Los Alamos and Bandelier National Monument

Yesterday, Wednesday, November 6,2013 was a very exciting day for both of us.  We decided to take a day trip to Los Alamos and visit the Bradbury museum.  The drive from Santa Fe to Los Alamos is, as expected, visually stunning.  The mountains change to steep cliffs that appear to be made of sandstone, but are, instead made of volcanic ash.

Jemez Caldera – Valley is the result of what is left from the volcanic eruption.

Over one million years ago the Jemez volcano to the north of this area, erupted twice.  These eruptions were so massive that over 400 square miles of ash were ejected in amounts up to 1000 feet thick in this area.  The ash compacted over time and became a pink crumbly rock.  This then eroded over time in the weaker areas and formed a “Swiss cheese”  affect, giving the cliffs cave like holes.  The pueblo indians took advantage of these cliffs to enlarge these holes and build dwellings in them.




Swiss Cheese Cliffs in Bandelier National Monument

We arrived at Los Alamos first and immediately stopped and visited the museum.   The Bradbury is   a science museum dedicated to the history of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and to the current research and development projects of the lab. For us, being science buffs, we throughly enjoyed our visit at the Bradbury. The small history section was packed with information and exhibits, plus there was a short film you could enjoy in a spacious theater area with great seats. We spent almost 2 hours there looking at all there was to see. You can visit their web site here to learn more: Admission is FREE!

We had thought we would also spend some time exploring the town of Los Alamos. However, we quickly decided there was not much to see, except “Bath Tub Row” named for the houses that had indoor bath tubs at the time the lab was established. We saw Oppenheimer’s house and then decided to leave for the Bandelier National Monument. Leaving Los Alamos to get to this park is interesting. You must pass through a security clearance toll booth, where they look at your identification, driver’s license, since you must enter the section of the city that houses the Laboratory complex. Once out the effort is well worth it.

Cliff Dwelling

The area proceeding to the National monument is spectacular! Pine trees, mountain passes with hair pin turns and lastly a deep canyon with stunning cliffs! Los Alamos is hyped up on the internet to be really special, and it is OK mind you, but Bandelier is much better and not as advertised as Los Alamos. If you are in this area go to the monument!

Those who know me might be aware of my dread of heights. For the record,  I am working on conquering this fear, but it is a challenge. This trip has brought out the best and the worst of my dreads, as I call them. Dreading something is often worse than the actual event. The cliff dwellings were my challenge yesterday. For the most part the short walk to them is flat and very easy. The steps that lead to the cliffs where the pueblo is, are not for those who suffer as I do. I did it, though I have to admit I was weak in the knees when I got back to the car!

It is incredible that up to 500 people once dwelled here! So meager a lifestyle it must have been, yet they found plentiful water (there is a bubbling stream here that flows continually), game (turkeys were raised by the tribe), and numerous plants used for consumption and medicine. In addition, they planted corn, the staple. We never saw one, but there are antelope here.

The drive back in the late afternoon was equally spectacular. As we came into Santa Fe, the sun was just right against the mountain, and in shadow the range appeared purple. Purple mountain majesty, against the fruited plain, we saw it that day for sure!

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