badlands with snow
image © Robert Luis Chavez

The Coyote Maze...
An area near the Hunter Wash


 school bus crash Just getting to the Bisti this trip was difficult and bizzarre. I left Santa Fe Monday afternoon Dec 16, 2002, with my dog Lucy. While passing through Cuba NM, I saw the results of a school bus crash. The driver of the bus was drunk, fortunately, he had not picked up the kids from school yet and no one was hurt. The hazmat team was called out due to a gas leak in the house, and the other onlookers and I were eventually chased away from the scene.

I arrived at the Bisti just after sunset and set up camp. That night the wind and snow blew so hard I barely slept through the sound of it. Could I really have slept through the night, excited as I was, knowing that snow was accumulating outside, outlining alien striations in a moonlit landscape?

Awake again at 3:00 am. two inches of wet snow had accumulated around camp. By first light most of the snow had already melted, and the snow melt had radically altered the sacred Bisti Dirt into something to curse against. Each layer of dirt plays a different trick on you too: There are cake-up layers that can become three or four inches thick under your shoes, and there are layers that grab your shoes in a wet cement-like goo. There's one special Bisti Dirt(y) trick to watch for: even a week after precipitation, anytime of the year, the Bisti dirt can send you skating on a slippery patch of mud that's completely hidden beneath a hard crust.