A Taste of Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument lies just an hour or so northwestish of Santa Fe and is huge open country of mountains and mesas scattered with archeological ruins, cave dwellings, and petroglyphs. So pretty much my idea of heaven. I knew I couldn’t do justice to the more than 70 miles of hiking trails in the monument, but decided to at least go do the main day hike that would occupy a few hours.

The monument is named for Adolph Bandelier, a Swiss-born scholar who came to the southwest at 40 to fulfill his dream of studying the native peoples of the area. He learned many of the local native languages and in 1880 was the first person to report on the peoples of the Frijoles Canyon, where the monument that bears his name is located.

There was a lineup of cars ahead of me that took the same picture.

There was a lineup of cars ahead of me that took the same picture.

The scenic lookout was... scenic.

The scenic lookout was… scenic.

I love the mesas.

I love the mesas.

The shadows were impressive.

The shadows were impressive.

By the time I arrived around 11:00, the place was packed. A ranger guided me into an overflow parking spot I was certain I could not get out of and then told me to go into the visitors’ centre to register my annual pass, then come back and hang my pass from my rearview mirror. Without a pass, access is $12 per carload, good for a week. If you want a trail guide for the two day hikes, they are $1 and $1.50 each. Please don’t be cheap and not get them, otherwise you won’t get much out of the hikes. After two Japanese tourists kept asking me, “What’s that?” I gently told them that they needed to go back for a guide, they did, and they thanked me for it.

The hike I did today is called the ‘Main Loop Trail’, with the addition of the Alcove House spur. The literature say that this should fill about two hours and it took me closer to three because I read everything and went up every ladder. Every ladder? Read on. Those with a fear of heights may wish to stop here. 😀

The visitors' centre is built into what was once a guest ranch.

The visitors’ centre is built into what was once a guest ranch.

I'm really falling in love with this style of architecture.

I’m really falling in love with this style of architecture.

The visitors' centre.

The visitors’ centre.

I thought this exhibit about not leaving any trash was quite clever.

I thought this exhibit about not leaving any trash was quite clever.

The 'Latin names' were the best.

The ‘Latin names’ were the best.

Depositus nonreturnii.

Depositus nonreturnii.

Proboscus wipus was my favourite.

Proboscus wipus was my favourite.

Starting the hike.

Starting the hike.

You start the hike on the floor of the valley and then climb up to the cliff dwellings.

Frijoles Canyon means Bean Canyon.

Frijoles Canyon means Bean Canyon.

Kiva.

Kiva.

Lovely contrast of textures.

Lovely contrast of textures.

Village ruins.

Village ruins.

Looking to the cliff dwellings.

Looking to the cliff dwellings.

Another kiva.

Another kiva.

Approaching the cliff dwellings.

Approaching the cliff dwellings.

Take the longer path is my motto.

Take the longer path is my motto.

Only enter caves that have ladders? This is going to be fun!

Only enter caves that have ladders? This is going to be fun!

Stairs carved into stone.

Stairs carved into stone.

First ladder.

First ladder.

Small cozy cave.

Small cozy cave.

It would have been a lot of work to excavate the caves using only tone tools.

It would have been a lot of work to excavate the caves using only stone tools.

Looking into a reconstructed ruin; the architecture is quite sophisticated.

Looking into a reconstructed ruin; the architecture is quite sophisticated.

Look at that masonry!

Look at that masonry!

I like how the vigas (beams) stick out.

I like how the vigas (beams) stick out.

It impresses me that they built structures with several stories.

It impresses me that they built structures with several stories.

The layout of the village below becomes clearer.

The layout of the village below becomes clearer. The first floor had 240 small rooms and there is evidence that there were several stories above.

Impressive rock formation.

Impressive rock formation.

Looking back to the masonry.

Looking back to the masonry.

Pictogram of a snake, a major feature of these people's religion.

Pictogram of a snake, a major feature of these people’s religion.

Ladder into the larger home.

Ladder into the larger home.

Just room after room. All of us in it kept joking about what prime real estate it was.

Just room after room. All of us in it kept joking about what prime real estate it was.

"Oh, look, another bedroom!"

“Oh, look, another bedroom!”

View to the village below.

View to the village below.

Makes you realise that European and Native American development really wasn't that far apart.

Makes you realise that European and Native American development really wasn’t that far apart.

So much living happened in this cave.

So much living happened in this cave.

"I think this was the dining room. I mean, look at that view!"

“I think this was the dining room. I mean, look at that view!”

"Nah, maybe the living room."

“Nah, maybe the living room.”

More cool rocks.

More cool rocks.

More twisty narrow stone steps.

More twisty narrow stone steps.

Climbing into the reconstructed caveate.

Climbing into the reconstructed caveate.

Anchor points for the looms.

Anchor points for the looms.

Not original soot. They have to smoke the room every few years to get rid of the graffiti.

Not original soot. They have to smoke the room every few years to get rid of the graffiti.

The view is growing on me. I think I want to move to a cliff dwelling.

The view is growing on me. I think I want to move to a cliff dwelling.

Path to a campground. I did not follow it. This used to be the only way into the valley to get to the ranch where the visitors' centre is located.

Path to a campground. I did not follow it. This used to be the only way into the valley to get to the ranch where the visitors’ centre is located.

Towering mountains.

Towering mountains.

It's like an apartment complex.

It’s like an apartment complex.

So many foundations.

So many foundations.

The holes represent a floor. Can you see the petroglyph in between?

The holes represent a floor. Can you see the petroglyph in between?

This painting was found behind layers of plaster.

This painting was found behind layers of plaster.

Looking back to the cliff dwellings.

Looking back to the cliff dwellings.

In bad weather, you have to turn back at the end of the cliff dwellings and go back the way you came. In good weather, you can walk back down to the valley and do a loop back to the vistors’ centre. You have to cross the river several times if you end up doing the Alcove House Spur.

This guy was very nice and posed for several pictures.

This guy was very nice and posed for several pictures.

2012 floodwaters reached this level.

2012 floodwaters reached this level.

The damage from the flood is still visible.

The damage from the flood is still visible.

These 'bridges' brought back memories of the Chilkoot Trail!

These ‘bridges’ brought back memories of the Chilkoot Trail!

I eventually came to the point where I had to make an important decision.

Time to decide if I'm doing the Alcove House spur...

Time to decide if I’m doing the Alcove House spur…

140 ft of vertical ascent not suited to those with fears of heights? I'm over my fear of heights (mostly) aren't I? Let's go check it out!

140 ft of vertical ascent not suited to those with fears of heights? I’m over my fear of heights (mostly) aren’t I? Let’s go check it out!

The spur is through forest. There are so many ecosystems in this small section of the monument.

More debris from the flood.

More debris from the flood.

It was all moved out of the way.

It was all moved out of the way.

More cliff dwellings.

More cliff dwellings.

More flood damage.

More flood damage.

Impressive contrast of colours and textures.

Impressive contrast of colours and textures.

Yet more cliff dwellings.

Yet more cliff dwellings.

Last warning.

Last warning.

In case the signage hasn’t been clear, it’s four ladders, a few staircases, and 140ft straight up a cliff to check out Alcove House…

Oh, I can do this. Up I go.

Oh, I can do this. Up I go.

That looks doable.

That looks doable.

I had to wait at the second ladder for a terrified man to come down. It took ages. Everyone at the bottom told him great job, way to go, you should be so proud of yourself, etc., but he just looked down in shame, focusing on the fact that he was afraid, not that he had conquered his fear. 🙁

This ladder’s challenge was that it’s slightly tilted, so you feel like you might slide off.

That doesn't look so bad.

That doesn’t look so bad.

I made it!

I made it!

Down is starting to look far away.

Down is starting to look far away.

Okay, that's pretty tall, but I've come this far.

Okay, that’s pretty tall, but I’ve come this far.

I should have taken a short break before doing that third ladder, the longest of the four, as my legs got shaky midway, but I pushed on. I wasn’t afraid, just tired.

Pfft, that's nothing.

Pfft, that’s nothing.

Almost there!

Almost there!

A few steps and...

A few steps and…

A kiva is the first thing I take a picture of?!

A kiva is the first thing I take a picture of?!

Ah, now, THAT was worth the climb!

Ah, now, THAT was worth the climb!

Wow!

Wow!

I'm obsessed with kivas, apparently.

I’m obsessed with kivas, apparently.

So worth the workout!

So worth the workout!

Looking back as I head down.

Looking back as I head down.

It looks really bad from that angle!

It looks really bad from that angle!

The ladders were all anchored, so they felt safe. The super long one felt interminable to climb down, but the others were fine. It would have been easier if the rungs had been a bit closer together. I wasn’t even apprehensive. How far I’ve come!

My knee had had just about enough abuse by the time I got to back down, but the climb up was so worth it! And it was such fun. I love trails like these!

It was then time to head back to my truck.

More flood debris.

More flood debris.

Magnificent.

Magnificent.

They still have signage that call the local peoples Anasazi, a word of Navajo origin that has fallen out of favour because it means something like, 'Our bitter enemies.'

They still have signage that call the local peoples Anasazi, a word of Navajo origin that has fallen out of favour because it means something like, ‘Our bitter enemies.’

Wish this path was part of the trail.

Wish this path was part of the trail.

Back at the visitors' centre.

Back at the visitors’ centre.

Thankfully, the car next to me was gone when I was ready to pull out, so I had only had to do a little manoeuvring to get out. It was a rare case where I would have been better off to nose into a spot and back out of it, but it all worked out in the end.

My taste of Bandelier National Monument was delightful, but not quite enough. I’d love to come back and do a full day hike next year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *