Monday walk…El Morro National Monument

Posted: February 13, 2023 in Monday walk
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Sometimes detours take us to the best places. As Tolkien famously and aptly penned:

Not all those who wander are lost.

Regular readers may remember that the first day of my October trip to Illinois last year started with a detour taking me on a wander through the western part of New Mexico on two-lane highways. Once I recovered from the trauma of having the sun rise directly in the middle of the highway, which I tried to block by rising up in my seat as far as possible and holding the cover of a CD below the useless sun visor, I relished the lack of traffic and reveled in the scenery. Those of you who know me will understand my joy when I finally came upon snow, a light coating I admit, but enough to make my heart swell.

Then I saw this jutting up. What could it be? Seeing one of the pullouts that have signs that say “Historical marker,” I hit the brakes and pulled over, something I normally don’t do when I’m on a long trip because it takes time that I don’t have. (We like to call the “hysterical markers.”) I love history, but I usually have miles to go before I sleep.

I was hooked. This sort of thing is exactly my cup of tea (and you know how much I love tea.) I immediately resolved to adjust my return trip overnight stops so that I could spend time exploring El Morro and also stop at Zuni Pueblo.

Although you can make it from Phoenix to Naperville in two long days, my agenda called for 2 1/2, a leisurely drive of just over 1700 miles. Overnighting in Albequerque the second night, I arrived at El Morro early on a brisk morning where snow still lurked in the shaded areas. There were several walking options but I chose the shorter one, concentrating on the inscriptions, so I had time to get home before rush hour.

So here we are, ready to walk. Just be sure you have a coat because it’s cold.

The rocks loom above as we approach along the well-kept path. I learned later that the pueblo remains mentioned on the sign are at the top and that you can walk to the top. Something for another trip. But the size of the monument and the absolute quiet of the park filled me with delight. To be enveloped in history cloaked in the grandeur of nature is perfection.

The moon still stood over the cliffs.

“Go slowly, my lovely moon, go slowly.”
― Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

When you think of western migration, you’ll probably at some point think of the gold rush. However, gold isn’t the real treasure in the West and Southwest, water is. You can go your entire life without gold but only somewhere between a few hours and a week or so, without water, depending on a variety of factors. This pool of water would have been the draw for living near or stopping on trips through this part of New Mexico. I can’t imagine it was fun hauling water from here to the pueblos on the top of the rocks but it would have to be done. I could just get my water bottle.

Of course what makes these rocks unique are the over 2,000 signatures, dates, messages, and petroglyphs made by a variety of visitors: ancestral Puebloans, Spanish, and Americans.

The oldest legible inscription at El Morro, left by Juan de Oñate, the first Spanish governor of the colony of Santa Fe de Nuevo México, is dated April 16, 1605. Among the Anglo-American emigrants who left their names there in 1858 were several members of the Rose-Baley Party, including Leonard Rose and John Udell.[4] Nearby petroglyphs and carvings made by the Ancestral Puebloans were inscribed centuries before Europeans arrived. In 1906, U.S. federal law prohibited further carving on the cliffs. ~Wikipedia

It reminded me of the autograph books we had when I was in high school, although I doubt any of these people wrote the often-used: “2 good 2 be 4 gotten,” or if they did, it was either in Spanish or petroglyphs, neither of which I can read.

I’ll have mercy on you and not show you all the photos I took of the carvings but let me whet your appetite with these two photos. The park provides a free guide that points out the main signatures and gives lots of information. I’m happy to report that there doesn’t seem to be any modern graffiti, which surprised me but in a good way. I’m thankful the President Theodore Roosevelt designated this as a national monument so that we could see it intact today. It’s also free, so if you’re ever in the area of Albuquerque or Grants, New Mexico, consider stopping. The walk to the top is supposed to take about an hour or I believe you can walk all the way around the base. I simply enjoyed my meander through the centuries in this awe-inspiring spot.

Jo’s Monday Walk…2.13.23

  1. restlessjo says:

    Wow, Janet! What a find! Amazing place. Many thanks for sharing.

  2. solaner says:

    Thanks for sharing , Janet 👍

  3. […] Monday walk…El Morro National Monument […]

  4. bushboy says:

    Absolutely fabulous Janet. Thanks for stopping 🙂

  5. Dan says:

    The wonder of a road trip. Discovering new sights on a trip like this is an amazing experience. You have some beautiful photos.

    • I/we usually plan for places we could stop but this was entirely due to taking the detour, which only ended up taking about half an hour longer anyway. I discovered several places to see during another trip as will. Thanks for liking the photos.


  6. eklastic says:

    So fascinating!

  7. eklastic says:

    So very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Heyjude says:

    Very interesting. Whenever I see signs like this that urge you to pull over I am often tempted.

    • The problem is that there are so many of them in some places that it would add a huge amount of time to the day’s trip which sometimes I can’t afford. 😦 I might have pulled over for the sign but having seen the rocks, I had to see if it had anything to do with them and of course it did.

  9. Amy says:

    Fascinating, indeed! Thank you for this special walk! Great photos.

  10. ” To be enveloped in history cloaked in the grandeur of nature is perfection.” I loved this sentence as I can relate. It looks like a really neat place to stop and check out.

  11. What an amazing place! I love the rock formations!

  12. Jet Eliot says:

    Oh wow, what a find. Isn’t it wonderful when you come across something like this on a road trip, a place you had no idea existed? It’s great that you carved out some time, Janet, to visit this monument where others have carved out their visits before you. Really lovely photographs here, demonstrating the size of the rock wall; and the moon was a special treat.

    • It’s a joy to discover a place like this, Jet. I wish I’d thought of using the “carved” comparison in my post. 🙂 I’m glad you liked the photos. It’s almost impossible to take a photo the conveys the feel of the way the cliffs loom up and how high they are. What a climb to the top it must have been for those Indians!

  13. An excellent quote; I do love a good purposeful wander. Especially in a place as picturesque as this, I wouldn’t even mind being lost, either!

  14. tootlepedal says:

    A good decision to find time for that walk.

  15. DeWetsWild says:

    What a spectacular place! Imagine being a traveler in the days of old and seeing that rocky ridge appear on the horizon!

  16. Marsha says:

    Wow, and you almost didn’t stop! Your pictures are gorgeous and clear. What a find! I’m linking this post to my next post about the Dickens challenge along with your comment. With all your hiking, I hope you’ll have time to join in. I read one short one today only 51 pages!

    • I didn’t stop on the way out but it was definitely a planned stop for the trip home and am I glad! Thanks for the link. Not sure if I’ll be joining the reading or not but I’ll try. I’ve another El Morro post tomorrow.

      • Marsha says:

        I’ll look for it. 😎 no worries if you aren’t able to join. Life is busy. I finished that one in just a few hours, though, so just reading one by June shouldn’t be too onerous.

  17. […] “I still have to pick mine, so let me know what you choose. I’ll join you!” This That and The Other Thing […]

  18. annbh356 says:

    Thanks for enlivening my memory of this wonderful place. It has been years since I visited and I had forgotten my quiet walk.

  19. Rupali says:

    Glad you decided to detour. Fascinating place and images.

  20. Wind Kisses says:

    I am so glad you stopped. I love the way you presented this, quotes and all. It’s funny, I don’t think people realize the importance of how true your words about water being the real treasure. There has to be water.

    History, nature, roadtrip break, and a fun walk.

    • People in the city often think of water as merely something needed for lawns and flowers. My grandparents were farmers so I started (and still have) a rather different, more elemental, view. Living in the desert only solidifies that.

  21. Resa says:

    Fabulous, Janet. Thank you!