Bisti is the Anglicized version of the Navajo Bistahí, “place of the adobe formations.” The combined Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness was established in 1984 and encloses an area of about 41,000 acres only about 35 miles south of Farmington, New Mexico. The landscape here could be described as a barren wasteland: desert grass is the only plant you’re likely to see, if that, and in my two days there, I saw no animals of any sort. Not even an insect. Not even during two straight nights, when many animals are much more active. But wasteland it is not. The remnants of an ancient sea and, later, a coastal rainforest roamed by dinosaurs (including Bistahieversor, one of the “tyrant lizards”) teeming with life is now home to a collection of odd rock formations which Alice would find all too familiar. The grays and whites of the dominant sandstone, mudstone, and shale contrast sharply with the black-as-coal (because it is) lignite and blood-red metamorphic rocks, the remains of an old, centuries-long coal fire. Hoodoos that look more like mushrooms than they look like anything else can be found amidst rolling hills of old volcanic ash, but the only way to find those hoodoos is to get out and look for them. No paved “trail” nor even an established footpath leads to any of Bisti’s treasures. Restrooms, picnic tables, trail maps, visitor centers, gift shops, vending machines, and delis — you’ll find none of that here. If you're not paying attention, you may not even find your car on the way back, so barren of landmarks is this desert. You’re on your own, and that perhaps more than any other reason is why the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is not a wasteland.
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