There really is one place of great historic value that our government, universities and various tribes, would prefer to keep 'Above Top Secret' …
and in this particular case I agree that silence is necessary to preserve this National Treasure from vandals.
Why I'm going to share this secret with you now, is what 'It is' is rather well known, but where 'It is' ....few well tell... other than to say, to
get there you would have to be a highly skilled rock-climber.
By my title you know I am talking about a massive “estimated to weigh 1,000 pounds”, Stone Lion. He sits high on the broad flat crest of a steep
walled mesa near Bandelier National Monument... Later I will tell you where you can see and touch his two brother stone lions if your up for a bit of
This first one though, the one you cannot visit... has crouched atop his mesa for uncounted centuries. It's long outstretched claws clutching the
volcanic slab he was carved from.
Many generations of ancient people visited the shrine surrounding the lion. Making offerings of prayers and turquoise. Standing beside this stone lion
are a pair of tall monoliths, early unimaginative anthropologists claimed the two rock pillars were phallic erections pointing up at the sky as part
of some fertility ritual? Of course they probably never stood there in person. To me at least it looks more like a gateway?
Anyway on March 7th 1970 this Stone Lion was abducted by a team from the University of New Mexico Anthropology Department. A friend of my father's was
part of that team and he was always quick to tell how. “That ole lion wasn't about to go quietly”.
Anthropologist Elmer 'Swede' Scholer was apparently the first victim. On the climb up he fell headlong down the slope, a bolder right on his heels.
Smashed his legs, punctured his calf, had to be carried off the mountain and taken to town for medical treatment. Later, the team who was driving down
to Albuquerque to get the helicopter ran out of gas half way there but the fuel gauge said they had a full tank? Sadly they hitched a ride and got to
the airport anyway. There were other minor mishaps but the old cats last attempt to stay put, happened as a the helicopter was lowering the Lion into
to that back of a flatbed truck. The release was tripped early nearly squishing a man who was trying to guide the old cat into the back of the truck.
Missed by millimeters...
The original plan was to put the stone Lion on display at the Maxwell Museum in Albuquerque where he could be preserved and protected... That never
When word got out that the Lion was removed the people of the San Felipe Pueblo were furious! Claiming the relic was theirs and the Cochiti tribal
council had no right to give permission to take their Lion... and of course the Cochiti people who had no idea what the council had done got pissed
off too... and thus started a decade long legal battle for return of said artifact.
That didn't happen until 1981 and the passage of the Native American Religious Freedom Act. The Stone Lion was indeed returned to it shrine. His home
where right now he sleeps under a soft blanket of snow...
Today this stone Lion is one of three known prehistoric bas-relief carvings made by North American Natives. Lost to time is the who and why.
The Lions only threat is hick’s with guns who think it's cool to take potshots at and defacing national treasures... teens wielding cans of spray
paint who have no respect for anything … and persons like the boyscout troop leader AKA Mister “Watch me knock over this big old rock!” and post
it on YouTube...
Those of us who care about preservation will not tell you where the shrine is... confident that most folks will not attempt the dangerous climb
while remembering past harms done to irreplaceable treasures.
Okay so Maybe it's not truly 'Above Top Secret' but the Stone Lion safety lays in keeping obscure, the location to his shrine. If you do find him
with something like Google earth, please, share that only with those you trust to do no harm.
So while “I” will not tell you how to get to that shrine, I will tell where to visit his brothers, who are well protected by the US National Park
Service in Bandelier National Monument.
You start at the park headquarters off of State Highway 30 in the State of New Mexico. Now there are two ways to get there and if you go... go
prepared for a hard hike...
Bandelier is at a comparatively high elevation, ranging from about 5600' (1700 meters) at the Rio Grande up to over 8000' (2400 meters) in the
The first way I do “Not” recommend. The Frijoles Trail along the Rio Grande. See that trail runs along Cochiti Lake and the river... so when the
water levels raise the trail comes to an abrupt end. Still a pretty hike, but... Best to ask at headquarters if the trail is passable before you
The way you should go is by taking the Frijoles-Stone Lions Shrine Trail. The trail is well marked and kept in good condition but it is quite the
From headquarters it starts off towards the northwest for about 4.5 miles then turns southwest as it enters Alamo Canyon. A mile later you've turned
southeast as you exit the canyon and have only another mile and a half of up and down terrain to get to the Lions.
An 'Arduous' trek for those who are not regular back country hikers but still worth the trip. After all Bandelier National Monument is one of those
places you should visit at least once in your life. Of course while your there you totally have to check out the Cliff-Dwellings too!
Source: my personal experiences as well as having a dad who recently retired as a Dean over at UNM. Who not only loved to share his stories of the
Southwest but often took us kids to places you only hear about in legions and old half forgotten stories.
BTW he's still an avid Mountaineer and back-country hiker... This coming spring we plan on taking my girls out to Mesa Verde just outside of town and
if and of you happen to be in my part of the world come April, let me know, we'd be glad to have you join us.
Bandelier web site
edit on 30-12-2013 by HardCorps because: (no reason given)
on 30-12-2013 by HardCorps because: (no reason given)