56332 odo ~9:00 am
We are close to the visitor center at the El Morro National Monument, which is where we camped last night. I woke up early (very early) this morning because our tent site was right where the sun peaked over the hills. I got dressed and ate breakfast quickly and then went to take pictures. At first everything looked green and desert like, but the closer I looked and the slower I walked, the more intersting things I saw. It turns out that there were some amazing flowers on my walk. I really enjoyed the peace and quiet while taking pictures.
I finally roused the kids out of their sleeping bags – they weren’t at all intersted in getting up… once up, they played soccer with the basketball sized tennis ball found in Tobey’s car, until it got stuck on the roof of the camp bathroom. Then we spent a few minutes engineering a solution to get the ball off the roof. The campground looked fairly new (or maybe never used that much) and our tent site had a 16×16 box of mini pebbles. It wasn’t too bad sleeping on that becuase the pebbles were like sand and shifted with you. Although, I did keep waking up in the middle of the night to make sure that all of the stars were still there. Once I got some food in the boys we went over to the visitor center to check out El Morro.
We picked up our Jr. Ranger booklets and then explored the natural spring and the giant bluff. We had an awesome hike around and on top of the bluff. The hike took us past the natural watering hole that drew so many people here in the 1700s and 1800s. The carvings on the wall were intersting – people took the time to engrave their names, and sometimes they even added a saying, on the high cliff walls — Governors, priests, a few women, and many others. I think the kids were most surprised about the water that had gathered on top of the bluff in naturally formed bathtub-like holes. The Indians actually used them as tubs. On top of the bluff were more Indian ruins and a round Kiva. This hike reminded me of the one around Devil’s Tower in Wyoming when we drove across country the other direction in 2007.
Once we were done with our hike in the 100 degree heat, we went on to El Malpais. It was a huge geological section of volcanic activity. We explored the visitor center and had a picnic lunch that included a cherry pit spitting contest – not necessarily how far – just at each other — Started by Bryce and McKinley… We passed the continental divide and in the process of turning around to get a picture of it, ran over a chip munk. That was very sad.
We should have gone back and visited the ice cave, but, the boys weren’t that interested in exploring the craters (the closest one was El Catron) and I wasn’t that interested in backtracking. The Park Rangers, who were very sweet, recommended it and said it was very worth it. The park rangers were two young guys who laughed that their big Metropolis was Gallup and we had already been nonplussed with that town. We were looking forward to Albuquerque, which they did consider to be their big metropolis.
On the drive to Albuquerque we passed more desert with dust devils and large dust clouds like we had seen on the way to/from Canyon de Chelly. I saw a sign that said “Sheep enforced by radar” and I wondered what the heck that meant. I saw another sign a few minutes later and it said “speed checked by radar”…OK, that made more sense. I guess the heat is making me hallucinate now. There was another sign in that seciton that said “Zero visibility possible use extreme caution.” I guess they were serious about the dust/sand storms. Given the dust driving out of Canyon de Chelly, I can understand how there would easily be zero visibility, which is not something I want to drive in! I hadn’t done that since a crazy road trip to Wazzu my freshman year of college.
We passed some areas of extreme poverty – lots of dirt roads leading to trailer parks with plywood and sheet metal lean-tos. We saw one trailer that had a trampoline next to it and my first thought was – is that how they get on the roof? It was odd to see it shoved up against the side of the house. Most of the roads off the highway were dirt. We went through the Sandia Nation and the Zuni Nation on our drive today.
We stopped at the Petroglyphs National Monument and were very disappointed. One section was closed and they had three hikes of varying lengths still open – 90 minutes, 30 minutes and 15 minutes. On a couple of the hikes there were very few petroglyphs. We saw more petroglyphs on other hikes on other parts of this trip! Even though their open hiking areas were a disappointment, their visitor center was very nice and had a really great display set up on how all parts of the desert were used for food, shelter and making clothing. They also had red chili bunches hanging everywhere to dry. The boys liked those. It was so very hot this day and walking on black rocks to see the petroglyphs just made us hotter, and they were already irritated that they were having to do a third Jr. Ranger program that day – what a mean mommy!
While we were waiting for McKinley to get out of the bathroom, we explored the Navajo cake that I had picked up the day before. It was in corn husks and was kind of like a tamale when we opened it. It was similar to cornbread and had molasses and raisins in it. It was crusty around the edges and was very tasty. I wish we had picked up more than one. When we were leaving Petroglyphs, we saw our first Mormon caravan with four white mini vans and cube carriers on top. I wondered where they were headed.
Desparately, I used my favorite app (and the only app I used over the 4 states so far) which was my startbuck’s finder. We located one nearby and got something cold to drink and tried to cool off. We also had to get some poison ivy/oak cream to put on Bryce’s arm; what was originally thought to be heat rash in the crook of his elbow erupted down his arm into something more so I figured the Ivyrest (or whatever it was called) would be useful. I also found some neon purple fingernail polish for me and some $3.99 movies for the boys. They were pleasantly surprised that they got new movies, but disappointed that one of them was Hairspray. Given their disaapointment over the movies, I took the opportunity on this quiet lull in the drive to play one of the many books I had put on our iPod – aI chose a Beverly Cleary book to start with. That worked until the next stop and then the new movies won out. More on the iPod books later!
Albuquerque definitely looked like a sprawling metropolis compared to the cites we had been through so far on our drive. We were headed up to Bandelier to camp that night. Skirting around the center of town we headed up to Santa Fe and then over to Bandalier. Road construction was everywhere in the city and then when we were on the outskirts of town, we entered the Sandia Nation and there were no longer houses, but only desert and a huge casino appeared. Once we past the enormous casino and vast parking lots, there was nothing but desert. It was amazing to see the stark contrast of city and desert where the Indian nation started. It was nothing but desert and even that looked deserted.
The Indian nations fascinated me and I wondered how they functioned. I wondered why there were three lanes of freeway only near the casinos, not actually in the approaching freeway section going into/out of Santa Fe or Albuquerque where they would have been very useful. I also felt geographically challenged every time I kept seeing signs that said Santa Fe 35 miles, Las Vegas 39 miles. I couldn’t figure out how I ended up so far off course. It wasn’t until about the 5th time I had seen these signs, and my panic was growing strong enough to consider pulling over and looking at a map, that I remembered Bryce making a joke with the Park Rangers at El Malpais about going to Las Vegas (New Mexico). Then, I relaxed.
We bypassed Santa Fe to head out to Los Alamos which is what Bandelier is closest to. More Indian nations, and the Santa Fe Opera – what an amazing building that was, even from the freeway. We ended up at Bandelier at 6:30 pm hoping to still find a camping spot. Unfortunately, the entire campground was closed from June to August for renovations. Who closes their campground at the height of camping season?
So we backtracked a little to White Rock and stayed at a Hampton Inn where all of the scientists and engineers visiting Los Alamos stay. We went to the only visible restaurant in town and had interesting pizza. We played air hockey and pool (apparently, we all need help learning how to play pool, except Jasper who intuitively knows where to hit the ball to get it to go where he wants). After dinner, we played cards and all the kids took baths/showers (which they badly needed after the heat today). After cutting the kids nails, I painted my nails with that neon purple polish I found earlier today and it indeed was a very bright neon! We weren’t able to finish our Phase 10 game before having to go to bed. The boys complained that I had the light on to read before I went to sleep, but they all fell asleep with the light on anyway!
State License Plates:
GA, LA, AK, KY
Things of Interest we saw today:
Sundownersprostaff.com – on the back of two snazzy horse trailers
Yellow car that matched the yellow New Mexico license plate
An all white billboard with a man going in head first that said – Wear your seat belt (quite an effective ad, I thought)