El Morro National Monument in Ramah New Mexico was a stop on the way to Albuquerque from my state of Arizona. The landscape represents the state accurately with its high mesa’s and dry brush. Indian ruins are secretly tucked away in nearly every canyon wall crevasse.
With family in tow, we drove into El Morro, named by the Spanish meaning “Headland,” with no expectations and an excited 3-year-old that demanded to be let out of the car so he could explore ruins.
Upon further research I learned that the Puebloeans, El Morro residents and a decedent from the Zuni’s, their home Astinna or “place of writings on the rock.” Later, Anglo-Americans called it Inscription Rock.
2,000 years ago the Puebloeans created and lived at Astinna as hunters and gatherers.
A welcoming park ranger outfitted in olive green greeted us in the visitor center and handed me a lengthy self-guided tour booklet.
The ranger informed us the hike to the top of El Morro was two miles round-trip.
Stepping out on the paved path, high mesa walls loomed in a cotton ball cloud-filled, blue sky.
Looking much like a mesa, El Morro is actually a cuesta; a long formation sloping upward and dropping off abruptly at one end. The gigantic rock formation is comprised of sandstone layered on through the years deposited by wind, water and the ancient sea.
A natural pool set within the bluff is filled with snow melt and water runoff. The Morro pool was the main water source for dwellers and visitors.
The path wound close to the high walls graffitied with perfectly carved signatures alongside ancient Zuni symbols engraved into the rock. The carvings at the base of El Morro are those from the Puebloans, Spaniard’s and Anglo-Americans.
The first inscription carved at El Morro was that of Governor Don Juan de Onate in 1605, 15 years before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
The steep sandstone walls are littered with names, dates and poetry. These are the names that quenched their thirst in the El Morro pool.
Steep switchbacks led the way to a flattop and a blind turn to the top is a wind tunnel created from the position of an enormous rock. Powerful wind gusts could send a hiker over the edge if it wasn’t for a metal handrail.
Once at the top, other than 200 foot drop offs in some places, it seems as though you are on flat ground with a sprawling panoramic view of New Mexico.
The mound sprawls out and people hiking on the graying, bubbly rock look like ants. Shallow cisterns on that normally collect rain water are dried up.
We passed an older couple from Albuquerque and the white haired woman draped in turquoise purposely points a long lens camera.
“Look at this,” she exclaimed with arms wide open. “Isn’t this just gorgeous?”
The woman was older but I noticed her beautiful skin and glowing aura. She reminded me of the woman I was always trying to become.
Making our way to the ruins, I held tight to my sons tiny hand because falling over the edge was fairly easy. The handmade path carved into the uneven rock was faint in some places.
Discovered in the 1950’s, the Atsinna Pueblo reveal half buried pit houses with windows, fire pits and grinding bins for corn and a kiva.
The 875 room structure once housed between 1000 to 1500 people.
A museum and 15 minute video on the history and background of the Zuni people that once lived at El Morro is available in the visitor’s center. There is not an entrance fee.
El Morro was built by the Zuni people in the 1200s and abandon around 1400.
Hiking on this chunk of history will take your breath away.