. . . I've been told that I write novels for email messages. Perhaps this is the way to go. I'll try to make each entry, or Gemstone, a "precious" one. On mediocre days, all I might be able to produce is a "semi-precious" entry. In any case, an entry might be a "neat" Gemstone--something that is uniquely mine.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring Break Adventures, Day 1

Spring Break 2012!

This year we're mixing a bit of pleasure with business. Our plan is to drive west through our Jemez Mountains, drive north at San Ysidro, and head toward Cuba on our first day with a detour to the Rio Puerco valley and the Cabezon Peak area on our first day. Cabezon Peak is one of the most well-known landmarks in the western part of New Mexico, yet, of course, only I was aware of it and made the suggestion to check it out. All others in the family are coming along, one thrilled and willing (my young geology geek), and one totally against because he knows we'll be hiking again. The other two (the oldest two men in the family) tend to just go along for the ride but always find enjoyment in what we do.

We're stopping at Cabezon on the way to the next day's destination: Chaco Canyon National Park (more on this in my next entry). Then after that we'll be driving to Albuquerque and Socorro to visit universities for my high school junior Monday and Tuesday.

Cabezon Peak is what is called a "volcanic plug" in geological terms. It is the largest and most prominent one in the area with roughly 50 of them that extend to Mount Taylor to the south in the western region of the state. Cabezon Peak is is in the middle of nowhere, NM, between San Ysidro and Cuba, and rises to an elevation of 7,785 feet. Cabezon means "big head" in Spanish. One Navajo myth says that it is the head of a giant that was killed by gods on Mount Taylor, and whose blood flowed to the south to form the Malpais, or "bad land" volcanic flow to the south. Last fall we visited El Malpais south of Grants and found it remarkable.

A volcanic plug (or neck) is formed when magma from an existing volcano solidifies in the pipe (or neck) and then later the surrounding rock material gets eroded away. Since the rock that makes up the plug, basalt, is harder than the surrounding sediment, it stays behind. In the case of Cabezon, the volcanic neck formed when molten lava worked its way to the earth's surface through Cretaceous sedimentary rock layers (shales and sandstone) deposited by an ancient inland sea that covered the area over 65 millions of years ago.

The drive along dirt roads to Cabezon Peak gave us plenty of opportunities to photograph it along the way. The road wound up and around to a road that lead directly to the peak. Once we got to Cabezon Peak we got out of the car to enjoy the view. We decided that we didn’t need to continue onto the smaller, narrow road to gain a closer vantage point since the one we had was already satisfying. Of course, we didn't climb to the top but we did get to experience the amazing sight. While we were preparing to take pictures, all of a sudden, we heard moo-ing and a small herd of cattle started rushing up to us—three big black cows with three babies. They weren’t vicious but they definitely didn’t want us there so we stayed long enough to get a few pictures and then left. It was really cool.

We headed back on the road and headed north to Cuba for a late lunch, then on to Farmington, where we located our hotel and settled in for the night. What can I say about Farmington? Not much except that it is another New Mexico town in the middle of nowhere. I'm glad I live where I live!

Tomorrow: south again to Chaco Culture National Historic Park.

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