Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Kasha-Katuwe - Tent Rocks National Monument

Each time we’ve driven to Santa Fe, as we’ve sailed past the sign for Tent Rocks we've thought that looks like an interesting place to visit.   We finally made it, following I25 north we exited at 259 after that followed the signs on SR 22.
In the traditional Kersan language Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs”.   Over 6 million years ago, pumice, ash and tuff deposits over 1,000 ft deep fell as the Jemez volcanic field erupted.   Over eons wind and rain have created the spectacular hoodoos in the canyons and arroyos.
Francisco Vasquez de Coronado came this way as did Juan de Oñate, settlers followed and the land was claimed for Spain.   In 1680 the Cochiti people joined the Pueblo revolt and drove the Spanish back to Texas.   But by 1870 the railway arrived bringing with it, loggers, miners and others looking to enjoy New Mexico’s rich natural resources.
When we visited it was a great day for hiking day and we decided we’d do the Slot Canyon Trail first followed by the Cave Loop Trail.
For the first ½ mile both trails follow the same route as you enter the Slot Canyon, a sign warns you against entering if there’s any sign of bad weather.   Really good advice!
The trail is sandy, gravel type stuff and is quite wide to start with 

but it soon narrows as you reach the slot.   There is just enough room for one person, but luckily there are places where you can pause for others to pass. 

Unless the sun is directly above you it’s quite dark and cool in the slot as the walls rise high above.   In a couple of places I had to climb over rocks that had obviously fallen out of the canyon walls, creating intriguing holes. 

The final section of the trail climbs 634 feet more or less straight up steep gravelly switchbacks.   At the top I came face to face with a rock ledge, I’m not very tall so I really do mean face to face.   Luckily at the bottom of the ledge there was a pile of rocks to stand on. 

With a little help from DB I managed to scramble up, albeit on my knees and reach the top and the end of the trail.   From the end of the trail we could easily see over to Santa Fe and the Sangre de Christos Mountains, as well as the Jemez and Sandia Mountains.

The trail returns the same way, giving you different views of the spectacular hoodoos and I have to say climbing down the ledge was just as difficult as it was climbing up.

After coming out of the slot we followed the Cave Loop trail back to the car park.   This trail is totally different it’s much wider and leads past a man-made cave carved out of the soft rock.  The roof of the cave is black from ancient fires, archaeologists call this sort of cave a caveate.

We also took the 5 mile drive along BLM 1011 to the Veterans Memorial Scenic Overlook, sadly as we got out of the truck, the ranger arrived and told us we had 10 minutes and then he was driving back and would be locking the gate, so we didn’t get to do the 1 mile loop trail.   But again, even though it had got a little cloudy the views were fabulous.

Have fun, we are!

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