Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Puye Cliffs

On Sunday we visited the Puye Cliffs, in Santa Clara.
They have one or two hour guided hikes, and if you want to go you have to buy the tickets ($20/person) ahead of time at the Puye Welcome Center, which is part of the Valero gas station on the corner of NM 30 and Santa Clara Canyon Road, on the way to Espanola, NM.

From there it's about a ten minute drive to the trail.

The trail begins at the visitor's center.  This building is the building that the Fred Harvey Company used when they gave tours to people from the East Coast who wanted to see what Indian Life was like in the early 1900's.

The caves we saw in the cliffs were where people stayed in the winter. You can see where they built their fires, because there are little ventilation holes in the walls.  Every winter there is at least three feet of snow at the top of the cliffs, but the sun hit the side of the mountain where the caves are, keeping them snow free.

Our tour guide showed us some little shelves in the cave walls where people stored their pottery full of seeds and food. They plastered over these shelves to protect the stored food from rats, coyotes and other critters.

The trail had pottery shards all over the place, like these. (Don't take them home!) Hikers who see them on the trail like to put them on the rocks on the side, because they feel bad about walking all over ancient works of art. The tour guides, who are all descendants of the original potters, feel differently. First of all, it's not like they can bring these shards to a museum.  They're basically worthless unless you can reconstruct the entire pot. They think that, since everything comes from the earth and everything returns to the earth, it is OK to walk on the shards and let them disintegrate into the dust. That is how their ancestors will be able to rest.

We showed Calvin a piece of pottery, and he said, "It's a rock." Well put, I guess.

Here he is looking at a piece of volcanic tuff.

From the cliffs you can see the dry patch of land where the Cerro Grand Fire burned the Jemez Mountains, and part of Los Alamos. The Santa Clara elders were afraid they would lose their entire  mesa to the fire, and when they came to see the fire they saw that it was so hot that trees were exploding. But, just before it reached the caves the winds changed direction just in time.  They say it was the ancestors protecting the ruins.

Here we go.... Calvin got another chance to show off his ladder climbing skills.

At the top of the ladder was a hand and foot trail that was worn into the rock, and probably also used to collect rain water.

Here's the face we were treated to when we wouldn't let Calvin climb the ladder a second time. What an abused toddler!

No comments:

Post a Comment