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Flat rocky outcrop, New Mexico
3rd May 2008
Four corners and the stunning deserts of New Mexico and Colorado

On Saturday I drove from Albuquerque to the North West corner of the state, entering the Navajo Nation, a native American homeland area.  As I approached Shiprock I was shocked at the poverty visible.  People lived in single-storey port-a-cabins on bare dirt in the city, and in shacks at the base of mesas in crags in the desert, clearly without running water (50 miles into the desert).  I did not photograph these unfortunately, but did snap a homestead just outside of town which was a little better but never-the-less still quite lowly.  I took this picture because as I drove through the desert one of the things on my mind was how it felt like a million miles from the bustling cities of Dallas and Houston.  It actually felt like a separate country, hardly conceivable that the richest nation on earth could still house people in such conditions while just 500 miles away in Las Vegas more money and energy is wasted than is comfortable to imagine.


From Shiprock (named after a huge vertical rocky outcrop) I went to the Four Corners, where the highly-imaginative division of the land resulted in four states converging in one place, with orthogonal borders between them.  It was actually pretty cool to take two steps and enter two states that I had never previously been to (Utah and Colorado; I went to Arizona in 1995).  Of course I made the standard pose of one limb in each state.

The scenery in this area is just amazing.  Something different over every hill:  smooth red rocks, yellow pyramidal sand formations, brown mud scarred with deep dry streams, mesas, black mountains, strata of rock and sand, and then finally a view of the snow-covered mountains further north in Colorado.  It was really quite something else, possible the most beautiful part of America I have yet seen (while not being classically beautiful - not your typical bald eagle landscape).  

The drive took forever as I kept stopping for pictures.  There are quite a lot of pictures of rocks, but that's what this whole area is all about. There are several shots showing the road itself: I wanted to include these because this is what I spent much of the day looking at.  It's the type of scene from films and from atlas covers. (Remember that reference, please....)

I drove on to Cortez and camped.  It's pretty expensive, $24 for a simple tent space.  But the view from Camp Clarke is right out onto the mountains. When I finished erecting the Walker-Ellis tent (purchased in the west, flown from SFO to ATL, and now driven back to the greater Rockies before use), I checked the car - the engine was covered in sand from the drive, and the suspension on one side started to squeak over bumps, I suspect from the dust and sand.  I liberally WD40'd the suspension, without success.  I hope that it's nothing serious. I'm hardly in the right place for a breakdown.


Tomorrow I will go to Mesa Verde national park and then perhaps on to Arches to camp for the night.

Next: Mesa Verde national Park, Colorado
Previous: Day in Albuquerque, petroglyphs, Uni of NM

Diary Photos

Flat rocky outcrop, New Mexico

Vertical rocky structures, New Mexico

Rocky outcrop right next to the freeway, New Mexico

Flat rocky outcrop, New Mexico

Desert view, New Mexico

Desert view, New Mexico

Large rocky outcrop new Shiprock, New Mexico

Huge flat rocky outcrop near Shiprock, New Mexico

The Ship rock, near Shiprock, NM

Impoverished homestead, Shiprock, NM

Black flat rocky outcrop, New Mexico

Driving view, NM

Red rocky gulley, New Mexico

Red rocky gulley, New Mexico

Four Corners seal

Four Corners seal detail

One limb in each of UT, CO, NM, AZ

Yellow triangular formation, Colorado

Dry stream, Colorado

Rock/sand strata, Colorado

On the road, Colorado

Stunning mesa, Colorado

Camp Clarke

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