After coming back from the southwest and reorganizing my files, I still have my mind blown by each picture from Bandelier National Monument. I compiled in this post day 1-3 of my art residency with Signal Fire in the four corners, so we can share the wonder of this place together.
Bandelier National Monument is an area of about 33.000 acres of canyons and mesas in northern New Mexico, protected and conserved by the National Park Service. It rests side by side with Los Alamos, home of atomic weapon development and nuclear energy research. A rough contrast to the historic, ancient and delicate landscape that one can observe in Bandelier.
Coming in through the visitor center, you can see right away the cliff dwellings and structures reminiscent from the pueblo history, so here it goes a list of incredible things I saw in Bandelier:
The truth is, we can know a whole lot about the pueblo culture from their remainings and the oral history that survived. Their buildings can surely show us that they really knew how to find some astonishing spots for building a house.
Besides the big complex buildings with multiple stores and kivas using intricate patterns and construction methods, they had most of their housing (at least in Bandelier) carved in the canyon faces.
These cliff dwellings would use their landscape where alcoves naturally occur, and carve it a little more or less, placing wooden beans and mansory to finish these amazing structures, that faced this expansive and magnificent view of the Canyon de los Frijoles . Looking from inside one of these constructions, with these advantageous point of view, I knew for sure that my month was going to be full of wonder and adventure!
On the end of the first day, we camped at the Ponderosa campsite, right on the head of a trail leading to Frijoles Canyon. After dinner and a couple of hours talking through logistics, one single coyote started howling, witch them was followed by an answer, and so on until there was so many voices, one had a hard time counting how many of them there was. This pack gifted us with some more action during the night, one starting around 3 a.m. and lasting about 35 minutes of intense howling. That’s is the kind of joy that you only get if you go to the wilderness.
We woke up on the second day and left the campground towards the backcountry. The sensation of carrying everything you need to survive in your back is empowering as much as is physically demanding. We took the ponderosa trail to Canyon the los Frijoles, ultimately aiming to get to the mesa after alamo canyon about 6mi from where we started. Frijoleswas a big canyon of about 1000 ft of elevation gain, beautiful stuff! you can see how the whole place still recovering from the last wildfire, but the little water creek flowing on the bottom reminds you of the resilience of this ecosystem.
Since we were moving as an 11 people group, a lot of negotiation had to take place. After going up Frijoles canyon, some of us felt like they didn’t want to keep going on a second canyon, and we decided to camp in between the Frijoles and Alamo canyons.
That lead us into a second challenge, going after water! we were passed Frijoles by about 2 miles on top of a mesa, so we splitted the group, half of us worked on getting bear hangs up and the other half hiked down to Alamo canyon, about a mile down, to find water.
On this trail we walked some very ancient trails, that are so old that have been carved into the boulders on the ground. I saw this multiple times going down on Alamo canyon and exploring up the mesas on the next day as well. Imagining from how long that trail it’s been in use, and walking theses paths after water, was an unforgettable memory.
The area we camped has been focus of wildfires since long ago, the last big one I believe was in 2011, California is also in flames as I write this post, and so are many other wilderness places. I remember seeing wildfires since I was a young kid, and watching its effect and increase through the years alarms me. Seeing these fire marks on the southwest made me connect and ground a lot with those landscapes. Observe the restorative powers of our planet and their incredible rebirth capacity never ceases to amaze me.
This experience in Bandelier, inspired me to rethink everything I had planned so far for my work in the residency. I had a project to talk about the bumble bees that are fainting numbers in the Colorado plateau, but I didn’t see one of them in Bandelier. So follow me as I uncover a whole lot more about the Pueblo culture, and hike down trails in this amazing month.