The Journey – Day Sixteen

Posted On: October 19, 2017

Wednesday, October 3, 2017 – Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, NM


On Wednesday, we headed for the hills again, forty miles southwest of Santa Fe to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the traditional Keresan language of the pueblo.

White cliffs at Kasha-Katuwe NM
Canyon Trail warning sign




The Canyon Trail leads through a narrow, “slot,” canyon at the bottom of the tent rocks. This narrow gorge with steep, high walls is made of soft rock like basalt or sandstone. The tent rocks themselves are cones of soft pumice and tuff beneath harder caprocks and vary in height from a few feet to 90 feet.


The canyon walls are steep and close together. In some places, the canyon is only as wide as a single shoe.

Frank Giordano hiking the slot canyon


At the end of the slot canyon, the trail widens and begins a steep 630-foot climb to the mesa top. Even with my aging knees, I was one of the many in our group who made it to the top.

The mesa top, aging knees and all










“Take your time, Tom.”


I met Lino Olopai at the top and we descended the trail together. From that vantage point, the tent rocks below resemble an early Saturday Night Live sketch of the Coneheads, or some sort of rock-bound creature from Middle Earth.

Lino Olopai with the Tent Rocks below
Tent Rocks, strange creatures




Lino was following me, and several times I heard him say, “Take your time, Tom,” as I approached a tricky section of the trail: A good reminder to a guy like me who too often tends to hurry to avoid being late. Words to live by in my everyday life. A lesson similar to the “Oleai Teachers’ Walk” I learned years ago on Saipan (page 124-125).


“Tata Lino” and “Ping” Limes


We were honored that Lino Olopai and José Limes traveled all the way from Saipan to be part of our reunion. On Saipan, Lino is affectionately called “Tata Lino,” a term of respect, like “Papa” or “Uncle.” And we all know José simply as “Ping,” the customary nickname in the islands for José. Here are Lino and Ping with our son, Jody, and me on our visit to Saipan in June 2013. And four years later in Santa Fe.

Ping, Tom, Lino, and Jody – Saipan, June 2013
Tom with Tata Lino and Ping – Santa Fe, October 2017










On Wednesday afternoon, Tata Lino and Ping treated us to a cultural and historical update about Saipan and the Northern Mariana Islands. Ping’s photos of some of the new developments came as a shock to many of us—“What? Saipan has traffic lights?!?”  Pictures of new school buildings, new villages created to house a growing population, four-lane roads chock full of traffic, the Galleria shopping mall, and high-rise hotels lining the beach were ample evidence of the significant changes taking place.


Both Tata Lino and Ping have long been strong, passionate advocates for the preservation and celebration of traditional and cultural practices of the Carolinian people. Lino (with Juliana Finn) has published a memoir, The Rope of Tradition: Reflections of a Saipan Carolinian, that describes his longstanding efforts to document and understand his Carolinian heritage and to seek balance between traditional ways  and modern development. My history with Tata Lino goes way back to Peace Corps training on Rota in 1968 when he was one of our language teachers who generously shared his Carolinian music, language and culture with us.

Ping has worked on many cultural heritage projects over the years, including a Carolinian dictionary, a bilingual Carolinian education program, and passing along to younger generations Carolinian dance, song and music traditions.