What does it mean to leave your mark on history?
It’s human nature to want to be remembered. To look back and have a life of no regrets, to create something bigger than yourself. I don’t want to regret the life I’ve lived, and I want to create something that benefits humanity as a whole. But, what would that something be for you?
On a visit to El Morro, you might find yourself thinking about what it means to be remembered. Why might you ask? Hundreds of people who passed by the sandstone bluff and carved their name into the rock. A way to indicate to the rest of the world they reached an important landmark in their journey.
But why here?
At the bottom of the bluff, there is a pool of water — the only water source for 30 miles. This made El Morro a necessary stop for travelers across the New Mexico desert. Today, you can still see the same pond on the inscription trail.
Podcast Episode 3: El Morro NM – What It Means To Leave Your Mark
Historic Graffiti: The Reason for El Morro’s Fame
On a visit to White Sand National Monument, a park volunteer tipped us off to the monument during a sunset stroll. He said, “If you venture towards Northeast New Mexico, be sure to visit a place well known for its graffiti!”
First of all… What? There’s legal graffiti at a National Park site?
You can’t write your name on the wall at El Morro today, but people wrote their name on a sandstone bluff in the middle of the desert for over 1000 years.
There are petroglyphs from the ancestral Puebloans who resided in the area.
And right alongside the pictures of big horned sheep and handprints are inscriptions in both Spanish and English. The most famous of them all being “Paso Por Aqui.”
Paso Por Aqui – I passed by here. A good number of the Spanish inscriptions from explorers in the area have the phrase “Paso Por Aqui” written along with their purpose in the area and their name.
Then, dated shortly after the Mexican-American War, we see European-American names appear: military expeditions, pioneers on their way to California, and surveyors traveling with camels! Yes, the US military experimented with camels as a form of transportation as well.
A walk along the wall to view the inscriptions of the past is breathtaking. Can you imagine the feeling of pride some had as they carved their name in the rock on the way to their final destination? They had to let history know they made it!
A Hike on the Bluff
Lucas and I enjoyed a hike to the top of the bluff after reading all the inscriptions. There’s a 2-mile trail that takes you up and over the bluff. Be sure to start before 2:30 pm so you can finish the trail before the park closes.
The views on the top of the bluff are spectacular, and we highly recommend it. Additionally, you’ll find another feature to be discovered on this hike at El Morro.
Ancestral Puebloan Ruins
On top of the bluff, you’ll find a set of excavated Ancestral Puebloan ruins. I like to imagine what it was like to live on top of the bluff. Archeologists believe the structures were built in the late 1200s and abandoned only 75 years later.
If you’ve visited other locations with Puebloan ruins, you’ll know they’re a migratory people who often followed the weather and good land for crops. Archeologists can’t be 100% sure why the Puebloans moved off of the bluff.
Modern-day Puebloans believe their ancestors still reside here. The Puebloan peoples of today still visit the ruins at the monument to honor their ancestors.
How will you leave your mark on history?
We hope you’ve been inspired to visit this hidden gem of the park system outside of Albuquerque. You may yourself lost in thought about what it means to be remembered, and how to leave your mark on history.
The inscriptions inspired a lot of introspection with us to share these stories and more on Podcasts with Park Rangers. In episode three, we talk about El Morro National Monument and some of the stories people can learn. If you’d like to hear these stories, and others of the park system, sign up for updates below!
El Morro NM Quick Review
Recommended Visit: 1 Day
Things to Do: Hiking, Written Tour Guide for Inscription Walk, Ancestral Puebloan Ruins, and Ranger Talks
Location: Visitor’s Center Address — El Morro National Monument Visitor Center, NM-53, Ramah, NM 87321
Camping Availability: There’s free first-come, first-served camping in the park for tents and RVs up to 27 feet.