At Montezuma Castle, it is easy to imagine being Sinagua people making our way through the sycamore and cottonwood trees to gather water at Beaver Creak before climbing up the ladders to our home way up on the cliffs.  Except that I’m afraid of heights.

Montezuma Castle was mistakingly named after the Aztec king by settlers in the mid 1800s.  As it turned out, it didn’t belong to the Aztecs, in fact, it’s not even a castle.  It is an adobe community clinging tight to the cliffs.  Like Tuzigoot, it was built by the Sinagua nearly 2000 years ago.  Until 1951, visitors could go inside Montezuma Castle but due to vandals it was closed.  Now visitors can stroll the path among the white barked sycamores and imagine, if you are like me, life as a Sinagua, your life depending on the whims of Beaver Creek.

Back to the reality of being a newschool nomad, after both boys were forced to earn earned their Jr. Ranger badge, we hit the road and headed hurriedly east on I-40.  There would be no long bathroom breaks or food stops.  We were on a mission to get to the Petrified Forest National Park to see the highest concentration of petrified wood in the world and the painted desert by 5:00 pm.  As long are you are at the gate by 5:00 pm the park lets you in and you can at least take the 28 mile drive through the park to soak up the beauty.

A National Monument and Park in one day.  Maybe we should be the neurotic nomads.

At 4:15 we pulled into the gate with just enough time to visit the visitor’s center (sometimes it pays to be bossy) and stroll among the ancient stubborn trees who refused to fall prey to decay.

The boys climbed on trees that were as hard…as well…rock.

I had doubted our decision take the time for a detour but the first glimpse of the hills covered in Saturn-like rings of color (my photos do not even to begin to capture their beauty), my doubts were put to rest.

It was otherworldly lovely.

The boys kept exclaiming we were on Tatooine (a planet in Star Wars).

As magical as the sunset was I was sad to see her disappear and leave us in darkness as we drove the last 5 miles back to I-40.

If you ever get the chance, drive through the painted desert at sunset.  You will never be the same.

I couldn’t imagine a day filled with more beauty despite going to bed in an Alburquerque Walmart parking lot.

Love and Laughter,

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