Once again, our drive is beautiful. Heading northwest from Santa Fe takes us through more wide open spaces and multi-colored canyon walls.
|Hwy 4 off Hwy 502|
|Bandelier National Monument from the view point|
Our inter-agency pass gets us in for free and we check out the visitor center. It's Friday and the parking lot is full.
|Behind the visitors' center.|
|It's not a thick forest, but the pines are tall.|
Instead, I take the trail along Frijoles Creek where the sound of the water allows me to be alone with the spirit of this ancestral place. Signs of recent flood damage make the formation of this canyon by water very real.
|Small, but fast, the sound of Frijoles Creek is calming|
|Large areas of the park are closed due to flood damage, including huge trees felled across the trail|
If not for the railings and the loud tourists, the ruins would be completely hidden, even from this close. These were very defensible homes, carved from the soft tufts of the canyon walls. From those heights, they could see for miles in both directions, in a canyon that can only be accessed in two directions. Entrances and windows blend in with the natural caves and pockets. Engineering and strategy are evident.
|The canyon walls are full of deep divots|
|Storage buildings were built lower, and are more visible from the bottom of the canyon|
|but the dwellings are high up in the cliffs - see them?|
|See the window? From there you can see|
|up the canyon|
|and down the canyon.|
|Small rooms in the canyon floor|
It's a town with a security gate entrance. The guard checks our ID and we drive "in". Lots of buildings with tall electric fences line the highway, and then suddenly we're in a small town with houses and stores and banks and lots of apartment buildings.
We find the Bradley Science Museum to learn the history and the relevance of nuclear weapons. The amount of information is overwhelming. Literally. To read every word offered, to view every exhibit displayed, to watch every video, and see both films - it would take days.
|Layers of information - time line, photos, documents|
|Exhibit of nuclear detonator - how do they know what all those wires do?|
|This small compartment tests nuclear explosions without exposing the environment|
|The only DARHT testing in the world - Google it, it's very cool|
We watch a 20 minute film that attempts to answer these and other similar questions. It is well done. It is convincing. One cannot argue with the fact that no other world-wide conflicts have occurred since the bombs dropped.
But Los Alamos labs are working on more than weapons stewardship and safety. The information on other studies is fascinating and encouraging.
|Preventing disease and death|
|Understanding environmental changes|
|Growing fuel rather than extracting it|
The extremes of what we've experienced in this one day are not lost on us. Seeing the advancement of the human race from communities carved in canyon walls, to technology that can test the viability of a nuclear explosion inside a small pod, is a LOT to absorb.
We are far from perfect, but we humans are incredible.