March 25, 2019 by Deborah W. Trotter
If you follow my blogging, you know that Bandelier is a place I can’t stay away from. This year’s visit was in February, less than a week after our serendipitous snowy visit to Yosemite (see previous post), and we were treated to a lovely overnight snowfall in northern New Mexico, as well, that added another dimension of beauty to the terrain for the next several days.
It was a quiet day at Bandelier, chilly, not crowded. We arrived early enough from Santa Fe that we were able to hike both in Frijoles Canyon, and up onto the mesa at Tsankawi in a different section of the monument.
Walking through Frijoles Canyon, climbing into the cavates and viewing the ruins of the Long House always rekindles in me a feeling of connection to the ancestral peoples who lived there, and deeply touches my spiritual side. The Canyon is a beautiful, peaceful place, but it is not difficult to imagine the lively, bustling community it once sheltered.
I have not written here previously about the trail at Tsankawi, so I will tell you a little bit about the hike. You need to climb one ladder to get up to the mesa, and descend another at the opposite end for the return trip. There are stunning 360 degree views from the top, of the Jemez Mountains, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and nearer rock formations and mesas; you will be totally exposed to the elements, however, so be aware of the weather. You will literally walk in the footsteps of past inhabitants along portions of the trail that are narrow ruts, worn into the soft rock by years and years of foot traffic. Keeping your balance while walking in those ruts is difficult at times. The hike is listed as a 1.5 mile loop, but it is a very long mile and a half! The trail head can be hard to find, so pay attention to directions.
Although Bandelier is very popular in the warmer months, we have had consistently uncrowded visits in February. At Tsankawi this time, we saw only two other couples.