Santa Fe National Forest

We left Taos heading west to find new areas that neither of us had been to before and stumbled upon what must be NM’s fishing playground. Just west of Santa Fe and south of Los Alamos is Bandolier National Monument.

IMG_20160516_134731957

This is a beautiful area that was once a Pueblo settlement until the 1670s, similar to the ones we visited south of Albuquerque. One of the 20 year droughts that the southwest still gets forced these settlements to be abandoned. We camped up on the hill and hiked down into the canyon. The ruins were impressive, both on the canyon floor and up against the walls. You could still see the holes where the wooden ceiling poles were installed that separated the multi-floor dwellings.

IMG_20160516_145921296_HDR

IMG_20160516_152040666

We were allowed to climb into several of the old cliff dwellings.

IMG_20160516_151105383_HDR

One was 140 feet above the floor and required several ladders to get to the dwelling where an old Kiva was probably the site of many ceremonies.

IMG_20160516_160450769

IMG_20160516_160056282_HDR

Heading west from Bandolier was Valles Caldera National Monument, which used to be a national preserve, but was recently upgraded to monument status. Similar to Yellowstone, this area was a huge volcano caldera. The area was noted for the many movies that have been shot there over the years. The back area is day use only, but with many fishing spots that will be on list of places to revisit.

IMG_20160517_113646569

We passed the Soda Dam along the road, where calcium carbonate has been building up for thousands of years to form the rock dam and a pretty interesting rock formation.

IMG_20160517_125133941_HDR

We then headed north to Fenton Lake State Park for the night and relaxed in the high elevation woods near a lake and stream.

IMG_20160517_152441300_HDR

We talked to the Fish and Game guy who was there stocking the area with rainbow trout about the condition of the dirt road that headed north over the mountain. Even with the recent rains he said it was passable so we left the park the next day and headed over the mountains. The drive was beautiful and it was so high that the spring leaves had not come to this area yet.

IMG_20160518_091547457

We dropped down the other side of the mountain into Cuba, NM and then west to Chaco Canyon National Historical Park. This is also a world heritage site due the size and significance of the ruins.

IMG_20160518_151525041_HDR

Between 900 and 1100 Chaco was the trade center for a region that encompassed the entire southwest. They have found evidence of sea shells, macaws, chocolate and even coffee beans in the ruins. The great houses there span many miles and many are not even excavated yet. Those that are visible are creations of masterful stone masons.

IMG_20160518_154408330

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s