Kasha-Katuwe tent rocks, New Mexico


My flight home departed at 3:55. I had rather thought to go to the airport mid-morning and stand by for something earlier. My pal Denis had a car, and hoped to convince me to do something around the Albuquerque area; he proposed visiting pueblos, some of which don’t welcome visitors, others of which charge a photography fee for gussied-up touristic trash. Not very interested, thanks. He suggested the petroglyphs, which are basically old graffiti on random rocks, not very interesting. After a week, I’m ready to go home.

Then he proposed we visit the Kasha-Katuwe tent rocks national monument (thanks to remote research by his wife). What? Never heard of it.

I researched it on the web: it’s an area of eroded volcanic ash, managed by the BLM, and not too far from Albuquerque. And there’s a steep 600-foot climb on one of the trails (photo above: Dave at the top). All right, let’s do it.

From the parking lot, we see a few columns topped with capstones, above. This already looks interesting. The trail goes back toward one of the ridges, coarse white sand that is in fact the volcanic ash.

The interest here is in the texture, not the colour. I’m reminded of Munich, the contrast of the white Theatinerkirche with all of its elaborately coloured Bavarian baroque neighbors. (But I would still take Bryce canyon national park if I had the choice!)

A row of sentries on the skyline.

Time was, I thought these smoothed out avalanche chutes were evidence of substantial water flows sometime during geological history, but I think just rockslides would also polish the surfaces pretty smooth.

There is a slot canyon that eventually widens out as the trail begins the steep ascent to a knife-edge observation ridge.

I am reminded of the entranceway to some gothic cathedral somewhere. I heard someone talking about the architecture of Barcelona, and when Jacky saw the pictures, she thought of Turkish dancers.

And the grunt is worth it, as we look down and out at these strange formations.

This little point (below) is opposite the end of trail lookout area. I was ahead of Denis on the way down, waited near here for him to catch up with me. No Denis.

I figured he had stopped to take some more pictures up top, but after a while, that explanation didn’t work. I went back out on the ridge, no Denis.

I don’t know how he got ahead of me, but as I started down, I met several people who told me that my friend was further down. I went down the steep part as quickly as I could, and when I got into the slot canyon, started running. Caught Denis about a hundred meters before the parking lot.

There is another trailhead two or three miles further down, but we thought we had used up about as much time as we could afford. Denis is only flying tomorrow, but I want to get home today.

There was a sign promoting a restaurant at a nearby golf course. It was around mid-day, so we thought we might get some lunch. I was a little concerned that in our dusty hiking gear, we might be too grubby for a classy restaurant. Not to worry: it was an order at the counter hamburger joint. We bought a couple bottles of water and went on without eating.

There is a large dam (a really large dam) across the Rio Grande here, and Denis thought it might be interesting to drive across it. We turned off at the Corps of Engineers visitors’ site but the dam road was closed, so that didn’t work.

Back to Albuquerque, where Denis dropped me off at the airport for my flight home. A good thing to do; thanks for the adventure: a site I had never heard of, and well worth the seeing.

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