We passed Pecos on the way from Fort Union to Albuquerque, and I looked in the rear view mirror and saw 2 sleeping kids, and one lost to the world of his Nintendo DS. So we did what any sane parents do, we drove right past it. Which made it a perfect Saturday trip to take and include my nephew, giving my sister and her husband a date day, which they squandered at Costco in true “old married couple” fashion. Firstly, let me start by telling you that Pecos is one of the places at the best altitude in all of the state. The weather is pleasantly warm and dry, but high enough that you don’t feel like you are desiccating anytime you stroll in the sun. It is a beautiful landscape filled with Pinon and red earth, and while I prefer the hotter and sunnier places,the pleasantness of Pecos is undeniable.
Pecos has a beautiful visitors center, gift shop and museum. It’s really a good idea to check in even if you are confident in the hiking. We received a rattlesnake warning from the Rangers and as we took to the trails saw a Ranger relocating a rattler. Pecos is a historically important site for a very long period of time. From the time of the Paleo-Indians who followed massive Bison herds, to the Civil War and the Battle of Glorieta Pass. As we walked up one of my kids squealed and pointed and we got to see this gorgeous guy, a Horny Toad! They aren’t as plentiful as they used to be so it was a real treat. The museum is well laid out and starts with the Paleo Peoples. The Pecos people built the first Pueblos on site, that were pit homes with log roofs. They progressed to building what you think of as traditional Pueblos, but out of logs, rocks and clay. Later Adobe was incorporated but it wasn’t part of the initial builds. They have a nice selection of Pecos artifacts including bone flutes, jewelry and clay figures. There are also pots and replica pots that show the artistic progression of people in the area. The whole exhibit is a timeline, so it begins with the earliest and ends at Westward Expansion because Pecos was a stop on the Santa Fe Trail. The Apache visited and traded frequently, Spanish settlements were made here and it was as distinct and important cultural hub through the ages. There is also a fantastic diorama of what the original structures looked like. The museum is reading heavy, well done and easy to follow, but my foursome were squirrely and it was a struggle to get them through so much information.
I really, really like the Junior Ranger book here. Firstly it comes in Spanish or English and so does the badge. I was a little bummed that all the kids chose English badges, but I guess it makes sense. The neat thing about the book is it has vignettes about children who live in certain times. A Pueblo girl, an Apache Boy passing through, a Mexican Indian boy attached to a priest, a Spanish Settler girl, an American Boy moving west, and an American girl who’s father must serve in the Civil war. The book presents the little vignette with a name and some history, vocabulary and then a short activity for each one. The kids really liked it a lot and it was by far the best thing to get Lemon focused. The illustrations are styled line drawings which I liked as well, it was more relatable than many spiffier books. The picture below shows two of the pages. It was a really solid way to introduce the many cultural influences tied to this geographical point. After we worked through the books, we headed to the trail.
So the trail is pretty short, and easy, but if you have mobility concerns you can park much close to the the ruins than many sites we’ve been to. It’s a little winding and forested with Pinon Pines and some juniper. It is rattlesnake country and we spotted more than few signs of snakes, but only saw the one the Ranger relocated, I was pretty panicked the entire time because Wild Thing is so excited to run, and because we had my nephew too. Other people’s children increase my injury anxiety! I really am moved by the red earth of this area, against the bright blue skies with the deep green pinon, it’s truly breathtaking, so it was definitely worth the short anxious walk.
As we approached the flat hilltop where the mission ruins are you could see the pueblo remains all around, low stone walls with flagged paths throughout. The paths are really well delineated here, and flat enough to be wheel chair accessible which is nice. One really interesting thing was they had various stages of bricks sun drying which was a great lesson in adobe construction. It was a particularly gorgeous day with the most perfect cloud cover, a wonderful moment to consider what it must have been like before Manifest Destiny took hold, or even further back to pre-Spanish colonial days. I spent a few minutes thinking about how different New Mexico is from the East coast, how “behind” it was in many ways, 100 years ago people were still using covered wagons here and it is such a contrast to the industrial booms in the East. But it has really had centuries of colonial occupation that has sculpted every fiber of the culture.
The kids enjoyed this more than Fort Union, because there was more left, so the structures were easier to interpret even though they were similar. Something about being able to walk through the doorways, and having connected, room-like walls registered better in their brains.
After a bit we headed back to the visitors center which closed at 4:30 and was LOCKED! I found a door that was open and popped my head in and the ranger was so kind to come out and swear them in. While I was trying doors though, the kids found the the most interesting thing of the entire day…..
Once EVERYONE’S sneakers were magnificently dust and mud free, they were able to pay attention to the Ranger for their swearing in. Pecos has a particularly magnificent patch which they also were also given with their badge along with the wooden badge. I do love when the badges have the location specific logo, rather the National Park logo. And I am still a little disappointed I didn’t get to buy myself a souvenir here!