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Rock your world: Learn about the natural history of Pecos National Historical Park during its ‘Geologic Crossroads at Pecos Pueblo’ walk and talk

Retired geologist Laura Reich, who is a volunteer at Pecos National Historical Park, explains the geology of the area to a couple of visitors. (Photo courtesy of Laura Reich)

In an area of unparalleled beauty with soaring, tree-laden mountains and gurgling, running waters, the Pecos National Historical Park is a worthy visit just for the sites.

But toss in the flavorful ingredient of hearing just how all that beauty came together makes for one mighty tasty dish indeed.

Retired geologist Laura Reich will present monthly walks and talks – “Geologic Crossroads at Pecos Pueblo” – that bring natural history gloriously to light.

“We rewind our minds to the time before Spanish settlement and learn about uses of local rocks, land, topography and natural resources,” she said. “Plus basic geological history of past and present mountains, creation of sedimentary rock layers, and recent erosion that formed the upper Pecos River Valley.”

It all helps put the majestic surroundings into perspective, Reich said.

“Some ideas are tangible, like stone tools and access to water, building materials and farming,” she said. “While other discussions are intangible, like sustaining a society, protection and spiritual. Keys to survival, why here, and why stay.”

Walks are scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 14, April 18 and May 16. Reich said she anticipates additional walks in the summer.

“You have the headwaters of the Pecos River and this beautiful valley with the river coming out of the mountains,” Reich said. “It’s a big valley, 25 to 30 square miles. And people don’t realize this, but we have three miles of trout fishing within the park. And then you have Glorieta Mesa, or Rowe Mesa, as it is also known as. It’s a beautiful mesa, with layered rocks and the river valley, and I wanted to bring the geological element to it. Let’s add a little nature to all of this.”

Glorieta Mesa is wonderfully layered with sandstone and siltstone. (Courtesy of Laura Reich)

The area is important geologically, she said. About 300 million years ago, the ancestral Rocky Mountains were in the area and eventually eroded, creating the vibrant white, yellow and red layers of rocks on Glorieta Mesa with sandstone and siltstone.

The modern Rocky Mountains uplifted about 50 million years ago, and the area is now on the border of three physiographic regions – the foot of the Rockies; the Rio Grande rift that splits New Mexico; and the interior plains that fan out to West Texas and Oklahoma.

“Since the Pecos sits at the junction of three geological provinces, what comes out of that is a lot of diversity,” Reich said. “Right now, there is a thousand feet of elevation change, so you have different plants, different soils.”

Further, the area was a migration route for animals and people for millennia.

“The Pecos people were middlemen with a complex and diverse community,” she said. “They would trade seashells from the west and buffalo-type things from the Great Plains. In turn, they provided corn, beans and squash. While agrarian, they were able to build their pueblo and live together in a large community.”

Visitors are asked to check in about 15 minutes before the tour starts, and Reich usually guides through about halfway through the mile-and-a-quarter loop. The walking tour usually takes about 75 minutes, and the trail has a mild grade with a climb of about 40 vertical feet. It’s easy enough that people using canes have no issues, she said.

“It’s fantastic and always beautiful,” Reich said.


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