Earth Day in the Garden of the Gods

Sandstone Self-Portrait

Sandstone Self-Portrait

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!

Rock & Tree

Rock & Tree

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.

Garden of the Gods D.O.G.

Garden of the Gods D.O.G.

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.

Rocks & Light

Rocks & Light

Juniper Bowie

Juniper Bowie

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.

Medicine Wheel Self-Portrait

This is modern: Medicine Wheel Self-Portrait

Treasure! Anasazi pottery.

This is ancient: A shard of pottery left by the Anasazi.

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!

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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10 Responses to Earth Day in the Garden of the Gods

  1. Chas Spain says:

    What a startling landscape – a perfect place for Earth Day – you must feel very connected here

  2. Happy Earth Day to you!

    That 4th photo down reminds me of a Sphynx! I often stop at Garden of the Gods on my way to or from Santa Fe, since I live in the East Mountains and have to drive right by it. My sons and I have hiked up to the top ridge a few times and just sat and enjoyed the views.

    I just got home from a long weekend of riding at San Lorenzo Canyon, near San Acacia, NM. If you have some time, you should consider a visit. Lots of beautiful rocks and amazing geology to explore and photograph there.

    Here’s a link to my blog with a few of the photos that were taken this past weekend during my visit.

    • Wow! Very cool place. I’ve never even heard of it. One of these winters I’m going to do a big southern SW road trip through southern NM and AZ. I’ll definitely put San Lorenzo Canyon on my list! Thanks! M

  3. ritaroberts says:

    Amazing scenery .I just love the geology of that place and would give anything for that shard of Anasazi pottery . Thanks for sharing Mary.

  4. bjregan says:

    I’m with you–I love New Mexico’s weird and wonderful rocky landscapes. Have you been to the San Jose Badlands north of Cuba, NM? We were introduced to this marvelous place Monday on an outing with a group. Until I saw your post, I had forgotten all about the fact that Monday was Earth Day.

    I love following your travels. And you take such beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing.

  5. It’s very interesting about your tattoo!
    Could you please tell the story?

  6. Pingback: Free National Park Week! | Travels with the Blonde Coyote

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