Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Kasha Katuwe, Tent Rocks National Mounument

It was a bit chilly and windy in Santa Fe, so we headed out for Tent Rocks, with the hope that the weather would improve as we changed location and as the day went on. It did. We missed the turn-off for NM 16 from I-25, but then made the turn at  NM 22 onto the Santo Domingo Pueblo, then  through the small town of Pena Blanca, across the river and on to Tent Rocks. We saw only one car  a little ways ahead of us  which made sense at the time because, although it is reached by paved roads it is not what I would  call on the beaten path There was no line at the entrance gate where the young man informed us that the entrance fee was waived to today for the President's Day holiday. So, we were very surprised to find the parking and picnic area packed with cars and people.
        We headed off  as part of what almost amounted to a long line of marchers walking out on the slot canyon trail. There  were many families with many children( some walking, some carried), folks with expensive outdoor clothes and shoes, others in their everyday duds,couples of all ages, and even a few Euro- tourists( we heard both Italian and French being spoken). It was like a trip to the mall, my wife would comment. When we got the narrowest part of the slot canyon, we began meeting the long line of people that had been to the top and were now  coming back. In several spots we had to either back up or press against the canyon wall and wait for people to pass. We saw more people in one day here hiking than we had seen in the whole year of hiking,perhaps more than in a couple of years.  We're a little spoiled down here in southern New Mexico, because it's been so easy to avoid the crowds for the most of 15 years we've lived here. And even when we've done the many hikes that we have in Northern New Mexico, we've  managed to avoid a  crazy scene like this one. On our return hike the people just kept coming, we wandered over onto the Cave Trail ( which is a loop) which helped end our  trip on a more tranquil note, although we could still see and hear the crowds  on the Canyon Trail.
       Still this is beautiful spot. I probably would have thought it was even spectacular, if I had been able to experience it bit more peacefully. I'm not trying to discourage anyone from visiting. By all means, go. For myself, if I were to visit again, I would not go on the Saturday of  a three day holiday weekend, which also happened to coincide with Valentine's Day and some unseasonably warm winter weather, or any other holiday weekend for that matter, or any other Saturday, or Sunday, or any other time when the admission was free, a  happy coincidence especially for the groups( and they were several that had 5, 6, 7 or more people). Of course if all these people had to pay fees-there would have been a line stretching back  the several miles to Cochiti Dam. I can't say it wasn't enjoyable,but it was very strange for us. Note: despite its obvious popularity, and seemingly casual aspect of the clientele that use it, I would consider this trail more or less primitive with only a few quickly deteriorating  improvements toward the very top. I'm sure when it's wet, it can be downright treacherous.


Ben said...

I visited Tent Rocks a few years ago. It's a beautiful little spot.

R. Sherman said...

I'm surprised I haven't heard of this. Another place to visit. Thanks for the trip report.