Ramah, New Mexico – Frommer’s Top 10 Up and Coming Destination in 2006
The diverse culture and history surrounded by open prairies and pink buttes is why we have selected Ramah, New Mexico as an up and coming destination. The city itself is rich with Mormon history, although the mix of ancestral roots from Spanish settlers to Texan bean farmers can be seen. Bordered by the Zuni and Ramah Navajo Reservations, the intense pride for their heritage seems to radiate everywhere. The El Morro National Monument is a centuries old collection of messages inscribed on a sandstone rock by Native Americans, Spaniards and other travelers.
A Must: The Ramah Farmers Market, where locals bring lettuce, spinach, beets, onions and carrots sit on tables and in bins amid the honey-like scent of flowers happens every weekend. Stop to enjoy a hazelnut cookie or raspberry tarts. Live guitar music lilts out across irrigated fields where horses and cattle graze.
El Malpais National Monument, Junction Cave
The monument was created to preserve the features of the lava, termed El Malpais in Spanish, meaning the bad-lands. The Spanish explorers of the early 18th century gave the name to the area because of its inhospitality and ruggedness. The park is the home of five major lava flows, ranging in age from the two thousand year-old McCarty’s Crater to the El Calderon, or cauldron, estimated at being 14 thousand years old. The monument, created in 1987, is situated south of Interstate 40 and between NM Highways 53 on the west and 117 on the east. Cibola County Road 42 is the southern boundary of the monument, administered by the National Park Service. Deer, elk and turkey can be seen sometimes at the fringes of the park and in the nearby Zuni Mountains to the northwest. There are several sites along NM Highway 53 to visit and where you can take hikes. To the west of the monument proper is the Chain of Craters. The more than two dozen old volcano cones stretch for nearly twenty miles straddling the Continental Divide and can be accessed by Cibola County Road 42. For more information about the park stop by the Information Center at Mile Post 62 along NM Highway 53, or call 783-4664. Website: http://www.nps.gov/elma/
Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano
For a real experience in contrast, visit the Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano, “The Land of Fire and Ice.” Situated on the Continental Divide you walk through the twisted, old-growth Juniper, Fir and Ponderosa Pine trees, over the ancient lava trail to the Ice Cave. Here the natural layers of ice glisten blue-green in the reflected rays of sunlight. Another trail winds around the side of the Bandera Volcano to view one of the best examples of a volcanic eruption in the country. Located in the heart of El Malpais, the historic Ice Cave Trading Post displays ancient artifacts as well as contemporary indian artworks. Call 1-888-ICECAVE for more information.
El Morro Old School Gallery
The El Morro Old School Gallery is home to the El Morro Area Arts Council. The el morro area arts council is a vibrant, non-profit organization which celebrates diversity, thrives on the sharing of creative ideas through programs, exhibitions and workshops, and supports a community-centered activity hub for traditional and contemporary arts. Old School Gallery hours: Thursday – Sunday, 11-5. For more information, or if you would like to join and support our efforts, contact EMAAC at 783-4710 or the Website: http://www.theoldschoolgallery.org
El Morro National Monument
They passed this way. They are the Ancient Ones, the Spanish, the Forty-niners and the graffiti artists of this century. And they all passed El Morro National Monument. The sandstone bluff rising from the floor of the El Morro Valley has been a landmark and haven for centuries. The Ancient Ones, the Anasazi, built their apartment-like homes atop the bluff and made their marks along the sandstone walls at its base. The first inscription made by the Europeans was that by Don Juan de Onate, the first governor of New Mexico under rule by Spain. His inscription reads in part, “passed by here… the 16th of April of 1605.” The Pilgrims didn’t land at Plymouth Rock until 1620. The Monument is open from 9 AM to 5 PM. Check at the Visitor Center for special events. In the Visitor Center, there is a display chronicling the people and cultures who came to find water. A fine book store is at the Visitor Center. Works are of local interest and for all ages of readers. The trails are well kept so comfortable walking shoes are recommended. El Morro National Monument is one mile from El Morro Cabins, Cafe, and RV Park. Call the Monument Headquarters for more information, (505) 783-4226. Website: http://www.nps.gov/elmo/
Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary
Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary is a non-profit organization providing safe sanctuary to abused and abandoned captive-bred wolves and wolf dogs. With focus on education, ecology and the environment, responsible ownership of wolf dogs and the humane care of all animals, companion or otherwise. Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary is focused on education, with the hope that rescue organizations will no longer be needed. Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary produces a newsletter, “The Candy Wolf”, and is dedicated to producing and collecting educational materials. An extensive data base of supporters throughout the area is computerized and this provides a network of people to help educate the public. A great deal of effort is spent by the staff and representatives in problem solving to help avoid animals being dumped or put in shelters. Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary currently houses 75 wolves and wolf-dogs, and is USDA licensed and inspected. Visitors and tour groups are welcome, hours are: Thursday through Sunday, and give tours at 11 A.M., 1 P.M. and 3 P.M. Tuesday and Wednesday by appointment only, closed Mondays. You can find Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary by turning off of Hwy 53, south at BIA 125 and then west at BIA 120. For more information you can write: Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, Star Route 2, Box 28 Ramah, NM 87321 Phone: (505) 775-3304. Website: Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary
Ramah Lake is man made, the Mormon pioneers laboring to build the dike in 1894 to provide additional irrigation for the little more than ten inches of annual rainfall. During the latter part of the 19th century the valley’s fields provided the entire potato crop for the city of Gallup. The dam failed twice, once in 1897 and again in 1905 because of heavy runoff during the spring thaws. Today, Ramah Lake is a popular fishing site in the area. Trout and catfish are plentiful. The lake is a no-wake lake and is a picturesque spot for a short hike and picnic.
A great history of the Ramah area can be found at the Ramah Museum, located in one of the old homes of the village. The house is listed in the National Historic Register. Hours at the museum are Fridays from 1-4 p.m. For more information about the museum call 783-4215. There is fertile land and a little water in the Ramah Valley, enough of each for people to settle on and grow crops. The Ramah Valley has been inhabited for centuries, remnants of the earlier people evident by petroglyphs and widely scattered ruins.
Dawn’s peaking sun burnishes the spires of Los Gigantes, the giants, the sandstone spires imposing their presence above the traditional hogans of local Navajo shepherds. In the distance at higher elevations in the Zuni Mountains, long a traditional gathering place of medicinal and ceremonial herbs for the Navajo and Zuni peoples, elk and turkey bask in the early sunlight to warm themselves from the still freezing nighttime temperatures. Los Gigantes can be viewed from NM Highway 53 on the way to Ramah.
The Village of Zuni, which sits atop the older place of Halona, lays claim to be the oldest continually, inhabited settlement on the continent. Continuity is its heritage. Many designs on modern pottery and other arts and crafts can be traced back to the Anasazi, “The Ancient Ones,” of the Southwest. The Anasazi Culture disappeared in the 13th century from places like Chaco Canyon, a hundred or so miles to the north. Some of those people are thought to have come to Zuni, to Acoma and to the pueblos along the Rio Grande River in central New Mexico.
The Spanish, in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola, sometimes known as the Seven Cities of Gold, came upon Zuni in 1539. The word Cibola is thought to be a Spanish corruption of the Zuni word for bison, the American buffalo. At the time of the Spanish incursion the Zuni people lived in about half a dozen settlements scattered far and wide, places like Hawikuh, Keehiba:wa and Halona, which is under the present pueblo. As the Spanish searched the New World they brought Christianity, erecting churches along their way.
There were several missions in the Zuni villages, two unfinished because of raids from the Navajos and Apaches. The completed mission, finished in 1629 and called Our Lady of Conception, was destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The people of Laguna, Acoma, Hopi and those in the Pueblos along the Rio Grande River rose in arms against the Spanish interlopers and drove them as far back as what is now El Paso, Texas. The church at Zuni was burned, along with others throughout the Southwest.
In the 1960s restoration began on the mission, renamed as Our Lady of Guadalupe, as the Zuni Tribe, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the National Park Service joined together to refurbish the mud and straw brick house of worship. The bricks made of mud and straw are used not only in the Southwest but in other arid lands as well. Adobe, as the bricks are known, is used in places as far-flung as the Mid East, Afghanistan and South America. It provides warmth in winter months and offers coolness during the hot season, a versatile and cheap building material.
Turquoise, also, is a worldwide commodity, used for jewelry and ceremonial purposes. The Zuni artisans are masters at using the many- hued stone in intricate jewelry pieces. They favor smaller stones, used as inlay or many of them mounted side by side in a style called either petit point or needlepoint.
Working with stone also involves the carving of fetishes, small representations, usually of animals. A fetish is believed to carry the power of the animal depicted. And all manner of creatures are carved, from birds to bears. All of the shops in the pueblo offer not only the arts and crafts but advice on collecting as well.
And some advice here about etiquette while visiting the ancestral homelands. The village is home, act accordingly, as you wish visitors would in yours. Common sense prevails, but do not be afraid to ask if you are unsure. Courtesy and respect beget themselves. For more information about visiting the Pueblo of Zuni, contact A:shiwi A:wan Museum & Heritage Center: 782-4403. Website: http://ashiwimuseum.org/