Rock formations in the Bisti Badlands, also known for its Navajo name De-Na-Zin Wilderness
Day 3 found me here, not far from Shiprock, in the New Mexico wilderness area known for its fantastical rock formations - The Bisti Badlands. Photographically, I have little to show for my 3-4 hour visit and 4 miles of hiking in slippery mud and snow. I found nothing of the wind and rain eroded formations that you'll see populating Instagram or Flickr or your Facebook feed. This area is a maze of rock formations, hills and stream beds all created through the magic of erosion. The car park was empty when I arrived and empty when I returned so I was out there alone for my visit and could feel the detachment from... well, from all living things? Nothing but the wind moved out there. It was rare to even hear a bird or see the ubiquitous crows. At first it was a bit nerve-wracking but eventually a calm settled in and the quiet became softly assuring.
I was let down by my own inability to find the iconic formations: the balanced rocks, the wings, all remained hidden. It's my own fault as I lacked preparation. To begin with, I had a difficult time finding it, taking two wrong turns down dirt roads that, yes, led to the badlands but not the area I wanted. The Bisti Wilderness is over 40,000 acres so more than one local road would take you there. It's best to do the research. I didn't. I eventually grabbed my Photographing the Southwest book with directions and advice for finding and photographing the area (Yes, I know, I know). Lack of preparation became even more apparent when I was a mile or so into my hike and realized I had no idea where to turn within the aforementioned maze. The iconic formations were obviously much deeper into the badlands than I was prepared to go.
Getting lost was on my mind. I walked in snow when I could so I could leave tracks. I scrubbed arrows into snow when I made a turn or crossed a stream bed. It seems unnecessary now, once back home, but having not been there before it seemed suited to the circumstances. Funny, but on the walk back I probably only saw 25% of the tracks I left. :-)
Adding insult to the photographic injury was during the hike back the sun had begun to melt the frozen mud and my boot treads had become clogged with slick mud causing me to walk mud-on-mud. Thus, (see what's coming?) my left foot slipped out from under me and my rump dropped 4 feet (at 32.2 ft/s2 ) onto the semi-frozen earth. Ugh. I had my tripod-mounted Nikon resting on my shoulder so it bounced a bit on my right clavicle before finding its own path to the ground.
Shoulder and camera okay? Check.
Butt okay? Sorta but I'm gonna hurt tomorrow as every joint in my body was rattled.
Since I'm writing this from a comfortable spot in La Mesa, CA you can see I made it back in one piece.
I have a little ritual I perform when approaching the trailhead from a lengthy hike. a) Oh, I see the car!; and as I get closer, b) The car is unmolested, good!; then c) The car starts, Excellent!
Yeah, a bit weird, but I bet you do something similar.