A Trip to New Mexico
This past week, I made a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico for a conference. I got a late start on Wednesday since I had worked the night before and needed a little sleep before the long drive! That also allowed the roads to clear from the snow we had Tuesday night. It's about an 8 hour drive from where I live, so by the time I got over Raton Pass into New Mexico, I got to watch a gorgeous sunset over the northern New Mexico mountains around Maxwell. I know many people don't care for the long drive across northern NM, but I love the vast open spaces and the deep quiet you can find there!
The conference I attended was great, but didn't allow for much more than just dinner out each evening. So on Saturday morning before I left Albuquerque, when I checked the weather report and saw that there was snow over Raton Pass, I decided to do some sightseeing around Albuquerque and let the storm clear before I headed north. I've long wanted to stop and see Petroglyph National Monument, so that's where I headed. It sits right on the western edge of Albuquerque. I always love seeing the Visitor Centers of the National Monuments. They are lovely and so appropriate to their surroundings. I loved the large chili ristras hanging from the wood beams of the veranda!
After looking through the small exhibit at the visitor center, I headed off to one of the trails in order to view some of the petroglyphs. One of the main trails is closed do to damage from the heavy monsoon rains last autumn, the same ones that caused so much flooding in Colorado. Unfortunately, it is one of the better areas to view the petroglyphs, so I'll have to plan another visit at a later date once the trails are repaired! Instead, I ended up at Boca Negra Canyon and headed up the Mesa Point Trail. Though partially "paved", it is a rough steep, rocky trail that put my aging knees to the test! The petroglyphs were great though and it was worth the climb!
From the trail, you can see how close the city has grown to the monument and get a great view of Sandia Mountains across the valley! The clouds were rising and falling the entire time I was there and there was even a short chilly rain shower!
All along the trail there are various petroglyphs chipped into the rocks. Interestingly, they nearly all face south or south east!
This is the view down from the top! Though the trail isn't long, it is on the steep side! No petroglyphs in view from the top looking down.
I also walked along two other (easier!) trails in the area These glyphs are on the Cliff Base Trail. I love the "star" person, which I think is really a bird in flight. Carrying the sun perhaps? Unfortunately, some thoughtless person sought to change the glyph as you can see by the lighter colored square on the left eye of the bird/star/man. I found the faces of the many people depicted just fascinating.
There were snakes on some rocks. I was glad to be there at a time of year when most of the live snakes are still tucked away in their dens! Glyph snakes are plenty for me!
On this rock, you can see the layer of "desert varnish" very clearly. The petroglyphs were chiseled just deep enough to expose the underlying lighter layer. Eventually, with time, even these petroglyphs will vanish under the varnish that eventually coats the rocks, though I suspect it will be long ages yet before that happens.
In one spot, rock cairn is stacked on the hill above. It intrigues me that people have such a propensity to stacking rocks like this all over the world.
I was fascinated by these marks on a large piece of basalt. They look almost man-made, as though someone drilled into the rock. But it's actually columns of bubbles that formed as the magma from the lava flow cooled that caused these markings.
Just fascinating that bubbles can rise in hot magma just like they do in a pot of boiling water!
Of course, I had to stop and look at the flora of the area too! It's a bit early for much to be growing ~ even though the apple trees were beginning to bloom in Albuquerque. The Four Winged Saltbush still carried bundles of the four winged seed pods that give the shrub it's name. They were held in dense clusters like big bouquets of flowers!
There were two types of flowers in bloom that I saw. This is Dimorphocarpa wislizeni ~ or if you can't pronounce that, Spectacle Pod will do! Later, when these blossoms go to seed, they will leave a seed pod shaped like a pair of spectacles!
It was the Scorpion Weed (Phacelia integrifolia) that really caught my eye though. There were big bunches of it growing in the cracks between the rocks everywhere! The purple flowers just glowed against the blackened rocks! Yet from a distance, one hardly saw them. The reason they are called Scorpion Weed is that the dried root and leaves can be ground into a powder, then made into a paste with a small amount of water, which when applied to a scorpion sting, helps to alleviate the pain!
After a lovely morning spent scrambling up the rocky trails, enjoying both the petroglyphs and the flowers, I finally headed north. I ran into snow at Santa Fe, so waited there for an hour or so until it lifted and then headed on a short distance into the mountains before stopping at Pecos National Historical Park, while waiting for Raton Pass to clear. But that's a tale for tomorrow!