After getting all rested up after hiking The Wave the day before, I was ready for my next tour. I hired a tour company to take me to a remote slot canyon that required true 4WD to get there. The road there must have had 2 feet of very soft sand that I would have definitely not felt comfortable to drive.
We finally arrived at Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon. Right off the bat it was just beautiful!
Scarlett loved it because it was shady and cool and she liked running up ahead and racing back through the narrow slot. I got her to slow down enough for a photo op.
The tour guide was amazing. He was very patient and knowledgeable in photographing slot canyons. The best part was that he would help me frame up a shot and then help me with the manual settings to capture the moment with the best possible light.
Sometimes the canyon was very narrow and sometimes it would widen up. I loved how it changed with each curve.
One of my favorite spots of the canyon was photographing this big log. I loved having this focal point in the photo.
Here’s some other photos I took during the tour.
Too soon we reached the end of the slot canyon. A Western Whiptail had fallen into the canyon and was in deep shade. It was so cool in the shade that he was very still. This enabled me to take a few fun photos. Afterwards I picked him up and carried him to a sunny area. He woke up then!!!
After the tour I realized I had plenty of time to drive to Zion National Park and do a hike for evening photos. I had picked out a hike that is not well known. I wanted to hike a trail that wasn’t crowded by loads of tourists. The trail is called Lower Pine Creek Waterfall Trail. It isn’t listed on any of the park maps so most tourists don’t know it exists.
To get there I had to drive the famous park highway. It’s a very scenic drive with lots of places that make you want to stop for photos.
At one stop there were loads of Big Horn Sheep grazing near the road. I didn’t have my zoom lens with me, but they were so close it didn’t matter!
The trail was short but beautiful. It headed into a narrow canyon along Lower Pine Creek. I arrived at the trailhead just before sunset. I was hoping to get some nice golden hour/blue hour photos.
Scarlett was thrilled to have water to play in. We had to cross the creek several times. We also had to scramble over large boulders.
There were several nice spots to take photos.
The trail was supposed to end with a beautiful waterfall. I had seen photos of this waterfall and was really looking forward to photographing it. However, this past winter was a very wet winter and all the creeks in the park were way up.
I got to this huge pond in the creek just before the waterfall. It was at least 6 feet deep. Too deep to cross and keep my camera gear dry! Sadly I had to turn around without seeing the waterfall (which was literally just around the corner from this pond).
As I was heading out I heard all of the Bighorn Sheep coming down to the creek for a drink. They were bleating loudly to each other. I looked and looked but never saw a one even though I could hear they were very close.
In early June I took a trip of a lifetime for a photographer. I have dreamed for years of hiking to and photographing “The Wave” formation in the desert of Utah/Arizona.
In order to hike to “The Wave” formation you have apply to a lottery and hope to win one of 20 tickets available for each day. Based on an average of how many people apply for each day, I calculated that I had a .001% chance of winning a ticket. AND I WON!!!
My hiking date was for Tuesday, June 4. I figured I was pushing it pretty close to the “too” warm weather to hike it comfortably. But based on average temperatures for the area, the high of the day was to be 84 degrees. Not too bad, but hiking on red sandstone was definitely going to be warm.
So I set out for southern Utah on Monday, June 3, and was going to stay for 5 days and see the sights around Kanab, Utah. This town is a cute, quaint town and central to so much desert beauty.
I try to see as many of our country’s National Parks as possible. I believe we should support the preservation of these sites that are so unique to our country. So I planned on stopping at the Hubbell Trading Post National Monument. This is the oldest operating trading post in the Navajo Nation. The trading post was built in 1878 by John Lorenzo Hubbell.
I couldn’t stay long but had a little time to see the store and the barn next door. The inside of the post had the original wood floors and glass cabinets. Sadly no one was available to show me the Hubbell home. This was a shame because it’s an 11,500 square foot home full of Hubbell Family heirlooms.
I was quickly back on the road. My goal was to get to Kanab before sunset so I could visit the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park for sunset photos.
The sand of the dunes is a beautiful color and the texture is like powder. It was very difficult to walk in. Scarlett was so happy to finally get out of the car and stretch her legs.
We hiked around for a while to find a good place for sunset photos. Tough climbing up the steep dunes.
We finally found us a good spot to wait for the sun to reach a nice level for photos. While sitting and enjoying the beautiful evening, Scarlett kept running around and exploring. Getting rid of the pent up energy after sleeping in the car all day.
Finally the sun started setting and the air began to cool. Once this happened all kinds of critters started coming out from the sand. I really liked this translucent grasshopper that popped up right beside me. He was only about 1/4 inch long.
At last the lighting was perfect to start taking pictures. This one was my favorite.
I had thought I could get nice blue hour photos, but the sand just turned dark and didn’t look nice. It would have been nice to stay for milky way photos but I was just too tired to stay up late for that. Plus! My big hike to the Wave was going to start early the next day.
I decided to hire a tour guide to take me to The Wave. There is no formal trail to take you there which made me nervous to hike by myself. I’m glad I did because I know I would have made a few wrong turns adding a few miles to my overall hike. As it was, I hiked 7 miles that took 5 hours.
I knew it was going to be hot so I got Scarlett a vest that held water and cooled her as it dried. It worked great! I also had her carry a lot of water to keep hydrating it.
We started the hike at 7:30 am. First we followed along the bottom of an arroyo. There were birds singing everywhere but I never saw a one. This was to be the case for my entire trip!
We eventually left the arroyo and started walking along a sandy trail. This led to a large area of sandstone that we had to walk across. This is when the views got so pretty.
The red sandstone was so beautiful. And the formations formed by the wind were stunning.
We climbed and skirted along the sandstone formations for a couple of miles.
I really enjoyed this part of the hike. Walking on sandstone is nice because of the firm footing. But eventually the sandstone really started to have an incline to it. It was tough hiking for a good mile.
Then we came to another arroyo. We had to climb down the steep sandstone and then back up another steep section. But at this point I could see we were only about 1/4 mile from the wave. That was enough to motivate me!
Finally I was at The Wave!!!!! You enter from the back of the Wave to the north and the Wave faces south. When I got to the back of the Wave I was happy to see a small puddle of water left from the recent rains in the area. Scarlett was happy too and wanted to jump in and cool off.
I made her wait until I took a few photos. She waited but you could tell she really wanted to play in that water.
I finally let Scarlett get in the water. Happy girl!
At first I thought this was the Wave and was thinking, “it sure looked bigger in photos I saw on the Internet…”
My guide must have seen my expression because he laughed and said, ‘This is just the entrance to the Wave!” Yay!
So I walked through that opening to the left behind me. And all I can say is WOW!!! It was stunning! So worth the hike there.
We stayed about an hour there at the Wave exploring all the nooks and crannies. I couldn’t believe no one else showed up while I was there. It was great having the place to myself for all that time.
There was a cool mini slot canyon next to it. The lighting was perfect when I got there.
I hiked above the Wave to get a bigger view. It was so beautiful. The swirling rock was just stunning!
The views from this area were so pretty. Even though my guide has been here many times, you can tell he still enjoys the views.
I climbed even higher and found a very deep water pool. Scarlett was ecstatic to have so much water to play in.
Sadly it was time to head back. The day was growing warmer by the minute. My guide offered to take me to another formation but that would have added another 2 hours to my hike. I felt Scarlett and I would do better to just head back now.
On the way back we finally started running into the other hikers that won permits. I couldn’t believe they were just starting their hike at the beginning of the hottest part of the day. I hope they all made it there ok.
Scarlett and I had a wonderful day hiking. We took a 2-hour nap when we got back to the hotel. Then I went out and had a fabulous steak dinner to celebrate. A wonderful way to end the day.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – slot canyons and a river hike in Zion.
Saturday, March 24, was Scarlett’s 3rd birthday! So of course, to celebrate we had to do something new and different!
On Friday my husband’s band played in Lamy, NM. It’s a little town that is basically a small railroad stop. A few of the residents recently set up an historic train car and turned it into a bar. The quarters were tight for the band, but it was a fun experience.
Vintage train car
My handsome husband Tim
Brad the drummer
And Bill is on base
Reverend E and the Vagrants
While watching the band, one of the locals told me about a hike nearby. They told me about a trail that followed the train tracks that led to a trestle bridge over a waterfall. Of course, I just had to go see that! What a great way to celebrate Scarlett’s birthday!
On the way there, I had to drive through Stanley. So I took the time drive down my favorite road there: Valley Irrigation Road. Since it’s between times for migrating birds, it was pretty quiet. But I did see a few local birds that hang out year round.
Northern Flicker female
Curve-Billed Thrasher – the breeze was ruffling his feathers
Look at the talons on this Swainson’s Hawk
I came across a Say’s Phoebe busily looking for bugs.
And he’s off to get a bug!
I saw some cute prairie dogs and some beautiful antelope too.
Prong Horn Antelope – female in the background
The clouds were just beautiful behind this granary. I just love New Mexico skies!
Granary in Stanley.
My next town was Galisteo. I drove past a Red-Tailed Hawk hanging out on the power lines next to the highway. I turned around and managed to get a couple pics before he flew off.
Hmmm…looks like he learned from the Say’s Phoebe
And he’s outta here! Showing off that red tail.
Finally we made it to Lamy. It’s about an hour drive from my home. I followed the directions I was given and eventually came to an area where I couldn’t drive any further. Time to get out and hike!
My beautiful Scarlett ready to go!
We followed along the tracks for a while.
Following the tracks
I love the old glass insulators that used to be used on electric lines.
Old railroad bolt
I heard lots of birds, but only managed to photograph a couple of them.
The terrain started narrowing from a wide valley. I’d never hiked next to a train track before. I kept wondering when a train might come through.
Soon we came to a narrow canyon. If the train came through now, there was nowhere to go! Yikes!
Scarlett is standing where the waterfall is below. You can see there’s nowhere to go if the train comes around the corner.
I looked down below and saw a beautiful sight. A sweet little waterfall with a beautiful pool.
Looking down to the waterfall and pool from the trestle
We checked out both sides of the trestle. A wonderful part of Galisteo Creek. I didn’t know until later that this area is called Apache Canyon Railroad Bridge Historic Site. There’s not a lot of information available about this area, but I did find out the bridge was built in 1908 by American Bridge Company of New York. It is also known as Spider Leg Bridge.
Scarlett looking down wanting to get into that creek!
I just had to get down there. It was steep! I slid down the whole way on my backside! 🙂
Below the bridge
Once at the bottom, I made Scarlett wait before I let her play. She wasn’t happy about this, but I wanted to get some pristine photos before she got water everywhere. 🙂 I think you’ll agree, this is a special little place.
I love this shot!
Finally Scarlett was allowed to play. She had a blast running and splashing!
Doing her favorite thing: running back and forth in shallow water.
Headed for the deeper pool
That look tells me she is enjoying her birthday hike.
The day was in the mid 60s and it was beautiful. Next thing I know, I’ve got my shoes off and enjoying the water.
Soon we had to leave. I have to say it was much easier going up than down. Whew!
One last look before leaving. So beautiful!
Not long after leaving the bridge, I heard a train whistle. Yikes! We got out of there just in time! Luckily for us, the train stopped in Lamy to let the passengers take a break. I was able to walk all the way back to the car before the train went by.
Saturday, March 17, was my blog’s 3rd anniversary. I can’t believe it’s been 3 years since I started writing this blog. It have had a lot of fun. When I started this blog, it was mainly for my family. My husband and I have no family near us, so this was a nice way to share our adventures with them.
But after 3 years, I have gotten to know a lot of other bloggers. Many of them follow this blog and I follow theirs. I think of several of them like they are my extended family in far away places. They have inspired me in many ways.
Of course, to celebrate my 3rd anniversary, I thought I would blog about a hiking location just outside of Albuquerque that most people don’t know about. It’s called the San Ysidro (e-sid-dro) trails. It’s a unique canyon in that almost the entire bottom of the canyon is exposed bedrock. The bedrock has been eroded over time by water so all the rock is smooth. Indentations have been created by the erosion and they hold water very well.
A view down into the canyon. If you look closely, you can see it is all bedrock.
As I descended into the canyon, I heard a lot of birdsong. There is not a lot of water in the New Mexico deserts. So any place that has water year round is a huge draw for birds. Sadly, most of them were nervous of people and I wasn’t able to get photos of them. But there was a curious Juniper Titmouse that let me take a pic.
Once at the bottom of the canyon, I made Scarlett sit in the shade while I photographed all the different pools. It was fun walking around and looking at all the different angles to best show off the water.
The pools work their way down the incline of the canyon. What a fun afternoon walking on the smooth bedrock taking photos.
After taking my photos, I gave Scarlett permission to play. As you know, that dog loves, loves, loves water! At first she ran around jumping over the pools. I think she wasn’t sure how deep they were.
But then she couldn’t resist any further and jumped in.
Most of the pools were shallow, but somehow she managed to pick the deepest pool and plunged in over her head. I think it was a total surprise for her!
But that didn’t deter her for long, soon she was running up and down the slope and jumping in and out of all the pools.
Scarlett showing off her really long tail as she dives into the deep pool.
Now you see why I made her lay down and watch me take photos first LOL! She got water everywhere!
After she had her fill of running around and splashing, we ventured further down the canyon. The crevices in the bedrock got deeper.
These are my favorite shots of my outing.
Of course, I can’t celebrate my 3rd anniversary without some great bird photos. I haven’t been out birding for a little while, but the Western Bluebirds were very cooperative in the park next to my office 🙂 It’s always a good day when you see Bluebirds!!!
Day 2 at the Bisti started out threatening winter weather. The morning was cloudy but calm. The forecast called for 45 mph winds starting around noon. Fortunately, we got a very early start.
After taking photographs in the sunshine the day before, the Bisti looked completely different in overcast weather. The main thing I noticed about taking photos on this day was the lack of shadows. This is actually a good thing in the Bisti. On a sunny day, you have to deal with the sun shining on light rock surfaces with deep shadows. It’s tricky taking a good photo in these conditions. But with the absence of bright light and deep shadows, I was able to get some really good shots with minimal effort.
We hiked a different area of the Bisti on Day 2. We parked several miles north of the main parking area. We still paralleled the main arroyo, but we were on the very northern edge of the Bisti. Lots of hidden treasures on this hike.
There is one hoodoo (shown below) that actually saved the Bisti Badlands from the ruin of coal strip mining. In 1982 author/photographer Michael Richie published an article for Sierra Magazine of the Bisti Badlands. The main photo of his article (much like mine) caught the attention of a nationwide audience. This eventually led to our Congress designating the Bisti Badlands as wilderness area in 1985. Saving this unique and beautiful landscape for generations to enjoy.
The small hoodoo on the left is what saved the Bisti for all of us to enjoy
We headed up a large arroyo and started climbing up the mesa. The views really started opening up.
I loved the red boulders in the foreground with that amazing hoodoo in the background
You could really appreciate the magnitude of this area. Beauty as far as the eye could see.
The further we hiked, the more beautiful the scenery became. I took so many photos. Each one more lovely than the last.
We explored the mesa for awhile enjoying the wondrous views. Since it was just Jim and I, I told him to get his camera out and take photos with me. The conditions were so nice for photography that he couldn’t resist.
Jim and Scarlett enjoying opposite views 🙂
We were slowly heading toward a popular photo destination: the stone wings. These are unique hoodoos. I have wanted to see these formations for a long time. It was so rewarding to get to photograph it myself.
This wing is delicately connecting two hoodoos
The king of wings
From the stone wings we headed to a very colorful location. Along the way I came across this unique hoodoo. It amazes me that a large boulder can delicately balance on top of fragile sands.
The pedestal under this hoodoo was hollow. Amazing!
We then reached an area that was full of short hoodoos known as mushroom hoodoos. Just fabulous!!!
I just loved walking through this maze of mushroom hoodoos
We finally reached the colorful mesa. It was so wondrous. So many colors. It was a stunning landscape. I took a bunch of photos. Here are my favorites from that area.
Such rich, contrasting colors
I loved the black transitioning to yellow
The black turned to yellow and then the yellow turned to red.
We decided to explore this area further. Jim hadn’t gone past this area before, so it was fun for him to explore as well as me and Scarlett. We came across another “wing” formation that I really loved.
I loved this stone wing
We found an arroyo that led to some more hoodoos and other unique formations.
Jim and Scarlett scouting ahead.
We had lunch here and enjoyed the gorgeous views. Scarlett was having so much fun, I couldn’t get her to relax even while we had lunch.
Scarlett is telling me she wants to keep going!
We decided to head to an area that Jim hadn’t explored before. It was supposed to have a formation called a Dodo Bird. Well, we weren’t sure what the Dodo Bird formation was supposed to look like, but we think this was it. Can you see it??
Dodo Bird formation
But! Just around the corner from the Dodo Bird formation was a totally awesome formation. The Twin Bonnets. Just gorgeous!
Jim gives you an idea of the scale of these delicate formations.
We spent some time here photographing this fabulous formation. Scarlett was finally getting tired. She rested while we enjoyed the formations.
Scarlett was finally getting tired.
While at the Twin Bonnets, the bad weather decided to come in all at once. The breeze immediately went from about 5 mph to 45 mph. Yikes! We decided it was time to head back.
Even though the weather conditions were deteriorating, I just couldn’t stop exploring and taking photos as we headed back to the car. We were about 2 miles from the car, so there were still lots of photo opportunities. 🙂
We came across some giant stumps of petrified wood. They were amazing in the amount of detail that was preserved.
Giant petrified wood stumps
Here’s a couple of closeups of the stumps. I was fascinated by the detail that was preserved and the beautiful blue lichen.
Fine roots were perfectly preserved
I loved this blue lichen
All too soon we were almost back to the car. I had a wonderful two days in the Bisti. I hope you enjoyed my photo tour. I can’t wait to go back again some day!
I’ve been working on the photos for this post for several months now. Last November my husband got me a guided photography tour to the Bisti Badlands for my birthday. I used Jim Caffrey who has High Desert Photo Tours. I highly recommend him. He was fun, informative, patient and knowledgeable.
I went for 2 days and hiked about 17 miles total. For those of you not familiar with the Bisti Badlands, it is a vast area of 45,000 acres in the northwest portion of New Mexico. It was established in 1984 as a wilderness area to preserve the desolate beauty of New Mexico geology at its finest.
Because this area is so vast, you could spend days wandering and not really see many of the formations this area is known for. You could also get completely turned around and be in serious trouble if you lose your way. So having a guide like Jim was the best way to see this natural beauty. He has given tours here for years and took me directly to all the cool places with minimal energy expended.
I took over 5,000 photos during my two-day adventure. So you can imagine it took me months to cull and then edit my photos. Because the formations are so unique, I found I took several shots of the same thing. Trying to see if different angles looked better. Whew! It was a job narrowing down my choices. So get ready to see a lot of photos!
So here’s a rundown of Day 1 of my two-day hike in the Bisti Badlands.
Day 1 – a beautiful sunny day with a few wispy clouds. We headed up the main gulch from the designated parking area. Think of the main gulch as your interstate to the badlands. It can get you where you need to go, but there’s nothing interesting on it. You have to venture off the main trail to see the goodies.
This was the first image I took that day. I was in heaven from the first image to the last.
A hoodoo is a harder rock balanced upon the softer rock underneath. The wind and rain erodes the softer rock faster which creates a hoodoo.
We wound our way up and over a hill to an area filled with hoodoos. Jim said this was in a way a nursery of newborn hoodoos. And it was! The hoodoos were young and just being formed from the side of the wash.
You can see how the young hoodoos are just starting to erode out
Such a fascinating landscape!
From there we headed further east paralleling the main wash. We came across an area that had several “wings”. They are called wings because the rock has eroded in such a fashion that it is delicate and looks like an open wing.
Wings in the making.
A hoodoo “wing”. This one was about 2 feet long and only a couple feet off the ground. I had to get way down low to take this pic.
Sadly this wing has succumbed to the ravages of time.
We eventually came across a formation that looked more like adolescents in age. It is interesting that these formations were all grouped in a clump away from anything else. If you didn’t know they were there, you could easily miss them.
Further along we meandered to an area that had some formations that looked like dinosaur bones scattered. These rocks were huge. So beautiful. I had a hard time capturing them in a photo that did them justice.
I loved how the red plant mimicked the red mesa.
I thought these rocks looked like dinosaur bones.
Ok…I think this totally looks like a dragon!!!
We eventually made it to the “egg garden”. This area is called such because the rock formations look like dinosaur eggs. Who knows!?! They just might be!! Sadly, these “eggs” used to be much more beautiful. Over time they had oxidized and gotten a beautiful dark patina to them. But within the last couple of hears, a hail storm had come through and knocked off most of the patina. It will probably take a few hundred more years to get it back. But I still thought they were beautiful.
A broken egg
You can see the patina well in this photo
Heading further east from the egg garden, we came across an area with petrified wood. Now it wasn’t just small pieces here and there. I’m talking entire trees!!!
From here we entered an area that Jim call “hoodoo overload”. They were everywhere! I just loved it! It was easy to spend a lot of time in this area.
This was one of my favorite photos. I love the moodiness of it.
Jim, my guide
It’s almost otherworldly
This one will definitely slide off eventually
Scarlett had a blast! I made her carry all of our water but it didn’t slow her down much!
I loved the red rocks scattered among the formations.
There was more petrified wood in this area too. The wood was preserved so well that you could see all the texture. It looked like wood, not rock. Amazing!
This petrified wood turned into a hoodoo and is slowly breaking into pieces
I found it fascinating that the petrified wood looked like real wood. I had to touch it several times to make sure it truly was rock.
From here we headed back to the car down the main wash. There was one place along the wash that had an interesting formation. The rock had so much iron it looked very rusty.
Window rock formation
I had a great Day 1. Next time Day 2! A whole completely different area and views!
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!
Cabezon Peak on the left
You could see for miles!
Kelly and Scarlett
We hiked along the mesa for about a mile enjoying the beautiful vistas.
Our fearless leader Woody. We would be climbing down from this point to the valley you see below.
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.
I loved the shape of this dead tree
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!
Scarlett found a patch of shade. Not much to be found on this hike. LOL!
We left the white rock area and headed into the valley below.
Once in the valley we passed so much interesting geology. Everywhere I looked, the colors and shapes were so beautiful.
You can see the white rock patch in the distance where we had lunch.
Scarlett had a great time exploring all the ups and downs of the trail.
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.
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.
We came across a patch of small Hoodoos called mushrooms.
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.
So many Hoodoos and colors!
Interesting layers of the rock
Giant pieces of petrified wood
“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.
Navigating the Continental Divide trail between pastures. You can see the “CD” sign on the post.
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.
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.
Back on top. You can see the Continental Divide trail below that we had just hiked.
Our last grand vista view from the Continental Divide trail before heading back to the cars.
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!
Recently my friend Dia and I spent a whole day exploring the area around El Morro near Grants, NM. Our main destination was to find Nutria Canyon. I’ve heard very little about this hike and there is minimal information online. But there was this one tantalizing photo online that drew me back again and again during the winter months. I knew I just had to find this place during the summer when my friend could join me. It’s about 3 hours away from where I live, so I didn’t want to venture out on my own.
We started out early with hopes of getting to the canyon by around 9. Sadly there was a lot of road construction that slowed us down. Then, when we were in the general area, we just didn’t know where to go. Luckily I saw this one dirt road that said Nutria Lake. It was 25 miles sooner on the highway than my online directions were saying. Thankfully, just as we turned onto the road a local came driving by. They were very helpful and told us we were definitely in the right place.
Since the lake was just a little side trip off the road, we headed over to see it. It was a pretty place with a few ducks enjoying the water. We got out to enjoy the view and let Scarlett have a bathroom break.
Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as Scarlett started doing her “business” a pack of reservation dogs came out of nowhere heading straight for us. Dia and I were calling Scarlett to HURRY! HURRY! get in the car. But she just couldn’t finish her “business” quickly enough. We were panicking by this time. Dia ran to drag Scarlett to the car if need be, and I was opening the doors and grabbing the gun! Thankfully Scarlett hurried up and jumped in the car along with us in the nick of time! Whew! Needless to say, we left the lake and headed to our original destination.
The valley we were driving into was very lush. We saw lots of happy horses and other livestock. And there were prairie dogs EVERYWHERE!!!
As we neared the trail head, we came upon a marshy area where Nutria Creek spills out of the canyon. Just gorgeous!
Marsh area near the trail head
Dia had just gotten a new tattoo on her entire back. So she wasn’t able to carry a pack. I told her I would carry everything in my pack (I’d do anything to go see this canyon!). So when we arrived at the trail head, she started loading up my pack. Wow! Heavy!
That pack had to weigh 40 pounds!
I told her she had to at least carry the gun. She gladly accepted that task!
Dia packing heat!
The trail headed into the narrowing canyon with lush green trees and bushes. It definitely beckoned us to head inside.
Entrance to trail – so green!
Almost as soon as we started the trail, there was water. Scarlett immediately dove in!
Scarlett in her happy place!
Thankfully enough people have been on this trail that they have constructed makeshift boardwalks out of old pallets and scrap lumber. They were rickety but effective to walk over the mud.
We started climbing up above the creek and into a lush forest of oaks. There were Yellow Warblers everywhere! I didn’t bring my birding lens, so no bird pics this trip. But so much birdsong in the canopy made me regret my decision to leave that lens at home.
Kelly on the very lush trail.
It was nice and cool in the shade
We eventually met up with the creek again. Then we turned a corner in the canyon and it opened up to a stunning view. Beautiful steep red canyon walls and gorgeous green foliage. We were getting close to where I saw that tantalizing photo so many months ago.
Dia enjoying the view on this perfect seat.
Then there it was! A picturesque pond in this hidden canyon. Stunning! I was so wishing we had found the trail much sooner. By this time it was noon and not the best conditions for photography. But I did my best to capture some images that did the view justice.
I loved the reflections in the pond.
I just had to have a photo of me and Scarlett in this beautiful spot.
My sweet Miss Scarlett
Scarlett and Kelly
The day was warming up quickly. Scarlett was tempted to jump down into that pond. We kept having to tell her no.
It was sooooo tempting to jump in…
Eventually we made it around and down to that pond and she was a happy girl!
Such a peaceful place
Scarlett loved the ponds. Cool and refreshing water to play in.
We hung around here for a while as the trail just became too congested with brush to continue on. I had hoped to explore further but this is just not a well known place. So there isn’t enough foot traffic to keep the trail open.
Scarlett kept on eye on me as I navigated the big boulders
Dia and Kelly
Eventually we headed back to the car. We still had quite a bit of daylight left to the day. So we decided to visit the Ice Cave. I had never been, and Dia said it had been a long while since she had been there.
On the way out, we decided to stop at a few of the abandoned homes in the valley. They are interesting to explore. Just a plethora of things to photograph!
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We had lunch at the Ancient Way Cafe. It’s a tiny little place, but the food is good and the desserts were outstanding! They have quite a baker working there.
Our sandwich was shaped just like a Bigfoot footprint!
The visitor’s center at the ice cave was very interesting. It’s amazing what they found down in that hole. Centuries of history perfectly preserved. I highly recommend you take the time to look around at all the treasures jammed into this small building.
Look at those giant perfectly whole Indian pots!
The Ice Cave offers two hikes. One up to the Bandera Volcano and one down to the ice cave. We hiked the volcano first since we knew we would cool off at the ice cave. 🙂
It was a short and relatively uninteresting hike.
At the top of the trail, Dia collapsed due to lack of a Starbuck’s for hours. I told her to hang in there. We will get her one soon.
Where’s Starbucks????????? she wailed
The Ice Cave was much more interesting. The trail to the cave takes you through the basalt fields left by the volcano. It makes you wonder how anyone found that ice cave so long ago. It had to have been quite the challenge to navigate through that jagged sharp basalt.
A blooming cactus brought beauty to the stark view.
The area was called The Devil’s Playground by early settlers. It’s easy to see why. While hiking to the cave we came across this unique dead juniper. I took a picture of Dia there being her naughty self. She then took my photo and edited it to fit the area’s nickname. 🙂
Dia being evil…
At the cave you climb down a steep set of stairs.
Kelly and Scarlett ready to descend
There it is deep below the surface.
As you descended you could really feel the temperature dropping. It was quite refreshing after a hot climb up the volcano.
I didn’t let Scarlett go all the way to the bottom. You could see what she thought about that…..
The inside of the cave was beautiful. I tried to capture the colors in the cave by setting my camera to a slow shutter speed. Just beautiful.
The colors in the rock ceiling were so beautiful.
The ice had a green cast to it. It made for a lovely contrast with all the colors in the rock formation.
Too soon we were heading home. On the way out we saw a few Mule Deer. One was more curious than the others and had a beautiful shaggy coat.
When we got to Grants, Dia had to have her Starbucks. But she almost had a big tantrum when she realized there wasn’t a Starbucks there. It was hilarious!
The drive home was long due to yet more road construction. But the day’s adventures had been fabulous (even with the lack of Starbuck’s at the end). 🙂
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!
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.
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. 🙂