We had driven 65 miles from Albuquerque to Mountainair, New Mexico, and then another 26 miles through very sparsely populated countryside to the ruins of Gran Quivira, the largest of the three Salinas Valley pueblo missions.
Since we were the only people visiting the National Park Service site that morning, I asked Ranger Dan if he became bored or felt lonely in this solo assignment in the ruins far from others. His answer: "I live at the bottom of the hill; my nearest neighbor is 2-1/2 miles away and the next neighbor is another 4 miles away" indicated he thought he had just the right amount of contact with neighbors.
Instead of appearing just as distant from visitors as Gran Quivira was from civilization, Ranger Dan was an energetic, out-going teacher. He clearly enjoyed the ruins and their history and said that he experiences something different each time he walks the grounds.
Following his enthusiastic introduction, we headed up the quarter mile trail to the second church begun around 1659, but never completed.
The first three photos were taken from the church looking to the northwest, west, and southwest in that order.
As we walked among the ruins of the church, we thought about the structure that had endured some three-plus centuries, the people who lived and worked here, and the serenity of the area.
There were walled spaces within the church that still looked quite sturdy.
Just behind the second church was the foundation of an earlier church.
Occupied for nearly nine centuries, 800 A.D. to 1672 A.D., the pueblo was an important trade center before and after the Spanish presence. Although the people resisted the newcomers representing Spain, they reconciled and borrowed freely from their culture.
The photo above, looking west toward the church, and the photo on the left, looking east, were taken from the "roof" of what would have been homes, work spaces, or storage areas.
Excavation has revealed that segments of the living quarters have been built on top of earlier structures serving a similar function in village life.
In the 1660s, friars burned and filled (ceremonial) kivas (now excavated and shown in the foreground) in an effort to exterminate the old religion.
In spaces scattered around the ruins, we could imagine the work of food preparation that might have taken place here.
In 1672, drought and famine led the remaining 500 inhabitants to abandon the pueblo.
In the Visitors' Center, there were displays of pottery that had been found during the excavation of the ruins.
We thought about Ranger Dan when we left. We had arrived feeling sorry for him working in a National Park so far from the small towns in the area.
We left Gran Quivira thinking that he may have found the perfect location for his interests and admiring him for the curiosity and love of the pueblo's history that made our visit more meaningful.