Ojito Wilderness, New Mexico
(April 28, 2016)—Just west of Bernalillo at an elevation of 5,600 to 6,200 feet is 11,200 acres of beautiful desert landscapes that exhibit a fusion of colors and the sweet smell of New Mexico llano. This place, Ojito Wilderness, is simply special; stippled with wild juniper, permeating sage, daunting cliff sides, phenomenal hoodoos and exceptional badlands-esque landscapes. It’s a territory abundant with minerals, gems and sedimentary plant biology that collide in a synthesis of hues and colors so extraordinary it’s as if the earth was hand painted by Ms. Georgia O’Keeffe herself.
Fairly new to New Mexico and a true vagabond by lifestyle, I have yet to really feel at ‘home’ since moving here in July of 2015. Although my family is more-or-less established in the Southwest- my father, a generational Pacheco from Martineztown- I don’t really see myself sticking around for too much longer. Nonetheless, being new to a different place has always made me itch for friendship and social activity; so, in lieu, I joined a local Meetup group of adventuring globe-trotters with interests like that of mine. So on this day, my first day, we explored the eons-ancient grounds of the Ojito Wilderness.
The crew and I climbed three cliffs, scaling the beautiful mesa’s plateaus as we summited. We collected rocks and discussed them with our rock-guru Lead, Craig, and fracking-extraordinaire Ian – an accomplished petroleum engineer, originally from Australia, who retired after working a solid 30-some-odd-year career in hydraulic fracking. We found crystal veins that scaled towering precipices, we ate lunch between colossal hoodoos colored with Colorado red etchings made by the winds of ancient pasts, and fun of all, we got to know each other, shared stories about ourselves, our exploits around the globe, across oceans, and the perils we undertook while discovering new worlds beyond.
The scene was magnificent around us, breathtaking, yet frightfully barren. Craig, our Leader, says at one point, “It’s a bit precarious for one to just head off trail here in the mesas of New Mexico… (pause) but our group, that’s all we do.” He did a fabulous job setting the tone for our entire day; we had the freedom to investigate as we pleased, yet we congregated around Craig often, as he educated us on the unwritten rules of respecting the earth about us. At one point, Craig touched upon the topic of cryptogeographic earth- ‘er somethin’ ‘er other- and how trillions, if not an infinite amount of microorganisms made their home here, shaping the floor to look like something from an alien world.
When walking through New Mexico’s wilderness, one can’t help but imagine everything deep under water- the geology of its canyons encrusted with layers upon layers of sedimentary rock as evidence of this- a timeline of life on Earth; testimony of a once prehistoric planet.
At the end of our trip, we traversed a small wall where just on the other side laid awaiting the age-old remnants of irrigated terrace farms made by the Native Americans that once inhabited the area. On the way back we probed the ruins of an old prospector’s home, more crude in construction, and rumored to have been made on top of sacred Indian ruins.
Lastly, we made one final stop at the former 1980’s archeological dig site of the famed Alamosaurus – the largest dinosaur remains to have ever been found in North America. The Alamosaurus lived about 69 million years ago and was so gigantic that it thought to have caused cataclysmic tremors as it walked. What’s left of this dig site today is a massive gaping hole, overgrown with a lush mesa garden; appropriate character of New Mexico’s ever-changing landscape.
Customarily, we ended this gracious day with our kind “farewells” and “till next times”; conscious of the fact some of us may become distant memories, a part of future stories shared with strangers at international taverns about “that one time in New Mexico.” But we were content in our day’s work, warm in our hearts that were now filled with the perspectives of consequential strangers and earth’s endless treasures.