on March 22, 2008
This park is known for the ancient Indian dwellings of its Frijoles Canyon. We spent about 1.5 hours walking the 1-mile Main Loop Trail that begins and ends at the visitor center. A park ranger narrated the first 1/4 mile and then left us to explore on our own. I was glad we did the guided portion of the hike; otherwise, we would have walked by so many treasures without knowing the significance. The ranger pointed out different types of volcanic rocks that had uses such as arrow heads and carving tools. She showed the many uses of the yucca plant. For example, the Indians used it as soap. She showed us how the roots become sudsy when added to water. We were shown a large round, stone-walled pit in the ground called a kiva. It is believed the Indians used this for ceremonies and meetings.In addition to ground dwellings, the people that once lived in this area also carved homes into the rocky cliffs. They etched pictures of people and nature into the outer walls. These petroglyphs became easier to spot after the ranger pointed out one. It is amazing that these sites still exist after hundreds of years.The ranger concluded her tour after about 20 minutes and left us alone to travel the rest of the trail. We climbed ladders to take a peek inside some of the cliff dwellings. You can still see the smoke stains on the ceilings from the fires the Indians used centuries ago. We continued along the path trying to spot more rock drawings. It is believed there are thousands of ancient dwellings and artifacts throughout the park but the local tribal elders have not granted permission to the park services to excavate them. The sites are sacred to the local pueblo and thus remain undisturbed.The Main Loop trail is just one of many trails in the park. They vary in length and difficulty. Maps can be purchased in the Visitor Center for a dollar. While at the Visitor Center, be sure to spend 10 to 15 minutes walking through the small museum. It was here that we saw artifacts, dioramas, and life-sized models that depict life for the original inhabitants of Bandelier centuries ago. Snacks and souvenirs can be purchased at the gift shop adjacent the Visitor Center.
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