Two weeks ago, I detailed an overnight adventure to Ojo Caliente so that you could look forward to a possible future trip. I heard back from so many of you, who are now planning to go next time you're in New Mexico. I'm so excited for the adventure that awaits you! As promised, here's some insider info on hike #2, which you can began after breakfast in the Artesan Restaurant on your second day in Ojo Caliente.
Hike #2, or the Joseph Mine Trail will take you on a moderate 4.1 mile out-and-back jaunt to an abandoned mica mine. The views are beautiful as you'll be walking under glorious New Mexico skies along a high-desert landscape of juniper, sage, and cactus. The coolest part of the hike, though, is two miles in, when you'll begin to see glittering flakes of mica sprinkled across the ground like thousands of brilliant diamonds that you've just happened upon. Continuing just a little further, you'll come to three caves in a pink granite rock wall. Inside those caves, you'll find big sparkling sheets of mica, some still adjoined to the granite rock and others strewn across the ground. The experience is nothing short of magical!
Mica is the name given to a group of silicate minerals that form in a sheet or layer structure. The sparkly pieces you'll find at the mine can be easily peeled off or ground down into tiny flakes like twinkling fairy dust. Mica has a number of uses from insulation in electric motors to shimmering eye shadow for a night out on the town. Most interestingly, though, are the ways natural mica has been used by indigenous cultures.
At the ancient site of Teotihuacan, the Aztecs used mica in the construction of the monumental Pyramid of the Sun. For the Cherokee, mica was a medium of exchange. In fact, Harvard's Peabody Museum holds a superb serpent effigy carved entirely out of mica created by the Hopewell culture long before the Cherokee. In the Southwest, artists from Taos, Picuris and Nambe Pueblos use mica to create glimmering micaceous pottery pieces. Have you been to Acoma Pueblo? If so, do you remember your tour guide pointing out an original pueblo window there? It was made out of mica too.
Your trek to the mine will give you the rare opportunity to enjoy this magical, beautiful versatile mineral in it's natural state just like Mindy's doing in the photo below.
Here are some tips for the trail:
- You will begin this hike the same way you started the Posi-Ouinge loop trail - in back of the Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort. You'll need to climb up past that short initial steep section of pink granite rock. Once you get to the top, you'll find a sign pointing RIGHT to Joseph's Mine. Continue until you come to the next sign and turn Left (west). This trail is not perfectly marked, so you'll want to have some kind of a map.
- You'll be walking through some sandy arroyos down an old mining road. The trail is definitely more difficult than the one to Posi-Ouinge.
- There's no shade, so bring plenty of water and don't go in the dead of summer heat.
- Do go on a sunny day so that you can see the intense sparkle of the mica.
- It's nice to carry lunch or at least a snack so that you can stop and eat once you arrive at the mines.
- Take lots of pictures at the mica mines.
- As you hike, keep in mind that this hike is an out-and-back, so whatever ground you cover on the way out, you'll have to traverse again on the way back.
- Once you return to the Ojo Caliente Resort and Spa, you just may want to partake of the mineral waters once more before heading back to Santa Fe.
I sincerely hope that if you're able you'll visit Joseph's Mine some day in the future. It's the kind of experience that you'll certainly remember forever. I've got more photos and trip planning links on the Turquoise & Tufa blog AND to pique your interest, should you purchase anything from the Turquoise & Tufa website drop me a note telling me you've read this blog post, and I'll be sending you a piece of this dazzling mineral - perfect to go in your garden or your indoor art display.