Santa Fe, New Mexico May 18
We are back on-line after spending Tuesday night in Ramah New Mexico at a small RV and cabin park. And yes, you urban dwellers, there are parts of the U.S.without Internet and with poor cell connections. Our Verizon wi-fi connection was very weak and we kept losing coverage. So, you get two days for the price of one.
It is a good thing we travel for the adventure and not the weather. The temperature was warmer and the skies were clearer back home in St. Paul. We left Show Low Tuesday morning and drove north on the two lane roads through high desert land alternating between scrub brush, rock, and piñon/juniper trees. Tuesday morning was partly cloudy but around us on all sides were rain clouds. Periodically the sun would break through, luckily for some of the pictures at our first stop, Petrified Forest National Park. Petrified Forest was not our main destination for the day but was directly on our route so we made a stop here.
In December of 2013 we made our first visit to Petrified Forest National Park and its Painted Desert area. On this second visit, we ventured into a few areas we had passed by in 2013. 225 million years ago, Arizona was a lush tropical rainforest. As continents moved and climate changed, Arizona became the desert state that we now experience. However, remnants of an ancient forest died and their trunks were carried to locations where they were buried by sediment. Over time, the logs absorbed water and silica and then crystallized into quartz. These remnants are visible throughout the park in stunning displays. One unique example was at agate bridge where an ancient tree trunk, now petrified, crossed over a dry stream bed and acts as a bridge-although the park now forbids anyone to walk on it.
However, while we visited the petrified wood sections, we spent more time looking at some of the rock formations that we missed previously. Blue, grey, purple and green bands of rock deposits are showcased at the Blue Mesa area of the park. We hiked down into the lower levels to get a closer view. The rock coloring here is a sharp contrast to the gray, red and white seen in other parts of Arizona.
From Petrified Forest we drove up to Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado AZ. Same topography mix but the road here was normally straight as an arrow, while driving up and down canyons and valleys. Hubbell Trading Post is a National Monument preserving the trading post era of the late 1870s to the 1960s, with a unique twist. As a national monument, the trading post had to continue as a functioning general store to the Navajo of the area. When we arrived here, we were surprised at the number of visitors up here in remote Arizona; later we realized many of them were shoppers at the trading post.
John Hubbell opened the trading post at the invitation of Navajo Chief Totsonii Hastiim (Ganado Mucho). The Navajo were trying to resurrect their lives in their home lands after having been forced to walk to New Mexico and being imprisoned for four years after being defeated by the US Army. Most Indian agents, missionaries, and teachers tried to force their white culture and beliefs on the Navajo. Hubbell was one of the honest traders and was respected by the Indians. He bridged the two cultures and did not force changes. His post continued operating through his descendants until the 1967 when the family and National Park service came to agreement for NPS to operate it. We toured the family’s home with a park ranger and walked the site. The log building, barn, and outbuildings are still in good shape.
Our Tuesday lodging was at the Ancients Ways RV Park and cabins near Ramah NM and El Morro National Monument. We stayed at Ancient Ways in December 2013. It is a funky place and inexpensive. Our cabin was nice, clean, and warm. The trip there, however, was long and tiring. The rains came and made driving more of a challenge. We even chose to use the Interstate for a portion of the drive.
We came across a group of 21 bicyclists at the New Mexico Welcome Center. They were riding from Los Angeles to Boston, having left LA May 6 and plan to reach Boston in mid-June. Due to the cold (41 degrees), wind, and rain, the group was deciding if they would wait for a transport car or continue the ride to Gallup NM where they had lodging for the evening. The bikers are scheduled to average 85 miles a day, paid for the experience, and had to train in advance to make sure they could complete the journey. To each their own–but not on our future plans.
Our only scheduled location for today (Wednesday) was the Salinas Pueblo Missions. This is a series of four spots in a valley 70 miles southeast of Albuquerque. There is a main visitor center in Mountainair NM and three pueblos north, south, and east of Mountainair. We did skip the southern most pueblo.
While archaeologists have found evidence of nomadic peoples dating back nearly 20,000 years, the pueblos represent the last group here, with possibly 10,000 people living in the Salinas Valley in the 1600s. The Mogollan and Anasazi peoples inhabited the area starting in the 900s. The Spanish came around 1600 and what had been a self-sustaining community that traded with its neighbor’s underwent strains that ended up devastating the area and resulting in the complete abandonment of the pueblos by 1670.
The Spanish, with their own internal conflicts between the wealth seeking military and settlers and the Franciscans who wanted to convert the Indians, expected the Pueblo Indians to help build the pueblo mission buildings, pay tribute in corn and labor to the military, and continue to provide for themselves. Compounding the problems were the Apache who used to trade on a friendly basis, now raiding as retribution for Spanish slave raids. Finally, new diseases and drought resulted in the Pueblo Indians leaving the area and moving to live with cultural relatives in other pueblos.
We visited Abo and Quarai missions (in the rain) which still have numerous well-preserved buildings and foundations. These are not re-constructed missions, but ones that have stood the test of time-with some rehabilitation. The displays tell the story of the clash of cultures. The Indians were willing to absorb one new spiritual story; the Franciscan emphasis on nature and the interweaving of all facets of life was not dissimilar to their own spirituality. However, 17th century Christianity was not one to accept alternate religious beliefs. It was all or nothing. The Indians moved out and even after the Spanish reconquered the land after the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, never came back to these missions.
I did purchase my Christmas ornament to memorialize this trip. I usually make sure it is locally made. I asked the origin of the one I wanted. It was not made locally. It was made by Dineen Pottery-of St. Paul MN. I just had to buy it.
From Mountainair we drove to Jude’s in Santa Fe which will be our base of operations for the next week or so. We will make side overnight trips to Farmington and Raton NM to explore those areas.
Ed and Chris