It should come as no surprise that Earth Day is my favorite holiday. These last couple of years I seem to be working on an Earth Day tradition: exploring New Mexico’s bizarre and beautiful rocks! Last year, I took a friend to Tent Rocks and this year, I spent the afternoon in the Garden of the Gods. Knowing the nature of New Mexico’s wild rocks – Tea Kettle Rock, the Ojito Wilderness, Tres Piedras, to name just three – I could probably keep up with this theme for many years to come!
The name Garden of the Gods is not hyperbole. This place is a geologic wonder. Massive 40-foot high fins of Dakota Sandstone rise up from the crust, trending north-south. These thick slabs of white, yellow and pink sandstone were formed long before the dinosaurs roamed, when this region of the world was covered by an inland shallow sea. Around 27 million years ago, during the uplifting of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, these layers were broken apart into slabs and stood vertically.
The fins in this big backyard are exposed sections of what’s known as the Dakota Wall formation, which runs along the eastern roots of the Rockies, surfacing at the spectacular Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs and again, further north, at the Flatirons near Boulder, Colorado.
Less than a mile south of here, the Dakota Wall cuts through the water table of the Galisteo River basin. Flowing underground along the rocks, water naturally pools in the aquifer beneath the Garden of the Gods, making this place an oasis. People have been coming here for thousands of years to marvel at these rocks, seeking the miracle of water in the desert and on this day, Earth Day, I was lucky enough to find a shard of their history.
Garden of the Gods is geologic proof that connections on this Earth – between New Mexico and Colorado, between here and there, between then and now – run deep, occasionally surfacing where we can seem them, if we go looking. Here’s to seeing more of the world!