A fairy tale landscape – Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument – lies just forty miles southwest of Santa Fe. The monument is in the land of Pueblo De Cochiti and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. We were captivated by the playful hoodoos on top of the white cliffs immediately on our first sights. Cone-shaped tent rock formations were carved from top to bottom on the multi-hued cliffs. Tall free standing tent rocks at the foothills are as high as 90 feet. The uniform shape of tent rocks and hoodoos looked like a group of fairies gathering on the mountain.
Walking on the sandy trail among trees and bushes, we passed junipers, pinons, and manzanitas, and other high desert plants. A hedgehog cactus with beautiful red flowers shone in the sun. The south face of the cliffs displays wavy layers in white, cream, and copper colors. About 6.8 million years ago, tremendous volcanic eruptions from the Jemez volcanic field spewed ash, volcanic glass, rock fragments over here. This material formed pumice and tuff. Later volcanic rocks were uplifted and exposed to wind, ice, and water. The power of nature shaped the volcanic rocks into mesa, canyons, and playful hoodoos and tent rocks. The tent rocks are cones of pumice and tuff capped with harder rocks.
Looking up at the soaring cliffs from the base, the cone shape, the holes, the lines and colors of the face of the cliffs resemble the church designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. The sky looked especially blue against the white cliffs. A few junipers live tenaciously in the niches of the cliffs. A couple of yellow swallowtail butterflies danced around. Up there on top of the cliff stood several adventurous hikers shouting out to express their excitements.
Human occupation in this area is dated back to more than 7,500 years ago. A small cave high from the ground was carved by prehistoric people between A.D. 1200 and 1540. The cave was carved on the soft white layer, which is a volcanic ash deposit. Visible stains on the ceiling of the cave came from smoke by burning wood.
This unique landscape is another master piece of mother nature. Unlike Gaudi’s basilica La Sagrada Família which will be completed eventually, this nature’s church is an ongoing project with changing landscape.