New Mexico & Arizona, Nov. 2, 2012

November 17th, 2012 | Posted by Steve in Arizona | Memorials | New Mexico | Parks | United States of America

We stayed in Gallup overnight & got out of the motel early in the morning.  We were headed for the Biste Wilderness in Northwestern New Mexico.  The day dawned overcast and this was quite a surprise.  I had been on the road since Oct. 8 with beautiful American Southwest weather, hardly a cloud in the sky, and very few if any days over 80 degrees F.

We headed north then east from Gallup.  There was no direct route and the route I chose took longer than anticipated.  We headed north on 491 to just beyond Twin Lakes, east some 40 miles on Route 9 to Crownpoint, then north on 371 about 45 miles to our turn off.  Biste is maybe 2 miles from Route 371.

All along the way we saw great landscapes filled with cap rock covered mesas, standing rocks, mushroom rocks, & balancing rocks.  Of course all were off road, behind fences, & some distance from the road!  It didn’t matter, the light was dull, the rocks unapproachable.

We finally reached Biste Wilderness about 10:30 am, long after any golden hour type light if there had been no clouds.  Way in the distance we could see the top half of Shiprock about 50 miles off (see one of my masthead photos for a Shiprock sunset in 2004).

The photo book I brought along suggested a GPS system once you get out of your car and into the rocks.  This is so you don’t get lost in them.  Once we got there I realized the suggestion was understated.  The strange wind and water formed rocks in this area form a giant maze.  The mud hills and hoodoos rise 15 or feet above you while the gulches and gullies fall the same distance or more.  They formations look like they come from another planet!

Fran was a little worried I would get lost so we stayed on the dirt road through the area and I made our few shots from near the road.  If you like these shots that’s great.  But, they pale when compared to the possibilities.  On foot deep inside the wilderness the rock forms are much more fantastic.  I’d like to say “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”, but I have nothing to back up that statement with.

These next few are the best of what I took plus two of Fran’s shots.  I can only hope the next time I visit I will have better material to share.

Fran’s shot of me snapping away.

Fran’s shot of the same area.

A horizontal.  Now a monochrome of the same.

Shiprock would be out of the frame to the right.  It peeks above the horizon here no higher than the mountains that show.

From Biste the Chaco Culture National Historic Park is maybe 15-20 miles as the crow flies, but no matter how hard we flap our arms we don’t fly.  Via road it is about 90 miles, some of it unpaved.  After estimating our time it also became an issue for another trip.

Instead we headed for Window Rock, the seat of the Navajo Tribal government, some 125 miles off.  We got there mid afternoon, and it was still overcast.

Window Rock itself is a large natural red sandstone arch and quite spectacular.  Its name in the Diné or Navajo language is Tségháhoodzání, which means “the rock with hole through it.”  Anglicized it becomes Window Rock.

Immediately in front of the rock is Window Rock Tribal Park.  I believe the Navajo authorities designed this park and built it with their funds.  That means they were able to use their design, use their symbology, and avoid any national government influence.  I thought of one of my readers, Joann, while shooting these.

The park is largely a memorial to the many Navajo who have served in the U.S. Armed forces.  All of these men, living or dead, are heroes of this country.  Near the rock is a statue memorializing the famous Navajo Code Talkers.  I shot this and some of the others during a few moments when the sun broke through the clouds.

Below the statue is the plaque.

On the ground spread out around the statue are some 400 bricks with the names of the Code Talkers.

Not too far away is another memorial.

And here is a photo of the arch in its natural environment.


After our visit to Window Rock we took Highway 12 south to I-40 to begin our long trip home.  We drove across Arizona to stop in Kingman long after dark.  The photo part of the trip was pretty much over except for one photo I had Fran shoot for me.  This is on a freeway overpass near the Twin Arrows Trading Post about 20 miles east of Flagstaff.  Flagstaff is among the mountains at the far left.

A high school acquaintance of mine, Dante, and his wife spent an early part of their career in Flagstaff so I got this one for them.  And of course a coincidence happened.  Later that night when I hooked up to the computer to send this single photo to Dante, he had just sent me an email telling me he finally had time to catch up on my recent posts.


Nothing more is sitting in the camera for immediate processing.  I may have something in December, but who knows.

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