NM State Fair & Tent Rocks National Monument

2659_StateFair1We made a lazy morning of it before Cynthia came by the campground to take us to the N.M. State Fair. After giving her the grand tour of the MoHo (about 2 minutes), we all sped off for Albuquerque. There is a lot of freeway construction going on right now on highway 24 through Albuquerque. As always, when the state fixes a road, they really screw up traffic. Fortunately for us, Cynthia was well versed in maneuvering around obstacles. This would come in handy even after we got off the highway. The city has done such a poor job of routing traffic into the fairgrounds, that we soon found ourselves trapped in a long line of cars trying to get into the only entrance to the parking lot. After 30 minutes of this, in which we moved all of a 1/4 mile of the 2-3 mile distance to get in, Cynthia decided to try the back way in. About another 10 minutes later, we were parked in a private lot and walking a short distance to the ticket booth.

Not many chickens around, but I did like this blow dried, 70's style look.

Not many chickens around, but I did like this blow dried, 70’s style look.

Once inside, of course we headed for the food. Cynthia picked out a corn on the cob to gnaw on, while Mary and I opted for root beer floats. You didn’t think we’d pick something healthy did you? Besides, health food and fairs just don’t go together. As fairs go, this one was kind of run of the mill. Of course, it was the last weekend for the fair, so things were winding down. One of our favorite things to do is check out the award winning animals. We first walked through the rabbit/chicken pavilion. Most of the rabbits had gone home already, and the chickens were sparse. We moved next to the petting zoo where it was as much fun watching the kids as it was the cute young animals. We next found the crafts/fine arts pavilion and did a cruise through. I went through the Photography exhibit while Mary and Cynthia were more interested in the jewelry. Always interesting to me to see what is being judged as the best photography. Here, HDR is king. Virtually all of the award winners used this rather icky technique. It was a rather short visit, but we had all seen enough. Getting out was much easier than getting in and we were soon back at Cynthia and Jerry’s home for a nice steak dinner, finishing up with some a visit to Glenlevit.

Sunday, September 212684_TentRocks1We’ve wanted to visit Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, near Cochiti for some time. We’ve always been trying to get from one place to another quidkly, so this place never quite fit in. This time we made it happen and it now ranks as one of our favorite hikes. It is located about midway between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, off I 25, and an easy 40 minute drive from our campground. The trail is about 1.5 miles one way, but seems longer. It is a moderately difficult hike that begins as a gradual walk up a sandy path with nice views of the volcanically formed ash hills that created the formation. It is here you get your first real look at the tent rocks. Time, varying hardness of rock layers and erosion, make it easy to see how this place got it’s name.2685_TentRocks2The trail soon drops into the wash of the canyon. Starting out fairly wide, it soon narrows into a deep slot canyon with wonderfully smoothed walls. There are great examples of the hardy tenaciousness of trees in the canyon. Each turn of the path revealed new views and it soon narrowed even more.2698_TentRocks3 2701_TentRocks42711_TentRocks5It being Sunday, there were already quite a few people on the trail, and it was difficult to stay for very long in some of the narrower sections. It was good we didn’t bring the tripods. Some sections were so narrow, there would be no way to pass. We would have to come back again to really spend some time and make some sense of this place.2715_TentRocks6 2722_TentRocks72729_TentRocks8

Don't know if this is authentic or not, but I liked it.

Don’t know if this is authentic or not, but I liked it.

2734_TentRocks9Once through the most narrow section, the path opens up again to more spectacular formations that towered over us. By now, clouds had begun to pass overhead. This really served to give some depth to the images I made – not to mention help cool us down. The layers of the pyroclastic ash and volcanic rock give many areas an almost melting like look – both solid and flowing at the same time. What fun!2744_TentRocks11 2746_TentRocks12 2752_TentRocks13The trail weaves in and around these standing formations for a while before finally beginning to rise more sharply. It is hard to believe it could get better, but it does – much better. It also get a bit more difficult. The path becomes more rocky with loose gravel in places. Some spots are both steep and narrow and some minor scrambling is required. There are a couple of higher drop-offs, but still not all that difficult to negotiate.2764_TentRocks14 2775_TentRocks15 2789_TentRocks16Some of the sculpted rock take on fanciful shapes that just set one’s imagination free. One section, just before the trail really begins to rise, is reminiscent of middle eastern landscapes with the way they sort of vaguely resemble minarets or onion shaped domes.
2817_TentRocks202802_TentRocks18Once above the canyon walls, spectacular view are revealed. At this hight, I could also see more clearly the striations of the volcanic ash layers. The trail moves still higher – about 650’ I believe – until we were now walking along the very spine of the canyon walls. Along the top, the trail levels off a bit before gradually rising again to the high point.  Here there is a 360˚ view of the surrounding landscape. Walking even further along, the trail moves down again to the very edge of the cliff. We stopped for lunch here and enjoyed the amazing views, changing light, the wonderful breeze and cool air.
2810_TentRocks19Heading back down now, we could see how the light had changed – especially in the slot canyon portion of the trail. The cameras came out again we just had to stop for more images.
2823_TentRocks212836_TentRocks22I think you can see why this hike has become so special for us. On the way back to camp, we checked out the campground on the banks above the Cochiti reservoir. It is quite a lovely place, and at $10/night with the gezzer pass, we’ve decided to spend a couple more days here. The reservoir is a story all it’s own, but one I will relate in the next post. Another example of government in action.

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