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Badlands: Not So Bad


Aaron Zagrodnick

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Aaron Zagrodnick

In the San Juan Basin of northwestern New Mexico, there are several incredible badlands and hoodoo areas, such as the Lybrook and Burnham Badlands, the Fossil Forest, and the Bisti/De-Na-Zin, Ojito, and Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah wilderness areas along with several others. I have had the pleasure to visit, hike, and photograph the first four listed above. These badlands, mostly managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), feature many bizarre and wonderful hoodoos and rock formations, from tiny mushroom shapes to massive spires, and every shape in between. These desolate shale and sandstone hills and washes (wide dry streams that occasionally carry water) were deposited millions of years ago during a wetter time period. Many dinosaur discoveries have been made here, and there are numerous pieces of petrified wood, including in-place stumps and large logs. Hiking is more a matter of "just hike and explore," as there are no established trails in most of the areas...

@SteveSpidey introduces us to hiking and photographing the badlands and hoodoos of Northwestern New Mexico - check out the article in Issue 31:

The Hoodoos and Badlands of Northwestern New Mexico

Hiking and Exploring Wilderness Study Area in Northwest New Mexico - King of Wings-2.JPG

Issue 31 Page 1

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Aaron Zagrodnick

Thanks again Steve, amazing scenery and really enjoyed learning about the area. Looks like a great place to explore!

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Steve Ancik

I made a return trip to the Ah-shi-sle-pah wilderness last month, this time to a different area. This particular formation is called the "Alien Throne"

DSC_7471.jpg

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Steve Ancik

A bit of a followup to http://www.trailgroove.com/issue31.html?autoflip=17

I made a return trip to the Ah-shi-sle-pah Wilderness in October 2017. I had been to this rough badland area before where we saw the ‘King of Wings’ formation, but his time we were headed farther west toward the ‘Valley of Dreams’ area where the ‘Alien Throne’ was located. After miles of driving mostly unmarked dirt roads across the boring plains, we came to a spot in the road where there was one other car, and my GPS showed us to be a little over a mile from the destination. We loaded our backpacks and headed off toward the badlands. There were a scattering of interesting hoodoos on the way, but the best was yet to come. It had been a week of clear, sunny days without a cloud in sight. This day, however, was different - there were some high wispy cirrus clouds moving in, promising a colorful sunset, and we were not disappointed (especially me!). We arrived at the eastern part of the ‘Valley of Dreams’ in late afternoon and it struck me as being some of the densest concentration of hoodoos and bizarrely-shaped rocks that I’ve ever seen! It was both a photographer’s dream and a photographer’s nightmare - so many shooting possibilities. We wandered around the hoodoos slowly making our way to the west. Once on the west side, we met a couple from Germany (and the people whose car we had seen earlier). They had been out both the evening before and that same morning. They were in the midst of a 25-day trip through the American west. They pointed out the ‘Alien Throne’ and we all proceeded to take piles of pictures of that hoodoo and the surrounding area. The sunset was spectacular as hoped for, and even after sunset the pictures show the otherworldly beauty of this spot. We set up camp nearby and had our coldest night of the trip (probably around 40 degrees). I got up early the next morning, which was once again mostly clear skies, but still shot a few excellent pics. Pictures #2, 4, and 5 are the Alien Throne. First picture is a Giant Mushroom - over 6 feet tall.

Ah-shi-sle-pah-6.jpg

Ah-shi-sle-pah-1.jpg

Ah-shi-sle-pah-2.jpg

Ah-shi-sle-pah-3.jpg

Ah-shi-sle-pah-4.jpg

Ah-shi-sle-pah-5.jpg

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Steve Ancik

It really does feel like you're on an alien planet... kinda spooky to camp out there with those hoodoos watching you all night!

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