Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Day Trips around Santa Fe, NM: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Mark and I have been extremely busy this year and, to be honest, our alternative lifestyle doesn’t help. I often wonder whether it wouldn’t be healthier for us to settle somewhere indefinitely, while we attend to our full-time but low-paying careers. It would certainly cause less stress. But, then we might as well get “real” jobs… On the other hand, doing these house and pet sits all over the United States, allows us to explore certain regions in depth, turning the weekends into mini-vacations.

Tent rocks!

We are currently caring for a comfortable adobe home with plants, but no pets, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Neither of us has ever spent decent time in this state, let alone lived in it. All we accomplished not too long ago, was drive through one way by train and return by camper, only stopping at a Trader Joe’s for groceries in Albuquerque and having a quick night of sleep in the El Malpais National Conservation Area. So, it was with anticipation and exciting plans for the weekends that we settled into our current home for four weeks. The first weekend approached quickly, and, as luck would have it, friends from Massachusetts were on a week-long holiday in Santa Fe when we arrived.

Dinner with Mark, Mark and Jen

On Saturday, Mark and I had some immediate camper issues to resolve, so we didn’t arrive in Santa Fe proper – a 20-minute drive ­ –  until 4pm. The annual Indian Market festival was taking place. This allowed us to partake in cultural activities as well as get a first glimpse of the town’s architecture and atmosphere. It was shorts and T-shirt weather, our favorite. We met our friends Mark and Jen at the plaza and, after chatting for quite some time, enjoyed a Mexican dinner together.

Sunday, my Mark and I met the couple again at their hotel. After giving them a quick tour of Zesty, our Westy, we set out to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, or in short “Tent Rocks”. It soon became apparent why the park received its name. Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the traditional Indian language and we couldn’t stop gazing at the cone-shaped rock formations. The four us strolled, climbed and slid through gravel and stone pathways along and in between these remnants of volcanic eruptions that occurred millions of years ago. As the result of uniform layering of volcanic material, bands of grey are interspersed with beige and pink-colored rock along the cliff face. Over time, wind and water shaped the landscape into canyons and arroyos (gorges). It truly is a geological wonderland.

Since it was only our second day at this higher elevation (Santa Fe sits at over 7000ft and Tent Rocks NM at around 6500ft), Mark and I had to take it slower than usual. The air is much thinner and the slightest climb found us out of breath. Yapping to my friend Jen non-stop, made me gasp for air even more. The sky remained grey – good for our skin and efforts; less appealing for photos – but the daily summer storms stayed at bay. We all had a wonderful time and I do hope that I didn’t exasperate Jen. Being a full-time house sitter can be quite isolating and when friends are around, social times are wholly embraced. 😊

Extra info:

  • The monument is closed to dogs (except service animals)
  • Parking is limited; come relatively early
  • There is no drinking water available, so bring your own – the dry air at this altitude makes you consume more than usual
  • There are pit toilets near the parking lot
  • Higher elevation means being closer to the sun: apply sunscreen and wear hat and sunglasses
  • Veterans’ Memorial Scenic Overlook was closed due to road wash-outs as of August 20th, 2017

Park brochure

Frugal tips:

  • The entrance fee is US$5 per vehicle (up to 8 individuals)
  • Bring your own lunch to eat at the picnic tables
  • Mark and I did not spend any money on this excursion. Mark and Jen drove from Santa Fe, I prepared sandwich lunches for four, and we have an annual National Park pass, which allows free entrance for up to four people. An annual NP pass costs US$80, money we spent when visiting Yosemite NP with family earlier this year.


  1. We are on the road right now so have not had much time to read all my favorite blogs.. taking a minute to send you some feedback on those gorgeous white cliffs. That is a wonderful region of the U.S. and I have actually been to Santa Fe although not to Tent Rocks, so it is great to read about it and see your lovely pics on your blog. You sure have some fun house sits!

    • Happy road tripping, Peta, and thank you for swinging by. I LOVE this house sitting lifestyle. Mostly. 🙂 But, especially when we get to explore new regions, trails and nature parks.

  2. Those Tent Rocks look amazing Liesbet, what a treat to be house sitting in this beautiful part of the world! ☺💖 xxx

    • It is a treat, Xena. This one and the next one (also one month) in Colorado, are two sits that we have been very excited about. They also happen at the perfect time of the year for those areas.

  3. I’ve only been through New Mexico once. A 10 hour drive to rescue relatives in Roswell. I wish I’d had more time as the landscapes where amazing. After seeing these images, it seems I’d better make another (longer) trip.

    • Like you, we only passed through briefly before, Ryan. And, seeing those landscapes made us want to come back. (We actually had this sit lined up already when driving through, so we knew we’d be back. :-)). Utah is an amazing state as well- lucky you – and, based on which sits come up after mid-October (when we finish our Boulder, CO sit), we might pass through your state.

    • I’m just going to pretend that “rescuing relatives in Roswell” means that they were about to be abducted by aliens and you got there in just the nick of time.

  4. I’ve been to New Mexico before and stayed in Santa Fe for a few days. But, I’ve never been to Tent Rocks… it looks like I need to plan another trip there. The scenery is stunning (even with the grey skies). What a lovely place to house sit!

    • It is, Janis. We do love it here, especially the scenery and the climate. Those blue skies were present last weekend, which was great for photo taking, but not so good for my health… Hot hikes combined with high altitude had me in pain with a splitting headache and extreme nausea. 🙁 I guess I ought to slow down. I”m not of the youngest anymore and I know exertion gives me headaches, no matter how much I drink. You should plan another trip here!!! So much to see and do, so little time. 🙂

  5. You are getting some of your much-needed warmth! Those tent rocks remind me a bit of Cappadocia in Turkey. I guess wind and rain do similar things to rocks all over the earth! Boulder in Sept/Oct – now that is some seriously good housesitting luck. I always try to plan a fall trip to Colorado, but I will miss out this year. Have fun!

    • Thanks for the confirmation about our exciting upcoming Colorado sit, Lexie. I was getting worried it would be too cold up there in the fall. And, it actually might be, since our temporary home will be 2000ft higher than Boulder… It will be pretty nonetheless, and, you are right, we are loving the climate here in New Mexico’s high desert! I’d love to visit Cappadocia one day. It has been on my list for whenever I return to Turkey!

    • Great article. Yes, those photos reminded me of Cappadocia as well.

  6. Thanks for sharing the tent rocks, Liesbet. I spent a wonderful week travelling around New Mexico before spending a second week in Santa Fe at the Zen centre with Natalie Goldberg, but somehow I entirely missed the tent rocks. That’s okay – any excuse to return works for me!

    I don’t know if you’ll have the time, but I loved a side trip I took to Los Alamos. Independent of the result, I’ve always been fascinated with the work ethic and the sense of community and mission that developed around the making of the atomic bomb. Los Alamos is quite fascinating.

    I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling tired and worn out right now. Being relentlessly busy becomes so overwhelming. I hope that you feel some relief soon.

    • Guess what, Karen? We visited Los Alamos last Sunday! It was very intriguing, indeed, to be walking around the grounds where such a world-altering event took place. Unfortunately, there is not much left of the original buildings, but the visitor centers and museums we visited gave us a good feel for the events before the bombs were dropped. I’ll write a post about it in the future. And about Bandelier National Park. I’m so glad that you managed to experience the best of New Mexico as well. If only you knew about Ra’s cave back then… 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words about our busy lives. The altitude doesn’t seem to help for a good night sleep. After two weeks, we hope to be pretty much adjusted, though.

  7. Your post and photos really inspire me to go to New Mexico! I would love to take a road trip through the southwest–Arizona, New Mexico areas. I’ve been through those state but on the south end on the 10.

    • Driving through is not quite the same as visiting and staying for a while, isn’t it? We have been craving some vacation in the national parks of the American West. We have come a bit closer, geographically, but the yearning to go camping in them for days at a time is still there. Maybe next year. 🙂

      • Well, you know the weather is still great here through October!

        • That is totally correct! I actually was contacted by a home owner in the river delta (Antioch) yesterday for a two-month house and pet sit this fall. We were away for the weekend, so I “only” got in touch with her today (within 24 hours) and she had already hired other house sitters! You gotta be quick in this “business” these days, especially in popular areas. I hope you had a wonderful Delta summer, Terri!!

  8. What incredible rock formations! You certainly get to visit some wonderful places on your house-sits.

  9. A geological wonderland indeed! I know your lifestyle isn’t easy, but I hope you don’t give it up. The places that you are visiting are awesome. What a way to travel comfortably and affordably. I have been to New Mexico (passed through a couple of times) but never stayed in Santa Fe. On the list. Big hug. And don’t forget to talk to the plants. They like that 😉

    • I’ve heard that advice about plants before, Lisa. Doesn’t it have to do with the CO2 that is produced when we breathe on them? I shall try it. But, only when Mark is not around. 🙂

      We are very excited about this – and the next – house sit! It doesn’t happen often that we find ourselves in incredibly amazing places, and we certainly do like the comfort, affordability and diversity that comes with this lifestyle. Everywhere we go, new experiences wait for us.

  10. What a strange-looking place! (in a good way 🙂 ) I’d never heard of it before, but the States are so big. It must be wearing racketing from one end to another, Liebet, but good to make discoveries like this. And to have friends to share it with. 🙂

    • Oh Jo, you cannot imagine how hard I find it to get used to the scale of this country as a citizen from a meagerly small country like Belgium. People don’t mind driving hours on end just to go away for a day. (I hate to take the car for everything, but often there is no alternative.) It still boggles my mind. Now that I have crossed the US a few times, I do know how large the distances are. I like road trips, but only if we have time to actually take it easy and manage to visit some sites along the way. Dreams for the future. As of now, we do enjoy exploring the area where we find ourselves in for a few weeks.

  11. The most impressive thing? That park has green grass! I wonder how they make it happen? New Mexico has such different and dramatic landscapes, enjoy!

    • Thanks, Lucy. It is quite impressive to me too that there is green to be found here in summer. But, apparently, it is monsoon season now – who’d have thought there would be a rainy season in the desert???

  12. This looks like such a great trip! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  13. When we were traveling in the southwest and doing hikes at higher elevations, I found that it really wiped me out. I really had a hard time catching my breath at some points. Funny how it affects some people more than others. But the hikes were worth it for the amazing views.

    • You got it, Ellen. Amazing views always seem to be worth some suffering, or should I say, most suffering. If it isn’t the heat, the humidity, bad knees, lots of sweating or feeling nauseous on the way to the top, the reward wouldn’t be as pleasing. 🙂 I seem to have a pretty weak stomach, what with getting car sick, bus sick, seasick and – apparently – altitude sick. It’s not fair, but I am not willing to give up my passions for it! There…

  14. We would love to see these rock formations one day. I can imagine that I would feel the same as you and want to talk a great deal when friends arrive.I so admire the lifestyle you and Mark maintain. As much as I like to think of myself as flexible and adaptable I think I do like having a home base.

    • I think we have been doing this for such a long time that we don’t know anymore what it feels like to have a real home. And, what you don’t remember, you don’t miss, I guess. As long as we are staying in comfortable houses, I think we are alright. I do look forward to moving into Zesty full-time one day, but that will come with different challenges. Not being able to display all my souvenirs, collected over two decades, is what I regret about this lifestyle most.

  15. Hi, Liesbet – I echo the comments that hope you’ll stick to your ‘roaming about’ lifestyle. I fully realize that it is not easy and that many, many (read here: ‘most’) people could not handle it. But I honestly couldn’t imagine you with a ‘settled-indefinitely’ lifestyle. And selfishly….I LOVE reading about your adventures, and cannot wait to read more! Great photos and info in this post!!

    • Thank you, Donna. It is all these encouraging, kind and enthusiastic comments that make my day when life gets a bit tougher. And, I think you are right, a settled lifestyle would be a bit out of character for me/us. But, getting settled for a little bit at a time does sound nice once in a while, like a multiple-month house and pet sit over the winter somewhere mild. 🙂

  16. I have never been to New Mexico, but it has always been on my “must do” list. Your beautiful photos encourage me to plan to travel there sooner rather than later!

    One thing that we discovered about changes in altitude is that it helps to take a few days to travel up to the high altitude location, gradually acclimatizing at each successively higher location, and then to take it easy for a period of time once you get there. Our previous move was from sea level to a city over 3000 feet, and we both felt tired and lethargic for the first week there. And 3000 feet is nothing compared to 7000 feet!


    • Hi Jude. That’s good info about adjusting to higher altitudes. I read about it before, when reading stories about Machu Pichu in Peru, but, actually, never gave it a thought coming here. And, we never had time to look up attractions in the Santa Fe area either, before getting here. More proof of our impulsiveness. 🙂 I had no experience with high altitude, or I forgot, as I know I’ve been to Denver, CO before. Well, now we know. And, I do think, after two weeks that I am feeling better in general. Yes, you should definitely come to New Mexico. This state has so much to offer, people are very friendly and the climate of the high desert is just about perfect (except for winter).

  17. Oh, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post Liesbet. I was looking forward to some photos from Santa Fe and you didn’t disappoint. I’m longing to go to Santa Fe, as I love the the desert and Arizona, but next time I’m making it there! 🙂 Enjoy!!!

    • I hope you will be able to make it here in the near future, Debby, as this area has a lot to offer. And the weather has been perfect during our stay. I’m glad you enjoyed this post. We have a few more excursions “checked off” by now and I hope to write about and post lots of photos of them in a week or so!

  18. What an amazing landscape. House-sitting your way across America sounds very appealing. What a way to see the country in depth. 🙂

    • Hello catbird! Thanks for visiting. This lifestyle is great and very varied. It is perfect for people who work from home, love pets – without having them – and enjoy explorations during the weekends. Mark and I hope to house sit in Japan one year, when we have less responsibilities keeping us in the US.

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