At the O’Keeffe museum in Santa Fe, I once heard a docent tell a visitor that some people say Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings are abstract. But in fact the landscape looks the way the paintings show. That is how Quebradas appears east of Socorro. Colorful and otherworldly but real.
The swirls of rock and intricate detail impart a sense of being up close in a far away land. The sky and hills flow. Afternoon rain showers elicit the pungent fragrance of creosote bush.
Arroyos spilling down from the fractured rocks give sustenance to varied life. The alluvial sands harbor trees and shrubs in microclimates around every turn in the sinuous canyons. The main road going through Quebradas is spectacular, but a walk out into this land reveals much more.
A rattlesnake the color of creosote bush slithered across the road. We watched vertical cloud development quietly erupting over the tops of colorbanded rocks. Enormous silent space. The ecotones fold Chihuahuan desert plants with piñon, juniper, and varied small shrubs.
With endless contrasts in colors, habitats and scales, the Quebradas backcountry byway is a startling road for a timeless journey. The mysterious opens our minds and awakens our powers of sight. Quebradas defies expectations, and so doing broadens our sense of life.