Tag Archives: experiential education

Three Rivers Petroglyphs: Art Outdoors

fly to paradise

The second part our Independence Day travels involved leaving the popular mountain towns filled with happy Texans, and finding our way down to where the mountains meet the desert at a place called Three Rivers.  The music below goes well with this blog post of the desert glyphs.

a fertile Sierra Blanca field

sweet lizard look

keystone markings

Three Rivers Petroglyphs is on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management.  The BLM is increasingly centering management strategies on conservation and low impact recreation.  Here human activities emphasize appreciation of cultural heritage and diverse ecosystems.  It is a wilderness for pondering strategies for sustainable development.

nature

three rivers monsoon

sotol shot

There are two camping areas at Three Rivers.  One is in the desert just off hwy 54 next to the visitor center for the petroglyph trails.  The other is 7 or so miles up the road where the river comes down out of the mountains.  We stayed at the upper one.  It was quiet and uncrowded.  Desert vegetation converges with grassy foothills speckled with juniper and piñon pine.  Our campsite was cozy with a flat pad for our tent and a sheltered picnic table.  We stayed dry in the shelter when the afternoon monsoon rains came.  A nearby trail led to the vista points pictured above.  A surreal blend of flowering sotol, budding cholla, and fragrant piñon pines made up the landscape.  We cooked with the camp stove and gathered wood and lit a campfire.  The flames danced and the sky light disappeared from behind the gray monsoon clouds.

cholla crown

campsite before sunburst

The next morning I awoke before dawn and hiked upriver into the canyon folds of the White Mountains.  Ponderosa pines grow tall next to the river.  I saw no one.  Deer and cougar certainly frequent this region.  After breakfast we broke camp and headed down to the petroglyphs and walked out on the rocks under the early July desert sun.

zebra sheep

face

big horn with three arrows

There are over 21,000 petroglyphs that visitors can explore in the natural open amphitheater of the outdoors.  Animals are common subjects, bighorn sheep, lizards, and birds.  Geometric symbols abound.  The variety suggests interchange with many cultures, hunting, agriculture.  Human faces and forms were as interesting as ever to these petroglyph artists.  You feel original excitement discovering the glyphs haphazardly as you amble on the trail and through rock gardens.  The glorious setting, day unfolding, breeze, birds, plant fragrances, great spaces across the valley between ranges under the clear Southwest skies and hot sun, takes you away.

faces

circles and face

corn man

You have to hop around and leap across rock tops to get the best angles.  There are engravings everywhere.  The experience was engrossing and stream-like.   The context and continuity of the natural settings make it possible for these renderings to communicate across the threshold of space and time.  The air bristled with anticipation as the hot sun began stirring the monsoons.

hello

king

thunderbird

The subtleties and nuances take time to digest.  The canvases of volcanic boulders were used to accentuate lines and features.  Art grafted to nature’s palette.  Human earth expression.

human horns hands

corn man two

monsoons ballooning over Sierra Blanca

Pay close attention and things open up for you.  It is not like an art museum where you are told what to look at.  Three Rivers petroglyphs is crafted in concert with the unbridled wild.  The art is uncontained and unbounded.  The are no lamp lights.  Sun and shadow.  The folds of rock hold pictures at every angle in different layers and dimensions.  It is one of the most interesting places I’ve been to.  There is much to learn.  These petroglyphs set a story tone that is gentle, intriguing, mysterious.  Like a good book each time you go back (we’ve been twice now) you discover something more.  What unique, complex and subtle creations.  Thank you BLM and New Mexico for conserving this heritage so we can listen, observe, explore, and discover.

signals abound

symbols

 

Cloudcroft: A Cool Deep Blue

High up in the Sacramento Mountains towering above the Tularosa Basin there is a place called Cloudcroft, New Mexico.  It is about 9,000 feet “above stress level” as locals say.  The climate is much wetter and totally cooler.  When it is not cloudy the sky is a deep mountain blue.

west rim beautiful trail

To start off our Independence Day trip we went to a few places in New Mexico we have never been before.  First Carlsbad Caverns where we watched the bats fly out from the ground for their nightly feasting on moths and other insects.  Underneath a full moon with bright Venus and Jupiter illuminated twinlike after dusk, we considered the intricacies of the bats’ knowledge, and their nightly work keeping the ecosystem balanced.   We know so little about how bats operate.  Much is yet to be “discovered”.  The kids in the crowd kept tripping up the Park Rangers with unanswerable questions.  With insatiable curiosity and lively imaginations the youth exploring our world are already joining the corps of discovery.  The next day we descended into the caverns.  What a magnificent underworld beyond dreams.  Afterwards we picnicked, then headed towards Cloudcroft to camp in the Sacramento mountains.

aspen fortress

west rim trail

flowers on west rim trail

It is hard to imagine what elevation change does for climate and life zones.  The tops of the mountains are nearly 7,000′ above White Sands and the Tularosa Basin.  You can look out and see all the way across to the Organ Mountains over Las Cruces, with the San Andreas Mountains trailing to the north.  We camped close to the National Recreation Rim Trail and in the morning hiked through woodlands and meadows with Douglas Fir, Aspen, oak, and flowers for company.

west rim purple

west rim trail to aspen forest

white sands from west rim trail

It was beautiful.  We saw no one out on the trail.  To replenish we went into town to Mad Jack’s Mountain Top barbeque, then drank a coffee and enjoyed strolling around the small town.  It reminded me of the mountain town I used to live in up on the Colorado Plateau, except Cloudcroft is higher, smaller, and quieter.  Love this place.  Small town, big mountains.

west rim cloudcroft

gigantic aspen on west rim trail

west rim

Transitioning from the woods to town reminded me that what people are seeking for rest, rejuvenation and celebration already exists.  We don’t have to make it, we just take it in.  Observing the hasty arrivals you can see even on vacation people get distracted by the conveyances.  But as soon as you can settle down you realize what we are really after is all around us.  Walking with the perfect integrity of these high mountain woods breathed new life into us.  New Mexico has a lot to offer.  Cloudcroft in summer is good.

aspen greens

west rim new life