Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Walking Enchantment – Tent Rocks National Monument and Madrid, New Mexico

So, this past weekend, May 17, 2014, our project took us to two more amazing locations. Tent Rocks National Monument and Madrid, New Mexico. 

We arrived at Tent Rocks at 7a.m. We tried to be there at 6:30 a.m., but it was still closed. I guess the rest of the world sleeps in on Saturdays. So – we went for some really bad coffee at the local convenience store and headed back to the gate to wait for the park attendant.

Once through the gate I immediately pulled over because the scene was that good. I pulled out my tripod and camera and got to work. Little did I know the parking lot was just across the fence.

When I had the shot I wanted, I put everything away and proceeded to the parking area feeling a little dunce-ish for not realizing parking was 20 feet away. Once again, I pulled out my gear, though without actually taking it out of my bag since we had a bit of a hike in front of us. The trail we traversed was stunning! Apparently, Tent Rocks is the result of some pretty severe explosions way back when the geography of our planet was forming. Lucky for us!

Immediately what struck me was the silence. To my ears, we sounded very loud even though we were talking in our normal voices. It was cool, but odd at the same time. We were ooo-ing and aw-ing our way up the path. While Carey Rose was communing with the site, I was busy setting up my tripod and taking images I feel will definitely have an other-worldly quality to them.


Onward to Madrid (pronounced Mad-rid) where they filmed “Wild Hogs”, a not great movie, but it sure put Madrid on the map. It’s an old coal mining community that thrived in the 20s and 30s.  We had an opportunity to speak with a local woman who was running the parking lot where we parked. She gave us the lowdown on the area while allowing us to photograph her “photo park” – a series of painted character flats with holes cut out for folks to put their heads through.

The people there are quirky and lovely. We were walking back to the car when we encountered a man with a long white beard, on a horse. He stopped when we asked if we could pet his horse. His name was – no kidding – John Wayne. He told us he rode Misty (his horse) all the way from Michigan, picked up a stray dog in Arkansas; the dog completed the journey with them and is still their companion. It took them a total of six months and three days.  Why?  He has family nearby. Who does that nowadays? John Wayne thanked us for showing Misty some love, shook our hands and continued on his way. Like I said, quirky and lovely.

Since the Walking Enchantment project has been in progress, we have visited and will continue to visit many different, not well known locations. So far it has been very enlightening for me and I hope for anyone who is following Walking Enchantment as well. If you aren’t following us, come on over to our website and have a look-see. If you like what you see, we’d love it if you made a donation towards the completion of the project, which will benefit the UNM Center for Life.

Also keep in mind the end-of-year exhibition at the Romero Street Gallery where all proceeds for the sale of the art pieces will all go to the UNM Center for Life. We’d love to see you there.

Please stop by and visit my galleries at, and  I'm also on Facebook and Twitter @kmessmer53.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tony Hillerman Rose Garden and the Petroglyphs

Yesterday, May 10, 2014, was our third Walking Enchantment project outing of twenty-three, and it was awesome! 

I use the library system regularly, but I've never been to the the Tony Hillerman branch, nor had I been to the Rose Garden that surrounds it.  In a word...GORGEOUS!  Definitely one of the hidden gems in Albuquerque. I did my thesis project on macro botanicals and roses never really interested me because they're so predictable. I couldn't have been more wrong.  

There were varieties of roses I'd never seen before and they were anything but predictable. Not only that, there were beautiful arches and park benches that only added to the ambiance of the garden. Plus, some of the insects that were clinging to the buds and crawling on the ground were fascinating.  I know, I can bugs be fascinating? Well, when was the last time you saw a completely white spider sitting on top of a rosebud? Or two ants acting as a team to carry another dead bug, easily four times their size, back to their lair?  I'm telling you...fascinating...

From the rose garden, we traversed the vast expanse from Albuquerque's east side to end up on the west side near millenia old, now extinct, volcanoes, to visit the Petroglyph National Monument. When you first see the petroglyphs, you think they're drawings someone just carved in a rock.  That would be a misconception. These volcanic rocks are porous and tough. Don't let the little holes in them fool you.  Even if you stood there for days trying to carve into these rocks, it would be near impossible to do without the right tools. Enter the stone chisel and hammerstone...  

This tool is similar to the one used by the local people of times past in order to carve these images into these stones. Some of them date back thousands of years, while others are a mere three hundred or so years old.  And just to make sure you have the right information, they are rock carvings (not drawings) made by chiseling directly on the rock surface using the chisel and hammerstone (mentioned above) leaving lighter rock underneath exposed, creating the petroglyph.  It's estimated that there are over 25,000 petroglyphs along the 17 miles within the monument boundary.  We only saw a few because we stuck mainly to the paths through the rocks.  It makes me want to go back to explore some more to see what I can find.

Each of these petroglyphs tells a story, even if it's just one image.  If you look at them - and some span over several boulders - you can see the story they're trying to tell. Interestingly, they seem to go from left to right - the same way we read and write now. Whether that was intentional, I don't know, but it's pretty amazing in my opinion.  


These petroglyphs represent powerful cultural symbols and religious entities that reflect how complex the societies and religions of the tribes were. Petroglyphs are central to the monument's sacred landscape where traditional ceremonies still take place. Some of the petroglyphs found here are as old as B.C. 2000. Other images date from historic periods starting in the 1700s, with carvings by early Spanish settlers. Which ones? No idea; however, I plan to find out.

Check out our Walking Enchantment website for more information and to follow our project.  As well, check out the charity we're supporting, UNM Center for Life. Your tax deductible donation will go a long way to helping toward the completion of this project. Then...come to Old Town Albuquerque during the holiday season and see the exhibit.  The images reflected on this blog are not the images you will see there, however, each will be from our project locations and they will be an incredible representation of New Mexico.

Please stop by and visit my galleries at, and  I'm also on Facebook and Twitter @kmessmer53.