Revisiting Bandelier

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By The Staff

For almost a century, Bandelier National Monument has been a place of natural and man-made wonders, where visitors walk narrow trails through deep canyons and traverse mesas to marvel at vistas of the Pajarito Plateau or the ruins of abandoned pueblos. For more than 30 years, such experiences have been enhanced by a guidebook written by veteran hiker and historian Dorothy Hoard.

In 1977, Hoard authored “A Hiker’s Guide to Bandelier National Monument,” which soon evolved into an expanded version called “A Guide to Bandelier.” Published by the Los Alamos Historical Society, this popular book has just been released in a beautifully updated fourth edition that includes almost all new photographs and illustrations.

Hoard has been hiking the trails and backcountry of Bandelier since 1963 and has become a noted authority on the history of the park. By reading her guide book along the way, a hiker has an unseen but welcomed companion explaining the scenery, telling stories of the former occupants of the dwellings, and teaching the names of birds or the species of plants encountered.  

In 1900, archaeologist Edgar L. Hewett instigated introduction of a bill in Congress for a “Pajarito National Park,” Hoard tells readers. Such a park would have encompassed most of the Pajarito Plateau, including the present-day Monument. Along the Frijolito Trail, the author not only explains to a hiker that the 5- to 7-foot tall plant they are passing is called wolfberry or tomatillo, but that the plant is a member of the tomato/potato/nightshade family and that its seeds are notoriously tough, accounting for the plant reproducing for more than 500 years.  

“Hunters used pitch with sinew to bind arrowheads to shafts,” Hoard mentions as an aside when guiding the reader through piñons along the Lower Alamos Trail. For visitors to Burnt Mesa, she introduces the mystery of a village that, within a 10-year span, showed an unusual difference in pottery style and an abrupt change in the materials used for tools.  

Along with directions and mileage and the accompanying information for each hike are illustrations and three-dimensional maps drawn by the author as well as a wealth of photographs.   

In short, Hoard’s guidance and narration throughout the book make the prehistoric and natural history in the park come alive.  She provides concise and interesting lessons along each trail, and her words mixed with the solitude and scenery of Bandelier National Monument make it a place to visit again and again.  

A book signing for the new edition of “A Guide to Bandelier National Monument” will be held from 7-8 p.m. Tuesday in the Los Alamos Historical Museum.