The bad weather wasn’t over yet. With more rain and snow due, we decided to go north to Cochiti (COACH-iti) Lake. It has a pleasant Corps of Engineers campground next to a lake that can never be completely filled due to CoE construction error. Its other enticement is that it is only 7 miles from Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.
We didn’t get a fantastic view spot, but we can see a big chunk of the lake from our campsite. After setting up, we went down to the lake and walked around a little. I got this lake mixed up with Lake Nacimiento in California but Dave straightened me out. We never remember when we camped somewhere but both of us are pretty good (mostly at different times) remembering where we camped. After walking around a little bit, we discovered that we were warm and returned to the LD.
Monday, April 3
The next day, rain was due around 3 in the afternoon. We woke up to clouds, drove over to Tent Rocks under clouds and started hiking around 10 a.m. under clouds. Clouds and slot canyons don’t always mix so we went to the Visitor Center. They said not to be concerned. The rangers would collect and expel us if it looked like heavy rain. Thus assured, we started the 1.5-mile hike. So did many, many, many others. The trail was amazingly crowded. Multi-generational families with grandpa and grandma limping along, parents yelling at their kids to stay away from the cliffs, teenagers and college kids enjoying spring break.
The slot canyon begins around a half-mile onto the trail and is about 3 feet wide for a 100 yards or so.
The clouds were bad – flat light on the landscape, but oh what a background they created. The sun was bad – harsh light on the landscape, but also livened it up. Then there were short periods of soft light that was perfect. That was usually when someone walked into the shot. But that’s the challenge and it’s fun to try to capture something wonderful.
A short while after emerging from the slot, you come around a bend and get the first clear view of the tent-shaped formations. I have never seen such a large group of these shapes anywhere else. To me, it looks like middle eastern architecture.
The climbing gets serious at this point and pretty much goes straight up at least 400 feet. The view keeps expanding and improving as you rise. With so many people and narrow trails, it makes for great people-watching. All the older ones (us included) are out of breath. Some are scared of the rock clambering required. One guy was wearing sandals and his girlfriend had on loafers – not optimal for this trail. Some little kids wanted to go back; others were running up the trail full-tilt. Two couples headed uphill with 2 babies in backpacks (with their mothers) and two toddlers being carried by their fathers.
We reached the mesa top and decided to have lunch on the first outcropping. We were the only ones at that point. There is a larger viewpoint a quarter-mile further but we could see so many people on it we didn’t want to fight our way through the crowd to the edge. This viewpoint provides a view of the trail and slot canyon 500 feet down. It’s amazing.
We started back down and made more images. The light just kept changing every moment. Hikers were still flocking up as we were heading down.
We reached a point I love. A small tree peeks out of a short, narrow slot. In the afternoon, the light glows in the narrow groove. The light wasn’t on the tree today but it was still a nice scene. Except that was a point at which people had to scramble up or down a steep part and lined up to wait their turn. I tried my best and got a decent shot.
When we reached them, the light was golden on the slot walls.
After exiting the slot canyon, there is an opportunity for another .7-mile trail that returns to the parking lot. There are a few caves that are mildly interesting, then you reach a flock of short teepee rocks. It’s very weird.
We got back to car and drove home. When we downloaded the day’s images to the laptop, we were both astounded. I had about 265 images and Dave had a little over 300. Part of the number was due to the fact we kept trying to capture subjects in the best light. I certainly hope it isn’t a trend. Our poor overworked laptop won’t be able to handle it.
It had never rained; just a few drops here and there. It was supposed to start raining around 2 a.m. And it did. It was totally overcast and dim on Tuesday morning and started to snow. It was wet snow that didn’t stick but it was snow. We decided to stay here another day. If it was snowing here, it was not going to be warmer in Santa Fe.
It was a very quiet day. It just kept showering and was very chilly outside. By mid-afternoon, my butt was sore from sitting all day (Who would think that’s possible?) so we bundled up for a short walk around the campground. After about 5 minutes, it started to shower a little. We turned around to go back and saw a long, low, very clear rainbow stretching across the misty mountains. Did we have our cameras or phones? Of course not. The rainbow disseminated just as we got back to the rig. But it was nice to see it.