45 West Southwest

March 08, 2014

Fingers of sunlight wrap themselves around spires of ash tuff, as if the Sun himself is trying to crawl into the silence of the canyon.  The new dawn paints the walls with luminous hues of soft grey, pink, gold and white, and the glow hangs in the dormant morning air.  Below me, the sandy wash muffles my footsteps, instilling a sense of respect and peace deep within my soul.  This place is sacred to me.  Within its walls I have found a sanctuary that guards my thoughts from the world beyond the towering rock.  The experience of this slot canyon opens my mind to endless imagination, curiosity and intrigue.

The elements have made their presence and power known to this place.  Wind and water have sculpted the rock into graceful, elegant curves.  Large boulders are honed of their sharp edges and scattered along the trail.  The path follows gentle, curved walls embellished with small stones, angled layers and concave grooves.

The canyon's geologic character contrasts against the stark struggle to survive, reminding me that this is a harsh landscape for the living beings that dwell within the walls.  In small alcoves, majestic pines are precariously perched atop stilts of exposed roots that claw deeply into the soft ground, protecting them from the liquid energy of summer thunderstorms and providing them with the scarce nourishment that supports their existence.

As the light deepens the shadows, the time within my sanctuary must end.  Walking back to my truck I am filled with a sense of peace and sadness, as if I am bidding an old friend farewell, until next time, knowing that this glorious sanctuary is only minutes away from my home -- 45 west southwest.

About the location:  Opened in 2001, Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is New Mexico's newest national monument.  The area is jointly managed by the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management and the Pueblo de Cochiti.  From the entrance gate, the road to the tent rocks is three miles and crosses tribal land.  The monument is located within the Pajarito Plateau and the cone-shaped rock formations are the result of eruptions from the Jemez volcanic field.  The bands of gray, pink and beige were created by the layering of volcanic material.  The pumice, ash and tuff deposits have been eroded by wind and water, creating tent-shaped rocks that are topped with hard caprocks.  Due to the natural design of the canyon, the monument is closed during adverse weather conditions.  



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