For our last day in the Southwest, we decided to visit Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. The Monument, which is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is located between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, a short distance off Interstate-5. It’s notable for the cone-shaped tent rock formations that are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. Also visible are numerous hoodoos of various sizes, most protected by a precariously perched boulder cap of harder, less erodable rock. A potentially apocryphal story suggests that Doctor Seuss was inspired by some of these formations.
Our second day in Santa Fe dawned bright and clear but for some reason we couldn’t gather the enthusiasm for a hike. Perhaps that second helping of southwestern chili peppers at dinner – while delicious – was ultimately ill-advised? But what to do – other than air-out our hotel room? Fortunately, I’d been reading Hampton Sides’ excellent Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West (Doubleday, 2006) which recounts the history of Kit Carson, the Santa Fe Trail, and our appalling treatment of the indigenous peoples of the Southwest who got in the way of Manifest Destiny. So we thought it might be good to visit two extremes of this story along the Santa Fe Trail: Fort Union National Monument to the east and, a little closer to Santa Fe, Pecos National Historical Park.
After our hike in Great Sand Dunes National Park, we did a scenic drive through Chama, New Mexico enroute to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Along the way, we gave two Continental Divide Trail (CDT) thru-hikers a lift to their resupply point in Chama and stopped for lunch in Taos. The last time we were in Taos was when we came out (years ago) to climb New Mexico’s highpoint – Wheeler Peak. At that time a major utility outage reduced our meal choices to cold burritos and warm G&Ts, but we endured. Arriving in Santa Fe, it was a bit of a shock to see how much the city had sprawled-out over the years from the still walkable and interesting old town area around the Plaza to wide, treesless avenues lined with strip malls. Sadly, Oregon’s idea of urban growth boundaries doesn’t seem to have caught on here. Sigh. But we were here to hike, not comment of urban planning, so after some map pondering, we decided to visit Bandelier National Monument, just northwest of Santa Fe.