We wound our way down the the Jemez Mountains, awestruck by the panoramas around every corner. We went to Bandelier National Monument. All I knew at this point was that these were some Ancient Native American cliff dwellings.
Because of the extreme fire danger in the area -alas we had seen the scars of recent fires in the Jemez- the park service was not allowing private vehicles into the park. I suppose they wanted to control and limit the amount of combustion engines in the combustible wilderness. We had to drive a few miles to the town of Whiterock to catch a bus back to Bandelier. So we did.
We got to Whiterock, a typical small New Mexican town with nothing obvious to offer a tourist. We parked the SUV and waited for a bus.
When the bus pulled in at around 3:30 p.m., the driver opened the door. “Folks, I can take you to Bandelier if you want,” he announced. “Or, you can wait until 5:00 and go yourself. The park rangers close their office, but the park stays open, and they do allow private cars into the park after 5:00. I don’t know why they don’t tell you that, especially in the afternoon. Like I said, you can go with me if you want, but I’ll have to drop you off again at 6:00. Or you can wait until 5:00 and spend all the time you want.”
So we opted to wait. But what was there to do for an hour and a half? “Well,” the helpful bus driver continued. “There’s the sports complex park. There’s a nice view and a waterfall.”
So we got directions and headed to the Overlook Sports Complex at Whiterock.
“Nice view” was an understatement!
We watched columns of rain dance across the desert and the distant Sangre de Cristo Mountains on one side, and the Jemez on the other. Some of that rain even dropped on us!
When the time came, we headed back to Bandelier. I soon learned that when it rains in the mountains, you can see the effects miles away!