Our trip from Raton to Cochiti Lake, NM covered 221 miles including a 16 mile detour to Fort Union National Historic Site and another 12 mile detour to Pecos National Historic Park. Most of the travel was along good roads on Interstate 25 so we made good time but it was still an eight hour day after the two stops. We are staying at a Corp of Engineer campground on Cochiti Lake about 30 minutes Northwest of Santa Fe, NM. The lake was created by damming up the Rio Grande River, yes the same river that separates Texas and Mexico. It starts North of here in the Colorado Rockies. We have found that most rivers that are west of the Mississippi River originate in the Colorado Rockies. That's probably not news to most of you but it is something we had never thought about and we're glad to have learned it, but even happier to have experienced a good bit of it. We have 50 amps and water, good Verizon coverage and adequate internet coverage with the MiFi. There are few trees of any size in the campground so DirecTV was quick and easy as well.
We spent Monday and Tuesday relaxing, enjoying the view and catching up on a few things around the Mothership. We have now filled up our hiking sticks with the badges so it was time to get a couple more sticks when we found them at Bandelier National Monument on Wednesday when we visited it.
Our stop at Fort Union National Historic Site
was about two hours long while we toured the old fort. That entailed about a one mile plus hike around the different structures that have had their deterioration arrested and are being reconstructed and saved for all of us to see how things were a 150 years ago. Fort Union was the largest fort in the West and acted as a supply center on the Santa Fe Trail to supply all the other forts in the Southwest.
We next stopped at the Pecos National Historic Park
for about the same amount of time and length of hike. This was probably the largest overall pueblo we have seen on this trip as it covered more than a quarter-mile on top of the ridge where it was constructed. It was built by much later natives than the ancient ones or the Anasazi that we saw around Mesa Verde or Hovenweep. The Pecos Pueblo still had 27 inhabitants at the beginning of the US Civil War though they left soon after. This is also the first pueblo we have seen containing a church. Like I said, these were much later natives that were there when North America was discovered by the Spaniards. The Conquistadors and the accompanying friars had a great deal to do with religion being pushed on them in that time frame. The church in the pictures was the third church built at this pueblo.
After visiting these two sites my curiosity had been aroused by the designation: "National Historic Park." We have been to several Historic Sites but Pecos was the first Historic Park. After a little research I found a great article on the different designations at this government site
Wednesday, we made a large loop (184 miles) East through Santa Fe, North and West to Bandelier National Monument, farther West to Los Alamos to visit the Bradbury Science Museum, then on West and South to Jemez Springs to visit the Jemez State Historic Site and completed the drive East and North back to Cochiti Lake.
The Bandelier National Monument
had just reopened Frijoles Canyon Monday after being closed due to the Las Conchas Fire
which started June 26 when a tree fell on a power line and eventually burned 156,000 acres, becoming the largest wildfire in New Mexico history. Due to the loss of trees, flooding is now the largest danger to the area and the normal visitor center is closed since they have moved the artifacts to safer ground. We had to park in White Rock (about 20 minutes away) and take a shuttle to the temporary visitor center near the normal one. We hiked the Main Loop Trail by all of the pueblo areas and found it to be similar to others we had seen yet different in its own way. No matter how many of these we see, we are amazed to see both the similarities and the differences considering they were built during completely different times and by vastly different peoples.
Next we went to Los Alamos, nicknamed "The Atomic City", where we enjoyed lunch and a visit to the Bradbury Science Museum
which is a free museum maintained by the Los Alamos National Laboratory. We watched the very interesting movie "The Town That Never Was" which covers how Los Alamos was established and the first nuclear bomb developed. We also watched another movie "Mission: Stockpile Stewardship" which covers how the lab continues to find ways to test our stockpile of weapons to make sure they are safe and will be able to be used reliably if the need ever arises. They have to do this without actually exploding any of them due to the current nuclear treaties with other countries. Needless to say, computers play a huge role in this and they have developed some very complicated programs to accomplish this. The museum had the most interactivity of any museum we have ever seen with displays and audio/video stations that allowed you to learn about anything you wanted to know about our nuclear program at your own pace and without interruption.
After a couple of hours in Los Alamos we headed on west and South to Jemez Springs to see the Jemez State Monument
which has a small museum, but the main attraction is the pueblo and adjacent church built there. This church was also built by the friars accompanying the Conquistadors when they took over the region about the same time they did likewise at the Pecos Pueblo. They also had a nicely refurbished Kiva complete with roof. This visit lasted less than hour but was well worth the effort.
I am going to go ahead and post this so it doesn't become so large, and I will post again September 4 as to what we cover between now and then. That probably will not be much as the weekend of football is in there as well.