Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tent Rocks National Monument

The first thing you notice as you drive from the Pueblo de Cochiti on a hard packed dirt road are the white cliffs, "Kasha-Katuwe" in the native Keresan language. It is not until you are out of your car and enter the trail that these amazing, somewhat unique geological structures appear. Shaped like various sized tents-thick at the bottom that come to a peak, they have been formed out of tremendous explosions from the Jemez volcanic field some 6 to 7 million years ago and shaped from over 1,000 feet of pumice and rock fragments. The "tents" vary in size from a few to 90 feet.

There are two main trails. A short loop trail that climbs to a cave, returning to the parking lot (1.2 miles). We did not do the portion to the cave having tired ourselves with the more intense trail that leads through a slot canyon and then up a steep hill (630 feet vertical) to a vantage point that overlooks the monument and to Taos, 50 miles to the north, the Sandias and Jemez mountains to the east and south and the Sangre de Cristo to the west and the Rio Grande.

We stopped many times to enjoy the scenery and to rest. Flowering cacti, Indian paint brush and alpine flowers dotted the path, but there is little shade. This trail is one mile after 0.5 miles along a flat path that also serves the loop trail. The total hike to the top and back is 3 miles.

Getting there: The park is 35 miles from Santa Fe, NM (exit 264, SR 16 to SR 22) and 52 miles from Albuquerque (exit 259, SR 22) of I-25.The turn off is right before the Pueblo and is well marked.

After our journey, we enjoyed a beer (Murray) and a diet coke (JoAnne) at the grill of a Robert Trent Jones golf course adjacent to the recreation area of Cochiti Lake.

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