My Secret Place - April 2009

The Magic of Staurolite Canyon

Date April 1, 2009 at 10:00 PM

Publication New Mexico Magazine

Categories Lodging & Travel


By Justine Moore, as told to Devon Jackson

My first impulse for a secret place is to say “any rooftop in New Mexico.” When I go back there, I like to just get up on a roof and take everything in. But one of the most magical places for me is Staurolite Canyon. It’s near Taos. I’m not going to tell you exactly where it is, because when you find something special, you want to guard it. There’s another Staurolite Canyon near Hondo Canyon, but this one’s different.

I grew up in Taos, but I was born in San Diego. We moved to Taos when I was about one. I first went to Staurolite when I was 15. Five of my 15-year-old girlfriends said, “Let’s go camping. Cool. Let’s go to Staurolite Canyon.” So we packed up and got in our friend’s Jeep. The road got bad, so we hiked in the rest of the way. Staurolites are also called Tears of Christ. [Staurolites are also known as Lágrimas de Cristo, or Fairy Crosses.—Ed.] They’re crystals that form at right angles. The perfect ones have garnets in each quadrant. There are only 22 places in the world where they form, so they’re very rare.

The earth has schist in it up there in this canyon, so when you look out, it’s golden. And after you sift through the dirt, your hands sparkle. I remember we climbed this hill and dug through the dirt and picked out handfuls of garnets and all these beautiful staurolites. You really get a sense of how magical nature is.

I’ve never been back. But it was such an exquisite experience. There might be some fear there about going back—about not wanting to go back and see it all developed and overrun with stores or houses or something. At the time I was growing up in Taos, there were only about 2,000 people; by the end of 1988, it had swollen to 10,000. It was ridiculous. So that’s partly why I haven’t gone back.

The other reason, I guess, is that it’s more the memory of it for me. That weekend we all went out, it was girls’-night-out camping. It was very spontaneous, very bonding. I still talk to a couple of the girls from that time, and it’s referenced all the time in our personal lore. So the memory of it is so much more ."€¯."€¯. I don’t want reality to come crushing in. If it was still the way it was back then, I would definitely want to take my kids there—if I had any—all along that ridge. That’s where you’d find the staurolites. It was sunny, and it was summer, and you could really smell the sun on the earth. Like I said, it was magical.

Actress and playwright Justine Moore expects her memoir, Ecstatic: A Taos Girl’s Book of Dreams, Drugs and Redemption, based in part on her one-woman show, Ecstasy and the Ice Queen, to be published sometime in 2009 or 2010.