On one of our other days in Northern New Mexico, we left Santa Fe with our friends and traveled about an hour to Bandelier National Monument, which is just outside of the town of Los Alamos.
Bandelier sits in the Frijoles Canyon and is the site of cliff dwellings from ancestral pueblo peoples that lived in the area for about 400 years – from about 1150 AD to 1550 AD. It is known that they moved down to the Rio Grande valley because of a prolonged drought that made living in the high, desert plateaus untenable.
The drive is beautiful and the canyon is breathtaking. The park has several places where the remnants of puebloan society can be seen. There is a large semi-circular construct that at one time was a large, multi-level communal site. It enclosed a natural amphitheater that was sort of the crossroads for the whole group.
We ran into a ranger (who have the best jobs ever) who described the agriculture of the Indians that lived there. They made connected, slightly raised beds – that were known as waffles, in which they grew corn and other crops. We also found out that in addition to Waffle Farming, they were also Turkey Herders – and anyone that knows me, knows how serious I am about my turkey. Also, the emblem for the park consists of a pair of “talking turkeys” and a sun petroglyph.
Speaking of petroglyphs, you can hike a trail up to where there are a number of cliff dwelling remains that have a number of inscriptions in the stone.
There are even a couple that you can climb up into. My friend Dave (and old college roommate) figured out that the cliff dwelling rooms were about the size of our old college dorm.
If you’re in good cardiac health and not afraid of heights or ladders, you can even climb to the highest large dwelling, the Alcove House – which was several hundred feet above the canyon floor. You could access it by climbing several ladders – some of which were quite long. The top contained a large open area and ceremonial kiva.
It was really fun for me to go, since I had never been to Bandelier even though we’d spent a lot of time in New Mexico. It was always one of those places that we “really ought to go to” – too close to plan a big excursion, too far away to “stop by”. It was really a great day – and made me hungry for turkey.