Tag Archives: Museum

Western Adventure, Day XVII – New Mexico at Puye Cliff Dwellings and Santa Fe

Puye Ruins

Puye Ruins

Up early and out the door by 7:45am, we quickly gobbled up breakfast at The Range and purchased three bags of ice for our cooler at the local grocery store. The cooler has been a blessing. It’s great to have a fresh supply of cold water for the doggies and their water bowl and cools drinks for us. The drive north to Espanola area, north of Santa Fe, was attractive and a lot more enjoyable to be in than around the Albuquerque area; there were trees and interesting land formations. After a few reroutes, we found the entry to the Puye Indian Cliff Dwellings on the Santa Clara Pueblo Reservation.

Did you know the difference between “Pueblo” vs “Tribe”? I sure didn’t until this day. Our guide informed us, all Native Americans who have been heavily influenced by the Spanish use Pueblo. All the others… Tribe.

We purchased tickets to take the entire tour at a convenience store just outside the entry sign to sight: dwellings and ruins. The tour was scheduled for two hours. We ended up spending over three hours with our guide. It was money & time well spent… highly educational. As we drove seven miles to the parking lot, I said to the kids, “I hope our guide will share the spiritual side of the Pueblo besides the archaeological one.” Our guide, in an orange shirt in the pictures, was chalked full of information and was more than willing to answer any questions on the sight and Native Americans in general. She also shared the spiritual challenges the Puye face with having the Pueblo beliefs and the Catholic religion combined.

Interestingly even to this day, the Pueblo is a patriarchal society. No women are allowed to be part of the Indian counsel and government. Also to be part of the Pueblo, one has to have two generations in a row of male descendants in order to be registered as a Santa Clara. She stated the Pueblo’s registrations are declining rapidly because many of the women are marrying outside the tribe, thus their children are ineligible to register.

We had a bit of time before our tour began, so we looked at the dwellings with the provided binoculars and went through the exhibit room. I also took some photos of the kids. Zachary was sporting his slick cowboy hat and boots. What a handsome guy! We walked and climbed up steep ladders to the top. Each rung was over 16 inches apart. There were three tiers to reach the top.

Our guided shared the openings to the homes were originally smaller than what I photographed; smaller due to Erosion from natural elements and people going in and out of the caves. She said her people during the time of occupation, 1100-1200s, were small–about 4.5 feet tall. She stated the holes were no larger than 12 inches in diameter.

The rows of small holes above the bigger openings were from the wooden poles used for the facia; enabling the family to put an exterior rocked dwelling. Briana guessed the holes were for light or air.

There was a ritual were the women would throw clay at the dwellings to keep them intact. Since the Pueblo moved closer to water around the 1200s, the clay ritual stopped and the exterior dwelling slowly has eroded and fallen down hill into the reservoirs that were used to collect rain and snow melt. In the summer, once the reservoirs dried up, the women would have to walk over three miles a day to collect water in the Santa Clara Creek.

There were many petroglyphs. The spiral was found often at the site. The guide informed us it signified a map and how they connected with others. We also got the opportunity to see our first Alien petroglyph in person. That was pretty darn cool! Many times during the walk the kids would easily be distracted by the local small lizard. No matter how hard they tried, they never did catch one.

A plant I photographed was the reason the Spanish first thought the Santa Claras and surrounding Pueblos had blue corn. The women would take the branch, burn it and use the ash for salt. The ash had a blue tint; adding it to their corn made the corn look blue. It is called the Salt Bush. There were many artifacts we were able to touch; mainly fragments. Our guide said pots would have been as large as four feet tall; as large as the kids. Obsidian and other flint rock from nearby mountains were in the fragments.

At the top of the dwellings, we walked through the ruins and descended into a Kiva, a place of worship and gathering. We met the Pueblo engineers who monitor the water and air quality due to Los Alamos, where the govt does all kinds of testing. They expressed the need to monitor the environment to keep their people safe because they are not alerted by the govt when to be concerned. (There was a large explosion that occurred while they were talking. It made our guide nervous.)

On our way back to the trailer, we stopped in Santa Fe to have lunch and walk around a bit. The cathedrals were beautiful, the shops were fun and lunch was a yummy Mexican restaurant next to the train station. Our favorite shop was the trading post established in 1603. The lady inside told us of its ghosts, old well and start as a barn. She even showed us the original purchase papers. It was in Spanish, but we could make out the date. With a bit too much sun than planned on our skin, we headed back to the trailer around 7pm. Tomorrow is to bring 90s and the best for us is Mike! He will be arriving around 3pm. Once we pick him up, we are heading to Monument Valley in Arizona for a sunrise photo opt. Yeah!


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Western Adventure, Day VI – South Dakota at Hot Spring’s Mammoth Dig and Mineral Pool

Saw these cute guys on the way to the site

Saw these cute guys on the way to the site

We woke up to snow. It was little flakes, but still snow. We knew today wouldn’t make for a good day outside, so we planned to visit a Paleo Dig and an 87 degree mineral pool in Hot Springs. We left much later than most; we were a bit tired from the drive and walking yesterday at Devil’s Tower.

We got to the dig site about 2pm. The site is an old sink hole that had filled up over the years. They figure the layer of limestone under the red Spearfish layer eroded away and the Spearfish layer collapsed creating an oval sink hole about the size of a football field. Since the water termperature was about 95 degrees, determined by the growth patterns of the tusks of the Mammoths found in the hole, the scientists figured the Mammoths would eat the grass along the edge in winter, fall in and then drown.

The site was once owned by property developer, Phil Anderson. While he was in the process of using a bulldozer to clear the land for a housing development, he unearthed bones. He graciously sold the land for what he paid for it to the nonprofit group who is excavating the site in a nice covered building. They figure it will take another 65 years to complete the project. They only dig for seven weeks a year and then spend the remainder of the year cataloging what was unearthed.

All 59 mammoths found are male. Most of them are a type of mammoth never known to exist… the Columbian Mammoth. They looked a lot like our current elephants and were about two feet taller than a Bull Elephant of our day. They have found a few Woolly Mammoths; considerably smaller than the Columbian.

What did we enjoy about the Mammoth dig? Briana said it was absolutely amazing because she has never seen mammoths and they were “mammoth” sized. Zachary said it was amazing to see how old they were, how big and how many different types of species they found in the hole. Nathan said he thought it was pretty cool. The Columbian were so huge. Seeing the actual bones in place was cool too. Mike said he thought it was great that something so important in our past has been so well preserved and available for those to enjoy and see for many generations to come.

Did you know Dairy Queen was to SD as McDonald’s is to WA. Yuck is all I had to say. I actually couldn’t finish my burger yesterday and Schatzy even turned her nose up to it. That was how bad it was. No good fast food anywhere. But of course, Mac, the garbage gut, ate it. Also, the poor economy was evident everywhere in SD and WY. Lots of businesses up for sale and many are closed. We planned to eat at the most highly rated restaurant on Google, but we found it too had been closed.

We made our final stop to Evans Plunge to enjoy a two hour swim. The pool was fun and was floored with river rocks. There was two slides. One that fell fast and straight. Another that wound around slowly… that is if you don’t have weight on your side, like me. I flew! The water was naturally 87 degrees. Very nice.

Tired, we headed back to the trailer. I washed clothes. Goodness we can go through the clothes. Finally got to bed around 12:30am. We plan on heading to the Badlands tomorrow.


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Western Adventure, Day II – Montana at Little Bighorn Battlefield

The morning after six hours of badly needed sleep, we woke to more high winds and rain. We knew we didn’t want to stay in MT’s rainy weather any longer than necessary. But had to see Little Big Horn National Monument first before we left the state. Just outside the park’s gate at the Crow’s Little Big Horn Trading Post, we had a tasty lunch of flat bread tacos. Yummy! Briana found a white fox tail and the boys found cool knives and other trinkets to buy.

To make the most out of the day, we walked through the visitor’s center and I quickly got a shot of Mike and the kids in front of the park’s memorial. Then we hopped in the truck and started driving to South Dakota.


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