Back to the Turquoise Trail

Man, that's a really blue rock.

After a splendid trip East, I’m back in the Land of Enchantment and already discovering new treasure. Out hiking yesterday, I found two big chunks of very blue rock. I’m no expert, but this is turquoise country. I’ll have to send the photos to a local prospector and see what they think.

The Cerrillos Hills have been a well-known source of turquoise for thousands of years, beginning with the Aztecs and Mayans, followed by Native Americans and pioneers and into the present day. Cerrillos turquoise is distinctive for its greenish tones and stones from this area have been found as far away as Peru.

At first, I thought this bright blue must be spray paint, but nope. That's a mineral!

This was a great day to return to the desert; we got rain overnight (my cistern is up two hundred gallons) and today the post-rainstorm clouds were amazing!

Cerrillos Sky, After the Storm

Cerrillos Fence

US Geologic Survey Marker, dated 1970. Bowie keeping an eye on me so I don't disappear again.

The Blonde Coyote bringing me a bone. Isn't she sweet?

On my hike, I also paid a visit to the coyote skull in the juniper tree. I found this skull years ago, stuck up in a dead tree. I’m sure some other desert traveler left it there long ago and I’m always amazed to return and find it still balanced in the same spot.

Star Cactus & Coyote Skull

Taking a Break by the Coyote Skull

Bowie & the Blonde Coyote


Cerrillos Skull

Cerrillos Skull Bowie

I’m scheming something epic for this weekend! Stay tuned!

Check out my previous post on hiking in the Cerrillos Hills.

Update: I sent the top two photos to a local turquoise expert and he tells me the blue in the rocks is likely Chrysocolla, a bright blue mineral often found in association with – and commonly mistaken for – turquoise. Chrysocolla is lovely, but quite soft, and not particularly valuable. Oh well. Those rocks are still treasure to me! I left them on the land, where they belong. 🙂

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
This entry was posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

100 Responses to Back to the Turquoise Trail

  1. TBM says:

    I love seeing your photos. Those are the luckiest dogs!

  2. Yeah they’re pretty spoiled — a long, off leash hike everyday! All dogs should be so lucky.

  3. Mad Queen Linda says:

    There’s nothing more beautiful than the desert with a blue sky. Thanks for giving me this glimpse today.

  4. Love geology myself! I used to collect rocks and minerals in my younger days and I sill love to travel around my own region (Pacific Northwest) just to check out the landforms and colors in rock stratas. If you ever want to see a color show of your life, trek around the John Day Fossil Beds area in remote Eastern Oregon.

    • I’ve been to John Day! That place is amazing. I wrote a Travels in Geology called Finding Fossils in John Day for EARTH magazine back in 2008. Next time I’m in eastern Oregon, I’ll definitely stop for another visit. Thanks for reading Peggy!

  5. Gorgeous pix — those dogs look mighty happy! 🙂

  6. pnwauthor says:

    Two Freshly Press selections today featuring the beauty of the desert. I enjoyed both posts. You have an eye for beauty and enchantment. Love the dogs too.

  7. aFrankAngle says:

    Geology containing messaging … priceless.

  8. These pictures are beautiful! There’s nothing quite like a great expanse of land and an even bigger sky… Thank you for sharing!

  9. john hauge says:

    the cerillos hills and the turquoise road are an amazing pair. i love new mexico high country. your photos show it off very well.

  10. Dounia says:

    Gorgeous photos and fascinating to learn about the turquoise trail – I didn’t know that, and your post and pictures were a great way to hear about it.

  11. Snapshooter says:

    Who would think that you could find such awesome colors in rocks? They’re one of those things that seem so normal, yet have such potential…

  12. aacohen97 says:

    BEAUTIFUL photos! I am a WordPress photographer, and you have inspired me. Great job.

    • Thank you! That’s lovely to hear. Yesterday was the second anniversary of my Great Uncle Jim’s passing. He gave me my first camera when I was a kid and these photos are for him!

  13. Claire Lopez says:

    I love NM! Beautiful pictures. Congratulations on being freshly pressed!

  14. You’re pictures are great. That is some amazing landscape. You’re “Blonde Coyote” reminds me of my dog, an Akita/Border Collie mix, with different coloring. Absolutely gorgeous…Oh, and your last name ROCKS! Cheers!

  15. This blog post made my day. As someone who’s heavily into crystal healing finding a big turquoise like that sounds like a dream come true. All the photos are gorgeous. Happy trails!

  16. New Mexico, land that I love! Great photos!

  17. Sarah D. says:

    Wow, that really does look like spray paint! Very enticing set of photos. I love seeing those big blue skies, especially this time of year. Thanks for posting the great photos, and I’m going to look up your science articles.

  18. Grumpa Joe says:

    I’m currently reliving a trip to the Land of Enchantment from 1970. I’m converting my old home movies into a DVD movie called Searching for Indians and A-Bombs.
    You have some outstanding photos.

  19. Ben Weber says:

    Great photos and great blog!! Will enjoy reading more!

  20. 7theaven says:

    Good photos, great post.

    The coyote is my fav shot!

  21. Java Girl says:

    Stunning pictures! It must be so amazing and peaceful to walk around the desert and come back to familiar things you see (the coyote skull). Hope you have a great weekend! We are expecting snow tomorrow here in New Jersey! Brrr!

    • I left this desert for a year and upon my return, was amazed to find the skull and many other landmarks still right where I remembered them. Snow sounds cold but lovely! I just barely dodged a storm when I was back East in PA last week. 🙂

  22. I know those hills well. So nice to be able to hike around in winter and keep your feet dry. Lots of other minerals to be found out there to. For now I’m in Hawaii hiking and thats just fine. Wanted to say thanks for bringing me home for a few moments. Gracias.

  23. Beautiful ! My second home ( in my heart) is New Mexico. After meeting my husband there, it has become my favourite place to visit. I never grow tired of hiking the hills and find so much solitude in the canyons. Thanks for sharing. You can check out some similar scenery on my blog as well. Here’s to the Land of Enchantment 🙂

  24. Carol says:

    Beautiful photos. Great dogs. Where did all those bowling pins come from?

  25. very beautiful pictures, thanks for your sharing. I guess your dogs had a good time

  26. Your photos are beautiful. They make me want to get out and hike!

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  29. The Travel Expert says:

    Reblogged this on The Travel Expert.

  30. mjspringett says:

    I will be a faithful follower from now on, happy New Mexico MJ

  31. melissakoski says:

    Wow, it’s wonderful to see such beautiful photos of a different terrain!

  32. Amazing pictures! Isolated place, but there’s beauty everywhere. Thanks for sharing!

  33. marimann says:

    My husband and I drove the Turquoise Trail last time we were in New Mexico; very beautiful up there and your pictures are equally beautiful. Particularly interesting was the US Geological Survey marker, I have never seen one before, or if I have, I didn’t know what it was. We have a rock that was collected by my husband’s step-mother (she and his father lived in Roswell before their deaths) and it has blue in it, but I never thought before it might be turquoise. I wouldn’t even mind if it was chrysocolla, which is my “totem” mineral. Thanks for sharing!

  34. Michele LMS says:

    Enjoyed your post! . . . Those bowling pins scattered about were intriguing and the story of the coyote skull remarkable! . . . Congrats on being “Freshly Pressed”!

  35. Linda Adams says:

    Beautiful pictures! That blue on the rock does look like graffiti.

    When I was in Saudi Arabia years ago, we camped out in a location near where nomads were. There was a goat’s skull in the sand — had to walk right by every time I went to the latrine. Despite so many people being around, not one person touched the skull. It stayed right where it was until we left the area.

  36. claire2 says:

    Lovely photos.

  37. Chris Major says:

    Terrific photography taken in a stunning landscape. I look forward to your future posts. Many thanks

  38. Lovely photos, they bring beauty to a harsh place.

  39. Thank you for transporting me to The Land of Enchantment today! I really needed that. ;^) (I was born in New Mexico and am currently missing it very much.)

    What wonderful photos. And turquoise is my favorite stone, jewelry and color. ;^)

  40. tahir78 says:

    beautiful pics…..look like some buddy had paint the on it……

  41. Sampurna says:

    I’m going to visit your blog and read the rest of your blog. You are so amazing. So are those photographs and the dogs!

  42. dawnestrehl says:

    Love your post and your photography is something I aspire too! (I’m learning, I’m learning)

    Regards, D

  43. The fourth picture is my favorite! Great photos; I love the post! 🙂

  44. Pigeon Heart says:

    Gorgeous!!!!!! I miss that land. I lived on a res. in Az. for a while. Similar feel. AI had a solid pack of dogs with me as well. Beautiful shots.

  45. Message in a Bottle Hunter says:

    Yay adventure!

  46. alicedarling says:

    Best compliments from Italy! nice place, nice photo, nice dogs!

  47. LadyT says:

    what a gorgeous view… sounds like a cool hike! thanks for sharing!

  48. Cool photos man. You have a great blog going here. Keep it up!

    ^ In case your ever bored

  49. angelique523 says:

    Fantastic photos. Bowie looks like a real trooper. You are lucky to have him. Please keep updating the photos. Absolutely stunning. 🙂

  50. Karen says:

    Great pics! Great adventure!

  51. I love rocks! I used to collect stones and rocks when we go to rivers or the beach. I am fascinated with their distinct colors and texture. These rocks in your photo, unique as they are reminds me of my collection, which I still keep. At least some of them 🙂 Thanks for the post.

  52. FlyBillEtter says:

    Great post. Really like the color in the rocks, very unusual. And your dogs are beautiful, The Blonde Coyote looks like he really belongs there, like he’s part of the environment.

    • If there’s anywhere in the world a deaf coyote hybrid belongs it’s here! She was found on a nearby mesa as a tiny puppy, likely abandoned by her coyote mother because of her deafness. She’s one hell of an animal. Thanks for reading!

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  54. your photographs are amazing! love the colors and composition. also love the simplicity in your writing.

  55. missmoots says:

    I simply love all your photos. Its amazing.

  56. Some of the most awesome photos I have ever seen on “Freshly Pressed” postings.

  57. blackshepherd says:

    why do you so resist the obvious conclusion that coyotes can climb tree and stay put until that bothersome skin they find themselves in disappears and releases them to the sky? How could you so underestimate the wily coyote…I’m sure she enjoyed every second in the tree too…perspective….that’s what I heard the coyote say before she disappeared into the sky daring me to follow….

  58. What an amazing place! So very different from where I live on the wet Western fringes of Europe. I cannot imagine living with those colours in the landscape and that vastness. Thanks for posting 🙂

  59. Ah, my old neighborhood! Thanks for reminding me of the years we lived just south of Santa Fe!

  60. memomuse says:

    Enjoyed this post. Not really a science person, but I really love your photos and writing style. The dogs are cool. I love wide open spaces. I am a Wyoming native living in the South. I miss having a horizontal view. So many trees here on the East Coast.

  61. trikatykid says:

    I just visited Santa Fe for the first time .. bought myself a nice turquoise ring made by a Navajo .. and I also visited the Georgia O’Keeffe gallery, which made me VERY much appreciate the desert. I am born/raised New Englander, recently transplanted to Bend, OR. I was so happy to visit Santa Fe on my way out here! Great blog! Also – glad you “left no trace”, although IF that rock had been turquoise I would have had a hard time leaving it there!

  62. needtotaste says:

    Wonderful photos, thanks for sharing! Nice for us Tennesseans to be reminded of the great wide West!

  63. George says:

    Reblogged this on WordPress Trends.

  64. maejane28 says:

    Great post – and congratulations for being in the freshly pressed! I am a Biology graduate also, and I admire you!

  65. allen says:

    nice picture….i like that blue stone…

  66. Tasha Jones says:

    Beautiful pictures!! What a magical place xx

  67. gaycarboys says:

    Was the blue turquoise? Or was it copper or something like that? It was a really beautiful colour whatever it was.

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  70. Loved this blog post, the animals the colors all of it. Amazing posts!!

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