Yesterday, I went to Bandelier National Monument. This area is a 33750 acre wildlife and nature preserve with 3 miles of paved road and 70 miles of trails. Because of the fact that it is a preserve, dogs are not welcome. Unlike Carlsbad Caverns, there are no dog boarding facilities either. The visitor center is located 3 steep miles down Frijoles canyon. So, I get there, and I couldn’t afford the entrance fee, but am offered the hike/bike option for half price. I take it, realizing that it will mean leaving my dogs for a while – the other options were a) not to visit, b) no dog food for the dogs.
So, the park police kindly let me park at the Juniper park ground, and I begin my hike in, following what I believed to be the Frey trail (I had passed a marker) down to the cliff dwellings, stopping to sample a dry mushroom on the path down
and photograph some tracks.
I was unknowingly on the wrong trail – having somehow mistakenly ended up on the Tyuonyi Overlook trail instead. Arriving at the overlook (the Frey trail had also mentioned an overlook and then a difficult passage down), I didn’t really see a trail, but saw some foot trails down and assumed this was the difficult part.
It was incredibly difficult rock climbing, and as I moved over to the canyon, thinking the path must go down, I realized as I creeped along the edge of the cliff, that it was a sheer drop.
The rock isn’t very solid, so few grips are really secure, and I have pneumonia and am pretty physically weak, but I moved along the ledge with its 700 foot drop carefully trying not to look down, thinking that I might reach the other side of the canyon where the cliff dwellings were. I look inside one of the many little cavities in the rock (natural small caves) and see a snake skeleton. These were raptors’ nests. Moving along, I finally conclude that there is no passage, and I will have to climb back up. With a 700 foot fall behind me, I spend 45 minutes, trying to figure out where the safe holds were on the rock, experimenting first with one position, and then another, to have hold fail, and a dead tree that I was using collapse. The echo from the falling rock let me know that failure was certain death. Finally, I pulled up and got off of the ledge. Still, I thought there must be a trail. I find a well-worn ancient stone foot path and follow it around to the rocks on the other side of the cliff. It ended abruptly with some rocks that looked too difficult to climb back up if I managed to get down (a 2-hold climb). Finally, I turned around, abandoning the path, and slowly climbed the rocks back up the mountain to the original trail. I resigned myself to not seeing the cliff dwellings this way. As I would later find out, there is no path to the cliff dwellings from this overlook. A simple sign at the end of the trail saying “This is the end of the trail. There is no trail from this point to the cliff dwellings. Rock climb (difficult) at your own risk.” would have clarified the situation and avoided what was, I believe, a life-threatening situation. There was no one else on the trail.
The Cliff Edge – View from Below
So, what am I supposed to infer? President’s day – the president wants me to jump off a cliff?????
When I get back to the dogs several hours later, I drive down to the visitor center – in spite of the fact that I had only paid the hike/bike fee (a technicality had let me in to the Juniper campground). They had almost had to do a helicopter rescue on me. As I visit the cave dwellings which are magnificent, and well worth the visit, I am so low on energy that I am contemplating hospitalization – feeling very anemic as I climb the steps in spite of the fact that I had just rock climbed a mountain.
As with the eariler attempted descent from the mountain, there were similar hand-hewn stone passageways through the rock.
Most of the cliff dwellings are caveates, some with adobe reinforcement around their entrances, and others with several rooms built in front of them. The natural rocks were majestic stone sculptures of “The Old Ones” overlooking the Tyuonyi pueblo village with its great kiva.
The Tyuonyi kiva, like those of Aztec Ruins and Salmon Ruins, had multiple vaults in it. It had 3 big vaults and one small one – as if for child.
There were pictographs, and other markings on the cliff walls, perhaps petroglyphs, and maybe marks indicating counting. One of the rooms had the remains of partial wood beams that had been cemented into holes dug out of the walls.
Apart from the caveate that I had seen close by at Tent Rocks, the only other multiple cave dwellings that I had visited at this point were the Gila Cliff Dwellings. Early in the trip, I had made a nauseating climb over the ? mountains in the truck to visit these Mogollon Cliff Dwellings. We had paused on the way up for a photograph of the overlook.
A Dog Overlook
This had also been a magnificent nature walk, with spectacular views.
The caves would seem to gaze at us from afar, perhaps their inhabitants living in the rock would have taken on the power of these rocks. It must have seemed that way with fires at night. The caves were only thought to have been inhabited for a generation (30 years) by the Mogollon after they walked over thse mountains in flight.
These caves unlike those of Bandelier would have brick structres built into them, showing 4 caves each with multiple rooms.
The very first room had a small vault in it. My first thought given the weather had been “Nice and Tight.” Someone had built the smallest possible room to sleep in, so that they could stay warm. It was positioined in the first cave, at the entrance, like a guard’s positioin. After seeing the vaults in the kivas, though, I now would have more of a tendency to give this structure a religious significance – coming out of the rocks. Of course, it may also have been used for storage.
The Mogollon structure has a distinct alternating composition to its wall (several layers of little rock alternating with a layer of larger rock).
Disk 2, 148, 166, 165
And squarer room kivas built into it.
There is also a partially preserved mural, as at Bandelier.
disk 2, 152
As well as a few petroglyphs on the wall.
Disk 2, 158
The views from the cave were magnificent.
Disk 2-154, 155, 156
When it rained, they would have collected the water off of the limestone – a literal waterfall in front of them.
Disk 3, 2
Otherwise, there was a creek in the gorge, that provided an abundance of wildlife, and the nature center detailed it.
Computer is down since the park visit – down with a virus – still usuable but only in certain modes. My universal boot disk which has virus correction options has been removed from my possession. Although I have now been able to get USB access through a peripheral card, my cardreader has been missing since services last Saturday (I guess the church took it), so I only have access to older pictures.