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….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birding from Melrose Trap to San Angelo, TX

I recently took a trip to the Gulf Coast town of Port Aransas, Texas, to spend a week at the beach with my folks.  I drove a route that would take me past one of the best birding spots in New Mexico for sheltering spring and fall migrants.  This place is called Melrose Trap near Fort Sumner, New Mexico.  The reason it’s so good is because it’s one of the few places in that vast flat area that has a large patch of trees that has been left wild for many many years and there’s not much human presence for miles.  The undergrowth is so thick, it’s difficult to navigate your way around this small forest.  But because of this, the migratory birds absolutely love it.  It is well known for harboring rare sightings during migration due to storms that can send a bird off its normal migration course.

I had noticed on eBird that recently two rare sighting warblers were seen at Melrose Trap:  Swainson’s Warbler and Worm-Eating Warbler.  The Swainson’s normal territory is in the coastal states from Texas to Florida.  The Worm-Eating Warbler has a larger territory but most usually seen from Texas east.

Before getting to Melrose Trap, I stopped in at Fort Sumner and visited Bosque Redondo Park.  It has a little stream-fed pond and is usually a good birding spot.  It was a nice stop for Scarlett and I to stretch our legs after a couple hours of driving. During this visit, I saw the usual Red-Winged Blackbird showing off their striking plumage.

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Red-Winged Blackbird

I saw quite few birds, but nothing was being very cooperative for photos until I spotted a Gray Catbird.  I had only seen this bird once before briefly while visiting my friend Kelly in Atlanta.  So it was wonderful to not only see this bird more closely though briefly, but hear his unusual song.

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Gray Catbird

While driving back to the highway, I saw this cute foal with it’s mother, who had the most glossy coat I think I’ve ever seen on a horse.  Adorable!

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Upon arriving at Melrose Trap, I noticed a couple of fellow birders there from Albuquerque.  We quickly joined forces to hunt for these warblers.  While looking for these birds in the thick vegetation, I enjoyed photographing a few of the more regular sightings for the area.

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Northern Mockingbird

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Western-Wood Pewee

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Western Kingbird

One of the highlights of the day was seeing a pair of American Kestrals nesting in the area.  I happened to catch one of the birds holding breakfast for their babies.

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American Kestral

Soon I heard someone call “Wormer!”  I quickly headed in that direction hoping to see that warbler.  But I missed it.  In the process I gave myself a 6-inch gash along the back of my thigh trying to navigate quickly through the thick mess of broken limbs and undergrowth that litter the floor of this grove.  Ouch!!!  Note to self:  wear long pants next time!

While I was trying not to scream or dance around like an idiot due to the sharp pain of my new wound, I looked down and saw the Swainson’s Warbler foraging on the ground.  As I was taking a photo, I alerted the others of my sighting.  It stayed deep in the shadow but fortunately moved slowly enough that we all got a nice look at the bird.  Lifer!!

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Swainson’s Warbler

Soon after that I saw a blackbird in bush in the distance.  As I took a picture I saw it’s red eye gleam in the rare shaft of sunlight coming through the thick canopy.  Another lifer for me!  A Bronzed Cowbird.  I was lucky enough to get one crappy photo before he disappeared never to be seen again.

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Bronzed Cowbird

I needed to hit the road as I still had hours of driving ahead of the me to get to San Angelo.  Just as I was about to leave, another sighting of the Worm-Eating Warbler was called out.  This time I managed to get over to the area without further injuring myself (whew!) and managed to get a couple photos of this bird way up high in the canopy.  As is usual with warblers, this guy was moving fast!  So even though my photos weren’t very good, I was still thrilled to capture an image of this lifer bird.

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Worm-Eating Warbler

I hated to leave this great birding spot, but knew I must.  As I was getting into my car, I noticed a thrush foraging on the ground not too far away.  When I zoomed in with my camera, I saw it was a Swainson’s Thrush.  Lifer!!! I wasn’t expecting to see this bird, so it was a nice surprise.  Four lifers in 30 minutes!!!  🙂

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Swainson’s Thrush

Upon reviewing my photos when I got in my car, I noticed I was still having issues trying to get a good focus with my new camera.  I was struggling with focusing on a fast-moving bird among leaves, limbs and grasses.  I needed to get this camera figured out!

My next stop was outside Clovis, New Mexico, at a large, beautiful park called Ned Houk Memorial Park.  It has 3 ponds and lots of trees with manicured lawns.  Scarlett enjoyed running and stretching her legs.  We were practically the only ones there that morning.

We were greeted by a Western Meadowlark hopping across the parking lot.  I always have a hard time getting them to show me their beautiful bright yellow breast feathers.  As usual, this bird only showed me his plain back.

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Western Meadowlark

I noticed a large number of Barn Swallows nesting in the area around the shelters over picnic tables.  I managed to get a photo of one with a mouthful of mud for its nest.  🙂

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Barn Swallow

There was one nest that was just low enough that I could hold my phone over my head to get a photo of the inside of the nest.  They had lined their nest with some soft, white duck feathers.  🙂

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Barn Swallow eggs

I knew from a previous visit that Great Horned Owls nested in a large cottonwood in this park.  I figured I was too late to see any babies, but thought I would check the location just in case.  I was rewarded with seeing an adult snoozing in the tree.  He kept a sharp eye on Scarlett.

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Great Horned Owl

My next stop was at Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge.  I had never stopped in here before so I thought I would take the quick detour to see what it was like.  It has several lakes (more like ponds…), but seemed like one lake in particular was popular on eBird.  I saw lots of prairie dogs and one burrowing owl way off in the distance.

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Baby prairie dog – so cute!

Among the short grasses and flowers, I spotted a large flock of Lark Buntings.  I never can seem to get a good photo of these birds.  This is the best I got on this day.

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Lark Bunting male

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Lark Bunting female

When I got to the lake, I noticed a busload of kids had just unloaded.  With all their noise, I figured any birds in the area had moved on.  The only bird I spotted was this Lark Sparrow.

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Lark Sparrow

I didn’t stay long and headed back to the highway.  Just as I was about to turn onto the highway,  I saw several variety of sparrows in the area.  I was thrilled to get this good photo of a Grasshopper Sparrow.  I had seen this bird once before, and the distance was too great for a decent pic.

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Grasshopper Sparrow

My next stop was at Big Spring.  I’ve never stopped here before, so decided to walk around the lake so Scarlett could do her business and stretch her legs.  I’m so glad I stopped in.  It was a beautiful afternoon and the birds were active.  I got a mockingbird holding a worm to take back to the nest.

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Northern Mockingbird

Here are a couple other birds I saw there.

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Muscovy Ducks

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House Sparrow

As I was heading back to the car, I noticed some birds I thought at first were Barn Swallows but they sounded different.  Upon closer inspection, I realized they were Purple Martin babies.  Lifer!!!  I looked for a parent bird, but none showed up while I waited.  But the babies were adorable waiting for their dinner to arrive.

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Purple Martin juvenile

It was dark by the time I made it to San Angelo.  I woke up early to spend some time birding there before I had to hit the road again.  I visited beautiful Spring Creek Park.  It was a lovely morning and birds were EVERYWHERE!!!

My first sighting was of two young Great Horned Owls.  They will soon be in the more adult plumage.

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Great Horned Owl juvenile

I heard a flycatcher nearby.  It looked like an Ash-Throated Flycather, but sounded nothing like one.  After searching my bird app, I realized it was a lifer for me – a Great Crested Flycather.

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A starling was busy feeding its greedy baby.

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European Starling

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European Starling

Across the lake I noticed a huge rookery.  It had all kinds of egrets noisily nesting.  I enjoyed sitting for awhile watching all the activity.

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Rookery with a posturing Great Egret

A spotted a pair of Golden-Fronted Woodpeckers bringing in breakfast for their young.

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Golden-Fronted Woodpeckers

Before leaving, my last sighting was of this Great Blue Heron catching a nice breakfast.

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Great Blue Heron

I was happy to note that I was doing much better with the focus of my new camera.  I figured by the end of 10 straight days of birding, I would be an expert! LOL!

Next post:   Port Aransas, Texas.  So many lifers!!!!  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

52-Week Photo Challenge – Week 3 “Drink”

This past weekend I got to travel with my friend Valerie and Miss Scarlett.  We went to Phoenix to participate in a scrapbooking class. 

The weather was terrible on the northern route. So we took the southern route through Tucson.  We stopped in at a local bar to have a burger and a drink. The burger was delicious but sadly I was driving so I couldn’t enjoy any of the unique margaritas or any of their handcrafted beers. Sigh….

So my picture for the week was of my friend’s drink. Looks delicious. 

Scarlett was wanting to have a drink too so she sidled up to the bar next to Valerie to order. A big thanks to Johan for participating in the photo. 

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 8 Arizona

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

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

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Unique formations along the edge of Monument Valley

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Beautiful scenery

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

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

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

 

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Last selfie of the trip 🙂

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Just beautiful!

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

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

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

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Anasazi Ruins

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

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

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

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Unique stains and another cliff house near the bottom

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

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Big happy smile!  I love my handsome husband!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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