Galisteo Basin, New Mexico

One of the days of our trip was spent almost entirely at Galisteo Basin, where we wandered around the desert looking at plants and for signs of a by-gone era.We also hiked a lot, clambering our way up on top of some rocky hills and mountains that had spectacular views.Galisteo Basin is approximately 467,200 acres of desert and rugged sandstone with carved arroyos (Spanish for ‘streams’) and vast grasslands that stretch from San Miguel County, across Santa Fe County and into Sandoval County. Its main watercourse is the Galisteo Creek that flows down into the Río Grande.

Galisteo is located between two mountain ranges – in the northeast are the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and in the southwest are the Sandia Mountains – and it also connects the Great Plains and the Río Grande Valley. These features made Galisteo a desirable trade route.The earliest known humans to inhabit Galisteo Basin were the Paleo Indians, who arrived in the area early as early as 7500 to 6000 B.C. As time went on, other ancestral peoples and Spanish explorers also made Galisteo their home. Despite its ideal area, much of the Galisteo Basin remained sparsely populated until around the 12th century.

From the late 1200s to about 1600 A.D., several large pueblos were built approximately 12 miles (19km) from the heart of where the Galisteo Basin Preserve land is today. The largest and most well-known pueblo in Galisteo Basin is the San Cristóbal Pueblo which contained five eight or nine-room blocks that were several storeys in height. It also had five ceremonial plazas, the largest of which had a ceremonial Kiva. It is estimated that the San Cristóbal Pueblo had a population ranging between 500 and 1,000 people.

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When we arrived at Galisteo, we entered via Highway 285 and travelled down Astral Valley Road until we reached the end of Southern Crescent Drive at Candid Crossing.We spent a few hours walking along and off the trails in that area to take photos of the plants. We also found evidence of ‘cowboys’ that had used once use the area – square nails and shards of glass that were patinated in shades of pink and purple. In fact, I found a chunk that had part of a drug company name that I was able to trace back to at least 1910!Later on in the afternoon we moved on to more hiking. We got back in the car and made our way to the Cowboy Shack trail head where we proceeded to trek the Shepherd’s Trail.Coming to a fork in the road at marker 19, we made a left to continue on to Eliza’s Ridge Trail and then Sophie’s Spur. Here we met a nice family and their dog who was very agile and adventurous!When we got to marker 20, we doubled back and made our way the fork where we decided to go along the trail to marker 39 where Liam’s Lark and Cinque’s Spur meet. We went this way to take a look at the valley, which was very lush and green despite the rest the trails being so sparse and rocky. We did see this neat tree along the way though!I loved Galisteo Basin so much and wanted to spend more time there. I just loved looking at all of the beautiful desert flowers and cacti (especially the cacti!), and also searching for signs and a portal back into a time gone by.There’s just something about the vastness of the desert that makes one feel free – when I close my eyes, I can imagine being there, looking out over the vista. It feels like I’m really there. I can’t wait to go back.∆ ∆ ∆

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