Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hoodoos of Kasha-Katawe

On Saturday Jeff and I headed out to Tent Rocks for a hike. Located about an hour from our house in Placitas we headed up I25, off on exit 259, toward the Pueblo of Cochiti and then followed signs to the Monument. We bought an America the Beautiful Parks Pass so we could get free parking and entry to all the parks and monuments and Bureau of Land Management(BLM) trailheads. What a deal! There are 46 National Historic Landmarks and too many parks and trailheads to count. BLM manages the land at the park along with the Pueblo of Cochiti. The area was designated a National Monument in 2001. So what's a hoodoo? I kind of like the name "hoodoo" but also like their alternate name "fairy chimney." Both sound bizarre and magical and are interchangeable so you pick what you like best! Essentially and simplistically hoodoos are conical or tent like formations with a rock on top. They call the rock on top "caprock," and it is a harder material that keeps the whole thing from eroding away. The material beneath in this case is a softer pumice or tuff deposited by volcanic eruptions that occured  6-7 million years ago. You can see all the layers in the hoodoos and surrounding cliffs.

The parking area is really clean with a clean bathroom and color brochures about plants, birds, and the formations themselves. The trail is 1.5 miles for the canyon trail and that is where we headed first. We walked past smaller hoodoos toward the big ones that are 90 feet tall. We were dwarfed by them and as the morning light changed the place was creepy/moody and beautiful all at once. As we went into the canyon we could see all the straitions and the light was beautiful as it moved over the walls changing colors as the sun rose. The manzanita shrubs and pine (I think) were almost backlit as we went up.

We went up to the top where we had views of a bunch of mountain ranges including the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo. We could see Lake Cochiti in the distance. Mainly though we were looking down on the mini forest of hoodoos and even the ant-like people on the trail below!

We had lunch at the top before heading back down at a more leisurely pace. By now the sun was way up and kind of washed out all the subtle colorations of the rock. The sky however was a super clear blue which made for a nice backdrop.

From this perspective the shapes were different. I am always amazed at how different things look going to and from places. Every once and a while there were full size trees that looked like toy trees hidden in cracks. Looking up as we went down we could see lots of smaller hoodoos each with their little rock ball balanced on top. Even more tents were bundled together as we went back on the cave trail loop.

It was still pretty early (around 1) so we drove to the memorial overlook. We saw many other hoodoos that were on private land and then up at the scenic overlook we looked out at just about everything. The Hoodoos started at about 5570 feet and went to 6760 feet. I am not sure how high up the overlook was.

The wind had picked up along with the dust so we decided to head to Cochiti Lake. I'll write about that later. On the way out, as if the beauty hadn't been beautiful enough, lenticular clouds were forming over the mountains. I hadn't really seen these in real life before so it was a special treat to see at the end of an amazing hike! Enchanting? Absolutely. Hoodoo hoodoo hoodoos!

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