Consider visiting your nearest National Park or Monument when you don’t have to go to work on a Federal holiday. Admission fees are waived, and you will enjoy some special scenery with local and interesting history. Best of all, you’ll give yourself a fantastic opportunity to plump up your cache of interesting images.
On the weekend leading to President’s Day, we drove one hour northwest of Santa Fe, through White Rock to the Mesa country in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The destination was Bandelier National Monument (http://www.nps.gov/band/index.htm). You can stop reading here to look at my photos. These are highlights from my own adventure in the park. Read on below if you are curious about who lived there, and why the rocks look like Swiss Cheese. I dragged my tripod on this trip, and yes, I am glad I did.
Also, in case you want to set the smell in your mind, Ponderosa pines exude a fragrance that is a dead ringer for vanilla. These large trees are among the tall species that dot the trail, which follows a stream bed through the canyon.
This is a site where ancient peoples lived more than 10,000 years ago, and where Ancestral Pueblo people (Navajos once called them Anasazi) lived well into the late 1400s, before the Spanish showed up to colonize New Mexico. The descendents of these people live in nearby Cochiti Pueblo.
If disinclined to traverse 70 miles of rugged, high-altitude back country, one can enjoy simple trail walks that depart from the visitor center and make a two-mile loop. The main loop in the Frijoles Canyon allows a visit with archeological remains, cliff dwellings, caves, kivas, and petroglyphs. There are some narrow footpaths and several opportunities to climb up ladders into cave dwellings, and cliff dwellings. At the end of the loop, those with a sense of adventure and who lack vertigo can attempt the 140 foot vertical climb up (and down!) four long ladders that reach the “Alcove House.”
These images are highlights from my adventure to the very, very high alcove. My husband toted our infant on his backpack carrier. My young boys scurried up every ladder like spiderman. I was foisting a tripod that was dangling off the side of my photo-gear bag. Not great for balance. Not great for not getting caught in ladder rungs. There were some daunting moments. Had I not brought up that gear, I could never have managed that 2.5 second exposure of the kiva from the very top. Nor could I have managed a 30 second exposure of one of the four long ladders used to climb to that alcove. It was totally worth the schlepp.
The Jemez Volcano, 14 miles northwest of the park, twice exploded more than one million years ago. The park service reports that each explosion was six times more powerful than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Geologic material spewed over more than four-hundred-square miles from this earthen activity. It formed a layer of volcanic ash that was up to one thousand feet thick. Over time, this material compacted to become the pink rock that is called “tuff.” Wind and rain erode the material creating an appearance that is like Swiss Cheese. The holes on the cliff faces were enlarged by the people who used them in dwellings built along the cliff faces.