Santa Fe Trail (New Mexico) 22-May-2017

Our second day in Santa Fe dawned bright and clear but for some reason we couldn’t gather the enthusiasm for a hike. Perhaps that second helping of southwestern chili peppers at dinner – while delicious – was ultimately ill-advised? But what to do – other than air-out our hotel room? Fortunately, I’d been reading Hampton Sides’ excellent Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West (Doubleday, 2006) which recounts the history of Kit Carson, the Santa Fe Trail, and our appalling treatment of the indigenous peoples of the Southwest who got in the way of Manifest Destiny.  So we thought it might be good to visit two extremes of this story along the Santa Fe Trail: Fort Union National Monument to the east and, a little closer to Santa Fe, Pecos National Historical Park.

Fort Union

What struck us most about Fort Union, which was in use between 1851 and 1891, was the huge wind-swept area in covered and how poorly its adobe block construction has stood the test of time.

Fort Union National Monument New Mexico

The remains of the main post and depot

Fort Union National Monument New Mexico

The parade ground with the remains of the Post Commander’s house beyond

Fort Union National Monument New Mexico

The remains of Officer’s Row

The most enduring part of the fort is the maximum security block of the military prison, because it was constructed of native limestone.

Pecos Pueblo (Cicuye)

By the late Pueblo period – the last few centuries before the Spainards arrived in the Southwest – people in the valley shared by the Glorieta Creek and the Pecos River had congregated in multi-storied towns overlooking the streams and fields that nourished their crops. In the 1400s, these groups gathered into Pecos Pueblo, which became a regional power. Needless to say, the arrival of the Spainards, with their religion and their diseases, changed all of that. Although Cicuye had a population of around 2,000 and extended for a quarter-mile along the ridge, what stands out today are the remains of the mission church that the Spainards plopped down on top of the pueblo’s remains.

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico

Remains of the Spanish mission church atop Pecos Pueblo

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico

Wall detail, Spanish mission church

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico

Door detail, Spanish mission church

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico

Roof beam detail, Spanish mission church

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico

Convento foundations in the foreground, Spanish mission church to the left

It’s not until you walk to the end of the tour path that you find an obvious pre-Spanish construct, a renovated kiva.

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico

Renovated kiva, with the Santa Fe Mountains in the distance

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico

Interior of the kiva

We found the lessons from history these visit provoked to be an instructive way to spend a fine day in New Mexico. Another important lesson from recent history was to go easy on those chili peppers…

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