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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Birding in Southeast Arizona – Day 1

I have long wanted to go birding in Southeastern Arizona.  They have a wonderful variety of birds that can’t be found anywhere else in the US.  Many birds are residents of Mexico.  So when my husband suggested we plan a long weekend trip to SE Arizona, I was thrilled!

It takes over 7 hours to get there from our house.  The day we left, a front was blowing through and we were driving with a headwind that was 50 mph+.  Terrible conditions for traveling.  At one point, we lost quite a bit of visibility.

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Dust storm we traveled through on I10.

By the time we got to Tucson, the sun was starting to set.  Thankfully the wind had died down considerably.  We had just enough time to stop in at a beautiful historic mission located just south of Tucson.  It’s called the Mission San Xavier Del Bac and was completed in 1797.  When we arrived, it had just closed for the day.  Too bad….I would have loved to see the inside.  But the outside is just stunning!

The mission is undergoing restoration.  You can see the left side is all new and white.  The right side is now being restored.  They have removed the dome and will restore it at a later time.

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Mission San Xavier Del Bac

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Kelly at the entrance.

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I loved all the many details of the mission.  It was fun to explore.

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Several statues adorn the mission.

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Very detailed flourishes.

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Rustic window decor.

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Rattlesnake door handle

The desert gardens around the building were very nice.

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Beautiful desert gardens

There were a few birds around the mission.  I managed to get a few pics in the low light.

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Northern Cardinal

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Gila Woodpecker

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Cactus Wren

There’s a hill next to the mission with a shrine to Virgin Mary.  It had a gate with interesting lion statues.

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Lion statue on the hill. The clouds look like lion’s breath.

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Grotto of Lourdes

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Virgin Mary

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As we hiked to the top of the hill, the views got more expansive.

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View of the mission

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View looking north toward Tucson

As we were leaving I took this last shot of the property.  I thought it looked like God shining from the heavens.

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52-Week Photo Challenge – Week 5 “Wide Angle”

For me, wide angle usually means vistas.  Long reaching views.  But I thought I would reign  it in a little with this challenge.

I shoot with a Nikon 1 camera that has a really cropped view with a standard lens.  So I have a “wide angle” lens for my mirrorless camera that let’s me shoot a much wider view.  My camera also has some built in features that let you take different kinds of photos.  I used the HDR feature for this photo.  It blended the different exposures nicely.

I hike in Corrales quite often as it is very pretty there along the bosque and I usually don’t run into a lot of people.  I’m one of those folks that happiest if I hike all day and don’t run into a soul.  I like to experience nature all by myself.

Many times I have driven through Corrales and seen a sign about an historical church down a side road.  I have never taken the time to visit this church.  I figured a visit was in order with this week’s challenge.  I was not disappointed.  The church was built in 1868 and has the typical New Mexico church look.

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San Ysidro Church, Corrales, New Mexico

 

For Scarlett, wide angle meant “mom! get me doing something really cool!”  🙂  So she ran up this old deadfall and posed nicely for this week’s photo challenge.

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Miss Scarlett on a “wide angle” deadfall

 

Tour of Tularosa Basin – Part 1 of 2

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 🙂

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The Tularosa Basin Gallery is located in a unique old building. 

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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.

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Beautiful setting for dinner

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Warren (gallery owner) is standing and the New Mexico Magazine staff are seated. 

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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.

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Edge of Valley of Fires

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Trail through Valley of Fires

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You couldn’t walk very easily through this valley without the trail.

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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.

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I think the main drawing is a roadrunner catching a snake

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Stunning views

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Lizard

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I love how this drawing is peeking out from the rocks.

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Big Horn Sheep, Antelope, and Wolf Print among others

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Some of the drawings were quite detailed.  Real works of art.

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This looks like a man in the fetal position.

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I loved this big horn sheep with the arrows in it. Plus you can see the Native American designs on the body of the sheep as we still see them portrayed in their art today.

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Beautiful depiction of the native peoples

It was a cold (20 degrees) and breezy day, but I had a great time and ended it with a wonderful evening at the Gallery.

Part 2 coming soon!

 

52-Week Photo Challenge -Week 1 New Beginnings

I have often thought about joining a WordPress photo challenge, but most I’ve seen seemed to take more time than I was willing to give or covered categories that didn’t interest me.  But recently I became aware of one that was a 52-week challenge.  That seems more doable!

So I’ve decided to participate.  This challenge is hosted by From Moments to Memories.

The first week’s challenge is entitled “New Beginnings”.  Of course the first thing that comes to mind is a sunrise or a flower bud.  But for me it means a new beginning for myself.  I’ve made a new year’s resolution to exercise more this year.  While I have always enjoyed getting out and doing short hikes for birding and exploring, I know I could do better by exercising more often during the week.

So my photo for this week represents my new beginning of getting out hiking more often every week.

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My view of the White Mesa Trail in the Ojito Wilderness near Albuquerque, New Mexico

Revision:  I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before I posted.  But Scarlett does everything with me.  So why not have her included in this challenge.  So here’s Scarlett’s photo for Week 1.  🙂

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Miss Scarlett enjoying the Ojito Wilderness

 

Hike Before the Storm

So I had heard that Thursday night we were supposed to have this terrible cold front blow through with blizzard conditions and road closures.  

So Scarlett and I headed out to go on a long hike and enjoy the decent weather before we got snowed in.  

We hiked a new trail in the Bosque along the Rio Grande at the northern end of Corrales.  Not any birds of any note, but the scenery was beautiful.  The Sandia Mountains were looking dark and moody. 

Here’s Miss Scarlett posing for me with the gloomy mountains in the distance.

I came across this old ladder in a tree. I immediately thought of my fellow blogger Donna in TorC.  She would have a witty title to go with the photo.  

Hmmmmm….the best I could come up with was “fun pastimes” 🙂

Needless to say, but the huge storm was a bust. So lucky for me and Scarlett we will get to hit the trails again this weekend!