Wherever I go in the United States, I look for national park units.
So it was not by accident that I visited two national park units in New Mexico before heading for Family Nature Summits (FNS) this year: Manhattan Project National Historical Park (MAPR) in the center of Los Alamos and Bandalier National Monument (BAND) in White Rock, NM.
The Manhattan Project is a brand new park which tries to tell the story of the development of the atomic bomb. It’s a heavy topic, which is difficult to interpret.
Bandalier, on the other hand, protects the ancestral homes of the Southwestern Pueblo people. The park is celebrating its centennial at the same time as the whole National Park Service.
A huge village have been restored, as well as the cliff dwellings. That’s where most people head for.
We knew that Hannah was going to visit BAND with her teen group.
But the youngest Junior Naturalists in FNS were not going to have this opportunity. It’s one thing to take a six-year old with an adult and a helper (Hannah) and quite another to take ten or more kids with two adults.
If you’ve been to Mesa Verde National Park, you’ve seen and even climbed into the cliff dwellings with a park guide. In BAND, you can go by yourself. The cultural history of the two parks are similar.
From the Visitor Center, we took the Main Loop Trail in the Frijoles Canyon. A mule deer appeared on the trail, almost immediately. But the first highlight was the cave dwellings.
We waited our turn and climbed up the sturdy stairs. In the second one, we were able to all sit in. These Pueblo people didn’t have much room.
An offshoot of the Main Trail took us to the Alcove. This climb, with four ladders, was much more challenging – and slower. See the top photo.
Hannah climbed up and up and I could barely see her after a while. I climbed behind Isa but she got scared on the second ladder. So we turned around. By the time Hannah came back, Isa and I had been sitting around waiting for a good half-hour or more, so I skipped the climb and we continued walking. After all, no one was giving out a patch for climbing to the alcove.
It was time to head for Ghost Ranch and register for Family Nature Summits. Let the hectic week begin.