Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cliff Dwellings.

Guest post by Michael:

We finally got another chance to see the cliff dwellings, but this time Maeryn got sick.  We figured we'd probably not get another chance to see them, so Michael (me!) and Jonah headed back up over the mountain armed with the 'good' camera and instructions to take as many photos as possible.  Mission accomplished:

This stuffed wolf was in the little 'heritage center' at the base of the hike up to the cliffs.  There were a number of other interesting things to see, but this was Jonah's choice when asked what he wanted a photo with.

The trail to the cliff dwellings is usually a loop, but the winter weather required closure of the return part of the loop.  You can see the ice on the trail in the distance.  New Mexico at nearly 6000ft elevation can apparently get some snow and cold weather!

This is the beginning of the ravine above which the cliff dwellings reside.  It was pretty neat.

A frozen stream in the bottom of the ravine.  Interestingly, this stream goes underground just as it's exiting the ravine, so the cliff dwellings were quite hidden as well as protected.  These might address the seeming lack of any battles in this area or signs of war implements.

The quite scenic path crossed the stream a number of times

The ravine got pretty deep

and then we started to climb out of the ravine and up to the cliff dwellings.

The caves were quite large (see the people in the cave for a size comparison).

The real issue for me in terms of getting the full scale is that the caves are pretty far away when you can see them (at least until you're right next to them), and it was hard to judge distance.  It made the whole thing seem a bit surreal.

Obviously, even this small first cave is pretty large.

Unfortunately, during the Indian wars of the 19th century, the cliff dwellings were burned by the US soldiers, who assumed they were an Apache fort.  The truth is the dwellings were actually Puebloan/Mogollon and had been abandoned for nearly 700 years.

The vandalism, unfortunately, hasn't completely stopped, though there's a lot more security and care put into the dwellings now.

One of the things we couldn't figure out was what these openings were for.  Every house had them, but many were too small for even Jonah to get through comfortably.  We assumed the native people must have been smaller than we are today (even the roofs were so low there's no way I could stand upright), and that the doors (if they were doors) were made to be difficult to get through for insulation and protection from invaders.  The ranger said they may have entered through the roof and that the holes were for ventilation, but we can't tell since the roofs were destroyed in the fire. 

This two-story structure was probably storage underneath (no soot from fires) and either a dwelling or something else that required the use of fire (see the vent hole above the door).

Jonah was a little nervous climbing down the ladder.  I didn't blame him.

We finally decided it was time to head home.

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