Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Donald Trump Advances Approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Oil Pipelines

Now more than ever, for those of us who love the land, clean air, and clean water, we must remain vigilant...

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Tsankawi Village: Bandelier National Monument (Winter Break Day 6)

Well worn footpaths

Unexcavated puebloan ruin of Tsankawi

Camo sits inside a spacious well ventilated room once used by the Ancestral Tewa Pueblo people over 600 years ago.

View from inside the room

Here's to a happy and healthy 2017!
It was a cold, foggy morning on the first day of 2017 in Bandelier National Monument. Camo, Moosie, and I had a 10 hour drive to head back east to Texas where Moosie and I had planes to catch the next day. Our winter break road trip was coming to a close.

Before leaving Bandelier, we were treated to one more fantastic trail, the Tsankawi Village Trail. Moosie, Camo, and I took about two hours to slowly walk the route which led through the un-excavated ruins of the village which was once home to the Ancestral Tewa Pueblo in the 1400's. There were about 275 ground floor rooms there, many were once one to two stories high at the time. The views were spectacular once again, the air cold and crisp. There were well worn footpaths carved along the canyon walls by the Ancestral Pueblo people, made deeper by modern day tourists and visitors. Petroglyphs and pottery sherds were abundant. We only saw one other visitor on this New Year's morning, and were able to quietly contemplate the people who once lived here, and think about what the new year would bring. Once again, I was fascinated by the numbers of people that once lived there, as well as the surrounding canyons off limits to visitors.

Our time was short, so eventually Camo, Moosie, and I made our way back to the car. Before long, we were staring out the windows over the Texas plains. I was feeling rejuvenated, thankful for another opportunity to see a small portion of the southwest...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Bandelier National Monument (New Mexico): Winter Break Day 5


Hundreds of cavates along the south facing canyon wall where talus homes once stood 800 years ago.

Restored pit house in Tyuonyi

This canyon must have been bustling with human activity

Creature carved on canyon wall

The parrot petroglyph. Parrotts were traded from Mexico and feathers used for Puebloan dance costumes.

Many of the dwellings seemed to have their own unique petroglyph carved above the roof area.

This interesting shape was carved WAY above the dwellings.

The Ancestral Puebloan People in Bandeleier lived in a rock wonderland.


Abert's squirrel: Looked like a squirrel/rabbit hybrid

Alcove House: Reached by 140 foot climb on four ladders

Moosie inside the Alcove House

Moosie, Camo, and I in the Alcove House

Pottery Sherd

Sun setting behind the mountains

New Year's Eve Fire
 I woke up early on day 5 of Winter break. Moosie, Camo, and I were camped in Bandelier National Monument. What a place to bring in the end of 2016. It was New Year's Eve. I realized the night before that I had dropped one of my "Yak Tracks" on the trail. "Yak Tracks" are a combination of rubber and metal that are strapped onto your shoe to help with traction on icy terrain. One of them had fallen out of my backpack. I woke up early to see if I could find it, and also get some sunrise photos. Thankfully, I found the missing piece of gear quickly, which allowed me to soak in the glory of the New Mexican sunrise.

After returning to camp, Moosie and Camo were just waking up and we were excited about the day before us. We decided to visit the main monument of Tyuonyi in Frijoles Canyon (located behind the visitor center) and hike up to the Alcove House, a massive cave 140 feet off the canyon floor. By the time we had breakfast and reached the visitor center, gray clouds filled the sky and snow flurries began to fall. We slowly took our time and followed the paved trail through Tyuonyi and the multiple ruins along the south facing canyon walls. Tyuonyi must have been quite the place in it's heyday. The puebloan talus homes were built one next to the other along the canyon wall. It is said that small farms and gardens filled with corn, beans, and squash (the three sisters) were planted in the valley and probably the canyon rim as well. According to archaeological surveys, there are at least 3,000 sites in Bandelier, probably inhabited at different times. Moosie, Camo, and I would barely scratch the surface of this beautiful place. Our leisurely morning stroll was like a game of "Where's Waldo?" There were so many interesting things to see, in particular petroglyphs hiding along the walls, often hidden in plain sight.

There were several families and other tourists walking with us along the trail as we all made our way towards the Alcove House. We arrived around noon and climbed the four ladders, past tent shaped rocks and spires, above the tops of the ponderosa pines, 140 feet to the enormous cave. Who lived in this kingly palace?

Moosie, Camo, and I were getting hungry at this point, the gray skies had burned off by now, and a bright sun was shining down on us. We decided to drive into the town of White Rock, a few miles outside of Bandelier, purchase some fire wood and some beverages to bring in the new year. When we returned we had some time left over to do some late afternoon exploring which was rewarding. By evening, a campfire, beer, and some tunes were in order. As we said goodbye to 2016, conversations with Moosie and Camo around the fire gave me a lot to think about, in particular life's future trajectory. I want to keep hiking, and witnessing places like this. I was glad to bring in the new year with trail friends...

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Bandelier National Monument (New Mexico): Winter Break 2016 Day 4

Sunrise at Ute Lake State Park

Campsite at Ute Lake State Park
Tasty breakfast burritos at the Flying C Ranch and other touristy gifts

Our first view of the Canyon in Bandelier National Monument

Add caption

Circular structure
Ruins of Tyuonyi

Canyon with the ruins of Tyuonyi in shadow

Obsidian flakes

Pottery sherds near ruins

Beautiful new moon and skies filled with stars

Camo, Moosie, and I woke up to a cold morning. After a quick breakfast, we were ready to hit the road. We decided to visit Bandalier National Monument, a few hours away. The drive was perfect, open skies, mountains, canyons. We stopped by the touristy Flying C ranch for breakfast burritos. I bought a colorful blanket which would serve me well the next couple of nights in Bandelier. We stopped by Santa Fe and bought supplies at an adobe Wal-Mart for the next leg of the trip. Before long, we were driving into the canyon area of Bandelier, fist past huge cottonwood trees in the valley, then gradually ascending onto canyon rims with tall ponderosa pines in the canyons. Caves were everywhere, the result of a erosion and human made rooms carved out of solidified volcanic ash from a nearby eruption that occurred over a million years ago.

Soon, we found ourselves on the rim of the canyon looking down towards the visitor center. A few minutes later after a short drive into the canyon, we were standing under the tall ponderosa pines and looking up at the canyon walls. Our goal was to do a two day backcountry backpacking trip. Weather was calling for a small snowstorm to hit the area. Moosie, Camo, and I decided to talk to the ranger to see what our options were. The ranger told us there was a lot of ice covering the north facing walls in the canyons, and trails were often covered with ice in these area. With the predicted storm also on its way, we decided to play it conservative and camp in the campground and hike the nearby trails instead. We probably missed out on an incredible backpacking opportunity, but everything worked out just as it should anyways, and we were treated to amazing sights and experiences anyhow.

We picked our campsite in the late afternoon, and we were the only ones in the campground. Snow covered the ground in most of the sites, but we managed to find one with some nice tree cover and bare ground. After setting up camp, we took a short hike on a trail along the canyon rim that passed some excavated pueblo ruins. The sun, crisp air, and clear skies were a feast for the senses. Eventually, we reached the end of the trail and were treated to an amazing view of the semi circular ruin called Tyuonyi. The ruin once consisted of 300 to 400 rooms. The purpose of the structure can be left to the imagination, as we would soon discover Ancestral Pueblo ruins all over the canyon, and in adjacent canyons all throughout the area. The canyon itself hosted hundreds of additional rooms and potential building plots lining the canyon walls which we would observe the following day. The experience opened my mind to what used to be.

The sun was setting and the temperatures were dropping, so Moosie, Camo, and I decided to gradually head back to camp. We bought some firewood from the absent camp host, cooked up some trail dinners, were treated to a beautiful new moon and a sky filled with stars, had a fire, listened to tunes, had some good laughs, and were ready to see more of the park the following day...