|Giant rocks appear perfectly balanced and carefully placed on sandy vertical ledges dropping hundreds of feet below. A reservoir in the distance is the only water visible in a 360 degree view from the top.|
|Winding our way through the wind and water carved trail.|
|Growing here does not look easy - the ground is literally disappearing as it erodes from beneath these trees!|
|6,760 feet above sea level. From this point of view,|
you can see an incredible diversity of ecosystems.
And not far from Tent Rocks, hidden in the high altitude woods off of winding mountainous roads, pools of steaming water abound. These high-altitude hot springs absolutely blew my mind and completely changed how I picture New Mexico. And to a Florida girl, high altitude hot springs sounds like one giant oxymoron - aren't springs entrances to underground caves that are 72 degrees (aka not hot) year round? Mind games!
|One of the few sections of the road with guard rails. The thin road runs along the Guadalupe River - the drop off to the river is perhaps a bit too close for comfort in many places!|
|One of the two Gilman Tunnels, which are old railway tunnels blasted through the mountains to move timber. The road dead ends shortly after the tunnel where it turns into a huge state forest.|
|Staring longingly at one of the freezing swimming holes in the Guadalupe River - can't swim here, but we did find water! On the right track!|
|The water was icy but swiftly flowing and beautiful. I balanced myself (and camera) on a rock in the middle of the river to take this picture - the flat rock made a nice tripod for a long exposure shot of the river.|
|Soda Dam, a natural dam on the Jemez River along Route 4.|
|Water from the Jemez River runs falls through the small opening in the dam. Apparently minerals from the spring built up over time to form the dam.|
|My dad had hurt his foot, so he hobbled over to the ledge to watch the Jemez River rush by on its way to the dam, which is just out of view on the right.|
|Wait, I thought you could dive in spring vents?! Apparently not in hot springs… This is one of the two tiny vents feeding the hot spring - it was sputtering and gurgling as it spat water out of the small rock crevice.|We guessed that the small trail connected to the parking lot led to the spring. The trail had countless switch-backs and wove down the steep cliff towards a small river. Relaxing in the cavern. A gorgeous view from the main spring pool. If somebody dropped me here, I would guess I was in the mountains of New Hampshire or Vermont. A view of the empty bottom pool from just outside the cavern in the upper pool. In the background, other spring enthusiasts make their way back down the trail after a warm dip in the water.
After a soak in Spence, my trip was officially complete - I went to what I had previously naively assumed was a desert and found water, so the trip was a success. But this water spewing out of small cracks in rocks of the arid southwest was both fascinating and perplexing at the same time - basking in the hot springs and seeing the disappointing trickle of muddy water somehow called the Rio Grande made me wonder how Albuquerque quenches the thirst of almost 1 million people in the metropolitan area. Perhaps there is something missing from this story, which may be more similar to Florida than I originally thought…
(stay tuned for Mind Games: Water in the Desert, Part 2 coming soon!)