Here’s an off-the-beaten-path adventure that will intrigue you. El Morro National Monument is located in the northwestern corner of New Mexico on SR 53. For centuries, travelers and explorers have stopped to rest and replenish themselves at an oasis of water wedged into the base of this sandstone outcropping that overlooks the desert. Before continuing the journey, they left their mark on the cliff’s smooth sandstone walls, history’s equivalent of “I was here.”
Alan and I visited El Morro on a warm June day. After stopping in the visitor’s center, we followed the paved Inscription Trail (1/2-mile round-trip walk) to the base of the sandstone cliff. I could understand why travelers stopped at the tree-shaded pool, which is replenished by rainwater and snow melt. Continuing along the base of the rock, we began to see messages from long ago. First, petroglyphs and the hand prints of the Anasazi. Turning a corner, we came to a poem scratched into the stone by a Spanish explorer, followed by a letter chiseled in perfect penmanship by a Western adventurer. Over 2,000 inscriptions and petroglyphs mark the walls. However, don’t think that you can leave your message to eternity. Since 1906, U.S. federal law has prohibited marking on the sandstone cliff of El Morro.
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