, but I didn’t see another human being for at least two more hours. I felt like I had the place to myself. And as we all know, hiking alone in the middle of nowhere is SMART.
anasazi village ruins in frijoles canyon
This is tuff, a stone made of volcanic ash. It’s fairly easy to break down, which is why the native people here built cities into the sides of the canyons.
inside a cliff dwelling. the hole may have been some kind of clock.
I like any national park where they cater to my need to climb on things.
petroglyph (the rows of holes were for support beams)
former cliff dwellings
original cliff wall painting
I decided to take the Frijoles Canyon Trail back to see the ceremonial cave. It was only a mile or so more. I was a little concerned about being the only person in the park, but it wasn’t like I was going to skip it.
not a huge deal except for the fact that you’re already 7,000 feet above sea level.
I have pretty bad vertigo. I also have a serious case of determination (others call it ‘stubbornness’), and that always wins. I climbed up the many ladders to the ceremonial cave, and was there totally alone. It was an amazing feeling, except for the nagging guilt over what my mom would do if I disappeared.
The kiva had a ladder, which obviously meant I was supposed to climb inside. The top was covered except for a small hole. I stood there and stared at it for a very long time before finally deciding I had to descend in the darkness. It was scary, but there was nothing in there but me.
from inside the kiva
I climbed safely back down and hiked back toward the visitors’ center. Once I got back near the main portion of the park, I started to see other people. I had survived!
I got back on the highway and headed south to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. It’s between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and the entrance to the park is a ways off the interstate. The last portion of the drive is a 5-mile gravel road. The park is very new, and obviously not yet equipped with the usual facilities. The gravel was very rough and ridged, which meant I could go about 10mph at the most. I thought Cracker was going to rattle apart. It was jarring, to say the least.
There were a ton of cars in the parking lot, which surprised me, because it was so remote. There was a parking pay station and pit-toilet restrooms with no running water. It was then that I realized I had about 2 ounces of water left in my bottle, it was well over 90 degrees in the desert, and I was half an hour away from the interstate. And I thought hiking alone at Bandelier was stupid. Since the trail was only a mile long, I decided to run as much of it as I could, and hurry the hell back out of there.
i love the wildflowers in the desert.
formed when the ‘cap rock’ is of harder material than the volcanic rock underneath,
and they erode into peaks. they have these in cappadocia, too.
I rationed my water, rushed back to the car with the empty bottle, and drove out of there as fast as I could, feeling like I was going to dehydrate to death. Cracker miraculously stayed intact, and I made it back to the freeway. After ten long, painful miles, I found a rest area. I discovered that the drinking fountains and pop machine were broken, so I took my bottle into the bathroom and filled it. It was the worst-tasting water I’ve ever had, and I was pretty sure I was going to get some kind of bacterial disease. I didn’t really care.
At that point, it was still only lunchtime, so I headed back to explore Santa Fe. I’d been there once before, and loved it a lot. I stopped for lunch at a little outdoor restaurant called the Atomic Grill. After that, I wandered.
palace of the governors
st francis cathedral
the loreto, home of the ‘miraculous staircase’
san miguel mission
“ring the bell of san miguel, and you’ll be called back to santa fe.”
purported to be the oldest house in america. next to san miguel mission.
hotel la fonda, traditionally marking the end of the santa fe trail.
I did a lot of shopping on the way, necessitating more than one stop at Cracker. Man, they have a lot of great shopping in Santa Fe. In the late afternoon, I decided to head down and see more of the sights I had passed on the way through a few years back, along the turquoise trail.
chapel near golden, new mexico
I stopped to see several sights, then shopped at several cute little galleries in Madrid. I’d have stayed longer, but they were starting to shut down. On the way back northward, I pulled in to witness something that looked kind of terrifying from the road, and turned out to be even moreso than I’d imagined: TINY TOWN.
Everything in the place was broken, rusty, dangerous, creepy, or all of the above. I could’ve stayed all day being horrified, but I was convinced I was being watched. There was an old trailer parked on the site, and I could hear noises inside it. I kind of wanted to know who was the crazy genius behind Tiny Town, but mostly I did not. I was too scared to even take a photo of the trailer, lest I get a shot of the owner running out with a knife.
i had to leave a note, of course.
I hightailed it out of Tiny Town and drove a few miles up to Cerillos. It’s a very small town, and the main street has been used as an old west movie set more than once, most notably in Young Guns. There are signs all over the mostly-boarded-up downtown about it.
log jesus in cerillos
I drove back up to Santa Fe in time to climb up the hill to the Cross of the Martyrs to watch the sunset. It was beautiful.
On the way down the hill, there were a couple homeless guys sitting on the wall, asking people if they could have ten bucks to go get drunk. I reached in my pocket and pulled out a $10 bill and handed it to him, thinking, ‘what the hell, at least he’s honest.’ He said thanks, then looked at it and yelled, “DUDE, she actually gave us ten bucks! Let’s go!” The other guy said, “Lady, will you marry me?” I politely declined and laughed my way back to the car. They passed me a minute later, headed to the bar.