Today's blog is courtesy of a question asked a month ago by friend and photographer extraordinaire, Steve Immel. In the process of curating photographs of California to select ten of his best for an article, Steve asked how would I do the same when it came to New Mexico. It was truly a brain game that made me look through numerous slides and prints, as well as digital images. I certainly know what some of my favorite places are, but found representative photographs sorely lacking. From Bandelier National Monument, to Jemez Springs, Soda Dam, Battleship Rock and Valles Caldera, the Jemez Mountains are rich in volcanic formations and ponderosa pine forests (also known as western yellow pine). They form the southernmost part of the Rocky Mountains. I almost feel as though the area is part of my DNA, having spent two weeks each summer for ten years at Girl Scout camps in the area. In my opinion. the sensory richness of the area is very nearly unmatched. So you now have fair warning that much of my photographic work for the coming summer months will be a revisit to some of the most beautiful and compelling parts of the area.
Since the beginning of April when temperatures began to warm, the small towns of San Ysidro and Jemez Springs, New Mexico, experienced flooding from the runoff of excellent winter mountain snows. The snow melt prompted warnings about not pulling off the side of Highway 4 because of the rushing water. Every time I checked the state of New Mexico highway conditions map, indications were given about the highway being patrolled and police telling people they would not be allowed to utilize the shoulders for parking. But the latest warnings were from the third week in April and I decided last week might be a good time to take a photographic trip to Soda Dam, north of Jemez Springs and Jemez Pueblo. The drive would be enjoyable even if pulling off was not allowed.
As it turned out, the day was perfection, and the small parking area near Soda Dam was not only open but empty short of one vehicle. For at least forty-five minutes, we had the place to ourselves. I mentioned the sensory richness of the Jemez earlier. As we opened the car doors, the smell of sulphur took us back, I am not certain where or even to what time, but it was the start of a heady experience - a delicious stew of smells and sounds. The roar of the water made me realize why the authorities cautioned people not to go near the river. Although there are many more public swimming pools in the state than during my childhood, there are still a good many who do not know how to swim. The speed and intensity of the water would have taken even skilled swimmers for quite a ride.
It is best to begin with a full shot of Soda Dam and the Jemez River going through the calcareous rock. Layer upon layer of history deposit themselves in the formation, which, according to Atlasobscura.com, is fifty feet high and fifty feet wide at the bottom.
Within the body of the dam are small caverns and gnarled, contorted layers, shaped and worked by nature.
The noise of the water rushing through the opening was impressive, shown in the trio of progressively closer images.
The other-worldly nature of these formations cannot be overstated. It is seriously complicated by forces geologists can identify but the likes of me cannot.
A detail of the lower right hand part of the formation (travertine deposit) in the image of above makes me think of a wood burl.
Finally, since Soda Dam is part of the Jemez area, filled with geothermal features, and the dam is fed by 117° water from Valles Caldera, several types of algae or cyanobacteria, thrive here.
Thanks for coming along for the ride, and my appreciation goes to Bill P., Barbara F. R., Christina, Lisa S., Jean and Sam, Steve, and Catherine for commenting last week. Some very uniquely layered red dirt will be the feature of my next biog.
until next Monday,
a passion for the image©