Family Nature Summits – It’s more than just hiking!

Hiking, Painting, Boating, Dancing
Each enchanting, at Family Nature Summit all together awesome

At 11,000 feet
At 11,000 feet

OK.

So it’s not great poetry or a haiku but it pretty much sums up a week at Family Nature Summits.

As you might expect, I spend most of my free time hiking with adults.

I climbed to 11,000 feet on the Continental Divide Trail. After a practice hike, the altitude wasn’t has much of a problem as I had thought.

That’s when I wasn’t dropping off six-year old Isa to her group, picking her up or watching her in the pool. I wasn’t the only grandparent at the Summit. Here’s a photo of a bunch of us waiting for our young ‘un.

Grandparents brigade at FNS
Grandparents brigade at FNS

But it was more than hiking.

One day, I went on a mystery hike. When I heard “mystery”, I first thought that our esteemed leader, Dave L., had gotten permission to hike on private land. But no, this was in the Coyote Ranger District of Santa Fe National Forest.

Dave had gotten all the right permits from the Forest Service to park at the base of Tsi-p’in-owinge’, on a small mesa at 7,400 feet. The English reference is Flaking Stone Mountain. Once we parked, we climbed on old, unmaintained trail to the remains of a pueblo.

On Flaking Stone Mountain
On Flaking Stone Mountain

We found old bricks and bits of pottery. Of course, we left everything as we found it. Several kivas had been carved out of the bedrock. There may have been almost 1,500 rooms in the pueblo.

And then I realized that these artifacts were of the same culture, the same people that I seen at Bandalier National Monument and Mesa Verde National Park.

But the US Forest Service doesn’t preserve and protect and usually doesn’t restore. The best that they were going to do is to put a little barrier between visitors and the pueblo remains. If this site was on National Park Service land, it would have paved parking, bathrooms and a color brochure.

On the last day, I decided to forgo a hike and visit Puye Cliffs owned by the Santa Clara Pueblo people. Along with the modern casino, the Santa Clara people own and protect their Puye Cliffs.  They’ve restored their ancestral homes. See the picture above.

You can only visit the Cliffs with a native guide. Stephanie, our guide, explained that she spoke Tewa, the same language spoken by the “mystery hike” Pueblo people. Her people have no desire to have the federal government take over the Cliffs.

“An archeologist, Edgar Hewett, came to look at our artifacts in 1907. He took some stuff for his own use and disrespected our people. We may never excavate the mesa.” A little internet search revealed that Hewett was quite an influential archeologist in the Southwest.

But I will always remember Stephanie, as we remember all kindred spirits. She explained that one would have to climb a ladder up to the Mesa and back down. But what if you have a fear of heights?

“If you have a fear of heights,” Stephanie said, “today might be the day to conquer your fears.” YES!

I couldn’t have done all those visits, similar but so different if you look below the surface, without going to Family Nature Summits.

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