Exploring the Petroglyphs National Monument and Sandia Peak Tramway

Trip Report:  20070921

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The Trip

A good portion of our first day was spent on simple travel. We headed to Albuquerque via plane and then got a rental car. Our plan was to stay in the "Old Town" area of Albuquerque and see Petroglyph National Monument and ride the Sandia Tramway to the top of the 10,000 foot Sandia Crest. Of course, no trip to this area would be complete without Mexican food (which we had in copious quantities). And, as with nearly all trips, the longest journey starts at the rental car counter.

The photos below are what we saw.

The Albuquerque airport shares space with Kirtland AFB. While we were waiting for our car, I caught this F-17 doing "touch and go's". Note that the plane has Navy markings but this is an Air Force facility. Perhaps inter-service rivalries are now a thing of the past.

We had a great lunch at a place called Ben Michael's on Rio Grande Blvd in old town, then we headed to Petroglyph National Monument which is just to the west of town. As we arrived at the visitor's center, I caught this pair of lizards on the rock just outside the door. Note the bright blue band around the neck of the fellow on the right. They regarded us cautiously, but did not bolt.

The petroglyphs in the park were of what I would describe as "medium" quality given the ones that I have seen. We have been to Big Petroglyph Canyon on the China Lake base and those were better, both in number and overall quality. That said, there were plenty of them to see.

This one shows what appears to be a shaman and many wolves or coyotes.

The site is on a hill on the west side of town near the Rio Grande river. There was a substantial climb to get to the top of the area. Here, Kathleen negotiates the steep and narrow trail on the way to the top.

In addition to petroglyphs, there were metates as well (grinding stones) indicating that the natives used this area extensively for a long duration.

This appears to be a duck which would be very out of place in a normal desert. But, the site was less than a mile from the river which has an extensive ripiarian area so ducks might have been common place.

More odd, possibly religious, symbols.

This one appears to be a cat or a mountain lion.

These drawings ranged from simple stick figures to more complex designs.

This appears to be a medicine man in a full headdress.

The figures on the left appear to be fishes. Again, given the proximity to the river, this would not be that surprising.

We finished at Petroglyph NM the headed to the Sandia Tramway. The tram is billed as the longest continuous tram and ascends the full height of the Sandia Crest to an altitude of just over 10,000 feet. Here is a view looking generally to the southwest from the top. The visibility was somewhat hazy but the temp was nice.

A tram car coming in for a landing. The trip takes 15 minutes one way.

There are some very long spans on this tramway. Note the sag in the cables. This car is well below the peak between station one and two en route to the base.

Visibility to the east, away from the sun, was pretty good. The high vantage point afforded a commanding view of the ranges to the east.

The range in the distance is the Sangre de Christo with Santa Fe at it's base.

The tramway is an impressive piece of engineering and the head frame was massive. The distance it supports is 2.7 miles.

We were on the peak at sundown, but the sunset was not all that impressive by western standards. Note the Rio Grande river at the lower right of the photo.

Just after sunset, you can see the contrails from jets headed east. The river is still visible despite the deepening shadows.

The view of Albuquerque from the base of the tram was spectacular. I did not bring a tripod to the tram, so I set my camera on a stairway railing and let it take a 3 second shot. You can see a car leaving the parking lot as evidenced by the trails made by it's headlights.

I awoke with a start early the next morning when I realized that I did not put the camera on the charger. I bolted from bed and looked out the window of the hotel to a more than respectable sunrise over the Sandia range.

We had a good day in Albuquerque. The travel was not too annoying and there were no major issues encountered. Tomorrow, we will head north to Durango. Along the way, we will pass Chaco Canyon and we will stop to see the indian ruins there.

Chaco Canyon

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