May 3, 2017
We took the motorcycle to the Bandelier National Monument Visitor Center in the morning. After spending a little time checking out the exhibits and bookstore, we followed the Main Loop Trail and the additional Alcove House Trail.
The original inhabitants of this area were Ancestral Puebloans. The Frijoles Creek ran through this valley providing a source of water throughout the year. The walls of the canyon are made of primarily of tuff, rock comprised of compacted volcanic ash.
It is a relatively soft stone with a great number of holes, like Swiss cheese. Because of the relative ease of carving out cavities in the rock, the ancient Puebloans created a small cavates (cave rooms).
These rooms were usually fronted by stone walled constructed rooms. People lived on the walls of the cliffs in addition to the large village, Tyuonyi, along the floor of the canyon.
The loop trail takes you along the excavated site of the valley part of the village. You pass a Kiva, a round ceremonial room dug into the ground.
Plus the remains of the walls that would have made up the rooms and walls of the village.
The trail continues up to the dwellings along the wall of the canyons. There are lots of very sturdy ladders and steep paths to reach the dwellings.
One house has been reconstructed to show how the rooms might have looked while they were occupied.
There were a lot of other people on the loop trail.
We spent a while around this area. We’ve been to Mesa Verde and a few other ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings, but the geology of this area makes these unusual.
After following the Main Loop Trail, we took the Alcove House Trail. It was a beautifully shaded area along the Frijoles Creek. We saw a mule deer grazing next to the creek.
We also saw an Abert Squirrel jump down from one tree and run up another one. The tufts on their ears make them really adorable.
The hike over to the Alcove House is mostly flat and easy until you get to the cliff.
To reach the Alcove, you have to climb up 140 feet on ladders. I made sure to wear gloves because the rungs of the ladders can get really hot. They weren’t too bad while we were there.
The Alcove was a large space with a reconstructed kiva.
It was a great view of the valley.
We hung out drinking water and enjoying the view before heading back towards the Visitor Center.
We talked with the Rangers about other hikes in the area. After some discussion, Jon and I decided to hike up the other side of the canyon to check out an unexcavated site.
The trail we hiked up to reach the canyon rim consisted of an enormous number of switchbacks. I climb hills at a much slower rate than Jon. I was really surprised to come around one switchback to find Jon literally cooling his heels. I had a chance to rest while he put his shoes back on.
At the top, we found the remains of Frijolito, an ancient Puebloan village.
Not much to see but stones where walls once were. There were lots of pieces of broken pottery and obsidian flakes.
We appreciated seeing them and then returned them to the place we found them.
We hiked along the rim for an another mile or two.
We could see the Visitor Center from the top.
We also spotted the ladders up to Alcove House.
Our hike down from the rim was slow and gradual. I tend to prefer my ups as switchbacks and my downs more gradual.
It was a good hike. We stopped at the Visitors Center to rehydrate and have a snack before heading back to our campsite.