For our day off we went into Los Alamos to walk around some historic sites and then did a short hike of the Tsankawi Prehistoric Sites. The name Tsankawi is from the Tewa language of the nearby Idelfonso puebloans and means sharp gap or village between two canyons. The cliff dwellings were built in the 15th century. The hike is a short 1.5 mile loop but is incredibly worth it.
Using some of the same trails the Ancestral Pueblo people used to get to their villages we got to check out all the cool cavates, and petroglyphs along the mesa. This is unlike most any hike I’ve ever done. A lot of the surface was along worn in trench sections of rock high up on the mesa. In parts these were as deep as 2 feet and were worn in as the puebloans traveled from the mesa tops to their farms in the canyon below.
I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone with extreme fear of heights because you are required to climb down at least one ladder section to get back to the start. Also, on hot days this could be a brutal place because there is very little shade.
Los Alamos is the city it is because back in World War II, the military was ordered to produce an atomic bomb. The military needed to find a secret and isolated place to build a government facility and town. The government took advantage of Native Americans (shocker), stole their land and built Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Manhattan Project produced the nuclear bomb under General Groves and Robert Oppenheimer. Today the lab is still fully operational and doing plenty of research. Its stated mission is “to develop and apply science and technology to ensure the safety, security and reliability of the US nuclear deterrent, reduce global threats, and salve other emerging national security and energy challenges.”
On our day off we went downtown to walk around a bit. We started at Ashley Pond in Manhattan Park. The pond began as a natural depression but was then dug deeper by the school and piped in from a dam in Los Alamos Canyon. The pond is surrounded by a beautiful array of plants and flowers and is encircled by a walking path and green grassy slopes. So much beauty associated with so much death. Some of the things we saw:
The Fuller Lodge is quite a grand building, built in 1928. It served as the Ranch School dining hall, and is named after Edward Fuller who was a staff member at the school. The lodge is made of 771 massive pine logs, personally selected by the architect.
We walked past the Fuller Lodge to check out the Ancestral Pueblo Site. In roughly 1225 CE, this site was home to a group of Tewa speaking people, ancestors of Pueblo groups now living along the Rio Grande. They built with blocks of tuff, the welded volcanic ash common in this area.
Around the corner, Bathtub Row is a cluster of cottages that were built for the Ranch School as residences and classrooms. Having the only bathtubs in town, these homes quickly acquired the name “Bathtub Row.” Oppenheimer lived in one of them but it’s a private residence now.
The Hans Bethe House is one of the bathtub row houses. Hans was a Nobel Prize winning physicist that played a significant role in developing the hydrogen bomb.
Timing is everything, I just finished reading Trinity by Louisa Hall. It’s a fictional book about Robert Oppenheimer and Trinity which is the name for the test of the nuclear bomb built as part of the Manhattan Project.