June 11, 2018
Leaving Gallup, I-40 and old Route 66 run parallel to each other. On the eastern edge of Gallup, we were somewhat surprised to see this mosque.We stayed on Route 66 and stopped at the Continental Divide (I-40 exit 47). Rivers west of the Continental Divide flow into the Pacific Ocean, while rivers east of the Divide empty into the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean. A much more spectacular Continental Divide view is in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, where we had been 10 days before.
The Continental Divide in New Mexico is marked along Route 66 near the town of Thoreau. It’s a rather run-down place. First you see this abandoned building with two USA red, white and blue missile prototypes rising up in front.
The sign marking the Continental Divide is somewhat battered.
In the middle of this desert nowhere, it was hard to believe we were as high as 7,245 ft.! But in fact, south of here is Lookout Mountain, elevation 9,111 ft.
There were morning glories blooming at the base of the sign.
The next placed we stopped was the small town of Milan, where there were signs of life, but many once-thriving businesses have been shuttered. This is common along Route 66 because major highways bypass these small towns, leaving them behind. Curious were these brightly painted bicycles in front of a deserted building.
Of course, there were also thriving businesses.
New Mexico has a lot of Indian Reservations, including several in this area called the “Checkerboard.” Milan is located between two of them, just northwest of the larger town of Grants.
We got back on I-40 at Grants, heading toward Albuquerque. Originally we had planned to stay the night there, but decided we would rather stop in Santa Fe. Bordering the western edge of Albuquerque is Petroglyphs National Monument. In this protected area, there are trails that take you through the lava rocks to some beautiful petroglyphs made by the ancestors of the Pueblo people. However, even a short walk from the parking lots reveal some interesting ones. We opted for this – the longer trails wound their way up high rocky hills and we didn’t want to stay too long.
All the petroglyphs made by these ancient people face southward. On the Macaw Trail, signs told us that the style found in this area is called “Rio Grande” by archaeologists. This style emerged rather suddenly around 1300 A.D., which coincided with a large increase in population.
To create these images, using handheld stone tools the Ancestral Puebloans carefully removed the desert varnish which exposed the basalt’s lighter interior.
After centuries of exposure, the images oxidize and turn darker, attesting to their old age and authenticity. On the Cliff Base Trail, we learned that petroglyphs are not just rock art, picture writing, or a depiction of the natural world. They are powerful symbols reflecting the society and religion of surrounding tribes.
The placement of each petroglyph was never a random decision. It had to do with the position of the image relative to the horizon and to other petroglyphs.
Some petroglyphs have meaning only to the individual who made them. Others represent tribal, kiva or community symbols.
Some of the petroglyphs have meaning to present day Pueblos, while the meaning of the others has been lost, but still respected by their descendants.
Archaeologists today believe that the 23,000 petroglyphs found within this monument date from 1000 B.C. to about 1700 A.D., using a variety of methods to determine their approximate age.
Authentic petroglyphs are valuable and irreplaceable. However, some modern people have taken it upon themselves to add their own markings. (Click on image to enlarge.)
This graffiti damages the images as there are no long-term ways to cover up these desecrations.
This image is so bright and on this smaller rock, it’s hard to tell whether it is authentic or not.
This is the Cliff Base Trail we were walking on. It is mostly level, with a few stairs and rocky areas that take you to petroglyphs a little higher up.
With my telephoto lens, standing next to our car in the parking lot, I was able to get this clear photo of petroglyphs visitors on the more rugged trail could see close up.
It was about 4:00 p.m. when we got back in our car and headed north to Santa Fe. We checked into our hotel about an hour later, then went to the historic area of downtown Santa Fe to look around. Most places of interest were closed, so we had dinner at Anasazi Restaurant at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi near Santa Fe Plaza. The food was excellent – we ordered off the appetizers menu and it was plenty.
A post about Santa Fe will be coming up shortly. Stay tuned!!