Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day Four

We bid a fond farewell to Sandia Mountain Hostel and our donkey friends. Here's Bambina looking to start the day with a crust of bread or a melon rind. The sign on the door, aptly enough, says "please close the door to keep animals out of the hostel."

The day before, a gallery/shop owner in Madrid had told us about a national monument about 45 minutes away that was her favorite place to send people—one of her favorite things to do in the area. We figured we would trust the locals and visit Kasha-Ketuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. After a short coffee stop in Madrid, we drove out to Cochiti Lake, on the Pueblo de Cochiti Reservation. Pictures aren't allowed on the Reservations, but this is what our drive was mostly like:

The "tent rocks" are these enormous rock formations that are formed from different layers of rock and ash and tuff (volcanic ash). They settled over time and then were eroded away by wind and water. Since the layers all erode at different rates, the rock has striations with different colors. The giant rocks almost look like curtains (or tents, I guess), billowing in the hot wind.

Sometimes the path leads you through a narrow, twisty canyon with tent rocks on either side. It could be really dangerous to be here during a heavy rain. The summer months in New Mexico are notorious for flash floods. The weather can be clear one minute, blue skies and all, and then a huge storm will roll up out of nowhere and dump enough water to cause a flood in one of these "arroyos" or dry river beds. The lady who recommended Tent Rocks to us told us we wouldn't want to be there in the rain, but being Easterners, we thought she meant because there was no cover. Only when we got there, did we interpret her words to mean "it would be dangerous to be there in the rain."

It was quite a steep path near the top. The Canyon trail took us up to 630 feet up. Nearing the top:

At the top, though, we were rewarded with a great view of Tent Rocks below as well as the Rio Grande Valley, and the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, and Sandia Mountains in the distance. This kid in the red shirt scared us half to death by playing along the edge. His dad didn't seem too concerned, but I could barely look long enough to take a picture. The boy (who was also sporting a grown-out mohawk) assured us that there was a ledge just 1o feet or so below him, but I couldn't even gather the courage to look.

After our Tent Rocks adventure, we had to put some distance between ourselves and the Sandia Mountains. We drove about 100 miles to the east to pull into Storrie Lake State Park just north of Las Vegas, NM. We blew through Las Vegas pretty fast, but we still managed to find the Fort Union Drive In Movie Theater. The drive-in experience got two thumbs up,

even if the movie itself left something to be desired.

Storrie Lake proved to be a bit of a disappointment. The lake itself was small and stagnant, with a large perimeter of boggy marsh surrounding it. Then, there was the management of the park. It's totally cool with the rangers, accepted park policy I guess, for everyone to drive their cars and giant RVs onto the grass and all over. So everywhere you go, the grass (not lush to begin with because of the dry, dry climate) is criss-crossed over with muddy tire tracks. Add on top of that the most unhelpful pair of rangers ever, and this campsite ends up with two thumbs down!! A side note: they actually have quite passable showers that smell nice and woody like a sauna, and have hot (though a bit sulfur-smelly) water. If you go and find a giant hairball sticking to the wall, though, don't blame this halfie. All this notwithstanding, I managed to take a picture that made it look gorgeous. It's all in the light and strategically cropping out the RVs.

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