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Bandelier National Monument

Mini-Critic at Bandelier, from the cliff dwellings, overlooking the Tyuonyi pueblo ruinI had hoped to take Mini-Critic along to see Cendrillon last night, but he is just too young for an opera that starts at 8:30 and lasts three hours. So, to make it up to him, we took the family to Bandelier National Monument this morning. Every time I come to New Mexico -- we stay with family in Los Alamos -- I dream about making the long trip to Chaco Canyon, but with two small children we are just going to have to wait a few years to do that. The second-best option is another fascinating Anasazi site, not quite as stunning but much easier to get to, Bandelier. The Pueblo tribes around Los Alamos claim to be descendants of the people who lived here, in adobe dwellings attached to caves in the steep cliffs and also in a circular pueblo village called Tyuonyi. As at Chaco, these ancestral dwellings are concentrated around kiva structures, wells from which the Pueblo tribes believe their ancestors first crawled forth from the earth.

Mini-Critic at Bandelier, climbing up to a cliff dwellingThe main part of Bandelier is in Frijoles Canyon, an eerily still and quiet place where a small, clear creek flows, which was probably what drew these communities here. Bandelier is sort of a misnomer, as it comes not from the period when the pueblo tribes lived here but from the name of a Swiss-American amateur anthropologist, Adolph Bandelier, who came to live here in the 19th century. (He published a novel about his time living in the canyon, called The Delight Makers.) There is a trail through the canyon, one half of which goes through Tyuonyi and along the cliff dwellings, looping around to come back along the creek. It was a typically sunny New Mexico day yesterday, but the piñon and juniper trees provide plenty of shade. When you climb up the ladders to the few cliff dwelling you are allowed to visit, it is quite comfortable there. Mini-Critic did a great job climbing up and down the ladders and making the climb up the cliff paths, often narrow and steep, to the openings.

The entrance fee to the national park is now $12 per car, but it is good for six days, so we are planning to go back once or twice. Making that clear was the only way to get Mini-Critic to leave peacefully. I would like to go to the Tsankawi site, which is part of the park but several miles away from the entrance. There is another ruin, more cave dwellings, and apparently more petroglyphs than you can see in Frijoles Canyon.


Mark Barry said...

Minis got it down! the SW is loaded with amazing places to explore. Mesa Verde to the North is another good trek with kids. My mini was 3 or 4 and did a 7 mile hike in and out of all the cliff dwellings. The ranger was very suprised and gave her a badge.

ACB said...

That is such a classic "little boy" outfit! Adorable.

Charles T. Downey said...

ACB, Mini-Critic (as you put it, Master Ionarts, which may be a better handle for him) thanks you.

Mark, 7 miles with a young child is indeed admirable. We are debating whether Master Ionarts can deal with the 2 miles to Tsankawi.