Our last night in Santa Fe we had dinner at at Toni and Steven Cross’ house. Toni and Steven have been friends with Robert and Ingrid ever since they moved to Santa Fe and started building the house and their children have been close friends as well. Toni still works in the medical field and Steven retired some years ago and among other things works part time in a New Mexican distillery applying labels to locally crafted bottles of vodka, whiskey and gin. A sweet gig as he is paid with a bottle or two a month and the liquor is pretty good. Toni gave us some homemade tamales and several bags of green chiles that she had frozen from last fall. When we were in Hatch we had gotten a couple of bags of red chiles but the green were not in season yet so we gladly accepted Toni’s. We had a delightful week in Albuquerque with some really genuine people!
We moved on to Farmington, actually Kirtland where we stayed in a RV park that was right off the main drag, a four lane highway leading out of town and right next to a KFC. I guess you could call Kirtland a suburb of Farmington, although the two run together with the only noticeable line of demarcation being the run of junkyards, pawn shops and laundromats that are found in Kirtland. The park was right on the windward side and really the only redeeming feature about the park were the restrooms and laundry. State of the art.
Of course we were not there for the amenities but to visit Aztec Ruins, another World Heritage site. Started in the late 1000’s on the banks of the Animas River, the master plan of the community envisioned public buildings, smaller personal dwellings, ceremonial buildings and roads. Located only 55 miles from the ancestral pueblo community located in Chaco Canyon which had its own beginnings several hundred years earlier, Aztec eventually rivaled and surpassed Chaco Canyon as a cultural and trading center, while taking a lot of the Chacoan culture and heritage and incorporating those elements into their own master plan.
That master plan took over 200 years to achieve and when it was finished in the late 1200’s, there stood a community of great houses, kivas and earthworks all purposefully built to be interconnected around a central plaza and strategically to the landscape that surrounded them. The largest structure, known as the West Ruin, was a three storied building that had over 500 rooms and a great kiva in the center of the plaza.
As was the case with a lot of ancestral communities in the southwest, the people left in the late 1200’s, forced perhaps by climate change and wanderlust, leaving behind a wealth of artifacts and buildings that were to be later excavated and preserved. Their odyssey eventually took them along the Rio Grande and into Arizona where their descendants still live today.
Aztec Ruins is one of the best preserved archeological sites in the Southwest and it became a national monument in 1923 and a World Heritage site in 1987 “to recognize its significance to all of humankind”.
From Aztec, we went to the Salmon Ruins in Bloomfield, not far from Aztec or Farmington. Settled by the nearby Chaco Canyon people in the late 11th century, a great house community was built there, though in no way was it close to the size of Aztec. While the Chacoans eventually abandoned the area other regional groups continued to occupy the pueblo until the late 13th century when it was abandoned for a final time. It would remain undisturbed until the late 1890’s when George Salmon would homestead the property – leaving undisturbed the ancient indian relics. Not until the archealogical investigations of the 1970’s would what we now call the Salmon ruins come to light. In no way excavated to the extent of Aztec Pueblo, the Salmon Ruins still lend a thread to the history, culture and migrations of this corner of Indian heritage.
The nights were still chilly and a boiling pot of salted water for some pasta didn’t take long to warm up the rooms in the motorhome. Today’s recipe is from the February 1997 issue of Bon Appétit – penne in cream sauce with sausage. Yummy.