|In the high desert of New Mexico
||[Apr. 5th, 2012|10:29 am]
The spicy-pine scent of juniper is strong this morning as I step out onto the concrete patio, taking the tabby for his morning walk. New snow from yesterday’s storm blankets the nearby mountains and there’s frost on the tussocks of grass dotting the gravel field where our rig sits. It’s a beautiful morning in New Mexico.
We came up from central Texas, leaving the lush spring behind for the high desert. The bright greens went dull as we drove, blue and orange and purple wildflowers gave way to white ones, and the soil changed to red and tan adobe. Here the fields are full of juniper and cactus.
Cochiti Lake Campground is a Corps of Engineers park sited on rolling hills by a flood control lake in the Pueblo de Cochiti area. We can see mountains all around this plateau. We’re at just about 5500 feet elevation here - climbed up from Texas flatlands in one day. That explains the wheezing (both the truck and I are panting when we exercise.)
J and I actually got some sightseeing in this week. Between weather and his work, we haven’t been doing much of that this winter and we’ve missed it. On Friday, he took a half day off and we went to Kashe-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. It’s only about eight miles from the campground. It was amazing. The tent rocks (called hoodoos) are columns of soft pumice and tuff from ancient volcanic eruptions, protected from erosion by boulder caps. It’s rather the effect you see with clay soil after a rainstorm, when the pebbles are perched on columns of dirt where the rain has washed unprotected soil away.
We walked up the ‘easy’ loop trail and decided to take the ‘harder’ trail into the box canyon, and I was really glad that we did. The trail snaked through the narrow water and wind carved gap, bright sunlight and deep shadow alternating. Gnarled trees here and there clung to mere inches of gravel, thick roots mostly exposed. The scrambling the sign at the entrance had warned us of wasn’t bad at all, though I was grateful for my new hiking shoes. Meeting people on the trail often required one party or the other to stop at a wide spot and wait; much of the trail was single file.
We went as far as we wanted, rested a bit on a convenient flat boulder, and returned to complete the loop trail. That took us past a small prehistoric cave carved out the side of a bluff. The round opening was six or eight feet above the trail bed; a tiny irregular window was carved to one side of the doorway. I could just picture someone sitting there in the entrance, legs dangling over the edge, enjoying the amazing vista in front of them much as we were doing.
The loop trail went higher than the canyon trail, and ridgewalked among the tent rocks for part of its length before switchbacking down to the parking lot. The views were amazing, but the trail was steep and shadeless; I was glad to get back to level ground (see previous re: ‘wheezing’.)
Photos of Kashe-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.
On Saturday afternoon we made the hour-long into Santa Fe and went to the Plaza. We got amazing fajitas from a street cart for lunch, enjoyed the buskers, and shopped. Small shops, mostly selling jewelry and clothing, ring the square. Along one side of the plaza, the columned arcade of the Palace of the Governors shelters a long double row of vendors with wares laid out on blankets: handmade jewelry and pottery mostly. The work ranged from an absolutely stunning silver collar of orange shell and turquoise to inexpensive beaded bangles. I was seriously tempted by a beautiful pottery jar in red and black with an eagle feather pattern, but we don’t have space to display it. J got me a belated Valentine’s Day present in the form of a beautiful traditional squash blossom necklace in silver, set with turquoise and reddish shell. Now all I have to do is find an outfit to show it off properly.