Piedras Marcadas (Marked Stone) Petroglyphs Hike

We’ve been getting a lot of nice monsoon rains in Albuquerque. Things have gotten really green for the desert. And it makes the morning temperatures really cool for hiking. I normally don’t hike any of the Petroglyph trails in the summer because they are just too hot even in the early morning.

Since it had really rained good Monday evening, I got up at 5:30 yesterday to drive out to the west mesa. I managed to hit the trail just before sunrise and just before moonset.

Moonset over the Petroglyphs

With the cool morning temps, several hot air balloons were flying over the mesa. At first they were off in the distance. But soon they were right over the Petroglyph trail above me. It’s always fun to see the balloons flying over Albuquerque.

Balloon off in the distance.
Balloons over the petroglyphs
The early sunrise was turning everything golden
This balloon ended up flying right over my head.

To add to the flying balloons, the sky was full of beautiful clouds.

Beautiful cloud formations

Soon the sun was starting to peek over the Sandia Mountains. I love how the clouds cause the rays of the sun to fan out. It just warms my soul.

Sunrise over the Sandia Mountains

I don’t usually like to have sun flares in my photos. But sometimes they are difficult to avoid. But for some reason I really liked the colorful flares in this photo.

Colorful sun flare

Scarlett was having fun running up and down the trail. There were loads of bunny rabbits out in the desert scrub.

Golden Scarlett in the golden morning

I have posted in the past about this trail and have shown many photos of the petroglyphs. This time I tried to find some I have posted before. But I don’t think I succeeded in that endeavor too well.

I think this is a type of Ibis
Looks like a native with his horse
Not sure what this animal drawing was supposed to represent
A pronghorn antelope with what looks like a bird’s tail

My favorite parts of the hike are when you get to the areas where there are loads of petroglyphs. It’s so much fun trying to find them on the many faces of the basalt rocks.

So many images to find!

Another favorite area is at the end of the hike. You come upon a few rocks that are covered in hand prints. It’s amazing to see a hand print from someone over a 2,500 years ago!

Look in the upper left – a little Rock Wren is singing there

I wonder if the people that had 6 fingers were considered special and were made shamans. I’ve noticed in many of the sites I’ve been to all over the southwest, that a lot of the handprints had 6 fingers.

Ancient handprints
6 fingers!

A came across several millipedes in one area. I had never seen them before. It was so much fun trying to capture some images. I even touched one to get it to curl up.

Is it called a millipede because it has a million legs??? LOL!
Symmetry in nature

I was surprised to find there were very few birds around. The morning was eerily bereft of birdsong. I had to search to find a few birds.

Mourning Dove
Curious Rock Wren
Says Phoebe
Black-Chinned Hummingbird
Cassin’s Kingbird
House Finches

I came across a pretty white flower. When I looked inside, I saw a tiny green spider. It was a real challenge getting a photo of him!

Tiny green spider

Scarlett and I had a great morning walk. The trail was beautiful and the air was fresh. Nature was really showing off her best!

Panorama of the Petroglyphs
I loved the layers in this photo

Hondo Travertine Falls

It’s been a few years since I hiked the Hondo Canyon trail. It’s one of the few places you can see water year round in the Sandia Mountains.

I got up early to beat the summer heat. Scarlett was thrilled to be out during the cool morning. I was enjoying the morning as well.

The first part of the hike is fairly easy and I think pretty with the rock wall and trees.

After a short while I could see the caves next to the waterfall.

Caves at the Travertine falls

Soon we arrived at the small travertine waterfall. This time of year the spring flow is very low. This created just a trickle for the falls.

Travertine Falls

I was surprised to see dozens of hummingbirds swarming around the falls. They were drinking and bathing. I was fascinated that they would actually cling to the wall of the waterfall to bathe. I stayed here at the waterfall for a good 30 minutes watching and photographing all the beautiful hummingbirds.

Enjoying the light shower
Looks like an emerald jewel
This one really got in there for a good bath

Sometimes I was lucky enough to have one perch nearby for a few moments.

Black-Chinned Hummingbird
Broad-Tailed Hummingbird
One hummingbird enjoying the last flowers of this shooting star bloom

People often ask me how I bird with Scarlett. Doesn’t she scare the birds away??? She’s so good. She just lays down and sits quietly. And sometimes she point out birds to me by staring at them.

Scarlett patiently waiting for me to photograph the hummingbirds

After an enjoyable 30 minutes, I climbed above the waterfall to where the spring starts. It’s a beautiful, lush area.

Looking down onto the falls
Old juniper tree with wild mustang grapes in the foreground
Just a small trickle right now
A little “house” of sticks

After the spring, the trail really starts to climb. I had forgotten how steep this trail is. Scarlett didn’t seem to notice. She would run ahead and then wait, wondering what was taking me so long.

Scarlett had no trouble with the trail
She’s wants me to hurry up!

After the short but steep climb, the views start to open up. But difficult to see with all the vegetation.

The views started opening up with the climb
Looking south toward I40

One of the parts of the trail I like is climbing up to a small Ponderosa Pine grove. Ponderosa Pine forests are my favorite because of the openness below the canopy. This area is always good for sighting the pygmy nuthatch. I love their piping voices. I heard lots of them today, but sadly couldn’t get a photo.

A young Ponderosa Pine grove

After reaching this point, I decided to turn around. The morning was really starting to warm up fast. When we reached the spring on the way back, Scarlett stretched out in it to cool off. Smart girl! Of course, she loves water and looks for any excuse to get in it.

Scarlett cooling off in the spring water

Back at the waterfall, the hummingbirds had gone quiet but other birds were out and about.

A Hairy Woodpecker way up in the canopy
Very difficult getting a photo of a Virginia’s Warbler feeding in the canopy

It was interesting to see a Lesser Goldfinch land on the wall of the falls and peck a the surface. I figured she must be getting important minerals from the travertine wall.

Lesser Goldfinch

Before leaving the trail, I made Scarlett pose for me on the pretty rock wall. She loves to climb on things and pose for me. I guess she knows it makes me happy.

My pretty girl!
I liked the perspective of this composition

It was fun to get out again and seeing nature’s beauty and forget about all the stressful things in my life right now.

Los Poblanos Open Space

I haven’t written in some time. Life got busy, times got difficult, and now the world is in chaos. I realized recently that I have let myself get into a funk. I am unhappy with how things are right now. I worry how long it will be before we get back to normal. And what will normal be??? I have missed my life before all this craziness began.

I started realizing I needed to do something that will keep me from getting down. So I am going to get out more and explore. I love being behind a camera and see birds and landscapes.

This morning I got up early and drove to Los Poblanos Open Space. With the hot days we’ve had, I figured I needed to be there as close to sunrise as possible.

This morning was gorgeous! Cool and calm, and lots of birdsong.

I had fun taking some scenic photos of the open space while the sun was just rising. I had forgotten how beautiful summer could be in Albuquerque.

I decided to walk the entire perimeter of the open space before going in and bird. This way I could photograph some of the sites during the beautiful dawn light.

Since the Los Poblanos open space is irrigated all summer, it felt so lush and green.

Lots of folks were up early to walk their dogs and enjoy nature. There were a few birders out as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After the wonderful dawn light was past, I changed lenses and went birding. I had been hearing a lot of birdsong during my walk and was anxious to get some photos.

One of the first birds I saw was to my surprise, a Lazuli Bunting! This bird has been my nemesis for years. Never could seem to get a decent photo. Finally! I got to see this bird up close and get a few nice shots. A wonderful way to start off a birding day.

Lazuli Bunting

Lots of Western Kingbirds were out. They seem to chatter constantly. I love that about them. They are not shy!

Western Kingbird

In the top of a tree in the distance, I saw a large bird. I knew it was a raptor, but what kind? Once I finally got closer, I saw it was a Swainson’s Hawk. That was another nice surprise.

Swainson’s Hawk

There were loads of Canada Geese about. They seem to enjoy the flooded fields.

Canada Geese

Near the community garden, a few Greater Roadrunners were enjoying the morning. I never tire of seeing a roadrunner. They are so intelligent and have great personalities. It’s always a treat to see our state’s bird. The roadrunners here at the garden as so used to people. I was able to get within 10 feet of the birds and they just ignored me.

Greater Roadrunner
Greater Roadrunner grooming – I definitely wasn’t bothering him!

Near the end of my walk, I was astonished to see a Barn Owl fly overhead. Wow! I had to track him down and see if I could get a better photo than the quick one I took of him flying over.

I was fortunate that it decided to roost in a visible location right next to the drainage ditch. It had its back to me so was very camouflaged. It took me a few minutes to find him, but was well worth the effort. What a gorgeous sighting!

Barn Owl

I had a wonderful birding hike this morning. It definitely helped get me out of my funk. Join me again soon on my next hike. And I will be posting photos from my Nome, Alaska, trip I took this past June!

Canada Geese heading to the Rio Grande after a morning of feeding.

Southern Utah Photographic Trip – Part 2

After getting all rested up after hiking The Wave the day before, I was ready for my next tour. I hired a tour company to take me to a remote slot canyon that required true 4WD to get there. The road there must have had 2 feet of very soft sand that I would have definitely not felt comfortable to drive.

We finally arrived at Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon. Right off the bat it was just beautiful!

Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon

Scarlett loved it because it was shady and cool and she liked running up ahead and racing back through the narrow slot. I got her to slow down enough for a photo op.

Kelly and Scarlett

The tour guide was amazing. He was very patient and knowledgeable in photographing slot canyons. The best part was that he would help me frame up a shot and then help me with the manual settings to capture the moment with the best possible light.

Sometimes the canyon was very narrow and sometimes it would widen up. I loved how it changed with each curve.

One of my favorite spots of the canyon was photographing this big log. I loved having this focal point in the photo.

Here’s some other photos I took during the tour.

I loved the really narrow areas
The notches in the rock face were hundreds of years ago by Native Americans.

Too soon we reached the end of the slot canyon. A Western Whiptail had fallen into the canyon and was in deep shade. It was so cool in the shade that he was very still. This enabled me to take a few fun photos. Afterwards I picked him up and carried him to a sunny area. He woke up then!!!

Western Whiptail
Beautiful colors and markings

After the tour I realized I had plenty of time to drive to Zion National Park and do a hike for evening photos. I had picked out a hike that is not well known. I wanted to hike a trail that wasn’t crowded by loads of tourists. The trail is called Lower Pine Creek Waterfall Trail. It isn’t listed on any of the park maps so most tourists don’t know it exists.

To get there I had to drive the famous park highway. It’s a very scenic drive with lots of places that make you want to stop for photos.

Western end of the scenic drive with the Virgin River in the foreground.

At one stop there were loads of Big Horn Sheep grazing near the road. I didn’t have my zoom lens with me, but they were so close it didn’t matter!

Big Horn Sheep feeding right below me
I love how they walk a line along the sandstone face of the canyon
Mother and baby
One stopped to check me out

The trail was short but beautiful. It headed into a narrow canyon along Lower Pine Creek. I arrived at the trailhead just before sunset. I was hoping to get some nice golden hour/blue hour photos.

Scarlett was thrilled to have water to play in. We had to cross the creek several times. We also had to scramble over large boulders.

Our first creek crossing and it was so pretty.

There were several nice spots to take photos.

Something about this prickly pear cactus compelled me to take a photo 🙂
This is how rocky the trail was. I love how the sun was still shining on the mountains in the distance.
Beautiful golden hour colors

The trail was supposed to end with a beautiful waterfall. I had seen photos of this waterfall and was really looking forward to photographing it. However, this past winter was a very wet winter and all the creeks in the park were way up.

I got to this huge pond in the creek just before the waterfall. It was at least 6 feet deep. Too deep to cross and keep my camera gear dry! Sadly I had to turn around without seeing the waterfall (which was literally just around the corner from this pond).

End of the trail for me and Scarlett

As I was heading out I heard all of the Bighorn Sheep coming down to the creek for a drink. They were bleating loudly to each other. I looked and looked but never saw a one even though I could hear they were very close.

That hike was a great way to end a fun day!

Southern Utah Photographic Trip – Part 1

In early June I took a trip of a lifetime for a photographer. I have dreamed for years of hiking to and photographing “The Wave” formation in the desert of Utah/Arizona.

In order to hike to “The Wave” formation you have apply to a lottery and hope to win one of 20 tickets available for each day. Based on an average of how many people apply for each day, I calculated that I had a .001% chance of winning a ticket. AND I WON!!!

My hiking date was for Tuesday, June 4. I figured I was pushing it pretty close to the “too” warm weather to hike it comfortably. But based on average temperatures for the area, the high of the day was to be 84 degrees. Not too bad, but hiking on red sandstone was definitely going to be warm.

So I set out for southern Utah on Monday, June 3, and was going to stay for 5 days and see the sights around Kanab, Utah. This town is a cute, quaint town and central to so much desert beauty.

I try to see as many of our country’s National Parks as possible. I believe we should support the preservation of these sites that are so unique to our country. So I planned on stopping at the Hubbell Trading Post National Monument. This is the oldest operating trading post in the Navajo Nation. The trading post was built in 1878 by John Lorenzo Hubbell.

Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona

I couldn’t stay long but had a little time to see the store and the barn next door. The inside of the post had the original wood floors and glass cabinets. Sadly no one was available to show me the Hubbell home. This was a shame because it’s an 11,500 square foot home full of Hubbell Family heirlooms.

The plaque says “Sawyer, May 1901)
Inside the Hubbell Trading Post

I was quickly back on the road. My goal was to get to Kanab before sunset so I could visit the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park for sunset photos.

The sand of the dunes is a beautiful color and the texture is like powder. It was very difficult to walk in. Scarlett was so happy to finally get out of the car and stretch her legs.

One Happy Scarlett!!!

We hiked around for a while to find a good place for sunset photos. Tough climbing up the steep dunes.

Steep dunes to climb

We finally found us a good spot to wait for the sun to reach a nice level for photos. While sitting and enjoying the beautiful evening, Scarlett kept running around and exploring. Getting rid of the pent up energy after sleeping in the car all day.

Having fun in the sand!!!

Finally the sun started setting and the air began to cool. Once this happened all kinds of critters started coming out from the sand. I really liked this translucent grasshopper that popped up right beside me. He was only about 1/4 inch long.

Tiny little sand grasshopper

At last the lighting was perfect to start taking pictures. This one was my favorite.

The sunset set off the color of the sand beautifully

I had thought I could get nice blue hour photos, but the sand just turned dark and didn’t look nice. It would have been nice to stay for milky way photos but I was just too tired to stay up late for that. Plus! My big hike to the Wave was going to start early the next day.

Scarlett and Kelly enjoying the sunset

I decided to hire a tour guide to take me to The Wave. There is no formal trail to take you there which made me nervous to hike by myself. I’m glad I did because I know I would have made a few wrong turns adding a few miles to my overall hike. As it was, I hiked 7 miles that took 5 hours.

I knew it was going to be hot so I got Scarlett a vest that held water and cooled her as it dried. It worked great! I also had her carry a lot of water to keep hydrating it.

We started the hike at 7:30 am. First we followed along the bottom of an arroyo. There were birds singing everywhere but I never saw a one. This was to be the case for my entire trip!

We started our hike in this arroyo

We eventually left the arroyo and started walking along a sandy trail. This led to a large area of sandstone that we had to walk across. This is when the views got so pretty.

Scarlett walking with our guide Larry

The red sandstone was so beautiful. And the formations formed by the wind were stunning.

We had to climb this sandstone rock face

We climbed and skirted along the sandstone formations for a couple of miles.

Look at my Scarlett blazing the trail for us

I really enjoyed this part of the hike. Walking on sandstone is nice because of the firm footing. But eventually the sandstone really started to have an incline to it. It was tough hiking for a good mile.

Hiking along this steep section was tough!

Then we came to another arroyo. We had to climb down the steep sandstone and then back up another steep section. But at this point I could see we were only about 1/4 mile from the wave. That was enough to motivate me!

I loved these yellow flowers! The Wave is straight ahead just below that shady spot on the mountainside.
This was the arroyo I had to cross to get to the Wave
It was a very steep climb up this sandstone face. My guide had to lend a helping hand several times.

Finally I was at The Wave!!!!! You enter from the back of the Wave to the north and the Wave faces south. When I got to the back of the Wave I was happy to see a small puddle of water left from the recent rains in the area. Scarlett was happy too and wanted to jump in and cool off.

I made her wait until I took a few photos. She waited but you could tell she really wanted to play in that water.

Kelly and Scarlett

I finally let Scarlett get in the water. Happy girl!

Having fun!

At first I thought this was the Wave and was thinking, “it sure looked bigger in photos I saw on the Internet…”

My guide must have seen my expression because he laughed and said, ‘This is just the entrance to the Wave!” Yay!

So I walked through that opening to the left behind me. And all I can say is WOW!!! It was stunning! So worth the hike there.

We made it!!!

We stayed about an hour there at the Wave exploring all the nooks and crannies. I couldn’t believe no one else showed up while I was there. It was great having the place to myself for all that time.

There was a cool mini slot canyon next to it. The lighting was perfect when I got there.

Relaxing in the shade of the mini slot
Gorgeous lighting

I hiked above the Wave to get a bigger view. It was so beautiful. The swirling rock was just stunning!

Looking down on the Wave

The views from this area were so pretty. Even though my guide has been here many times, you can tell he still enjoys the views.

My guide Larry taking in the stunning views

I climbed even higher and found a very deep water pool. Scarlett was ecstatic to have so much water to play in.

A nice deep pool reflection
This pool was deep. It was great because it re-hydrated her hiking vest.
You can see the water trail left by Miss Scarlett

Sadly it was time to head back. The day was growing warmer by the minute. My guide offered to take me to another formation but that would have added another 2 hours to my hike. I felt Scarlett and I would do better to just head back now.

On the way back we finally started running into the other hikers that won permits. I couldn’t believe they were just starting their hike at the beginning of the hottest part of the day. I hope they all made it there ok.

Scarlett and I had a wonderful day hiking. We took a 2-hour nap when we got back to the hotel. Then I went out and had a fabulous steak dinner to celebrate. A wonderful way to end the day.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – slot canyons and a river hike in Zion.

My Blog’s 4th Annivery and Scarlett’s 4th Birthday

It’s been awhile since I last posted on my blog. I apologize for that. I have had terrible internet connection for months now. No fun writing and uploading photos when it takes you hours to do anything.

But I finally have fast internet at home so it’s time to start blogging again.

In March I celebrated my blog’s 4th anniversary and Scarlett’s 4th birthday!

To celebrate I decided to take the 4-hour drive to Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area. I have seen photos of this place for years and have always wanted to see it.

I left the house at 5 am so I could get there close to sunrise. On my way I had to stop and take a photo of the moon setting over Cabezon Peak. The blue hour light was beautiful.

Moon setting over Cabezon Peak

It took me quite a while to find the right place to park to see a particular hoodoo in the vast wilderness area. Try as I might there’s really not much information on the internet about this area. So it took turning up and down a few faint dirt roads to find the right spot.

Finally I was positive I was in the right spot. I was searching for the Alien Throne rock formation. It is very unique and difficult to find. Which is probably a good thing because it seems very fragile.

Scarlett and I started walking out into the middle of nowhere heading toward some hoodoos about 3 miles away. The first cluster of hoodoos we came across wasn’t very large but were unique.

Small hoodoos to begin with

We then wandered to the next cluster. It was a little larger. I especially liked one formation that looked like an angel with its wings spread.

Angel rock formation in upper left

I realized we still had further to go. Scarlett ran ahead enjoying the morning hike.

Scarlett running ahead to the main area of hoodoo formations

I finally made it to the main hoodoo area. It was quite large. I enjoyed walking around all the crevices and ravines looking at all the uniquely shaped rocks.

Big piece of petrified wood in the foreground
Beautiful hoodoo sculptures

After about a hour of searching I finally found the Alien Throne. You can see it is quite unique. It’s about 12 feet high and very fragile. It might stand for another 100 years or it might topple in the next 100 days. Sadly by the time I located this rock formation it was almost high noon. So I didn’t get very good photos of this area.

Alien Throne

I wandered around here for about another hour then headed back to the car. On the way back the sun had finally lowered some in the sky and the clouds were becoming more interesting.

The photo conditions were improving

By now I had been hiking for about 4 hours. All of a sudden I see Scarlett crazily digging in the sand and barking. I was wondering what the heck was going on.

Scarlett started barking and digging

I soon realized that she sensed cool wet sand just under the surface. I guess she had gotten pretty warm hiking all that time.

Finally getting down to the wet sand

After she exposed a big enough area, she lay down on that cool wet sand. She was happy as could be even with a nose full of sand. Silly Scarlett!

Silly Scarlett!!!

I finally talked her into continuing on to the car. Next thing I now she’s all barking happily and playing with something pretty big. When I got closer I saw she had a big cow bone. Silly Scarlett indeed!!!

Scarlett was thrilled finding this old cow bone.
She wanted to just stay there and chew on it.
Scarlett thought she was going to take that prize home…after all it was her birthday!

Once back at the car I decided to check out another area of hoodoos nearby. When I first came upon the hoodoos it was breathtaking. Hoodoos as far as the eye can see. Even Scarlett had to stop and take in the view.

Scarlett and I couldn’t believe the view!

I made by way down into the arroyo to explore all the side canyons. By now the sun had lowered in the sky and some clouds had rolled in. It made for some better photography conditions.

Hoodoos everywhere!
Beautiful skies!

With the better lighting the side canyons photographed beautifully!

My pretty girl!

After hiking a couple of hours, Scarlett and I were tired. I had planned to stay until sunset to get some pretty photos of sunset and blue hour. But by this time I had hiked 12 miles. I was tired and it was still 1.5 hours until sunset. I realized I shouldn’t have gotten up early to go out there. I would have been much better off leaving mid-day.

While sitting in my car deciding if I wanted to stay until sunset, I saw a herd of horses coming towards me. Of course, I just had to get out and take photos of them! I love photographing horses. These guys were pretty wild so weren’t too cooperative for photos. But I still enjoyed seeing them.

I loved this photo
Navajo Horses

I finally decided I wasn’t willing to stay for sunset. The sky just didn’t look like it was going to be worth staying. The clouds seems to be getting too overcast.

About an hour into my drive home, I noticed the sun setting and decided to pull off and take a photo.

As I stood there watching the sun set, I realized it was actually going to be a spectacular shot.

Glorious!!!!!

Believe me, by the time the sun set I was was crying about all the wonderful photos I could have gotten at the hoodoos with that beautiful sky in the background. 🙁

The sky was on fire!

But overall Scarlett and I had a fun day exploring. She definitely enjoyed her birthday outing. And she got to sleep the whole way home!


Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge

A couple of weeks ago I had to go to Las Vegas, New Mexico, for work. I decided to take a little time to see what might be at the local refuge. It was a cold, windy day so I wasn’t too hopeful of much being around.

Most of the small birds were hiding from the wind. There were a few Western Meadowlarks about but definitely weren’t interested in getting their picture taken.

Western Meadowlark

With the cold wind, the Canada and Cackling Geese were hiding out in a low-lying pond. You don’t usually see these two species hanging out with each other. While we have difficulty distinguishing the two species, they definitely know who’s who!

Canada and Cackling Geese

In the distance I saw several Northern Harrier’s searching for lunch.

Northern Harrier

What was out and not shy at all were Red-Tailed Hawks. They were all juveniles. Such beautiful birds! And they let me get close and take as many photos as I wanted. What could be better than that!?!

Red-Tailed Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk

This particular hawk had already been successful getting something to eat as you can see dried blood on his feet.

Red-Tailed Hawk

While photographing that hawk, some Morning Dove came in looking all fearful of the hawk nearby.

Mourning Dove

Nothing much else at the refuge. But as I was driving down the country road back to Las Vegas, I came across one of the most beautiful bluebirds I’ve ever seen. His colors were glorious!

Mountain Bluebird

Then to my delight I saw a Ferruginous Hawk on a telephone pole. Such a beautiful bird!

Ferrugnious Hawk
There’s something intimidating about a Ferrugnious Hawk stare

One last bird I saw was a very large Common Raven. Fortunately the lighting was nice and I was able to get a nice photo of this all black bird.

Common Raven

As I was driving home I decided to stop in a Storrie Lake to see what might be about. There really weren’t any birds around. Most of them were out in the middle of the lake where I just couldn’t get a good visual.

Just as I was about to leave, a Rough-Legged Hawk came in and landed on a post right next to my car. How exciting! The daylight was waning, but I had enough light to get a few nice shots. These birds are rarely seen in New Mexico so I was delighted to get such an up close sighting.

Rough-Legged Hawk
Rough-Legged Hawk getting his feathers settled in

All in all I had two great side trips during my busy work day!

Merry Christmas from Albuquerque!

Here’s wishing everyone a very safe and Blessed Christmas!

I recently attended the annual River of Lights held at the Albuquerque Botanical Gardens. Each year they make it bigger and better! I hadn’t been for awhile so it was a real treat.

A New Mexico Christmas!

I went with my friend Dia and we had so much fun. This year they offered a “magic hour” from 5-6. You could purchase tickets for this time and they limited the number of participants so you could get some great photos without the crowds. We loved having the place practically to ourselves. The gardens are big enough that we really didn’t see many people.

Only in New Mexico!

We took a few photos of each other in the beautiful lights. It felt very festive!

Here’s a slideshow of all the fabulous lights we saw. If you are viewing this post on a cell phone, click on the photo below and you can scroll through the images.

Merry Christmas!

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Hiking Plaza Blanca and Birding at Ohkay Owingeh Lakes

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

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

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

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

I love the New Mexico landscape

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

Plaza Blanca Formation

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

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

Snow and shadow have created beautiful textures

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

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

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

Natural arch

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

Window rock showing Plaza Blanca in the distance

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

Can you see Scarlett?

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

The canyon started to narrow

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

Slot canyon

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

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

This is a face of a very happy dog!

One happy Scarlett!!!

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

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

End of the slot canyon

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

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

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

Abiquiu Lake

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

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

Rio Grande below Abiquiu Lake

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

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

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

Jemez Historic Site Luminaria Christmas Celebration

This past weekend was the annual Jemez Historic Site Luminaria  Celebration.  Each December for one night only the historic site lights traditional luminarias. 

Some of you might not know what a luminaria is.  It’s a brown paper bag that has sand placed the bottom.  Then a candle is stuck into the sand and lighted.  The effect is very beautiful and synonymous with the southwest holiday season. 

I went with my friend Valerie.  We had gone once before a few years ago but we had some technical difficulties with our equipment that hindered us from getting any decent photos. 

This year we had much better equipment and a lot more skill too!  The event has gotten more and more popular over the years.  Needless to say, we had to buy a ticket this year and it was a lot more crowded. 

Thankfully long exposure photography eliminates moving objects (e.g. people) in your photo. So what is in person a busy event, in photos looks like no one was there. 

My favorite photo of the evening was this one.  I love the lighting and composition of it.  People were walking around with flashlights, taking photos with flash photography and in general just causing all kinds of light.  Which turned out to not be a bad thing!  They essentially did light painting for me.  🙂

The Mission

Though there was a lot of light around me, I tried getting some shots of the night sky in my photos.  

Night sky over the mission

Here’s a gallery of the other photos I took at the event.  I was pretty pleased with several of my shots.  Just click on one of the images to open a slideshow. 

Merry Christmas everyone!