Westward ho! to New Mexico (Part 2)

Exploring outside Santa Fe is fabulous too.  We headed north to Taos where, much to our disappointment, the Taos Pueblo was closed for undisclosed reasons.  However, I was delighted to discover that the fifth highest vehicular bridge in the U.S. is nearby.  You all know I have a bridge phobia (I can’t drive a car across one), yet I am fascinated by them.  So the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge was a must-see for me.

I can’t drive across it but I walked all the way over and back.  Here’s the view looking down 650 feet.  Spectacular!

We visited Kit Carson’s house where I got artsy with my photo in the courtyard.  Did you know his first wife was an Arapaho woman (who died) and his second a beautiful fourteen-year-old named Josefa Jaramillo? As well as having eight children, he and Josefa adopted several Indian children.  An interesting man.

The scenery is stunning.  This is a random view on the road to Taos.

My favorite place though was Bandelier National Monument with its cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.  We hiked through Frijoles Canyon where the Ancestral Pueblo people settled.  (They used to be called Anasazi, a much more musical name, but it turns out the Navajo Indians labeled them that because it meant “ancient enemies”.)

About 100 of the Pueblo people lived here, some on the floor of the canyon where these walls are.

Some lived in “cavates”, carved from the soft volcanic tuff of the cliffs, like this one.  The black on the ceiling is from their fires.

One dwelling, called the Alcove, requires climbing 140 feet of ladders, which I am proud to say I did.  It doesn’t sound so hard until you remember that it’s at about 6,000 feet of altitude and I live at sea level in New Jersey.  There’s a lot less oxygen than I’m used to in the air there.  This is a shot looking up a couple of the ladders.

It was worth the trip to see this reconstructed kiva, a chamber dug into the soft rock of the cliff which is believed to have been used for religious reasons.  I climbed down inside it and could almost feel the presence of ancient spirits.

I’m intrigued by petroglyphs so our next destination was Tsankawi, a nearby site with lots of the enigmatic rock carvings.  The hike itself was challenging because the volcanic stone is so soft there that years of footsteps have worn the path to a deep, narrow groove.  The picture below is one of the more passable sections.

It was well worth the struggle though when I encountered these fellows.  It looks like one is playing a flute of some sort, I think.

And there was this guy with the unusual head gear:

These petroglyphs sort of brought me full circle back to the contemporary art on Canyon Road in Santa Fe.  The happy fellows below seem to come out of the tradition of the rock carvings, don’t you think?

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