Sunset Cliffs

Cliff top sitting spot, facing north. My house is on the far left.

My backyard cliffs have infinite sitting spots. Some spots are out of the wind; some spots are in the sun; some spots are in the shade. Some spots face the sunset; some spots face the sunrise. After three winters, I’m still finding new sitting spots up there, somewhere to lean comfortably against the slabs of sandstone (I must always lean against something) and study this desert.

From the cliffs I can see my house, against a low hill, in the middle of the wide-open Galisteo Basin. To the North are Tetilla Peak, the massive La Bajada Mesa and the Cerrillos Hills, which hide Santa Fe and most of the snow-topped Sangre de Christo mountains. To the West are the Jemez Mountains, also dusted with snow. If I climb high enough, I can see Cabezon Peak. To the South are the Ortiz Mountains and Sandia “Watermelon” Mountain, which hides Albuquerque. These cliffs dominate the East, erupting from the basin like a bow of red, orange and pink sandstone, depending on the light.

I have spent a lot of time sitting on top of the cliffs, watching the sun move across the sky from East to West. I’ve probably climbed up there a hundred times; my self-made trail to the top worn into the rocks like the path of a creature of habit. Last year, I left this desert for almost exactly a year and when I returned, my paths were still there, waiting for me, exactly where my feet remembered them. I hope I will always return to this place.

Clifftop Coyote & a Sliver of Sandia

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at
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  1. Pingback: Climbing Cabezon | Travels with the Blonde Coyote

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