On Oct. 14, 2017, we arrived mid-afternoon to the Bisti (Bist-eye) Di Na Zin Wilderness just in time to greet two intrepid explorers returning from their own hike. The couple were very tired and covered with a film of dusty sand, but friendly and willing to chat a bit before collapsing into their truck camper. Despite my research and confirmed GPS coordinates, it’s always good to get the lay of the land from someone with details fresh in their minds.
Maura and I knew it was too late to start a long hike into the wilderness, but our new acquaintances had pointed across the gravel road. There’s a nice collection of hoodoos and other rock formations over there, they informed us, and you’ll be able to shoot them in the light of sunset and still get back before total darkness. We thanked them and gathered our gear for a short hike. The wind had come up strong with the sand and grit blowing. We tied some scarves over our faces.
We crossed the road and started down into a shallow wash, which extended as far as we could see through the dust. After covering a few hundred yards, the wind settled down and the sun glowed bright and yellow straight ahead of us at about thirty-five degrees above the horizon. As we advanced, a low plateau with irregular shaped rock formations appeared ahead and to our right. It rose about 10-feet-high fairly quickly.
It was fairly easy to climb to the top of the plateau using the gently rounded, step-like surfaces of the strange rock formations. Suddenly, we were in the midst of an alien world, the likes of which neither of us had ever seen. In the not-to-far distance stood many scattered flat-topped hills called buttes whose colors ranged from white, yellow and earth-toned to brilliant shades of rusty orange. But the sand castle, drippy shaped rocks that lay all about us were surreal, convoluted and prehistoric.
At first we roamed through this wonderful landscape together. Then each finding a visual treat to be photographed, we explored on our own. Our cameras clicked, a new masterpiece seemingly appearing at every turn. As sundown drew closer, the shadows lengthened, creating new apparitions of odd shapes upon the already indescribable formations.
With twilight almost upon us we found each other, clambered back down into the wash to return to our Airstream. We both talked about what we had seen, the wonderment of it all and how tomorrow was sure to be a much more difficult yet rewarding trek.
To be continued…
— By John G.
The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness was once a river delta that lay just to the west of the shore of an ancient sea, the Western Interior Seaway, which covered much of New Mexico 70 million years ago. A volcano deposited a large amount of ash, overlaying lush organic material. (For more details, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisti/De-Na-Zin_Wilderness.)