Cliff Dwellings Plus National Parks Missed & Seen

October 5, 2012 — Friday

Big driving, finding and admiring day…plus a park blooper.

We said goodbye to Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, heading southwest toward Albuquerque.  I wanted to see Windows in the Earth, a sandstone shrine not far from Ojo Caliene.  The hotel gave us excellent directions.  I’d brought a 1996 newspaper clipping about artist Ra Paulette, who spent two years creating a shrine for personal experiences and emotional opportunity.  We found the site, up a long, winding drive amid staggering rock cliffs on the extensive property of a bed and breakfast named Rancho de San Juan.  Bad timing.  The B&B closed October 1st, and no one knew where the key was to the Earth Windows entry.  Worse, the buyer plans to make it private property, so who knows what will happen to this sculpture/shrine/meditation site.  Oh well.

We had no trouble finding the ancient Puye Cliff Dwellings, the ancient ancestral home of the Santa Clara Pueblo people atop a panoramic plateau.  A seven-mile scenic byway leads to the top at 7,000 feet–and on a sunny Friday with puffy clouds dotting the blue, blue sky–it all fit beautifully.  They call it the place between earth and sky.

Not so successful with Bandelier National Monument, with its canyon, archeological sites, caves with access by short ladders, and hundreds of petroglyphs.  We found the visitor center just fine.  Signs warned that visitors must use the park shuttle, but another sign said handicapped could proceed directly to the park.  One of the few good things about having rheumatoid arthritis is getting a handicap hangtag, so we started driving and driving and driving…to the end of the park road, then in circles.  Finally a park worker driving a road grader took pity on us and explained no cars whatsoever, that the stupid handicap proceed sign should be taken down (ya think?).  We lost 90 minutes so decided to cut our losses and see Bandolier’s canyon bottom another time.  The drive in and out was mighty nice though.

Our final park effort was Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument on Cochiti Pueblo land.  Its name means “white cliffs” and this park is a unique outdoor laboratory allowing geologists to observe and study the processes that shape natural landscapes.  The elevation of this national monument ranges 5,500-6700′ above sea level, with cone-shaped rocks that look like tents.  Perched precariously on many of the tapering hoodoos are boulder caps.  These formations are really striking, from a distance and up close.  They tower over us humans up close, and they look like a dense village of tents from a distance.  They were especially beautiful in late afternoon sun as the colors ebbed from reds into purple blues.

It was a long day in the car, up and down mountains, some gorgeous scenery, but at the end of the day, we just wanted a bite to eat and a good sleep.  Funny how natural beauty can wear you out.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.