Grand Enchantment: Beauty Spots (3/29)


San Lorenzo Canyon – 3/29

The desert springs beauty on you without warning. San Lorzenzo seems a simple wash in a desert. It never hints at any special claim on the horizon, it only moves slowly down toward the Rio Grande in the distance. It lulls you to sleep, then just as your eyes are shutting, it cuts down into the rocks, splitting them apart in a maze of slot canyons, sandstone towers, and vertical walls. In a few miles, it’s gone again, back to nothing but a wash in the desert.

It looks formed by magic. Curved pillars. Snaking passages of smooth rock. Frozen piles of rock. Every turn beckons you to in. Every small pathway, every side canyon calls out and makes you wish you had time to crawl up each of them, to scramble and wedge yourself into all the hidden corners of the rocky maze.

Near one of the last corners, I turned and stopped. At my feet lay a pile of ripped open garbage bags, their contents spilling out like the guts of an animal. The wind had scattered pieces for a hundred feet. Balloons. Bottles. Egg cartons. An inflatable mattress box. Plates. Tissues. Used diapers.

A birthday party, left like a janitor might come clean it up one day.

I looked at the swirl of car tracks in the sand racing away down the canyon floor and back to the highway. I stooped down and picked up the balloons, shoving them into my pack, wishing I had room to take more. How hard could it have been to throw the trash bags in the back of a truck? How hard would it have been to leave this sudden beauty of rock walls and spires with nothing more than tracks in the dirt? Too hard.

I thought of the tiny corners of the canyon behind me, the tight twists, the rock piles, the narrow passages too thin for motors. I thought of mountain tops and deep woods, of remote islands and passes at the top of thousand food climbs, of those small, pristine specs still left in the world. We don’t deserve any of them, not when being almost out of reach the only way to stay beautiful in this world.


3 thoughts on “Grand Enchantment: Beauty Spots (3/29)

  1. Heartbreaking. But remember that the world is ever evolving and environmental consciousness, in all of its facets, is something that may still win the day. Your story is another great reminder that we still have a lot of work to do.

  2. I’m troubled by the trash people toss form cars thru my neighborhood. What you found is heartbreaking. I’m not convinced it’s a battle we will win. At least the next person hiking thru San Lorenzo Canyon won’t find those baloons. 😎

  3. The BLM has the capacity to close off San Lorenzo to vehicles but all too typically they lack ambition. Upper San Lorenzo is safe for now, but the lower portion is beginning to reach a head. It may be time to relocate this portion of the route. There’s a promising alignment off the east side of the Magdalenas that would run through Socorro and then offer a bridged crossing of the Rio Grande. It would be a trade-off, certainly, but overall the experience would likely be preferable.

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