Weekend at Pagosa Springs

Back in July my friend Dia and I spent a long weekend at Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  I had never been there before, so I was really looking forward to a long, relaxing weekend hiking and soaking in the hot springs.

On our way we stopped in for lunch at the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm in Abiquiu, New Mexico.  (Pronounced Ab-eh-Q)  It was a beautiful place to stroll and the lunch was delicious.

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Purple Adobe Lavender Farm

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Wonderful lavender!

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Kelly enjoying a wonderful lunch

We also enjoyed shopping in the little store.

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Beautiful store

 

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Shopping at the cafe

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Mmmmmmm…

As we drove down the road, we decided to pop in and check out the famous Ghost Ranch.  When people hear Ghost Ranch they usually think of the artist Georgia O’Keefe who loved to paint the beauty of the desert here.  We didn’t spend long, but I did take some time to take a few photos.

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Great old western wagon

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Storms over Abiquiu Lake

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Old hand-hewn log cabin

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Beauty of the Ghost Ranch

As we neared Chama, New Mexico, we passed an Osprey nest.  Of course, I had to turn around to get a photo.  🙂

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Female Osprey on the nest

While I was photographing the female on the nest, the male showed up with lunch.

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Male Osprey with a meal

We stayed at the beautiful Springs Spa and Resort.  They have 25 different soaking pools that vary in temperatures from 96 degrees to as hot as 111 degrees.  HOT!  The hottest pool was called the Lobster Pot.  I couldn’t get more than my foot in before I was yelping in pain!

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The Springs Resort and Spa

After checking in we decided to go have lunch and let Scarlett run around a bit.  Of course, she was thrilled to play in the river.

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Scarlett stretching her legs after a long drive.

We ate at a restaurant across the river that had a great view of the resort.  We couldn’t wait to get in those pools!

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View of the resort and the San Juan River

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Looks fabulous doesn’t it?

Of course, we had ourselves a giant margarita at lunch to kick off the relaxing weekend.

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Yum!

One of the things I really wanted to do while staying at the resort was take night photos.  I don’t get many opportunities to do night photography, so this was a real treat to have a unique setting.

I first photographed the resort’s hotel.  Such a beautiful place.

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While photographing the hotel, a pair of girls were playing the outdoor chess game.  I was thrilled they consented to let me take their photo.  I think it came out nice.

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Outdoor chess game under the stars

From there we toured the pools.  The first pool we came to overlooked the resort.  I liked that there were some people relaxing the in pool.  I think they added interest to the view.

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Soakers enjoying the beautiful evening

Here’s some other shots I got touring the pools.

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Sunken foot bridge through the warm springs

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I loved the travertine formations that builds up with the flowing waters of hot springs

I took a few shots from the bridge across the river and from the other side of the river.  Beautiful with the reflections in the water.

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Gorgeous at night

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Definitely a special place

The next day we went on a couple of short hikes.  I really wanted to see the waterfalls in the area.  I never seem to tire of photographing water.

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The views during the hike were spectacular.

Our first hike was to Treasure Falls.  It’s not a very long hike, but really beautiful.   Of course, where there’s water, there is always wildlife.

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MacGuilvray’s Warbler

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Adorable chipmunk

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American Robin with a mouthful of moths

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Northern Flicker digging for grubs

This year the southwest had experienced a pretty severe draught at the beginning of the summer.  Because of this, the waterfalls were pretty thin.  But I think they were still beautiful.

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Lower part of Treasure Falls

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Gorgeous!

My favorite shot of the entire trip was taken at this waterfall.  I hiked all the way to the base of the falls to discover a tranquil pool.

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Tranquil pool

To my delight, I spotted an American Dipper.  It’s always a real treat to see one of these birds.  I love how they dip and bob along the water’s edge and dive into the pools looking for food.

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American Dipper

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Looking for goodies in the falling water

The other hike we did was to Silver Falls.  Dia was my co-pilot and was responsible for finding the trailhead.  She led me on a one-hour 4WD goose chase!!! DIA!!!!!   I was so busy stressing over the drive, I didn’t take any photos! LOL!

We finally realized we had driven past the falls.  We turned around and found the trailhead.  This was also a short hike, but very steep! We followed Silver Creek the entire way.  There were small waterfalls along the trail.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when we got to the main waterfall.  All I can say is WOW!  It was spectacular!  I think it was about 5 stories tall!  The sounds of the falls was almost deafening.  I can only imagine what they would look like if it hadn’t been a drought year.  Dia and I spent quite some time here enjoying the view and taking a few photos.

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Lower portion of Silver Fall

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Silver Falls

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WOW!

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Just spectacular!

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Lower portion of Silver Falls

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My beautiful friend Dia

Dia took a picture of me at the falls.  I look terrible after a stressful Jeep drive!  LOL!  My headband says “Jeep Hair, Don’t Care!”  🙂

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We spent the rest of the afternoon and the next morning soaking in the pools.  It was sooooooo relaxing.  We spent some time shopping the great shops on main street before we left town.   We found lots of goodies!

On the way out of town I spotted a Black-Billed Magpie.  I wish we had these birds closer to home.

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Black-Billed Magpie

When we drove through Chama we spotted a little foal in a pasture along the highway.  We just had to stop and say hi.

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Dia made new friends fast 🙂

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Beautiful!

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This guy was so new he still has his dried umbilical cord

The drought was about to be over on this trip.  The monsoons started in earnest on our drive home.  I stopped to take a photo of the storms over Abiquiu Lake.   Monsoons in the desert can be very dramatic!

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Storms over Abiquiu Lake

All the rain made the Rio Grande turn red.

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Rio Grande

I hope you enjoyed reading about my lovely weekend at Pagosa Springs!  I’m so ready to go back!

 

Birding in Eagle Nest NM

On my last day at Red River I drove to Eagle Nest, NM, to do some birding and photography around Eagle Nest Lake.  It was a cool morning after evening showers.  As I drove along the highway, I came across a small herd of elk.  Always a welcome sight!

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Elk herd

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They have mostly lost their winter coat.

When I arrived at the lake, it had a layer of fog over the water.  I thought it made for a picturesque scene.

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Eagle Nest Lake

A lone boat of fishermen was on the lake.

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Fisherman on Eagle Nest Lake

There wasn’t much bird activity out over or on the water.  Just a few Canadian Geese flying by.

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Canadian Geese

There was a lot of bird activity around the lake.  Most notably swallows. There are very few trees around this lake.  So a house nearby was a top pick for the swallows nests.

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Swallows coming and going from their nests in the eaves.

As all birders know, swallows are fast! Trying to get a pic of one on the wing is very difficult.  But once I realized one of the species of swallows was a Tree Swallow, I was determined to get a pic.  This was a lifer bird for me!

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Tree Swallow

There were other birds along the shore of the lake.   Most of them were shy so it was difficult getting very close for any photos.  But I managed a few.

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Western Meadowlark

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Western Bluebird female

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Red-Winged Blackbird female

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Western-Wood Pewee

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Brewer’s Blackbird

While walking along the lake shore, I came across a half eaten jalapeno.  Where else but New Mexico would you see that?!?  🙂

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Only in New Mexico…

After spending some time around the lake, I decided to go exploring around Eagle Nest to see some of the sights for photos.  I came across the ruins of the old lodge.  I wish I could have gotten closer, but it was gated inside private property.

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Old Eagle Nest Lodge

There was a unique gate post nearby that looks like live hawks and eagles use it frequently for a perch   🙂

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While driving around I came across a Turkey Vulture enjoying a deer carcass.  Not much left, but still enough for a small meal.

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Turkey Vulture

I then decided to visit the old ghost town of Elizabethtown.  Not much left but a couple of buildings and a few old vehicles. My creative spirit just couldn’t seem to do much with the buildings….

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Old barn

So I moved on to the old vehicles.  I loved this old car.

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This used to be a high end car back in the 30s

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Of course, I had to get a pic of the old and the new 🙂

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But my favorite vehicle was this really cool old truck!  Isn’t it great!?!

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Love this!

Of course, I just had to get Scarlett to pose next to it.  Her picture didn’t come out so great as she was distracted by the horses nearby.

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Miss Scarlett

The horses were right across the street enjoying a lush pasture.  This Palomino was a real beauty.

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Enjoying spring in the mountains.

Sadly it was time to head back home.  The road back to Red River is very scenic.  This particular day had awesome clouds with New Mexico’s signature blue sky.

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Highway to Red River

Memorial Day weekend was coming up.  As I was driving home I passed by this very moving Memorial Day tribute.  It was very emotional seeing our American Flag blowing in the wind with signs saying how many of our countrymen had passed in our country’s wars.  Their lives have paid for our freedom in this wonderful country of ours.

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Memorial Day Tribute

Coming back through Taos, I stopped at a place where there’s a couple more cool trucks.   One of them I’ve posted before, but I can never resist photographing this vehicle.

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I love this truck!

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Beautiful Taos country!

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I had a great time visiting Red River.  It had been years since I had been there last.  It’s always a joy getting out and exploring God’s beautiful country.

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Scarlett turns 3!

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.

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Vintage train car

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My handsome husband Tim

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Brad the drummer

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And Bill is on base

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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.

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Northern Flicker female

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Curve-Billed Thrasher – the breeze was ruffling his feathers

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Common Raven

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Look at the talons on this Swainson’s Hawk

I came across a Say’s Phoebe busily looking for bugs.

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Say’s Phoebe

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And he’s off to get a bug!

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So graceful

I saw some cute prairie dogs and some beautiful antelope too.

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Prairie Dog

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Prong Horn Antelope – female in the background

The clouds were just beautiful behind this granary. I just love New Mexico skies!

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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.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

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Hmmm…looks like he learned from the Say’s Phoebe

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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!

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My beautiful Scarlett ready to go!

We followed along the tracks for a while.

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Following the tracks

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I love the old glass insulators that used to be used on electric lines.

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Old railroad bolt

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I heard lots of birds, but only managed to photograph a couple of them.

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Bushtit

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White-Crowned Sparrow

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.

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Soon we came to a narrow canyon. If the train came through now, there was nowhere to go! Yikes!

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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.

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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.

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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! 🙂

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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.

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I love this shot!

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Finally Scarlett was allowed to play. She had a blast running and splashing!

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Doing her favorite thing: running back and forth in shallow water.

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Headed for the deeper pool

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Such fun!

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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.

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Ahhhhhh……

Soon we had to leave. I have to say it was much easier going up than down. Whew!

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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.

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Sitting in my Jeep when the train finally passed.

It was a fun afternoon!

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Happy 3rd Birthday Scarlett!!!

Last Birding Trip of 2017

During the last week of December, I was able to take a trip to Bosque del Apache. I try to visit there every December as that’s when the winter bird count is pretty high.

I left well before sunrise. As I was driving down, I started getting into thicker and thicker fog. At one point I had to slow down to 40 mph on a 75 mph interstate.

It was difficult to bird first thing due to the thick fog, so I took a few scenic shots.

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Boardwalk through the marsh

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A lone American Coot walking through the marsh area

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Quiet solitude

I was pleased to see a beautiful coyote in his handsome winter coat.

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Beautiful coyote among the hoarfrost

Fortunately, the fog cleared up once the sun rose and I was able to start hunting for birds.

I first noticed a Great Blue Heron grooming.

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Great Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron

There were lots of raptors about. Most of them seemed reluctant to move from their morning perch.

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Northern Harrier

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Cooper’s Hawk

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American Kestral

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Northern Harrier

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American Bald Eagles

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Red-Tailed Hawk

I started driving around the ponds to see what waterfowl was about. I happened to notice two Northern Harriers squabbling. They were quite a ways away but I managed to capture a pic.

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Northern Harriers fighting

I was surprised to find that there really wasn’t very many waterfowl about. I had to really search the ponds to find any. Not sure where they were all hiding.

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Bufflehead – male

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Northern Pintail

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Bufflehead – female

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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Ring-Necked Duck

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Northern Shoveler

Of course there were lots of Snow Geese about. But every time I made it around the circle to see them, they were flying.

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Snow Geese

I always hear there are wading birds that winter at the refuge, but I rarely see them. But on this day I saw three Lesser Yellowlegs feeding in the shallows of a pond.

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Lesser Yellowlegs

I saw a few songbirds about that day. There were a couple of rare sightings for the area, but I never saw them. Drat!

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Song Sparrow

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Gambel’s Quail

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Marsh Wren

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White-Winged Dove

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House Finch

One of my favorite sightings of the day was a Crissal Thrasher singing his little heart out atop a bush. Surprisingly he let me get pretty close singing the whole time.

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Crissal Thrasher

I sat and watched a roadrunner look for lunch. They are always entertaining. He hunted for awhile before he noticed me watching. I took this pic the moment he realized he wasn’t alone. 🙂

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Greater Roadrunner

My last sighting of the day was a grebe off in the distance. When I zoomed in and took a pic, I was delighted to see it was a Clark’s Grebe. These are considered a rare sighting for the area, so that was a real treat.

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Clark’s Grebe

I left around noon and decided to drive a different route home. I took the Quebradas Scenic Route home. I had heard a lot about this road. But to be honest I couldn’t really see why it was considered so beautiful. But there was one place on the road I found very picturesque, so I got out a took a pic.

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Quebradas Scenic Route

Just before leaving that highway, I came across some deer feeding in the fields.

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Mule Deer

I still had some light left in the day, so I stopped in at the Bernardo Refuge. The Sandhill Cranes seem to prefer this area over Bosque del Apache.

I got there near sunset, and all the cranes were coming in to the pond to drink. It was a beautiful sight seeing and hearing the cranes flying overhead in the soft light of sunset.

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Sandhill Cranes

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Sandhill Cranes

While photographing the cranes, I happened to notice the Super Moon had risen. It was big and blue!

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Super Moon

I had a wonderful day birding. It had been quite some time since I had been able to take a whole day to bird.

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Just beautiful…

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While hiking the trails, a train came through. 🙂

Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 1

Recently my friend Dia and I took a long weekend to visit Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) near Estes, Colorado.  We have talked about going there for about 5 years.  Finally our schedules came together and we were able to go.  I have long wanted to visit this national park.  The photos I’ve seen from there are just stunning.  Water everywhere!  (Unlike New Mexico LOL!)

It took us about 10 hours to drive there, due to the many stops made at Starbucks 🙂

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Kelly and Dia getting their Starbucks fix!

We arrived at the entrance sign to Estes Park late in the day.  Of course, we had to take a pic there of us in our matches dresses.  🙂

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We made it!  Don’t you love our matching dresses!?  🙂

There were several Black-Billed Magpies around and one was happy to pose for me on the sign.  I guess they are no longer a nemesis of mine LOL!

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Black-Billed Magpie

We knew it was going to be crowded every day there as we were visiting during peak season.  So we made plans to go to bed early and get up very early to beat the crowds.  It proved to be a great plan as we found when we were leaving the trails that’s when most people were heading out.  Doing this allowed us to visit the spectacular park with minimal intrusion of other people.  There’s nothing more discouraging to a photographer than to have a beautiful setting for a photo crowded out with masses of tourists.

Dia has been to RMNP a few times in the past.  I had never been before.  So I followed her lead on what to see first.  Her favorite drive is up Old Fall River Road.  A one-way dirt road that climbs to the highest point in the park.  When I looked at the map, I realized a couple of the waterfalls I wanted to photograph were on this route.  Yay!

Our first stop was at the Allivial Fan Falls.  This waterfall was created by a major flood due to a failure in a dam upstream.

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Alluvial Fan Falls

Heading up Old Fall River Road, we saw so many beautiful sights.  Everywhere you looked, it was a Kodak moment. Dia drove my Jeep so I could take photos.  She loves driving my Jeep – especially off road.  🙂 At one point, Dia almost ran over a marmot who had no fear of the Jeep.  Evidently he’s used to tourists feeding him as they pass.

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Kelly and her Jeep (not her husband’s Jeep) 😉

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Dia and Scarlett enjoying the drive up Old Fall River Road

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Marmot

I especially loved this little waterfall at the beginning of the drive.  There was no formal trail, just enough of a path to view the water closer.

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Further up the road we came to Chasm Falls – another waterfall on my “must see” list.  What a beautiful waterfall coming through the narrow canyon.

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Looking downstream

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Scarlett, Kelly & Dia

Scarlett loves water – so of course we had to let her play a little before hitting the road again.

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Scarlett enjoying the falls in her own way 🙂

Soon we were climbing higher and higher.  The views expanded.  Just glorious!

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Gorgeous views from Old Fall River Road.

We eventually rose above the tree line.  Beautiful!  We came across patches of wildflowers.  Everything was so green – way different from New Mexico.

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Just before reaching the RMNP Alpine Visitor Center, we came across more marmot.  I liked how this one posed nicely for me.

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Marmot

The views at the visitor center overlooking a glacial cirque were truly breathtaking.   The grasses were so lush and the snow provided a beautiful contrast to the photos.

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Glacial Cirque

There is a hike from the visitor’s center that takes you to a peak.  It was tough going considering there was very little oxygen at 12,000 feet above sea level.  The views from the top were amazing.  I love exploring!

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Trail from the visitor’s center.

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Breathtaking views!

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Dia

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Where’s Starbucks???!!!!!

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Views of the visitor center from the top of the trail.

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Dia, Kelly and Scarlett at the top!

After a brief stop at the Visitor’s Center, we decided to take the drive to Grand Lake.  We wound our way back down the other side of the mountain.  At the bottom we took a short hike to stretch our legs and enjoy the beautiful weather.  I saw several sparrows in this area but only managed to get one pic of a Savannah Sparrow.

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Such a lush valley of green

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These squirrels found a good home.

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Dia happy with her Starbucks! 🙂

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This was the only butterfly I saw that day. Terrible photo as I didn’t have my birding lens.  I believe this is a Mormon Fritillary

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Savannah Sparrow

As we made our way toward Grand Lake we saw a turn off for Lake Irene.  What a serene little lake.

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Lake Irene

As we left Irene Lake we saw a bunch of folks looking into the dense brush along the road.  We figured they’d spotted something good.  And indeed they had – a moose!  Actually two moose – a mother and calf.  They were a ways away and in dense brush, but I managed to get a couple photos.  I’d never seen a moose before!

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Moose with calf

We also saw some nice bull Elk along the road.  One was really enjoying the good life of summer.

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Very healthy bull Elk

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Enjoying summer

Near Grand Lake I spotted an Osprey nest.  It’s always a good day when you see a bird of prey.

 

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Osprey

Grand Lake was very touristy and actually not in RMNP.  So we turned around and decided to drive the Ridge Road back to Estes Park.  Once again we were in store for more stunning views way above the tree line.

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Click, click, click….I took over 5,000 photos on this trip! Yikes!

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Expansive views

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I love the high alpine meadow flowers – so small and delicate.

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Dia and Kelly

At one point we saw a nice herd of elk.  They were grazing in the high meadows well above 11,000 feet.  They have a very picturesque home.

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Scarlett was enjoying all the sights and smells.

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So many smells!!!!

We stopped at one pullout to view a glacier.

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Hmmmm…look at my Jeep keys precariously dangling from Dia’s hand….

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Glacier at 12,000 feet.  I love the blue pool of water in the lower right.

While taking photos, Dia noticed a little brown bird hopping just below us.  I quickly got my birding lens and was happy to see it was a Brown-Capped Rosy Finch.

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Brown-Capped Rosy Finch

Further down the road we stopped at another pullout.  There were lots of folks feeding the birds and squirrels here.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take close up photos of the rather tame squirrels.

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What a cutie!

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excuse me…you have something in the corner of your mouth…

But I was thrilled to see a Clark’s Nutcracker here looking for handouts.  I’ve only seen this bird once before several years ago in Santa Fe.  I’ve heard them a few times since then, but never saw them for a photo.  So it was great to see this bird close up!

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Clark’s Nutcracker

The views from this location were beautiful.  You could see the entire valley below.  You can even see the Alluvial Fan Falls area we had visited in the morning.

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It was a full day of fun!!!  Off to bed early for another full day of exploring!

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These flowers were extremely tiny!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Weekend in Taos, New Mexico

My friend Dia and I went for a quick trip to Taos, New Mexico, recently.  My goal was to photograph several historic churches and see the Taos Pueblo and the graveyard there.

I needed to stop by a job site on the way there, so we decided to make a big circle for our road trip.  On the way to Taos we went through Las Vegas, New Mexico.   I mentioned to Dia there was a pretty little glacial lake just north of there.  One thing I’ve learned about Dia – take her to any kind of water and she’s a happy girl!

We were soon at Morphy Lake.  Such a peaceful place.  Set at a higher elevation, it was a nice 75 degrees there in hot summer.

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Morphy Lake

While walking the shore, I happened to notice a giant tadpole.  After further searching, we saw lots of them in different stages of changing into a frog.  We even saw some fully formed frogs.  I also saw an oddly colored fish.

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This frog still has his tadpole tail.

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hmmmmm….not sure what kind of fish this is

Then Dia saw a crawdad.  She’s fascinated by these guys! Soon she was trying to catch one.  After a couple of attempts, she got one!

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Slowly…..slowly…..closer……

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Got him!

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Success!

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Oh dear…. lol!

Soon we were on our way again.  We passed through a few small towns and past Sipapu Ski area.  We were climbing in elevation the entire drive.

We came upon a pretty stream.  Scarlett was wanting to get out for a bit.  Knowing how much she loves water, I figured this would be a nice place to stretch our legs.   Soon Dia and Scarlett were in the water having a fun time.  I swear I was traveling with two kids!  🙂

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Dia and Scarlett having fun! 

Once in Taos we ate lunch at a local restaurant called the Farmhouse that uses fresh farm grown produce.  Sadly the food really wasn’t very good and I can’t recommend a visit there to eat. But the grounds were pretty with a pond, wildflowers and garden spinners.

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Pond at the Farmhouse Restaurant

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I love garden spinners

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Funky Taos art

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Dia, Kelly & Scarlett

Then I noticed an old rusted truck out in a field.  As you’ve probably figured out by now, I can’t resist photographing old rusty things!!!

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I love all the different layers of paint (and a little bondo)

We also had to pose on this truck LOL!  But the metal was hot as fire making it difficult to do much. LOL!

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Kelly

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Dia

We ate at a local bar that is housed in the oldest building in Taos.  We had a great time having a couple of margaritas and playing shuffleboard.

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Delicious margaritas and it was happy hour!

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Kelly and Dia enjoying drinks on the patio

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Dia won both games of shuffleboard

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My silly friend!

Finally the sun was setting.  Time to get out for some sunset and blue hour photos of the mission at Ranchos de Taos.  This mission was built in 1772 and has been wonderfully kept over the years.

We got there just as the sun was setting.  It was a gorgeous evening.

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I especially loved this photo I captured.

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Dia wanted me to take a photo of her that made her look like a ghost.  After several attempts, I think I got a decent shot.  I’m only just learning how to do night photography.  I still have lots more to learn but having fun trying!

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Ghostly Dia

The next morning we got up early to visit Taos Pueblo.  We drove through the northern end of town to get there.  And wouldn’t you know it I saw one of my nemesis birds – the Black-Billed Magpie.  And I didn’t have my birding lens!  Ahhhhh!  These birds were everywhere.  After several attempts I did manage to get a decent pic with the setup I had on hand.

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Black-Billed Magpie

When we got to the pueblo, we found out it was closed due to a funeral.  😦  So I guess I will have to plan another trip there to see the sights on the pueblo.

We stopped for gas and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this crow in the parking lot.

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American Crow

Since our original destination was closed, we headed over to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  The morning was very hazy, so the photos really weren’t that good.  But we still had a fun time on the bridge and shopping the local artist tables there.  We each bought a pretty ring and earrings.  🙂

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Rio Grande Gorge

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Kelly’s feet – it’s a loooong way down to the river

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Dia and Kelly at the gorge bridge

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We even saw big horn sheep down in the gorge.

On the way home we took a different route.  We took the “High Road” back home.  This road takes you up high in the mountains through the quaint towns of Las Trampas and Truchas.  It was too bad the day was so hazy, because the views from this drive are amazing!

There’s a beautiful historical church in Las Trampas built in 1760.  It has some interesting details.  Plus there was also a House Sparrow pair busily building a nest.

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San Jose de Garcia Church

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This angel was carved above the door.

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House Sparrow

Further down the road is Truchas.  It’s perched high on a mountain with long reaching views.   As we were looking for the church there, we came upon a flock of Evening Grosbeak.  I still didn’t have my birding lens, so was challenged to get a decent pic. They are such beautiful birds.

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Evening Grosbeak

There is a quaint church off a small side road – Our Lady of the Rosary built in 1764.

Our last stop was at Chimayo.  The El Santuario de Chimayo is a National Historic Landmark and is famous for it’s healing holy dirt.  It was founded in 1816 and people pilgrimage here from all over to receive blessing and leave mementos of loved ones.  It would be easy to spend several hours here exploring and enjoying the peaceful setting.

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I loved the murals in this little side sanctuary

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While Dia and I walked around, we left Scarlett in the Jeep.  She was not happy with this decision.  LOL!

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Scarlett left in the Jeep – poor girl…..

We had a fun filled couple of days and saw lots of sights.  But I know I have to plan another trip in the future to see Taos Pueblo.

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Nutria Canyon Hike and the Ice Cave

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.

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Nutria Lake

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!!!

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As we neared the trail head, we came upon a marshy area where Nutria Creek spills out of the canyon.  Just gorgeous!

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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!

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That pack had to weigh 40 pounds!

I told her she had to at least carry the gun.  She gladly accepted that task!

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Dia packing heat!

The trail headed into the narrowing canyon with lush green trees and bushes.  It definitely beckoned us to head inside.

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Entrance to trail – so green!

Almost as soon as we started the trail, there was water.  Scarlett immediately dove in!

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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.

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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.

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Kelly on the very lush trail.

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It was nice and cool in the shade

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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.

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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.

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Gorgeous!

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I loved the reflections in the pond.

I just had to have a photo of me and Scarlett in this beautiful spot.

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My sweet Miss Scarlett

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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.

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It was sooooo tempting to jump in…

Eventually we made it around and down to that pond and she was a happy girl!

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Such a peaceful place

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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.

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Untouched beauty

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Scarlett kept on eye on me as I navigated the big boulders

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Beautiful

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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!

 

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.

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Our sandwich was shaped just like a Bigfoot footprint!

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Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!

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.

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Look at those giant perfectly whole Indian pots!

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Fascinating!

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.

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Bandera Volcano

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.

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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.

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Basalt field

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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.  🙂

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Dia being evil…

At the cave you climb down a steep set of stairs.

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Kelly and Scarlett ready to descend

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Steep stairs

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There it is deep below the surface.

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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…..

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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.

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The colors in the rock ceiling were so beautiful.

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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.

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Mule Deer

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).  🙂

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65 miles to go until home….