Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 16 - Chaco, NM

We got up early and went on hiking.  Greg and Ruth wanted to go hike to Pueblo Alto -- on top of the mesa above Pueblo Bonito.  It was a 5+ mile hike up the mesa, along the top of the mesa and then back down.  Ruth and Greg had a raven accompany them on much of their hike.

Ruth & Greg on their hike to top of Mesa

But, Gage and I did not want to do all that up and down . . . No thank you very kindly!  We opted for the hike along the Petroglyph trail and out to the Supernova Pictograph.  It was 6 miles round trip.

Petroglyphs at Chaco

Petroglyphs at Chaco Canyon

Many of the petroglyphs were truly amazing. Many of them were also damaged by visitors -- some as long ago as 1910 -- who felt that their addition to the 1,000 year old art somehow made it better. Very saddening (to quote my daughter). Petroglyphs are carved into stone while pictographs are painted on stone. As you might imagine, pictographs are much more fragile and only survive in protected places. The supernova pictograph MAY be a depiction of the supernova from 1054 or it may be something else entirely. Whatever it means, it's pretty special to look at. Well worth hiking 6 miles in 95F heat to see.

Supernova Pictograph at Chaco

Hiking in the desert is an adventure.  It’s hot.  Very, very hot.  You probably won’t have enough water with you.  Having wonderful things to see makes it worth it . . . But it’s hard, hot work.

The funny thing was that for the entire hike Greg and I were both worried that we were going too slowly and the other group would be waiting for us in the heat at the end but we both arrived at the end at almost exactly the same time.  We got back to the RV . . . Utterly exhausted and taking some truly inspired naps!

In the evening, we had a late dinner and then went to the Archeoastronomy Talk by the Ranger.  It was fantastic.  We even got to see some cool things in their telescopes.

When we got back to camp, we packed up as much as we could (while it was cool!).  For tomorrow we head to Durango!

Day 15 - Chaco Canyon, NM

After breakfast, we took the Ranger tour of Pueblo Bonito - the largest great house at Chaco.  We learned a lot.  When we visited these sites 23 years ago.  The standard line about the Anasazi was that they had disappeared without a trace and no one knew where they’d gone or what had caused them to leave.  People at the parks were just starting to realize that we did, in fact, know what had happened to them.  Rather than some mysterious disappearance, they had moved on and were the ancestors of the modern day Pueblo indians.  That understanding is now well-established today.  Everything you hear from the Pueblo indians and the rangers makes that link clear.   There are so many similarities between the architecture, the locations, and the artwork that one wonders why it took so long to make that linkage.

Pueblo Bonito, Chaco

Pueblo Bonito has some really amazing things about it -- one of the best features is an original interior room.  The roof and floor are original although it’s been re- plastered on the inside to hide vandalism on the original walls.

Pueblo Bonito at Chaco

After the tour, we headed back to camp and had lunch and took our siesta!

Around 5pm or so, Greg and the kids took a bike ride up the trail to Wijiji ruins.  They had a great time and came back in high spirits.   The sun goes down at our canyon site at 7pm.  Things really started cooling down and we sat out and had cocktails and appetizers and thought cool thoughts!

Day 14 -- Santa Fe, NM to Chaco Culture NHP

We got up early to beat the heat . . . Or try to! And headed off into the desert.  After the luxury of Santa Fe and it’s amazing restaurants, we were facing 3 or so days in the desert with no hookups and no services and no air conditioning!

We stopped for a snack in Cuba, NM -- Navajo Fry Bread . . . So delicious!!!

The amazing road to Chaco

And, then we headed down the dirt road from hell . . . 13 miles of dusty washboard.  We averaged around 11 mph on it but we made it. At one point, a group of SUVs came from the other direction. The lead car took one look at us and drove off the road. I'm not sure what that was about as Greg had left plenty of room for him but we were glad he had some friends there to help him out of the soft shoulder.

The Millers at Chaco

We pulled into the Gallo Campground and drove through looking for the best site.  We got it.  When we’d been researching Chaco, we had seen pictures of this campground.  Several of the sites are right next to the cliffs where there are two small ruins and some petroglyphs and pictographs.  We got the site we’d been hoping for.

#708 at Chaco Canyon

We got settled in -- it was windy and hot and everything is dusty there.  Then we drove over to the Visitor’s Center and got oriented.  We drove the loop road and stopped at Pueblo del Arroyo to walk through the ruins.

Pueblo Bonita, Chaco, NM

Chaco Canyon was  the center of Anasazi (Ancient Pueblo People) culture at one time.  It is very important to understanding the world they lived in and what was important and ceremonial to them.  That said, we know very little about the purpose of Chaco.

Greg and I learned about it 23 years ago but couldn’t fit it into our schedule at that time.  This time, we knew we wanted to see it.  So, we planned the trip around spending several days at Chaco.

We set up the telescope after dinner.  Chaco is very isolated and has some of the darkest skies in America.  We were able to see Saturn through the telescope . . . What a thrill!

Day 13 - Santa Fe, NM

Greg needed to work some more -- gotta pay for all these purchases!!!  So, we needed to get out of his hair and he had found out about a local living museum called Ranchos de los Golondrinos (Ranch of the Swallows).  They show what it was like to be a Spanish settler in the late 1800s in this part of New Mexico.  On this day, they were also having an exhibit of weaving and weavers from the area.  The kids and I headed out -- it was lovely!  I couldn’t believe how empty the parking lot was -- the kids got in free and it was so fascinating and entertaining!

We went to the museum and gift shop first.  The museum was really nice -- small but lovely things displayed really well.  The gift shop was fantastic.  I bought a silver burro Christmas tree ornament as a reminder of the trip.

Then we went out and visited the vendors and exhibits.  The kids got to experiment with dying using natural dyes.  They had a beautiful bronze colored dye made of onion skins and a lovely pink/red dye made of cactus bugs!  The kids died pieces of yarn and then braided them together to make a friendship bracelet.  The joy of being in the hot desert (it was 100F that day) is that the yarn dried before we finished braiding it!

We walked over to look at some of the living museum exhibits -- there were some women carding wool and they also helped the kids make friendship bracelets . . . After they worked by carding some of the wool for them.

We headed down to where they were having sheepdog demonstrations.  It was about 10 minutes before it was due to start so we popped into the blacksmith’s shop.  He was very happy to talk and told us a lot of history of what it would have been like to be a blacksmith during that time.  The sheepdogs were fantastic -- and the gentleman who was telling us about their work was a wonderful guy.

Sheepherding demos at Los Golondrinos

After it was over, we headed back to the vendors.  A woman, Mary Jonaitis of Onanoko Textiles, was just starting a felt-making demonstration that included wool roving and silk.  I wanted to participate so I told the kids to chill.  Ruth did just that but Gage decided he wanted to do the demo as well.  He ended up stealing the show -- the did all the work -- rolling, beating, fulling, -- that the lady needed and loved every minute of it.  We were making felted flowers so I was kind of surprised that he enjoyed it so much but he did.

Felting Demo at Los Golondrinos

Gage helping out at the felting demo

When we were done, we went back to camp and brought Greg a late lunch.  We’d eaten at Los Golondrinos -- a wonderful New Mexican lunch -- I had the stuffed sopaipilla . . . YUM!

We napped and read and then went out to dinner at the Ore House.  We’d eaten there 20 years ago with Greg’s family and loved it . . . Especially the Green Chile Stew (recipe from Cook's Magazine).  We checked the web and confirmed the location and headed off.  Only, it wasn’t there.  There was a different restaurant in the same location.  We scratched our heads and finally Greg went and asked the hostess at the new restaurant. She gave us directions and we headed to the new location.  We found it -- they’d moved 2-1/2 years ago (never updated the web, I guess!).  The food was fantastic and they still had the Green Chile Stew (and it was still amazing!).

Our last evening in Santa Fe was wonderful.  We love this city!

Day 12 - Santa Fe, NM (Greg's Birthday!)

We had an amazing day to celebrate Greg’s birthday.  We went to the Taos Pueblo, getting there around 10am.  We got great parking which was important because it was a ceremonial day at the Pueblo.  They were doing their Corn Dance Ceremony.

Full view of city, mountains in background, "Taos Pueblo National Historic Landmark, New Mexico, 1941."

We did a tour of the pueblo.  The young man, Robert, I think, was a college student, studying civil engineering.  He took us around and showed us the pueblo.  I don’t have any pictures to share because we were not allowed to take pictures due to the ceremony.

The pueblo is amazing.  There are many, many pictures of it -- my favorites are by Ansel Adams who is a much better photographer than I am (the above is from the National Archives collection at Flickr)!  We shopped as we walked around the pueblo.  There were so many beautiful pieces of art.  We laughed -- everyone got something except Greg . . . Even though it was his birthday! (Greg did eventually get himself a gift . . . a very nice set of speakers for the FMC!)  Gage bought a bow and arrow -- purely decorative but really lovely.  Ruth got an ocarina -- native flute.  It was made of resin -- but it sounds lovely.  The woman running the shop works with Robert Mirabal who is a two time grammy award winning musician.  He makes lovely wooden flutes too.

At some point, we noticed a few men climbing to the top of the pueblo and then they started calling out.  There are two large pueblos at Taos -- one on each side of the river that runs through the village.  Men gathered on each of the pueblos, calling out in their language.  I imagine they were calling to the people of Taos to come and prepare to dance.

This lasted more than an hour.  The shops that were open started to close and the visitors started gathering together.  Eventually, the men came down from the rooftops and moved to in front of the church.  Men and women in their ceremonial regalia came out from the buildings and joined them there and they began to dance.

It was really beautiful and I strongly urge you to try to be at a Pueblo or attend a pow-wow in your local area if you get the chance.

We watched the dancing for awhile but it was nearly 3pm and we hadn’t eaten lunch yet.  We headed back to the car and went into the town of Taos.  To be honest, I was a little disappointed.  The town has been an artist’s colony since the early 1900s but the main part of the square is more like a tourist trap.  We found a great little cantina and had a good lunch -- but the shopping was disappointing.  I guess you have to know where to go.  We didn't and we were tired so we drove around and looked at the town and headed off again.

We headed back to Santa Fe -- tired but happy.  We rested a little and went to have a steak dinner to celebrate Greg’s birthday.  It was fantastic!

Day 11 - Santa Fe, NM

When we came here with Greg’s family, we did a great day drive through the New Mexico landscape visiting pueblos and towns along the way.  We thought we’d do that again.  We decided to drive out to Las Vegas, NM -- we stopped at Pecos National Historic Monument on the way.  It’s another abandoned pueblo - but it was abandoned after the Spanish arrived so it has a large church  as well as the pueblo itself.

Pecos NHM, NM.

Church at Pecos NHP, Pecos, NM

Las Vegas was interesting.  We’d read about it and it sounded like a neat place to drive out and have lunch.  It didn’t live up to it’s billing -- it has a neat town square and some amazing historic sections of town but it’s clearly a town recovering from a poor economy.  We ended up eating at Sonic Burger and heading back to Santa Fe.

We took naps and then Greg had an idea for something fun to do with the kids.  We took them to a shooting range and let them target shoot.  Both kids did it.  Gage loved it.  Ruth preferred playing with the owner’s dogs!  I was proud of them though -- they took it very seriously and didn’t mess around.

Butterfly at Pecos National Monument

After the gun range, we headed back to Tomasitas for dinner and then went to Rodeo de Santa Fe!  We got box seats so we’d have a good view.  It was really fun.  I wonder if this is a new tradition for us -- every summer trip, we have to get in at least one rodeo!

Gage and Ruth with clown noses

Day 10 - Santa Fe, NM

I did laundry while Greg worked in the early morning and then we headed off to Bandelier National Historic Monument.  Greg and I have been to Bandelier National Historic Park twice before -- on our honeymoon and a couple years later when we came out with Greg’s family for a short vacation there.  It doesn’t disappoint!

We hiked through the ruins.  These are different from many others in that the people here started by carving out caves in the cliffs that were used as hunting lodges when they’d travel to Bandelier to hunt.

Ruthie at Bandolier

Later, they made much larger rooms in the cliff walls and then eventually they added rooms in front of them.

Gage and Greg at Bandolier

Later, a pueblo was made on the floor of the canyon.  I heard one visitor (who must not have watched the film in the Visitor’s Center) positing that the wealthy, powerful people lived in the cliffs and the poor workers lived on the canyon floor.  That wasn’t the case according to the archeology.  The cliff houses came first and later the city on the floor of the canyon was built.  They overlapped in their use but were neighbors.

Great House at Bandolier

Frijoles Canyon is a beautiful spot with a creek running through it and abundant natural resources.  It’s really lovely there!

Bandolier - Canyon de Frijoles

When we got back to Santa Fe, we headed to a restaurant called Cowgirls -- they bill themselves as New Mex - Tex Mex cooking.  It was fantastic!  Highly recommend Cowgirls in Santa Fe!

Sunset over Santa Fe, NM

Day 9 - Santa Fe, NM

We got up and had a big breakfast in the FMC.  Once we were turned around, we drove into Santa Fe, parked and walked around shopping.  We visited the Palace of Governors -- a wonderful museum in downtown.  We had lunch at the Blue Corn Cafe & Brewery -- yum!  We discovered that Ruth loves shopping!  We hung out in the Plaza and had some yummy drinks from a street vendor.  Lemonade mixed with jaimaca (hibiscus tea) -- very refreshing on a hot day of shopping!

Hanging in Santa Fe Plaza

My favorite place to shop was the native vendors who sell their wares along one side of the plaza.  They have blankets and spread them out.  They encourage you to sit down and hold items.  I would have liked to have bought one of everything we saw . . . It was all so beautiful.  I did buy a beautiful sterling silver hummingbird pin.

We were getting kind of tired at this point so we headed back to the car and did a driving tour of Canyon Road -- it’s full of galleries and restaurants.  All very expensive and fantastic.  We drove further up Canyon Road and looked at the residential area.  It’s one of the best areas in Santa Fe for looking at architecture.

After the drive, we headed back to downtown, parked again and had dinner at the highly recommended The Shed.  We were not disappointed -- it was fantastic.  After dinner, we went to the movies and watched Super 8 -- great flick!

Day 8 - Sky City, NM to Santa Fe, NM

We are becoming quite good at early starts and packing up and getting on the road in a hurry!  We were at the Acoma Cultural Center by 9am.  The Casino has definitely wrought some changes here.  The drive in to Acoma shows you beautiful new tribal buildings and how the Casino money is helping the whole community.  I am sure there are downsides but it was nice to see money helping the tribe.

Acoma, NM

The Cultural Center is beautiful -- gorgeous pueblo architecture, a stunning museum, nice gift shop, and an amazing cafe.  We signed up for the tour and headed out at 10am.

Acoma, NM

Our tour guide was Conran.  He did a great job explaining the history, sharing beliefs and stories, and giving us a feel for the life at Acoma.

Acoma, NM

Acoma is one of the longest inhabited sites in the US.  People have been living at Acoma Pueblo since the 1100s.  It is high on a mesa in the middle of a lovely valley.  There is no electricity or running water there and they intend to keep it that way.  About 100 people live at Acoma year round.  The other families visit for special ceremonies and to keep their traditions alive.  When you visit, you have to promise not to photograph anyone without asking there permission first.  The only people we saw (It was a Monday) were people selling their artwork.  My pictures make the town look deserted but it really was not and didn’t feel that way at all.  It’s an amazingly beautiful place and one that is showing signs of improvement.  There are new building projects going on and people are improving their homes.  We bought a few items from the indians.  Their artwork is so beautiful that you could go broke -- you’ll see everything from earrings for a dollar to amazing pots for $1,500.  We purchased a large Acoma pot 20 years ago when we visited and it is cherished in our collection.

Acoma, NM

Gage bought a stone point made by Conran our guide.  Ruthie got some earrings.  We bought a cherry pie one of the ladies was selling.

Acoma, NM

Greg and Gage chose to walk down the Mesa using the “stairs” while Ruthie and I went back on the bus.  The “stairs” were VERY cool but very intense as well.  They are carved into the side of the mesa and are sometimes ladders.  I was impressed that Gage made it down . . .  He’s not a BIG fan of heights!

Acoma, NM

When they got down, we ate at the excellent cafe they have at the Cultural Center.  The menu is fantastic and we learned later that the chef is a local Acoma man who brought what he learned about the food industry and applied it to Acoman foods and created a really amazing menu.  We also discovered that we, as a family, don’t care for Elk.  Gage, however, learned that a venison burger was a good thing!

Acoma, NM with dog

Ruth wanted ONE thing on this trip . . . A beautiful indian flute.  We had seen several (and have seen more since then).  But they had a beautiful one at the store at Acoma.  She asked for it for her birthday (in July) and, wow, is it lovely.

[Coming soon -- picture of Ruthie and her flute]

We headed back to the motorhome, packed up, and headed on down the road.  Santa Fe was awaiting us!

We got settled in at our campground and drove into Santa Fe to shop and eat.  We found the Plaza and drove around exploring.  Eventually, we made our way to the Train Depot and had dinner at Tomasita’s.

We had a good dinner -- we love New Mexican cuisine.  Ruthie discovered her passion for sopapillas and the rest of us ate food that was TOO hot but TOO delicious!

Day 7 - Sunset Crater National Monument, AZ to Sky City, NM

We got another early start and were on the road by 7:30pm.  We stopped at Meteor Crater outside of Flagstaff, AZ.  Greg and I tried to go there on our Honeymoon but got there after they’d closed.  Greg felt good to accomplish that goal after 23 years.  We learned a lot about meteors and felt it was a good stop.

Meteor Crater

We stopped for lunch at Petrified Forest National Park.  The wind had picked up again and was very intense.  Greg was really glad of the break!  We really enjoyed the Ranger Talk and then walked the loop trail through some of the Petrified Forest.  It was strange and beautiful.  The kids each picked out a souvenir from the gift shop.

We were SO impressed with Petrified Forest National Park.  We listened to a great talk by Ranger Jack Pickett.  He clearly used to teach high school and had a deep love for his subject area!

We got back on I-40 and slogged eastward.  The wind buffetted us the whole way.  There were lots of dust storms along the way.

Dust Storms - the wind is fierce in the Southwest today

We arrived in Sky City tired, dirty, and ready for a break.

The Casino is new since we were here 20 years ago.  They have a small RV park - full hookups but no other amenities.  Still at $19 a night, we found it hard to complain.

We plugged in, plugged in all our electronic devices and then got on the free wifi.  I updated the blog and Greg worked.  We decided to go to the buffet for dinner - BBQing was out of the question -- it was WAY too windy.

The buffet was fine. Good prime rib but nothing else was OUTSTANDING.  But it worked for us.  We all felt better and while we finished eating, I sent Greg off to gamble.  When we joined him, he did a demo for the kids.  We wanted to show them how fast you can lose your money when gambling .  . . Well, that didn’t work out as planned!  Greg won $250 on his second pull of the demo.  He spent about $22 and gained $250!

We came back to the FMC and everyone showered.  Being grime-free (after all the dusty wind) felt so good.  We were still being buffeted by the the wind as we sat in the RV park.  After the kids went to bed, Greg was working and I was reading in bed.  All of a sudden, I heard a strange sound and realized it was raining.  Breathing in that fantastic smell of rain in the desert is so wonderful!  What a great ending to a day!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 6 - Grand Canyon, AZ to Sunset Crater, AZ

Greg wanted to implement something on this trip that he’d heard about.  It’s the Rule of Twos.  Drive no more than 200 miles a day, stop before 2pm, and stay for 2 days.  We hadn’t been really successful at that so far but today we did it.  (Well, except the two days thing!)

Just after he descended into the Canyon -- just a few switchbacks down the trail but he did it!

Ruthie at Grandview Trail

We got an early start out this morning -- we were on the road by 7:30am.  We made a few stops on the way out and Greg, Gage, and Ruth even hiked down into the canyon a bit at Grandview Trail.  Our last stop in GC was at Desert View Tower.  Most of the buildings at Grand Canyon were designed by a woman architect in the 30’s.  Her name was Mary Coulter and she was hired by the Harvey Company to develop buildings for the area.  She had an amazing vision and created some truly stunning buildings.

Desert View Tower, Grand Canyon

Ravens over Grand Canyon

The drive out of the east side of the canyon is beautiful.   You drive along the Little Colorado River and have amazing views.  We stopped at Wupatki National Monument.  This spot is where Greg and I felt that the tone of our Honeymoon Trip changed.  We were planning to travel from National Wonder to Natural Wonder.  After Wupatki, we spent most of our time visiting Anasazi Ruins.  They have improved the site quite a bit in 23 years which was nice to see.

If you are in this area, stop and see this amazing monument!  Or any of the Anasazi ruins in the Southwest . . . truly amazing.

Wupatki Pueblo

FMC #708 from The Citadel

We stopped at The Citadel and were so moved by what we saw there.  It’s so gorgeous.  We drove on to the Visitor’s Center and the Wupatki Pueblo.  We walked all around the trail there and were quite overheated when we got back to the FMC -- what is it about hiking in the desert!  We were glad to get on the road again.  Luckily, the road started climbing again and soon, we were back in the cool pines again.  Sunset Crater National Monument was next.  We drove by, heading for our campground.  We camped at Bonito Campground just outside the monument.  It was another gorgeous National Forest campground -- The Coconino National Forest, this time.  We got settled, had lunch, and then drove over to learn about the crater and the lava flow.  We learned a lot about volcanos and the lava flow is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Hiking at Sunset Crater Nat'l Monument

Oh, really . . .

Greg at work

When we got back to camp, we pulled up chairs in the shade and sipped drinks while talking about how lovely the campground was.  We kept hearing a tinkling sound.  We had to assume that we weren’t being surrounded by Tinkerbell and her friends -- I was thrilled to see that it was hummingbirds.  Never got a good look at them but they enjoyed buzzing us.

There is a stunning flower that is native to the area -- Pink Penstemon  It’s so beautiful.

Pink Pensetmon

It was very windy at the campground so there was ban on fires.  We were fine with that and really were more comfortable inside eating and playing games after dinner.

That Rule of Twos thing makes for a nice combination of travel and relaxation.  While we aren't staying two days here, it's still easier than doing marathon slogs and driving for 6 hours a day.

Our campsite at Bonito Campground

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 5 - Grand Canyon National Park

Before light brightens the sky, the robins know and begin their songs.  Just like at home, I wake to their lush, lilting songs.

Greg took the day to work and I took the kids off to Hermit’s Rest.  You can take a bus out there but we got off a mile early and walked along the trail.  Gorgeous!  So many critters and wildflowers.  The views of the Canyon were amazing (but there isn’t a bad view of the canyon!) and on the trail, we really felt that we were on our own out there.  Hermit’s Rest is a lovely little spot out at the end of a finger that goes into the Canyon.  There is a gift shop and canteen out there as well as very clean whiffies (pit toilets).  The bus ride back was a little long -- some of our fellow passengers were not showing their best sides.  Sigh.

Living on the edge . . . I love that you can see the river below.  There was a ledge just below them -- lest you think I'm mad!

We got back much to the Village much later than we’d hoped.  Greg texted us to say that he needed to keep working so we got a bite to eat and then attended a couple of programs.  There was a great demonstration of Navajo singing and dancing on a stage near Hopi House.

Navajo dancers at Grand Canyon's Hopi House
The speaker invited us to take photos and videos but not to share the videos on the Internet.

When it was over, we walked over to Lookout Studio again and listened to a program on California Condors.  Ranger Chris was an engaging and entertaining speaker -- I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation.  I knew a lot of the information but definitely learned a few things about Condors.  He talked about how to tell if you REALLY saw a condor.  He used three kids (including Gage) to show the differences between the condor and the birds you commonly see there:  Ravens and Turkey Vultures.  At the end, I was 100% certain we’d seen Condors.  I wish I’d had my bins and been able to see their numbers but oh well . . . Good enough is good enough!

We went back to the campground and decided to go out to dinner.  There was a steakhouse in Tusayan called Yippee-Ei-Yay (or something similar).  The food was good but not great.  The parking lot was WAY too tight and crowded.  The tables inside were similar and it was just overly expensive.  But, there ya go.  Tourist town prices and quality.

When we got back to camp, we set up our telescope and were able to focus in on Vega.  Very cool.

We had another campfire and read more chapters of Brighty.  Is it any wonder we love this life so much?