Pecos National Historical Park
On Saturday, I made my second stop of the day at Pecos National Historical Park. It lies just a few miles north of I-25 between Santa Fe and Las Vegas, New Mexico. I've often seen the signs for it, and though I didn't really know much about it, I knew there were some Indian ruins there. In the past, it never worked out for me to stop, so I was glad for the weather delays that gave me a chance to stop. It turns out to be an absolutely lovely spot and certainly an under-rated one, much like El Morro National Monument.
One of the serendipitous things that happened while I was visiting, was catching this photograph of some finches flying around in the cholla cactus! I took it because I hadn't brought the binoculars and could not see what kind of bird they were and they were just fluttering up and down and around and I really wanted to know what they were. It wasn't until I got home and uploaded the photos to the computer that I could see what they were! But I love the wings in motion and that somehow, I managed to capture, in focus no less, that split second in time! Such fun!
The Visitor Center at Peacos NHP is lovely!
The entire grounds are beautiful and it is easy to see how they took elements from the site to create this lovely Visitor Center.
The large patios around the buildings have benches to sit, which I'm sure are lovely on a hot summer day! It was cold and spitting snow while I was there, so I didn't do much porch sitting!
The beams and posts have beautiful carving on them.
Even the gate to this maintenance area is lovely!
In back of some of the Ranger buildings is this Horno, or outdoor oven. They are not uncommon in many areas of northern New Mexico, where bread is still baked in them on a weekly basis by many people!
After viewing the wonderful museum about the history of the site, I braved the chilly weather and walked the trail around the ruins. This is the ruins of a Spanish mission church built in the 1700's. The first one, built in the early 1600's was destroyed during an uprising and this church was built upon the old foundations in the early 1700's. It was in use until the mid 1800's.
Long before the Spanish Conquistador's came through and brought the Francisican monks who built the churches, the native people had built two large pueblos here, surrounded by a rock wall. Here you can see part of that wall as it curves along the hillside towards the church.
The site has numerous kivas, which would have been entered by climbing down a ladder through a hole in the roof. You can see more of the long stone wall that runs around the complex.
To the north of the complex, there is a view of the mountains. For a few minutes, the clouds looked like they were breaking up and that blue sky would prevail!
But then they gathered once again and there was a bit more breeze and spitting snow. This view is to the west towards Glorieta, where one of the western Civil War battles was fought and won by the Union army.
On the northern side of the ruins, the hillside is littered with the ancient trash of the Pueblo. Pottery shards are everywhere! and if you look closely you can see many even in this small spot of ground!
The path comes back to the ruins of the mission church. On this corner there is a bit of old plaster work showing how the walls were once covered in a lime washed coating.
While the indians had previously built with stone, once the Franciscan monks arrived, they taught them to build with adobe bricks. Most of the Mission compound is adobe, while the indian ruins are all stonework. The patterns of the weathered walls are fascinating!
At the Nave end of the church are these arched doorways leading off of each side.
In one "room" off of the nave the wall has a striking herringbone pattern to the adobe brick work! Since these were all plastered over, I am curious as to why they were built that way.
This view is looking from the livestock end of the compound. Just out of view to the right is a cobblestone paved area that was the Turkey Coop!
As you walk around the compound, the scale of it becomes apparent. It must have been quite a bustling place in its hey-day.
It really is an impressive structure. In order to conserve the remaining walls, they have reinforced some of them with new adobe bricks in recent years. While the church is the most visible remaining part of the compound, there are two large mostly un-excavated pueblos to the west of the church that are believed to have housed a community of around 2,000 people! These native Americans were primarily traders and farmers and apparently had quite a trade going with many other tribes in the region who were more nomadic.
In all, I spent a fascinating couple of hours at Pecos NHP and one of these days, I hope to return when the weather is a bit kinder, and I have more time, to do some sketching and a little more exploring! It's definitely worth a stop to see if you travel through northern New Mexico!