Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Hoodoo Needs Its Hat

The title may sound like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, but I’m talking about magical place that is in fact quite real.

A year and four months after relocating to New Mexico, I finally made it to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, about an hour and a half north in the Pueblo of Cochiti (tribal land). Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the pueblo’s traditional language, while Tent Rocks is the anglo way of describing the unusual pointed hoodoos that number in the hundreds here. (Another famous example of hoodoos would be Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.)

Towering up to 90 feet in height, some of them have hard caprocks, or “hats,” which keep their cone shape and softer layers intact. Those that have lost their hats, however, are slowly crumbling right before your eyes.

The 1.5-mile trail takes you through shady slot canyons at the bottom (which were slightly eerie after watching Aron Ralston get stuck in one in the film 127 Hours), up a steep 630-foot climb, and finally, out onto a panoramic cliff where you are literally on top of the world. You can see the Sangre de Cristo Mountains overlooking Santa Fe to the north all the way to the Sandia Mountains of Albuquerque to the south. You can also look down at the posse of hoodoos below you for a whole new perspective on these otherworldly rocks.

In case you’re wondering, these pumice, ash and tuff deposits were created by volcanic eruptions six to seven million years ago, and you can still find round black pieces of translucent obsidian (aka volcanic glass, or colloquially, “Apache tears”) mixed into the sandy bottom of the canyon. It’s tempting to take a six-million-year-old sample home, but it’s prohibited. So I took a photo instead.

As a final nerdy factoid, I read in the Trail Guide that the Spanish conquistadors who arrived in New Mexico in the mid-1500s (and brought green chile with them, as I wrote about in my last blog post) made note of this place in their diaries. It surely must have looked like a serious contender for one of the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. But no, it’s just a breathtaking living geology laboratory that’s captivated humans for over 4,000 years.

And I can go there anytime I want. That’s pretty cool.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome! Pretty neat place! -Veronica