Monday, July 28, 2008

Santa Fe Highlights - Day 2

The second day, my goal was to visit Bandelier National Monument and the science museums of Los Alamos. They are about 40 miles north of Santa Fe, but because of the rolling hills and winding roads, it's about an hour drive.

I love Bandelier. It is my favorite of the national parks and monuments. My goal was to visit Alcove House, a ceremonial cave 140 feet up the side of a cliff. In the cave is a kiva, an underground ceremony chamber. I've been there before, and the place is magical. The day was hot, about 88 and humid. Between the weather, the hot sun, and being at 6,000 feet, the walk was more tiring than I expected. I shorten my visit by excluding the walk through the cliff dwellings and went straight for the climb.

This section of the park has some shady areas with Ponderosa pines, but is mostly open spaces next to the cliff. This is typical of the scenery along the path. Eventually, I reached the base of the cliff and braced for the climb ahead of me. This is the first of three ladders and a series of steep steps to the top. (This is the shortest ladder, also.)

The climb was hard, and at one point, I asked myself if my plan was smart. But I was determined, and I felt tired but not overly strained, so I kept climbing up and up and up. When I reached the top, I admit that I flopped down in the shade on my back to rest for about 15 minutes. It was cool, and there was a great breeze. When I arrived, there were a few other people up there, but they soon left and I had the space to myself. I only wished I could have taken better advantage of the silence because it didn't last.

For the next 45 minutes or so, the place filled up with people. At one point, there were more than 30 people in the very small space. I ended up taking lots of group pictures for people, which I always enjoy. The most amazing sight of the day was a young man who emerged from the top of the last ladder wearing clubbing clothes: a print shirt, a black tie, tight black jeans, and black dress boots. He was my hero! He not only made the climb, but he did it in style. After resting for a bit, I realized that I should be leaving while I was feeling strong again instead of waiting for the crowd to thin out. The climb down was much easier than up because gravity was on my side. It's a bit scarier to step backwards onto a ladder, but I was up for that challenge, too.

By the time I reached terra firma again, I was nearly out of water and the rubber bands I call my legs were grateful that the walk back was downhill. I stopped to rest a few times in the shade, feeling a sunburn starting on my face and shoulders. When I reached the edge of the picnic grounds, I stopped at the well and drank a lot of water. I also soaked my head in the cold water to cool off. I was a sight, I'm sure, but I was so glad I made the trip and proud that I had made it.

The day was slipping away from me, so I edited my itinerary and had to leave out the trip to the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos. I didn't want to miss The Black Hole, a surplus shop filled with items from Los Alamos National Labs, including items from the Manhattan Project and other top secret projects conducted at that facility. Fortunately, a storm was rolling in and I could avoid any further sunburn. Armed with my GPS and travel journal, I found my way to the shop even through road construction in town.

The shop did not disappoint me. Inside, I found the most amazing collection of useful and useless electronic and other waste I could imagine. Used motherboards, capacitors, transistor, relays, typewriters, pressure gauges, door hinges, broken office equipment, power cords -- aisle after aisle of more crap than you can imagine. If you don't believe me, here is one view I encountered.

I bought a few items I plan to use in my art. I grabbed a quick sandwich at a local grocery store deli and ate it in a city park outside the town's library. Then, I headed back to Santa Fe, dodging more thunderstorms through the amazing desert scenery.

Don't miss the rest of my journey on day 3 and day 4.

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