The Bandelier National Monument is a national park facility that you shouldn’t miss if you come to this area of New Mexico. Steve was 7 years old when he first visited the park and remembered it vividly enough that in 2002, when we did Route 66, he said we have to detour to Santa Fe and go to Bandelier National Monument. I loved it! We have gone every time we come to Santa Fe. Thank goodness there hasn’t been road work every time LOL.
The key now to visiting the monument is to arrive early. The hours are 6 AM – 8 PM. If you arrive just after sunrise, you’ll have the park almost to yourself. Plus the weather will be cooler and the lighting more interesting for picture taking. In addition, after 9 AM you must take a shuttle in to the park because of the limited parking. The visitor center opens at 9 AM.
There had been rain the night before, which made for a great experience. We have usually been here when it is hot and in a drought. The smells of the woods and grasses in the park were delightful, especially as the sun arose and warmed the junipers, pines and the fragrant plant life along the base of Frijoles Canyon. There is a loop trail that takes you past the major sites and then you can detour further to the Alcove House, which is way up in the cliffs – by ladders. Thankfully this is protected – although the signage gives you an idea that some people are not respectful of the ancient ruins.
Stairs lead you up to the various cave dwellings that you are able to see; some include ladders to climb up into the dwelling. The petroglyphs are still visible on the walls in the Longhouse area. One protected panel shows how the walls inside the Pueblo were decorated. You can also see where the wooden beams for support were in the walls of the cliffs. Beautiful sight.
Further down the trail, through the wooded and 2013 flooded area to the Alcove House, you can still the felled trees. There had been a fire up in the mountains and then came the snow melt and flash flood through this canyon area. It brought down all the trees and destroyed the trail and bridges crossing the creek. We were here in 2013 just after this flood. Lots of the area was still closed at that time. Now, all the trails are open but the trees are left as a monument to the flood. Indescribably massive sculptures, animated by the Holy Spirit and preserved by Mother Nature and the Park Service.
Some trees held on!
There are other trails in the park which we never seem to have the time to hike, although we did take a short hike on the ‘Upper Crossing’ trail. This takes you back in to the Wilderness Camping area of the park. Quiet, serene, easy hiking initially and the smells of the woods are intoxicating.
I asked the park ranger what the plant was that we saw (pix above). He called it something that I can’t remember and said it was an invasive plant brought by the Spaniards to the Americas. He said they believed it had a medicinal purpose. Smoked, snorted or what?
A stop at the Alcove House before heading back to the visitor center and home. The Park Service has opened a restful little haven and restaurant at the visitor center, where we rested, reflected and had a sandwich – there’s something special about eating National Park food, out in the open, in a wonderful National Park facility.