Friday, June 3, 2011

The Sandia-Man Cave

This post is part of a series called the Great New Mexican Adventure, where I detail the things to see and do in New Mexico and determine if they are worth the time, effort, and money.

I found out about this via some blurb in the Weekly Alibi, the local paper of Albuquerque. There was almost no information about it and the information there was intriguing. I then did a quick Google search and all the results contained the same amounts of information: there is a cave in the Sandia Mountains, oh that's it. Sorry.

Apparently the cave was home to a prehistoric man some 20,000 years ago and the cave was excavated in the 1940's. Researchers found tools and other evidence of man settlement and even cooler was the discovered remains of many Ice Age related beasts (like the mastadon, go go power rangers! ...sorry).

Remarkably there isn't a single reliable source that explains the location. They all say drive on this road (SR 165) and look for a sign that points to Sandia Cave. That's it. It is so mysterious that the region I believe the cave is located is blurry when using Google Maps satellite imagery.

Regardless of proof, all directions are spot on, there is indeed a sign on SR 165 that points to the parking area of Sandia Cave. From there you hike about a half a mile up to the cave entrance which is identifiable with rudimentary prehistoric man stairs:
I didn't build those... I swear.
 Once you enter the cave, your eyes will be full of wonder and awe as you gaze upon the most amazing cave paintings ever in existence:
Or at least that's what I thought.
 Now you have a choice. You can either turn back and be proud that you miraculously found this location (along with apparently anyone who can use their eyes), or you can venture into the cave. I must warn that entry into this cave isn't advisable without a flashlight, proper clothing, and perhaps a dust mask. You won't get 10 feet into this cave without a flashlight it gets dark rather quickly. You also won't get very far if you are claustrophobic. After the first 20 feet you have to nearly crawl to get through. I think I ventured maybe about a tenth of a mile into this cave (could be further but I can't be sure). I turned around because I was sick of crawling and because the dust was making me anxious.

Major aside: Hilariously, Stef and I made this trip spur of the moment, but Stef thought it was all premeditated on my part. I remembered while we were in Santa Fe that I wanted to do this, and that the access road was on the way to ABQ. Stef went along with it and off we went. When we got there I asker her if she brought some tennis shoes (which to her meant we have to hike, and it did) which alerted her that it might be more then a cave on the side of the road. I was merely asking because it would be better to venture in those then in her all-purpose flip-flops, of course she didn't believe me.


Then when we arrived and put on our tennis shoes, I grabbed the flashlight she stores in her trunk for emergency purposes. She of course thought this was all part of the plan and that I was just luring her into something she didn't want to do. But I calmly explained that if this was indeed a real cave then lighting would be important and that I saw the flashlight and thought it would be useful to have. All of this is true, but I can see why she wouldn't believe me.


Back on point, the hike is fairly simple and the more tricky parts are aided with stairs and rails. The cave itself is pretty deep and had no end from where I could see. Unfortunately there were no remains or fossils visible in the cave (at least for however long I tried looking), although there may have been fire markings, and the cave was literally littered with litter even as deep as I had ventured (and possibly way deeper). That had to be the most upsetting aspect. Otherwise the cave is pretty neat. It is a drive that is a bit out there though, so for something that may take you less than an hour to enjoy you'll have to weigh your options.

As with any hike, make sure you bring plenty of water. If you do venture into the cave prepare to be covered in yellow dirt and bring a change of clothes for the kiddies. If you take the trip to the cave you might as well drive further along the route which will take you all the way up to Sandia Crest, just don't do it during the winter time.
Stef was not happy when I emerged from the cave looking like this.


Information:
Location???
Via the National Forest Service
Rating: Awesome
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