Lost in the City of Rocks

New Mexico’s City of Rocks State Park sounds vaguely interesting.  Not true; it’s a Don’t-Miss!

Ancient volcanic showers of pumice and ash melded into a slab of rock that then eroded into a labyrinth of channels like streets and allies, tunnels, and caves. Many of the passages called to my inner child. If only my knees weren’t so cranky, I’d crawl in and explore. I longed for a few grandkids to help me enjoy it vicariously.
In the distance an evocative peak invited a creatively framed photo, preferably involving a hoodoo. Sure enough, as we left the “city” I spotted a nice hoodoo with a good formation across from it, with the peak view in the middle. Next day, armed with cameras, Steve and I set off after supper to get the right sunlight angle on the peak. The frame seemed like it should have been easy to re-find, but even after we sighted the hoodoo, we were too low to see the peak in the frame. When we’d climbed above the obstructions, we were looking down on the hoodoo.
Steve tried skirting a short way to the north while I explored passages in the area of our initial ascent. I kept an eye out for him in between watching the framing possibilities and my footing. At one point I caught a glimpse of someone crossing a narrow opening in the rocks above me, but I didn’t want to hail a stranger then have to explain that, never mind, he or she wasn’t Steve. I should have. It wasn’t long before I started shouting down every passage we crossed and asking our dog, Raven, “Where’s Steve?”
I could tell that she was eager to find him, but she hurried this way then that, clueless. (Steve told me later that he’d heard me asking Raven where he was, but he couldn’t find the right side of the rocks.)
So what to do. We were needles in a haystack. Worse, we were moving needles in a haystack without street signs. I might have stood my ground and shouted until Steve found me, but the light was fading, and how smart would it be to wait until I’d have to fumble through infinite tripping hazards in the dark? Hoping Steve would realize that I had enough sense to get out while the getting was good, I turned tail and abandoned him.
Of course, he was too gallant to abandon me. He walked the length of the city three times, caught his foot on a root and fell but we both made it back to the camper in one piece.
If you ever feel the need to get lost, I highly recommend the City of Rocks, but if you are lucky enough to take a little one in, don’t let that darling out of your sight!

About breathtakebyways

Ann Williams’ travel articles have appeared in publications all over the country including The Washington Post, Roads to Adventure, and Jack and Jill. Between researching and writing books, she specializes in creative lectures.