In October, I took a solo day trip to Bandelier National Monument, winding along the backroads and approaching Frijoles Canyon from the southwest from the Jemez Mountains, which was a beautiful drive. The peak tourist season was winding down, but I still had to take a shuttle into the canyon from a neighboring town. Several years ago, a massive flood washed away a significant portion of the parking lot in the canyon. The weather was warm yet foreboding; the sky was darkly ominous. Shortly after entering the canyon, a thunderstorm erupted overhead. I took shelter in hollowed, hand-carved room dug into the canyon face, just like the ancestral pueblo peoples did over 500 years ago. After the rain subsided, I continued walking toward the end of the canyon, finally reaching the Alcove House, an ancestral pueblo dwelling located 140 feet above the canyon floor. Four wooden ladders and dozens of stairs carved into the cliff lead you up the rock face to the sacred Kiva. The view was breathtaking and worth the sometimes-nerve-wracking climb for this explorer who likes to keep her feet firmly planted on the ground.

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Looking into Frijoles Canyon from above.

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