Tag Archives: Rock Formation

Shiprock in New Mexico is Something to Behold

XplorMor Team, Bryan and I, were on a road trip across the United States last year. On this particular day, we were driving along US Route 160 from Four Corners Monument in Teec Nos Pos, Arizona to Valley of the Gods in Utah when in the distance the peak of what looked to be a ginormous rocky outcrop appeared. I googled for what it could be, and found a vague write-up on something called Shiprock in New Mexico. So, we decided to take a detour as it was early enough in the day, and turned off on Highway 64. As we drove closer, the size became more and more unbelievable. It’s jagged details coming into focus, looked as though we were headed straight into J.R.R. Tolkien’s Mordor. We’ve both traveled around the world but never seen such a solitary massive formation jutting high out of low-lying plains.       

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Shiprock, also known as Tse’ Bid’ ai’, is located in northern New Mexico, USA

Shiprock pierces the flat plateau, looming an incredible 1700 feet over the sparse desert lands of northern New Mexico. This magnificent rock formation, left from an ancient volcanic plume, is sacred to the Navajo Nation. It is known to the tribal people as Tse’ Bit’ ai’, or translated into English, The Winged Rock/Rock with Wings. The Navajo name comes from an ancient myth which tells how the rock was once a giant bird that transported the ancestral people of the Navajo Nation to their lands in the American Southwest.

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Looking out to Shiprock in New Mexico, USA

The Navajo ancestors fleeing a war-tribe crossed a narrow ocean far to the remote north but could not outrun their enemy. Their tribal shamans prayed to the Great Spirit for help. Then in answer to their call, the ground rose beneath them and formed into an enormous bird. The myth says that for an entire day and night the ancestral people flew south on the bird. Finally, at sundown the bird landed at the sight of where Shiprock now stands.

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Shiprock, also known as Tse’ Bid’ ai’, is located in northern New Mexico, USA

From ancient times, Tse’ Bit’ ai’ has been a pilgrimage place of major importance to the tribal Peoples. When the rock was climbed in 1939, it was taken as a disrespect of the site’s holiness. Finally in 1970 the rock formations were designated as off limits to climbers, and once again accorded the respect due a sacred place.

Shiprock in New Mexico is something to behold, and if you have time, we’d recommend the detour. But be warned that signage and roads to the site are poorly monitored and not maintained. If you go, we’d love for you to share your photos and experience with us!   

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Further views from the area around Shiprock in northern New Mexico, USA

Panum Crater: A Hidden Gem in Inyo National Forest

Panum Crater is a hidden gem, literally.

Located adjacent to Mono Lake in north-eastern California, off Mono Lake Basin Road, or Highway 120 East, Panum Crater is a geological wonder with giant shards of obsidian (the largest I’ve ever seen) and contrasting rough chunks of pumice (pick one up to feel its weight). The other-worldly crater is worth the short hike; it’s as though you step on to another planet the moment you enter its core.

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Panum Crater Expedition by Julia at XplorMor

There are two trails at the crater, one leads into the core and the other circumvents its rim. Both are worth the effort as they each offer a unique perspective of the crater, from its internal commotion to panoramic scenic vistas of the surrounding Mono Lake Basin and Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. If you have to choose between them, you cannot go wrong.

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Panum Crater Expedition by Julia at XplorMor

Panum Crater is a relatively young volcanic cone at a mere age of 600-700 years, and part of the Mono-Inyo Crater Chain.  According to our guide, it demonstrates characteristics of a rhyolitic lava dome in that its contents show a high amount of silica, and much of the current crater dome is made of pumice and obsidian, the volcanic glass that Native Americans used to make arrow tips.

Read more and watch the XplorMor Expedition Slide Show.

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Panum Crater Expedition by Julia at XplorMor

Explore more XplorMor World Wide Photographic and Terrain Expeditions, and delve deeper into the journey through Xplorer Journals written by our team and guest contributors. These are first-hand accounts from the expeditions, offering tips, insights and stunning photography. Then discover our web and print ready images to enhance your publications.

Please contact us for your future expeditions and worldwide explorations. No project is too big or too small! 

Petroglyphs at Fossil Falls

While driving on the 395 headed to Mono Lake and Inyo National Forest in California, an XplorMor Team member noticed the sign for Fossil Falls near a giant red cinder cone to the right off the highway. The team member quickly googled for more info as I turned the car off the highway and on to the dirt road. The Internet said we’d find a trail and interesting rock formations at the falls. What that particular site failed to mention is that Fossil Falls is a dry creek bed; water hasn’t run through it for ages. Yet, there’s plenty of signs to show how fiercely it once ran.

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XplorMor Expedition to Fossil Falls, California by Julia

Fossil Falls rock formations were clearly carved and etched and smoothed over much time by the river that used to run through the valley from snow melt of the nearby Coso Mountain range. We climbed down into crevasses and wound ourselves around the winding stone, and into the valley floor, exploring the facets and caves as we went. We even came across some unexpected petroglyphs at Fossil Falls of animals. A great find!

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XplorMor Expedition to Fossil Falls, California by Julia

Read more and watch the XplorMor Expedition slide show to Fossil Falls and other incredible sites hidden in the lands of Inyo National Forest, California. There’s dozens of trails to hike, lakes to paddle and mountains to scale. Get out there and enjoy them!