Wednesday, December 1, 2010

11/15/10 Day 43

     We sat down at the table for breakfast of sausage and eggs.  They were delicious even though Chan forgot to put the green chilies in them.  We packed yesterday’s sandwiches and headed to Bandolier National Monument.  This is a very cool park that contains the ruins of many ancient cliff dwellings and Pueblos, some of which you could even climb up in and explore.
     These were all along the park’s main trail.  Before we started our hike, we were given a pamphlet at the visitor’s center full of information on all the ruins we would see that day.  We were to keep our eyes open for a numbered marker at each site, this would tell us what section of the pamphlet would be about what we were looking at. 
     Brochure in hand, we began down the trailhead.  We read about some of the natural features of the canyon and looked at a spot that might have been an Indian garden back in the 15th century.  This was all pretty to look at and we were enjoying it, but it wasn’t anything special.  We’d seen lots of trees, rocks, streams, etc. in all the other parks. 
     What we hadn’t seen was a Kiva.  These are circular rooms dug into the ground and we were now looking at a partially excavated one.  The pamphlet had a lot to say about this site, so I began to read it out loud to Virginia.  I didn’t think I was reading particularly loudly, but It was loud enough apparently because a young woman standing nearby jokingly asked if I could read louder please.  Virginia and I laughed and smiled politely before moving on to the next site. 
     We were admiring the first story ruins of a pueblo village on the canyon floor, when the woman caught back up with us.  There was a young man with her and we overheard them talking excitedly about how fascinating the site was, sometimes joking and laughing generally having a good time in much the same manner as Virginia and me.  Occasionally she would ask a question out loud, seemingly addressing anyone present, and I would make an answer.     
     Presently Virginia and I left the pueblo and went to look at the cliff dwellings.  The same thing happened.  The other pair caught up with us and we talked a little more with them.  This continued until we felt fairly well acquainted and we stuck together as a group for the rest of the hike.  It turns out that these two, named Taz and Tussin, are brother and sister.  They live on opposite sides of the country and had decided to meet in New Mexico for five days of hiking and exploration.
     We told them about our travels as we looked at the caves and petroglyphs scattered across the canyon wall.  We were especially tickled by a petroglyph that seemed to be a man jumping for joy.  It was great to enjoy a park with similarly minded people.  Eventually our band came to the main attraction at the end of the trail.  This was a 140 foot climb up a cliff wall, accomplished by long rustic ladders and steep stairs leading to large open cave and a reconstructed Kiva!  The ladders looked a bit daunting, but they were easily overcome by our excitement to get to the top.  Once we made the ledge, Virginia and I stopped to catch our breath and have a snack while Tussin and Taz explored the area.  The Kiva up here is the only one in the park that the public is allowed in and we all took a look inside. 
     There weren’t any ruins on the path back to the visitor’s center, so we spent the time talking and enjoying the beautiful nature around us.  At some point I mentioned how they measured hiking distance at the Grand Canyon by how many sandwiches you should eat, and that became a running joke.  Eventually we made our way back to the visitor’s center.  Here we bid farewell to our new friends, not without exchanging contact info though, and headed back to Pecos. 
     My second cousin Nathan and his girlfriend were there when we arrived and we talked about their recent vacation to Florida over a meal of delicious pork chops prepared by Gill and Chan. 
-       Eric Lauterbach

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