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Plaza Blanca

Serenity among stone

Situated in the Rio Chama River Valley is a collection of limestone cliffs, pillars, and mesas known as Plaza Blanca, or “The White Place.” The area is immortalized in paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, but it is hard to truly grasp the diverse and beautiful landscape without seeing it in person. Photographer and AIMEE LACALLE featured artist Ja Soon Kim is kind enough to show us around Plaza Blanca, one of her favorite places to collect rocks for her artistic arrangements.

 

As we approach Plaza Blanca, it’s impossible not to notice the fantastical formations of white rocks staggered across the horizon. “When I first came here, I actually could not believe it,” Ja Soon admits. Obelisks, cones, spires, columns—it is difficult to define the shapes. The contours of the pillars and cliffs seem to differ frequently and subtly, like flowing liquid frozen in time.

Ja Soon loves the quiet and solitude of Plaza Blanca; she can wander peacefully, foraging rocks, stones, branches, and pieces of quartz.

We set off down the trail, though as Ja Soon points out, there aren’t actually any traditional trails, just a network of arroyos (dry stream beds) you can use as paths. We follow one into the canyon, where the only sound is the wind. The walls surrounding us continually narrow and widen in their own silent rhythm. Juniper, yucca, and the occasional cactus break through the rock, disrupting the consistent hues of white and beige. Little flocks of yellow flowers act as markers along the way, reminding us that this place is very much alive.

As we arrive at Plaza Blanca, it’s impossible not to notice the fantastical formations of white rocks staggered across the horizon.

As we walk, Ja Soon remembers a certain place she would like to show us, but cannot recall the way. She thinks a certain ascending arroyo may lead us there, but as we scramble up the rocks, the slowly narrowing walls are unpromising. Suddenly, the walls widen, and we find ourselves in an area that Ja Soon, now grinning, calls “the theatre.” Before us, cliffs rise up dramatically in long, flat folds. Once atop the highest point on the rocky plateau, we turn around to a view of the entire canyon and distant hills. “I see all of New Mexico from here!” exclaims Ja Soon. We certainly feel the same, in awe of this region’s magic, beauty, and power.