Bandelier National Monument – Fun Pueblo Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico!

May 2017 – A priceless jewel of antiquity lies just west and north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, not far from Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. It is the classic ancient pueblo ruins at Bandelier National Monument.

Ladder to cliff dwelling Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

Bandelier National Monument is a “hands-on” (actually “feet-on”) kind of place!

We’ve visited lots of cliff dwellings and pueblo ruins over the years at Tonto, Wupatki and Montezuma’s Castle in Arizona and Aztec Ruins in New Mexico, but the glimpses of the past and the evidence of the ancients’ ingenuity at Bandelier National Monument makes this place my personal favorite so far.

One of the most wonderful aspects of Bandelier National Monument is that the National Park Service has installed lots of replicas of pueblo ladders for visitors to use so they can get a closer look inside!

Ladder climb Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

We loved climbing up and down the ladders
to peek into the cliff dwellings.

The Ancestral Puebloan people lived here between 1150 and 1550 AD. They lived not only in the caves in the cliff walls but also in adobe brick dwellings. A large group of buildings very similar to those at Aztec Ruins National Monument fills a field and is called Tyuonyi Village. Other adobe brick buildings were built as extensions off the cliff dwellings in the cliff walls.

Rebuilt cliff dwellings Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

The Ancestral Puebloans took advantage of the huge bubbles in the volcanic rock,
building out from there with adobe brick.

Adolph Bandelier first saw the ruins in 1880. Then, in the early 1930’s, CCC workers created a huge camp to house themselves as they set about stabilizing and reconstructing the ruins. A reconstructed “Talus House” has been rebuilt and was easy to see as we passed it on the Main Loop Trail.

Renovated cliff dwellings Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

This reconstructed building is what all the buildings looked like at one time.

Bandelier National Monument is so popular that visitors arriving during the prime daytime hours between mid-May and mid-October must take a free shuttle bus into the park. The free Atomic City Transit bus picks people up in nearby Los Alamos, home of the secret Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb in the 1940’s.

We wanted to see the ruins without the bus crowds, however, so we were at the gate with our truck when they first opened, before they close the parking lot to private cars. We ran out on the trail and discovered to our delight that we were the only people there.

Ladder to cliff dwellings Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

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Being at the ruins in the quiet morning air was fabulous. We scampered up and down the ladders in sheer delight.

Climbing ladder to cliff dwelling Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

Going for a peek inside!

The astonishing highlight of the Main Loop trail is the very long Long House. This is a huge expanse of sheer rock cliff that has dozens of indents and holes in it where the Ancestral Puebloan people anchored their homes.

The Long House Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

The Long House is a series of apartments that were built to butt up against the sheer cliff walls with adobe brick construction extending out from there.

The cliffs are part of the Jemez Volcanic field, and the bubbly nature of the cooling lava is readily apparent with thousands of one- or two-person sized holes and crevices lining the stone.

Long House Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

Each indent is the end of a room. Holes bored in the rock supported tree trunk beams
that were floor joists and roof trusses.

The ancients used these holes — and carved others — as rooms or as ends of rooms. They also bored holes in the cliffs to support the ends of wooden beams. These beams supported ceilings and floors and second and third story rooms.

Ancient pueblo Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

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What amazed me as I looked a little closer at these ruins along the cliff face was that these people of 500 to 900 years ago took the time and had the inclination and ingenuity to decorate their interior walls.

They kind of plastered the walls and impregnated them with colors. The cracked and faded “plaster” is readily visible today.

Cliff holes for timer ceilings Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

Dozens of rooms are lined up along the cliffs. The structures were two and three stories tall.

They also created rectangular holes in the cliffs, perhaps for storage purposes.

Pueblo ruins Long House Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

A kind of colored “plaster” decorated the interior walls.

I was really taken by this idea that the ancient puebloans decorated their walls.

Pueblo fresco wall art Long House Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

The “fresco” walls are peeling but are clearly visible.

Some of the indents in the cliffs were deeper than others, and many seemed to have been decorated with a kind of wainscotting. The plaster on the lower half of those walls had been painted, while the upper half of the walls and roof were black from soot and smoke from their household fires.

Pueblo architecture Long House Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

Some walls had a kind of wainscotting with the lower half decorated in colored “plaster” and the upper half black from soot. A bullseye petroglyph adorns the wall of top floor.

Wall fresco Long House Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

A closer look at the “wainscotting.”

One of the indents was decorated with an artistic gemoetric pattern. The National Park Service has black and white photos of this wall from years ago where a ranger was pointing it out to visitors, right up close.

Now visitors have to stand far back from the cliff wall and the decocrative pattern is covered with a protective covering so it doesn’t vanish too quickly in the elements.

Fresco art pattern Long House Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

One wall with a particularly vivid pattern is protected from the elements.

The Long House goes on for a very long distance with room after room lined up along the cliff face. It seems that the adobe brick structures that fronted these back walls extended out about two room’s width from the cliff wall, and the buildings were generally two or three stories tall too.

Ancestral Pueblo ruins Long House Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

The Long House is very long and the trail wanders alongside it.

Holes in rock walls Long House Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

Some holes, or caves, are natural but others are rectangular and very obviously man-made.

We saw only two petroglyphs, but there are probably more. A bull’s-eye was pecked out of the cliffs in an upper story in one area, and an unrecognizable animal was pecked out high up in another.

Petroglyph rock art Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

Some strange animal…

Eventually, leaving the Long House behind, the Main Loop trail took us through a ponderosa pine tree studded woodsy area. Pretty wildflowers looked up at us.

Wildflower Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

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Then we arrived at Alcove House, a massive natural cave that lies high up on the cliffs. The ancients must have used ladders to get up to this cave, and the National Park Service has placed ladders leading up to it for us modern visitors to use.

Alcove House ladders and cave Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

Alcove House is reached by two very long ladders and a third shorter ladder.

Climbing ladder to Alcove House Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

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What a climb!

Long ladder to Alcove House Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

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Climbing ladder to Alcove House Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

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The Alcove House cave is huge and may have housed all kinds of rooms and other things. There are remnants of a circular kiva which has been restored but can’t be entered.

Alcove House Cave Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

The cave at Alcove House is very deep and must have offered great natural protection.

We liked the two person-sized openings that went into very small closet-like rooms!

Storage rooms in cave at Alcove House Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

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After getting our fill of these ruins (for one day), we returned to the visitors center where we saw a very cool RV parked in the parking lot. It had animal tracks painted on one side and Chinese letters on the other and sported a German flag by the door.

Ironically, as I write this post a month later, we saw the exact same rig parked in Custer, South Dakota, earlier today. It is a small world!

Unusual rugged RV

Back at the Visitors Center we saw this unusual rig…and then saw it again a month later 700 miles away!

Another day we ventured out to Bandelier National Monument’s waterfall which lies at the end of the mile-and-a-half long Falls Trail.

Waterfall Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

A beautiful waterfall is the reward at the end of the Falls Trail.

There are ancient ruins all over America’s southwest, and various groups of modern day Native Americans believe they are descended from certain ancient cultures in different locations.

Interestingly, the modern Pueblo Indians who claim descent from the ancient people who built the Long House and Alcove House at Bandelier National Monument are the Cochiti Puebloans who live a ways away near Cochiti Lake and Tent Rocks.

The modern Pueblo Indians who live closest to Bandelier National Monument, the San Ildefonso Puebloan people, claim descent from the unexcavated ruins that lie just outside Bandelier at Tsankawai Ruins.

The hike through Tsankawai Ruins began with a ladder climb as well, but it was totally different in nature because the ruins don’t back up to a massive cliff face and they are hard to spot on the grassy plateau since they haven’t been dug up yet.

Tsankawai hike Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

A ladder at the beginning of the Tsankawai Ruins Trail.

Unlike all ancient archaeological sites where the ruins have been studied, thoroughly excavated, stabilized and rebuilt, the Tsankawai Ruins site is an explorer’s dream because some artifacts are still lying around.

I was shocked when Mark pointed to a rock that had some pottery shards lying on it. It didn’t take long for us to find a few others in the grass and dirt nearby.

Obviously, we left them in place so the next visitors could enjoy the same surprise as we did, but how fabulous it was to see the finely painted decorations on these centuries old bits of pottery.

Pottery Shards Tsankawai Ruins Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

Painted pottery shards on the Tsankawai Ruins Trail.

The Tsankawai Loop trail can be done either clockwise or counterclockwise, and we chose to go in the clockwise direction (taking a left at “Loop Trail” sign). After crossing a high plateau where the ancient ruins lie sunken into the dirt, the trail seemed to end. After a little scouting over the edge Mark noticed a ladder going down, so down we went.

I wonder how many people simply turn around at that point not knowing the trail continues down the well obscured ladder! Going in the counter clockwise direction, this ladder would be very obvious as the trail leads right to its base.

Tsankawai Ruins hike Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

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We skirted along the edge of a sloping hillside with wonderful views to one side, and rounded a bend to find some petroglyphs on a rock wall next to us.

Except for a spiral, the imagery was nothing like other petroglyphs we have seen elsewhere.

Petroglyphs Tsankawai Ruins Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

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We continued on and were absolutely floored by the many very narrow foot trails that have been carved into the rock.

Hiking the Narrow Carved Trail Tsankawai Ruins Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

The Tsankawai Ruins Trail includes some very cool skinny and curvy paths.

These were very clearly man-made and not the work of water or wind. But they weren’t made by the National Park Service either!

Skinny groove trail Tsankawai Ruins Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

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In another spot, we looked up along the rounded rock hills and noticed a little staircase that had been carved out of the rock.

How ingenious of the ancients to make these trails and staircases, and what a wonderful way for us to be transported back to a time centuries ago.

Strange stairway Tsankawai Ruins Bandelier National Monument New Mexico

In the footprints of the ancients…

If you are traveling in New Mexico with your RV — or if you find yourself anywhere near this area without an RV! — Bandelier National Monument is a true jewel that is well worth visiting.

For the Main Loop Trail to the Long House and Alcove House, be sure to get there early on a weekday if you want to see the ruins without the crowds. The Falls Trail and Tsankawai Ruins are much less visited.

More links and info below…

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Tent Rocks National Monument (Kasha-Katuwe) – Hiking Slots & Spires!

May 2017 – While casting about for beautiful places to visit in New Mexico, I came across some images from Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe. Unusual looking, perfectly conical rock peaks stood side by side against the sky. We just had to go check it out!

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

A photo op with a “tent rock” (but this one isn’t real, lol!) .

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a small park between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was a 230 mile drive to take our RV there from Aztec Ruins National Monument.

Spires Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

The beginning of the hike.

This is an extremely popular National Monument with loads of visitors coming out on weekends from nearby Santa Fe to hike the fun trail that goes through a slot canyon and emerges on a plateau with a great view. So, we were told that arriving at the tiny parking area before 9:00 am during the peak seasons of spring and fall is a really good idea or they won’t let you in!

Beginning Slot Canyon Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

The beginning of the slot canyon.

The hike is an out-and-back trail that starts easily enough by wandering in and around the bases of many unusual and towering rock peaks. But it is the slot canyon that is the most fun!

Slot Canyon Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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Slot canyons can look a little claustrophobia inducing in photos where hikers are slithering between towering rock walls.

Hiking Slot Canyon Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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But they are loads of fun, and you don’t feel particularly confined because the walls often spread apart as they rise up on either side, or they open up completely, and there’s a clear view of the sky up above.

Hiking Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument slot canyon

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Sharing a narrow slot canyon with crowds of weekend hikers can be a crazy experience. Lots of families were out on the trail with us that beautiful May morning, even though we had started early. It was Mother’s Day weekend, and it seemed that everyone had decided to take Mom out for a hike to celebrate!

Crowded Slot Canyon Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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In some places the slot canyon got really skinny and it was one-foot-in-front-of-the-other type of hiking. But in other places it widened a little and we made our way between large rocks that were strewn in the trail.

Slot Canyon Hike Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico RV trip

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The undulating walls of the slot canyon made beautiful shapes.

Slot canyon Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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Once we got through the slot, the hike started to head dramatically uphill. Family after family came down past us, and all of them said the view up top was well worth the climb.

Busy hiking trail Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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As we ascended the trail, the “tent rocks” filled the view alongside us.

Tent Rocks Selfie Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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The trail was a bit of a scramble here and there, and as we got higher the tent rocks got a little lower.

Spires at Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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Finally we were near the top of the trail looking down at the unique conically shaped tent rocks.

Overlook Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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I don’t recall seeing a collection of stone cones like this before. What cool rock formations these are!

Closeup Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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The trail goes out on a long “peninsula” that offers a view back towards the tents.

View from the top Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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It was a perfect place to grab a quick selfie.

Selfie at Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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Spring was busy springing all around us. We saw Indian paintbrush flowers at our feet and lots of cacti had big vibrant flowers on display.

Indian Paintbrush flowers

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Cactus flower

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Cactus Flower

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Some folks came prepared to enjoy the view for a while. Tucked behind one tree we saw a fellow uncorking a bottle of wine, and moments later his wife — the Mom and guest of honor — was sipping a glass of wine in the shade, enjoying the spectacular surroundings!

A picnic and wine at Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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Heading back down the way we came, the tent rocks slowly began to rise up around us.

The Tents at Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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Mark got a kick out of playing Atlas under a huge tree that had fallen across the trail, pretending to hold it up for folks that passed by.

Holding up a log at Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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And then we were back in the very cool slot.

Skinny slot canyon hike Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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By now it was midday and the trail was getting very crowded. Logjams formed in the trail as people took turns traversing the skinniest parts. It made me think of the traffic jams that were going on up on Mt. Everest at about the same time as hikers from around the world converged on the mountain in valiant efforts to make it to the summit.

Crowds on slot canyon hike Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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But if we hung back and waited for the crowds to pass, we were still able to find quiet times where we had certain curves in this beautiful slot canyon all to ourselves.

Hike the slot canyon at Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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Hike Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument slot canyon

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Hiking the slot canyon Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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Near the end of the trail we passed the most fabulous ponderosa pine that was perched high above its very cool exposed roots.

Ponderosa Pine tree and roots in kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

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The next day we returned to do the other hike that forks off the Tent Rocks trail and goes to a cave. This was a short and easy hike, although the cave was surprisingly small and not nearly as exciting as the tent rocks and slot canyon!

The Cave Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument New Mexico

The Cave.

The tent rocks, however, were very cool and well worth seeing. Just be sure to get there early because the tiny parking lot fills up fast. Also, only the shortest truck campers, Class C’s and vans fit in the lot.

Nearby Cochiti Campground is a nice place to stay.

Fifth wheel trailer RV at sunset

Sunset at Cochiti Campground.

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Aztec Ruins National Monument – Whispers from the Ancients in New Mexico!

May 2017 – After spending some quality time with the alien eggs at Bisti Badlands in New Mexico, we took our RV about 50 miles north to Aztec Ruins National Monument near Farmington, New Mexico. We’ve visited a lot of ancient Indian ruins over the years, but this site was astonishing because of its sheer size.

Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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The “Aztec” ruins are not Aztec at all. Those people were way down south in today’s Mexico City. The name was given by early discoverers of the New Mexico site who may or may not have known better.

These ruins were actually built by the Ancestral Puebloan people about 900 years ago.

This particular site is startling because it contains as many as 400 rooms! Most of the rooms are square or rectangular and abut each other, however there are quite a few circular structures too, some of which are thought to have been ceremonial.

Aztec Ruins National Monument Map

The layout of the many rooms at Aztec Ruins National Monument

The first thing we saw as we entered Aztec Ruins National Monument was the Great Kiva, a large round structure that has been stabilized and renovated several times since the 1930’s.

Great Kiva at Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

The Great Kiva has been stabilized and renovated several times.

It is now a very modern feeling building, and as we walked through it Indian sounding music played softly in the background to give the place a certain air.

Inside the Kiva at Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

Inside the Great Kiva. Indian music was playing as we walked through.

Ceiling of Kiva at Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

The ceiling in the Great Kiva.

After walking through the Great Kiva we passed several more round structures.

Ceremonial circle Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

There were several circular structures. Some were ball courts.

Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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Aztec Ruins National Monument is called a “Great House,” and when it was first discovered several of the rooms had quite a bit of pottery in them as well as grain. It is thought that some people lived here beacuse there is evidence of smoke from fires in some of the rooms. But it is also thought that it was a ceremonial gathering place.

Round walls at Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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As we walked through the rooms, we passed through a “T” shaped doorway. This reminded me of the “T” shaped windows we saw in the Mayan ruins in Palenque in southern Mexico and the “T” shaped doorways we saw in the ancient Khmer ruins in Cambodia (I haven’t posted those pics yet).

Rooms in Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

A T-shaped doorway.

T-shaped doorway Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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Although the ancient Khmer people were building Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples in Cambodia at about the same time the Ancestral Puebloans were building this site and many others in the American Southwest, the Mayan structures in southern Mexico actually pre-dated them by about six hundred years.

Walls at Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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Even though these ruins are not on a scale of complexity or size that is anywhere near those in Cambodia or southern Mexico, it is still fascinating to walk from room to room and contemplate what life might have been like back when it was being built and occupied.

Window and room at Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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This stuff definitely gives me a thrill, but Mark doesn’t get quite as excited about it.

We both had to laugh as we remembered visiting exotic Monte Alban outside Oaxaca Mexico when I wondered out loud about the communities that had lived there and the succession of builders who had created the mammoth temples.

I mused that first there were the Zapotecs, and then the Mixtecs, and later the Aztecs… after which Mark had joked that next came the Discotecs followed by the Village People.

Double windows at Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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Stone walls at Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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I love traveling because it allows us to share a moment in time with people from all over the place who are living in the same world but have very different backgrounds and histories than ours. By the same token, I love seeing ancient ruins because they allow us to share a place, if not a moment in time, with a culture and group of people who stood in the exact same spot many centuries ago.

Ironically, we also share the spot with all the discoverers and archaeologists who have examined these same ruins in the light of their own cultures and personal histories, whether it was the mid-1800’s when “Aztec Ruins” was first uncovered, or the 1930’s when it was studied yet again, or today.

If only the walls could talk.

Walls and grass at Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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Overgrown walls at Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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I always find it kind of amusing, though, that so many aspects of ancient cultures get attributed to ceremony and spiritual beliefs. It sometimes seems as if the archaeologists believe that ancient people lived largely in the spiritual realm and not so much in the here and now.

A work camper at Tonto National Monument surprised me when she mentioned that a modern archaeologist was pursuing a line of thinking that much of the exquisite pottery that was created by the Ancestral Puebloans throughout the Southwest was actually made just for trading purposes. She said the thought was that perhaps the pottery was manufactured in large quantities, and stockpiled, and warehoused for distribution. Apparently there is evidence in many ancient sites from the American Southwest on down into Mexico that this could have been the case.

I love this idea because it gives the ancient people a kind of sophistication and practicality and accessibility to our own culture that is often absent when everything they built or pecked out of rock walls is seen solely through the lens of ceremonial spirituality.

Brick wall construction Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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Rooms and walls at Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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Back in 4th Grade, I remember my teacher reading a document to our class about a very strange group of people who had extraordinary ceremonial body grooming customs that they performed on a daily basis in a very special shrine they found in every home. They were the Nacirema People.

Low doorways Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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Log beam at Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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Our class was studying ancient Greece, and our teacher wanted show us the challenges that archaeologists and anthropologists face as they study various cultures both current and ancient.

As she read this anthropological study to the class (link below), the Nacirema seemed very odd. They had a very involved “mouth-rite” that they performed daily because of a strongly held belief that if they didn’t do this ritual their teeth would fall out.

As we listened to our teacher we kind of shrugged because we saw weird stuff like that on National Geographic shows on TV fairly often. It seemed perfectly believable.

Walls with doors at Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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Original ceiling beams Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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She read to us about the Medicine Men who would visit certain members of the Nacirema tribe who spent all day lying in beds in a special temple called a latipsoh, and she read to us about a very painful ritual where the Medicine Man jabbed tribal members in their arms with a needle.

We also learned about the unusual witch doctors who were “listeners” that encouraged tribal members to pour out all their woes, going back to early childhood.

It was only as our teacher got near the end of the document that a few brighter buttons in the class began to snicker. I wasn’t one of them.

Series of doorways Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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When our teacher finished reading to us, she stood up and put the word “Nacirema” on the blackboard, writing it from right to left. Then she put up the word “latipsoh” and wrote it from right to left as well.

The light bulb suddenly went on for the whole class, and we were all in stitches. She read the whole essay a second time and we were all doubled over in laughter throughout.

Ever since then, I’ve been a little skeptical about attributing too much spirituality and religious ceremony to the various relics that the ancients left behind!

Looking at Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico

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No matter what the fabulous buildings at Aztec Ruins National Monument were used for — whether it was housing, product warehousing, or spiritual gatherings — it is a terrific site that evokes a thousand questions and answers very few.

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Eggs & Aliens in Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (Bisti Badlands)

May 2017 – There’s a wonderful natural treasure to be found in northwestern New Mexico at the Bisti Badlands — or Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness — just 40 miles south of Farmington.

Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico Photographing the Eggs

Hanging out with the alien eggs at Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in New Mexico

We had a very magical experience in this exotic location five years ago and we wanted to get back once again.

Exotic Landscapes Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

There are all kinds of hoodoos in the Bisti Badlands

The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a huge area filled with crazy rock formations that resemble everything from spacecraft to furniture to alien eggs. Because it is a wilderness area, there are no trails and no vehicles are allowed either. The only way to see it is to walk on in and start exploring.

The hoodoos and colorful mounds make for a great day of fun just getting lost in a maze of crazy shapes, and on our last visit we roamed all over the place climbing up and over red and black and orange striped conical hills that easily stood 50 to 100 feet high.

Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

There are no hiking trails in Bisti Badlands, but walking in any direction takes you to cool rocks!

But the “prize” in Bisti Badlands, if there can be such a thing, is the tiny group of stones that look like alien creatures emerging from their cracked egg shells.

Cracked eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

In one corner of the Bisti Wilderness there is a collection of rocks that look like alien eggs or pods.

Alien eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Cracked egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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This is a favorite area for photographers, and we headed out in the late afternoon as the shadows were getting long.

Alien egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Some of the rocks look very much like eggs sitting on a dish or embryonic alien life forms emerging from the shell.

Eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Each one is a little different, and some look as though they might come to life.

Eggs on pedestals Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

A creature from afar?

Alien eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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As we wandered around the perimeter of these fantastic rock formations and crouched down to see them up close, I suddenly heard Mark yell “Help!”

I turned around and saw his hand reaching out… he’d been swallowed up by an alien egg!

Human eating alien egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Oh no!!

Not really, of course, but these little guys were very engaging and we were having lots of fun getting photos of them and playing with effects.

Eggs alien egg factory Bisti Badlands De-Na-Zin Wilderness

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Sometimes we couldn’t help but get in the photo in one way or another, even if it was just a shadow of ourselves.

Photography at the Eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

With such long shadows sometimes we had to incorporate our own shadows!

Hoodoos Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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As the hours went by, one by one, each egg lost the sun’s golden glow. Then the setting sun threw some pretty colors across the sky.

Hoodoos Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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One of the things I love most about these alien egg rocks is that each one is decorated with a different pattern on its surface.

Some have a wonderful pattern that seems very deliberate, as if carved by a divine hand.

Exotic egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Each egg was decorated with a unique pattern.

Some are very bold, with definite lines and carvings.

Alien shellback Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Others have finer lines and have started to fade in places.

Decorated egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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And some don’t have any decorations at all.

Egg in shell Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Decorations or no, you just can’t beat seeing one of these crazy egg rocks set off by a pink sunset.

Eggs at sunset Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

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And then, with a flash from the west, the sun was gone.

Sunset Bisti Badlands De-Na-Zin Wilderness

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We decided to stick around to see what this other-worldly place looked like at night.

We’d brought our big flashlight with us which is like a car headlight (review here). We put it on its lowest setting and began playing with it doing “light painting” on the rocks. Cool!

We also had two smaller 1000 lumen pocket flashlights (review here), and we experimented with using them for light painting as well. The smaller, dimmer lights produced a wonderful effect.

721 Cracked eggs at night Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

We did a little “light painting” on the eggs with a flashlight as it got dark.

A few stars began to twinkle in the rich light of dusk. The moon was rising and looked like a huge street light above us. Mark was using his favorite wide angle lens and it made a fabulous starburst out of the moon!

Full moon starburst Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

The nearly full moon created a starburst in the sky at dusk.

Back at the trailer when we were going through our photos, Mark emailed this cool shot to a friend who’s a video arts and Photoshop expert. Suddenly he got an email back that looked a little spooky!

Full moon starburst Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico with UFO

What’s that flying over the cliffs?

As a gag, he emailed the revised photo to another good friend who is also a photographer and Photoshop expert, and suddenly it came back looking even spookier!

UFO Full moon starburst Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

OMG – They’re shining their spotlight on our rig!

But before we could play with our photos in the rig, we had to get back out of Bisti Badlands in the dark.

I was glad the moon was so bright. Like our old days of sailing on our boat when we made long ocean passages at night, the moon was like a very dear friend in the sky. The eggs around us were easy to see, and it even cast shadows on the ground.

Stars at cracked eggs Bisti Badlands De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Eggs by the light of the moon.

Even with the moon so bright, more and more stars began to appear in the sky above us.

Stars at night Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

As we hiked out we saw more and more stars.

Hiking out in the dark was quite a thrill. We heard some coyotes very close by and were hoping to catch a glimpse of them, but they must have caught our scent and heard our footsteps because they soon headed off into the night.

Stars over hoodoos Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Stars over the hoodoos.

Every so often we could see the lights of a power plant in the distance, keeping us more or less on track! We ended up scaling a few more deep washes on the way out than on the way in, but we made it out just fine!

Some notes and a word of caution for folks heading to Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness with RVs:

The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and is a very special place that is well worth a detour to visit.

RVs are allowed to park overnight in the fenced off parking area which can hold a few truck campers or perhaps 3-4 larger RVs. The “RV” end of the parking lot can get very muddy when it rains and the ruts from RVs that had been there during recent rains were quite deep.

This parking area is located about 3 miles down a dirt road off of Route 371. When we went to Bisti Badlands in late September of 2012, the 3 mile dirt road was well graded and it wasn’t difficult to drive on with our fifth wheel trailer.

Now, however, it appears that the road has not been graded in a very long time, and it is absolutely terrible. We drove at 3-9 mph the entire way in both directions, no joke. Not only was everything in our rig badly shaken up but we discovered the locking nut on one of the bolts that goes through the equalizer in our fifth wheel suspension actually fell off. Without a locking nut, the bolt had worked itself almost all the way out during our drive in. Luckily, Mark was able to fix this right there in the dirt parking lot. More on that coming soon!

More importantly, it seems that Bisti Badlands has been “discovered.”

In 2012 we were the only RV there for one night and we had just one companion RV another night. This year the parking area was quite busy every night with cars, vans, truck campers and short Class C’s crammed in, and lots of people came in cars to hike for the day as well.

In 2012 there were no footprints beyond the gate into the wilderness area, and this year there were footprints everywhere, especially leading to the eggs, and there were lots of people out hiking. In 2012 there were a few boondocking areas down the road, but now there are markers at those spots saying “No Vehicles.”

As we were packing to leave Bisti Badlands on a Saturday morning, four cars arrived and joined the RVs that had stayed overnight. During the 45 minutes it took us to drive the dirt road out to the highway, 12 more cars and trucks passed us on their way in. I have no idea if or how all those vehicles could fit in the parking lot!

So…. if you own a bigger RV, it might be wise to leave it in Farmington and make a day trip to Bisti Badlands in the tow vehicle or toad. Mid-week will be quieter than weekends, especially during the peak seasons of spring and fall.

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More info about Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (Bisti Badlands):

The website for the BLM is undergoing many changes and doesn’t have information about Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness at the moment. We describe how we found the eggs on our previous visit at this link.

Location of Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Parking Area – Interactive Google Maps

If you go into the Bisti Wilderness with a friend or spouse, it’s a good idea to stick close together or take a set of two-way radios. We used both our radios and a hand-held compass. A hand-held GPS can be a helpful tool too (although we just used our compass). We also used all three of our Lumintop flashlights (reviews HERE (searchlight) and HERE (pocket flashlights).

Other blog posts from New Mexico:

Night hikes and starry skies:

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Canyon de Chelly – Breathtaking Views Under Vibrant Skies

April 2017 – We left the wondrous Petrified Forest National Park with its incredible hikes and nearby Route 66 nostalgia and headed due north from Holbrook, Arizona, on Route 77 towards Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

Route 77 in the Navajo Nation Arizona

Wide open lands on Route 77 in the Navajo Nation, Arizona

This interesting (although occasionally bumpy) rural road goes through the vast Navajo Nation. We were mesmerized by the classic southwestern vistas that filled our views for the first twenty miles or so. My long lens was in the trailer (sigh), so I didn’t get good shots of the amazing rock formations we passed.

A few years back we made a similar trek on the parallel Indian Route 12 and really enjoyed it. So, again, we decided to forego the more major highway (US Route 191) and take another scenic route instead.

Little did we know it was going to snow on us as we got into the higher elevations!

Snow on road Navajo Nation Arizona

When we climbed from 5,000′ to 6,500′ elevation, we got a spring snow storm!

This was our third trip to Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon d’Shay), but like all of the National Parks and National Monuments, there always seems to be something new to see.

In past visits we explored the overlooks along the northern scenic rim road through the park and hiked to the jaw-dropping White House Ruin. So, this time we decided to explore a few spots along the southern rim road.

Tunnel Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Tunnel Overlook, Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly is a massive canyon formed by uplifts and the relentless flow of water, and today the sheer red rock canyon walls tower 700 feet above the lush green valley floor.

Far below us we saw trucks bashing through the water from recent rains.

Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Tsegi Overlook.

The only way to see the valley of the canyon is to take a private guided tour offered by the Navajo who live on the reservation that surrounds Canyon de Chelly National Monument. However, the North and South Rim Drives are open to everyone to enjoy for free without a paid guide.

Car driving in wash at Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

The only way to get into Canyon de Chelly is on one hiking trail (White House Trail) or on a commercial tour.

As we zipped in and out of the overlooks, the skies began to brood…

Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument RV trip Arizona

The clouds were moving fast at Tsegi overlook.

…and the red rock cliffs seemed to swirl around each other in fabulously exotic shapes.

Junction Overlook Canyon de Chelly South Rim Road Overlook Arizona

The rocks formed beautiful shapes that were so much fun to climb on.

Sliding House Ruin Overlook at Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Sliding House Ruin Overlook

Eventually, we made our way to Spider Rock Overlook, one of the iconic images of Canyon de Chelly. We reached the overlook right at the golden hour before sunset when the rock itself was lit in rich burnt orange hues.

Spider Rock overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Spider Rock.

The day had been very cloudy and windy, but as if by magic, right as the sun began to set, we were blessed with the most astonishing display of colors in the sky.

Sunset spider rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

As the golden light faded on Spider Rock and the red rock cliffs, the sky began a light show of its own.

We each ran back and forth on the rim, unsure where to get the best views and which part of the sky would light up next.

Sunset at Spider overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Mark lines up his shot on the next rock outcropping (upper right corner).

Spider rock lost its glow but the fire in the heavens was just getting started.

Spider Rock sunset Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona RV trip

Sunset’s brilliant display begins at Spider Rock.

Once the drama had played itself out in shades of orange, the skies turned vivid pink.

Pink sunset Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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The light show intensified and our two-way radios crackled as we called each other from opposite ends of the overlook.

“Did you see THAT??!!”

Colorful sunset Spider Rock overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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That sunset was breathtaking, but when morning came the next day and we ventured back out on the south rim drive, the drama in the sky was gone. We returned to Sliding House Ruin overlook because there is such a huge area to prowl around there, and looking down into Canyon de Chelly was as astonishing as ever.

Valley at Sliding House Ruin Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Sliding House Ruin Overlook.

At Sliding House Ruin overlook there are endless stretches of flat and undulating boulders that head out in all directions on a promontory. Before we knew it, we had been there for hours running around on the tops of these cliffs and peering down into the tree-filled valleys below.

Of course, if you get too close to the edge in a place like this, it’s all over. A sign near the rim was a good reminder!

Sheer cliff warning sign Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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Red rock cliffs and green valley floor Sliding House Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

It’s a long way down…but what a view!

When I finally had gotten my fill of staring at the immense views in front of me, I glanced down at my feet and was taken with the rich hues and artistic patterns of the colorful lichen that was growing in and around the creases in the rocks.

Nature's artwork Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Nature’s artwork on the rocks.

Standing back and surveying the vast flat lichen covered boulders that stretched in all directions around me, I felt like I was looking at a modern art painting. Perhaps this is where Jackson Pollack got his inspiration!

Lichen on red rocks Jackson Pollack painting Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Jackson Pollack — Or colorful lichen on red rocks?

A little movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention, and I turned to see a lizard scampering past. He stopped and stared at me as I snuck closer and clicked my camera’s shutter.

Lizard Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

A lizard looks over at me as he runs by.

The spring wildflowers had started blooming, and Mark found a beautiful bouquet of Indian Paintbrush flowers.

Indian Paintbrush Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

A dash of scarlet…

We stuck around and soon the sun was sinking low in the sky, and the shadows were growing long and deep.

Shadows at sunset Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Long shadows made for a surprise selfie at Sliding House Overlook.

The clear sky meant there were no colorful theatrics in the sky for our sunset at Sliding House overlook, but the sun gave me a coy wink for a split second before it slipped out of sight.

Starburst sunset Sliding House Ruin Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

A fleeting starburst at sunset…

It was hard to set the alarm for a pre-dawn hour the next day, but we bundled into our truck with hot tea and coffee in hand and drove out to Sliding House overlook once again where Mark caught the sun giving us a wink on its way up.

Sunrise Sliding House Ruin Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

…and another at dawn.

Canyon de Chelly is a special place deep in the heart of the immense Navajo reservation. There is a dry camping campground in the town of Chinle that is run by the Navajo, and a few sites are big enough for a big RV.

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Blue Mesa Trail – Lavender Beauty in Petrified Forest National Park

April 2017 – When we visited Petrified Forest National Park a few weeks ago with our RV, we discovered two true jewels in the park: Jasper Forest and Blue Mesa Trail.

Ready to hike Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Ready to hike Blue Mesa Trail in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

It is really easy to blast through Petrified Forest National Park at 50 mph and miss it all, and we’ve made that mistake in the past. We’ve also done the less spectacular hikes and later wondered where all the petrified wood was! How funny!

As seen in our last post about Jasper Forest, there are some breathtaking landscapes where petrified logs are in stunning abundance.

Blue Mesa is another fabulous region in the National Park where rolling hills are beautifully striped in shades of purple and lavender. There is a wonderful and very easy hike on a paved path at Blue Mesa that wanders through all these hills.

Blue Mesa Overlook Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

The overlook at Blue Mesa in Petrified Forest National Park

At the start of the hike, high up on a plateau overlooking a vast expanse of exotic beauty, we saw a pretty spray of yellow spring flowers and spent a few minutes admiring them.

Yellow wildflowers Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

A vibrant sign of spring greeted us right away.

Mark took advantage of the “Color sketch” option in his Nikon camera to get a very cool effect from this photo:

Color sketch Yellow wildflowers Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

The “color sketch” option is available in most Nikon DSLR’s. Fun!

The Blue Mesa trail begins with a wonderful plunge down to the valley floor, and we got a few shots of the spectacular purple/blue landscape as we descended.

Descending on the Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Blue Mesa trail took us down to the valley floor right away.

As we made our way along the pretty, winding trail, the breathtaking views of these colorful hills surrounded us.

Blue and purple on Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

The purple stripes were magnificent!

Rock striations Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Nature has a wonderful artistic flair!

But where was all the petrified wood? It didn’t take long for us to find the gorgeous rock logs spilling down the gullies between the hills.

Falling petrified logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Did a woodsman just cut down a tree?
No! Nature did this over 200 million years ago!!

Every crevice between the hills was loaded with perfectly hewn petrified logs. Incredible!

Petrified log pile Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Solid rock logs that look for all the world like they are wood!

Petrified logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Every crevice between the hills was filled with stone logs.

We couldn’t help but scurry up a ways to get different perspectives on these logs. Suddenly, I lost my balance and slipped. I brushed myself off and looked around, a little embarrassed and wondering if anyone had seen me fall. Luckily I was the only witness.

That is, I was the only witness until I saw what my camera did when my finger hit the shutter button on my way down!

Falling on hiking trail at Blue Mesa Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Oops!

I don’t think I could have staged that shot more perfectly!

Blue Mesa trail was largely surrounded with waves of gravelly hills that are horizontally striped in lavender hues. But a few of the hillsides and cracks were gray, and these were strewn with exquisite crystallized tree stumps too.

Tumbling petrified logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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Pile of petrified wood logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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Surprisingly, even though this was peak season for visiting Petrified Forest National Park, with absolutely perfect sunny, dry, warm weather, there were very few people on the Blue Mesa trail. Every so often, though, we caught sight of someone in the distance.

Tumbling logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

We shared Blue Mesa with very few other hikers.

Petrified Forest National Park has several “Off the Beaten Path” hikes, and there is one that originates at Blue Mesa trail and heads out to the Tee Pees formations. I had hoped to hike at least some of that trail because we had enjoyed the Off the Beaten Path trail at Jasper Forest so much.

Hiking Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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But I was so caught up in admiring the awe-inspiring views surrounding us on all sides that I forgot to double check the page of notes the ranger had given us to see where the gravel trail intersected the paved trail we were on. I think I’d kind of expected it to be obvious when we got there.

Hikers and petrified logs on Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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The National Park Service is a little coy with these special Off the Beaten Path hikes.

First, I’d only learned about them when I asked a ranger to recommend some areas for photography and then watched wide-eyed as he pulled a huge 3-ring binder full of photocopied trail notes off a low shelf behind the counter. More importantly, though, the trail intersection itself isn’t marked with a sign!

Blue skies on the Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Somewhere out here there’s a neat unpaved hiking trail!

I learned later that the intersection is to the right of the one plaque that is out on the paved trail at Blue Mesa, and unfortunately, we’d walked right by it. Argh!

Purple striations at Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Lavender shades all around.

Oh well, it’s a good reason for us to come back to Petrified Forest National Park another time!

Hiker Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Purple haze…

If you take your RV to Petrified Forest National Park, don’t miss the Blue Mesa trail, and keep an eye out for that plaque and head out on the adjoining “Off the Beaten Path” hike! I suspect there are some cool views back there.

RV at Blue Mesa Overlook Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

A cute teardrop trailer at the top of the Blue Mesa overlook.

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More info about Petrified Forest National Park:

Other blog posts from our travels in Northeastern Arizona:

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Petrified Forest National Park RV Trip – Magic in Jasper Forest

April 2017 – One of the highlights on Route 66 is the Petrified Forest National Park where the enormous trunks of 200 million year old trees have turned to stone.

Photography at Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

The solid stone tree stumps at Petrified Forest National Park are truly impressive!

We have been to Petrified Forest National Park twice before, but it was on this trip that we finally found the true magic there.

Stumps Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

Those tree stumps are solid rock, through and through!

We knew that the best way to see Petrified Forest National Park, like all the National Parks, is to get out on the hiking trails away from the crowds.

Jasper Forest petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

We loved seeing how the logs split over millenia, due to the pressures of moisture and ice,
and revealing the tree rings — still perfectly intact — inside.

But it wasn’t until this visit that we discovered which hiking trails are the most stunning.

Logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

Was the woodsman just here with his ax?

On our first foray into the Park on this trip we explored the area called Crystal Forest.

Logs Petrified Forest National Park Crystal Forest

The logs were scattered everywhere. But there wasn’t a living tree to be seen anywhere!

In every direction we saw the enormous trunks of trees that had been growing millions of years ago.

These trees had toppled over during torrential rains millenia ago, and had floated downstream only to end up in a deep and muddy logjam where they slowly and very gradually crystallized.

Over time, the pressure of moisture and ice within the logs broke them into segments.

Out on the vast treeless plain, we saw countless tree trunks that looked like a lumberjack had just sliced them up with a chainsaw in preparation for splitting them into firewood!

Petrified log Petrified Forest National Park Crystal Forest

We saw many 50+ foot long logs lying on the grass and split into sections.

Here and there, the stump of a tree trunk stuck up from the ground and looked for all the world like the tree had just been felled.

Wildflowers with petrified wood tree stump Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

A rock and a wildflower.

All the tree rings were perfectly visible in a rainbow of crystalline colors.

Tree rings Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest

Brilliantly colored minerals have crystallized the tree rings in this ancient tree.

The logs lay scattered all over the place, and in between were beautiful shards of petrified wood.

Colorful agate Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest

There were exquisite shards of rock EVERYWHERE as far as the eye could see in all directions.


Some logs had been split so the tree rings were visible while others had been severed lengthwise showing vertical striations from the interior of the log.

Colorful agate Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest-2

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In one area the shards that surrounded the logs look like woodchips. It was as if the lumberjack had just laid down his ax! These pale wood chips were very thin, just like ordinary wood chips, but these slivers of rock tinkled like a bell when dropped on each other!

Petrified wood chips at Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest

The light colored “wood chips” on the ground were brittle rock shards that sounded like bells
when they fell on each other.

We had wandered out at the “golden hour” about an hour before sunset, and as the sun sank below the horizon we were blessed with a beautiful sunset over these exotic rocks.

Sunset at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Sunset in Petrified Forest National Park.

Even better than Crystal Forest, however, is Jasper Forest which is just a little further north. The overlook takes in a sweeping view.

Jasper Forest Overlook Petrified Forest National Park Arizon

Jasper Forest overlook has an incredible view — see the logs below? — and the trail to the plain below took us down among thousands of logs.

In the distance, far below the Jasper Forest overlook, boulders and petrified logs intermingled.

Overlook at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Huge waves of eroded rock formations were littered with tumbled boulders and petrified logs.

When we stopped at the Visitors Center to find out where the best collections of petrified wood were in the Park, the ranger took out a large 3-ring binder labeled “Off The Beaten Path Trails.” He took out the trail directions, complete with photos, for a few trails and handed them to us. One set was for Jasper Forest.

Sitting on petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

Down among the petrified logs at Jasper Forest.

The trail directions were a bit confusing, but they are actually very easy:

  • Go to the north end of the Jasper Overlook parking lot and look for a narrow trail heading north from the last parking space in the lot.
  • Follow this trail north and then west onto the wide plain that stretches out below the Jasper Forest overlook.
Petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

Two faces from the same log reveal gorgeous tree rings.

From there you can go in any direction you want, and we quickly ran off in opposite directions!

Log with a knot Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

The “bark” on this 200 million year old log even had a knot in it.

We were there in the harsh light of noon, so even though the rock logs were mind boggling, we knew they would be even more beautiful in the rich light of late afternoon.

Petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

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Petrified wood logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

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So, we returned a little later with our cameras, and suddenly the logs came alive in vivid shades.

Petrified tree stump Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

At the “golden hour” an hour before sunset,
all the logs began to glow.

The skies were darkly overcast but the sun snuck through underneath and cast a brilliant light on all the stone tree logs.

Storm clouds Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Storm clouds darkened the skies while the sun peeked through.

Golden light at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Looking at the tree root ends of the logs — in rich light.

As the sun sank towards the horizon, we were in awe of the beauty around us. We were also frantically running around trying to capture it as best we could while the sun teased us mercilessly!

At one moment the sun would pierce through the clouds and light everything up in bright orange and yellow, and at the next moment it would disappear all together behind the clouds!

Petrified logs at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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The clouds were flying across the sky, making an ideal opportunity to use long shutter speeds to make them blur dramatically just as the sun set in a starburst.

Sunset at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Drama in the sky above an ancient world of stones.

Wild skies at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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Dramatic clouds at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona 2

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Petrified Forest National Park is a great place to go with an RV, and it is surrounded by many of the most spectacular natural wonders of America’s southwest.

RV motorhome in Petrified Forest National Park Crystal Forest

A motorhome passes the Crystal Forest turnoff.

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More info about Petrified Forest National Park:

Other blog posts from our travels in Northeastern Arizona:

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Getting Our Kicks on Route 66 by RV in AZ – Cool Springs, Winslow & Holbrook

April 2017 – Back in the 1930’s to the 1960’s, Route 66 was a 2,448 mile long road from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California, that passed through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. It was established in 1926 but was gradually replaced with the US Interstate highway system starting in 1956.

RV on Route 66 Arizona

We’ve been getting our kicks on Route 66!

Portions of it still remain, and we have been bumping into it in our RV travels through Arizona.

RV on Route 66 Arizona

Cool Springs Station Museum on Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman

Route 66 is memorialized in all kinds of songs and folklore, and one of the most iconic songs was (Get Your Kicks) on Route 66 written by Bobby Troup in 1946.

Cool Springs cabins antique Mobil gas station Route 66 in Arizona

Antique gas pumps and an old Mobil Oil sign at Cool Springs Station Museum near Kingman

We’ve been getting our kicks on Route 66 lately starting with a stop we made at the Cool Springs Station Museum between Kingman and Oatman, Arizona last fall.

Antique Mobil Gas station Route 66 in Arizona

What luck – A retro Royal Enfield motorcycle pulled in and parked next to the antique gas pumps while we were there!

This is a cute stone building that has big antique gas pumps out front that will be familiar to our older readers and Mobil Oil signs that were familiar to us from our childhoods.

Inside we found all kinds of charming memorabilia from decades ago, and outside we saw several antique cars that at one time might have rolled down this famous American highway.

Mobil Lubrication or Mobil Oil Antique wooden sign Route 66

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Route 66 chair in Arizona

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Antique car on Route 66 in Arizona

Ready to roll…in a bygone era

Cool Springs Station is in the northwest part of Arizona near Kingman. Way over on the northeast side of the state we stopped in at the town of Winslow in northeastern Arizona a few weeks ago.

Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona Route 66

Route 66 goes through Winslow Arizona

Winslow sits on old Route 66 but it is much more famous for the song Take It Easy, which was written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey and recorded by the Eagles, and features the very memorable lyrics:

Well, I’m a standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona,
and such a fine sight to see:
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed
Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me.

Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona Route 66

Winslow has memorialized the Eagles song “Take It Easy.”

Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona Route 66

A painted mural reflection and the real thing:
“It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flat bed Ford, slowing down to take a look at me!”

This corner is now a favorite tourist attraction. Every year the town hosts a huge “Standin’ on the Corner” festival. This year’s event is on May 6, 2017 (link at the bottom of the page).

Five years ago on our way back to our boat in Chiapas Mexico we zipped through Winslow and got a selfie at the corner. This year the corner was a little busy with other people getting selfies, so we’ll just go with the old pic!

Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona

From the archives back in 2012!

Nearby, Mark found an electric guitar…

Route 66 Guitar corner Winslow Arizona

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The opposite corner is dressed up with a vintage coffee and soda shop that has old fashioned seating on stools at the counter inside.

The other corner Route 66 Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona

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This building won the Good Job Award in 2004. I like a town that gives out Good Job Awards!

Good Job Award sign Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona

The world needs more Good Job Awards!

Although Winslow sits on Route 66 it was also an important train depot for the Santa Fe Railroad.

Eagle on Route 66 sign Winslow Arizona

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Wandering around town, we came across La Posada Hotel and Gardens which is a meticulously and lovingly restored Grand Hotel from the heyday of the railroad era, built by Fred Harvey for Santa Fe Railroad and designed by Mary Colter.

Entrance La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

La Posada Hotel and Gardens in Winslow, Arizona

Built in 1929 to the tune of $60 million (in today’s dollars), La Posada Hotel and Gardens gave tourists a reason to take the train to Winslow. They could stay in an elegant hotel home base and visit Arizona’s many very cool sights that lie within a day’s chauffeured drive from town.

Balcony La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

La Posada was southwestern elegance at its best in the 1930’s and 40’s.

The hotel was beloved by the well-to-do from its opening in May of 1930 until it closed in 1957. When it closed, all of the museum quality furnishing were sold off, and the building was turned into offices for the Santa Fe railroad. Over the next 40 years it was slated to be demolished several times.

La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

The restoration has been lovingly done.

Chessboard table La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona

Visitors can watch a fantastic video that explains the details of the original design and restoration.

Fortunately, when the Santa Fe Railroad planned to abandon the hotel, news of the its uncertain fate made its way to Allan Affeldt. After three years of negotiations with the railroad, in 1997 he moved in with his wife, Tina Mion and they began a $12 million restoration.

Hallway La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

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We knew none of this when we walked in the door, but we were smitten with the beautiful renovations and artsy decorations in every room.

Elegant La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona

There are endless common areas where guests can relax and socialize.

The windows and French doors were thrown wide in every room, letting the warm air from outside flow in, and we wandered around the property enchanted by all we saw.

Room with a view La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona

Room with a view.

Balcony overlooking courtyard La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

Let the outside in!

La Posada Hotel and Gardens is a fully functioning hotel today and there is a very popular restaurant that was packed to the gills when we stopped by. We didn’t stay to eat, but unusual goodies drew us to every corner of every room in the hotel.

Piano in La Posada hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

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Turning a corner, we came across a “hall of mirrors” which is part of the hotel’s gift shop.

Hall of Mirrors La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

Beautiful mirrors are for sale in the gift shop.

The gift shop had all sorts of things for sale, but the ones that really caught our eye were the adorable antique trailer bird houses!

Trailer bird house

A bird house for the RV crowd!!

Not far from Winslow, Arizona, we drove through Holbrook, Arizona, and just had to stop at the Wigwam Motel.

Wigwam Motel Route 66 Holbrook Arizona

Wigwam Motel in Hobrook Arizona – A Classic Route 66 stopover.

Unlike the very upscale La Posada Hotel and Gardens in Winslow, this is a fabulous Route 66 motel that reflects the funky and slightly cheesy tourist traps that filled Route 66 in its day.

Wigwam Motel antique cars Route 66 Holbrook Arizona

Have you slept in a wigwam lately?

The wigwams still rent out each night, and we saw people loading and unloading their bags for a night’s stay.

Antique cars and tee-pees at Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

Modern travelers come in modern cars, but antique cars were parked in front of each wigwam!

The motel’s owners have parked antique cars in front of each wigwam, lending an authentic air to this classic Route 66 stopover.

Antique cars Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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Wigwam and antique cars Wigwam Motel Hobrook Arizona Route 66

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Antique car Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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Of course, there’s plenty of room for Wigwam Motel guests to park their modern cars by the front office, but part of the mystique of sleeping in one of these wigwams is the fun historical context of being immersed in early American car travel on old Route 66.

Antique Ford at Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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Studebaker truck at Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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If you are traveling east-west in northern Arizona, in the neighborhood of I-40, take a detour off the freeway to one of these stops near Kingman, Winslow and Holbrook and get your kicks on Route 66!

RV on Route 66 in Holbrook Arizona

A service shop from yesteryear… Luckily we didn’t need a new muffler or garage mechanic!

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More info about Route 66, Cool Springs Station, Winslow, La Posada Hotel & Gardens and Wigwam Motel:

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RV Camping with the Rock Art Petroglyphs in Gila Bend, AZ

For years we’ve driven back and forth between San Diego and Phoenix on I-8, zipping by the exit for Painted Rock Petroglyph Site. I’d always look out the window thinking wistfully, “Oooh, that must be so interesting!” but it is a ways off the interstate and we were always on a mission to get wherever we were going and didn’t have time to stop.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Sunset at Painted Rock Petroglyph Site near Gila Bend in Arizona

On a recent trip we decided to make Painted Rock Petroglyph Site our destination, and we scooted off the freeway onto a paved side road that wandered off into the desert.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Petroglyphs cover all the rocks and boulders at this site.

In a few short miles we arrived at the site and were delighted with what we found.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Some images are recognizable like the double parallel squiggly lines that probably indicate there’s water nearby.

The sun was setting and it cast a wonderful pink glow across the desert and the pile of rocks that is the centerpiece of the site.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend AZ

Sunset on a sun rock!

Following a trail around the rock pile, we found that petroglyphs literally covered almost every boulder, rock and small stone.

Unlike so many petroglyph sites where the rock art is located high up on a wall or far across a canyon, these petroglyphs were right there in plain site at our feet.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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On one side of the huge rock pile there’s a dry camping campground with lovely widely spaced sites. A few of the campsites are right alongside the trail where campers can have a view of petroglyph covered rocks right from the RV window!

The next day we wandered further and were amazed at the wide variety of patterns, designs and images we saw on these petroglyph adorned rocks.

Patterns Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

A saguaro cactus stands watch over some petroglyphs.

Some of the designs were easy to decipher, like parallel squiggly lines that surely describe the water sources that can be found nearby in the Gila River.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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Others were just crazy designs that seem indecipherable.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Crazy patterns!

Almost every face of every rock had at least one design on it.

Pattern Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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There were also lizards with tails — very similar to the little guys we saw scurrying between the rocks — and some images of people too.

Bullseye Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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Bullseye Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

A lizard and a bullseye.

It was also intriguing that there were quite a few bullseye types of designs. Some were concentric rings.

Man and Bullseye Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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Bullseyes and animals Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Concentric circles form two bullseyes.

And some were spirals. Was this accidental or did the two styles of circular designs have different meanings? Or were these things just random doodles after all?

Spiral Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

A spiral pattern.

It is thought that these petroglyphs were pecked out of these rocks by the Hohokam people who lived in this area between 350 AD and 1400 AD, the same time frame spanning the Mayans in Central America and the ancient Khmer in Cambodia and Thailand.

There are ancient dwellings and rock art sites all over the southwest and they are impossible to protect from roaming vandals. Sometimes they bear scars from bullets or spray paint and sometimes an over eager collector has cut the entire face of the rock off to take elsewhere.

Navajo pattern Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

A cool and complex pattern defaced with bullet marks.

Stealing defacing petroglyphs Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Someone chiseled the whole surface of the rock off to take elsewhere.

But there are still thousands of pristine images carved on rocks all over this area that have survived as much as 1,000 years or more in the hot desert sun. Staring at them stirred my imagination as I pondered what motivated the ancient people to leave this legacy of art work strewn across the massive expanse of barren and inhospitable landscapes that makes up this part of the Sonoran desert.

If you find yourself traveling on I-8 with your RV about 18 miles west of Gila Bend, Arizona, take a detour off the highway and check out the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site!

More links below.

RV camping boondocking Arizona

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site is a little gem for RVers about 90 miles southwest of Phoenix, Arizona!

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More info about Painted Rock Petroglyph Site near Gila Bend, Arizona:

Other blog posts about rock art, petroglyphs, pictographs and other ancient glyphs:

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Ta Prohm Temple – Exotic Ancient Ruins at Angkor in Cambodia

February 2017 – When we began planning our trip to Thailand, our friend that inspired us to go sent me an email saying, “As long as you’re going that far, make sure you go see Angkor Wat in Cambodia.”

As soon as I saw images of the fabulous and mysterious ancient Khmer ruins that dot the landscape deep in the jungle at this breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site I was hooked and made plans for us to fly from Bangkok, Thailand, to the town of Siem Reap in Cambodia.

When we arrived in Siem Reap we were astonished by what we found.

Tuk-tuk driver with passengers at Angkor Wat in SIem Reap Cambodia

A tuk-tuk driver takes tourists to the ancient Khmer ruins at Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia.

Siem Reap hums with life and the streets are filled with people on motorbikes and tuk-tuks going about their daily business. We took a walk to the heart of town from our hotel and couldn’t believe the crazy traffic in the street as one motorbike or tuk-tuk after another whizzed by.

Motorbikes in Siem Reap Cambodia

Families scoot around town on their motorbikes.

Whole families climbed aboard their motorbikes to get around town, often with mom, dad, the kids, and maybe even the baby all hanging on as the family zipped around town doing their errands. Sometimes even a teddy bear got to come along for the ride!

Family on motorbike with teddy bear Siem Reap Cambodia

Even Teddy gets a ride on the back!

Cars mingled with the busy two-wheeled traffic, and we saw little buggies of all kinds that weren’t familiar to us. We couldn’t stop our cameras from clicking constantly as we tried to capture the wild scene.

Little minibus Siem Reap Cambodia

We saw some cool vehicles we don’t see back home.

Standing on an insanely busy street corner where four streets came together and crammed themselves into one before going over a bridge, I took my camera down from my face and closed my eyes to listen. Small engines and narrow tires whooshed past in a constant stream, but the air was filled with life and there was a peacefulness to it, a happiness and contentment I couldn’t put my finger on.

Tuk-tuk drivers in Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Tuk-tuk drivers and motorbikes in Siem Reap, Cambodia

The rare toot of a horn was just a notice of “I’m here,” rather than an angry honk yelling “You’re in my way!” and everyone seemed to zig-zag around each other and get to where they needed to be without pushing or shoving or being mean.

Tuk-tuks and motorbikes Siem Reap Cambodia

The traffic was insanely busy and non-stop.

I looked over at Mark to say something about this to him, and noticed he was no longer taking photos either and was in the same kind of trance I was in. “It’s like flowing water,” he said, mesmerized.

We began to stroll along the river and suddenly saw bunches of schoolkids walking home from school, smartly dressed and carrying huge backpacks on their backs. A group of boys raced each other and bounced around on the sidewalk, laughing and teasing each other, and then they swung themselves into a tree to dangle from the thick vines in total glee.

What a cool place and what a great vibe!

Cambodian school children playing in Siem Reap

Schoolkids walking home from school stopped to take a quick swing on the vines.

The traffic of motorbikes and tuk-tuks continued to flow past us endlessly, and we saw vendors going about their business selling their wares from bikes and carts.

Bicycle with a heavy load in Siem Reap Cambodia

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Rolling cart in Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Junior gets a ride underneath!

And if anyone had a heavy load to carry but relied on a motorbike to get around town, well they just strapped it onto the back of the bike! Where there’s a will there’s a way!

Motorbike carrying a large cannister Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Wide load!

Our friend who had suggested we go to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat had emailed me the most enchanting story of when he had hired a tuk-tuk driver to take him around town and show him the sights. I loved this idea and hunted around online for a tuk-tuk driver.

I found the website of a very sincere sounding young man of 25 that had started his own tuk-tuk business by investing in one of these unusual rigs and hanging out his shingle online as a driver (website here).

Tuk-tuk driver in Angkor Wat Siem Reap Cambodia

Mark with our tuk-tuk driver Pisal Rom.

His name was Pisal, and I emailed him a few weeks before our trip. I was tickled to get an email right back with a quote for his services. It would be about $20 a day to have him chauffeur us around town and take us to any of the temples we wanted all day long. Signing up with him was a no brainer, and a few email exchanges later we had worked out the days and times and which temples we would go see.

Siem Reap tuk-tuk driver for Angkor Wat in Cambodia Pisal Rom

Being a tuk-tuk driver is an entrepreneurial and independent business venture in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

He even came to the airport to greet us, and because I had sent him a link to our website he recognized us right off the bat! This was very handy because at least 50 cab drivers and tuk-tuk drivers greeted our plane holding up signs with names on them. All of us tourists were in a daze after going through customs and getting fingerprinted electronically (thumb and then all four fingers of each hand), and we stood there lamely trying to find our names in the sea of signs!

Tuk-tuk driver in Angkor Wat Siem Reap Cambodia Pisal Rom

Pisal picked us up at the airport when we arrived and took us to our hotel.

The next morning he picked us up at our hotel and took us to the Visitors Center where we bought tickets to the Angkor Archaeological Park. Just like the very formal process we had gone through at the airport where we had been fingerprinted in order to obtain printed visas in our passports to enter the country, our one day tickets to Ankor Archaelogical Park were adorned with our mug shots!

Angkor Wat National Park entrance tickets Cambodia

Our one-day tickets for the Angkor Archaeological Park had our photos on them!

We hopped in the back seat of the tuk-tuk and enjoyed a quick ride to our first temple of the day. Almost all the vehicles on the road were tuk-tuks like ours with tourists sitting in the back. In various spots we saw groups of tuk-tuks parked, waiting to take someone for a ride.

Hammock in a tuk-tuk at Angkor Wat temple Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

One tuk-tuk driver we saw had an ingenious way to relax between customers!

And then we arrived at Ta Prohm temple, a magnificent group of structures built in 1186 by the ancient Khmer king Jayavarman VII.

Entrance to Ta Prohm temple Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Entrance to Ta Prohm temple

Like most of the ancient Khmer ruins, the buildings are carefully positioned and laid out. Ta Prohm has entrance gates facing in each direction of the compass.

Ta Prohm ruins Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

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I hadn’t fussed over the history of these ruins before our arrival, preferring instead to let the experience of seeing them wash over me as if I were an archeologist discovering them for the first time.

Courtyard Ta Prohm temple Siem Reap Angkor Angkor Cambodia

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As we looked down a hallway with columns on one side opening into a courtyard, I was struck by how the shape of the arches was identical to that of the Mayan ruins we had visited at Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico.

The ancient Khmer temples were built about three hundred years after the Mayan empire fell, so who knows! Certainly, many aspects of the ruins reminded me of the Mayan ruins at Yaxchilan.

Hallway in Ta Prohm Angkor Wat ancient Khmer ruins Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

The shape of these arches reminded us of the arches in the Mayan ruins in Mexico.

Doorway Ta Prohm Temple Angkor Cambodia

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We found all kinds of nooks and crannies to explore.

Ta Prohm temple columns Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

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One of the things that is most impressive at Ta Prohm temple is that almost every stone used in its creation was carved with decorations. The carvings are on doorways, lintels, windows and in every corner.

Dancers stone carvings Ta Prohm temple Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Almost all the stones on the walls, windows and doors were carved with wonderful sculptures.

I wandered down one hallway and found myself standing next to a wall that was intricately carved with a floral pattern from floor to ceiling.

Intricate stone carving Ta Prohm ruins Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia 2

This pattern was repeated, floor to ceiling and a few feet wide. Ancient wall paper!

Stepping outside, I noticed that the outer wall of one building had carved sculptures inset into the entire length of the wall.

Wall carvings Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

The outer walls had statuary built in.

Stone carving Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

The ancient Khmer people were Hindus when the temples were built and later changed to Buddhism.

Stone carving Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

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The more we looked, both outside and inside, the more carvings we saw.

Elaborate carving at Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

Every inch has elaborate carvings!

The doorways — and there were dozens — were truly ornate.

Ta Prohm ancient Khmer ruins Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

The dozens of doorways were all similar but no two were exactly the same!

Oddly, the entire Ta Prohm temple ruin was strewn with enormous boulders that had once formed the walls and ceilings and floors of rooms that were no longer standing.

Doorway and fallen blocks Ta Prohm temple Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

Both outside and inside the temple buildings were rubble piles of large stones that had fallen. These piles were often waist high or more!

Ta Prohm temple ruins Angkor SIem Reap Cambodia

Wonderful columns — and lots of rubble, including a column piece to the left.

Rubble at Ta Prohm Temple Ruins Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

Beautiful – but what a mess!

Looking closely at the rubble, we could see stones that had been carved.

Carvings on blocks at Ta Prohm temple Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Many stones in the rubble had carvings on them.

It was like an enormous jigsaw puzzle that just begged to be put back together again.

Ruins and fallen blocks at Ta Prohm temple Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Sometimes it was easy to see how the stones had gone together before the wall or roof collapsed.

Carved stone rubble Ta Prohm ruins Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia 2

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But what Ta Prohm temple is actually known for is the gargantuan trees that have enveloped the ruins with their roots. It is known as a “Jungle Temple” because it has truly been engulfed by the jungle.

Walking along the outer wall of the temple, we saw the most incredible tree and root system snaking over the wall.

Giant tree roots engulf wall at Ta Prohm temple Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Ta Prohm temple is known for the Invasion of the Giant Trees.

If this looks like a modest tree and a knee high wall, look again:

Enormous tree covers wall at Ta Prohm temple Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Yes… the Giant Trees!

Trees like this were all over the place, their gnarly roots reaching out across the walls and buildings.

Tree roots covering wall at Ta Prohm temple Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

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Huge tree roots engulf wall Ta Prohm ruins Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia 2

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Jungle temple Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

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In some places it seemed like the roots were flowing from the tree down across the temple buildings.

Tree roots on doorway Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

A waterfall of roots!

Roots on wall at Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

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I turned one corner and noticed the head of a sculpture peeking out at me from between the tree roots!!

Face in tree Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

Hey… there’s a face in there!

Everywhere we turned, the trees and roots had taken over the temple.

Tree and roots engulf ruins at Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

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The temple of Ta Prohm was used as a location in the movie Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie, and some of the places were recognizable to tourists and were favorite spots for selfies.

Tourists at jungle temple Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

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Ta Prohm is undergoing renovation and construction to put various bits back together again and to make it easier for tourists to get around, and we saw construction crews here and there with hard hats and cranes.

Reconstruction at Ta Prohm ruins Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia 2

Construction workers in hard hats watch a stone being lifted to the roof.

Eventually we wound our way back to the entrance gate where the crowds were growing ever bigger.

Tourists at entrance to Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

When we returned to the entrance there were lots of tourists coming in.

We spotted a sign suggesting we slow down a bit.

Cambodia sign to Slow Down

Cambodian letters are not from the Roman alphabet.
But they’re not Thai letters either!


Nearby we saw lots of tourists who had been approaching Temple Sightseeing Overload (which is easy to do in this part of the world where Ta Prohm is just one of dozens of exotic ruins). They were taking a load off in the shade.

Resting at Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

Time for a break!

But we were still fired up. We found Pisal waiting for us and hopped in the back of his tuk-tuk for more temple adventures!

Fabulous ancient Khmer ruin Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

This area is so rich with ancient Khmer ruins it would take many months to see them all.

We’ve seen quite a few ancient ruins in our travels now, and I found it fascinating to put together a timeline of who was building and living in which places at various times in history.

The meso-American ruins of Mexico and Central America predate all the others by a few hundred years. Interestingly, the ancient Khmer temples and kingdoms of southeast Asia were built about the same time as the cliff dwellings of America’s southwest!

  • 600 BC – 850 AD – Monte Alban – Zapotec step pyramids near Oaxaca, Mexico
  • 100 – 650 AD – Mitla – Zapotec ruins close to Monte Alban near Oaxaca, Mexico
  • 359 – 808 AD – Yaxchilan – Mayan pyramids on the river between Mexico and Guatemala
  • 431 – 800 AD – Palenque – Mayan pyramids in Chiapas, Mexico. One of Central America’s major Mayan sites
  • 580 – 800 AD – Bonampak – Mayan site in Chiapas, Mexico, with truly evocative fresco paintings depicting battles and coronations
  • 921 AD – Koh Kher – Ancient Khmer temples (upcoming post)
  • 1113 – 1145 AD – Angkor Wat – Ancient Khmer temples (upcoming post)
  • 1182-1225 AD – Wupatki Pueblo – Sinagua People multistory stone dwellings north of Flagstaff, Arizona
  • 1186 AD – Ta Prohm – Ancient Khmer temple described on this page
  • 1190-1300 AD – Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings – Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings in southwestern Colorado
  • 1200 AD – Angkor Thom – Ancient Khmer temple (upcoming post)
  • 1330-1450 AD – Tonto Cliff Dwellings – Salado People in central Arizona

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More info about Ta Prohm, our tuk-tuk driver and our accommodations:

Other blog posts from our travels in Thailand:

More Glimpses of National Parks through our eyes:

National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites – North America and SE Asia

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

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