New Mexico, Acoma Pueblo Valley, Lincoln, El Malpais

Just got back from a week of exploring New Mexico in August—yep AUGUST. I love traveling in off times…less tourists. More open space. But this state doesn’t lack openess! How wonderfully peaceful and beautiful.  Here’s an overview. I’ll post more later.

Acoma Pueblo – Ancient Sky City
Strategically built atop a 357-foot  sandstone mesa for defensive purposes, the Acoma Pueblo is more familiarly known as Sky City. Believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States, the pueblo is  thought to have been built prior to the 10th century. In ancient  times, the only access to the top of the pueblo was by means of a  hand-cut staircase carved into the sandstone.
The name “Acoma” means People of the White Rock in the Puebloan Kersan dialect. The pueblo, covering some 70 acres, is actually comprised of several villages including Acomita, McCartys, Anzac and Sky Line.

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For centuries the Acoma people have dry-farmed the valley below the Acoma Pueblo  using irrigation canals in the villages closer to the Rio San Jose  River. For centuries, the  Acoma  people were known to trade, not only with neighboring pueblos, but  also over long distances with the Aztec and Mayan peoples. In 1540, Francisco  Vasquez de Coronado was the first European to lay eyes on the Acoma  Pueblo,  describing it as: “One of the strongest ever seen, because the city was built on a high rock. The ascent was so difficult that we repented  climbing to the top.”

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Today, fewer than 50 of the 3,000 Acomans  live at the pueblo, the remaining residents choosing to live in the  nearby villages. This city is known for its amazing pottery and a permanent exhibit,  One Thousand Years of Clay, is housed in the Visitors Center located at the base of the mesa along with native food and crafts shops.

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Note: The pueblo is not open to the public on a daily basis and visitors must obtain visitor and camera permits from the Sky City visitor center at the base of the mesa. The view on top of the meas is breathtaking.


The town of Lincoln, New Mexico is the Wild West frozen in time.
A walk down Lincoln, New Mexico’s Main Street is a step back into the Wild Wild West. It was here that such men as Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett left their marks; here, that Indians, Mexican American settlers, gunfighters and corrupt politicians made themselves known;  it was in this small settlement that the violent Lincoln County War erupted, which resulted in the deaths of a number of men and made Billy the Kid a legend. (Sounds like modern Washington D.C.).

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President Rutherford B. Hayes called Lincoln’s main street “the most dangerous street in America”

We happened upon
Old Lincoln Days, held on the first  full weekend in August, provides living-history demonstrations of  traditional crafts, musical programs, and food booths throughout the  village. An annual folk pageant, The Last Escape of Billy the Kid , presented outdoors since 1949, portrays a highly romanticized version of  the Lincoln County War  during August weekends. Unfortunately we had to leave before this performance to get back to ALBQ before it was too late.

The entire trip was a series of coming upon these great outdoor events. Who knew?! Lucky us. It was an amazing look into a rich history. Many of the original buildings still stand. I grew up watching westerns and was infatuated with the old west. It was an amazing reflection of what had been in my head since I could remember.

All grown up, I align more with the Indian’s spirituality and was enchanted with the peaceful energy of the reservations and open land. I see and feel the magic of these diverse and colorful natives.

El Malpais
El Malpais means the badlands but this volcanic area holds many surprises. Lava flows, cinder cones, pressure ridges and complex lava tubes dominate the landscape. A closer look reveals high desert environments where animals and plants thrive. Prehistoric ruins, ancient cairns, rock structures, and homesteads remind us of past times. Visitors need to be prepared for exploring this rugged place.

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El Morrow
A reliable waterhole hidden at the base of a sandstone bluff made El Morro (the headland) a popular campsite. Ancestral Puebloans and Spanish and American travelers carved over 2,000 signatures, dates, messages, and petroglyphs for hundreds of years. It was amazing! We hiked to the top of the bluff—2.5 hours and a bit of a thin air challenge but so worth it.


The Inscription Trail
A must–see! If you only have an hour or less, you will definitely want to take the trail to the pool and past hundreds of Spanish and Anglo inscriptions, as well as pre–historical petroglyphs. It will be easy to see why El Morro was proclaimed a National Monument. This loop trail is paved, 1/2 mile in length, and wheelchair accessible with assistance. If you have at least 1 1/2 hours, and lots of energy, you can continue past the inscriptions and up to the top of the bluff.

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The Headland Trail
This 2–mile loop includes the Inscription Trail, and continues to the top of the bluff. There, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Zuni Mountains, the volcanic craters of the El Malpais area, and the El Morro valley. A 250 ft. elevation gain and the uneven sandstone surface makes this a slightly strenuous hike. Sturdy walking shoes and water, particularly in the hot summer months, are necessary….the view of the box canyon was amazing.

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The payoff:
Atsinna
Another reward for hiking the Headland Trail is the Ancestral Puebloan ruin, Atsinna, or “place of writings on rock”. Between approximately 1275 to 1350 AD, up to 1500 people lived in this 875 room pueblo. The location was strategic—it was near the only water source for many miles and located atop a nearly impenetrable bluff. Atsinna was partially excavated in the 1950s and masons and archeologists continue to work towards its stabilization.

It is estimated that the mesa-top pueblo at El Morro National Monument contained about 875 rooms. However to see it is deceiving—only a small corner of the pueblo was ever excavated.

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And on the road:

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