Virtually all of the hiking trails in New Mexico are closed due to extreme fire risk. This explains the elbow-to-elbow crowds my houseguests and I encountered at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks between Albuquerque and Santa Fe on Tuesday. This slot canyon is maintained by the BLM and there is little vegetation to ignite, so it is one of the few spots in the state where one can venture beyond the parking lot.
My houseguests confessed later to wondering where on all earth I was taking them as we drove through the wide, barren swath of the Cohiti Pueblo. But the other-worldly landscape of the canyon enchanted them once we were there. That said, the mercury was pushing up toward the century mark and we darted toward one patch of shade after another as we paused for other hikers in the narrow passages, eventually turning around in an onslaught of oncoming traffic in one particularly tight spot.
Looking for shade was also the scenario during our visit to Acoma Pueblo yesterday. Located on a mesa about 370 feet above the valley floor, Acoma has been continuously inhabited since about 1100 AD, which makes it the one of the oldest human habitation in North America.
A visit to Acoma not only takes one back into a world little changed by time, but also affords breathtaking views and face-to-face interaction with the tribe’s renowned artists and their wares. The Acoma people would do well to have an ATM on the mesa as one quickly runs out of cash. But Sky City has neither electricity nor running water.
So as June draws to a close, those of us who love to hike in New Mexico are in a holding pattern, waiting for the July rains to begin.