Pecos National Historical Park
Jeremy's rating: ★★★☆☆
A little off the beaten path, Pecos is worth a visit if you're fascinated by Native American History, Spanish colonial horrors, and wide beautiful empty spaces. But the overall scope of the park is a tad underwhelming.
Jen's rating: ★★★☆☆
During our New Mexico adventures, visiting a pueblo was on the top of my list and boy, was this a pueblo. Not the largest site to see but close-by to our airBnB outside of Santa Fe and the perfect place for a quick morning hike (about 30-45 minutes, depending on your pace) and a bit of local history.
Before the US won the American Southwest from Mexico, before Mexico won its independence from Spain, and before the Spanish Empire conquered the vast majority of the New World, the various Native American tribes ruled the land.
A little over 30 miles southeast of the heart of Santa Fe, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, stands the Pecos National Historical Park and the remains of the Pecos pueblos. Among rolling hills of juniper and ponderosa pine woodlands, the park preserves the historic interactions of the Spanish and Pecos people.
By the time the Spanish arrived in the region in the late 1500s looking for silver and fertile land, the Pecos were the dominant trading power in the region; they lived a solid #LifeOfPueblo lifestyle as the merchants and middlemen of the Southwest.
Not much remains at Pecos now: There are scattered throughout the park the foundations of some of what would have been impressively imposing pueblos that rose five stories high. Amongst the ruins are still wholly intact kivas, subterranean vaults used for political and religious rites that can only be accessed by taking a ladder down down into the cold cold ground.
At the center of the ruins stands the remnants of the Mission Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Porciúncula de los Pecos — a terracotta mission that the Spanish built as part of their colonizing efforts and all around attempts at both making Jesus happy, and the natives unhappy, through missionary activities in the early 1600s.
The first mission was actually destroyed during an uprising of the Pecos people and other tribes in the region against the Spaniard's heavy domineeringly Catholic hands. But by the end of the century, the Pecos were again living under Spanish rule and the missionary was rebuilt - bigger, better, and more benevolent than before (the Spaniards had seemed to learn their lesson about ruling too harshly).
At a slow amble, the trail throughout the pueblos can easily be completed within an hour. But beyond just the ruins, the park itself captures some of the wild and ruggedly beautiful spirit of the southwest. While walking along the path to the mission, slightly off the path two coyotes loped across a plain and into a juniper forest.
At the first kiva we came across, perched atop the wooden ladder, sat a giant hawk. As we approached, it flew off with a mighty thrust towards the horizon, before circling over some unfortunate rabbit or mouse on the plain.
Not to mention, the colors of the park sparked a deep love of all things terracotta within Jen. And generally, interior design tips like that don't come cheap.