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

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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...

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