October 22, 2011

10/21/11 - El Morro NM

If you’re into graffiti, then El Morro National Monument in New Mexico is calling you.  El Morro means “headland” in Spanish.  It’s a cuesta, a tall long hunk of sandstone standing up out of the landscape; people have carved their names there for hundreds of years. 
Puebloan ancestors of the Zuni Indians scraped petroglyphs into the rock wall in ancient times. 
When the Spaniard conquistadors passed through in the late 1500s, they stopped to inscribe their names and dates.  The Spanish Governors had really verbose carvings, but I’m guessing they dictated it. 
American settlers came through in the mid-1800s, and not to be outdone, left their own names on the rocks. 
See what I mean, LOTS of graffiti!  Don’t think you can add your name to the rest—it became illegal in 1905.  Don’t even bother to look for “Kilroy was here” or modern tags.
We strolled along the Inscription Rock trail (which is really a paved sidewalk).  Stopped at the pool.  Took pictures of the names.
Where the sidewalk ends, the hardy continue around the side and head upwards along the switchback trail to the top of the mesa.  (The trick, as I told one middle-aged guy who was huffing and puffing as he passed me, is to take a camera; you can stop as much as you want to take pictures and no one realizes that you needed to catch your breath!)
The top is smooth sandstone, but a trail is incised in the rock so you know which way to go.  In some places there are even steps carved in the rock.  It’s windy up there too.  Occasionally there are guard rails, but mostly you’d better be smart enough to stay back from the edge.  I told George that if we’d taken my son Jeff up there when he was a kid, he would have had a harness and leash, and made him walk between us. 

When you get to the top, you can see it’s not just a big flat rock; there’s a canyon inside it.
And the top of the mesa isn't exactly flat either.  (Those carved lines in the rock is the trail.)
The ruins of Atsinna Pueblo were partially excavated 60 years ago.  When we got there, there was a Zuni mason doing some repair work on the walls.  We talked with him for a while, although I must say the banana perched on one of the sidewalls seemed a bit incongruous. 
I think the whole trail is about 2 miles long, and they say you climb about 200’.  Seems higher.   The elevation at the top is 7,450’, but all the picture stops (see above) make it seem longer, but not super strenuous.  This was a great hike! 
There are more pics of El Morro at this link:  El Morro NM 

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