Saturday, June 17, 2017

Blackwater Draw in Portales NM

Blackwater Draw in Portales NM

If you like reading Traveling the West, you can log on at: http://bit.ly/ThePosseWEB

I’ll give you a copy of my latest book if you join.

I wrote about the Llano Estacado, the Bosque Redondo, and the Pecos areas in two of my novels (The Apprenticeship of Nigel Blackthorn & A Message to Santa Fe). In a recent visit to the area, I found Ft. Sumner (what there was of it) closed and the Billy the Kid museum a disappointment. The unexpected highlight of my 2-day visit to Portales was the Blackwater Draw National Historic Landmark and, a few miles north of Portales, the Blackwater Draw Museum.
The area near here approaching the Llano Estacado’s western edge lacks the traditional cap-rock walls. The Llano’s edge has shifted and crumbled, leaving several cap-rock mesas along the plateau’s edge. (Pic above.) Driving east toward Clovis, NM, along US-60, there is little noticeable change in elevation until Melrose, where it becomes clear you crossed a ridge onto the Llano. Clovis, NM, the nearby “big city” had its name applied to the discovery of a Paleo-Indian hunting ground from 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.

The Clovis People
The importance of the Clovis people is their campsites’ left archaeological evidence of Paleo-Indian communities long before “conventional wisdom” believed ancestral people existed in the Western Hemisphere. The Clovis People were small, 5-feet-5 or less, weighing as much as 150 pounds, based on skeletal remains. A distinctive feature of the Clovis People was a 5- to 8-inch chert, or flint, spear-point used for hunting the extinct Columbian Mammoth, Giant Buffalo, and Giant Sloths.
An ancient riverbed, Blackwater Draw contains the fossils of thousand of extinct animals from the Paleo-age buried with various designs of Clovis points used to kill these giant species. The Clovis People were nomads and hunter-gathers. Archaeological evidence showed similar Paleo-Indian communities existed across North and Central America. All these communities adopted the Clovis spear-point design to hunt the giant animals of their period.

The Clovis Point.
The Clovis Point design is unique to the western hemisphere. All the points at the Museum are copyright protected, so I offer a drawing representative of an 8-inch Clovis Spear Point. They made a spear-point by knapping flint, or chert, to the desired shape. The top edges are serrated to improve it cutting or piercing ability. The butt-end is fluted to allow it to fit on a wood shaft. The edges around the butt are not serrated to prevent cutting the leather-thongs used to tie the two together. The Museum collection showed points ranging from 4-inches to over 10-inches. The Museum, several miles north of Portales on US 70, is well-worth the visit.

The Columbian Mammoth’s 13-foot height compares today’s African elephant. The Mammoth had shorter legs and a heavier body, weighing 10 tons compared to the African’s weight of 5-7 tons. The Museum shows drawings of a gang of hunters standing close to jab spears in the underbelly of the taller mammoth. The Historic Landmark area teaches visitors how to use an atlatl to throw a spear. None of the fiber products (spear shafts or throwing devices) survived the thousands of centuries since the Clovis People used them. Only the stone tools of the Clovis People survived. There is no way to know their hunting methods.

The Clovis people were nomads. They roamed freely, but in the search of food, not sightseeing. They traded with other communities, because we have evidence about where the flint, or chert, came from. The evidence shows they traded flint and knapping skills between communities.
Over a period of 50-100 years, the use of Clovis points spread across North America. Trade and sharing among the communities explains the wide spread use of the Clovis design.

DNA material collected from a burial site indicates 80% of native people in the Western Hemisphere are direct descendants of Clovis People -- that is today's Native Americans. The DNA indicates the Clovis People were descendants of people indigenous to Northwest Asia. Some believe this indicates they crossed the “land bridge” between the Alaskan-Russian straits to populate the Western Hemisphere. The confounded element is historians didn’t believe the “land bridge” existed in those days—so much for experts. ;-)

Archaeologists debated for years if the Clovis people were the “first” people in the Western Hemisphere, but Carbon Dating evidence from South America indicates Paleo-Indian communities in the south may be 2,000+ years older than in the north. Which raises the Question:
How did they arrive in South America? By canoe from the Pacific Islands?
Ah, the topic for another Post.

You may ask what does this story of the “First People” have to do with “the Old West”?
This post answers Custer’s Question: Where did all those Indians come from?

Thanks for reading my Blog, Traveling the West.
Frank Kelso

PS: If you like reading Traveling the West, you can log on at: http://bit.ly/ThePosseWEB
I’ll give you a copy of my latest book if you join.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Mesa Verde.3

If you're a visitor and would like to receive Traveling the West, please follow this link to log-in.
If you already have joined but didn't get my offer of a Free book, THE POSSE,  click the link. 


I love visiting the great National Parks in this country (like you couldn’t tell?) While I respect the mission of the Park Service to protect and maintain these great treasures for future generation to visit, I abhor the “Political Correctness” that infects the Park Service.

Exploding the MYTH
One example of “PC” in the Park Service is perpetuating the MYTH that the Verde dwellers “disappeared mysteriously,” as though a spaceship came to take them away. I liked one docent’s private post, in which he claimed, as a Native American and a Puebloan, the Verde dwellers didn’t disappear—they moved away because the Mesa no longer met their needs. These Puebloans used their building skills to build the Puebloan communities in the canyons and valley of northern New Mexico and Arizona. This migration is typical for small groups who depend upon the surrounding area for their food and shelter. If the food source diminishes--they move. If the area is too cold, or prone to flood--they move. No spaceship involved.

Exploding another MYTH
The PC “snowflakes” in the US like to believe this country needs to get back to the land, like it was before the (evil) white man came to this country. There are posts about a “college professor" telling her students that before the (evil) “white man” came to America, the Native Americans lived in peace and harmony—the (evil) white man taught them war and scalping.
I admit, the original “domino theory” of not letting Vietnam fall to the ChiComs, actually came from a military historian who used the Iroquois Confederation as an example of tribal displacement causing a “domino effect.” The Iroquois Confederation drove smaller, less war-like tribes away to protect the Iroquois' natural resources (food supply), but this happened before the white man came. The coming of the white man exacerbated the problem of limited natural resources,

Exploding Another MYTH
Another element of the “snowflake culture” believes the Native American lived in perfect harmony with the land, acting as a good steward to protect and preserve. TOTAL BALONEY!

Mesa Verde is the perfect tool to demonstrate this fallacy. Even though the Park Service lists the types of bones found in trash dumps of succeeding periods, their “snowflake” mentality doesn’t allow them to connect the dots. At the bottom of the trash dump, they found elk and buffalo bones. In the era just before the Early Puebloan “magically disappeared,” the Park Service found only squirrel and groundhog (marmot) bones. The diminishing size of the animals is evidence the natives destroyed all mammal life in the Mesa’s ecosystem. The Early Puebloan's left the Mesa because of a food shortage.

Similar evidence exists about their agricultural deficits. They farmed the same area with the same crop, corn and beans, for 300 hundred years—these crops drained the soil of all nutrients. A few of the Early Puebloans migrated away to find areas with better natural resources, or they would have starved to death. These weren’t stupid people. Once Verde dwellers heard from the first people to move, they began to understand the Mesa could no longer support their large community. The Verde Dwellers moved, and having learned, they formed the numerous smaller Pueblo cultures that dot northern New Mexico and Arizona, rather one large community like they had on the Mesa.

These two examples demonstrate the Native Americans DID NOT live in “perfect harmony” with the land. My purpose is NOT to belittle the Native American, who has been treated badly by my government. My purpose is to expose the PC mentality in the Park Service that collects information on an ancient people, but refuses to connect the dots because it doesn’t fit their make-believe world of PC. Nature does what nature does. Man plans—God laughs.

Oh Darn. I can't get the pics to align with the text-- next time?

Thanks for reading Traveling the West. I hope you enjoyed. 
If you're a visitor and would like to receive Traveling the West, follow this link to log-in.
If you already have joined but didn't get my Free book, THE POSSE,  click the link. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Mesa Verde National Park - 2


The so-called "primitive" people of Mesa Verde built stone building with square-corners, door- and
window-headers, and perfectly circular kivas. The only architectural feature they might have missed is the Roman arch. Given they built these buildings between 1100 and 1300 AD, their craftsmanship is remarkable. While the Cliff Palace gets all the attention, there are several different cliff dwellings among the canyons, each exhibiting its own style. These variations may be because the size of alcove under the mesa edge. The Sun Palace on top the Mesa continues their unique construction. They built these dwellings facing south to take advantage of solar heating of the rocks to moderate cold nights.

Key-Hole Doors
The Puebloan builders were utilitarian. The main doors were shoulder width at the top, but below the knees, they reduced the width to the space of two bare feet, which creates the "keyhole" effect. While none of their tools and techniques survived, it appears as the builders understood basic geometry. It appears they used a "plumb line" to keep the right-angle corners aligned vertically. But  who knows what they used for a square to keep the corners aligned?
These people created circular kivas by tying twine to a peg and marking the outer edge as they walked the circumference, again basic geometry.
As to twine, the Early Puebloan people were basket-makers before they moved to the mesa, which indicates they developed the basic skills to make twine from natural-fibers, like cactus and yucca; from twine came ropes. Archaeological evidence demonstrates that once living in peace on the mesa, local materials lead them into an era of pottery-makers. (Another post on this later.)

To receive Traveling the West regularly, join my email list and receive my latest Western Book.

Building materials
The streams below the cliff dwelling grew ample amounts of cottonwood trees, which grew straight and strong. The Verde dwellers used cottonwood for ladder rails and struts to climb to upper levels. They also used cottonwood, structurally, to support the floors and roofs. The round holes in many of the upper walls are where cottonwood logs once supported the floor of a living space. The basic limestone blocks came from the detritus created by Nature in forming the huge alcoves. The Puebloan construction used no mortar (cement), but they utilized a fine-gravel/clay slurry to coat the walls to make it appear white and smooth. They stained native or tribal patterns on the walls.
This concern for appearance indicates an advanced concept of self-worth, taking pride in their craftsmanship, and in their community. 

Please take the time to visit Cliff Palace and the Sun Temple. Spend a few days in the park and a few
days visiting the surrounding area. West of Mesa Verde, about an hour’s drive, are the Hovenweep Nation Monuments. We spent 10-days in the area and plan another visit.
After visiting the Park, consider staying a few days in Durango. To get an amazing view of the mountains and the surrounding area, take a ride on the Durango-Silverton Railroad. Plan ahead, making reservations for accommodations and the train. Hint: Pay the extra bucks to take the bus ride back from Silverton to Durango. It presents another view of The Million Dollar highway, so named from all the gold and silver mined from these mountains.

Explore and enjoy the area. Darn Formating wouldn't let arrange pictures?

To receive Traveling the West regularly, join my email list and receive my latest Western Book.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017



Visiting Mesa Verde National Park

    Every National Park we have visited in our meandering is worthy of another visit and Mesa Verde is no exception. This park is unique for its geology, ancestral Puebloan culture, and ancient architecture. To show Mesa Verde’s entire splendor, I will write 3 posts to keep the length to something folks can read quickly.
      The best way to experience Mesa Verde is to visit in person. The Park’s Far View Inn is pricey but worth it for a few days. As with all park lodges, make reservations in advance. Motels are available in nearby Cortez and Durango for the budget-minded.
     Mesa Verde Park represents the geological formations found within 200 miles of the 4-corners of NM, AZ, UT and CO. That is high flat-topped mesas with steep sides and rugged canyons. Farther south and west the mesas and canyons are barren with sparse vegetation, The Colorado uplands support more abundant plant life. Visitors need to note the Park’s elevation is 6,200 ft. with the mesa tops above 8,500 ft. The drive up to the main visitor areas offers spectacular views of the rugged countryside.
     It is a running joke among the native people that the whites “discovered” the cliff dwellings in 1888, just like Columbus “discovered” the Americas in 1492. The point being, the local Ute tribes considered this area sacred ground of the ancients, keeping it secret; the area was not lost.
     The Ancestral Puebloans lived in this area from around 500 AD, and contrary to popular belief, did not “disappear mysteriously” around 1300 AD. The Puebloan people farmed the mesa tops to enjoy a more moderate climate. The population grew and prospered, trading good with tribes as far as California, Mexico, and the Mississippi. The mesa provided for their needs; wild game, fertile ground for their crops, and a moderate climate. Around 1000 AD, the people began building the cliff dwellings. It has been assumed for safety from marauding tribes, but physical evidence doesn’t support the assumption.
      At its peak, the Mesa Verde community consisted of about 30,000 people, which is large for a native population residing in a confined area. The steep walls and rugged canyons limited them to the mesa tops. The period of prosperity and growth lasted about 300 years. The growth strained their ability to raise enough farm products to sustain the population. The ancestral people learned a farm lesson; continuous planting in the same area depletes the soil and reduces crop productivity. Two factors worked against the Mesa Verde community, they over-hunted the animals in the area and they over-farmed, depleting the soils ability to produce sufficient crops. As younger groups sought more food, they moved south and east from the original settlement on the mesa. The ancestral people freely abandoned the mesa because it no longer provided for them; no mystery involved.

I can’t leave without sharing pictures surrounding Mesa Verde. I’ll discuss the architecture and utility of the cliff dwelling in the next article. The Ancestral Puebloans left a rich legacy of buildings and society to rival any European city. If London, England, had 3-story stone buildings in 1100AD, they were remnants of Roman buildings. And we call this culture primitive.

View West from Mesa Verde
View north from Mesa Verde

West Canyon Overlook

Durango "apartment" in 1880 AD



Mesa Verde "apartment" in 1100 AD

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ

After leaving Monument Valley we wandered south on US160 to stay in Kayenta, AZ, for a few days to visit and hike the three ancient ruins of the Navajo National Monument. (I can't find the CD with those pictures #%* :-((   Take you time to walk and feel the raw nature of these areas.

It's kind of around your elbow, but after Tuba City, turn north toward Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam at Page, AZ. I'll discuss the Lake and Dam in the next post. If you want to see Zion NP, Bryce NP, or the Grand Canyon's North Rim, this is the route to follow. We continued north on US89 to Page.

You know when you arrive in Page because they have the only Wal-Mart for about 100 miles or more. It's open and busy 24/7 to serve the locals, RVers, hikers and other tourists.

Plan ahead to arrange a Navajo tour into Antelope Canyon. Yes. they take tourists all day long, but the choice time to visit the canyon is an hour each side of noon (Remember, the Navajo don't follow the white man's Daylight Saving Time, so be sure you are on Navajo time when scheduling a jeep tour.)

 The entrance to Antelope Canyon.

Like Monument Valley, pictures don't show the depth and richness of the coloring of the places like Antelope Canyon. This is a "slot" canyon formed by the water run-off from the mesa above. The canyon is about 50-feet deep and runs about 1/2 mile into the mesa. There are several slot canyons in the area and each offers unique rock formations. Each is worth a visit. Some require more strenuous hiking than others; the tour hdqtr will provide up-to-date info and weather (They don't take you if rain is forecast.)

These shots are from near the entrance and the "slot" is wider and lets in more light.

The width of the "slot" varies from 3- to 12-feet. Think of how long, in thousands of years, Mother Nature took to carve these wondrous contours.

 No flash was used in these shots. That is the natural light around mid-day.

At high noon the sunlight shines nearly straight down into the "slot," Providing great scenic pics with sunbeam. The winds carries grit from above, which results in beautiful photo effects. (Plan to bring a plastic bag to cover your camera when not shooting, the grit gets into the lens and shutters.)
Google is giving me a hard time - it rotates some of the saved pics 90d from vertical????????????????

 As you walk deeper into the slot, the light and shadow create illusions of motion in the sculpted rock as if water still flowed.

 I'm frustrated that I can't add the pics oriented correctly. I hope you can click on link and enlarge and rotate to enjoy. I'm more frustrated, I just checked -- you can't click and enlarge these pics:-((

There is much to see in the Page area. Plan on a few days here. It is an interesting little town and many neat shops and restaurants. Enjoy your visit.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Monument Valley, AZ

Driving south from Moab to Monument Valley is scenic wonderland. There are many side trips in Utah before you come to Monument V. If you have the time, spend a day or two in Blanding, UT.
We have a large sedan and didn't have any problems visiting the well-known places in the area.

Remember once you enter Navajo land, they don't acknowledge "daylight savings time," so be sure you know where you are to know what time it is. Because it is Navajo Land, we hired a Navajo guide, which allowed us to go to areas not usually travel by tourists in there own vehicle.  Yes, in a way it is condescending, but the other side is it gives them a chance to gouge the "white man" for a change.

If you couldn't tell, the grandeur this area is unbelievable. We have so many pics of this area, I didn't know where to begin. The scientist in me must say, as you look at those great mesas, a thousand feet in the air, remember that 100,000+ years ago, the top of those mesas was the bottom of a vast inland sea. Over time, the weight of all that water compressed the sand into rock. When the vast sea drained, it eroded the bottom of the sea. Then, eons of wind and rain eroded the shapes we see today. Also know that during those eons, volcanoes in the mountains around Las Vegas NV created "acid rain" that hastened the erosion.  The other interesting feature is this area has been arid since those day, so that the rains were infrequent.

There is water out there, but you have to know where to look.

We stopped at a reproduction hogan. Between the thick clay walls and shade from the hot sun, it felt cool inside.

As mentioned above, the constant wind and infrequent rain creates marvelous structures.

This is called "The Ear of the Wind."

This cave has a Top Hole the sun shines through. The stain on the wall is from rain running down from the hole. That's me in the blue shirt with out Navajo guide, which give a perspective as to it's size.

In closing, the classic shot of the vista with the Right and Left Mittens. (Think of a mitten thumb sticking out to left or right when viewing the spire separated to one side or the other.) For perspective, those dots on the road in the foreground are cars. The mesa tops are over 1,000 ft high.

A visit recalls the great John Ford/ John Wayne movies. It's worth the drive to visit here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

We're still in the four-corners area, heading west with a stop at the Hovenweep National Monument along the Utah border. There are several different sites to visit. Take your time and don't rush them.

I like the US 491 drive, in part because after driving it the first time, I wrote a scene for one of my novels describing the Delores Valley. US 491 connects to US 191 and leads north to Moab, UT.

Moab is a charming get-out-walk-around-have-a-beer kind of town. We try to spend a week here--there's just too much to see. Nearby are Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Canyon Rim BLM Rec Area and rafting on the Colorado.

 Unfortunately this beautiful "Delicate Arch" in Arches NP collapsed in 2013. This pic is from 2011.  This arch was over 300 yards long. As I say in one of my novels, "and carved by God's great hands."  There are so many amazing rock formations in Arches that is difficult to pick out favorites.

These are the Arches that appear on the T-shirts and License plates, particularly the ones on the right.

This formation is called the elephants for obvious reasons.

These formations are called the beehives.

These few pictures do little justice to the beauty of this NP -- visit for yourself!

West of Arches NP is Canyonlands NP. Again pictures don't relate the grandeur of these vast areas.

These scenic loops were cut by the Green River before it joins the Colorado a few miles downstream.

Each turn in the road produces a new vista  with scenic wonder.

Moab, UT

This arch is in Canyonlands NP with the canyon vista behind. We try to visit late afternoon to get the sunset colors reflected in the red rock canyons.

If you want to try something unusual. Before you cross the Colorado River on US-191, turn east on State-128 (some folks use this as a cut-off to reach I-70-it's a scenic drive, but not always open). After you visit Castleton and Fisher towers, on the stretch of road between Castleton and Fisher, there is a small ranch on the north side of the road along the river that will take you on a mule-ride into the Arches or Canyonlands for 1-5 days. Mules are much easier to ride and the slow pace is ideal for taking lots of pics in area where most folks don't walk or hike.

I hope you can see why we schedule a week in Moab-- there's so much to see, you don't know where to look next.
Enjoy the American west.