Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bandelier National Monument

On our last full day in New Mexico, we visited Bandelier National Monument. This is a must-visit monument for your inner-Indiana Jones. We started our visit with a walk along the Main Loop Trail, a 1.2 mile loop that starts from the main visitor's center. From the Main Loop Trail, you get to see cliff dwellings, petroglyphs and the remains of a village. 

The Main Loop Trail is a relatively easy hike, but it does involve a lot of stairs along narrow paths. This is not a place to take your infant or toddler! Also, the park rangers told us the trail was mostly shaded. That was a lie. We were usually walking in the full sun, and it was about 90 degrees when we were there. We drank two large water bottles while walking around the park.

Below you can see the remains of an abandoned village. The rooms were tiny, e.g. smaller than a celebrity's walk-in closet. I love being a Tourist Archaeologist and admiring the hard work of Real Archaelogists who have devoted years to digging in gruel heat. I myself have zero interest in hunting for pottery shards and trying to extrapolate an entire civilization's history from some petrified corn and a few broken bones. However, kudos to the archaelogists of the world - I admire your patience and diligence.

You can climb up ladders into the cliff dwellings. The residents built their structures in front of caves and used the caves as rooms. In one room, we could stand up and walk around. In another room, we could barely crouch. The caves do not have plumbing, electricity or cable.

Nathan snapped this photo as I was leaving the cave. About 20 seconds later, while stepping off the ladder, I tripped and scraped the sh** out of my right calf. It's amazing that I managed to get away with just a bad scrape. Given my clumsiness, I should have fallen off the ladder, broken my leg, and required an air lift out of the park.

As you can see from the remains below, the residents built their homes in front of the caves. Archaeologists believe the structures were accessed from the roof via ladders. In case of an attack, the women and children could hide inside and pull the ladders in after them. I'm really glad I live in a house with a front door. Can you imagine carrying your groceries up a ladder? (Although I suppose you would have very shapely calves).

Can you spot the petroglyph in the picture below? (Hint: it's a little man/alien in the dead center).

After visiting the main attractions, we continued on to the Alcove House. We hiked through the woods and discovered some of the alleged shade (it was still 90 degrees, shade or no shade).

To access the Alcove House, we had to climb 140 feet of ladders. No problem. (In case you missed it, I was being sarcastic. As we hiked to the ladders, I kept telling Nathan that I reserved the right to be a chicken and stay on the ground).

We had to climb four separate ladders. The rungs on the ladders were SO EFFING HOT. This is not something I could have done alone. I only managed the climb because Nathan was giving me encouraging pep talks throughout the ascent/descent.

Here is the Alcove House, as seen from below. When we reached it, my arms were shaking uncontrollably. Screw the stairmaster. You know what my gym needs? The LadderMaster.

I thought I was going to throw-up (from a combination of fear and exhauation), but the views were well worth the effort. (Please note: if I had slipped and fallen off the ladders, the views would not have been worth the effort). If you ever find yourself in the Santa Fe area, I highly recommend a visit to Bandelier National Monument. However, if you have even the slightest fear of heights, you should probably skip the Alcove House!