La Lena WSA: Emperado Ridge / Continental Divide Hike

Yesterday I went on my first group hike with a Meetup Group called WOW WE (Way Out West – Westside Explorers).  There were 12 of us on this hike including our fearless leader Woody.  I took Scarlett along and she had a blast.

We started our hike in the middle of nowhere about a 1.5 hours west of Albuquerque.  We drove to the top of a mesa.  After hiking about a 1/2 mile, we came to the edge of the mesa.  The views were expansive.  Just beautiful!

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Cabezon Peak on the left

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You could see for miles!

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Kelly and Scarlett

We hiked along the mesa for about a mile enjoying the beautiful vistas.

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Our fearless leader Woody.  We would be climbing down from this point to the valley you see below.

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Soon we started heading down to the valley below.  That’s when the interesting geology started showing up.  I loved all the different colors in the layers of the rock.

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I loved the shape of this dead tree

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We ate lunch in this patch of white rock.  Unique shapes were found all around.

We started seeing our first Hoodoos in the white rock area.  I love Hoodoos!

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Scarlett found a patch of shade.  Not much to be found on this hike. LOL!

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We left the white rock area and headed into the valley below.

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Once in the valley we passed so much interesting geology.  Everywhere I looked, the colors and shapes were so beautiful.

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You can see the white rock patch in the distance where we had lunch.

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Scarlett had a great time exploring all the ups and downs of the trail.

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At one point we had to scramble down a boulder filled crevice.  It was a little scary but thankfully Woody helped me navigate the most scary part.

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Scariest part of the hike.  Thankfully Woody helped me navigate this part.

Soon the mesa was towering over us.  We wound our way from one interesting rock patch to another.

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We came across a patch of small Hoodoos called mushrooms.

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Hoodoo Mushrooms

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The winds create interesting shapes in the rocks.  I like the little shape in the lower left that looks like a puppy.

After hiking for about another mile, we came to a very large area of Hoodoos and other interesting rock formations.  It was a lot of fun exploring this area.  We stayed here quite a while since there was so much to see.

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So many Hoodoos and colors!

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Interesting layers of the rock

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Giant pieces of petrified wood

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So beautiful!

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“Delfido Moralez 1938” inscription

Finally we were on the last leg of the hike.  We continued hiking along the bottom of the mesa and connected with the Continental Divide trail.  This trail is 1,300 miles long and runs from Mexico up to Canada.  For those of you that don’t know what the Continental Divide is:

“A continental divide is a drainage divide on a continent such that the drainage basin on one side of the divide feeds into one ocean or sea and the basin on the other side feeds into a different ocean or sea.”

Thankfully this part of the hike was level and easy.  By this point I had hiked over 6 miles.  Whew!  I think Scarlett had hiked twice that.  She loved that there were lots of folks hiking together.  She would run way ahead to those in front of me then come running back to me.

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Navigating the Continental Divide trail between pastures.  You can see the “CD” sign on the post.

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Stunning!

The last leg of the hike was the only uphill part of the climb.  It was short but fairly steep.  I was pretty tired by this point, but made it up fairly well.

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The uphill climb to the top of the mesa

Once back on top of the mesa, it was a short 1/2 mile hike back to the car.

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Back on top.  You can see the Continental Divide trail below that we had just hiked.

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Our last grand vista view from the Continental Divide trail before heading back to the cars.

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Looking tired LOL!

What a fun hike! In all I hiked 7.5 miles.  🙂  I will definitely be going on more WOW WE hikes in the future.  Fun hike and fun people!

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52-Week Photo Challenge -Week 1 New Beginnings

I have often thought about joining a WordPress photo challenge, but most I’ve seen seemed to take more time than I was willing to give or covered categories that didn’t interest me.  But recently I became aware of one that was a 52-week challenge.  That seems more doable!

So I’ve decided to participate.  This challenge is hosted by From Moments to Memories.

The first week’s challenge is entitled “New Beginnings”.  Of course the first thing that comes to mind is a sunrise or a flower bud.  But for me it means a new beginning for myself.  I’ve made a new year’s resolution to exercise more this year.  While I have always enjoyed getting out and doing short hikes for birding and exploring, I know I could do better by exercising more often during the week.

So my photo for this week represents my new beginning of getting out hiking more often every week.

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My view of the White Mesa Trail in the Ojito Wilderness near Albuquerque, New Mexico

Revision:  I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before I posted.  But Scarlett does everything with me.  So why not have her included in this challenge.  So here’s Scarlett’s photo for Week 1.  🙂

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Miss Scarlett enjoying the Ojito Wilderness

 

20th Anniversary Trip – Day 8 Arizona

Our last day of vacation.  It has been an amazing trip.  It had been a long time since we had been on a trip together for this many days.  The road trip was a great way to spend quality time together.  When you spend hours in a car, you have a lot of undivided attention.  I highly recommend road trips over flying.  You have everything at your disposal, and you get to see so much of our beautiful country.  There’s so much out there to explore and experience.

The drive home was mostly uneventful.  We could have taken the interstate home pretty much the whole way.  But instead we decided to drive the highways that skirted along the northern border of Arizona.  By doing this we drove along the southern edge of Monument Valley.  You could see many of the formations off in the distance.  The geology along the highway had a lot of its own unique formations.

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Unique formations along the edge of Monument Valley

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Beautiful scenery

After driving several hours, we started heading south to I40.  Looking at the map, I realized we were going to go right by Canyon de Chelly National Monument (pronounced day shay).  This canyon has been occupied by Native Americans and Anasazi uninterrupted for the last 5000 years.

We didn’t have time to explore down in the canyon.  But we had enough time to drive to several overlooks.  I have wanted to see Canyon de Chelly for a long time.  I’ve known several people that have visited there, and they always said how beautiful it was.

And it was beautiful!  The day was overcast, which is actually perfect for photographing a landscape that has deep canyons, shadows and lots of sandstone.  Each overlook provided a different view of the long canyon.

 

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Last selfie of the trip 🙂

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Just beautiful!

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The Navajos live and farm in the bottom of the canyon.

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I would have loved to take a horseback ride along the bottom of the canyon.

At the upper end of the canyon there were ruins left behind by the Anasazi.  They were way down in the bottom of the canyon.

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Anasazi Ruins

I zoomed in with my birding lens to get a closer view of the ruins.

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If you look closely, there are petroglyphs on the flat face of the cliff between the upper and lower houses.   I can only imagine how they hung there to do carve those thousands of years ago!

I loved the effects of the staining on the canyon cliffs.

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Unique stains and another cliff house near the bottom

We walked along the edges of the overlooks.  It’s a long way down to the bottom!  Tim enjoyed the views.  Anyone that knows my husband knows he doesn’t smile big very often.  I was thrilled to get this photo of him smiling!  🙂

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Big happy smile!  I love my handsome husband!

On the way out we saw several of the local horses free grazing along the top of the canyon.  I loved the markings on this gray Appaloosa.

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I liked the white eyelashes on this horse.  Gave it a unique appearance.

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I’ve never seen a horse with white eyelashes, blue eyes and black eyeliner!  Unique!

But my favorite was this young Palomino.  It posed nicely for me! A great end to our trip!

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I loved this photo! I love capturing the beauty of life!

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my fabulous 20th Anniversary Trip.  Thank you so much for coming along!

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San Juan Basin Badlands – Mesa de Cuba

As a photographer and outdoor lover, I’m always looking for new places to explore. New Mexico has a lot of unique locations but they can be a challenge to learn about them. There aren’t a lot of information resources for my state. 

But I have learned of a few new places recently and I’m going to visit them throughout 2016. And my friend Valerie is eager to join me. She’s as crazy about photography as I am!

One of the areas I read about recently was the San Juan Basin Badlands near Cuba, NM. There are 5 unique areas to explore. I have found in the past these types of areas are best hiked during the late fall and winter months because they are way too hot in the summer.

So yesterday Valerie and I headed out to the first of the areas in the badlands called Mesa de Cuba.  There’s no signs marking the area. No trailhead markers. Just a simple dirt road with vague descriptions on hiking this area.

Most of the snow around Albuquerque has melted over the last couple weeks. So we were surprised when we got to Cuba that there were several inches still on the ground. We traveled about 60 miles north of Albuquerque and gained about 1,300 feet in elevation. I guess it was just enough to keep the snow on the ground.

The snow added to the beauty of the landscape but made for very difficult hiking. I was also hesitant to drive very far in on the icy/muddy dirt road. I really didn’t want to get stuck. Sadly my Jeep Wrangler isn’t running right now so I just had my AWD car.

But we still made the most of our outing. As soon as we got out of the car, the dogs started running around playing in the snow.

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Scarlett and her best friend Mya

The area we stopped to hike had wide open vistas with a rocky Mesa as a backdrop.

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Valerie tried hiking up on one of the hills but she quickly found it was very muddy.

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As we hiked along the base of the Mesa we found some unique formations to photograph.

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A mini hoodoo

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Scarlett and Mya had fun exploring.

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We found one ravine that we thought might be good to climb up to get some different views. I tried climbing first but the snow was deep and underneath was mud. I kept sliding back down. Valerie gave it a try and didn’t succeed either. Mya came to check on her out of concern. 🙂

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By this time we were tired of slogging through snow. So we headed back to the car. The views on the hike back were stunning.

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But of course a selfie needed to be taken before we left!

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Valerie and Kelly

Our phones will take a photo on voice command. Very handy when you hold your arm way out. Valerie and I get some fun photos sometimes because we will both have our phones out to taking pics. So when one of us says “capture” both phones will take a photo. Here’s a fun photo from this trip 🙂

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On our drive back we passed an old homestead. I can never resist taking pics of old buildings. Valerie says I will photograph anything rusty. Lol!

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On our way back home we saw the turnoff for Cabezon Peak. We’ve never actually driven to the peak before. We had the time so thought “what the heck”, let’s go!

We passed through San Luis and it had a nice little church.

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There were a lot of abandoned homesteads along the road to Cabezon Peak.

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We finally made it to the base of the peak. There’s a trail to climb it but you’ll never see me doing it. Looks way too difficult for me.

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Cabezon Peak

We kept driving along this road enjoying the views. Suddenly Valerie asks me ” How much gas do we have?”

Gas????!

I looked at the gas gauge and my heart leapt in my chest!  I told her we had a 1/4 of a tank….no….less than that! Gulp! Valerie checked Google maps and quickly realized we had no cell service. Crap!!!!!

I turned the car around and prayed we had enough gas to at least get to Highway 550. I turned the display on my car that tells me how many miles I have left in gas.  With no mapping service we weren’t sure how many miles we had to go to a gas station.

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For the next 20 miles we were very nervous. Valerie finally got Google maps going. It was going to be close! I coasted whenever I could.

When we made it to the gas station we didn’t have much left!  We can laugh about it now since all turned out well.

A fun adventure! We loved it and say we will be exploring the San Juan Basin Badlands more with the Jeep as soon as conditions there dry out.  And next time I will make sure I have a full tank of gas!!!!

Hoodoo Pines Trail – Ojito Wilderness

I took advantage of a beautiful winter day last Friday and hiked one of my favorite trails about an hour outside of Albuquerque, NM. It’s called Hoodoo Pines because its one of the lowest elevations in New Mexico where natural growing Ponderosa Pines are located. Hoodoo is the name of a type of rock formation. The trail is located in the Ojito (pronounced OH-HEE-TOW) Wilderness, which means “little spring” in Spanish.

Not many people know about the Ojito Wilderness. It’s a very unique and beautiful place. The best time to hike it is in the winter. The summer temperatures there can get over 100 degree F.

Scarlett had been needing a good long hike to let out some of that built up puppy energy. We hiked for 4 hours that day.

The trail isn’t easy to find I think because it’s not hiked often. About a half-mile into the hike you start seeing some of the formations and Ponderosa Pines.

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One of my favorite locations on this hike is an area that has sandstone pillars that look painted. They used to be bigger and more pointy but all the rain over the last year has eroded these fragile formations.

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Me and Scarlett

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A very determined Ponderosa Pine

About 3/4 of a mile into the hike you come to an area that looks like a moonscape.

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I got a great photo of Scarlett in this area.

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Then around the corner from here you get to see the main attraction of the hike. Beautiful Ponderosa Pines among the unique hoodoos (rock formations that are a pillar with a capstone).

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The trail goes much further but I decided to turn around and visit some of the other areas of the Ojito Wilderness. My next stop was White Mesa. It’s a huge bowl formation that I swear is several stories deep. The colors of the soil make for a stunning view.

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The day was still young so I decided to go to one more location. It has white formations that are made of gypsum.

On the way there I took a few photos of the other areas along the road.

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I only more recently discovered the white formations. They are very pretty in certain lighting.

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I found one hole I made Scarlett crawl into and look out at me 🙂

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She’s getting better at cooperating with my odd requests. Lol! She’s a good girl!

We had a great time hiking together!