Monday, September 22After making the short 30 mile jump up from Bernadillo, we arrived at Cochiti Lake Campground. We liked this spot so much when we checked it out the day before, we decided a couple of days here would be nice before hitting Santa Fe. The fee here for water and electric turned out to be only $5 a night with the geezer pass. All of the sites closest to the rim seemed to be either reserved or taken at first look, but reading the reserved tags a little closer showed that actually, a couple of sites were available for the next 2 nights. Perfect. We set up, and in no time were in our chairs enjoying the lovely view all around.When we arrived, there was practically not a cloud in the sky, but soon the thunderheads began forming and growing. As this continued to develop over the course of a few hours, the camera came out and I began photographing these amazing clouds as they blossomed. We were perched almost at the highest point in the campground, so had a view all around. Around 6 PM, we broke for dinner, and after finishing, we came out again to watch sunset with our wine. The clouds by now had really expanded and moved over us. As the sun dropped behind clouds near the horizon, I could see a gap of sky just above the horizon. I was sure it would peek out again just before setting for good. In the meantime, we had to put down the wine because the scene before us just kept getting better. There was some lightning, but it was so far away we couldn’t even hear the thunder. We just kept shooting pictures as each passing minute made the scene more extraordinary. Thunderheads would bloom above dark, dark clouds below. The sun by now was very low and turning the surrounding clouds and landscape various shades of pink and orange. The sun finally reached the gap of blue at the horizon, and for a brief moment, the hills lit up. The sun eventually illuminated the undersides of the clouds just before finally setting for the evening. Being in a campground with such a great view seems pretty rare. Usually they are off in trees that obscure the views, or down in low points between hills. The extra added treat was being able to observe the action without having to face severe winds, or rain or lightning. It was all happening around us at far distances. We were safe and comfortable. Once the sun went down, we returned to our wine. Soon after finishing, I noticed behind us that rain was approaching quickly from the south. We went inside just before it started pouring – but only for about 10 minutes – then it passed and we enjoyed a nice cool evening.
Tuesday, September 23It was so nice being just 7 miles from Tent Rocks National Monument. We woke around 7 AM, had coffee and a quick breakfast and were off to the rocks. We were on the trail by 8 AM and with only one small group there before us, felt like we had plenty of time to walk and photograph the areas we had to rush through before. But it wasn’t long before other groups caught up to us and needed to pass. This place is just really popular! We were able to spend more time in the narrow spots though and really, there weren’t nearly as many people as Sunday. The downside was that the sun wasn’t as high either, making the light not nearly as sweet in the narrows. It wasn’t bouncing off the walls or creating the nice glows of Sunday afternoon. Oh well, the shapes were still nice and it was great just to be here again. While the light wasn’t as good, it did create some other nice lighting situations that weren’t available before. We made due. We only hiked up part way to our favorite vantage points this time. We didn’t need to see the grand view again. On the way back, we took the .7 mile cave loop trail. The cave itself was nothing much, but there were some other tent rocks further on that were kind of interesting. We still managed to spend a good 3 hours on these short 3 mile total trails.
As to the story of Cochiti Lake and Dam. In terms of volume of material used, it is the 23rd largest in the world, one of the 10 largest in the U.S. It was sold to the indian nation as flood and sediment control on the Rio Grande, with the added benefit of development of fish and wildlife resources as well as recreational resources – boating, camping, hiking.
Construction was opposed by the Cochiti Pueble Indians, who lost significant tracts of agricultural land as a result of the construction and subsequent pool filling. They filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers, winning the suit. The award? The Corp made a public apology.
But the story doesn’t end there. Once filling the dam commenced, it was evident that it leaked. It was decided that the dam would never be filled and stands today far below it’s capacity. The promised recreational and wildlife improvements were never realized.