Up early for breakfast, packed the car, said goodbye to our ‘funny little cabin in the woods’ and started our journey north to visit El Morro (Inscription Rock) National Monument.
It was another beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky, just blue as far as the eye could see. This was going to be a very long driving day as it would take us 5 hours to make the drive from Silver City to El Morro.
Vilma made sure we had plenty of newspaper and magazines to read and snacks to eat during our road trip. I also had my Kindle with me. After riding for a little while I could not help but notice that every time I tried to concentrate on my reading I would put down whatever I had in my hand and just look out the window.
By now we were starting to see a few more clouds and even more as we traveled further north. The scenery was beautiful. There were great expanses of land dotted with shrubs, grasses, trees and, once in a while, small wildflowers.
But my favorite sight was the mountains. I am a long-time city girl so whenever I see such open land I am mesmerized. One thing that really fascinated me was the buttes that just seem to jut out of the earth into the air out of nowhere. Some of these buttes and mountains were the color of sand, some were dark and foreboding, some were bare while others were covered in vegetation; all were beautiful in my eyes.
We continued our journey in hopes of stopping at the Catwalk Trail located in the Gila National Forest. The Catwalk Trail is a hanging walkway trail that follows the path of an old pipeline and promises beautiful sights along the walk. The catwalk was built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Unfortunately, the recent and very wet summer caused the site to be closed for repairs.
We had been on the road for quite a while so we decided to make a quick stop. We stopped in the little town that Jim had been talking about earlier. The town had only one stop light and was called, Reserve. This turned out to be fortuitous for Jim as he had been regaling us with stories about a man called Elfego Baca who, according to legend, was a deputy sheriff, got involved in a standoff with local cowboys after arresting a cowboy. The cowboy’s compatriots tried to take him back by force and what followed became known as the Frisco Shootout.
After purchasing a few snacks at a local store we continued our journey. When we first planned this trip there was some talk about trying to see the Zuni Pueblo and El Morro. However, when we finally arrived at the crossroads we had to make a decision. We go left to the Zuni Pueblo or right to El Morro. By now it was mid-afternoon and we realized that we could not do both so decided to go right to El Morro.
This turned out to be a good decision as we learned at the visitor’s center they close the doors at 5pm sharp. We watched a short video explaining El Morro and the peoples who inhabited the site and then talked to the park rangers for a few minutes. The rangers gave us a map of the trail and we set off.
The hike up the rock would take us 200 feet off the valley floor. The trail was a mixture of ground, stone steps and walkways. We walk about one-quarter of the way and I was already experiencing a little difficulty and stopped to make a decision. Do I continue, or do I go back the way I came. As Randy would say, “Again, the flatlanders had a time with the elevation”.
I was so glad that I decided to continue. The views from the trail were magnificent!
When we finally reached the top, we saw the first signs of the Atsinna Pueblo. The pueblo was discovered by archeologists in the 1950’s. The Zuni Indians lived here and called it Atsinna, “place of writings on the rock”. Photo to the right is a the restored kiva at the top of El Morro.
According to the National Park Service, the Atsinna Pueblo dates back to 1275 and was about 200 to 300 feet, and it housed between 1,000 and 1,500 people. I stood next to one of the dwellings and tried to imagine what life was like atop this sandstone promontory back then. The view was wonderful. I found it sad that the pueblo was abandoned after only 75 years.
Walking along the top of the rock was amazing. The path was marked with little circles. At one point we passed a few other visitors and they cautioned us that they had seen a rattle snake along the trail. We were already watching out step, now we watched even more.
The vegetation along the trail was variety of trees including oak, ponderosa and pinion pines. I did see a few patches of small wildflowers along the trail and a large patch of prickly pear cactus. Randy mentioned that people actually make prickly pear jelly.
We finally started our decent toward the inscriptions along the walls below. We finally arrived at the area where the the Zuni Indians, the Spaniards, and the Americans left their marks on these beautiful walls. The path was marked and corresponded with the trail map we were provided. Reading these writings and seeing these petroglyphs from so long ago was amazing. I suppose there is always an inner desire for man to leave his mark. I for one am very glad they did.
The reason so many stopped by this promontory was a refreshing waterhole at the base of this sandstone bluff. One of the inscriptions on the walls is, “Paso por aqui: Passed by here”. According to park literature the inscription to the left was the first Spanish inscription and was left by Don Juan de Oñate the first governor under Spain, of New Mexico. Translated, the inscription reads, “Passed by here the Governor Don Juan de Oñate, from the discovery of the Sea of the South on the 16th of April 1605.”
We walked along the path quietly stopping to read the inscriptions. Some of the inscriptions were very hard to read having been ravaged by time and weather. Evidently, since the 1920’s there has been an ongoing effort by park rangers to protect the inscriptions and petroglyphs.
We finally made it back to the visitor’s center just before closing. It was getting to be dinner time so we headed for Grants and a restaurant that Jim and Vilma really like called El Cafecito. After walking up and down El Morro sitting down and having a good meal sounded really good to all of us. As we drove along Randy said, “It was an incredible journey, but I for one was glad we did it, but glad we had finished it too!!!
What a great choice. The restaurant had recently been renovated and nicely decorated. Our waiter was very nice and the food was beyond delicious. This was absolutely the best to end to a wonderful day.
Our three day road trip is over and what a road trip it was. Every place we stopped, everything we did and everything we experienced will is forever etched in my mind and heart.
Tomorrow we are off to Sante Fe.