We drove to El Morro National Monument where we planned on camping. With all the work on the hot water heater, we needed to refill our water tank. We picked out a campsite and filled up with water. We reached the El Morro Visitor Center at around 3:00 pm. The main attraction at El Morro is Inscription Rock where Native Americans, early Spanish explorers and US travelers through the mid-1800’s wrote on a sandstone cliff face.
There is a fresh water pool at the base of the cliffs which drew people traveling through the area.
While there, they drew petroglyphs and stone inscriptions into the relatively soft rock. The park has a half mile loop trail which follows the base of the Inscription Rock.
The park also includes the ruins of two Ancient Puebloan towns at the top of the cliffs.
There is a two mile loop trail the visits all three sites. The Visitor Center closes at 5:00 and all visitors should be off the trails by 4:45. We decided to hike the two mile trail backwards so that we climbed up to the top of the cliffs first and finished with the Inscriptions. That way we could do the uphill early and know how much time we had to examine the petroglyphs and carvings.
Plus, there were dark storm clouds nearby and we wanted to get off the cliffs sooner rather than later.
By the time we talked with a ranger, went to the bathroom and got our gear together, it was 3:30. So up the cliff we went. It was about a 250 foot climb almost entirely up. It was good to get the climb done and at least much of it was up stairs rather than a series of switchbacks.
The view from the top of the cliffs was wonderful, but the storm clouds loomed.
We kept a good pace. Going backwards, we visited the partially excavated site of Atsinna, meaning “Place of writings on the rock”. It was built in the late 1200’s and occupied for about 75 years.
The trail follows the top of the cliffs from one leg to the next. It is not a trail for those afraid of heights. It gave us a very nice view, but because of the storm clouds, it was hard to photograph well.
The second set of ruins are unexcavated and we had passed by it without noticing. The trail down at this point is a long series of switchbacks. I prefer climbing up stairs and going down a slope.
Once we reached the bottom, the trail follows the base of the cliffs to Inscription rock. There are petroglyphs made by the Native Americans either passing through the area or living nearby.
The oldest European inscriptions are made by the Spanish starting in 1605. Beginning in 1849, US citizens began to pass by this area during the Western expansion after the Mexican-American War.
First Spanish inscription by Don Juan de Oñate dated on April 16, 1605
The most interesting story behind the inscriptions is the one referred to Beal’s Trail. Lt. Edward F. Beale and P. Gilmer Breckenridge lead an experimental Army project using 25 camels for transportation.
We made it back to the Visitors Center by 4:30. We made a quick trip through the museum before heading out.
We drove back to the campground. In the process of pulling in, a deceptively close pine branch broke off and put a hole into the back of the camper.
It is good that there is so much insulation in the Big Foot camper. There was a good sized hole, but it didn’t penetrate into the interior of the camper. Jon cleaned up the area around the hole and put a patch over the hole.
The offending tree is the one on the left.
While setting up, a couple came by to visit. They were from NC and noticed that our license plate was also from NC. It turns out that they live about 2 miles from our home in Cary, NC. An amazing coincidence. We had an early night.