Bandelier National Monument, N.M…

Last week we took the opportunity to drive about an hour north of Albuquerque to visit yet another National Park. The farther away from the city we drove, the more the landscape changed…And as we neared the park, we started to notice these odd rock formations full of holes. So many holes that they reminded us of Swiss cheese! We later found out that this type of volcanic rock is called Tuff.
And after driving for nearly an hour, and going on a road that I would not want to travel on during the winter, we arrived at…

Our first stop was, as you may have guessed, the visitor’s center. We picked up Jr. Ranger books for everyone from Savanna to Hannah. This park has FOUR different levels of programs, and they each have their own special patches! :)
We watched the overview film and worked on the booklets in back at the little plant garden. We then started down the 1 mile loop trail that follows the side of the valley with the cliff dwellings, which then works it’s way back to the visitor’s center via the other side of the valley.

We weren’t but a couple of hundred yards down the trail when we noticed a ranger walking down the path. That in itself is not at all unusual, but he peaked our curiosity at first glance – he had a BRIGHT yellow shotgun strapped across the front, and a sling holding shotgun shells. Now that you don’t see every day. Being the nosey group that we are, we didn’t think twice about asking him about his job, and (most importantly) what the shotgun was for!

It seems that a momma brown bear with twin cubs has been hanging out at the other end of the park, and the rangers have to haze her off just about every day, driving her back from the dwellings (and people visiting the park). He was just returning from scaring her off – today it seemed that she had finally gotten how the whole deal works – the ranger with the bright yellow stick comes, shoots her with a plastic slug, she decides to head back the way that she came from…this afternoon, he didn’t have to shoot her – she split when she saw him (or maybe saw his bright yellow shotgun) coming.
We thought that was pretty cool, but weren’t real sure that we would want to meet a momma bear on the trail! Obviously the park wasn’t too worried about her being aggresive though, or they would have closed off the area that she had been frequenting.
After grilling the ranger, we continued down the path – we had about 2 hours to complete the walk and self-guided tour, which would include stopping at several of the dwellings to complete parts of the Jr. Ranger booklets. 1 mile, 2 hours = no problem!
Except that these round pueblo towns, and caves with homemade ladders were all really interesting!
There were several cliff dwellings that were accessible to the public – the rule was, if it had a ladder you were welcome to check it out – no ladder, stay out.

The park had opened up some really cool caves for everyone to be able to go inside and check out for themselves…

And some of the dwellings were MUCH bigger than they looked from the outside (and check out how flat the floor is)!

(the above room was (supposedly) a ceremonial weaving room – the holes on the floor were for anchors for the looms…)
and if you followed the upper path along the dwellings, the views were quite nice! The valley is gorgeous!!!

Good thing my kids are thin… 😉

As we neared the end of the loop, before it begins to head back to the visitor’s center, we came to the Long House. The long house is not just one house, but a series of cliff dwellings in the rock face – so many that it is more like a little community. Maybe this is what a subdivision was like 800 years ago!

Many of the cliff dwellings were multilevel, and the dwellings in this park were unique from the dwellings that we have seen in other parks because the citizens here built pueblo style houses on the ground in front of the caves that they used, and would utilize both the caves and the pueblo attached at the entrance as one home.
After we checked out the long house, and the kids completed the parts of their booklets that had to be done there, we continued down the trail. We had half an hour to get back before the visitor’s center closed, but we really needed to get back asap so the rangers would have a chance to check through the kids’ books.
The boys really wanted to take the last little half mile walk up to one other set of dwellings. We didn’t have time to walk that and get back with the littles, so Eli and Jake took the path farther up the valley while the rest of us started back.
The walk back was through a wooded area – even tho the valley is very thin, there is a huge difference in flora between the 2 sides. The shady side on the way back was treed, much more lush, and even had a pretty little creek running through it!
And, as a bonus, we got to see several Abert’s Squirrels on the way – they are grey and fluffy, and they have big tufts of hair that cover their ears – that part reminds me of a great horned owl! They ran up and down the trees and one jumped down the path in front of us, leading the little girls on a wild goose chase :) I think that he was teasing them.
The 2 boys had promised to hurry checking out the other dwellings. They had not really cared to see the caves – what they were hoping to spot was that momma bear and her cubs off in the distance.
They got their wish as far as seeing the bears – but they weren’t very far off in the distance…
the boys came around a bend in the trail, and voila…
The boys saw the momma searching for grubs or whatnot in the bushes off the trail, and one of the cubs some distance from her. The other one, however, was working the trail! It seemed to the boys as if some of the visitors had been feeding the bears. Many people don’t think enough to realize that they are actually hurting the bears by feeding them. The bears get accustomed to easy handouts and pretty soon try to search them out and expect them. The bears get much too friendly with people…the rangers will attempt to move them several times, and if the bears continue to return looking for handouts, they will have to be destroyed (killed). I’m no animal rights activist, but it seems a shame to kill a bear just because camera happy tourists don’t keep their chips to themselves.
~~~ (total rabbit-trail here…) We have just spent about 5 days driving through Indian Reservation territory. Gee, it was a lot like the bear thing. Beg, get used to hand outs, then feel as if you are owed them, get aggressive (mad)… If I see another panhandler come to the door of the RV drunk, saying ‘I’m telling you the truth…’ as they tell their woes (and they all have the same story, and it’s always void of booze and casinos???), and expect a monetary handout, it will be too soon. There were A LOT! Or the Indian mom who came out of the gas station where we were filling up, nodded to her 2 little girls, about 8 and 10 – the girls canvased the parking lot while well-dressed mom was on her smartphone at the door. The lot was filled with out of state plates, and nearly every single car gave those little girls money. Or the one specific guy in the Walmart parking lot that asked Vaughn for some money to help him out because he hadn’t been able to find a job (um, yeah, you would not believe the excessive amount of Help Wanted signs through here!) – Vaughn had just been in Walmart getting a few groceries – the store has Help Wanted signs up on the doors, and they have great spans of empty shelves because they cannot find workers to stock. Vaughn suggested that the man apply in the store as they obviously needed help, and he gave Vaughn a disgusted look, and practically spit out,”I wouldn’t work for Walmart!!!” Apparently, in these parts, beggings is a step up from physical labor. (deep breath, move on…)
ANYWAY, back to the boys and the begging bear cubs – The cub got close enough that, even though the mom wasn’t at all concerned, the boys felt uncomfortable, and split.

Cute, but we didn’t raise dumb boys – Eli utilized the zoom on his camera for the above pic! 😉
We did ALL make it back to the visitor’s center in time to get our Jr. Ranger badges! The little girls were tickled with their badges because they have a little Abert’s Squirrel on it. :) The 2 big boys made it too as they had run the whole way back and nearly beat us!
Bandelier was a beautiful park, but it is quite a ways from Albuquerque. The road takes you over some interesting terrain – including some ravines and side-hilling it. Definitely worth the drive!

Lilla Rose

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