Tag Archives: Chaco Canyon

Picture This – New Mexico

24 May

We just returned from our annual field trip to New Mexico. For those who may not know, every spring another professor and I take students on a journey through the land, art and cuisine of the Land of Enchantment. This was one of our best experiences with great students and great learning opportunities. Instead of chronicling the entire venture, I decided to post my favorite photograph from each day.

On the drive out, we stopped at Cadillac Ranch, one of the most famous examples of Pop Art, and we all added our own touch to the masterpiece. 

On the second day, we made our way closer to the final destination of Santa Fe. However, we stopped at the home of artist Peter de la Fuente along the way. He is the grandson of Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd and does everything he can to carry on the family tradition. Currently, he does it on an 80,000 acre ranch.

Once in Santa Fe, we went on daily excursions that included hikes and moments of historical instruction. However, the highlight of the next say was our meal at Horseman’s Haven. If you love breakfast burritos covered in green chili sauce, then that is the place you need to go.

By far, my favorite hike is at Tent Rocks. It is a stroll through a slot canyon before a climb to the top of a mesa. Its true name is Kasha-Katuwe.

Our most time-consuming excursion is the drive to Chaco Canyon, the home of the Anasazi. No one knows for sure what if the canyon was a religious center, a commercial center or the home to thousands. It could have been all of that. 

We also drove to Taos. However, we did not stop in town. We went straight to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and walked across to get some great pictures and some great shakiness over the height.

Acoma Pueblo is always one of our favorite stops. It is the oldest inhabited community in North America. There are great views from the top of the mesa on which the pueblo sits. However, I am always amazed by the streets within the community. I expect Henry Fonda to ride up on a horse at any minute. In fact, he did ride up on a horse in My Name is Nobody.

We also visited the ruins at Bandelier National Monument. Climbing the 140 foot ladders is always a highlight. However, it best moment is when we convince the students to sniff a tree.

On the final day, we did something completely different and new to our trip. A few of us went to Meow Wolf, an interactive art experience supported by Santa Fe resident George R.R. Martin. It was a weird and awesome thing to do.

After that, we made the long drive back to Tennessee. Hopefully, this trip to New Mexico was a learning experience for everyone.

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Shadow Horse – Man, Myth, Legend

15 Jun

Long time visitors to this blog have read about the Shadow Horse Gang, a pack of desperadoes that roamed northern New Mexico. The gang was legendary but has dwindled in recent years. Trader Dave tired of the trail and disappeared into the hills of Tennessee. Doc Pete settled down in Santa Fe but can still be enticed into the occasional adventure.

However, Shadow Horse, the legendary leader of the gang, has not given up his life of outlawry. He is rarely seen, but, last month, there were several sightings of Shadow Horse. It made people wonder.

Were there patterns in his movements?

Is he building a new gang?

Only time will tell.

One of the first sightings of Shadow Horse was at the end of the Tent Rocks Trail. After making his way through the slot canyon, he performed the Medicine Wheel ceremony. Using the knowledge of his Indian heritage, Shadow Horse called upon the spirits to protect those who were traveling with him.image-20

Next, he was spotted in the vast reaches of Chaco Canyon, home of the Ancient Ones and the perfect hideout for a gang of outlaws.image-21

It was in Chaco Canyon that Shadow Horse was seen conversing with others who had made their way to that distant locale. Was he trying to recruit them?image-15

Shadow Horse is afraid of no man, but, at Acoma, he ran into conditions that were almost unbearable. It was raining, and high school kids were everywhere. As I wrote, Shadow Horse is afraid of no man, but rain and kids make him extremely uncomfortable.image-16

For years, Frijoles Canyon has been a place of refuge for the Shadow Horse Gang. Old habits die hard. Almost as hard as old outlaws. Visitors saw someone who looked like Shadow Horse in one of his favorites haunts. They did not want to get close, but they swear that it was him.image-17

Shadow Horse may have thought they were too close. It was not long before he fled the canyon and made his way to Tsankawi, a side trail that only he and a few others would know about.image-18

The last appearance of Shadow Horse was at Pecos. He made his way through the Pueblo ruins along the old Santa Fe Trail.image-19

Shadow Horse was not seen again. Some say he left northern New Mexico under the darkness of early morning. Others say he remains in the area and is trying to rebuild his gang. The certainty is that he will make an appearance next spring. Doc Pete might be riding by his side. The Kid might be leading the way.

All I know is that the good people of northern New Mexico need to stay on the lookout for the return of Shadow Horse and the reemergence of the Shadow Horse Gang.

New Mexico Days

26 May

Another trip to New Mexico has been completed, and it is time to write about our adventures in the Land of Enchantment. For those who do not know, a few members of our faculty teach a field trip course in northern New Mexico. With Santa Fe as our base, we take students on daily excursions.

The days were packed with various activities and learning experiences, but I am not going to write about all of them. That would take a week’s worth of posts. Instead, this post will be about the thing I liked most about each day.

Friday – The morning was spent in a ghost town and at a national park. However, lunch at Horseman’s Haven was the highlight of the day. I saw the restaurant on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show and asked that it be added to the dining list. My burrito proved this choice to be a good one.image-30

Saturday – We went to a few places that are on the itinerary every year. Then, we went to a place that was new for the trip. I have been told that Taos is a great place to visit, but the trip organizer has a bad opinion of the place. Due to months of badgering on my part, he agreed to take us there. He got more grumpy with every mile closer we got.

Unfortunately, it was raining in Taos, and we did not see much. However, it was not raining when we crossed the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, which is 565 feet above the river. It was cool to walk across it and take a peak at the bottom of the canyon.image-31

Sunday – This day brought the highlight of the trip. We had lunch at the home of Josephine, a lady who lives in the Santo Domingo Pueblo. It was a feast of Native American food prepared by her and the other women in her family. Everything was delicious, and the tamales topped it all.image-32

While we ate, Josephine talked about growing up in the pueblo and about the problems facing her people. She mourned the slow disappearance of her native language and lamented the effects of alcoholism on her community. Hopefully, the students were as touched by her hospitality and honesty as much as we teachers.

Monday – As a historian, I should pick a historic site as the highlight of this day, but we visited a site that I have seen many times. Instead, I am picking a hike up one of the volcanoes that helped create the northern New Mexico landscape.image-33

Three ancient volcanoes sit on the edge of Albuquerque and serve as sentinels over the city. I climbed one of them with a former colleague who retired and moved to Santa Fe. It was great to walk with him and rekindle our friendship.

Tuesday – Have you ever been to a town that died from its evil and was reborn through love? When I first went to Madrid and asked about its history, that was the story that I heard. We jokingly call Madrid a hippie colony, but it is an old ghost town that, in the 1970s, became inhabited by people who wanted to escape the rat race and live a simpler life.

I did not take any pictures of Madrid, but you have seen it if you have watched Wild Hogs. In fact, that movie became part of this year’s experience.

Madrid has become a destination for motorcyclists who have seen that film. As we stood in front of the building featured in one of the pivotal scenes, I explained to a student that the building was part of the movie set. An old biker overheard and got mad because he had ridden a long way to eat in a fake diner.

Unlike him, I am never disappointed in Madrid. I always wonder what it would be like to escape to an old town and live a life without worry. Of course, I would probably get tired of it after two days.

Wednesday – Chaco Canyon is an amazing place to visit. It is even worth the long journey to get there. The canyon was home to a people who disappeared, and archaeologists have been trying to figure them out ever since. The conclusions often change, and some are scoffed at with ridicule. The questions may be hard to answer, but the beauty of the canyon leaves no doubts.image-34

Thursday – This was another day of national parks and historic sites. However, they did not compare to our visit to Santa Fe Bite, home of the city’s best green chile cheeseburgers. The restaurant used to be in another location and go by a different name. The important thing has not changed.image-35

Friday – Our last day in New Mexico was spent at Ghost Ranch, where dinosaur remains have been found and artists have been inspired. We hiked the high mesa trail and looked over a landscape that can be found in the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe.image-36

Like I did on all of our hikes, I looked over the land and listened to the theme of Centennial, the 1970s miniseries about the American West. Everyone else thought I was insane, but the music inspires me. I knew that listening to it would add something to my experience and offer something to visualize when I hear that music in the future.

As always, we had a great trip filled with great experiences. These were just a few of them.

Family Time in New Mexico

30 May

When my nephew travels, he takes thousands of pictures. He takes pictures of everything imaginable, but he doesn’t take any pictures of himself. This drives my parents crazy because they think family vacations should have pictures of family. I understand this, but he doesn’t. Why does he want pictures of people that he sees all the time? He wants scenery and cool stuff.

He went on the trip to New Mexico with me, and I promised them that I would get plenty of pictures of us both. He didn’t want to waste his camera space, so we used mine. These are some of the results.

The first picture was taken at the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. It is a somber place, and I felt funny taking a touristy picture there.BB-New Mexico 069

Next, we stopped at the big cross in Groom, Texas and sat in on a famous meal.BB-New Mexico 078

After spending the night in Tucumcari, New Mexico, we took a walk around the ghost town of Cuervo, New Mexico. That’s not Jose lurking in the shadows. It’s Trader Dave.BB-New Mexico 085

Later, we went to the shores of the Rio Grande at Coronado State Park.BB-New Mexico 087

We didn’t cross the river. Instead, we climbed to Nambe Falls and found a big rock to sit on.BB-New Mexico 092

Then, we went to the church at Chimayo where there are stories of dirt that heals all wounds.BB-New Mexico 096

The next day was rough for my nephew. He was sick and had to stay behind as we went to Chaco Canyon. However, he bounced back and was able to visit Acoma. We took one picture in front of a kiva.BB-New Mexico 122

We took another picture with Enchanted Mesa behind us. According to the sign, I couldn’t throw my nephew over the edge.BB-New Mexico 123

After Acoma, we drove west to El Morro and had our photo taken on top of that. I kept thinking that the box canyon below would be a great place for a hideout.BB-New Mexico 128

We hiked up the Tent Rocks trail and had another picture made. I’m not sure what the man in the background is doing. He has on a Skipper shirt and a Gilligan hat. That’s all I know.BB-New Mexico 133

The next one did not involve a climb. It involved making our way to the church ruins at Pecos National Monument.BB-New Mexico 141

Finally, we drove to the overlook at White Rock.BB-New Mexico 147

That’s it. That is family time in New Mexico

Picture This – The Shadow Horse Gang

28 May
A rare photo of the Shadow Horse Gang. From left: Trader Dave, The Kid, Doc Pete and Shadow Horse

A rare photo of the Shadow Horse Gang. From left: Trader Dave, The Kid, Doc Pete and Shadow Horse

For several years, a band of outlaws has roamed the northern New Mexico territory. Their range has been from as far east as Tucumcari to as far west as El Morro. They have been south to Socorro and north to Ghost Ranch. These are hard men who hideout most of the year and do most of their riding in the spring. Undoubtedly, they are destined to find their way into the annals of New Mexico’s history.

Shadow Horse – The leader of the gang. Some say he came from Louisiana, and others say he used to be a preacher. None of that is certain, but everyone knows that he is part Indian. He is most comfortable on the trails of the back country and moves like the wind over terrain that would kill most men. Tent Rocks is his favorite haunt. His native blood offers the gang safe entry into the surrounding pueblos and reservations. Without Shadow Horse, the gang would have never gained its notoriety.

Doc Pete – Born near the goldfields of California, he has roamed from Canada to the former Confederacy and made a name for himself as a medicine man. The gang survives in the wild lands of New Mexico because of his knowledge of his surroundings. Once, he survived a near disastrous trek at Bandelier. He knows the plants that will kill and the plants that will heal. An expert on the trails, Doc Pete could disappear into the wilderness and never return.

The Kid – As a wily old veteran, his name seems to be a mistake, but he is the youngest member of the gang. His career began in Tennessee at a young age, but, unlike the other famous Kid of outlawry, he had the luck and skill to stay alive. He is comfortable in the back country and serves as lookout when the gang is holed up in Chaco Canyon. Despite that, the Kid is happiest sitting at a Faro table with a saloon girl sitting on his lap.

Trader Dave – Raised in the industrial region of northern Indiana, he followed the Santa Fe Trail into New Mexico. At times, he can be spotted around Pecos buying and selling goods with the local inhabitants. Dollars. Pesos. It doesn’t matter what currency. He can make a deal for any and all goods. Still effective on the trail with many years behind him, Trader Dave is at his best with frijoles and tortillas on a plate and whiskey in a glass.

Pueblos, Pottery and Captain Vla

22 May

I have returned from the sojourn into New Mexico with fellow faculty and a class full of students. Fun was had by all, and it would be impossible to cover everything we did in a blog post. With that in mind, I will provide a brief synopsis by describing my favorite activities from each day. Hopefully, this will provide an entertaining glimpse into our adventures.

Day 1 – The beginning of a trip is always the best part of the first day. The students are anticipating the places that they have yet to see, and the teachers are anticipating the return to an interesting part of the country.

Day 2 – We can’t drive vans to New Mexico in one day, so we check out some things along the way. My favorite part of the second day is driving through Hereford, Texas, the citizen-proclaimed “Beef Capital of the World”. I don’t know if that is true, but there are definitely more cows in Hereford than there are people. Holding pens line the highway and railroad as thousands of head of cattle wait to be shipped to the plates of America. The students could only discern the smell, but I find the beef industry, both its past and present, interesting.

Day 3 – We made it to Santa Fe, our ultimate destination, later this day, but we had one stop along the way where I had the chance to talk about some history where that history took place. Billy the Kid is buried in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Well, most people think he is buried there. Conspiracy folks believe he survived instead of being killed by Pat Garrett. Anyway, I was able to tell the students about Billy the Kid next to his grave.

Day 4 – Our plans to hike Chaco Canyon were rained out, and our leader had to develop a day full of activities on the fly. We went to the Santa Fe plaza, but my favorite part of the day was spent at the Shidoni Gallery. The building and surrounding grounds are full of metal artwork that has been forged at the on-site foundry. It is interesting to see what people consider art and the prices they are willing to pay for it.

Day 5 – On this day, we went to a few places that we had never taken students before. The Very Large Array, or VLA, was the best. This is a series of giant satellite dishes used to study the far reaches of space. I don’t have a good picture of these, but if you have seen Contact with Jodie Foster, then you have seen the VLA.

It was cool to walk around them, but the real fun was on the periphery. On the way, we drove through sunshine, rain and hail. On the way back, we drove through snow. This is the first time we have seen precipitation in New Mexico – much less three different kinds. Also, one of our students, with my help, began calling himself Captain Vla. He imagined himself a superhero who could fly through space, powered by the satellite dish that emerges from his butt. His only weakness would be his limitation to travel by rail while on Earth, just like the VLA dishes. He even had a theme song – Super hearing! Super sight! He can travel through space at the speed of light! (For those readers who know the students who went, I will give you one guess who turned himself in Captain Vla.)

Day 6 – We visited my favorite place on the entire trip, the Acoma Pueblo. The oldest continually inhabited place in the United States, Acoma is located on top of a mesa and has a history of survival from the elements and European invaders. Native American docents take groups on a tour through their pueblo and their culture. Along the way, tourists can buy pottery from local artisans. One of our teachers, who shall remain nameless, buys pottery from the same lady every time we go. He also gets a hug.

Day 7 – We always eat well in New Mexico, and this trip was no different. The New Mexican cuisine is wonderful, especially the sopapillas that are always served for dessert. On the seventh day, we ate at Rancho de Chimayo, one of the great restaurants of the area, but dining was not the only enjoyment. There is a pottery shop inside, and two of the faculty members on the trip are addicted to buying Pueblo pottery. It so happens that the shop had a pot that they were lusting after. As they bickered back and forth about which one was going to purchase the $1,400 piece of pottery, the third teacher, not me, stepped in and said he would buy it. They both stood there with their mouths hanging open.

Day 8 – This was an easy day with little driving and little expended energy. Believe me when I say that everyone was ready for it. We were also ready to visit Madrid, New Mexico, an old ghost town that was resettled by flower children in the early 1970s. It is like going back in time to a place where peace, love and other things were still possible. The guys found a blonde in the ice cream parlor/art gallery that they wanted to find peace with. I found the first person to move to Madrid in 1973 and had a discussion about his life.

Mel Johnson was a dean at the Art Institute of Chicago and gave that up for a life in Madrid. In the following years, other people followed him until the town was filled with artisans and free-thinkers. Before I left his studio, I had found an interesting story and bought a painting.

Day 9 – Once again,  I was able to talk about history where it actually took place. We visited Los Alamos and a museum that is housed in the only remaining building from the days of the Manhattan Project. I find World War II history interesting and have a special interest in the building of the atomic bomb. One reason is that Oak Ridge, Tennessee was one of the secret locations. Another reason is that my mom’s uncle worked in the Manhattan Project and told a lot of stories about it. People have different opinions about the use of the bomb on Japan, and it is great to discuss the different views of the students. In the end, we agreed that hindsight is 20/20, and we can’t place that hindsight on people who were making decisions in the moment.

Day 10 – This was our last full day in New Mexico and was really a time to wind down. We hiked the mesa at Ghost Ranch and spent some time back on the plaza in Santa Fe. On top of the mesa, the students and I spent a spiritual moment reading a Native American poem, an ode to the land of New Mexico. I think we all felt a twinge of sadness because we were soon leaving and a sense of happiness because we had a great time throughout the trip.

Day 11 – We left Santa Fe at 5 am and drove over 700 miles to our original hotel in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. After a meal at Western Sizzlin’, the professors pulled chairs from our rooms into the Super 8 parking lot and discussed the trip. We deemed it a success.

Day 12 – We left Sallisaw at 5 am and headed home to Tennessee. It seemed that we got faster the closer we got to home. Like most trips, we were glad that we went but also were glad to get home.