Springtime at Glacier National Park and Polebridge Montana! May 15th-18th

We were off on our capers in and around Glacier National Park. Our base of operations was the lovely and well maintained Columbia Falls RV Resort, $35.83 per night with Passport America. Columbia Falls is the gateway to Glacier National Park. An adult bald eagle and a juvenile entertained us during our stay there and the owners of the Resort were very nice and helpful.

We spent 2 days in Glacier National Park and due to the late snows many roads and trails were impassable and closed. If trails weren’t closed for snow, they were closed for bear activity! Glacier National Park (the Park) is one million acres located on the Canadian border in two sub-ranges of the Rocky Mountains. It was formed 170 million years ago by tectonic plate activity and glaciers. In the Mid 19th century there were 150 glaciers in the Park, today there are 25 glaciers remaining.

The Park was inhabited by ancient Native Americans 10,000 years ago. They were ancestors to the Blackfeet, Flathead and Shoshone Native Americans. The Blackfeet ceded the land under duress to the United States Government in 1895. The Blackfeet and Flathead Natives are now on reservations adjacent to the Park.

Glacier National Park receives 2.2 million visitors each year. It is a gorgeous area with many species of wildlife and flora. 95% of the Park is designated wilderness area but as of yet has not received protected status. It has the best preserved Proterozoic Rock in the world and is visited by experts for study. It’s a fascinating place, spanning the continental divide.

One of my favorite places was visiting Polebridge, Montana.It is on the National Registry of Historic places and is half way down a 50 mile dirt and gravel road, Outside North Fork Road, between Canada and West Glacier. Polebridge is the Gateway to the wilderness areas of Glacier National Park, known as the Bowman Lake and Kintla Lake Gateway. All roads in this area are maintained in a primitive state to preserve the wilderness. The speed limit is 20 MPH and the roads can be impassible. We were lucky as the road opened the day before we arrived. There were handmade signs on the road near sparce cabins that read, “Slow Down, People Breathing!” It was a bucket list experience and really and truly “off the grid.”

Polebridge was founded in 1914 by William Adair. Mr. Adair had a reputation for growing huge cabbages, fishing, and drinking. He built a general mercantile, homestead cabin (which is now Northern Lights Saloon), and a barn. Today there are other small cabins there but none, including the saloon and the mercantile, have cell service or electricity. The population is listed as “somewhere between a handful and 90.” The Mercantile is now home to a fabulous bakery and rumor has it that it’s “the best bakery in Montana!” I’d have to say it’s one of the best bakeries anywhere. I had a Chunky Monkey turnover and Ray had a sticky bun. Heavenly! This area is really worth the trip! I got the tee-shirt!

Thanks for reading! Next adventure is the fabulous Yellowstone National Park! Don’t miss it!

Part II: Blanding, Utah: Sand Island Petroglyphs and Monument Valley

Locals had told us about visiting Sand Island Park, home of a campground on the San Juan River and the Sand Island Petroglyphs. This area has a 100 yards panel full of petroglyphs, some dating to 6500 BC. We took some time, sat on a rock and just viewed them. The longer we sat, the more we saw. It’s a must see if you are interested in ancient art and petroglyphs. Instead of labeling these, I’ll just let you look and see what you can discover in this magnificent art.

Our last excursion near Blanding was Monument Valley, on the Navajo Nation Reservation. The Navajo refer to it as “valley of the rocks.” The Valley is 5000 to 6000 feet above sea level with the monuments rising another 1000 feet above the valley floor. The sandstone buttes are vast and part of the Colorado Plateau. The red color comes from iron oxides and the blue-gray colors from magnesium oxide. The buttes cover 5 square miles and were made famous by John Ford in his westerns starting from the 1930s.

While there we met several members of the Navajo Nation. They were skilled artisans and jewelry makers. Gracious, friendly and accommodating. I was able to purchase a few items and get photos of the artisans, with their permission. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and learning about Navajo culture, history and the history of the valley.

We had a very large time on this adventure. I enjoy learning about cultures, both modern and ancient and studying history. There is so much to learn if you are open to it. History is an important tool to avoid mistakes of the past. Learn and grow, no matter what your age.

Next up: Moab, Utah and the many adventures there. Stay tuned!

Visiting with the Ancients – Aztec New Mexico March 31- April 2

We rolled in to Ruins Road RV Park ($33/night cash only) in Aztec New Mexico around noon on March 31st. After quickly setting up we headed out to our next caper. Aztec Ruins National Monument on New Mexico’s Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway.

The Aztec Ruins were found near the Animas River and were erroneously named Aztec by 19th century settlers as they believed they had found Aztec ruins. The ruins are actually ancestral homes of the modern Puebloan Peoples. The Ancestral Puebloans occupied the area from the 11th to the 13th centuries but the area was also used by Paleo-Indians as long as 10,000 years ago.

The Ancients started building the 500 room complex with a 41 foot Kiva and dozens of smaller Kivas around 1100 AD. The master plan was followed in additions made over the 150 year occupation of the pueblo. The architecture of the buildings link the inhabitants directly to the Chaco Canyon culture. These ruins are fascinating, right down to the inset of green stones representing water and the exterior walls which aligned with the sunrise in the spring and fall equinoxes.

These Ancestral Puebloans were master astronomers, masons, and mathematicians, yet, considered savages by European settlers. I find this an intriguing time in history.

April 1st we headed over to the Salmon Ruins and Heritage Park. This is a state run park with a wonderful Ancestral Puebloan site, George Salmon Homestead, and the state of the art San Juan Archaeological Research Center.

The Ancestral site contained about 200 rooms on a large plaza with a tower Kiva, several smaller Kivas, and a Summer Solstice and Lunar Standstill Observatory. This site was occupied by around 300 people, primarily in 1088 AD and secondarily after the abandonment of the Chaco Canyon Settlements. Many artifacts were discovered in the ruins and are housed in the adjacent San Juan Archaeological Research Center. The artifacts are outstanding.

You may be wondering how the George Salmon Homestead figures in to this scenario. He staked out a homestead in 1890 and was aware of the ruins on the property. Over several decades he and his descendants protected the the ruins from looting. This preserved the area for decades and is how we have a more complete history of the area. Salmon and his wife raised 11 children in their two room house.

The stop over to see these sites was well worth it. If you get to the area, I recommend taking a tour and learning some amazing history.

Next up: Blanding, Utah…. Natural beauty. Thank you Universe!

Tijeras/Albuquerque New Mexico March 24-31 Awesome Adventure……

Our base of operations (capers) was Hidden Valley Resort ($16.50 with Coast to Coast) in Tijeras, New Mexico. It was a wonderful place complete with swimming pool. Issue was that there was late snow in the area. We didn’t have time for the amenities anyway because there was too much to see in the surrounding area. The place is beautiful.

We went to Taos the first day and it wasn’t quite a bust because we saw interesting things. We wanted to go to the pueblo but due to unforeseen circumstances they were closed to visitors. Good thing was the Turquoise Trail, which I loved for the beautiful scenery along the Rio Grand and it went “right smack dab” through Madrid. What a place. It’s remote, artsy, eclectic, friendly and I’ve not seen any place like it. The movie Wild Hogs was filmed there and now I know why. Check it out, it’s where all the old hippies are. Truly!

The next day was Pueblo of Acoma (Sky City). It was a beautiful drive to the reservation and the Pueblo did not disappoint. The Pueblo is on the National Registry of Historic Places and is one of the longest occupied places in the United States. The Acoma tribe has occupied this mesa for over 2000 years. Currently 35 people still live there with no electricity or running water. There are 3 rock cisterns that collected water for the community.

You can’t visit without a guide but that is a good thing as it controls access and preserves the the place. Our guide’s ancestral home is there and she shared a lot of information. Acoma language is Keresan but most speak English as well. The elders also speak Spanish as they were forced to do so under Spanish occupation. We met several of the people living there and I bought a wedding vase made by Nancy Thompson, an elder. She graciously let me photograph her, she was a lovely and gracious Acoma woman.

The Acoma are descendants of the Ancient Puebloans and Mogollan cultures with the oldest buildings in Sky City being built around 1044. The Spanish tried to claim the area in 1539 but the Acoma were wary. Spanish officer Juan de Zaldivar was eventually killed by the tribe so on December 20, 1598, when Oñate learned of the death, he planned an attack of revenge on the tribe. The attack was encouraged by the friars of the area to teach other pueblos a lesson. The Spanish came to Acoma with 70 soldiers and the Acoma Massacre went on for three days. 800 Acoma people were killed and 500 were imprisoned. The Spanish ordered that all Acoma men over 25 years old have their right foot chopped off and they were forced into 20 years of slavery. Males aged 12–25 and females over 12 were taken away from their parents and forced into slavery for 20 years. Philip III of Spain later exiled Oñate from New Mexico for mismanagement, false reporting, and cruelty. European settlers? What can I say? And, they thought the Native Americans were the savages.

The tribe was then forced into Catholicism and if they were caught practicing their ceremonial heritage, they were executed. The Acoma learned to hide their Kivas (ceremonial spaces) inside homes and had a network of lookouts so they could still practice what they really believed. Who were the savages? Just a thought.

This is a great place to learn a little history. Go if you can.

After filling our brains with Acoma history we decided to take a day for the Petroglyphs. Ray woke up “under the weather” so I headed out on my own. The Rangers recommended Piedras Marcadas Canyon (Canyon of Marked Rocks) so with map in hand I drove over. The map and the ranger indicated that the trail was 1.5 miles round trip. It was more like 2.4 according to my fit bit. This is desert terrain with hills, rocks and wildlife. I was fortunate enough to have the place mostly to myself, which allowed me to meditate and really absorb what I was seeing. One recommendation is to take a lot of water and take your time so that you can see everything. I was there for about 3 hours. If you run from point a to b on the map you will miss the experience.

Paleo-Indians were in the area over 12,000 years ago. The petroglyphs span a period of 3,000 to 300 years old. After contact with the Spanish, petroglyphs showed men on horseback. It’s all quite interesting and I find viewing petroglyphs is a spiritual experience.

Next up, Pueblo Cultural Center. Great place to learn about the pueblo peoples. The museum is outstanding. I am a big fan of the storyteller figures. Each one tells a story.

Santa Fe is a beautiful arts community and has a lot to offer. We ate a marvelous lunch at Tia Sophia’s. Highly recommend the Chili Rellenos. Be prepared for the spice. The Georgia O’Keefe Museum is a must see, we were blown away at her mastery of art and life. I managed to purchase a beautiful Navajo inlaid dragonfly pendant, which means a lot to me. Take some time and explore this great place.

We spent a day at Bandelier National Monument. What a cool place with cliff dwellings, ancient pueblos, petroglyphs and pictographs all in one location. It’s an easy hike, moderate climb and you must take a lot of water. This place is exceptional. While Paleo-Indians were in the area as long as 10,000 years ago, the ancient puebloans didn’t build permanent structures here until 1150 AD. The monument is located in Frijoles Canyon on the slopes of the Jemez Volcanic field and covers 50 square miles. I was reminded to define petroglyphs (etchings and pickings on stone) and Pictographs (drawings with dyes), Bandelier has both.

I hope you have enjoyed these escapades! Stay tuned for Aztec New Mexico!

Communing with the Ancients Mesa Verde, Colorado Part 2

Welcome to Part II of the Mesa Verde experience. What a fabulous journey we are on. Next up: The Valleys of Mancos and Montezuma, plus Mesa Verde, Navajo Canyon and many more views and pithouse and pueblo sites.

Off we go to explore the homes of the ancients in Mesa Verde National Park. The park is on 52,485 acres, with 5000 ancestral sites including 600 cliff dwellings. Inhabitants of the region: Paleo-Indians 10,000 BCE – 7,500 BCE; Archaic built semi-permanent dwellings 7,500 BCE – 1,500 BCE; Basketmaker 1,500 BCE – 500 CE; Ancestral Puebloans 750 CE – 900 CE; Puebloans 950 CE – 1300 CE.

The population of Mesa Verde was estimated at 1,500 in 675 CE, by the 13th century the population grew to 20,000. Most of the puebloans had migrated out of the area by the 14th century. Those that migrated moved south to Arizona, New Mexico and Santa Fe. Drought and over population led to the migration but archaeologist have found that inter-fighting and fighting with other tribes played a part. Violence and cannibalism peaked between 1275-1285 and was widespread in North America due to global climate change affecting food supplies. I find these facts fascinating.

The Wetherill brothers, cattle ranchers who were considered fair people in their transactions with others, had become friends with some members of the Ute tribe. The Utes allowed them to “run cows” in the valley. In December 1888, Richard Wetherill and his friend Charlie Mason spotted the Cliff Palace from the top of Mesa Verde. Soon after other sites were found by the Wetherill brothers.

After these discoveries were made Gustaf Nordenskiold a Swedish scholar came to examine the dwellings. He was led to them by Richard Wetherill where he conducted the first scientific anthropological study of the dwellings. Nordenskiold also removed many artifacts and sent them to Finland where they reside today. Mr. Nordenskiold is one of the reasons that we now have the Antiquities Act of 1906. Finland should not have the priceless, irreplaceable artifacts/treasures from our country’s history. I strongly believe they should be returned.

Pictures are worth a thousand words. Enjoy!

Cliff Palace 1250 AD

This concludes our journey to the Mesa Verde pithouses, pueblos and cliff dwellings. This is a Unesco World Heritage Site, where some of the best preserved ancestral pueblo sites in the United States are preserved. I consider this a must see area. Go and contemplate what life was like for the early settlers of this area. Admire the craftsmanship and the determination that it took to build these places, some of which were abandoned in just 25 years. I promise that you will be emotionally moved with the experience. Until next time!…..

Silver City New Mexico/Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument- March 4-7

Silver City New Mexico was the base for our new adventure. We stayed at Rose Valley RV Ranch (Goodsams and Passport America $21.53/night). The sites are spacious and the park has full hookups and it’s well laid out so that each site has some privacy. We saw many jackrabbits each day, which was fun.

Silver City is about 44 miles from the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and is home to Western New Mexico University, which has the most extensive collection of Mimbres Pottery. The pottery was scientifically excavated from the Nan Ranch. Outstanding, priceless collection.

The town of Silver City was once an Apache campsite, later the Spanish traveled through looking for copper. Silver City was founded in 1870 after Captain James Bullard and his brothers discovered silver on a hill west of his farm. The town is known for being home to Western New Mexico University, home to the Mimbres Mogollon tribes from 200 – 1150 AD, and The Big Ditch. The Big Ditch was caused by the great flood of June 21, 1895, which destroyed the business district.

The first caper was visiting Fleming Hall on the WNMU campus and home to the Museum of Mimbres Pottery. Free admission is such a bargain considering the museum’s collection is priceless and extensive. Note: pottery with holes in the bottom were used to cover the faces of the deceased for burial.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is in the Gila Wilderness on the Gila River with elevations from 5700 to 7000 above sea level. The wilderness is 553 acres and humans have traveled through and stayed in the caves for at least 10,000 years. Prehistoric hunters used the caves for shelter and the soot on the ceiling dates back to that time period. The Cliff Dwellings were built by the Mimbre Mogollon tribes around 1275 and they lived, farmed and hunted there for about 25 years. They disappeared in the early 1300s and many theories abound about their disappearance. The Hopi and other tribes claim them as ancestors through their oral history that says that the Mimbres were never staying there permanently as they were on a migration.

The Mimbres built tee-shaped openings to their dwellings. Hopi oral history says that it is to honor Maasaw, one of their deities, as the openings look like the shape of his head. This tradition still exists in modern Hopi and other tribes. The Gila Cliff Dwellings is one of my favorite places now. I sat in the dwellings a long time and it was a very spiritual time. I could imagine the people living and working there and can only wonder at what became of them.

Next up: Photos taken in Silver City. The arts community has an ongoing program with area youth to paint murals around the town. They are beautiful and each one tells a story about the area.

This area was my favorite yet. I was awed by the cliff dwellings, the people, the beauty, and the history. Off to the next caper. Stay tuned.

San Antonio – The Mission Trail

Part 3

As you get older, sometimes you lose track of time. Taking into consideration that we’ve been “on the Road” for about three weeks and you’ll understand that Part 2 did not end the San Antonio part of the “Great Tour!” Our actual last day was cold and rainy AND our travels down the Mission Trail.

There are four missions on this trail, The Alamo, which we visited earlier was the first mission for a total of five. It will take the better part of a day to see them. Some have historians on site to tell you little know facts and local lore and all of them have free admission.

These missions were started by Franciscan Friars in the 1700s. They were financed by Spain and the missions served both the Crown and the church. Missions were tasked with converting the Coahuiltecan Indians spiritually and expanding the Spanish empire further north in New Spain.

Missions were also walled forts to protect the Friars, settlers and Native Americans. The Native Americans went to the missions to escape disease and raids by Apache and Comanche Indians. The Natives could not escape the European diseases, however, and most died either from disease or in the raids. Most of the missions had failed by the late 1700s.

The Espada (sword) Mission founded 1731, finished 1756 and abandoned before the Texas Revolution in 1835.

Mission San Juan Capistrano started 1731 and unfinished after 20 years due to Apache raids. Spain sold the land to ranchers in 1794. The missionaries had left but 12 Coahuiltecan remained.

Mission San Jose built 1720, booming by 1768 and left by Spain in 1821. Native Americans totaled 281 and did much of the work building the mission. Life was segregated from the soldiers and others there.

Mission Concepcion was started in 1731 and completed in 24 . From 1731-1762 Native Americans totaling 792 were baptized and 588 of them were buried due to contracting European diseases such as smallpox and measles. Some of the original paints have been uncovered and restored here. Absolutely beautiful.

History, architecture and artistry of the missions, designed by the Friars and built by the Native Americans. I will leave it up to each of you to decide if the Missions helped or damaged the indigenous people who were living in the area. I highly recommend visiting and learning more. More info: https://www.nps.gov/saan/planyourvisit/things2do.htm

Stay tuned for the Del Rio, Texas leg of this trip.