Santa Fe, New Mexico to Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
Taos, New Mexico
March 12, 2020
Note 1: I actually made this trip on March 10; I couldn't upload the slideshow until today when I found wifi.
Note 2: YouTube blocked my original music on the video - Lou Rawls "See You When I Get There." I hope the Chairmen is a good replacement.
This blog is about Bandalier and it neighbor, the Los Alamos National Lab. You may already know about Los Alamos' role in the development of the first atomic/nuclear bombs. My dad's career was closely linked with Los Alamos. After WW II he worked at Hanford and later at Savannah River, both facilities associated with the production of plutonium and tritium. At Savannah River, he was the Reactor Superintendent, responsible for the operation of SRP's five reactors. Later he served on the Atomic Energy Commission's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards. It occurred to me late in my undergraduate days at UVa that I was better off not pursuing a career directly in my dad's shadow. Right call.
I hope you enjoy the slideshow. The scenery at Bandelier is awesome. The orangish walls that you will see are made of volcanic "tuff" which is volcanic ash that settled and then compressed.
Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back over 11,000 years. Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities.
The monument is 50 square miles of the Pajarito Plateau, on the slopes of the Jemez volcanic field in the Jemez Mountains. Over 70% of the monument is wilderness, with over one mile of elevation change, from about 5,000 feet along the Rio Grande to over 10,000 feet at the peak of Cerro Grande on the rim of the Valles Caldera, providing for a wide range of life zones and wildlife habitats. There are more than 70 miles of hiking trails.
Bandelier was designated by President Wilson as a national monument in 1916, and named for Adolph Bandelier, a Swiss-American anthropologist, who researched the cultures of the area and supported preservation of the sites. The park infrastructure was developed in the 1930s by crews of the Civilian Conservation Corps and is a National Historic Landmark for its well-preserved architecture. The National Park Service cooperates with surrounding Pueblos, other federal agencies, and state agencies to manage the park.
Life in Bandelier
The Ancestral Pueblo people lived here from approximately 1150 CE to 1550 CE. They built homes carved from the volcanic tuff and planted crops in mesatop fields. Corn, beans, and squash were central to their diet, supplemented by native plants and meat from deer, rabbit, and squirrel. Domesticated turkeys were used for both their feathers and meat while dogs assisted in hunting and provided companionship.
By 1550, the Ancestral Pueblo people had moved from this area to pueblos along the Rio Grande. After over 400 years the land here could no longer support the people and a severe drought added to what were already becoming difficult times. Oral traditions tell us where the people went and who their descendents are. The people of Cochiti Pueblo, located just south and east along the Rio Grande, are the most direct descendents of the Ancestral Pueblo people who built homes in Frijoles Canyon. Likewise, San Ildefonso is most closely linked to Tsankawi.
Frijoles Canyon contains 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 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.
Wildlife at Bandelier
Wildlife is locally abundant, and deer and Abert's squirrels are frequently encountered in Frijoles Canyon. Black bear and mountain lions inhabit the monument and may be encountered by the backcountry hiker. A substantial herd of elk are present during the winter months, when snowpack forces them down from their summer range in the Jemez Mountains.
Notable among the smaller mammals of the monument are large numbers of bats that seasonally inhabit shelter caves in the canyon walls, sometimes including those of Frijoles Canyon near the loop trail. Wild turkeys, vultures, ravens, several species of birds of prey, and a number of hummingbird species are common. Rattlesnakes, tarantulas, and "horny toads" (a species of lizard) are occasionally seen along the trails.
Los Alamos National Lab
Los Alamos National Laboratory is a Department of Energy national laboratory initially organized during World War II for the design of nuclear weapons as part of the Manhattan Project.
Los Alamos was selected as the top secret location for bomb design in late 1942, and officially commissioned the next year, under the management of University of California. At the time it was known as Project Y and was the center for weapon design and overall coordination. Other labs, today known as Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Hanford Site, concentrated on the production of uranium and plutonium bomb fuels. Los Alamos was the heart of the project, collecting together some of the world's most famous scientists, among them numerous Nobel Prize winners. The site was known variously as Project Y, Los Alamos Laboratory, and Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory through this period.
The lab's existence was announced to the world in the post-WWII era, when it became known universally as Los Alamos. In 1952, the Atomic Energy Commission formed a second design lab under the direction of the University of California, Berkeley, becoming the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Since that date the two labs have competed on a wide variety of bomb designs. With the ending of the Cold War, both labs turned their focus increasingly to civilian missions. Today, Los Alamos is one of the largest science and technology institutions in the world. It conducts multidisciplinary research in fields such as national security, space exploration, nuclear fusion, renewable energy, medicine, nanotechnology, and supercomputing.
The Manhattan Project
The laboratory was founded during World War II as a secret, centralized facility to coordinate the scientific research of the Manhattan Project, the Allied project to develop the first nuclear weapons. In September 1942, the difficulties encountered in conducting preliminary studies on nuclear weapons at universities scattered across the country indicated the need for a laboratory dedicated solely to that purpose.
General Leslie Groves wanted a central laboratory at an isolated location for safety, and to keep the scientists away from the populace. It should be at least 200 miles from international boundaries and west of the Mississippi. Major John Dudley suggested Oak City, Utah or Jemez Springs, New Mexico but both were rejected.. Project Y director J. Robert Oppenheimer had spent much time in his youth in the New Mexico area, and suggested the Los Alamos Ranch School on the mesa. Dudley had rejected the school as not meeting Groves’ criteria, but as soon as Groves saw it he said in effect "This is the place". Oppenheimer was the laboratory's first director.
During the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos hosted thousands of employees, including many Nobel Prize-winning scientists. The location was a total secret. Its only mailing address was a post office box, number 1663, in Santa F. . Eventually two other post office boxes were used, 180 and 1539, also in Santa Fe. Though its contract with the University of California was initially intended to be temporary,] the relationship was maintained long after the war.
The work of the laboratory culminated in several atomic devices, one of which was used in the first nuclear test near Alamogordo, New Mexico, codenamed "Trinity", on July 16, 1945. The other two were weapons, "Little Boy" and "Fat Man", which were used in the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.