Ida B. (Perry) Abbott's Account of Her First Trip
to the Rito de los Frijoles

made
June 20 to Aug 2, 1907

On the morning of June 20, 1907, I started in company with my brother, who is a stock ranchman living near the old city of Taos, and my husband from our home at Santa Fe., N.M. Territory, to spend a week in the famous Rito de los Frijoles canyon. My brother, whose given name is Bradley, brought the conveyance from his home in which we made the trip. The team, a black mare and a brown horse, named Coaly and Moscoe respectively, were just suited to our every need on such an expedition.

As stated above, on the morning of the 20th , which was Thursday, we drove as far as the Rio Grande River, stopped, fed our horses and had lunch; after an hour's rest we crossed the river and proceeded to climb the mountain to the famous cliff-dwelling region by what is known as the Buckman Road. We entered Pajarito Canyon, went as far as Philip's Mill and camped for the night. This mill-site is an ideal spot: a magnificent grove of immense stately pines, with a nice stream of water and besides nature's scenery, the cliff or north wall of the canyon is full of the pigeon-hole-appearing dwellings of the Aborigines.

I must not dwell here, but hasten with my narrative.

We started early next morning, hoping to complete our journey by noon. Coaly and Moscoe pulled our lightly-loaded wagon up "The Devil's Slide" without giving us the least fright of being landed "down below." Pretty soon we were on top of the mesa. After passing the ruins of the old Buckman Saw Mill, we went down a winding plank road which brought us to Water Canyon where a stream of pure cold water welcomes and refreshes both man and beast.

While we were there a friskey squirrel, which seemed to think we were intruders, went sailing up a pine tree, and looking down says: Who are you? Just then Bradley with his .22 Winchester gently forced the would-be king of the forest to come down; he, along with a young cottontail and another squirrel killed by Judson, my husband, made us a nice fry for the noon meal the following day. The problem then before us was to follow the right trail over the right mesa.

A few miles after leaving Water Canyon, the wagon road plays out and an 18-inch trail is to be closely walked, and event his is often obstructed by a fallen tree, so that a person has to wiggle around all kinds of stride fashion in order to get through. At times we are reminded of the trail which Longfellow described "which went on until it dwindled down to a squirrel trail and finally ran up a tree."

At last, after getting off the right trail twice and winding around nature's forest obstructions, we reached the rim of Frijoles Canyon about 2:30 p. m. Friday.

Then came the task of loading our stuff in a pack upon the horses; namely bedding, provisions and cooking utensils, in order to descend the steep, winding, rugged trail into the Frijole Valley which is a fall of 600 feet. Judson and I had had little or no experience, so Bradley, who had been for a short time, somewhat of a prospector and these 10 years last, a mountain rancher, and being pretty well skilled in that line, bossed the job.

Then started the procession down the cliff, Moscoe, laden with the chuck and cooking utensils led by Judson, took the lead; next came Coaly on whose broad fat back was a pack of bedding, which almost tempted me to mount, led by Bradley. Then came "yours truly," bring up the rear, to watch that nothing was lost, carrying the telescope which contained the few little necessaries for such a trip, one of the Winchesters and an umbrella; the latter as a precaution, because a storm was threatening and overtook us before we reached the valley. Coaly has been a pet buggy and saddle horse and intelligently responds whenever spoken to. While passing down through a narrow cut in the stone in which are about 16 hewn steps, each of which bear the imprint of the mocassins worn by the Ancients who dwelt in the Canyon by the thousands. Bradley was going faster than Coaly could safely set her hind feet in the proper slips; just then I called to Bradley, "stop, don't hurry her;" and she in that strained and perilous condition looked back at me with a frightened expression, but with a little coaxing and a manifestation of her faith in seeing her companion Moscoe ahead of her, she finally overcame the difficulty. In a moment after this, Judson who had a large tin bread-box strapped and swinging around his neck was passing through another similar yet shorter cut, struck the corner of the bread-box against a projecting rock, and, down he fell; dear old Moscoe with his human intelligence braced himself in his tracks, until Judson could regain his footing, to prevent making jam of his leader.

Notwithstanding all this amid the heavy peals of thunder, the vivid lightning and large raindrops, we reached the valley safe and sound. Our clothing which was decent for campers when we left home was considerably worse for water and mud, yet you do not mind a little thing like that.

We then proceeded up the canyon a mile and a half to the camping place and as we came in sight a familiar voice called from one of the cliff-dwellings "Hello there;" Prof. G., who with his Indian attendant Juan was taking a few days outing. While Prof. is a health seeker, he is also a lover of nature and sought this wonderful ideal spot for inspiration to do some literary work. After a sumptuous meal of fried bacon and potatoes, bread and butter, jam, olives, cheese, fruit and cookies, we sat around the campfire a few moments, but retired early, as we were weary from our day's travel. Before climbing into our bedroom (a cliff-dwelling) we went around to Prof.'s private apartment and by the aid of a lighted pine-knot he read to us an interesting story which he had gathered from Juan the night before as they sat outside in the moonlight in the front of Prof.'s bed-chamber. He having gained Juan's respect and confidence, together with the entrancing situation, gradually drew from Juan the Indian's sacred tradition of their origin and evolution after this life and also the history of their beloved Montezuma, which is to them what our Blessed Christ is to us. After that we repaired to the room in which I am writing this story. Let me picture it for you: In size it is 8 x 8 feet square, with rounded corners and has a front and side entrance each of which are 2 x 3 feet. We enter from the side which was once an adjoining room but the winds and rains of centuries past have taken out the front wall except enough to form an artistically shaped column, this helps to form a side balcony to our bedroom. At this writing it is just noon. Outside, this the 24th day of June, 1907, the sun is shining bright and hot, but inside the cave-dwelling, oh, how delightfully cool. After retiring the first night we slept in the room, I simply cast-off all the timidity and nervous imaginations common to my sex and wild animals and creeping things molesting us and took in the beauty, grandeur and solemnity of the surroundings.

Besides our front door are a half dozen small round holes six inches in diameter, thru which we could see the, now, almost full moon keeping vigil over us -- the gentle breeze whispering through the pines and the musical rippling falls of the Rito de los Frijoles which nourishes and beautifies this chosen spot of God's creation, was its sweetest lullaby imaginable.

Now and then a bullfrog with his bass music would accompany the voice of the waters with his cur-r-r.

I never slept sounder in my life. About 5:15 next morning just as the sun was kissing the pine bluff of the river south of us, a turtle dove wakened me with his who-ee-who-who-who-who. After breakfast Prof. and his attendant left for Santa Fe. During the forenoon we sought out the points of interest nearest our camp. About 300 yards down the stream our attention was drawn to a rustling among the leaves in the box-elder bushes between the pines. Judson exclaimed, look there, and instantaneously exclaimed; a wild turkey and her brood, there were about a dozen the size of a quail. We did not need Uncle Sam's restrictions to withhold the gun; the young ones were too small and it would have been inhuman to have taken her from her brood.

After lunch, all three of us started on a jaunt up the west end of the canyon, having entered from the opposite direction. My brother could ramble and climb faster than I, so he went ahead a different route while my husband lingered with me and we strolled leisurely along through the pines. The farther up the canyon the more dense the jungles of choke-cherry, current and gooseberry bushes and grape strawberry plants, violets, maiden-hair ferns in profusion, candy tuft, wild roses and red hot pokers to complete the paradise. We came to one spot which was a perfect lover's dream; we are lovers still -- and to carry out the romance, we sat down reverently uncovering our heads in honor of Grand Old Nature; the voice of the babbling brook was so audible that we questioned if Bradley was not near and talking to himself. We had not forgotten that it was Sunday; although deprived of the privilege of Church Service, we saw God in nature and felt we could worship Him "in temples not made with hands" out in the forest under the "Heavens which declare His glory and the firmament which showeth His handwork."

Early Monday morning while Bradley was looking after the grazing of the horses, Judson and I took a ramble and found an spot for an ideal rustic home. With a fond and gentle embrace Judson said to me "My Dearie, we have found the ideal spot for an ideal home"; and in our mind's eye, we built one right then and there.

We then went back to camp and spent the heat of the day in lounging and resting on our bunks in the cool, quiet cliff-rooms. Just imagine yourself a cliff-dweller: Already in this short space of time I fancy that I look like a squaw climbing in and out of these pigeon-holes.

We discovered a large dwelling yesterday, June 28, 1907, about 160 feet from the ground right straight up a perpendicular wall. Bradley says "the mystery to me is how those little buggers ever got up there." Late in the afternoon when the shadows of the pines were twice their length we explored the cliffs away up a draw, directly behind one of those stone tents formations, we at this point walked right into a natural cave in the wall of the canyon. It is almost perfectly round, measuring about 30 feet by 40 feet in diameter with walls going up in a cone shape to 100 feet in height. The rays of the sun touch a space of about 7 yards through the opening by which we entered and right there nature has completed the picture with a dense wreath of current bushes. Just imagine that wreath of rich green against the golden brown stone walls.

What a delightful summer resort this canyon would make.

Bradley selected a pool yesterday in the clear running brook and indulged in the luxury of a bath. He came back to camp feeling so refreshed that he prophesied "a man could live to be a hundred years old in this canyon."

Tomorrow we intend to rest and the next return to Santa Fe, where I will complete my story.


[Notes: (1) Ida's "rest of her story" has not surfaced, and it is quite possible that she never completed it; (2) Ida's maiden name was Perry; after her first marriage it was Patton. She married A. J. after her first husband died. A. J.'s children referred to her as "Mother Ida."-- BBA]