New Mexico travels

I still can’t help but laugh when I remember the story going around about someone selling tickets for the Salt Lake Olympics who didn’t recognize New Mexico as one of our 50 states. Texas is far more of a foreign country in my mind than NM, but that’s just my opinion.ūüėÄ


Driving around some of Eric’s old territory, I still can’t help but admire the scenery and the clouds were terrific.


Even when it looked like approaching storms, we never did get any rain.


Another lady bluebird…


and finally the colorful and cheerful Mr Bluebird.

NM-7404First sighting of this unusual Abert’s squirrel.


That fluffy tail and those pointy ears are very distinctive.


Most of their diet is made up of parts of the Ponderosa pine. One tree that’s easy to distinguish by the bark.


An afternoon snack on one of the pinecones.


Later in the day we headed out to Elephant Butte to check on the Pelicans.


Lots of them there, but much too far for my lens to reach.


Had to make do with this California Quail standing lookout on top of a thorny bush.


You know the pickings are pretty slim when I’m shooting buzzards.

But the scenery with the sun going down made up for it.


Not to mention just hanging out and relaxing…

Throughout its history, the conservation movement had been little more than a minor nuisance to the water-development interests in the American West. They had, after all, twice managed to invade National Parks with dams; they had decimated the greatest salmon fishery in the world, in the Columbia River; they had taken the Serengeti of North America‚ÄĒthe virgin Central Valley of California, with its thousands of grizzly bears and immense clouds of migratory waterfowl and its million and a half antelope and tule elk‚ÄĒand transformed it into a banal palatinate of industrial agriculture.¬†
‚Äē Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water


Truth or Consequences, NM

According to Wikipedia:

Originally named Hot Springs, the city changed its name to “Truth or Consequences”, the title of a popular NBC Radio program. In March 1950,Ralph Edwards, the host of the radio quiz show Truth or Consequences, announced that he would air the program on its 10th anniversary from the first town that renamed itself after the show; Hot Springs won the honor, officially changing its name on March 31, 1950 (the program originated there the following evening, April 1st). Edwards visited the town during the first weekend of May for the next 50 years. This event was called “Fiesta” and included a beauty contest, a parade, and a stage show. The city still celebrates Fiesta each year during the first weekend of May. The parade generally features area celebrities such as the Hatch Chile Queen. Fiesta also features a dance in Ralph Edwards Park.

It seems that the locals call it “T or C”…


We found another “fixer-upper”


But we stayed at La Paloma Hot Springs and Spa…


at the Historic District Healing Waters Trail


a view of the courtyard.
This was one of the most relaxing and pleasant places I’ve ever stayed on any trip. The hot springs, I’m sure, added to that experience.


Eric was thrilled to catch this fly by of the Ibis (Ibises? Ibisi?) when we went to Caballo Lake nearby.


Far too many Ibis to count.


They’d fly by us in several strands.


Until it got too dark to see much.


and the sun went down.

Nimander wondered if he had discovered the face of the one true god. Naught else but time, this ever changing and yet changeless tyrant against whom no creature could win. Before whom even trees, stone and air must one day bow. There would be a last dawn, a last sunset, each kneeling in final surrender. Yes, time was indeed god, playing the same games with lowly insects as it did with mountains and the fools who would carve fastnesses into them. At peace with every scale, pleased by the rapid patter of a rat’s heart and the slow sighing of devouring wind against stone. Content with a star’s burgeoning light and the swift death of a raindrop on a desert floor.
‚Äē Steven Erikson, Toll the Hounds

floral interruption

Meandering around the backyard, it struck me how fine the California poppies were looking…


I planted some from the nursery and they came in assorted colors. For more than a few years, the native orange color was the only one to reseed. And then this year the blossoms showed up in various shades again.¬†I’m certainly not complaining. Note: the pink one in front is losing its little nightcap.

The Columbines seem to be taking over and morphing, too

The first time seed pods have appeared on the Japanese Maple.


Queen of Night is as close to black as a flower gets, though in fact it is a dark and glossy maroonish purple. Its hue is so dark, however, that it appears to draw more light into itself than it reflects, a kind of floral black hole. In the garden, depending on the the angle of the sun, the blossoms of a Queen of Night may read as positive or negative space, as flowers or shadows of a flower. 
‚Äē Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World

more from New Mexico

We found some more birds during that first trip to the Bosque del Apache… what a great place it is to discover new ones!


This guy is called a Black-necked Stilt. I wonder why?


They are a lot of fun to watch.Bosque_del_Apache-7248

Not sure if this one is a Greater or Lesser Yellowlegs. I’m going with Lesser.


This American Avocet posed nicely for me.


A comparison of size for the Stilt and Yellowlegs


A little Vermillion Flycatcher female. We had to wait for the second visit to catch the male in all of his scarlet (or vermillion) finery. Then the female became very elusive.


An American Kestrel (female). We have these at home, but they never sit still enough for a portrait.


Canada Geese trailed by a batch of goslings.


I’m assuming that’s dad kind of laid back behind the family.


I think this pair probably thought they were camouflaged.


Speaking of camouflaged… there was more than just birds to be seen, but this deer wasn’t posing.

This sequence was rather fun. There’s the first shot of¬†the Phoebe, but it flew away. Luckily it came back to the same spot with the bug it had snagged. It looked like it was even showing off the bug in its beak for me.


Even a Cattle Egret showed up.Bosque_del_Apache-7352

Stepping out for a better hunting spot.


And about then, we decided to call it a day. There’s nothing quite like them desert skies.

The world is a wonderfully weird place, consensual reality is significantly flawed, no institution can be trusted, certainty is a mirage, security a delusion, and the tyranny of the dull mind forever threatens — but our lives are not as limited as we think they are, all things are possible, laughter is holier than piety, freedom is sweeter than fame, and in the end it’s love and love alone that really matters.¬†
‚Äē Tom Robbins

rays of hope

I can’t seem to help but share this heart-warming and inspiring post. The photography alone is worth a look, but the¬†tragedy and hope coming after Nepal’s devastating earthquake a year ago is pretty amazing. That’s without much help (if any) from the government.

Here’s a link to the post: Angels in Nepal: One year after the earthquakes. I highly recommend a look.

Bosque del Apache NWR

Next day was the much anticipated visit to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Reserve. I have so many bird shots to sort through I’ll likely do this in sections. This first visit was too close to noon with fewer birds out than the next visit¬†a few days later. We made sure to arrive much earlier in the morning¬†for that second day. It rewarded us very nicely, but for now… I’ll start with the stop at the Visitor Center.

Bosque_del_Apache-7129We were greeted by my very first encounter with a road-runner. I was beside myself.

Followed by a lovely¬†desert garden with this Claret Cup cactus in bloom. I’m not sure what the white buds are, but the branch is from a blooming mesquite.¬†(as usual, click on an image for a slideshow)


Eric was pretty happy to spot this White-faced Ibis off in the distance, but it was a bit of a reach for my lens and the lighting wasn’t terrific, but still… there it is. It definitely counts as a sighting.

Next there were these two Shovelers. I liked the sequence where they’re both showing off their shoveling bills. Then she ducks her head and finally he has to see what she’s doing and he sticks his head under water too. I thought his crossed tail feathers look like horns. It’s pretty easy to see why they’re called Shovelers.

This was the only Snow Goose pair we saw. These¬†same two were¬†hanging around together with the rest of the bunch apparently on their way north already. Later we noticed that the wing feathers on one appeared to be damaged. Perhaps the mate was hanging around to watch over the wounded one. That last shot seems to indicate that they’re quite well fed.

This Gadwall¬†doesn’t look all that impressive from a distance (or the thumbnail image), but the feather pattern on the chest is pretty intricate. Eric thinks the last shot of the butt looks like an angry pug (dog). I’d have to agree it’s pretty funny.


Eric spotted this Night Heron, but this bird¬†didn’t stick around long enough for me to fiddle with settings. Still counting this one as a thrill nevertheless.


A pair of Ruddy Ducks preening…check out the wild turquoise colored beak on the male (on the left).


A better look at that amazing beak. It indicates that spring is in the air and he’s courting that female while trying to look casual.
This takes me about halfway through the first visit to¬†the Refuge. There are still too many shots left to sort through for now. More to come….

A man could be a lover and defender of the wilderness without ever in his lifetime leaving the boundaries of asphalt, powerlines, and right-angled surfaces. We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to set foot in it. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis. 
‚Äē Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire






Life goes on as I disappear down the rabbit hole, painting and helping where I can with the renovating. Sadly my¬†post for our recent trip went into a stall.¬†Perhaps because this part wasn’t quite as exciting -at least from a photographic point of view.

We left off making it out of Canyon de Chelly just as a rainstorm was moving in. We stopped to have dinner and planned to head to the next stop in New Mexico, but then…..

That rain we encountered in the canyon had turned to snow. It just kept getting thicker and sticking more and more. We were headed to some pretty high mountain passes over some iffy roads, so it seemed wise to head back to Chinle to spend another night and try a different route to Chaco Canyon the next day.

no-chaco-0739The dirt road into Chaco Canyon. We didn’t even dare get out of the Jeep because the road had turned to the soupy sort of mud that sticks to everything. We did try to go a short distance, but once the car started to fishtail going up a small incline, we decided to leave this stop for another time.

no-chaco-0742Not a bad move since dinner in Albuquerque (otherwise known as ABQ) turned out to be scrumptious at El Pinto.

no-chaco-0745Eric’s dish with a bite out of the Chile Releno. He’s raved about the New Mexico cuisine and I really liked that they don’t bury everything in cheese.

Nearing sunset, we headed up to check out the Sandia peaks as the sun and the clouds played hide and seek.


It was getting pretty dark, but I was thrilled to catch my first shot of a female mountain bluebird. I had to wait until later in the trip to catch the male in his pretty blue finery.

no-chaco-0758Breakfast the next morning was amazing at the Flying Star Cafe. I couldn’t resist this fruit tart…

no-chaco-0761followed by a Morning Sunday. This was such a relief from the often heavy meals that are mostly available on the road.

no-chaco-0751Eric had a slightly more hearty breakfast burrito.

To be continued (hopefully).

Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way. 
‚Äē Emma Chase, Tamed


down in the canyon

Can’t actually go down into the canyon bottom without a permit and a Navajo guide. I like it that way since it’s likely to help to keep some of the ancient remains of the cliff dwellings intact.CDC-6815

Entering the canyon driving through Chinle Wash (literally). We hadn’t gone far before the thunder started crashing. It made for some terrific skies.

Our Navajo guide pointed out plenty of petroglyphs (carved or pecked into an exposed rock surface) and pictographs (painted onto the surfaces). He also explained the meaning of many of them. He grew up in the canyon and told some great stories.
(click image for a closer view)


The one above was called ‘Newspaper’ Rock for the abundant drawings.

The shapes sculpted into the rocks are amazing and fascinating. With a bit of imagination one can make out faces and animals easily enough.

Cliff dwellings left by the Pueblo, Hopi and Navajo Indians were built into the alcoves of the cliffs for protection from the elements and enemies. Now they’re protected by the Navajo.


We got into some tight spots.

About the time when we started heading back, it started to rain and the creek started to rise. The colors of the canyon walls turned darker, almost a dark blue/purple shade. Some trickles of water seemingly coming from holes in the cliff walls began to form little waterfalls.CDC-0726

The end…

When the last living thing
Has died on account of us,
How poetical it would be
If Earth could say,
In a voice floating up
From the floor
Of the Grand Canyon,
‚ÄúIt is done.‚ÄĚ
People did not like it here. 
‚Äē Kurt Vonnegut

I suppose I need to change themes since this one isn’t built for the small screens. Have NO idea how long that’ll take, but I guess I’ll suspend posting this trip until I conquer that challenge.

from on high

Driving the south rim of Canyon de Chelly was a fantastic preview of what was to come during the Jeep tour down in the canyon. It gave a context to what was to come.

It was nearly impossible to pare down the shots of this amazing place to a manageable level. So… with no further ado, here is just a taste of what the canyon looks like from the sometimes 1,000 ft height above the canyon floor.
(click on an image for a slideshow and a better look)

Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings. 
‚Äē Elisabeth K√ľbler-Ross

Canyon de Chelly

(pronounced d’shay)
Personally I liked it better than the Grand Canyon. I had a bit of fun with the following image¬†because I think of it as having the guardian and the guide into the canyon, though I’m still sorting through so many shots taken from the south rim above de Chelly that posting them will have to wait a bit. Not to mention the Jeep tour with our Navajo driver down into the bottom of the canyon. You can’t go down into the canyon without a Navajo guide. I liked it that way because it made the experience richer to have one who had lived and grown up in this magical spot take us on the tour.

de Chelly S rim-6690

More to come….

Benedicto: May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you — beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.
‚Äē Edward Abbey


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