The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Snowed in

It started snowing while I was distributing the January Signpost. My son met me at the Placitas Post Office, and we quickly split the route through Bernalillo and Rio Rancho. Then we left the four-wheel-drive truck in the village for my wife to drive the final three miles home after picking up friends at the airport.

County road crews got an early start, so Highway 165 was in such good shape that Barb and friends thought it was safe to take both cars home. They compounded that mistake by taking the long way home to avoid the hill on Camino de las Huertas which, as it turns out, had been plowed and salted. Around 9:00 p.m., they pulled into the driveway in the truck after driving through pounding snow and abandoning the sedan in a snowdrift off Camino de la Rosa Castilla.

It was still snowing the next day when I put an avalanche shovel and tire chains into a backpack and skied the mile or so up Las Huertas Creek to the car, which was now half-buried next to the unplowed gravel road. It took a while to dig out and chain up, then struggle up the hill to the plowed road. Chains are horrible things, but if they stay on, they can work miracles. I felt pretty smug about getting the car all the way into the garage.

After lunch, I skied into the Open Space with my dogs. The tireless Chesapeake pup was loving it, but my stocky heeler bitch struggled behind on skinny legs, dragging her barrel chest through a foot of heavy snow. We ended up dripping onto my neighbor’s floor next to the woodstove imbibing in holiday cheer, joking about being snowed in (‘please don’t throw me in the briar patch’). It has happened before, but it always melts the next day. Another neighbor, who stubbornly remains off the grid, ran out of solar power for her batteries and gasoline for her generator and had to move her refrigerator outside.

The next morning, there was yet another foot of snow on the truck and it didn’t take long to establish that it was stuck. We were snowed in at the end of a mile of private road. The county doesn’t plow private roads. I should have left the car in the snowbank where it was, but who knew?

We spent the day doing strange things like cooking, playing board games, and reading in front of the fireplace. When it was got to be too much, the kids escaped over to the county road and caught a ride into Albuquerque. A beautiful sunset signaled the end of the storm.

The snow settled enough on New Year’s Eve day to get the truck out to the paved road, but the gravel road to the party was snow-packed and icy. It seemed prudent to skip the drive and walk to yet another neighbor’s house. Maybe this is how life will be in the post-automotive age (the way it used to be.) Travel stories in the local news will always be as tame as this.

It was New Year’s Day, four days after the snow started, before we finally left the confines of our neighborhood. The New Year’s transformation was more dramatic than usual, with a world covered in white. It felt weird going back to work, but I did the bookkeeping and finished my paper route before heading out to ski on the Crest Trail above Placitas. My trusty retriever broke trail as we made first tracks though the deep powder.

A week later we were getting closer, but still parked a quarter mile from the house, and we packed in groceries on foot. There was enough snow to ski up Arroyo del Oso, where the creek flowed from Tunnel Springs and the village of Placitas. (Have you tried cross-country ice-skiing?) The creek flowed further downstream every day—all the way into the Las Huertas Wash and past our house. I haven’t had so much fun playing on the ice since I was a kid.

Of course it wasn’t all play—the parapets around the roof had to be cleared and ice had to be chopped out of the canales to keep the roof from leaking. When the big meltdown finally came—two weeks after the storm—I spent the afternoon in a T-shirt digging channels to keep the water that poured down from the hills off the driveway. Mud was the problem now. A garbage truck was stuck up to its axles in our former shortcut out to the county road.

A couple days later, on Martin Luther King weekend, another storm dumped more snow on the Jemez and temperatures dropped to minus eleven as we crossed the summit on the way to snowboard at Pajarito Mountain.

And it’s snowing again right now. Everybody has stories to tell about the great snowstorm of 2006—not all good—but for me, this is shaping up to be the best winter yet.

Acoma Church

Acoma Street

The streets, buildings, and church of Acoma Pueblo are preserved for posterity.

Acoma Pueblo becomes 28th National Trust Historic Site

Sixty miles west of Albuquerque, atop a sheer-walled, 370-foot sandstone mesa, Acoma Sky City has remained suspended in time for two millennia. The oldest continuously inhabited community in North America, Acoma Sky City has an eye toward the future with the announcement that it will become the twenty-eighth National Trust Historic Site.

Overlooking a vast desert-and-mountain sweep of northern New Mexico and dating back to A.D. 1150, Acoma Sky City is a vibrant community characterized by its adobe houses, plazas, walkways, and the San Esteban del Rey Mission Church, completed around 1640. The Acoma people have long welcomed visitors to their community, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and a Save America's Treasures Site in 1999. Today, approximately fifteen families live year-round on the seventy-acre mesa.

The Pueblo of Acoma owns Acoma Sky City, and the tribal council is responsible for all decisions and operations. By entering into the agreement with the National Trust, the pueblo will avail itself of the National Trust’s expertise in preservation, conservation, and interpretation, as well as national standards, best practices, and legal advocacy. Furthermore, the agreement allows Acoma Sky City access to technical services, special grant funds, and cooperative marketing programs available only to National Trust Historic Sites.

For the National Trust, the addition of Acoma Sky City adds to an ever expanding group of diverse and cherished pieces of American heritage. From a massive castle overlooking the Hudson River to a tenement on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio to Philip Johnson’s Glass House, National Trust Historic Sites are a legacy from the past and a gift for the future.

"For nearly two millennia, the sovereign nation of the Acoma Pueblo has been an exemplary steward of Acoma Sky City, and, as the owners of the mesa, they will continue to preserve this captivating community," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust. "Acoma is living history, not a museum, and nowhere else can you better appreciate the full breadth of the American experience. We’re delighted to work with the Acoma people to bring even more attention to this irreplaceable piece of Pueblo Indian heritage."

"The Pueblo of Acoma tribal community is honored to enter into this important partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation," said Jason Johnson, Pueblo of Acoma governor. "As our country’s twenty-eighth National Trust Historic Site, we continue to fulfill our inherent responsibility to preserve and perpetuate our traditional way of life while implementing practical and sustainable historic and cultural preservation initiatives centered on safeguarding the integrity of Acoma culture, language, history, and arts for future generations. We wholeheartedly embrace this designation and look forward to attaining the objectives of this momentous partnership."

National Trust members will be able to visit Acoma Sky City free of charge as a benefit of their membership and on occasion will be invited to special events. Hour-long tours of Acoma Sky City are offered throughout the year. Guided by Acoma residents, they provide an introduction to the history and culture of the pueblo, as well as an exploration of the church, plazas and residential areas.

The mesa-top village is known worldwide for its unique art and profoundly rich culture. Pottery—hand coiled and tempered with walls so thin that they ring with the clarity of a bell—have been revered by art collectors for more than a century. Visitors can see examples of the pottery at the Sky City Cultural Center and Haak’u Museum or purchase pottery directly from the artists along the tour route in the village or from the sizable gift shop at the Sky City Cultural Center.

For more information about Acoma Sky City, log onto

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a private nonprofit membership organization dedicated to saving historic places and revitalizing America's communities. Recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the trust was founded in 1949 and provides leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to protect the irreplaceable places that tell America’s story. Staff at the Washington, D.C., headquarters, six regional offices and twenty-eight historic sites work with the trust’s 270,000 members and thousands of preservation groups in all fifty states. For more information, visit






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