Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tent Rocks

We used one of the first days in Samta Fe to see the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

The recently-designated national monument (2001) is located about 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe on the property of the Pueblo de Cochiti. As we entered the Pueblo's grounds, we were asked not to photograph the village, the cemetery, or the people.

"The Pueblo has always considered this area a significant place. 'Kasha-Katuwe' means 'white cliffs' in the traditional Keresan language of the pueblo.

"The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument to protect its geologic, scenic and cultural values.

"The agency enjoys a partnership with the Pueblo de Cochiti, the University of New Mexico, and Sandoval County to provide access, facility development and maintenance, resource protection, research opportunities, public education and enjoyment" (the park's brochure).

We traveled the Cave Loop Trail for about half a mile past these stone formations. The elevation of the national monument ranges from 5,570 feet to 6,760 feet above sea level, but this portion of the trail was flat and wide. This made it easy to have our eyes skyward rather than watching out for rocks or obstructions on the ground.

After only a short distance along the trail, we began seeing the rock formations from which the national monument derived its name. The tent rocks.

"Precariously perched on many of the tapering hoodoos are boulder caps that protect the softer pumice and tuff below. Some tents have lost their hard, resistant caprocks and are disintegrating. While fairly uniform in shape, the tent rock formations vary in height from a few feet to 90 feet.

"The cone-shaped tent rock formations 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. Tremendous explosions from the Jemez volcanic field spewed pyroclasts (rock fragments), while searing hot gases blasted down slopes in an incandescent avalanche called a 'pyroclastic flow.'"

Possibly a geologist could explain how the hoods are a different kind of rock or a harder substance that eroded at a different rate, but until I hear that explanation I am left with admiring these structures
"sprouting" from the rocks.

"As the result of uniform layering of volcanic material, bands of gray are interspersed with beige and pink-colored rock along the cliff face. Over time, wind and water cut into these deposits, creating canyons and arroyos, scooping holes in the rock, and contouring the ends of small, inward ravines into smooth semi-circles."

What lay ahead was one of these canyons described above.

Our hike into the slot canyon begins tomorrow.

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