Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument and the Phenomenal Sante Fe Brewing Company
The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks are a remarkably unique geological feature formed when nearby volcanoes in the Jemez Field spewed pyroclastic flows approximately 7 million years ago. Ash, pumice, and tuff from the volcano as well as sedimentary particles such as rhyolite and sand picked up during the flow were carried by the violent masses of volcanic gas, leaving deposits over a thousand feet thick. Some sections of the layered deposits were later overlaid with a harder caprock that has allowed the formation of the cone-shaped tent rocks by protecting the underlying volcanic detritus. Areas of layered tuff and dirt not protected by more resistant caprock has since been eroded by water, forming canyons that cut between the cylindrical formations. Visible throughout the deposit are bands of silvery white and gray volcanic material mixed with tan, dark gray, and orange sedimentary material that combined for a fantastic layered appearance.
I began by walking the Cave Loop Trail out to the junction of the Canyon Trail, which winds through the heart of the tent rocks via a lovely slot canyon approximately a half mile in length. Here I was able to see the multi-colored layers of rock up close and inspect the varieties of textures as I walked though the twisted walls. Emerging from the slot canyon the trail then wound it’s way about 400 feet up to a mesa top, all the while providing spectacular birds eye views of the tent rocks and canyon. The trail happened to be on the north side of the mesa however and on the day of my visit the snow had compacted and thoroughly iced-over which made this section of the trail a bit adventurous on the descent, but under normal conditions this section of the trail is a short, relatively easy climb and well worth the views. I returned through the slot canyon to the junction of the Cave Trail Loop, which I then followed (in the direction from which I hadn’t walked) past the base of the cliffs and the small cave hollowed out by a combination of erosion and human action. This section of the trail also provided more opportunities to see the variations in the bands of the deposited rock, and see additional tent rocks, both with and without their capstones.
I was headed north via Santa Fe after Kasha-Katuwe but upon leaving the skies were darkening with clouds fairly rapidly. I had been expecting light snow overnight but after checking the forecast again, the predicted snowfall had increased significantly in the mountains where I was headed and an inch of ice was expected from just south of Santa Fe up to as far as Taos (where they’d also be getting a few inches of snow). I saw no reason to drive into that and set up my tent – especially since forecasted overnight lows had dropped from 9 degrees to 5 degrees so I decided to check out the nearest brewery with a plan to sleep in the car nearby.
I believe it was fate that I chose Santa Fe Brewing Company. I am now totally in love with their beer. I had intended on only having a flight so I was in the midst of making some tough decisions as to which five I was going to order when the guy sitting next to me introduced himself as an employee and gave me some sound advice. Matt and I got to talking, discussing beers and life and I ended up sampling everything they had on tap over the course of a few hours. This was extremely fortunate because not only did I discover their amazing flagship Santa Fe Pale Ale and seasonal Black IPA – both of which now rank in my top 10 all-time favorites – but their incredibly rich, decadent Java Stout and impossibly crisp and refreshing Happy Camper IPA. I’ve just returned from being in New Mexico for two months as I’m writing this and I can tell you I have been enjoying all four of these beers regularly and have also brought a 6-pack of each back to Utah. I’m a pale ale girl and thus have some fairly high standards, and I can honestly tell you that their Sante Fe Pale Ale is my second favorite in the country, juuuuusssstttt behind my beloved Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention their rich, malty State Pen Porter. Seriously, all their beers were amazing. Matt even gave me a tour, explaining their brewing processes, and I got to taste different types of barley and try super-fresh Happy Camper IPA off the canning line. Meanwhile, his girlfriend had stopped by after work and together they invited me to have dinner and sleep at their place since the weather was already deteriorating. I have rarely experienced such kindness and generosity, nor had such a wonderful evening. So, in review: I had the opportunity to see some amazing rock formations, I sampled a lot of incredibly good beer, and I met some really awesome people. Pretty much all my days are good, but this one ranks pretty far near the top.