While in Santa Fe I visited both Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks and Bandelier National Monument. Both are great day trips from Santa Fe, but with time at a premium I decided to make it to both in a single day. I managed it and made it home for dinner, but I never expected to fall in love with hiking slot canyons or to drive up a 3-mile dirt road to a Veteran's memorial in the middle of nowhere, both of which cut my time at Bandelier short. I'll save Bandelier for the next post, because Tent Rocks just absolutely blew my mind.
You can see geology in New Mexico. I started noticing it in west Texas, but by the time I got to northern New Mexico it was everywhere. At home I live near the Appalachians, a pretty impressive mountain range, but it's tiny compare to the mountains in the West. Mountains on the East Coast are also largely covered with tress, which softens their appearance; I often feel that the Appalachians look like giant, slumbering women. The mountains in the West are sharp, striated, abrupt, and pointy, but also softened in places by wind, water, and ice. There's little for a tree to hold onto, so the elements have their way with the layers of rock, wearing away the softer layers over time. All of this was so evident at Tent Rocks, and I was close enough to run my hands along the striations in the rock. For the first time I understood why my freshman year Geology 101 professor was so excited by her subject (if only it had translated well!)
I hiked all the way to the top of the canyon and then walked out onto the rim, finding my tiny car in the scrub far below. The last third of the hike was a scramble in the thin air, but I felt a rush of pride and awe as I came up and over the last rise to see the valleys and mountains spreading out before me, as far as my eyes could see.
After clambering back down and sliding between the canyon walls I made my way to the parking lot and headed for the Veteran's Memorial, which was 3 miles up a winding dirt road. The views from the memorial were stunning and I followed a winding path for a little bit, but headed back to the car quickly so that I could make it to Bandelier before the park closed.