27 December 2013

Scenic Geology--New Mexico

Welcome back. Persistence pays off. Do you remember the guest travelogues by Jim Baker--Ghost Towns--New Mexico and New Mexico Backcountry? Well, I kept bothering Jim about doing another, and he finally agreed! As he put it, “Since I love to tout New Mexico and my treks to the quirky, off-the beaten-path spots that only I (and a few thousand others) know of, I'm happy to oblige.”

For this New Mexico travelogue, I decided to focus on federally administered "treasures" within 100 miles of my home town, Albuquerque. Even that requires winnowing, since there are many possible choices. Some feature archaeological/historical sites, such as the Petroglyph, Salinas Pueblo Missions, and Pecos national monuments. Others spotlight wildlife, such as the splendid Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. For this post, I opted for geological scenic wonders.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument 

The Kasha-Katuwe National Monument lies between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, near the Cochiti Pueblo, along an escarpment in the foothills of the Jemez Mountain Range. The main attractions here are the giant "hoodoos," which can be taller than a 10 story building, and a spectacular slot canyon. I have to warn you that Kasha-Katuwe can get rather crowded, particularly on weekends.

Hoodoos atop the escarpment rim at Kasha-Katuwe
Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico.
Jim and his wife, Marcia, at the base of a
non-rim hoodoo that’s lost its "cap."
Entrance to the slot canyon at Kasha-Katuwe
Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico.
Farther up the slot canyon at Kasha-Katuwe
Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico.
If you persevere to the head of the slot canyon and
scramble to the mesa top, you are rewarded with
this view of the Sandia and Manzano mountain ranges.

San Lorenzo Canyon Recreation Area

Unlike Kasha-Katuwe, the San Lorenzo Canyon Recreation Area is little known and well off the beaten path. During my five hours in the canyon, I saw one other person. The nearest "town" is Polvadera, and a lengthy drive over a washboard access road is required.

The site is administered by the Bureau of Land Management and has no services--no toilets, no water, no trash bins, no nothin'. Bring what you need, and pack it back out.

The canyon is on a lower and upper level. You can drive the lower level with a high clearance vehicle, but you must clamber up an escarpment to get to the upper level. The canyon’s attractions are fantastic wind-worked sandstone formations.

On the access road into San Lorenzo Canyon Recreation
Area, you pass “Discontinuity Butte.”
In San Lorenzo Canyon, you're treated to otherworldly formations--
here, two side canyons coming in.
An example of the San Lorenzo Canyon’s fascinating
combinations of columns and balancing rocks.
The direct route to San Lorenzo Canyon’s upper level
is through this cleft. (I got about 200 meters when common
sense kicked in: old guy, bum hip, try again when I can
persuade a younger fool to accompany me.)
Wrap Up

Although the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument and San Lorenzo Canyon Recreation Area are fun and interesting any time of year, I recommend winter, especially after a snow. I'd probably avoid August unless you must.

Jim Baker’s travelogue will continue next Tuesday with a day trip from Albuquerque to admire the fall cottonwoods along the Rio Grande bosque. The seasonal changes he captured occur only a few days a year. I hope you’ll be back to see them. Thanks for stopping by.

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