Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Kasha-Katuwe (Tent Rocks)

Previous Post: In the Air

We begin this morning exactly how we ended last night, with Susan pouring over tax forms and me trying to focus on work. Neither is going well. We decide that Susan will file an extension later today (how hard can that be?) and I will set work aside for awhile so we can go for “a walk.”

Susan is thinking an hour stroll around the neighborhood. I am thinking she should take me to the odd rock formations she told me about yesterday.

Soon we are on the road, headed for Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

We leave the freeway and turn at the massive (and massively inefficient) Cochiti dam (apparently it leaks if filled very full).

From there we drive through a few small settlements and on into the park.

It is a wonderful isolated place, a vast and empty-looking landscape with a few really weird rock formations.

What could be better?!

Since Susan has never done so before, we decide to start our visit with the 4 mile drive to the Veterans Memorial Overlook.

Susan had asked the young man at the gate about the road to the overlook and we were told that, while we would need to judge the road for ourselves, he just took his own sedan out there a few days ago without any difficulty. We get about 200 yards down the road before being confronted with a rapidly flowing stream.


Susan wonders if we can drive through it.

The answer is clearly no.

Our scenic drive has come to an end and it is time to head back to the hiking trail.

The weird formations here are the result of massive volcanic explosions 6 to 7 million years ago and then sculpted by wind and water to create an amazing landscape.

There are a couple of trail options, but Susan assures me that we want to do the canyon trail because it is the most interesting.

From the trail we can see a few people high up at the top of one of the mesas. She explains that the trail goes there, but we will turn around before we climb that high.

(There really are people up there.)

The canyon trail is only 1.5 miles from the parking lot to the top of the mesa 630 feet above us, but the landscape changes dramatically over that short distance, from a traditional canyon with a few junipers and pines to a series of narrow slots that end in a swirl of rock where it opens out along the slope of the mesa before you start the climb up.

Susan thinks this is a good place to turn around, but I suspect we are near the top, so I slip through another slot to see how close we are.

We definitely need to keep going.

It's such an oddly beautiful place . . .

The trail loops along the top of the mesa, providing views in all directions.

It is definitely worth the hike!

Susan says we must go all the way to the tree at the farthest point on the mesa.

The view is awesome. . . I can't see it, but somewhere down there is the parking lot where we started.

After a short break up on top of the mesa, it is time to head back, reversing our trip back down to the hoodoos, through the slot canyon, and back to the car.

It takes much less time than I expect and, back at the parking lot, we are met a local resident offering cool, sweet water from the spring by his home.

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