Continued from New Mexico Road Trip from Dallas – Day 4
We had planned our trip such that, we spend about 60% of our time in New Mexico and then move over to Colorado to enjoy the winter weather and snow. On the 5th day of the trip we were wrapping up New Mexico with a trip to the Bandelier National Monument. And then we headed further north, crossing the border and started with our exploration of the Southern portion of Colorado.
Trip Date: 27th December 2016
When we were researching on things to do near Santa Fe, there was one national monument which folks regularly recommended. It was Bandelier National Monument. We initially were not sure, if we have to include Bandelier NM as part of our trip. We were anyways planning to experience the native American lifestyle at Taos Pueblo and had also planned to visit the Mesa Verde National Park and Aztec National Monuments. However, we decided that we would atleast make a quick stop at the Bandelier National Monument. Only after visiting, we were confident that we made the right choice. It is unique compared to other sites and certainly deserves a visit.
Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument is actually the remnants of a ancestral pueblo from an bygone era. It is located at a short drive distance from Santa Fe and Los Alamos, on the slopes of the Jemez mountains.
You can notice the first uniqueness even before entering the monument. The mountain side, on the way as well as inside the monument, is mainly volcanic in nature and the landscape is quite different with a lot of holes and crevices. We even started to wonder at a point, if they are natural or man made.
We went straight to the visitor center after reaching there. The rangers were kind enough to offer us a trail guide and explain what was open on that day. Since it had snowed earlier, we chose to do only the Main Loop trail. And even in that trail, access to Alcove House was restricted due to slippery conditions.
We so started on the trail and then immediately was treated to the sight of a well maintained and reconstructed Kiva. It was so large and well preserved, giving a nice idea about the days of the past. Kiva is kind of a large room dedicated for social gatherings like political meetings, religious ceremonies, etc.
We were then treated to the remnants of the lost pueblo. Only portions of the walls remain today, but the overall structure is well preserved. However, it was quite an educational experience.
When we continued on the trail, we were walking more towards the mountain side and gained elevation. And from this vantage point, we got an amazing view of the kiva and the pueblo walls. It was certainly more beautiful than watching it from the ground level.
And then came the 2nd uniqueness of the place. They had placed ladders for your to enter a couple of the cliff dwelling. Since I have never entered such cliff dwelling earlier, I had such a great time climbing up the ladders and getting into the rooms carved out on the mountain side. The rooms seemed to be quite large and comfy.
And then getting down the ladder, we proceed down the trail to view more elaborate remnants of the cliff dwelling. The Pueblo people had in fact constructed multi tier house at that time and the holes they have made to support wooden beams is still visible.
The site is well maintained that we even see some of the original stones used by the pueblo people for grinding corn.
And finally we turned back on the same trail, getting one more look at all the dwellings.
Finally when we were back at the visitor center, we decided to visit the museum. They had such an interesting collection of items. The mini models depicting how the pueblos would have operated 800 – 900 years ago was simply amazing. What we planned as a quick stop, eventually turned out to be a couple of hour activity for us on that day. And finally after buying a couple of souvenirs from the gift shop we decided to make a move.
Since we were not planning to stop at any other place in between, we decided to next stop for lunch somewhere close by. We had seen the Little India restaurant in Española on the previous day. So we decided to stop there for lunch. The food was a typical Indian buffet with curries, rice, dal, etc. Taste was fairly ok too.
After having a decent lunch, the only thing left for us to do was take the long drive to Durango in Colorado. We chose the highway 84 to drive up north. It was an exceptional choice. While it was more than a 3 hour drive, we never felt tired. Such was the natural beauty surrounding us. What started as green mountain sides while we were in New Mexico, became more snow covered fields, towns and mountains, as we progressed north.
And since the snow was quite heavy, there didn’t seem to be much activities or stopovers to do. However with the right weather, we can always make stops at the beautiful towns of Chama, Pagosa Springs, etc.
Chama is famous for the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, especially during the fall season. Unfortunately they were not operating in winter, when we visited. Similarly, Pagosa Springs is famous for its hot springs. It also appeared to be a very lively city and would be wonderful for a stopover.
We however chose to do a little detour form Pagosa Spring and headed to Treasure Falls on highway 160. I read that Treasure Falls is a a short hike from the highway. However on the day when we arrived, the trail was fully covered by snow.
And it was the first time ever in my life, I saw a whole waterfall freeze over. It was so cold during that time that the water fall was no more. It had completely turned into ice. It was certainly a lovely site to behold.
Also, the drive, up the highway was beautiful with snow clad trees lining both sides of the highway. Since the road was icy further up till Wolf Pass Creek, we chose to return back to Pagosa Springs and continue on highway 160 until we reached Durango.
One other nice stop on the way would be at Chimney Rock National Monument. It will be a short detour from 160. Since it was already starting to get dark, we chose to just glance at the chimney rock right from our car and proceeded.
Right at the time when it got dark, we were into the City of Durango, were we had planned to spend the night. We went straight ahead to our Hotel and rested for a while until we were hungry for dinner.
Durango was a large city compared to what I had expected. So I decided to try something new for dinner. After doing some research, we chose The Himalayan Kitchen, a Nepalese restaurant for dinner. It was located close to the downtown area and it was hard finding a parking spot. We had to make a few circles before we could locate a vacant spot. They were busy even on the weeknight and from the menu it looked like they had an authentic selection. We started off with a large plate of vegetable mo-mos with a spicy dipping sauce. The mo-mos were delicious but a little tough to my liking.
And then we decided to become a little adventurous and try out a specialty dish they had made with Yak Cheese. Yak is similar to any other cattle, but looks more like a Bison with its long hair. It is domesticated in the Himalaya region of southern Central Asia. Yak milk is supposed to be stronger in flavor and nutrients compared to a cow milk. Yak cheese to me was tough and rubbery. Even though it was well prepared in the form of a pakora, it was still more of an acquired taste for me. However RK liked both the dishes.
After doing away with the mo-mos and the yak cheese pakoras, we left to our Hotel to get a good night’s sleep.
– To be continued (Colorado Road Trip from Dallas – Day 6) –