Get up early, greet the sun and get on the road
Part I of II
I’ve often written on the nature of time and our relationship with it. While it remains true that we all are shoved along, so to speak, I’ve read that astronauts fudge the continuum by seemingly suspending the aging process when compared to those of us terrestrially bound. And as far as I know the recent Rapture failed once again to usurp our inexorable rush along that linear path our lives must follow.
The closed loop of Cartesian ontology notwithstanding—cogito ergo sum also means there is no escape velocity from time except what we construct by those very thoughts. Vonnegut did quite well with Billy Pilgrim warping and wefting his way through normal temporal limitations in his seminal Slaughterhouse 5. They gave us a wonderful journey, but constrained we remain.
Such thoughts, on the nature of time, are as close as most of us are likely to get in bending it. There are occasions when we’re confronted with the vastness of time and our own infinitesimal point in it. Such is the case in an area too-large-to-see-all-at-once in north central New Mexico. I love GoogleMaps.
NM Lost in Time Triangle. See larger version here.
There’s a triangle of sorts, one of my own making, southwest of Santa Fe. It’s not at all like the Bermuda Triangle where things disappear, though who knows what the hell is really going on in nearby Los Alamos. (You can drive through Los Alamos, but make sure you read all the warning signs first. Your loved ones won’t want you to “disappear.” It’s one of the most CCTV’d places in the US, though I’m sure Area 51 is right up there. You’re not allowed to take pictures lest you reveal the secret location of the publicly viewable Wendy’s and I’m sure there are all sorts of sensors scattered around and someone would be alerted if there was an unintentional gastro-intestinal event in your own car. Keep the windows rolled up. Carry extra rear view mirror dangly pine tree air fresheners.)
All this is a rather too-elaborate introduction to another little journey. Feel free to just look at the pictures if your mind’s eye is already glazed over.
My triangle journey is separated into two days. There are no direct connecting roads, so it would be difficult to fit it all in if you only have one day to spare. The first part—to Tent Rocks National Monument—is an easy half day excursion. The second part—hitting the two other points on the triangle—Jemez Springs and Valles Caldera will take most of another day and requires an early start from your home base in Santa Fe.
This is the first of a two-part blog. Part II will take us to the other two points in the time triangle. I felt I had to serialize it since there were too many images I wanted to share for a single post.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Our first stop is a leisurely 45 minute jaunt southwest of Santa Fe. Take Interstate 25 that continues down to Albuquerque and take the Highway 16 exit directing you to the Pueblo de Cochiti. Follow the signs to Tent Rocks on Highway 22. Note that there are signs that let you know if the Monument is open. Since the roads go through Pueblo land, they have the right to close access to the site, though the monument itself is on Federal BLM land.
The cone-shaped tent rock formations are the result of volcanic eruptions estimated to have occurred some 1.5 million years ago. The eruptions spewed ash, pumice and tuff over a wide area and left deposits of 1,000 ft or more in places. There were simultaneous eruptions that resulted in pyroclastic flows. Embedded in the tent rock formations, comprised of that ancient tuff, are little pyroclastic obsidian pieces which formed from rapid cooling.
An mimetolith, or in a more modern neologism, an emoticonolith.
The tops of the tent rocks have a harder matrix of materials and wind and rain erosion through the vast reaches of time have resulted in the current unusual formations. Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the Keresan language of the nearby Cochiti pueblo people, descendants of 14th century settlers.
There are two trails at the monument. The first is a one-mile loop that takes you past some tent rock formations where you can get a close up look. The rules are that you may not climb on them nor take any of the embedded glass or obsidian or “Apache Tears” rocks. Everything must remain intact.
Near the apex of the loop, there is a shallow cave carved out of the softer strata that reveals the construction of an early shelter for the first human inhabitants. Inside the cave, which you’re not allowed to enter, or even scale the small distance to peer into it, is a bench carved into one side. Carbon soot stains the ceiling.
But by far the more interesting trail is an up-and-back that will total about 3 miles when you finally return to the parking area. It will seem longer, but you’ll feel invigorated by the experience. It’s the Slot Canyon trail that will eventually take you to the top of the mesa that overlooks the loop trail with views to mountains behind Santa Fe to the northeast. The last half of the trail up to the mesa top is very steep, and parts of the trail require you to walk sideways through some very narrow slots.
Just before you get to the trailhead for the Slot Canyon trail, you need to look up. You’ll see some amazing formations.
The trail starts out benign enough, but there is the name of it that brings an expectation of a small adventure.
Things close in soon enough.
Looking up relieves the feeling of claustrophobia a bit.
Eventually you get through the slot, and on a hot day it’s refreshingly cool while cloistered in the narrow confines. The steep part of the trail up to the mesa top then begins, and on warm days your pace will slow dramatically.
A cautionary note: take plenty of water with you as there are no vending facilities nearby. Although water is heavy to tote when hiking, make sure you take at least a liter, preferably two, if you venture up the longer Slot Canyon trail. There are nice restroom facilities at the trailhead, and some picnic benches nearby, but no other creature comforts are available.
And, as always, life will find a way.
If you’re in Santa Fe or Albuquerque and are wondering what to do with an extra day, the Tent Rocks National Monument is a perfect day trip.
This ends the first part of our journey in north central New Mexico. Part II will take us to some time traveling in Jemez and the Valles Caldera and is posted below this.
A favorite artist of mine, Mark Kozelek, singing a time song written by John Denver and sung with Rachel Goswell.