Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bandelier National Monuement

While we were in New Mexico this week, my Beloved Curmudgeon and I decided to go see Bandelier National Monument.

I think it was the word 'Monument' that threw me off. I was expecting a 'monument'. A statue or something like that to look at.

Also, in my defense, I will say that it was a spur of the moment decision to go and since it was a 'monument' I didn't think to change clothes or shoes before we went.

Up until that day, actually up until the moment we set off on this adventure, the weather in New Mexico had been great. No problems. It was something like 89 degrees, but felt like 70 degrees. To a Southerner who is used to 90% humidity it felt cool.

However, once we took off into the wilderness (and I do mean wilderness) to find the Bandelier National Monument, the clouds turned dark and there was suddenly a cold (and I do mean COLD) rain. Pouring rain.

The temperature dropped to 50 degrees in what seemed like minutes. There was hail and sleet and the biggest drops of rain I have ever seen in my life.

Being from the South, as soon as the hail started hitting the car I thought, 'TORNADO'! If you are familiar at all with the New Mexico landscape, you might can imagine how this little Southern heart sank when I looked around for shelter from the tornado that in my mind was certainly in the vicinity.

There was nothing. NOTHING! As far as the eye could see. And the eye can see a very long distance in that area.

When we got to the park and were coughing up the entrance fee, I asked the Park Ranger about tornadoes. She said they don't have tornadoes there. Much to my Beloved Curmudgeon's amusement, I unthinkingly responded, 'But it's hailing'. She looked out of her little building and then looked at me and said flatly, 'yes it is'. Period.

Okay, they don't have tornadoes there.

We proceeded into the park and towards what I thought would be a 'monument'. I think the winding, very high road would have been spectacular had we been able to see the view. But it was pouring so hard and the sound of the hail pelting the car was so loud all I could think about was not running off the road.

As a little aside here. If I ever get nervous about running off the edge of one of those really high windy roads around here My Beloved Curmudgeon always reassures me by telling me that the forest is so thick the trees would catch you before you got very far down.

There are very few trees on the Northern New Mexico mountains. There is nothing between you and the very steep, very far drop off just beside the road and shoulder of very loose dirt. I did think of that a time or two during this trek over the mountain.

On to Bandelier.

When we winded around enough we finally got to the visitors center. We sat in the car and looked at it. There were signs that we could see through the rain about the start of a hiking trail.

Hiking trail!!!!I like hiking trails, but not in heels. [see 2nd & 3rd paragraph] And not when it's pouring freezing huge pelts of rain when I am dressed in summer slacks and a flimsy, sheer shirt covering a thin shell top.

So we sat there.Beloved Curmudgeon was beginning to live up to his moniker, the curmudgeon part. I was thinking we drove all this way, paid to get in and now we are going to sit in the car and look at a building through the rain. I was getting a little not so nice myself, hard to believe I know.

I determined that I would buy a sweatshirt if they sold them in the gift shop and suffer with cold feet. I accepted my heels would be ruined. So we went in.

They did have sweatshirts (at $50 each). We browsed around the gift shop a little and as we were getting ready to leave the rain stopped and the sun came out! I put the $50 sweatshirt back on the shelf.

There was a couple standing under a shelter just outside the gift shop. They were supervising a group of about 15 pre-teens who seemed to be on some sort of school outing.

At the very moment I opened the door of the gift shop, the man of the couple firmly chastised the youth group by saying, 'Settle down, y'all are acting like a bunch of wild Indians.' Actually, I think he said 'you guys' instead of 'y'all'. He had a distinct mid-western accent.

The two 20-something young women behind the gift shop counter looked up, the man looked chagrined and I stifled laughter.

Neither of the 20-something young women looked wild in the least, but they were certainly Indian.

A good thing about New Mexico is that when it quits raining, it really quits. It almost instantaneously dried up. It was like it hadn't been raining at all and there was no lingering humidity. It literally immediately cleared up and dried out.

We sat out on the trail. High heels and all.

I commented to my Beloved Curmudgeon that it was very thoughtful of these pre-historic Indians to set out such nice, easy to walk on trails for us. Not only that, but periodically there were adobe/cement benches for us to sit on. Beloved Curmudgeon just condescendingly said, 'uh huh.' He doesn't think I'm nearly as funny as I think I am!

When we got to the top of the highest point the path would go, I just had to climb up one of the ladders into one of the caves in which the Anasazi people lived.

One doesn't drive that far, braving the elements, then hike that far and climb that high in heels and not take the next step of climbing into one of the caves.

So I kicked off my heels and climbed the ladder in my stocking feet. I crawled around inside the cave and explored as far as I could.

When I was leaving and approached the opening of the cave, the massive mountains across the valley came into view. They were very high and I suddenly realized I could see the top of them from my crouched position inside the cave.

I had one thought in my head. '!!!!!!!!!!'. That was it. '!!!!!!!!!!', I thought.

It's one thing to get up there; it's a whole other thing to get DOWN.

I went to the opening of the cave and looked down at the hiking trail. There wasn't a soul in sight. Most notably, my Beloved Curmudgeon was not in sight.

As aggravated as I get with him from time to time. At times like this I really want him to be there. So I carefully scooted closer to the edge until I was close enough to look straight down. One has to look straight down to see the very vertical ladder one had just climbed up (like the fool one is at times).

I had a momentary lapse of reason and hoped he'd be standing at the bottom of the ladder waiting to help me down. He wasn't. No one was there. Just that very vertical hand made wooden ladder.

Again, my only thought was,'!!!!!!!!!!!!'.

I've lived long enough and gotten into enough jams to know that it's best not to give this sort of thing too much thought. Thinking about it only exacerbates any feelings of panic and panic exacerbates the difficulty of the situation.

So without thinking anything else, I flipped around and felt with my toes for the ladder. Looking back I should have taken my trouser socks off - but never the less, I got down fine and jogged down the trail to find Beloved Curmudgeon. He was waiting for me on one of those convenient adobe/cement benches by the trail.

The Bandelier National Monument really is a fabulous site to see.The fact that this cave dwelling pueblo was built between the 1100s - 1400s makes it even more remarkable.

If you ever get the chance I highly recommend it, just don't wear high heels.