After a year of isolation, the adventurers rush to Bandelier, the national parks | Local News

BANDELIER NATIONAL MONUMENT – The almost full parking lot was a dead giveaway.

Adventurers are heading to spectacular outdoor spaces like the Bandelier National Monument, which is experiencing renewed interest from visitors tied to their homes by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is our first trip since COVID,” said Cristi Johson of Maryland, lacing up his hiking boots. “I look forward to further exploring the state. “

Proof that normalcy is quickly returning to New Mexico could easily be found in Bandelier, where even the reopening of the visitor center – some trails inside the monument have been open for months – brought smiles and excitement. to hundreds of people who flocked there on Wednesday from all over. the country.

“It’s great to be back at full blast,” said volunteer Fred Minshall near a picnic area outside the visitor center. “Everyone is happy and relaxed. They are delighted to be here.

“It’s been busy,” added David Graveline, permit coordinator for the National Park Service. “People are ready to go out and explore their national parks. “

Driven back by the pandemic, Americans are traveling in large numbers to national parks as health and safety restrictions ease. In May, Yellowstone National Park saw a record number of visitors in a single month.

“People are rediscovering their national parks,” Graveline said.

Bandelier is no exception. Graveline said the number of visitors to the monument near Los Alamos this year exceeded the number recorded in 2019, the year before the pandemic struck. During Memorial Day weekend, Bandelier welcomed over 2,000 visitors.

“We expect the same for the July 4th weekend,” said Graveline.

The visitor center, which includes a museum and a theater, is now open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Starting July 1, Bandelier will be offering free ranger-guided hikes of the popular Pueblo Loop Trail.

“There are so many hidden gems in Bandelier,” said Graveline, who has worked for the parks service since 2012. “A wealth of human history to see and experience.”

The ability to see anything, including history, is the undeniable attraction for many who visit the monument from near and far.

Cam Duncan, a volunteer for the Santa Fe Heritage Hands Youth Program, said the COVID-19 shutdown has forced many children inside, denying them the opportunity to be outside and experience areas like Bandelier.

“In 2020 we had to cancel everything,” Duncan, 75, said as the kids in the program ate lunch. “They missed the experience of this history and this heritage.”

Atieno Ouma, the group’s field visit coordinator, said the trip represented a way to make up for what so many missed in 2020.

“They are tired of looking at screens,” said Ouma, 29, glancing over the table filled with students in grades four to eight. “Kids just wanna be kids.”

This is also true for adults. As the parking lot at the Bandelier Visitors Center filled up and hikers embarked on an ooh and ah adventure, the excitement was palpable.

“It was definitely worth the trip,” said Harper Clark, who traveled to New Mexico with her husband from their home in Seattle. “It’s been a year of isolation.”

Clark said she hopes to visit other national parks in the southwest this year.

“We are going to take full advantage,” she said, “of this summer.”

About Ethel Partin

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