Wednesday June 6, Santa Fe, NM

Very interesting day.  We went to Bandelier National Monument just north of Santa Fe.  Due to fire and a flood that destroyed parking lots we had to take a shuttle bus into the park from the town of White Rock.  This area was created by two eruptions of a volcano more than one million years ago.  Each eruption was six hundred times more powerful than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.  The volcanic ash has compacted over time into a soft, crumbly rock called tuff.  Some parts of tuff erode more easily than others and the exposed rock takes on a “Swiss cheese” appearance.  The Ancestral Pueblo People lived here from approximately 1150 AD to 1550 AD. They built homes carved from the volcanic tuff and planted crops in mesa top fields. Corn, beans, and squash were central to their diet, supplemented by native plants and meat from deer, rabbit, and squirrel. Domesticated turkeys were used for both their feathers and meat while dogs assisted in hunting and provided companionship. After over 400 years the land here could no longer support the people and a severe drought added to what were already becoming difficult times. By 1550, the Ancestral Pueblo people had moved from this area to pueblos along the Rio Grande.

The average Ancestral Pueblo man was 5’5″ tall while the average woman was 5′. The average size for people in Europe was approximately the same. This was good for them since the caves, called cavates (CAVE-eights)- which means excavated from rock-that they dug out of the tuff to live in were extremely small.  They either had to be real short or they would have to walk around with a permanent slouch. Most of the cavates had a stone room in front of them. The lower walls were plastered and painted while the ceilings were smoke blackened.  Smoking the ceilings hardened the volcanic tuff and made it less crumbly.  Some had ladders we could climb up and go into the cavates.

We also drove through Los Alamos, the US Government’s top secret base for the Manhattan Project in the early 1940’s.  It was here that the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan to end WW II were assembled.  The plutonium that provided the nuclear reaction for the second bomb came from Hanford, Washington.  We had read that most of those buildings were gone so were startled when we rounded a corner and saw the road blocked with what looked like toll booths for an Expressway.  Turns out they were inspection stations.  The sign said no inspection was required so we drove on through.  Two blocks later we drove past the Los Alamos National Laboratory, operated by the US Dept of Energy, whose core mission is national security.  There were stations several blocks later for oncoming traffic.  If there had been any kind of national security threat, we would have been stopped and searched. Kind of scary and reassuring at the same time that the dedicated effort to keep our country safe is such an important mission.

Stopped at a casino on the way home and were $8 ahead when the power went out.  Thank goodness we were walking around looking for another machine to play at the time.  Many people sat at blank machines for some time, unable to get their money out or find out the result of their last spin.  We decided it was time to leave but the cashiering area was under lockdown so we had to wait awhile to cash in our tickets.  This was the second New Mexico casino where the power went out while we were there.  Interesting. 

Such nice weather this evening that we BBQ’d on our nice patio and ate at the picnic table.  First time we have eaten outside on the trip.

Picture link.

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