I think I have a love-hate relationship with rocks. I was hating every single one of the rocks that littered the countless ruts in the maze of dirt roads we were navigating in our attempt to find a trail that started at an abandoned campground in the Manzano Mountains. I winced at every thud and jolt under the body of our car as we inched forward at a snail’s pace. No one in their right mind would take a Toyota Corolla on these roads. Lee could tell I was greatly annoyed at having been persuaded yet again to do one of these “exploratory” hikes.
But after two hours, when we finally got to the base of the mountains and started up the trail, all was forgiven. I was no longer upset with Lee and I was absolutely loving the rocks I was seeing in this part of the mountains. I was pretty sure they were metamorphic rocks, which we don’t see as often as igneous and sedimentary rocks. The intense heat and pressure that’s required to form metamorphic rocks gives many of them fascinating wavy layers in patterns referred to as foliation or schistosity. I could have hauled home pounds of beautiful specimens but limited myself to a few photos. Rocks are meant to stay where God put them for us to enjoy and cars are meant to stay on the paved roads. Me and rocks will get along just fine if we both stay where we belong.
What in the world am I going to do with all of these rocks I collected during the Albuquerque Gem and Mineral Society field trip that Lee and I went on yesterday? It was fascinating to poke around in the vast desert arroyos and marvel at the variety of interesting rocks. I couldn’t stop picking them up and putting them in my bucket for further study. But now that I have them here at home I can’t imagine what I’m going to do with them. I’m just not a collector.
The field trip was billed as an expedition to the Rio Puerco, which we had no idea of what to expect or exactly where it might be. Since we know the 230-mile extent of this river (‘rio’ is the Spanish word for ‘river’) currently has no water in it, we figured it would be somewhere out in the desert. Lee didn’t care about collecting rocks but decided to go so he could check for desert wild flowers.
We both enjoyed seeing this desolate area southwest of Albuquerque, way down a dirt road we never would have explored on our own. It was actually an escarpment that was cut by multiple arroyos that would have drained into the Rio Puerco basin in the valley below at such times in the past when there might actually have been water. I studied geology last semester, but can only make a guess, at this point, to say that because there used to be a lot of sediments carried down the arroyos could be why there are now so many interesting rocks laying around everywhere.
I’m taking a ‘Geology of New Mexico’ class this semester. The rocks are one of the many features of our Land of Enchantment that I appreciate and enjoy. But I think I just have to leave them out there where God put them in the first place. That way they will be there for others to enjoy and for me to see the next time. My main goal is to know what rocks I’m looking at and to understand how they might have gotten there to begin with. Of course, you could never know for sure. Some eager ‘collector’ like me could have gotten tired of having a bunch of rocks sitting around and taken them and dumped them out at a random location nowhere near where they were collected. Hmm….is there somewhere I could take my collection and leave it to mystify the next person?
The day started with a field trip organized by the Albuquerque Gem and Mineral club–my first field trip since joining the club. The meeting spot was a 2-hour drive north of Albuquerque, near Abiquiu, which meant we had to get an early start. The morning clouds hadn’t yet cleared and as we drove by Santa Fe we encountered a brief flurry of snow.
The field trip required a short walk up an arroyo to the site of an abandoned flourite mine. A member of the group showed us a couple of samples and gave some pointers on what to look for. Lee and I weren’t very serious about collecting specimens but enjoyed poking around in the rocky hillside picking up a few small samples to keep.
After about an hour the day began to warm up with the promise of good hiking weather. It was a short drive to Ghost Ranch, where we had hiked once before. There were a couple of other hikes there that we knew about, so after a stop at the Visitor Center we decided to do the 5-mile hike that goes up and back down Kitchen Mesa. It was a good choice–perfect weather and wonderful views from the top of the mesa.
The trail goes around the back side of the mesa and doesn’t get too steep except for the one spot near the top that requires squeezing through a narrow rock chimney.
From the top you can look down at the buildings of Ghost Ranch and off in the distance Abiquiu Lake is visible. We had never gone down to the lake so after the hike we took a different road home that circled the lake and then cut over to join Hwy 550 at Cuba. New sights to see, as well as some old favorites–a perfect way to spend Earth Day.