Recently I decided to explore Plaza Blanca near Abiquiu, New Mexico. If any of you have seen the movie Cowboys and Aliens, then you may remember the white rock formation that was in the scenes of the final battle of the movie.
I have always wanted to explore this place, but never seemed to find the time to do so. We’ve gotten some small snows this winter, so I headed out on a day that I thought there might be some snow on the trail to enhance my photos.
It was a beautiful day and there indeed was some snow left on the ground.
When I arrived at the parking area, I had a wonderful view of the southwest landscape showing the many beautiful layers of color. I just love New Mexico landscapes.
I hiked down the trail and just started exploring. There’s not a lot of information about this area or the hike on the internet. At first you see the large, white rock formation that is the namesake of the hike. It is quite large and impressive.
Next to the white formation is a large brown one. I love how it stands alone. Looks like something from the set of a Star Trek show.
I then turned left along this formation and continued upstream in the arroyo. At first it was very wide. This is where the snow made beautiful accents to the landscape.
I came upon several trees in the bottom of the arroyo.
I turned around and love how the sun shone through the branches.
That’s when I noticed the hole in the formation. You can just see it behind the tree. I backtracked to get some photos of this.
I then saw another hole. Of course, I just had to see how creative I could get with the “window” in the rock.
I then went back up the arroyo. I came to a fork and decided to take the right fork as it seemed more interesting. The rock formations were really cool. I had Scarlett jump up on one to get a fun photo. She’s so cute in how she will do whatever I ask.
The canyon started narrowing as I followed it. For some reason I love hiking narrow canyons.
Soon we came across water in the bottom of the canyon. This is when I realized I had stumbled upon a slot canyon. I LOVE SLOT CANYONS!
Scarlett loved it too! She soon started running around and playing. She especially loved coming around the bend and jumping across the water.
This is a face of a very happy dog!
I followed the now very narrow canyon. It was so beautiful. The melting snow created some beautiful natural sculptures.
We continued further up the slot canyon until the end of the line. Well…then end for me. I wasn’t willing to scramble up this obstacle.
We headed back out of the canyon. It was a wonderful place to explore. When I got back to the main formation, I decided to take my time and get a few photos of the area.
After finishing up my hike I decided to go by Abiquiu Lake. I’ve never been to the lake before. I thought there might be wintering birds there. But when I arrived, it was dead quiet.
I did like the reflections in one of the coves of the lake. So I took a few photos there before moving on.
I was really wanting to see some birds on my outing. So I headed to a place that I know I will see birds. I went to Ohkay Owingeh Lakes near Espanola, NM.
On the way to the lakes, I stopped to get a nice photo of the Rio Grande. This stop always offers a beautiful view of the river.
I hiked around the two ponds at the park. There was surprisingly few birds about. But I managed to get a few pics.
It was nice to finish up the day with some nice bird sightings. Scarlett and I had a wonderful day. I highly recommend you visit the Plaza Blanca area.
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.
Purple Adobe Lavender Farm
Kelly enjoying a wonderful lunch
We also enjoyed shopping in the little store.
Shopping at the cafe
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.
Great old western wagon
Storms over Abiquiu Lake
Old hand-hewn log cabin
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. 🙂
Female Osprey on the nest
While I was photographing the female on the nest, the male showed up with lunch.
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!
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.
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!
View of the resort and the San Juan River
Looks fabulous doesn’t it?
Of course, we had ourselves a giant margarita at lunch to kick off the relaxing weekend.
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.
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.
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.
Soakers enjoying the beautiful evening
Here’s some other shots I got touring the pools.
Sunken foot bridge through the warm springs
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.
Gorgeous at night
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.
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.
American Robin with a mouthful of moths
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.
Lower part of Treasure Falls
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lower portion of Silver Fall
Lower portion of Silver Falls
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!” 🙂
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.
When we drove through Chama we spotted a little foal in a pasture along the highway. We just had to stop and say hi.
Dia made new friends fast 🙂
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!
Storms over Abiquiu Lake
All the rain made the Rio Grande turn red.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my lovely weekend at Pagosa Springs! I’m so ready to go back!
Saturday, March 24, was Scarlett’s 3rd birthday! So of course, to celebrate we had to do something new and different!
On Friday my husband’s band played in Lamy, NM. It’s a little town that is basically a small railroad stop. A few of the residents recently set up an historic train car and turned it into a bar. The quarters were tight for the band, but it was a fun experience.
Vintage train car
My handsome husband Tim
Brad the drummer
And Bill is on base
Reverend E and the Vagrants
While watching the band, one of the locals told me about a hike nearby. They told me about a trail that followed the train tracks that led to a trestle bridge over a waterfall. Of course, I just had to go see that! What a great way to celebrate Scarlett’s birthday!
On the way there, I had to drive through Stanley. So I took the time drive down my favorite road there: Valley Irrigation Road. Since it’s between times for migrating birds, it was pretty quiet. But I did see a few local birds that hang out year round.
Northern Flicker female
Curve-Billed Thrasher – the breeze was ruffling his feathers
Look at the talons on this Swainson’s Hawk
I came across a Say’s Phoebe busily looking for bugs.
And he’s off to get a bug!
I saw some cute prairie dogs and some beautiful antelope too.
Prong Horn Antelope – female in the background
The clouds were just beautiful behind this granary. I just love New Mexico skies!
Granary in Stanley.
My next town was Galisteo. I drove past a Red-Tailed Hawk hanging out on the power lines next to the highway. I turned around and managed to get a couple pics before he flew off.
Hmmm…looks like he learned from the Say’s Phoebe
And he’s outta here! Showing off that red tail.
Finally we made it to Lamy. It’s about an hour drive from my home. I followed the directions I was given and eventually came to an area where I couldn’t drive any further. Time to get out and hike!
My beautiful Scarlett ready to go!
We followed along the tracks for a while.
Following the tracks
I love the old glass insulators that used to be used on electric lines.
Old railroad bolt
I heard lots of birds, but only managed to photograph a couple of them.
The terrain started narrowing from a wide valley. I’d never hiked next to a train track before. I kept wondering when a train might come through.
Soon we came to a narrow canyon. If the train came through now, there was nowhere to go! Yikes!
Scarlett is standing where the waterfall is below. You can see there’s nowhere to go if the train comes around the corner.
I looked down below and saw a beautiful sight. A sweet little waterfall with a beautiful pool.
Looking down to the waterfall and pool from the trestle
We checked out both sides of the trestle. A wonderful part of Galisteo Creek. I didn’t know until later that this area is called Apache Canyon Railroad Bridge Historic Site. There’s not a lot of information available about this area, but I did find out the bridge was built in 1908 by American Bridge Company of New York. It is also known as Spider Leg Bridge.
Scarlett looking down wanting to get into that creek!
I just had to get down there. It was steep! I slid down the whole way on my backside! 🙂
Below the bridge
Once at the bottom, I made Scarlett wait before I let her play. She wasn’t happy about this, but I wanted to get some pristine photos before she got water everywhere. 🙂 I think you’ll agree, this is a special little place.
I love this shot!
Finally Scarlett was allowed to play. She had a blast running and splashing!
Doing her favorite thing: running back and forth in shallow water.
Headed for the deeper pool
That look tells me she is enjoying her birthday hike.
The day was in the mid 60s and it was beautiful. Next thing I know, I’ve got my shoes off and enjoying the water.
Soon we had to leave. I have to say it was much easier going up than down. Whew!
One last look before leaving. So beautiful!
Not long after leaving the bridge, I heard a train whistle. Yikes! We got out of there just in time! Luckily for us, the train stopped in Lamy to let the passengers take a break. I was able to walk all the way back to the car before the train went by.
Saturday, March 17, was my blog’s 3rd anniversary. I can’t believe it’s been 3 years since I started writing this blog. It have had a lot of fun. When I started this blog, it was mainly for my family. My husband and I have no family near us, so this was a nice way to share our adventures with them.
But after 3 years, I have gotten to know a lot of other bloggers. Many of them follow this blog and I follow theirs. I think of several of them like they are my extended family in far away places. They have inspired me in many ways.
Of course, to celebrate my 3rd anniversary, I thought I would blog about a hiking location just outside of Albuquerque that most people don’t know about. It’s called the San Ysidro (e-sid-dro) trails. It’s a unique canyon in that almost the entire bottom of the canyon is exposed bedrock. The bedrock has been eroded over time by water so all the rock is smooth. Indentations have been created by the erosion and they hold water very well.
A view down into the canyon. If you look closely, you can see it is all bedrock.
As I descended into the canyon, I heard a lot of birdsong. There is not a lot of water in the New Mexico deserts. So any place that has water year round is a huge draw for birds. Sadly, most of them were nervous of people and I wasn’t able to get photos of them. But there was a curious Juniper Titmouse that let me take a pic.
Once at the bottom of the canyon, I made Scarlett sit in the shade while I photographed all the different pools. It was fun walking around and looking at all the different angles to best show off the water.
The pools work their way down the incline of the canyon. What a fun afternoon walking on the smooth bedrock taking photos.
After taking my photos, I gave Scarlett permission to play. As you know, that dog loves, loves, loves water! At first she ran around jumping over the pools. I think she wasn’t sure how deep they were.
But then she couldn’t resist any further and jumped in.
Most of the pools were shallow, but somehow she managed to pick the deepest pool and plunged in over her head. I think it was a total surprise for her!
But that didn’t deter her for long, soon she was running up and down the slope and jumping in and out of all the pools.
Scarlett showing off her really long tail as she dives into the deep pool.
Now you see why I made her lay down and watch me take photos first LOL! She got water everywhere!
After she had her fill of running around and splashing, we ventured further down the canyon. The crevices in the bedrock got deeper.
These are my favorite shots of my outing.
Of course, I can’t celebrate my 3rd anniversary without some great bird photos. I haven’t been out birding for a little while, but the Western Bluebirds were very cooperative in the park next to my office 🙂 It’s always a good day when you see Bluebirds!!!
Day 2 at the Bisti started out threatening winter weather. The morning was cloudy but calm. The forecast called for 45 mph winds starting around noon. Fortunately, we got a very early start.
After taking photographs in the sunshine the day before, the Bisti looked completely different in overcast weather. The main thing I noticed about taking photos on this day was the lack of shadows. This is actually a good thing in the Bisti. On a sunny day, you have to deal with the sun shining on light rock surfaces with deep shadows. It’s tricky taking a good photo in these conditions. But with the absence of bright light and deep shadows, I was able to get some really good shots with minimal effort.
We hiked a different area of the Bisti on Day 2. We parked several miles north of the main parking area. We still paralleled the main arroyo, but we were on the very northern edge of the Bisti. Lots of hidden treasures on this hike.
There is one hoodoo (shown below) that actually saved the Bisti Badlands from the ruin of coal strip mining. In 1982 author/photographer Michael Richie published an article for Sierra Magazine of the Bisti Badlands. The main photo of his article (much like mine) caught the attention of a nationwide audience. This eventually led to our Congress designating the Bisti Badlands as wilderness area in 1985. Saving this unique and beautiful landscape for generations to enjoy.
The small hoodoo on the left is what saved the Bisti for all of us to enjoy
We headed up a large arroyo and started climbing up the mesa. The views really started opening up.
I loved the red boulders in the foreground with that amazing hoodoo in the background
You could really appreciate the magnitude of this area. Beauty as far as the eye could see.
The further we hiked, the more beautiful the scenery became. I took so many photos. Each one more lovely than the last.
We explored the mesa for awhile enjoying the wondrous views. Since it was just Jim and I, I told him to get his camera out and take photos with me. The conditions were so nice for photography that he couldn’t resist.
Jim and Scarlett enjoying opposite views 🙂
We were slowly heading toward a popular photo destination: the stone wings. These are unique hoodoos. I have wanted to see these formations for a long time. It was so rewarding to get to photograph it myself.
This wing is delicately connecting two hoodoos
The king of wings
From the stone wings we headed to a very colorful location. Along the way I came across this unique hoodoo. It amazes me that a large boulder can delicately balance on top of fragile sands.
The pedestal under this hoodoo was hollow. Amazing!
We then reached an area that was full of short hoodoos known as mushroom hoodoos. Just fabulous!!!
I just loved walking through this maze of mushroom hoodoos
We finally reached the colorful mesa. It was so wondrous. So many colors. It was a stunning landscape. I took a bunch of photos. Here are my favorites from that area.
Such rich, contrasting colors
I loved the black transitioning to yellow
The black turned to yellow and then the yellow turned to red.
We decided to explore this area further. Jim hadn’t gone past this area before, so it was fun for him to explore as well as me and Scarlett. We came across another “wing” formation that I really loved.
I loved this stone wing
We found an arroyo that led to some more hoodoos and other unique formations.
Jim and Scarlett scouting ahead.
We had lunch here and enjoyed the gorgeous views. Scarlett was having so much fun, I couldn’t get her to relax even while we had lunch.
Scarlett is telling me she wants to keep going!
We decided to head to an area that Jim hadn’t explored before. It was supposed to have a formation called a Dodo Bird. Well, we weren’t sure what the Dodo Bird formation was supposed to look like, but we think this was it. Can you see it??
Dodo Bird formation
But! Just around the corner from the Dodo Bird formation was a totally awesome formation. The Twin Bonnets. Just gorgeous!
Jim gives you an idea of the scale of these delicate formations.
We spent some time here photographing this fabulous formation. Scarlett was finally getting tired. She rested while we enjoyed the formations.
Scarlett was finally getting tired.
While at the Twin Bonnets, the bad weather decided to come in all at once. The breeze immediately went from about 5 mph to 45 mph. Yikes! We decided it was time to head back.
Even though the weather conditions were deteriorating, I just couldn’t stop exploring and taking photos as we headed back to the car. We were about 2 miles from the car, so there were still lots of photo opportunities. 🙂
We came across some giant stumps of petrified wood. They were amazing in the amount of detail that was preserved.
Giant petrified wood stumps
Here’s a couple of closeups of the stumps. I was fascinated by the detail that was preserved and the beautiful blue lichen.
Fine roots were perfectly preserved
I loved this blue lichen
All too soon we were almost back to the car. I had a wonderful two days in the Bisti. I hope you enjoyed my photo tour. I can’t wait to go back again some day!
I’ve been working on the photos for this post for several months now. Last November my husband got me a guided photography tour to the Bisti Badlands for my birthday. I used Jim Caffrey who has High Desert Photo Tours. I highly recommend him. He was fun, informative, patient and knowledgeable.
I went for 2 days and hiked about 17 miles total. For those of you not familiar with the Bisti Badlands, it is a vast area of 45,000 acres in the northwest portion of New Mexico. It was established in 1984 as a wilderness area to preserve the desolate beauty of New Mexico geology at its finest.
Because this area is so vast, you could spend days wandering and not really see many of the formations this area is known for. You could also get completely turned around and be in serious trouble if you lose your way. So having a guide like Jim was the best way to see this natural beauty. He has given tours here for years and took me directly to all the cool places with minimal energy expended.
I took over 5,000 photos during my two-day adventure. So you can imagine it took me months to cull and then edit my photos. Because the formations are so unique, I found I took several shots of the same thing. Trying to see if different angles looked better. Whew! It was a job narrowing down my choices. So get ready to see a lot of photos!
So here’s a rundown of Day 1 of my two-day hike in the Bisti Badlands.
Day 1 – a beautiful sunny day with a few wispy clouds. We headed up the main gulch from the designated parking area. Think of the main gulch as your interstate to the badlands. It can get you where you need to go, but there’s nothing interesting on it. You have to venture off the main trail to see the goodies.
This was the first image I took that day. I was in heaven from the first image to the last.
A hoodoo is a harder rock balanced upon the softer rock underneath. The wind and rain erodes the softer rock faster which creates a hoodoo.
We wound our way up and over a hill to an area filled with hoodoos. Jim said this was in a way a nursery of newborn hoodoos. And it was! The hoodoos were young and just being formed from the side of the wash.
You can see how the young hoodoos are just starting to erode out
Such a fascinating landscape!
From there we headed further east paralleling the main wash. We came across an area that had several “wings”. They are called wings because the rock has eroded in such a fashion that it is delicate and looks like an open wing.
Wings in the making.
A hoodoo “wing”. This one was about 2 feet long and only a couple feet off the ground. I had to get way down low to take this pic.
Sadly this wing has succumbed to the ravages of time.
We eventually came across a formation that looked more like adolescents in age. It is interesting that these formations were all grouped in a clump away from anything else. If you didn’t know they were there, you could easily miss them.
Further along we meandered to an area that had some formations that looked like dinosaur bones scattered. These rocks were huge. So beautiful. I had a hard time capturing them in a photo that did them justice.
I loved how the red plant mimicked the red mesa.
I thought these rocks looked like dinosaur bones.
Ok…I think this totally looks like a dragon!!!
We eventually made it to the “egg garden”. This area is called such because the rock formations look like dinosaur eggs. Who knows!?! They just might be!! Sadly, these “eggs” used to be much more beautiful. Over time they had oxidized and gotten a beautiful dark patina to them. But within the last couple of hears, a hail storm had come through and knocked off most of the patina. It will probably take a few hundred more years to get it back. But I still thought they were beautiful.
A broken egg
You can see the patina well in this photo
Heading further east from the egg garden, we came across an area with petrified wood. Now it wasn’t just small pieces here and there. I’m talking entire trees!!!
From here we entered an area that Jim call “hoodoo overload”. They were everywhere! I just loved it! It was easy to spend a lot of time in this area.
This was one of my favorite photos. I love the moodiness of it.
Jim, my guide
It’s almost otherworldly
This one will definitely slide off eventually
Scarlett had a blast! I made her carry all of our water but it didn’t slow her down much!
I loved the red rocks scattered among the formations.
There was more petrified wood in this area too. The wood was preserved so well that you could see all the texture. It looked like wood, not rock. Amazing!
This petrified wood turned into a hoodoo and is slowly breaking into pieces
I found it fascinating that the petrified wood looked like real wood. I had to touch it several times to make sure it truly was rock.
From here we headed back to the car down the main wash. There was one place along the wash that had an interesting formation. The rock had so much iron it looked very rusty.
Window rock formation
I had a great Day 1. Next time Day 2! A whole completely different area and views!
Yesterday I went on my first group hike with a Meetup Group called WOW WE (Way Out West – Westside Explorers). There were 12 of us on this hike including our fearless leader Woody. I took Scarlett along and she had a blast.
We started our hike in the middle of nowhere about a 1.5 hours west of Albuquerque. We drove to the top of a mesa. After hiking about a 1/2 mile, we came to the edge of the mesa. The views were expansive. Just beautiful!
Cabezon Peak on the left
You could see for miles!
Kelly and Scarlett
We hiked along the mesa for about a mile enjoying the beautiful vistas.
Our fearless leader Woody. We would be climbing down from this point to the valley you see below.
Soon we started heading down to the valley below. That’s when the interesting geology started showing up. I loved all the different colors in the layers of the rock.
I loved the shape of this dead tree
We ate lunch in this patch of white rock. Unique shapes were found all around.
We started seeing our first Hoodoos in the white rock area. I love Hoodoos!
Scarlett found a patch of shade. Not much to be found on this hike. LOL!
We left the white rock area and headed into the valley below.
Once in the valley we passed so much interesting geology. Everywhere I looked, the colors and shapes were so beautiful.
You can see the white rock patch in the distance where we had lunch.
Scarlett had a great time exploring all the ups and downs of the trail.
At one point we had to scramble down a boulder filled crevice. It was a little scary but thankfully Woody helped me navigate the most scary part.
Scariest part of the hike. Thankfully Woody helped me navigate this part.
Soon the mesa was towering over us. We wound our way from one interesting rock patch to another.
We came across a patch of small Hoodoos called mushrooms.
The winds create interesting shapes in the rocks. I like the little shape in the lower left that looks like a puppy.
After hiking for about another mile, we came to a very large area of Hoodoos and other interesting rock formations. It was a lot of fun exploring this area. We stayed here quite a while since there was so much to see.
So many Hoodoos and colors!
Interesting layers of the rock
Giant pieces of petrified wood
“Delfido Moralez 1938” inscription
Finally we were on the last leg of the hike. We continued hiking along the bottom of the mesa and connected with the Continental Divide trail. This trail is 1,300 miles long and runs from Mexico up to Canada. For those of you that don’t know what the Continental Divide is:
“A continental divide is a drainage divide on a continent such that the drainage basin on one side of the divide feeds into one ocean or sea and the basin on the other side feeds into a different ocean or sea.”
Thankfully this part of the hike was level and easy. By this point I had hiked over 6 miles. Whew! I think Scarlett had hiked twice that. She loved that there were lots of folks hiking together. She would run way ahead to those in front of me then come running back to me.
Navigating the Continental Divide trail between pastures. You can see the “CD” sign on the post.
The last leg of the hike was the only uphill part of the climb. It was short but fairly steep. I was pretty tired by this point, but made it up fairly well.
The uphill climb to the top of the mesa
Once back on top of the mesa, it was a short 1/2 mile hike back to the car.
Back on top. You can see the Continental Divide trail below that we had just hiked.
Our last grand vista view from the Continental Divide trail before heading back to the cars.
Looking tired LOL!
What a fun hike! In all I hiked 7.5 miles. 🙂 I will definitely be going on more WOW WE hikes in the future. Fun hike and fun people!
Recently my friend Dia and I spent a whole day exploring the area around El Morro near Grants, NM. Our main destination was to find Nutria Canyon. I’ve heard very little about this hike and there is minimal information online. But there was this one tantalizing photo online that drew me back again and again during the winter months. I knew I just had to find this place during the summer when my friend could join me. It’s about 3 hours away from where I live, so I didn’t want to venture out on my own.
We started out early with hopes of getting to the canyon by around 9. Sadly there was a lot of road construction that slowed us down. Then, when we were in the general area, we just didn’t know where to go. Luckily I saw this one dirt road that said Nutria Lake. It was 25 miles sooner on the highway than my online directions were saying. Thankfully, just as we turned onto the road a local came driving by. They were very helpful and told us we were definitely in the right place.
Since the lake was just a little side trip off the road, we headed over to see it. It was a pretty place with a few ducks enjoying the water. We got out to enjoy the view and let Scarlett have a bathroom break.
Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as Scarlett started doing her “business” a pack of reservation dogs came out of nowhere heading straight for us. Dia and I were calling Scarlett to HURRY! HURRY! get in the car. But she just couldn’t finish her “business” quickly enough. We were panicking by this time. Dia ran to drag Scarlett to the car if need be, and I was opening the doors and grabbing the gun! Thankfully Scarlett hurried up and jumped in the car along with us in the nick of time! Whew! Needless to say, we left the lake and headed to our original destination.
The valley we were driving into was very lush. We saw lots of happy horses and other livestock. And there were prairie dogs EVERYWHERE!!!
As we neared the trail head, we came upon a marshy area where Nutria Creek spills out of the canyon. Just gorgeous!
Marsh area near the trail head
Dia had just gotten a new tattoo on her entire back. So she wasn’t able to carry a pack. I told her I would carry everything in my pack (I’d do anything to go see this canyon!). So when we arrived at the trail head, she started loading up my pack. Wow! Heavy!
That pack had to weigh 40 pounds!
I told her she had to at least carry the gun. She gladly accepted that task!
Dia packing heat!
The trail headed into the narrowing canyon with lush green trees and bushes. It definitely beckoned us to head inside.
Entrance to trail – so green!
Almost as soon as we started the trail, there was water. Scarlett immediately dove in!
Scarlett in her happy place!
Thankfully enough people have been on this trail that they have constructed makeshift boardwalks out of old pallets and scrap lumber. They were rickety but effective to walk over the mud.
We started climbing up above the creek and into a lush forest of oaks. There were Yellow Warblers everywhere! I didn’t bring my birding lens, so no bird pics this trip. But so much birdsong in the canopy made me regret my decision to leave that lens at home.
Kelly on the very lush trail.
It was nice and cool in the shade
We eventually met up with the creek again. Then we turned a corner in the canyon and it opened up to a stunning view. Beautiful steep red canyon walls and gorgeous green foliage. We were getting close to where I saw that tantalizing photo so many months ago.
Dia enjoying the view on this perfect seat.
Then there it was! A picturesque pond in this hidden canyon. Stunning! I was so wishing we had found the trail much sooner. By this time it was noon and not the best conditions for photography. But I did my best to capture some images that did the view justice.
I loved the reflections in the pond.
I just had to have a photo of me and Scarlett in this beautiful spot.
My sweet Miss Scarlett
Scarlett and Kelly
The day was warming up quickly. Scarlett was tempted to jump down into that pond. We kept having to tell her no.
It was sooooo tempting to jump in…
Eventually we made it around and down to that pond and she was a happy girl!
Such a peaceful place
Scarlett loved the ponds. Cool and refreshing water to play in.
We hung around here for a while as the trail just became too congested with brush to continue on. I had hoped to explore further but this is just not a well known place. So there isn’t enough foot traffic to keep the trail open.
Scarlett kept on eye on me as I navigated the big boulders
Dia and Kelly
Eventually we headed back to the car. We still had quite a bit of daylight left to the day. So we decided to visit the Ice Cave. I had never been, and Dia said it had been a long while since she had been there.
On the way out, we decided to stop at a few of the abandoned homes in the valley. They are interesting to explore. Just a plethora of things to photograph!
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We had lunch at the Ancient Way Cafe. It’s a tiny little place, but the food is good and the desserts were outstanding! They have quite a baker working there.
Our sandwich was shaped just like a Bigfoot footprint!
The visitor’s center at the ice cave was very interesting. It’s amazing what they found down in that hole. Centuries of history perfectly preserved. I highly recommend you take the time to look around at all the treasures jammed into this small building.
Look at those giant perfectly whole Indian pots!
The Ice Cave offers two hikes. One up to the Bandera Volcano and one down to the ice cave. We hiked the volcano first since we knew we would cool off at the ice cave. 🙂
It was a short and relatively uninteresting hike.
At the top of the trail, Dia collapsed due to lack of a Starbuck’s for hours. I told her to hang in there. We will get her one soon.
Where’s Starbucks????????? she wailed
The Ice Cave was much more interesting. The trail to the cave takes you through the basalt fields left by the volcano. It makes you wonder how anyone found that ice cave so long ago. It had to have been quite the challenge to navigate through that jagged sharp basalt.
A blooming cactus brought beauty to the stark view.
The area was called The Devil’s Playground by early settlers. It’s easy to see why. While hiking to the cave we came across this unique dead juniper. I took a picture of Dia there being her naughty self. She then took my photo and edited it to fit the area’s nickname. 🙂
Dia being evil…
At the cave you climb down a steep set of stairs.
Kelly and Scarlett ready to descend
There it is deep below the surface.
As you descended you could really feel the temperature dropping. It was quite refreshing after a hot climb up the volcano.
I didn’t let Scarlett go all the way to the bottom. You could see what she thought about that…..
The inside of the cave was beautiful. I tried to capture the colors in the cave by setting my camera to a slow shutter speed. Just beautiful.
The colors in the rock ceiling were so beautiful.
The ice had a green cast to it. It made for a lovely contrast with all the colors in the rock formation.
Too soon we were heading home. On the way out we saw a few Mule Deer. One was more curious than the others and had a beautiful shaggy coat.
When we got to Grants, Dia had to have her Starbucks. But she almost had a big tantrum when she realized there wasn’t a Starbucks there. It was hilarious!
The drive home was long due to yet more road construction. But the day’s adventures had been fabulous (even with the lack of Starbuck’s at the end). 🙂
Last weekend I traveled to Carrizozo, New Mexico, to attend a banquet in honor of the winning photographers of the 2016 New Mexico Magazine Photography Contest. The banquet was held at the gallery hosting the winning photographs: Tularosa Basin Gallery of Photography. This is a beautiful gallery of New Mexico Photography by New Mexico Artists. I would love to be an artist hanging in this gallery. Someday maybe 🙂
The Tularosa Basin Gallery is located in a unique old building.
Inside the gallery – lovely displays
My friend Valerie was going to attend with me, but sadly she wasn’t feeling well. But the attendees of the event were all wonderfully gracious and friendly. I had a fabulous time speaking with other fellow winning artists, New Mexico Magazine staff, local attendees and the gallery staff.
The dinner was prepared by a local family and was absolutely delicious! The dinner setting was in the basement of the building. I love how the rooms had been kept as original as possible.
Beautiful setting for dinner
Warren (gallery owner) is standing and the New Mexico Magazine staff are seated.
Proudly standing by my winning photo
I left early in the morning to attend the event last Friday. I wanted to have plenty of the day to explore the area.
I stopped briefly at the Valley of Fires Recreation Area. This a big lava filled valley. There was a one-mile loop trail built out into the lava field. I had a fun time hiking the trail.
Edge of Valley of Fires
Trail through Valley of Fires
You couldn’t walk very easily through this valley without the trail.
Next stop was Three Rivers Petroglyph Site. There are over 21,000 petroglyphs at this site. I hiked about 1.5 miles exploring the rocks along the trail. There were drawings everywhere. It was amazing! The trail starts climbing right away so that you end up walking along the ridge of a hill. This made for a wonderful backdrop in some of my photos. The Sacramento Mountains were beautiful with the snow on them.
I think the main drawing is a roadrunner catching a snake
I love how this drawing is peeking out from the rocks.
Big Horn Sheep, Antelope, and Wolf Print among others
Some of the drawings were quite detailed. Real works of art.