Song of Chijuilla Mesa
New Mexico is mesa country. Through geologic time New Mexico has been a desert, a shallow sea, an estuary, a land laced with rivers and streams, and a mountainous land with volcanoes spouting ash and lava. To varying degrees, these created subsurface layers of sandstone, mudstones, shale, volcanic ash and basalt. Ongoing erosion by drainages carved through these layers creating the rocky edges and precipices of the often spectacular faces of the mesas we see today.
One of these special mesa faces belongs to a corner of Chijuilla Mesa. It is capped by a bright orange, hard sandstone with underlying strata of pale sandstones and shale. There are surrounding benches of other sandstones, one hard with a dark purple color. Large, crumbling logs of petrified wood are embedded in one of its underlying benches. Struggling pines dot its talus slopes. Depending on time of day, season and weather, it has many moods ranging from brightly shinning to dark and brooding. From some angles the mesa appears like a 19th century train with the characteristic tall smoke stack of the locomotive. From other angles, it appears as an ark or ship with a bulbous prow.