By the time we left Albuquerque we were really tired from all the early mornings and physical exertion from the Balloon Fiesta. After filling the RV up with propane we headed south to Valley of Fires Recreation Area where we had a very nice electric and water site overlooking the lava fields. This may be the youngest lava flow in the continental United States, with scientific evidence estimating that the most recent flow occurred 1,500 to 2,000 years ago. The lava spewed from volcanic vents, covering the valley floor. Occasionally it would surround areas of higher ground, forming islands called “kipukas”. Our campground was located on a kipuka.
Valley of Fires is located just outside of the town of Carrizozo, NM. In the period between 1910 and 1920 it was a thriving railroad town and open for homesteading, with many railroad families claiming their 640 acres of free land. With the modernization of railroad machinery and the introduction of new diesel engines, the need for the town’s railroad workforce was eliminated. Today Carrizozo has a population of 940 and the town is showing signs of disrepair. One of the main streets was used in a post apocalypse scene from the 2010 movie “The Book of Eli” with Denzel Washington.
We had planned to rest and relax here but we seem to always find things to do wherever we go! Tuesday we drove an hour north to the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. This is made up of three pueblos and 17th century Spanish Franciscan missions. The missions were abandoned in the late 17th century and the masonry ruins are surprisingly intact. We first went to the Visitors Center to see a short film and view the exhibits.
The three ruins, called the Abo Ruins, Gran Quivira Ruins and the Quarai Ruins, are within a thirty mile radius of each other. Before the Spaniards came, these pueblos were major trade centers, with salt from the nearby salt lakes being an important trade commodity between the Pueblo and Plains Indians. Between 1630 and 1680, Franciscan missionaries and Spanish colonists came and built churches using Indian labor and forced their religion and way of life on the Native Americans. Drought, famine, disease and Apache raids were devastating on the Pueblo people.
First up was Quarai. Here are remnants of church walls and remains of what was once a bustling Indian pueblo and Franciscan mission. At one time the square was surrounded on three sides by blocks of stone houses three stories high. Over 600 people hunted, farmed and traded goods and salt from nearby lake beds. The first stone houses were built here around 1300. By 1677, Quarai was deserted.
Next was the Abo Mission. When the first Spanish priest walked into Abo in 1622, nothing would ever be the same for the Native Americans again. Life as they knew it changed forever. Artifacts uncovered from this area included a ceramic candlestick, mother-of-pearl cross and stone effigies all telling the story of conflicting religions. We saw a large kiva, which is an underground meeting chamber for conducting religious ceremonies, teaching children, telling stories and weaving.
The Franciscan priest supervised the construction of the massive church using Pueblo labor. The walls were sandstone held together with mud mortar and plastered white with gypsum on the inside and whitewashed adobe on the outside. When it was completed in 1651 it resembled the fortress churches in Mexico.
Last up was Gran Quivira, the largest of the pueblos. At one time it was a village of more than twenty masonry house blocks and between 1,500 and 2,000 people. There were approximately 300 rooms and six kivas. They occupied this area for over 900 years.
Thursday we drove a short distance to the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site. The Jornada Mogollon people carved more than 21,000 designs of humans, birds, animals, fish, insects, plants and geometric shapes in the basalt of the Three Rivers Valley in over 50 acres of the northern Chihuahuan Desert. This area is one of the largest rock art sites in North America. We followed a trail, somewhat challenging at times, through the desert looking at the petroglyphs and keeping a vigilant watch for rattlesnakes.
Thankfully we didn’t see any, but Bill did see a rattlesnake crossing the road across from our RV at the campground! We only have a few pictures to show you because the pictures accidentally got deleted when transferring from the camera to the laptop. Oh well, stuff happens sometimes!
Next stop: A visit to Carlsbad Caverns National Park