Since M was still at the vet and D was off of work today we decided to take a day trip to visit a few of New Mexico’s wineries and Bandelier National Monument.

The drive out there was really nice going through the hills along the Gorge.

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Our first stop was at Vivac Winery. Most of these wineries are going to be small operations and you can find some of their wines at local liquor stores and some restaurants. 

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We ended up buying 2 bottles of wine, I wasn’t too excited about their wines. The tasting is open Monday- Saturday 10AM-6PM, Sunday Noon-6PM and cost $3 a person, but free if you buy a bottle of wine.

Our next winery was right up the road at Black Mesa Winery.

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Tasting here are $7 to taste 6 and you take home the glass. I LOVED this place. MaryAnn was fantastic and so fun to talk to! We really enjoyed all of the wines here and I can see why they have won so many medals.

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Even if you don’t like sweet wines you will still love Black Beauty, their signature chocolate flavored dessert wine. It taste just like a liquid chocolate covered strawberry!

We picked a place to have lunch in Chimayo, but was warned that it was Good Friday and there’s over 3,000 Pilgrims making their way on foot to a church in Chimayo and that it would take forever to get through them so we decided to just pick a place in Espanola.

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Part of our problem trying to find a place is it’s a holiday so out of the few restaurants the town actually has only an hand full are open. JoAnn’s was recommended to try so we settled there. First impression is it’s an old place and doesn’t seem to be the cleanest by the look of their restroom.

We started out with some chips and salsa. The salsa was surprisingly really good and spicy.

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The menu has all the old standbys as far as Mexican restaurants go.

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We ordered the Casados Special Combination plate $10.99 (Carne Adovada, Enchilada, Tamale and Taco, served with rice and posole) Couldn’t complain for $10 it was very filing. I thought the posole was a little firm, but everything else was really good. The meat was flavorful and very tender. I also appreciated the enchilada having shredded beef instead of filled with a block of cheese.

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We also ordered the Combination Plate $10.99 (Large green chile stuffed with beef or chicken, cheese, batter and then fried to golden brown and smothered with red or green chile, Tamale and rice and beans) D got chose beef to try with the red sauce. I thought they actually had a little kick to it, but he said he really enjoyed it.

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Our meal also came with a sopapilla and I have to say it’s one of the best I’ve had in a really really long time!

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With our bellies full we headed on to Bandelier National Monument. It’s National Parks Week so any park you visit is free this week.

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I had to ask the park ranger the difference between a National Park and a National Monument. A National Park is established by the government and is a reserve of natural or semi-natural land. A National Monument is similar, but established by the president without approval of Congress. National Monuments receive less finding and have fewer protections to wildlife than national parks.

Bandelier National Monument is a 33,677 acres National Monument preserving the homes of the Ancestral Pueblo People. It is named after Swiss anthropologist Adolph Bandelier, who researched the cultures of the area.

The closest archeological site is 400 yards from the visitor center and is a paved 1.2 mile Main Loop Trial to Tyuonyi and the cliff dwellings. I suggest buying the guide book for $1 in the visitor center, because we had no clue what we where looking at most of the time.

Tyuonyi is on the floor of the Frijoles Canyon.

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The main attraction of the monument for the casual visitor is Frijoles Canyon, containing a number of ancestral pueblo homes, kivas (ceremonial structures), rock paintings and petroglyphs. Some of the dwellings were rock structures built on the canyon floor; others were “cavates” produced by voids in the volcanic tuff of the canyon wall and carved out further by humans. A 1.2-mile (1.6 km), predominantly paved, “Main Loop Trail” from the visitor center affords access to these features. A trail extending beyond this loop leads to Alcove House (formerly called Ceremonial Cave, and still so identified on some maps), a shelter cave produced by erosion of the soft rock and containing a small, reconstructed kiva that hikers may enter via ladder. (Information in paragraph from Wikipedia)

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There’s several ladders that you can climb to check out the cliff dwellings. There isn’t much room in the dwellings to stand up so just beware. Some of the trails connecting the dwellings are narrow as well.

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When you are done viewing the dwellings you continue on the Main Loop Trail which takes you by the multistory dwellings at Bandelier. Rock wall foundations and beam holes and cavates carved into tuff from upper floors.

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Next was the Alcove house. I don’t know if this was totally worth it, but it gives you a sense of what they had to do to hide in the cliff sides. There’s steep ladders which aren’t so bad going up, but scare the begeebies out of you coming down.

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The trail is really nice through the forest and we also got to see the unusual looking Albert squirrel.

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The base of the Alcove house gives you diagrams that describe how it looked back in the day. 

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Then its off on our climbing adventure. There’s 4 ladders total and very narrow paths and stairs in-between. I didn’t take a picture of the last one because it wasn’t as large as the other 3 nor as steep.

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Once you make it to the top you can walk around the area.

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You can even climb down into the Kiva.

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After the scary climb down we headed back towards the house when I got a call from the vet that M could come home. Sooooo excited!!! She’ll be on 5 different medications and have to see our vet for a check up as soon as we get home, but that’s ok knowing that we get to have her back in our arms tonight!

The drive home was peaceful and pretty.

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We wanted to visit Don Quixote Distillery and Winery, but we ran out of time.

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