I first visited Bandelier National Monument -- home of an ancient pueblo people -- in 1963. Not much has changed in 47 years. And why would it! The "ruins" are 800 years old. Kendrick Frazier, in his book on Chaco, said "ruins" was "our curiously inadequate work for the tangible remains of culture."
There is both a circular pueblo -- once 400 rooms in two to three stories -- and a series of long houses with both rooms carved into the tuff -- ash from an even more ancient volcano -- and stone rooms built in front of the cliff. As many as 500 people lived in Frijoles Canyon -- site of the pueblo near Los Alamos -- and not all areas were occupied at the same time. The canyon had people living there for perhaps two centuries.
We hiked the trail past the ruins -- climbing a hundred feet above the pueblo to the cliff dwellings. After 3/4 mile, we transitioned to the Alcove House trail another 1/2 mile farther into the canyon. The last 140 feet of this journey was straight up through a series of four ladders and narrow foot paths and stairs. There's only a kiva in the alcove and a great view of the canyon. The houses of the people who lived there are long gone.
The trail took us through Ponderosa pine with its heady scent, past yellow cone flowers, red penstemon, and purple beebaum, and over babbling Frijoles creek.
One highlight of the hike -- if not THE highlight -- was the three-foot-long diamondback rattlesnake we spotted creeping through the underbrush -- minding its own business.
Not only were we immersed in the history of the puebloans but also embraced by the natural beauty of the canyon.
Posted by Bud Russo