Hiking Plaza Blanca and Birding at Ohkay Owingeh Lakes

Recently I decided to explore Plaza Blanca near Abiquiu, New Mexico. If any of you have seen the movie Cowboys and Aliens, then you may remember the white rock formation that was in the scenes of the final battle of the movie. 

I have always wanted to explore this place, but never seemed to find the time to do so.  We’ve gotten some small snows this winter, so I headed out on a day that I thought there might be some snow on the trail to enhance my photos. 

It was a beautiful day and there indeed was some snow left on the ground. 

When I arrived at the parking area, I had a wonderful view of the southwest landscape showing the many beautiful layers of color.  I just love New Mexico landscapes. 

I love the New Mexico landscape

I hiked down the trail and just started exploring.  There’s not a lot of information about this area or the hike on the internet.  At first you see the large, white rock formation that is the namesake of the hike.  It is quite large and impressive. 

Plaza Blanca Formation

Next to the white formation is a large brown one.  I love how it stands alone.  Looks like something from the set of a Star Trek show. 

I then turned left along this formation and continued upstream in the arroyo.  At first it was very wide.  This is where the snow made beautiful accents to the landscape. 

Snow and shadow have created beautiful textures

I came upon several trees in the bottom of the arroyo. 

I turned around and love how the sun shone through the branches. 

That’s when I noticed the hole in the formation.  You can just see it behind the tree.  I backtracked to get some photos of this. 

Natural arch

I then saw another hole.  Of course, I just had to see how creative I could get with the “window” in the rock. 

Window rock showing Plaza Blanca in the distance

I then went back up the arroyo.  I came to a fork and decided to take the right fork as it seemed more interesting.  The rock formations were really cool.  I had Scarlett jump up on one to get a fun photo.  She’s so cute in how she will do whatever I ask. 

Can you see Scarlett?

The canyon started narrowing as I followed it.  For some reason I love hiking narrow canyons. 

The canyon started to narrow

Soon we came across water in the bottom of the canyon.  This is when I realized I had stumbled upon a slot canyon.  I LOVE SLOT CANYONS!

Slot canyon

Scarlett loved it too!  She soon started running around and playing.  She especially loved coming around the bend and jumping across the water. 

Scarlett begging me to chase her…I don’t think so!
Having fun jumping the water

This is a face of a very happy dog!

One happy Scarlett!!!

I followed the now very narrow canyon.  It was so beautiful.  The melting snow created some beautiful natural sculptures. 

We continued further up the slot canyon until the end of the line.   Well…then end for me.  I wasn’t willing to scramble up this obstacle. 

End of the slot canyon

We headed back out of the canyon.  It was a wonderful place to explore.  When I got back to the main formation, I decided to take my time and get a few photos of the area. 

After finishing up my hike I decided to go by Abiquiu Lake.  I’ve never been to the lake before.  I thought there might be wintering birds there.  But when I arrived, it was dead quiet. 

I did like the reflections in one of the coves of the lake.  So I took a few photos there before moving on. 

Abiquiu Lake

I was really wanting to see some birds on my outing.  So I headed to a place that I know I will see birds.  I went to Ohkay Owingeh Lakes near Espanola, NM. 

On the way to the lakes, I stopped to get a nice photo of the Rio Grande.  This stop always offers a beautiful view of the river.

Rio Grande below Abiquiu Lake

I hiked around the two ponds at the park.  There was surprisingly few birds about.  But I managed to get a few pics. 

American Kestrel being shy
Northern Flicker
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
Song Sparrow
Canada Geese
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-Rumped Warbler

It was nice to finish up the day with some nice bird sightings.  Scarlett and I had a wonderful day.  I highly recommend you visit the Plaza Blanca area. 

3rd Anniversary!

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.

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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.

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Juniper Titmouse

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.

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The pools work their way down the incline of the canyon.  What a fun afternoon walking on the smooth bedrock taking photos.

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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.

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But then she couldn’t resist any further and jumped in.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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These are my favorite shots of my outing.

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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!!!

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Bisti Badlands – Day 2 of 2

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.

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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.

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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.

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Stunning!

The further we hiked, the more beautiful the scenery became. I took so many photos. Each one more lovely than the last.

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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.

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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.

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Stone wings

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This wing is delicately connecting two hoodoos

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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.

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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!!!

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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.

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Such rich, contrasting colors

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Beautiful

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I loved the black transitioning to yellow

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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.

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I loved this stone wing

We found an arroyo that led to some more hoodoos and other unique formations.

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Jim and Scarlett scouting ahead.

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Just wonderful!

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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.

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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??

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Dodo Bird formation

But! Just around the corner from the Dodo Bird formation was a totally awesome formation. The Twin Bonnets. Just gorgeous!

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Jim gives you an idea of the scale of these delicate formations.

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Twin Bonnets

We spent some time here photographing this fabulous formation. Scarlett was finally getting tired. She rested while we enjoyed the formations.

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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. 🙂

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We came across some giant stumps of petrified wood. They were amazing in the amount of detail that was preserved.

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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.

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Fine roots were perfectly preserved

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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!

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Bisti Badlands – Day 1 of 2

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.

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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.

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Hoodoo nursery

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You can see how the young hoodoos are just starting to erode out

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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.

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Wings in the making.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I loved how the red plant mimicked the red mesa.

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I thought these rocks looked like dinosaur bones.

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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.

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Egg garden

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A broken egg

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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!!!

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Petrified tree

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.

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This was one of my favorite photos. I love the moodiness of it.

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Jim, my guide

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Stunning landscape

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It’s almost otherworldly

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This one will definitely slide off eventually

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Scarlett had a blast! I made her carry all of our water but it didn’t slow her down much!

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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!

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This petrified wood turned into a hoodoo and is slowly breaking into pieces

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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.

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Just unique!

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.

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Window rock formation

I had a great Day 1. Next time Day 2! A whole completely different area and views!

After The Rains

Around the first part of October, the Albuquerque area got quite a bit of rain storms.  Since the weather had cooled off from those storms, I decided to go check out the Ojito Wilderness northwest of Albuquerque.  This area is just too hot during the summer months.

On the day I went, it was still very overcast.  Thankfully I had my Jeep, because most of the roads were still very muddy and required 4WD.  Because of all the rain we’d had, the rocks had been saturated and their colors were very vibrant.  I enjoyed hiking and exploring all the rock formations.

I thought you might like to see some of the photos I took during that hike.

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The colors of the Ojito Wilderness are so beautiful.

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Unicorn Horn Formation

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This formation was HUGE

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All the wind formed shapes are so wonderful

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Scarlett enjoyed exploring that day

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The white rock formation in the distance is so unique

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Uplifted formations

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Lots of trails through the colors

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Beautiful

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So many colors

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Stormy skies overhead

 

 

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

 

Silver City Area Adventure

Last October my friend Valerie and I went to Silver City for a long weekend.  I hadn’t been to that area since I was a young girl in the 70s.  I was anxious to see the area again and share it with my friend.  Though Valerie was born and raised in New Mexico, she had never been to the sights around Silver City.

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It takes several hours to get to Silver City from Albuquerque.  We got a late start so ended up driving through the mountains in the dark.  The highway from I-25 to Silver City is very windy and steep.  It was quite stressful driving that road at night.  But it was exciting too.  We saw several animals cross in front of us on the road:  a mountain lion, a mule deer, a racoon and a fox!

We stayed at an old historic hotel called the Palace Hotel.  It still had a nice “old timey” feel to it.

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Lobby of the Palace Hotel

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Lobby

We were given Room 55.  When we got to the second floor, we had to look twice for the door to our room.  Hmmmmm…..I told Valerie “I think it’s behind that lamp.”  WTF?!\

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There’s our room door behind that standing lamp….

We did eventually find another entrance to our room that wasn’t blocked by lamps, chairs and tables.  LOL!

I especially liked the main painting in the lobby.  I told Valerie, “It’s me all over!  Red dress and lipstick, holding a gun and showing lots of cleavage!”

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What I would have been like “back in the day”

One of my favorite memories from childhood was hiking the Catwalk Trail in the Gila Wilderness.  This trail consists of suspended walkways above Whitewater Creek.  Several years ago the original catwalk was destroyed due to severe flooding.  But in May of this year, a one-mile portion of the trail had been restored and opened up to the public.

So on an early October morning, we headed to the trail head.  The weather was perfect:  cool but sunny.  The shadows were long which made for great photography.  Here are some pics from the hike.

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What a unique hike

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Suspended above Whitewater Creek

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Beautiful!

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The walkway criss-crossed so we could see the walkway ahead

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Valerie enjoying the hike

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The walkway eventually ends and you walk down to the creek.

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The bridge ahead was the end of the trail.  The entire trail has not been cleaned up from the flood.  I hope they eventually open the entire trail again.

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Valerie and Kelly having fun!

After hiking the catwalk, we tried hiking another trail nearby, but the creek was too high.  There were several river crossings on the hike and no bridges available.  So we decided to drive up to Mogollon.  It’s a great historic town high in the mountains.  Sadly, the road to Mogollon was closed so we had to cancel that idea as well.  Drat!

So instead we headed back to Silver City to walk around town. On the way back we stopped to feed horses and photograph some rusty tractors.  Valerie got a pic of me in my new Jeep Wrangler!  I love my new vehicle!

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Those horses loved that apple Valerie fed them

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Cool old tractors

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Me in my brand new Jeep!

We browsed shopfronts and took some photos around town.  Eventually we ended up on a path that follows a creek that runs right behind Main Street.  Funny thing is, the creek was actually Main Street before a giant flood took out the street and many of the buildings along it in 1895.  So Main Street was moved over and the ditch created by the flood became permanent and is still in use today.

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We found a way down to the creek!

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I loved all the pools in among the limestone bedrock

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Stream flowing from pool to pool

The next day we headed out to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  Even though my family visited the Gila National Forest many times when I was young, we never went to the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  So I was looking forward to seeing it as much as Valerie.  The road there was very windy and steep.   It was difficult driving.  But what made it worse was we were having to drive around and among a bunch of racing bicyclists.  Stressful!  So many blind curves with no shoulder.

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Windy road to the Gila Cliff Dwellings

I was tempted by this car for sale… LOL!  After all, it only needs a battery!

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It was worth getting there even though it took over an hour to drive there from Silver City.  The hike to the dwellings was just beautiful.  We both said we could hike trails like this all day.  It was picturesque hiking in a forest, along a creek and scenic bridge crossings.

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Bridge over the Gila River

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A beautiful trail

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We loved all the bridges

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Wonderful!

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Valerie

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Lovely!

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Kelly

Eventually we climbed up to the dwellings.  They are small, but they allow you to walk inside the rooms and get a feel for what it must have been like to live there so long ago.

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Gila Cliff Dwellings

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What a beautiful view!

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Valerie

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While up at the top, a thunderstorm had moved in.  We had to hurry back down the trail to safety.  I’m glad we took our time going up and enjoyed the trail sights along the way.

On the rive back we stopped at one of the scenic pullouts to appreciate the stormy sky and wide vistas.

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Panorama of the scenic view

I turned one photo into black and white.  It made me think of the artist Ansel Adams.

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On the drive back to Silver City, we were soooo hungry!  We talked about what we wanted for dinner.  We both agreed fairly easily…Pizza and Wine!!!!  The restaurants in the downtown area were very busy so it took a while to find a place to eat.  But we eventually sat down to dinner and we even managed to find that pizza and wine!

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Delicious pizza!  It hit the spot!

On our last day in the area, we visited City of Rocks State Park.  It’s a cool piece of geology just stuck out in the middle of nowhere.  It’s a great place to explore all the nooks and crannies formed by erosion.

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It was fun exploring for a few hours.

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Panorama of the park

We had fun climbing the rocks to get fun photos of each other.

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We go to great lengths to get the “perfect” photo

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Some of the areas were scary to navigate on foot! LOL!

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My beautiful friend! 

Going home we got to see that beautiful drive coming in.  The views were amazing at the top of Emory Pass.

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View from the top of Emory Pass

I hope you enjoyed reading about our adventures in Silver City!  It was a fabulous weekend!

20th Anniversary Trip – Day 7 Zion Utah

At the end of Day 6 we had arrived at our cabin at the Zion Mountain Ranch.  I woke up early the next morning to go birding and hopefully see the buffalo.  The very first bird I saw when I started walking was a Sharp-Shinned Hawk.  It was searching the pastures for breakfast.

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Sharp-Shinned Hawk

As I headed to the back of the cabin area toward the large pasture surrounding the property, I heard lots of deep grunting.  When I came closer to the pasture I saw this huge herd of buffalo.  It was a beautiful sight.  You could hear the grass tearing as they ate big mouthfuls of it.  And they grunted while they ate.  They were so close that I had trouble getting photos because I had my big zoom lens on my camera.

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Beautiful buffalo

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Cute baby!

You can see how close they are to the cabins in this photo.  One woman was enjoying her morning coffee to the wondrous sight of all the buffalo.  I think I took over 500 photos of these magnificent animals.

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Perfect morning breakfast scenery

My favorite photo was of this bull staring straight at me with red eyes.

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Now I just couldn’t resist taking this buffalo moment…….

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She’s looking at me thinking….how embarrassing…

Hanging out on the periphery of the buffalo herd was this uniquely colored bull.  I loved the colors of his coat and the shape of his horns.  He was quite a distance away and would never face me, so this was the best photo I could get.

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I soon moved on and found a few other birds to photograph.  The birds were far and few between which surprised me.

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European Starling

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Western Bluebird

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Green-Tailed Towhee

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Mountain Bluebird

Around the farmhouse, the chickens were gearing up for the day.  I liked the white rooster…he looks like he’s enjoying that stretch.

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Silky Rooster

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Bantam Rooster

We had decided the evening before not to stay a second night at the ranch.  When we looked at the amount of hours we were going to have to drive to get home from the ranch, we thought it best to drive to Page, Arizona, the next evening and cut about 2.5 hours off our travel time the last day.  This meant we only had until about 5 pm to stay at Zion before leaving for Arizona.  While eating lunch, I searched the internet for the best hiking trail to take for our visit into Zion.  We wouldn’t have time to explore any more than one trail.  We eventually chose the Emerald Pools trail.  It’s a 3-mile out and back hike that takes you to three different pools with stunning scenery and waterfalls as you climb.

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Trail to the emerald pools…it starts out paved but eventually turns into a single track.

As we started the hike, the sun was shining brightly overhead and it was pretty hot.  Tim was ahead of me on the hike by this time because I was taking so many photos.  I looked up and saw him standing above everyone.  He loves being different from the masses.  LOL!

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Can you see Tim?

The first pool is very beautiful with a long waterfall filling it.  I bet that waterfall is stunning during the spring runoff.

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The first emerald pool

I liked that the trail took you around the pool and behind the waterfall.

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After the first pool, you start climbing more aggressively.  This quickly gives you a view from above the waterfall.

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Beautiful even at a trickle

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Gorgeous!

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Climbing above the waterfall.

The second pool you see is just above the waterfall that fills the first pool…or would that actually be the third pool as it is downstream….hmmmm…  I didn’t take many pics of the second pool because it was filled with people.  It was very shallow and on bedrock so it made for a cool stop for hot hikers.

Heading to the top pool the hike became more steep.  The views got more narrow as you headed into a canyon.  As we neared the upper pool, the sun went behind the cliff and it made the hike much more beautiful and cooler.

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Cliff surrounding the upper pool

Our favorite pool of the hike was the upper pool.  Well worth the climb!

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Kelly and Tim at the upper pool

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What a beautiful setting

We spent quite a while enjoying this beautiful place and visiting with people from all over the world.  I enjoyed the mystery the shadows created.

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Soon we were heading back down.  The sun was fully hidden from the trail by this time.  I couldn’t believe how it transformed the trail.  What was beautiful in the sunshine turned to breathtaking in the shade.

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So many colors in the rock

The bottom pool was totally transformed.

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With the sun gone I could appreciate the delicate stream of water

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Emerald pool indeed

I loved the colors that became more rich now that the sun was gone.

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Such a peaceful setting

Soon we were back at the trail head in the sunshine once more.  We saw a lizard soaking up the sun.  He had gorgeous coloring.

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Tiger Whiptail

I wish we could have spent more time here but sadly the day had grown late and we needed to head to Arizona.

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Kelly next to Virgin River

I love the drive that goes through the lower end of Zion on Highway 9.   The scenery is stunning.  It was difficult to do it justice from a moving car.  Here are a few of my better shots.

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I love the crisscross geology of this sandstone

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So majestic!

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Beautiful sandstone layers

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A giant arch in the making

The highlight of the drive along Highway 9 through the park was coming upon some Bighorn Sheep right next to the road.  They are very used to people and didn’t care one bit that I got out of the car to take photographs.  At one point I was only about 15 feet away from some of the females.

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We first saw this group of Bighorn Sheep climbing along the sandstone cliffs

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We rounded a corner and saw some right next to the road.  Beautiful!

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A young one running to catch up with the others

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This female was grazing right next to me!!

 

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A majestic ram!

 

All too soon we were on our way to Arizona.  I was sad to leave this beautiful part of the country.  Some day I will be back to explore all Zion has to offer.

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20th Anniversary Trip – Day 6 Nevada & Utah

This day was one of the funnest days of our trip.  We covered a lot of miles and saw some stunning scenery.

We left Ely, NV, and started heading to Utah.  Before we left the area, I had Tim stop again at the Comins Lake.  It was such a great place for birding.

This morning I saw completely different birds than I had seen the evening before.  Which I loved!

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Sagebrush Sparrow

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Solitary Sandpiper

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Eared Grebe

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Yellow-Headed Blackbird

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Sage Thrasher

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Barn Swallows

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Vesper Sparrow

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Brewer’s Sparrow

After birding for a short while, a Great Blue Heron came flying in.  I love these elegant birds.

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Great Blue Heron

He wasn’t too sure about me walking along the shoreline.  So he flew to the other side of the lake.  I captured a few photos in flight.  When I was editing the photos, I saw an elusive warbler flying in the photos as well.  Looked like a Yellow Warbler – so bright! Wish I could have gotten some good photos of that warbler.

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Great Blue Heron – see that bright yellow warbler!!!

I also saw a tiny bird feeding along the edge of the reeds.  It’s obviously a juvenile.  But I had a heck of a time identifying this bird.  My conclusion is that it’s a juvenile Virginia Rail.  But if someone knows the correct identification of this bird, I’d appreciate knowing.

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Juvenile Virginia Rail

Too soon we were on our way.  I never want to leave a good birding spot!  We started heading further south.  One of our planned stops on this trip was Cathedral Gorge State Park.  It’s a small park comprising about 1600 acres, but just beautiful!  We had a good time exploring all the small slots formed in the rocks.  I could easily spend a day investigating all the cracks and crevices. Very unique!

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Cathedral Gorge State Park

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Unique geology

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Tim exploring

 

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Just beautiful!

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Interesting holes and cracks

 

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Kelly exploring the slots

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View from inside the slot canyon

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My handsome husband!

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Kelly inside the deepest slot canyon

Tim spotted a lizard among the formation.  Yay!

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Plateau Fence Lizard

We next headed east toward Utah.  We headed up a scenic highway called Cedar Canyon that was truly breathtaking at every turn.  We climbed very quickly with some steep grades at times.  One of the most scenic highways I had ever seen.

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River along Highway 14 Cedar Canyon

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Gorgeous rock formations along the scenic drive

We soon had gone from 4,800 foot elevation at Cathedral Gorge to 10,000 feet.   The views were so expansive!

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Views from 10,000 feet

I saw on the map that there was a National Park just ahead of us:  Cedar Breaks National Park.  Of course we just had to stop in.  And I am so glad we did.  Just breathtaking!!!

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Cedar Breaks National Park

 

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Stunning!

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View from 10,000 feet

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From 10,000 feet the bottom of the canyon is 2000 feet below

The views looking down into that canyon were breathtaking.  I would have loved to see what the views looked like from down in the bottom of that canyon.

While there I saw (and heard!) and Clark’s Nutcracker.  These birds are big and loud.  Sadly it flew away before I could get a photo.

Further up the road was another turnoff that showed a different view of the park.

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Tim and Kelly

At the parking area of Cedar Breaks there were lots of wildflowers with butterflies busily feeding.  Along with the familiar butterflies, I actually got a new one!

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Hoary Comma

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Mourning Cloak

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Milbert’s Tortoiseshell – a new butterfly for me!

Heading down the other side of the mountain, we saw a beautiful lake, mountain meadows and small ponds.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

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Sheep grazing in a high mountain meadow

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Navajo Lake – a high mountain lake formed by lava

 

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American Avocets

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Mallard female

We stopped at one pond that was full of ducks.  As we watched the ducks an osprey flew over looking for some lunch.  He circled a couple times but didn’t see anything worth trying for and flew away.

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Osprey

We finally made it off that mountain and to our destination of the Zion Mountain Ranch.  It’s an actual working buffalo ranch.  The buffalo were there but way far away.  I had hopes of seeing them up close before we left.

We stayed in a private cabin overlooking the horse pasture.  A very peaceful setting.

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Our cabin at Zion Mountain Ranch

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cozy…..

Tomorrow we see Zion!
P.S.  I just learned this was my 100th post!!! 🙂