Ah-shi-sle-pah

Ah-shi-sle-pah is a wash in the northwest part of New Mexico. The nearest major town is Farmington, NM, over fifty miles away. There are three areas of photographic interest in the wash: the Wilderness Study Area (WSA) on the south side of the the wash, the King of Wings (KOW) area on the north side, and Valley of Dreams (VOD) also on the south side but outside the WSA. On my last trip I tried to reach VOD by memory which proved faulty. I ended up about a mile east of VOD. Here I found a fourth group of mudstone hoodoos which I'll call Valley of Dreams East. This area should be just as productive as VOD. It has a great many hoodoos and capped mudstone formations all in a small area. You can drive all the way to VOD East on sandy roads, and start your explorations right from your car! This is very convenient for sunrise and sunset shots.

All three areas of Ah-shi-sle-pah are within hiking distance of each other. It would be a very long day to go to all three, and you would miss the golden hour at some of them. I suggest you spend a day at each to explore the areas and to get the good light of both sunrise and sunset. In addition to these three areas the remainder of Ah-shi-sle-pah is worth exploring, I an sure there are many other formations yet to be "discovered".

Where to stay

Farmington has many hotels and good restaurants. Farmington is within an hour of Shiprock and Aztec National Monument. These are both well worth shooting. You will need to leave Farmington about two hours before sunrise to arrive at the WSA / KOW/ VOD in time for sunrise. For both KOW and the WSA you will need to hike about one mile one-way to get to the formations. You may want to scout out these locations the day before if you plan to shoot sunrise. The formations of VOD East are very close to parking so there is no need to scout the location earlier.

Car and backcountry camping is permitted on BLM land in the area. Land ownership is shown in the following map:

Land Ownership Map

The numbered areas above are called sections and are one square mile (640 acres). The blocks of 36 sections are called townships. A township is 6 miles square (36 square miles). Sections are often used on maps showing land ownership. Western land rights were often granted by the section, quarter section, sixteenth of a section, etc. Some western USGS 24K topo maps show sections and townships as well as latitude and longitude. This allows you to relate land ownership to latitude and longitude. Most of Ah-shi-sle-pah is on the Pueblo Bonita NW 24K map. This map show section boundaries. Combining the land ownership map above with the Pueblo Bonita NW 24K topo map land implies land is owned as follows:

Note - to access KOW or VOD you must either drive or hike on Native American land. Please respect it. Do not walk on crops, approach animals, tear up roads by driving on them in poor weather, or drive offroad. Leave gates as you find them, closed if closed, open if open. Leave no trace. The Native Americans living near Ah-shi-sle-pah practice subsistence farming/ranching with small herds of cows, horses, goats and sheep common. Do not disturb their traditional way of life or we will lose the ability to visit these areas. Closures have happened in other areas such as the land owned by the Kaibeto chapter in Arizona.

When to Go

At 6,000 feet plus winters are cold at Ah-shi-sle-pah, and summers very warm. The Four Corners area can be very windy and dust storms are common in the Spring. June is dry and winds have largely subsided. It is a good month to visit if you do not mind clear skies. If it rains much during the summer roads will be impassable and you will not be able to hike on the clay based soils. The best season is Autumn, temperatures and winds are moderate, and the monsoon season has largely passed.

Getting There

King of Wings

Valley of Dreams / East

Ah-shi-sle-pah WSA

Shooting Tips

All three areas get good light at both sunrise and sunset. In my opinion KOW is slightly better at sunset than sunrise but see the pictures in the gallery and judge for yourself. You'll need a wide angle lens to best shoot KOW from the south side of the blade, 14-24 mm works well. Remember wide angles emphasize the foreground, if you want a long blade, shoot at 14mm from close up. All three locations work in the blue hour. KOW is an excellent location for star circles, shoot with a wide angle below the blade and a few feet from it to the south. Place the north star to the left of the blade.

Maps

Here is an overview map showing all three areas and additionally, routes into Chaco Canyon:

To view the map larger please click on the box in the upper right corner of the map.

USGS 24K Topo Maps

Two topo maps cover the entire area of interest: Pueblo Bonita NW covers Ah-shi-sle-pah wash, and Pueblo Bonita covers Chaco Canyon. They can be downloaded in a variety of formats by clicking or right-clicking below:

Geo Tiff/Avenza KMZ Oruxmaps KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Pueblo Bonito NW KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Pueblo Bonito KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Merge of both maps NA NA KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared

 


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