May 7, 2015
Our original goal for the day was Grants, NM; but since we left Holbrook so early we got to Grants around noon. Grants is a very small crossroads so we thought we could get to Albuquerque even with a stop at the Acoma Sky City Pueblo.
Before too long we crossed into our fourth state of our trip: New Mexico.
Then we fetched up in Gallup. I remember going through Gallup as a kid and my grandpa talking about it – they lived there for a short time during the depression. The name always intrigued me as a little boy. We stopped for a short walk around the city and saw some of the features. I’m sorry I missed Mary Colter’s El Navajo Harvey House but I hadn’t read about it until we were done. Oh well; we did see some nice things including a giant – one of the things we are hunting using Jerry McClanahan’s EZ66 Guide Book. This one is a giant muffler man cowboy. I imagine he once held a muffler; now he graces the top of a used car lot.
We also saw a couple of murals including a Route 66 mural (on the right in the picture below), designed by Jerry McClanahan, at the Visitor’s Center
Gallup is full of jewelry stores and pawn shops where you can purchase turquoise and other silver bracelets, necklaces, rings, etc. At one of the shops there is a long – 20 feet at least – jewelry case with a notice “Check for your dead pawn.” This silver and turquoise jewelry was passed down from generation to generation and was used as a source of cash between the sheep shearing or other income seasons. Dead pawn is that which was never redeemed. It is considered quite valuable; I suppose because it means it is authentic Native American decoration which may be quite old. You can read an article here, but you’ll have to click through an annoying ad.
Done stretching our legs we hopped (well at 60+ we don’t exactly “hop”, but we did get back into the car) and continued our journey east. Before long we crossed the Continental Divide.
When preparing for our trip, Carla read about the Acoma Sky City Pueblo. To get there we crossed over I40 from the old Route 66 road at exit 102 and proceeded 15-20 miles south. As we dropped down from one mesa we looked across the valley at Sky City across the valley.
The pueblo is built on that dark mesa behind the lighter colored hoodoo and in front of the lighter mesa behind. At the base of the pueblo is a visitor center where you park, pay an entrance fee and get a camera permit. A bus then takes you up to the mesa for a tour. Visitors are not allowed to photograph the church, the graveyard, the graveyard wall, or the inhabitants (without their permission). Our tour guide Gerie is a resident and conducted an hour and a half walking tour.
In the 17th century the Spanish came and took over the natives and built a church using local slave labor. The Catholic priests placed the new church in the same spot that the Native Americans conducted their sacred ceremonies. Some of the laborers died and are entombed inside the walls of the church. Years later there was an uprising where the church leaders were thrown out; but apparently they got back in since Catholicism is still a main religion there.
I had to be careful not to include the adjacent graveyard or wall in the photo above. Being solid rock, it wasn’t possible to dig graves on top of the mesa. So they built a wall and carried up dirt load by load. As the graveyard filled up, they’d put another layer of dirt down and build up the wall. There are little bumps along the wall that are the heads of those who watch over the cemetery. We saw this motif around Santa Fe and Taos later in our trip.
Even today there most everything is still hauled up the hill; although now they use trucks to haul water instead of having to carry it up a bucket at a time.
Here are some views inside the pueblo village.
Gerie is in the purple top on the left in the bottom photo. In centuries past the lower floors of the homes were used for storage while the upper areas were the living areas. This was a protective measure; the ladders could be drawn up behind the residents to thwart invasion. Doors were low and narrow so the inhabitants could whack people trying to enter. Today people live on all the stories. I was struck by the level of detail in the buildings. Here is a close up of a door frame.
We loved walking to the edge and looking across the valley to the nearby mesas.
I couldn’t capture a picture of it but there were 10 or 12 crows soaring along on the updrafts at the edge of the mesa. Sorry, Kara!
Many of the residents sell pottery and other beautiful pieces of art. We bought two; one from Stephanie and one from George.
Remember the pottery shards we saw at Homolavi State Park in Arizona? George told us he grinds up bits of shards from old pottery and incorporates it in his work. Some of the shards had similar painting and indentations to those we saw the day before.
Although I tease Carla about visiting every pueblo and museum within 20 miles of our route, I’m glad she finds them. We always discover something new about southwest history.
We jumped (like “hopping”, we don’t actually jump) in the Subaru and drove to our hotel for our night’s stay. We got in very late so couldn’t do much. We did have a wonderful dinner at the Pueblo Harvest restaurant.
After posting this I remembered a couple of things I wanted to say:
Our tour guide Gerie told us that her people have always been there and it was the Navajo and Hopi who came down from the Bering Straits all those years ago.
This was such an interesting place to visit. We’ve seen groups like this in Arizona, such as the Hopi on second or third mesa. Their ancestors also lived like this as seen in places like Montezuma Castle near Camp Verde, Arizona.