Bandelier and The Lost Turquoise Trail
We love New Mexico! So much to see and do, so much history, so much natural beauty, and such great food! We particularly love the Santa Fe/Taos area, but we always have to pass through Albuquerque first. Now, it is fabulous for a largish city, but that’s a story for another time. There are two ways to get to Santa Fe from Albuquerque; I-25, a great, fast four-lane all the way. Or, for those who like the road less traveled, there’s Highway 14 (aka the Turquoise Trail), a nice, slower, twisty and scenic road with two near ghost towns, and one “living” ghost town.
So, we were staying in Santa Fe with friends Don and Trish, and decided to take a quick day trip to Madrid, N.M. to revisit this fun stop. Don was my co-pilot, and plugged “Turquoise Trail” into Maps on his iPhone. We headed out, the car filled with laughter and fun conversation. Before too long, though, I said to Don. “Hmm, we seem to be heading a lot farther north than I kind of remember. Seems like we should be going south?” “Nope, it shows it right here!” “Okay”. I was still pretty doubtful, but he had the guidance, and I didn’t. After close to a half hour of travel, it had us take a right turn off the freeway, and announced we were at our destination. Huh? We were at an Indian Casino in the middle of the desert. Then someone spotted the sign for the Turquoise Room at the casino. Hahahaha, we about laughed ourselves silly! So my wife plugged it into her phone, and we were off again, headed in the right direction. This time, it took us to downtown Santa Fe … I scratched my head, and said I didn’t remember coming through downtown to catch Highway 14, but then the phone announced we were at our destination … at a Turquoise Jewelry store in Santa Fe. This time we laughed until we cried. I fired up my phone, and found our true destination, which was Madrid, on the Turquoise Trail. We finally made it, and had a great time, but more on that in another post.
On our first attempt to find Highway 14 as we were headed north on I-25, I had noticed a sign for Bandelier National Monument, so when we got back to our condo, I looked it up – turns out it is an Ancestral Pueblo people site that dates back to 1150 CE. The people who lived here carved rooms deep in the volcanic tuff, and then built rooms in front of them from mortared stacked stones and wooden beams. They stood as high as three stories. They also built kivas, which were circular semi-underground covered structures used for religious purposes. There were several kivas – each one was for a separate clan that had specific duties relating to ceremonies that would be performed at distinct times of the year for various reasons. As I noted in a previous blog, the best resource I found for information here was The Book of the Hopi by Frank Waters.
We spent several hours here along a trail that took us right up to the dwelling remains, and even being able to crawl into a couple of them. This is reasonably accessible for most people, but there are some steep narrow stairs that must be negotiated here and there. One of the most interesting things was to see the petroglyphs etched in the rock above the dwellings, which appeared to be our equivalent of addresses. Some are very plain to see, others require either just the right light or angle. Shards of pottery are laid out here and there to get an idea of the great artistry in their everyday utensils.
We made a loop trip out of the trail, following a year-around spring that supplied the water for their irrigated gardens where they grew corn, beans and squash. It appears that this water source dried up about 1550 C, so they moved along the Rio Grande river in Frijoles Canyon. As we hiked back along the trail, always right ahead of us by maybe 100 yards was a fox! Always a special treat to see wildlife when we are out hiking.
So, we finally found the Lost Turquoise Trail, and in our wanderings, also found this unique and amazing National Monument. We will be headed back this way again in 2020; wonder where we will get lost this time, and what we will find because of it!