Item From the Past: Bandelier National Monument
In late April 2000, we dropped by Bandelier National Monument during our visit to Santa Fe. As we entered the monument, I noticed black plumes of smoke off in the distance. "What's the smoke?" I asked the ranger at the entrance checkpoint. "Controlled burn," he told me.
Not too much later, another controlled burn in the area got out of hand and became the Cerro Grande Fire, which torched 48,000 acres and a good bit of Los Alamos (which we drove through on the same day as visiting Bandelier). But when we were at Bandelier, it was simply dry and very warm, so we were able to take a look around some of the Ancestral Pueblo ruins. Peoples related, as much as my limited understanding goes, to those who inhabited Mesa Verde and Canyon de Chelly. At some point before the Spanish arrived, they'd already skedaddled.
Somewhere I have a picture of Lilly and me climbing up into one of the dwellings in the cliffside, probably the only one accessible to casual visitors, but I couldn't locate that image. I did find some of the non-cliff structures, which I thought were just as interesting. Especially this circular pit. Can't remember what it was supposed to be.
Glad we made it before the fire that year. There have been more recent fires as well, namely the Las Conchas Fire last June, which the Park Service called the "largest wildfire in New Mexico history." About 60 percent of the park's land burned, and then later in the year, floods came in the wake of the area's deforestation. Last year wasn't a good year for Bandelier, it seems.