A Crossroads of History Etched in Stone

El Morro National MonumentThroughout history people have followed the same trails in the Southwest. Ancient civilizations created them, explorers and missionaries followed them, the U.S. army mapped them, settlers followed in the pursuit of Manifest Destiny, and freeways were laid for modern transportation. All of these migrants have left their mark recording history on the face of a large rock rising out of the desert in western New Mexico. A constant source of water seems to be what brought so much history to this place.

El Morro National Monument is the name of this now-protected piece of land, and my recent New Mexico expedition took me there. I arrived with just about an hour left to explore before they closed. This gave me just barely enough time to go on the self-guided tour of the inscription loop trail. That’s not a problem though since it gives me a reason to go back to hike the other trail up to the ruins on top of the mesa.

What makes this place so special? The inscriptions etched into the rock’s face ranging from ancient petroglyphs to Spanish poems to beautifully scripted signatures. Its an American stele forest! For hundreds of years people have passed by and stopped at the pool of water hidden in the bend of the rock. These travelers left their mark in stone. (post continues after pictures)

El Morro National Monument inscriptionsEl Morro National Monument PetroglyphsEl Morro National Monument cursive inscription

My favorite is Mr. Long’s from Baltimore. When taking the self-guided tour on the inscription loop, visitors are given a set of laminated cards with the stories of select inscriptions. This gives a fascinating look into history including the U.S. Army expedition that used camels to see if they would be any better while exploring the West. Below is a video tour I made on my visit. 

Even though people left their mark for centuries, it has been considered defacing to leave yours for more than 100 years. This doesn’t mean that the national monument isn’t any less worth visiting. I highly recommend taking a detour off Interstate 40 down highway 53 to visit this gem. Just don’t do it until the government shutdown is over since you won’t be able to get past the gate.

Until then, go find an adventure on private lands. There is always adventure out there!

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