Saturday, May 9, 2015

2015-8 Grant New Mexico


Grant New Mexico
Blue Water St Pk, continued

It’s Monday and the start of a new week, May 4th.  I stepped outside for an early morning walk through Blue Water state park and a chilly 49 degrees greeted me.  The sun is shining but I think someone forgot to turn the heat lamp on inside of it.  Yesterday, even though the weather predictors indicated rain, it wasn’t to start until the afternoon, which meant I had the whole morning to tour.  My favorite part of the day to go touring.

heading out on today's tour

I headed down to Grant and hwy 58 which is a circle route with a couple of interesting sites along the way.  My main destination would be El Morro National Monument.  I passed the Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano, but they weren’t open yet… after all I had gotten an early start, so I continued on through a mix of grass lands, pinion pine, juniper and Douglas Fir.  Nice to see a forest of pine trees.  This whole area is covered with volcano debris which I hope to tour in a few days.

El Morro is a large sandstone monolith that rises straight up out of the surrounding grass lands and forests.  It has a pool of water at it’s base and an east/west trail that has been here for thousands of years.  Ancient Puebloan and their more recent relatives the Zuni call it “place of writing on the rock”.  The Spanish explorers who first came by here in 1540 called it “ the Headland”.  Anglo-Americans called it “Inscription Rock”.  I’m pretty sure this is the place my dear friend Ruth Ann Easterland told me about this past winter.  Which is the reason I’m out here exploring this wonderful part of New Mexico.

The reliable water source at it’s base is the key to why so many stopped along the way.  As a national monument, the government has made it’s own impact with paved paths and stone carved steps along the way.  I took the two and a half mile hike around the base and on top of El Moro to see the writings which go back over 1,000 years by the Pueblo Indians.  Then as Francisco Coronado (1540) started the Spanish invasion of the area looking for the 7 cities of gold, he and his men wrote their inscriptions on the wall.  Later, wagon trains and frontier and Civil War armies would pass by with their newly acquired camels (an experiment in desert survival).  All wrote their names and brief descriptions on El Morro.  Creating a history of mans travels through the region.

That trail I took past the wall of writings gradually turned into a switchback trail that led to the top of El Morro.  Well worth the 450 ft hike in elevation to the top of the rock.  El Morro is actually a large U shaped formation that creates an inner canyon with only one exit.  An etched path leads one around the top of the smooth white surfaced rock that caps the top.  Grand views of the surrounding landscape and an ancient pueblo at one end has been partially excavated.  18 of the 350-800 rooms of this pueblo fortress atop El Morro have been excavated revealing tidbits of knowledge about these Pueblo Indians who lived here over a 1,000 years ago.  And then, only for a short time, before they too moved on.

the climb to the top, 450 feet

on top, looking into the canyon

the hike gores completely around the canyon top

wpa crews built these in the late 30's

the adobe village on top of El Moro, 1200 CE

Kiva, this one is semi round, where the native Indians would
have their religious ceremonies. 

all the pueblo's would have been covered in timber and earth, making
for very dark rooms, access was through the roof/ladder

Now that’s what I call a great way to spend a morning.

Truck Maintenance:

A couple days later, my trucks idiot light comes on to inform me it’s time to replace the fuel filter in my diesel truck.  So I head out early in the morning heading back to Grant in search of a local repair shop and an auto parts shop like Napa.  Not knowing the area, I figured if I went to an auto supply shop to pick up the fuel filter, they could give me an recommendation of who could install it.  After waiting in line at the Napa store, all the sales people were on the phones and computers taking orders, I got the filter ($71) and headed out to a small local repair shop, Big I.  a single man repair shop, nice guy, charged me $20 to install the fuel filter.  We were talking about all the new diesel trucks that require the new fuel additive DEF.  Have you heard of it?  It’s urea a byproduct of urine and ionized water.  Like sheep or goat piss.  Ekk!  They say it’s chemically made in the lab so your probably not driving around with a diesel truck that literally is pissing out it’s tailpipe.  You never know what you’ll learn on the open road.  Sorry for the potty talk but I just had to tell you about this.

Acoma, Sky City


Well, with that all taken care of nice and early I’ve got a window of about 4 to 5 hours of sunshine before a storm is expected to come on through, I decided to drive over to the Acoma Sky City.  It’s the native American Indian Acoma tribe’s pueblo city on top of a beautiful mesa.  What a beautiful drive from I-40 to Sky City.  Great adobe ruins and interesting rock formations line the roadways leading to Sky City.  A great overlook looking down into the valley with the monoliths and pueblo mesa provide a stunning view of the area before descending into the valley.  The only way to get to the top of the Sky City mesa is via a tour out of the Acoma museum and Cultural center.  Well worth the $20 fee for tour and photography permit.  The tour guide, a native Acoma Indian,  provides us with a narrative filled with historical facts,  glimpses into the Acoma lifestyle, and present conditions of the tribe.   Only about 15 families live fulltime on top of the mesa as the homes have no running water, sewer or electric hookups.  Porta-potties and modern compost outhouses are scattered among the 500 plus adobe structures that are one, two and three stories high.  The women of the tribe own all property and it is handed down to the youngest daughter in each generation.  So many stories are told.  The pueblo buildings have to be constantly maintained as they are made of adobe, straw, mud and stone.  Though modern forms of water proof stucco and concrete are gradually being used to provide a more durable structure.  Each family is required to maintain their home and if left more than a couple of years can be returned to the Acoma tribe for redistribution to another tribe member.  These are now mostly second homes, often used as weekend retreats or used during tribal ceremonials.

500+ adobe homes

now used as summer homes/ retreats

no utilities available up here

gradually homes are using stucco and concrete blocks to restore
adobe structures

modern updates, windows and doors

stunning view from on top of the mesa

porta-potties and these new compost toilets
are used there is no plumbing here

tallest structures are 3 stories, 1st floor orig. used for storage

the Acoma Indians believe this was their first home

other larger mesas surround  Sky City

the largest mission, took many years to construct

A number of the Acoma artists live full time on top or have shops throughout the mesa top, selling their wares to each tour group.  Oh and the Indian fry bread is a must, even if it’s not on my low-carb diet.  Sprinkled with honey and powdered sugar, what a treat.

Note:  Grant New Mexico has an awesome oldies Country Radio station, (K-Mine Country Gold, 96.7 FM).  I’ve added a link to the station so you can check it out.  I’ve been listening to it all week long.  And yes, they play new country music as well, but when they get on an oldies roll, what fun, many songs I’d never heard before.

Travel Info:  Exit 79, Milan New Mexico I-40 (near Grant).  Chaco Canyon Trading Co has some of the widest and best selections of Native Indian Jewelry I have seen in this area.  Appears to be very well priced as well.  It is next to the Chevron Gas Station which also has an excellent restaurant with the best green sauce for your Mexican dishes.  I seldom recommend restaurants, this one is worth it.

I had planned on driving to Chaco Canyon, one of the great massive pueblo centers of the Anasazi (ancient ones), but with the many days of rain that we’ve had, driving on the wet dirt/clay roads would be too treacherous.

Rv Notes:  Had quite a time in the last couple of days attempting to make reservations on Reserve America for a campsite at Heron Lake State Park.  The online reservation form wouldn’t accept my annual camping pass and kept trying to make me pay full price.  You know how I hate to pay full price if I don’t have too.  Then it wouldn’t let me put in that I have a 5th wheel camper, it was locked on “tent”.  Finally called Reserve America which was an ordeal until itself.  The first number given kept me in a sales loop for everything under the sun.  Got another number and ended up talking to California, who directed me to the U.S. Government line and was finally redirected to the New Mexico line.  But that wasn’t all, the gal on the NM line didn’t recognize Heron Lake St Pk, so she transferred me to someone else who finally was able to help out.  But at I finally got my campsite for free (big smile) plus the $4 a night charge for electric.  It’s worth taking the extra time and effort.  Thank goodness we modern campers have cellphones and good internet access in most places.

Well my last few days at Blue Water St Pk has turned quite cold at night, I woke up this morning to a dusting of snow.  Yikkees, I think it’s time for me to head further south.  Actually haven’t seen snow in a couple of years, so it is kind of a treat and of course it will melt off within an hour or two of sunshine.

May 9, 2015, a surprise snowfall

It’s all an adventure for sure.

more photos on PICASA

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