Monday, July 11, 2016

July 2 - July 8

July 2, 2016

After breakfast we started our hike through the “Little River Canyon” at Hovenweep National Monument.  It is a relatively small canyon, but their “claims to fame” are the remains of puebloan dwellings made out of thick bricks, two bricks wide.  They date back 700 years.  One of the most interesting revelations about these structures is that they have “openings that, during solstice and equinox, admit shafts with sunlight”.  The puebloan people have used this as a type of calendar to determine planting and harvesting times.

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Towers may have been used as signaling stations, a way of communicating with members of the community.  There are living areas, work rooms, ceremonial chambers and storage buildings.  Defense may also have been a consideration with some of the brick towers.  The construction certainly does show how talented the masons were. 

The name Hovenweep was actually chosen by a pioneer photographer named William Henry Jackson in 1874.   It is a Ute/Paiute word that means “deserted valley”.   

 Sunday, July 3, 2016

We left Hovenweep at 11:00 am, taking a different route back to Cortez, Colorado.  Along the way we did some bird watching, but had to take photos, hoping when we enlarged them on the computer, maybe we can identify them.  I have to admit that it felt good to get back to farmland again.  The dry sage brush landscape frightened me a little. 

We found a nice RV park that allows a Passport America discount.  It isn’t fancy, but is very clean.  It has full hookups, so we could fill up our water tank. We took down our bikes and rode them to the little church for evening Mass.  After dinner we updated the blog with our pictures, because the RV park has Wifi.  So, if you haven’t checked it in awhile, you might enjoy the pictures we have added.  

Monday, July 4th, 2016

Roger spent quite a bit of time wiping the dust from the inside of the front of the RV.  Then he cleaned off the outside, as well.  I vacuumed and swept.  We both feel so much better starting out the day with a cleaner “house”.  Now we are “good to go”.

Today we are returning to Mesa Verde National Park, because Roger can get additional credit for transmitting here again, because it has been over 24 hours since he last activated this sight.  We also admit we will enjoy postponing the heat one more day.  As we climbed the mountain, we noted that the landscape is quite different from what we have seen.  There are few trees, but the land is covered with tall green shrubs, so the contrast of the light brown rocks and dark green is very pleasant.  We drove to the second lookout, Park Point, at 8572 feet, and Roger transmitted, as this is the highest point in the park.

Though this is not the prettiest park we have seen, the smooth round surfaces of the rocks near the top gives it a softer, more peaceful presence.  Also, in all fairness to the park, we learned that there have been four major fires here in the last decade.  They destroyed thousands of acres within the park; many of the dead trees are still evident, sticking out from the new shorter vegetation.

After transmitting, Roger drove back down the mountain and headed back to Yucca House.  He had spoken with a park ranger today and gotten a better idea about the parking situation.  We felt more confident about returning, though the ranger acknowledged that the property owner does not like visitors crossing his property.  You would think that he was aware of the situation when he bought the land; but perhaps not.

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There were no trail markers to direct us to the ruins, but we did find several areas with rock rubble, one circular area and another place where one wall is still standing.  It was such a shame that there were no plaques or explanations.  We were lucky to get a brochure from the Mesa Verde visitor’s center. 

It explained that a professor with the US Geological Survey reported his finding in 1878.  He mapped the area, which has an estimated 600 room.  So this was a large community of people who resided at Yucca Hours from AD 1150 -1300.

Roger had heard so much about the four corners area that he wanted to go there in person.  There is actually a monument at the site where the four states (Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico) meet.  But the landscape is very desolate, like what we saw in southern Utah, dry, no trees, just short scrub brush.  There are no towns and very few people for  miles.  It makes me miss home.  We were surprised to see a small river just before we reached four corners.

There was a single building at the location, but it was Navajo Indian property, not a national park.   They were closing in less that an hour so we decided to continue our journey.

We picked up Highway 64 and turned back east into New Mexico.  Shortly after crossing the state border we came over a rise and there was a huge almost vertical mountain right in the middle of the desert-like landscape.  We could see it from 20 miles away.  It reminds me of the Wicked Witche’s castle in the movie, Wizard of Oz.  It gave me a kind of forbidden feeling when I gazed at its sharp pointed peaks.

July 5, 2016

We spent the night in Farmington.  Then, this morning we headed just a few miles north to the Aztec Ruins National Monument.  We watched a movie in the visitor’s center then toured the ruins.  But let me clear up the misconception created by the mane.  These ruins were not built by Aztec Indians of Central Mexico.  They were built by Puebloan people, just as Yucca House and many other locations in the four corners region of southwestern United States.  Unfortunately, when the Spanish explorers moved north from Mexico, they made the false assumption that the Aztec Indians must have lived here and the name “stuck”.

One of the most impressive areas of the site is the reconstructed “Great Kiva”, a circular sanctuary and a place for people to meet for community events”.  It was excavated by Archeologist, Earl Morris in 1921 and rebuilt in 1934.  Something that is different about these structures is a band of green sandstones, at about waist high, all along the outside walls of the pueblo.  “Their purpose remains a mystery.”  Another unanswered question is why the puebloan people only lived here for 200 years, from the late 1000s to the late 1200s.  One of the theories is that a great drought occurred, causing the people to search for a new home.

The Northwest corner of New Mexico is another area where oil pumping stations are a frequent site, some pumping, others capped.  There is little else of civilization for 40 miles or more just scrub desert conditions.  But the sky –Oh! It is such a beautiful shade of blue, with puffy clouds scatter through out.

We traveled to Chaco Culture Naional Historical Park. The native ruins date back to 800.  This tribe of puebloans built multilevel dwellings and lived in the area for 300 years.  We drove around the canyon, viewing the ruins from a distance, then continued on our way.

The open range land we passed reminded me of the term, “dry gulch”, because so many of the stream beds were dry.  We saw two different groups of cows eating next to the road.  Other large groups were in the sagebrush.  We saw lots of rabbits.  One variety had a big round white tail and the others were larger and had a long black tail. 

There was an absolutely beautiful sunset with the edge of some of the clouds looking like they were on fire.  Its beauty reflected throughout the entire sky, as there were no buildings or trees blocking the view.  It was a very positive note to a very long day.  Roger assured me we would not have any more dirt roads on our journey home.  Halleluiah!  We spent the night in the parking lot of the Apache Nugget Travel Center and Casino.

Wednesday July 6, 2016

Oh!  To see green trees again is so lovely.  We are actually going through a forest this morning, Santa Fe National Forest.  We are climbing in elevation, passing cliffs of dark red dirt.  We reached 8,700 feet on the mountain before we began to descend the other side.  This is a pretty forest with very little under brush, just short green grasses, allowing you to see through the trees for a considerable distance.  The air is so nice and cool and the sky is a clear pretty light blue.  Most of the trees seem to be a type of pine, different from our southern variety.  They are tall and narrow in shape.  The bark is rough and has a slight reddish tent in the older trees with wider trunks.

Remember how we weren’t going to do any more dirt roads?  Well we started off on a nice paved road and about half way to our destination, it turned into a dirt road.  But, fortunately, it has been recently graded and was much easier to drive on than yesterdays irregular and bumpy gravel road.  Also, on the places where the sun shines on the ground, the mica in the dirt creates sparkles all over the road.  After about a half hour we returned to a paved road again.  Yea!! There are even yellow wild flowers growing along the side of the road. (7900 ft)  We also passed a real meadow, which we haven’t seen in ages.  The scent of the pine is so strong in one section of the forest, a sweet clean fragrance that we really missed when it was gone. 

There are many National sites in New Mexico and Roger is trying to stop at as many as he can without going too far off the route toward home.  The first one today is Vallas Caldera, a National Preserve.  It is the most recently designated park, less than a year ago, and does not yet have a brochure.   It is at 8500 ft. and is comprised of almost 8,900 acres.  We learned that the difference between a national preserve and a national park is that the preserve allows public hunting, trapping and gas exploration and extraction.

This area was a large volcano millions of years ago.  It collapsed, creating a round “caldron”.  Then in later years a few small eruptions occurred raising several small mountains of lava.  Today, the center of the bowl shaped area is a huge meadow of grasses with no trees.

When we pulled into the parking lot we saw numerous Gunnison Prairie Dogs.  They are about a foot in length and have short little legs and a short tail that turns down.  They dig tunnels in the ground and have a large pile of dirt surrounding the opening of their burrows.  We were also happy to see the hummingbird feeders on the porch at the visitor’s center.  It allowed us to add another new bird to our list, the broad-tailed hummingbird.

After making contacts in this park, we drove into Los Almos and found a lovely city park next to a pretty pond.  There were flowers and native grasses decorating the landscape along the sidewalks.  A small wooden walkway was constructed over the pond, to give a close-up view of the water lilies floating in the water.  Ducks were swimming around the little lake, adding another level of serenity to the park.  On one end of the pond there were a set of stairs leading to a higher level of the park, with a waterfall flowing down between.  Families were having individual picnics on the green lawn.  It was such a great sight, seeing families relaxing together and using their park.

July 7, 2016

This morning Roger met a filming crew here in Los Almos.  They were working on a segment on the 100th anniversary of the national parks.  After talking with them, they asked if he would let them tape him about the National Parks on the Air program that ham radio operators are participating in.  Of course he was excited to agree.  The TV series should air in a couple of weeks.  The man Roger spoke to will contact him with the details, once he finds out which Florida stations will air the program.  We hope they will include Roger’s interview when it is finished the editing process. 

We left Los Almos at 10 am and drove to Bandelier National Monument, another ancestral Puebloan community.  It includes numerous cliff dwellings, as well as a large circular village.  This National Park brochure had a much better explanation of the Ancestral Puebloan people.  It noted that archeologists believe that these people were “hunters and gatherers”…who “came into the region over 10,000 years ago.”  They moved with the seasons and food sources.  But once they discovered agriculture, from the Spanish explorers and were able to raise corn and squash, they began to make permanent homes.

The park was named after archeologist Adolph Bandelier, who began studying the ruins in the New Mexico Territory in 1880.  He remained in the region for 12 years and wrote a novel depicting the Puebloan life in Pre-Spanish times” called The Delight Makers.  Roger and I walked to the circular village, then to the cliff dwellings.  The weather was so hot that we didn’t have the energy to climb the cliffs and explore.  It would have required using several ladders made of tree branches.

One question we had about the villages on the ground level was why there were no openings between the walls, going from room to room.  The ranger told us than the entrances were all from holes in the roofs.  Ladders lead down to the inside.  There is a great artist’s sketch of what the city would have looked like, on the brochure for the Park.  There were no windows in the structures.  This allowed the dwellings to be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.  
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The “city” had only one opening, serving as entrance and exit.  It is believed this was a way of protecting the children from wondering off and getting lost.  The elderly members of the tribe would have watched over the children while their parents were cultivating the crops on the cliff tops above their homes. 

It was 1:30 we started down the mountain to Santa Fe.  We went straight to the Capitol Building and did a short tour.  The exterior of the building is very different from those we have seen in other states.  It is very conservation, in appearance, blending in with the architecture of the entire city.  It was interesting to learn that New Mexico’s legislature is not paid a salary.  They receive per diem for the time that the legislature is in session, 60 days in odd numbered years and only 30 days in even numbered years.

All of the art work inside the Capitol building is either donated by the artist or paid for by the Capitol Art Foundation, which has various fund raisers throughout the year.  All of the works on display were created by New Mexico artists.  They vary greatly in media and style.  One of the most impressive works, inouropinion was a painting by Gary Morton on display on the 4th floor.  It is so detailed that you would think it was a photograph.  It depicts a man on horseback overlooking a canyon with a river down at the bottom.

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Another very interesting discovery we made regards a New Mexico state symbol.  It is a red circle with four lines running through the top and sides.  This is the Zia (an Indian tribe) sun symbol and represents “the four directions of the earth, the four seasons of the year, the four times of the day (sunrise, noon, evening and night) and life’s four divisions of childhood, youth, adulthood and old age”. 

After leaving the Capitol, Roger found the Old Santa Fe Trail and transmitted from there for awhile.  Then we found a city park right on the El Camino Real National Trail and decided to stay the night.  It was a little uncomfortable for awhile, as it was quite warm with little breeze.  But after sunset, it cooled down.  Roger was able to transmit from there, another national park site.

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Friday July 8, 2016

Santa Fe has some kind of city ordinance where construction has to be adobe style and colors are restricted to different shades of beige and brown or reddish brown.  Roger and I don’t particularly care for the “sameness” of the architecture.  Plus, it is another government restriction which we don’t agree with.  Many of the walkways through out the city are not maintained, but grow wild with weeds.  Even the park we stayed in last night was overgrown with weeds.  When we went to the Walmart for groceries we learned that another ordinance does not permit plastic bags.  It cost 10 cents each for paper bags, “to encourage people to bring their own,” yet another local government restriction

After our Walmart stop, we left Santa Fe and drove to Pecos National Historical Park.  It
is another Puebloan ruin.  The film in the visitor’s center gave a much more thorough
explanation of the total history of the area.  I had not realized there had been a point in
time when the Puebloan Indians had revolted against the Spanish conquistadors and won
 their freedom for a short time.  Neither of us had known that there was a major Civil War
battle in this same area.  It was also very interesting to know that the actress Greer
Garson and her husband lived in Pecos and donated land to this National Park.  They
believed it was very important to continue to maintain the history of the Pecos area.  Ms.
Garson actually narrated the film in the visitor's center.

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We spent the first part of the afternoon locating a campsite. Because this is the weekend,
the first couple of parks were full. So we had to drive several miles from Pecos, up in the
mountains to find a place where there was space available.  But that was good, because it
was cooler there, with a nice steady breeze.

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