Nutria Canyon Hike and the Ice Cave

Recently my friend Dia and I spent a whole day exploring the area around El Morro near Grants, NM.  Our main destination was to find Nutria Canyon.   I’ve heard very little about this hike and there is minimal information online.  But there was this one tantalizing photo online that drew me back again and again during the winter months.  I knew I just had to find this place during the summer when my friend could join me.  It’s about 3 hours away from where I live, so I didn’t want to venture out on my own.

We started out early with hopes of getting to the canyon by around 9.  Sadly there was a lot of road construction that slowed us down.  Then, when we were in the general area, we just didn’t know where to go.  Luckily I saw this one dirt road that said Nutria Lake.  It was 25 miles sooner on the highway than my online directions were saying.   Thankfully, just as we turned onto the road a local came driving by.  They were very helpful and told us we were definitely in the right place.

Since the lake was just a little side trip off the road, we headed over to see it.  It was a pretty place with a few ducks enjoying the water.  We got out to enjoy the view and let Scarlett have a bathroom break.


Nutria Lake

Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as Scarlett started doing her “business” a pack of reservation dogs came out of nowhere heading straight for us.  Dia and I were calling Scarlett to HURRY! HURRY! get in the car.  But she just couldn’t finish her “business” quickly enough.  We were panicking by this time.  Dia ran to drag Scarlett to the car if need be, and I was opening the doors and grabbing the gun! Thankfully Scarlett hurried up and jumped in the car along with us in the nick of time! Whew! Needless to say, we left the lake and headed to our original destination.

The valley we were driving into was very lush.  We saw lots of happy horses and other livestock.  And there were prairie dogs EVERYWHERE!!!


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.


Untouched beauty


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!


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.


Bandera Volcano

At the top of the trail, Dia collapsed due to lack of a Starbuck’s for hours.  I told her to hang in there.  We will get her one soon.


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.


Basalt field


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


Steep stairs


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.


Mule Deer

When we got to Grants, Dia had to have her Starbucks.  But she almost had a big tantrum when she realized there wasn’t a Starbucks there.  It was hilarious!

The drive home was long due to yet more road construction.  But the day’s adventures had been fabulous (even with the lack of Starbuck’s at the end).  🙂


65 miles to go until home….









Silver City Area Adventure

Last October my friend Valerie and I went to Silver City for a long weekend.  I hadn’t been to that area since I was a young girl in the 70s.  I was anxious to see the area again and share it with my friend.  Though Valerie was born and raised in New Mexico, she had never been to the sights around Silver City.


It takes several hours to get to Silver City from Albuquerque.  We got a late start so ended up driving through the mountains in the dark.  The highway from I-25 to Silver City is very windy and steep.  It was quite stressful driving that road at night.  But it was exciting too.  We saw several animals cross in front of us on the road:  a mountain lion, a mule deer, a racoon and a fox!

We stayed at an old historic hotel called the Palace Hotel.  It still had a nice “old timey” feel to it.



Lobby of the Palace Hotel



We were given Room 55.  When we got to the second floor, we had to look twice for the door to our room.  Hmmmmm…..I told Valerie “I think it’s behind that lamp.”  WTF?!\


There’s our room door behind that standing lamp….

We did eventually find another entrance to our room that wasn’t blocked by lamps, chairs and tables.  LOL!

I especially liked the main painting in the lobby.  I told Valerie, “It’s me all over!  Red dress and lipstick, holding a gun and showing lots of cleavage!”


What I would have been like “back in the day”

One of my favorite memories from childhood was hiking the Catwalk Trail in the Gila Wilderness.  This trail consists of suspended walkways above Whitewater Creek.  Several years ago the original catwalk was destroyed due to severe flooding.  But in May of this year, a one-mile portion of the trail had been restored and opened up to the public.

So on an early October morning, we headed to the trail head.  The weather was perfect:  cool but sunny.  The shadows were long which made for great photography.  Here are some pics from the hike.


What a unique hike



Suspended above Whitewater Creek




The walkway criss-crossed so we could see the walkway ahead



Valerie enjoying the hike



The walkway eventually ends and you walk down to the creek.



The bridge ahead was the end of the trail.  The entire trail has not been cleaned up from the flood.  I hope they eventually open the entire trail again.



Valerie and Kelly having fun!

After hiking the catwalk, we tried hiking another trail nearby, but the creek was too high.  There were several river crossings on the hike and no bridges available.  So we decided to drive up to Mogollon.  It’s a great historic town high in the mountains.  Sadly, the road to Mogollon was closed so we had to cancel that idea as well.  Drat!

So instead we headed back to Silver City to walk around town. On the way back we stopped to feed horses and photograph some rusty tractors.  Valerie got a pic of me in my new Jeep Wrangler!  I love my new vehicle!


Those horses loved that apple Valerie fed them


Cool old tractors


Me in my brand new Jeep!

We browsed shopfronts and took some photos around town.  Eventually we ended up on a path that follows a creek that runs right behind Main Street.  Funny thing is, the creek was actually Main Street before a giant flood took out the street and many of the buildings along it in 1895.  So Main Street was moved over and the ditch created by the flood became permanent and is still in use today.


We found a way down to the creek!


I loved all the pools in among the limestone bedrock


Stream flowing from pool to pool

The next day we headed out to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  Even though my family visited the Gila National Forest many times when I was young, we never went to the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  So I was looking forward to seeing it as much as Valerie.  The road there was very windy and steep.   It was difficult driving.  But what made it worse was we were having to drive around and among a bunch of racing bicyclists.  Stressful!  So many blind curves with no shoulder.


Windy road to the Gila Cliff Dwellings

I was tempted by this car for sale… LOL!  After all, it only needs a battery!


It was worth getting there even though it took over an hour to drive there from Silver City.  The hike to the dwellings was just beautiful.  We both said we could hike trails like this all day.  It was picturesque hiking in a forest, along a creek and scenic bridge crossings.


Bridge over the Gila River


A beautiful trail


We loved all the bridges









Eventually we climbed up to the dwellings.  They are small, but they allow you to walk inside the rooms and get a feel for what it must have been like to live there so long ago.


Gila Cliff Dwellings


What a beautiful view!




While up at the top, a thunderstorm had moved in.  We had to hurry back down the trail to safety.  I’m glad we took our time going up and enjoyed the trail sights along the way.

On the rive back we stopped at one of the scenic pullouts to appreciate the stormy sky and wide vistas.



Panorama of the scenic view

I turned one photo into black and white.  It made me think of the artist Ansel Adams.


On the drive back to Silver City, we were soooo hungry!  We talked about what we wanted for dinner.  We both agreed fairly easily…Pizza and Wine!!!!  The restaurants in the downtown area were very busy so it took a while to find a place to eat.  But we eventually sat down to dinner and we even managed to find that pizza and wine!


Delicious pizza!  It hit the spot!

On our last day in the area, we visited City of Rocks State Park.  It’s a cool piece of geology just stuck out in the middle of nowhere.  It’s a great place to explore all the nooks and crannies formed by erosion.


It was fun exploring for a few hours.


Panorama of the park

We had fun climbing the rocks to get fun photos of each other.



We go to great lengths to get the “perfect” photo



Some of the areas were scary to navigate on foot! LOL!


My beautiful friend! 

Going home we got to see that beautiful drive coming in.  The views were amazing at the top of Emory Pass.


View from the top of Emory Pass

I hope you enjoyed reading about our adventures in Silver City!  It was a fabulous weekend!

20th Anniversary Trip – Day 6 Nevada & Utah

This day was one of the funnest days of our trip.  We covered a lot of miles and saw some stunning scenery.

We left Ely, NV, and started heading to Utah.  Before we left the area, I had Tim stop again at the Comins Lake.  It was such a great place for birding.

This morning I saw completely different birds than I had seen the evening before.  Which I loved!


Sagebrush Sparrow


Solitary Sandpiper


Eared Grebe


Yellow-Headed Blackbird


Sage Thrasher


Barn Swallows


Vesper Sparrow


Brewer’s Sparrow

After birding for a short while, a Great Blue Heron came flying in.  I love these elegant birds.


Great Blue Heron

He wasn’t too sure about me walking along the shoreline.  So he flew to the other side of the lake.  I captured a few photos in flight.  When I was editing the photos, I saw an elusive warbler flying in the photos as well.  Looked like a Yellow Warbler – so bright! Wish I could have gotten some good photos of that warbler.


Great Blue Heron – see that bright yellow warbler!!!

I also saw a tiny bird feeding along the edge of the reeds.  It’s obviously a juvenile.  But I had a heck of a time identifying this bird.  My conclusion is that it’s a juvenile Virginia Rail.  But if someone knows the correct identification of this bird, I’d appreciate knowing.


Juvenile Virginia Rail

Too soon we were on our way.  I never want to leave a good birding spot!  We started heading further south.  One of our planned stops on this trip was Cathedral Gorge State Park.  It’s a small park comprising about 1600 acres, but just beautiful!  We had a good time exploring all the small slots formed in the rocks.  I could easily spend a day investigating all the cracks and crevices. Very unique!


Cathedral Gorge State Park


Unique geology



Tim exploring



Just beautiful!


Interesting holes and cracks



Kelly exploring the slots


View from inside the slot canyon


My handsome husband!


Kelly inside the deepest slot canyon

Tim spotted a lizard among the formation.  Yay!


Plateau Fence Lizard

We next headed east toward Utah.  We headed up a scenic highway called Cedar Canyon that was truly breathtaking at every turn.  We climbed very quickly with some steep grades at times.  One of the most scenic highways I had ever seen.


River along Highway 14 Cedar Canyon


Gorgeous rock formations along the scenic drive

We soon had gone from 4,800 foot elevation at Cathedral Gorge to 10,000 feet.   The views were so expansive!


Views from 10,000 feet

I saw on the map that there was a National Park just ahead of us:  Cedar Breaks National Park.  Of course we just had to stop in.  And I am so glad we did.  Just breathtaking!!!


Cedar Breaks National Park





View from 10,000 feet


From 10,000 feet the bottom of the canyon is 2000 feet below

The views looking down into that canyon were breathtaking.  I would have loved to see what the views looked like from down in the bottom of that canyon.

While there I saw (and heard!) and Clark’s Nutcracker.  These birds are big and loud.  Sadly it flew away before I could get a photo.

Further up the road was another turnoff that showed a different view of the park.


Tim and Kelly

At the parking area of Cedar Breaks there were lots of wildflowers with butterflies busily feeding.  Along with the familiar butterflies, I actually got a new one!


Hoary Comma


Mourning Cloak


Milbert’s Tortoiseshell – a new butterfly for me!

Heading down the other side of the mountain, we saw a beautiful lake, mountain meadows and small ponds.


Red-Tailed Hawk


Sheep grazing in a high mountain meadow


Navajo Lake – a high mountain lake formed by lava



American Avocets


Mallard female

We stopped at one pond that was full of ducks.  As we watched the ducks an osprey flew over looking for some lunch.  He circled a couple times but didn’t see anything worth trying for and flew away.



We finally made it off that mountain and to our destination of the Zion Mountain Ranch.  It’s an actual working buffalo ranch.  The buffalo were there but way far away.  I had hopes of seeing them up close before we left.

We stayed in a private cabin overlooking the horse pasture.  A very peaceful setting.


Our cabin at Zion Mountain Ranch



Tomorrow we see Zion!
P.S.  I just learned this was my 100th post!!! 🙂





20th Anniversary Trip – Day 3 Nevada

We finally made it to Winnemucca, Nevada.  You’re probably scratching your head asking, “Where are they? Why did they go there? How do you pronounce that?!”  All valid questions!  LOL!  We got that a lot when we would tell friends and family where we were going on our trip.

As you know, my passions are birding and photography.  I’m happiest outdoors with camera in hand. Well, my husband is happiest when he has his metal detector in his hand.  He’s a geologist and loves to hunt for gold.  There aren’t too many hobbies out there that actually make money instead of spending it.  🙂

Tim had read about a well known area in northern Nevada that was known for shallow placer gold.  It’s called Rye Patch.  And it’s located about 40 miles west of Winnemucca, Nevada.  It was discovered in the 1970s and has been a popular destination for gold hunters ever since.

So we got up early and drove out to Rye Patch State Recreation Area, a man-made lake which is fed by the Humboldt River.  We crossed the dam and headed to the Majuba Mountain range.  The gold is reported to be at the base of these mountains.


I wasn’t sure what to expect the countryside to be like when we were planning this trip.  I had imagined beautiful forested mountains with a peaceful lake.  It definitely wasn’t that.
The terrain was actually high plains.  There wasn’t one cactus that I could see, which was great!  It made for much easier walking through the grasses.  There wasn’t one tree in sight.


Rye Patch gold area in the foreground with Rye Patch lake in the background


Golden grasslands for miles

When we finally parked after driving for 15 miles or so on dirt roads, Tim noticed right away we had gotten a punctured tire.  Drat! But fortunately, he had a mini compressor in the truck and we were able to air up the tire which would give us time to drive the 30 miles to a little town near Rye Patch to get it fixed.  So with no worries, we each started exploring the area.


So glad Tim had this compressor or he would have had to change a tire!

There weren’t any trees, but I did notice a thick stand of bushes about 100 feet away.  So I headed in that direction hoping to find some birds.  I figured any birds in the area would be drawn to those bushes.  It turned out to be a good idea.  I saw most of my birds in this small area.  I was excited to see a warbler as my first bird sighting of the day.


Orange-Crowned Warbler

The most prolific bird of the day was Sagebrush Sparrows.  They were everywhere and didn’t limit themselves to the little area of bushes.  They migrate to New Mexico for the winter and are not easy to find there.  So I was thrilled to have so many subjects to see.


Sagebrush Sparrow


Here are the other birds I saw in that little area of bushes.  Birds were scarce!


Brewer’s Sparrow


Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

My friend Valerie texted me to see what I was up to that day.  So I took this picture just for her.  LOL!  She tells me I take photos of every rusted thing I see.  😉


Rusty soda can circa 1970s  😉

I had thought I would see lots of lizards.  Back home in New Mexico I usually see lizards often when I’m out hiking.  But not so in this part of the country.  I had gone most of the day without seeing one lizard.  Then finally I spotted a tiny lizard sunning himself on a rock.  I slowly crept closer to get a photo.


Western Fence Lizard

I soon realized he was very tame and didn’t seem to mind me coming closer.  Before I knew it, I was 3 feet away taking photos of all angles.  🙂  At one point I reached out a finger to see if he would move.  And he licked it!   LOL!!


Western Fence Lizard

I noticed some movement on the ground while photographing this lizard.  When I turned, I saw there was a sparrow foraging on the ground.  So I quickly got a pic.


Savannah Sparrow

While I was entertaining myself with birds and lizards, Tim was busy looking for gold.  I could tell he had covered a lot of ground.


Tim working hard looking for gold


At one point, Tim got my attention and pointed to the sky.  There we saw a Red-Tailed Hawk looking for brunch.


Red-Tailed Hawk

I decided to head back to the truck for a cold drink.  The day had gotten warm at 90 degrees.  As I neared the truck, I saw a giant lizard run under a bush.  I quickly forgot about that drink.  I wanted to see this lizard! I stayed still and watched the opening at the base of the bush where I saw it run in.  Soon I was rewarded with my patience!  He started creeping out of his lair.  This big guy was easily 12 inches long if not longer.


Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard coming out of his lair

I guess he decided I wasn’t a threat and quickly started hunting.  I was able to take quite a few photos of this beautiful lizard.  A real treat!


Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard


Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard

Then I heard Tim calling me.  He wanted me to video him digging up a target.  Now I always tell him every time he asks me to video him, the target usually is trash.  It’s like I jinx it.


Narrowing down the location of the target. 


Using tweezers to scrape in the cracks of bedrock.


He then uses a straw (or in this case a dismantled ball-point pen) to blow out the dirt and hopefully reveal the gold in a crack

Sure enough, this target was trash…a .22 bullet.  Sigh….  But in the end he did find a nugget.  And what he thought might be a silver nugget.  But when he was able to clean it up, he decided it was a piece of lead.


While exploring the area, I came across a lone blooming bush.  Most of the area’s bushes were done blooming.  So this was a very popular bush with the bees and wasps.


I like the green eyes


A busy bee 🙂



While photographing the bees, I noticed this spider lair.  The opening to the hole was about an inch in diameter.  That’s a big spider!  I caught a few bugs and threw them in the web in hopes of getting a photo of this spider.  But he was just too fast! I didn’t think to video him at the time.  Ah well….


Funnel Web Spider lair

After a full day of fun, we aired up the tire and headed to Lovelock, NV, to get the tire repaired and get a bite to eat.  We stopped briefly at the campground along the Humboldt River to see what birds might be about.  We couldn’t stay long as the tire was losing air!

But I did get a few more bird photos.  🙂


A hot Horned Lark


Great Egret


Snowy Egrets


Snowy Egret

As we entered Lovelock Tim spotted a nice group of Wild Turkeys in a farm field but I didn’t have my camera ready and missed the shot.  Dang!

We still had some daylight left after visiting Lovelock.  So we decided to explore the area some before heading back to Winnemucca.  I had seen on the map there were Tufa Formations nearby.  We didn’t know what these were, so we went looking for them.  We drove, and drove, and drove and climbed up a mountain…but no Tufa Formations.  We were on a very curvy dirt road.  At one point we had a horrifying experience!  A Sheriff’s SUV came flying around a curve  going about 60 mph and saw us at the last minute.  He slammed on the breaks and turned sideways sliding towards us, dirt flying, and me screaming! Thankfully he narrowly missed us and just kept on going.   He didn’t have any lights or sirens going, so we had not idea he was heading towards us at such a breakneck speed.  I’m so glad we escaped what could have been a horrible accident.

Along this dirt road, Tim spotted a cool rock formation.  It’s handy having a geologist in the car.  🙂


Columnar Jointing

Soon we were at the top of the mountain.  Tim asked me, “Where are these Tofu formations supposed to be?”   I laughed and said it’s “Tufa” and I think we passed them.


View from the top of the mountain outside of Lovelock, NV

So we headed back down the mountain, with one eye looking out for that crazy sheriff.  When we got back to the highway, we realized the Tufa Formations were right there.  Pretty nondescript and not worth hiking to them to get a photo.  But during our day we had seen a squirrel that moved as fast as lightening.  Now I had tried to get a photo of this speedy guy, but he was just too quick! We saw another one of these squirrels as were we heading back to the highway.  This one ran lickety split to a far hill and stopped briefly.  Long enough to get a quick pic.  Then off in a flash he was gone!


Harris’s Antelope Squirrel – it holds it’s tail over its back to shade itself.

We then drove to the Humboldt Mountain range looking for an old ghost town called Willow Creek.  We didn’t find Willow Creek but we did find Star City.



Road to Star City

It was a beautiful drive up the mountain on a skinny dirt road following a stream.  Most of the time you couldn’t see the stream as it was hidden by thick vegetation.  But at the base of the mountain, the stream was dammed and rerouted.  We passed a few folks camping by the stream.


Small dam on the way to Star City


We didn’t see but a few crumbling foundations at the site of Star City.  We were running out of daylight to explore for more ruins.  But the drive was beautiful and the views were grand.


View from Star City

By now it was almost dark, so time to head home.  We were treated to a beautiful sunset.


Beginning of a beautiful sunset

Stay tuned for Day 4!












Summer Hiking in the Sandias

I’ve been hiking a lot lately trying to get in better shape before winter starts.  And also for an upcoming trip in September for my 20th anniversary.  So I’ve been putting in lots of miles over the past several weeks.  Scarlett loves it of course.

Yesterday I didn’t really want to go hiking.  But Scarlett all but pulled me out of my chair, handed me my keys and shoved me  into the car! I’m glad I went though because it was perfect hiking weather.

As you can imagine, summers in New Mexico can be very hot.  So I do a lot of hiking way up high in the mountains where the temperature is much cooler.  The trails are very pretty this summer with lush grasses and wildflowers.

One of the hikes I really enjoy is a series of trails that take you to the top of the Sandias where there’s a huge meadow and a stone building called the Kiwanis Cabin.  I visited the cabin last summer with Scarlett but hadn’t been back until the last few weeks.


Panorama of the views from Kiwanis cabin


Panorama of the Kiwanis meadow


Mule Deer with antlers in velvet

Of course, I had to make Scarlett pose at the cabin 🙂


Miss Scarlett posing for me at the cabin

There’s a sign at the cabin with an official letter from the forest service telling you not to climb on the cabin’s roof or you could be fined and/or jailed.  I love the comment someone wrote on this notice.


The views from the Kiwanis Cabin are beautiful.  You can see for miles and miles.  This summer has been very humid for us so the views have been limited some.  But still great nonetheless.


View looking south from Kiwanis meadow


Panorama of southern view from Kiwanis meadow

One of the days I was hiking, the clouds were hanging right at the top of the mountain.  It made for a pretty photo.  And really cooled things off!


Hiking in the clouds

Scarlett loves hiking. She loves to explore, run, sniff everything! She’s a great hiking companion.


Sweet Scarlett posing for me again.  🙂


I love this photo of Scarlett.  The ground was wet so she left footprints on the rocks.

As you know by now, Scarlett loves water.  There’s not much water to be had in the Sandias this time of year.  But Scarlett still managed to have some fun in a water puddle left by the summer monsoons.


Scarlett loves water!

The birds have been very quiet this late summer.  The raising of their young is just about finished and molting is starting.  Sightings are much more difficult this time of year.  But I still managed to see several variety of birds over the last few weeks.


Baby Western Bluebird


Lesser Goldfinch


Plumbeous Vireo


Western Tanager – female


Western Bluebird


I believe this is a Nashville Warbler


A very scrappy looking Yellow-Rumped Warbler


Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

One day I hiked over to the tram for a little change of scenery.  Scarlett and I met up with some sweet girls visiting here with their church group.  They loved Scarlett.


Tram leaving the station


Scarlett’s newest fan club members (Hanna, Karli and Lexi)

From the tram, you can see the Kiwanis cabin in the distance at the top of the peak.


Kiwanis Cabin as seen from the tram (zoomed in of course!)

This year was a really good year for the House Wrens.  I’ve seen lots of babies while hiking.  They are just adorable.  And they haven’t learned to fear people yet, letting me get close for some nice photos.


A pair of baby House Wrens.  They were waiting at the top of a bush for a parent to come by and feed them.


This baby House Wren let me get really close.

Not very many butterflies were out on my hikes.  But I did manage to get a few.  There were lots of bees visiting the wildflowers.  I found one bee that was wet and cold and just sitting on a flower trying to warm up.  I took advantage of this to get a really close up pic.


California Sister


Field Crescent


Painted Lady


Cold, wet bee

Some of the days I hiked over to the travertine falls.  The falls are only a trickle this time of year, but still nice.


Travertine Falls with wild mint and grapes growing at the base.

I’ve noticed a lot of trail maintenance this summer.  It’s nice that people volunteer their time to keep the trails cleared of fallen trees and overgrown brush.  Someone got really creative on the South Crest Trail near the falls.


Natural art on the South Crest Trail

Scarlett posed for me at the falls.  Such a good girl!


Miss Scarlett

Around this time of year is when you are more likely to see baby horned toads.  I love these little guys.  I usually can’t resist picking them up.  This also shows you how tiny they are!


Adult horned toad


Baby horned toad


This is the same baby.  You can see it’s tiny!

Lots of lizards on the trails too!


Of course, no visit to the Sandia Mountains in the summer would be complete without a trip to Capulin Spring.  But I have to say, I’m very disappointed in the recent work done at the spring.  I had been told they were going to clean up the area around the spring.  What happened in realty was way worse.  It was almost complete devastation of the surrounding area.  I met up with a woman there that had come upon the workers as they were “cleaning up” and she managed to stop the complete devastation of the area.  What is more disturbing, is that this was organized by the local Audubon chapter.

There were a couple small trees that people sat under for shade and concealment that have been completely removed.  Now when you sit to watch the birds you are completely exposed to the sun and to the birds.

There were two bushy trees to the right of the log that the birds loved.  They would land there to be sure it was safe to visit the spring and also to sit in and groom after they bathed.  One of the trees is a maple.  We have very few maples in this state.  The woman I spoke to stopped them from completely taking out these trees.  But they are half gone  now.

They had completely taken out the bushes on the way to the spring.  This woman asked the workers if they had checked the bushes for nesting House Wrens before they chopped them down.  They said no.  The college students helping the workers were horrified when they realized they had chopped down a bush with baby wrens in a nest.

They took out several big trees too.  The wood hasn’t been hauled off.  The debris from chopping down the beautiful bushes is still piled up.   The place is a disaster.  And the birds are very skittish now.  They are very hesitant to come to the spring when you are sitting there plain as day.  Even the common Dark-Eyed Juncos are spooked.

I can only imagine how much worse it could have been if that woman hadn’t gotten there when she did.  She said she had a big fight with them and made them stop.  One of the guys said about one of the workers…

“He just loves to clean up stuff.”  The woman replied that this wasn’t a back yard but a wild forest.  Go clean up somewhere else!

I know there’s more work planned for next summer.  I can only hope that future work there is considered and supervised much more carefully.  Ultimately this spring is for the birds and wildlife of the area.  We are just visitors there.

OK, I will get off my soapbox for now.  Here are some photos of the birds I saw at the spring.  It’s always a treat to see warblers!


Yellow-Rumped Warbler


Virginia’s Warbler


Broad-Tailed Hummingbird


Band-Tailed Pigeons


Orange-Crowned Warbler


Yell0w-Rumped Warblers having fun!


Dark-Eyed Junco – this one had a white tail.


Mountain Chickadee


Yellow-Rumped Warbler


MacGillivray’s Warbler

I can never resist photographing the little chipmunks at the spring.  They are always so adorable!


While driving to the trail head the other day, I saw a Yellow Warbler fly by and land in a juniper tree.  I immediately turned around and parked for some photos.  He was busy hunting for insects but I managed to get a couple of pics.  I also saw a flock of Bushtits feeding in the same tree.  Bonus!


Yellow Warbler


Yellow Warbler



Until next time!!!


Scarlett says “See you again soon!”









San Pedro Parks Hike

Last Thursday my friend Dia and I went on a hike I’ve been wanting to do for some time.  I didn’t want to go alone, because the location was about 1.5 hours away from home and in a “no cell” area.

The drive to the trail was very pretty.  We stopped along the way to admire the beautiful countryside.


Interesting rock formations along the road.


These horses have a great pasture!

There were lots of thistle and shooting star blooming alongside the road.  Bees and butterflies were enjoying the blooms.


Honey bees


Great Spangled Fritillary


Black Swallowtail

This trail is located at over 9,000 feet in elevation.  It consists of a lake and several streams cutting through high meadows.  Unfortunately, this summer has been very dry so the water level in the lake was very low and the streams were dry.


San Gregorio Lake

It’s been very hot this July.  Even at over 9,000 feet in elevation, it was in the mid 80s.  Scarlett was happy to see water to cool off.


When Scarlett ran out of the water, she went right by Dia and covered her in mud splatters.  Bad Scarlett!! 🙂


Dia covered in mud splatter – bad Scarlett

The were some neat rock formations near the lake.  So of course, we had to do some photo ops!


Miss Scarlett loves climbing rocks now.


Me and Scarlett


Dia found her throne.

There weren’t very many birds out at this time.  But Dia spotted a Hairy Woodpecker by the lake.


Hairy Woodpecker

When we entered the forest on the far side of the lake, the temperature dropped in the shade.   It was very pleasant to walk then.

Soon we came across some trees that had fallen over and their root balls exposed.  The size of these root balls was astounding!


At some points in the trail, we had to walk around the downed trees.  Of course, Dia is so small, she just went under.  LOL!


After hiking awhile, we came to an area full of flowers.  There were lots of butterflies enjoying the flowers.  I couldn’t resist taking a ton of photos of them.  I had a hard time identifying them.  So if anyone see’s an incorrect name, I’d love to know.


Blue Copper


Dainty Sulpher


Margined Mustard White


Purplish Copper


Purplish Copper


Small Wood Nymph


Southwestern Atlantis Fritillary


Southwestern Atlantis Fritillary

Out of all the orange flowers, I spotted one flower that stood out.  I loved the colors of this bloom.


We eventually came to a signpost at a large meadow.  We explored a ways along the Rio de Las Vacas trail.  We tried to stop and have a snack in the deep shade, but the flies decided we were lunch!


We headed back to the meadow and decided to see where the Damian trail led.  It didn’t go far at all or we lost track of the trail.  I clicked a couple of photos on this trail.  Now I always think of the Damian Omen movies when I see the name Damian.  When I was going back through my photos, I realized the cloud formation looked like a devil face….creepy!



Damian Trail…with creepy cloud looking down on us


Can you see the creepy face?

The day was growing late, so we decided to head back to the car.  By now we’ve hiked over 3 miles.


The large meadows were very pretty.


We turned around at this meadow.

I saw several house wrens, but they just wouldn’t cooperate for a photo.  But I did see this young Lincoln’s Sparrow.  He was very curious of us, but wouldn’t come too far out into the open.


Juvenile Lincoln’s Sparrow

On the way back, I saw this beautiful moth on a flower.  When I looked up the name of the moth, I just had to laugh.  Who comes up with this stuff?!?  The black and white really stood out.  There were also a few more butterfly species about.


Police Car Moth


Police Car Moth


Freija Fritillary


Weidemeyer’s Admiral

About a mile from the car, Dia spotted a rock that she swore was petrified wood.  I have my doubts but she was convinced.  She carried that rock the whole mile back to the car.


Dia with her “petrified wood” rock

We finally made it back to the car.  Since there was no cell service, I couldn’t use the Map my Hike app.  But my polar fitness band let me know how far I’d gone.  🙂



Driving back down Hwy 126, we noticed a lot of birds hanging out on the barbed wire.  Of course, I just had to stop to take some pictures.  We saw lots of Western Tanagers, Black-Headed Grosbeaks and Bluebirds.  But all of them were camera shy. Here’s the pictures we were able to get.


Western Tanager Male


Juvenile Western Tanager


I believe this is a Vesper Sparrow Juvenile


Juvenile Western Tanager

We decided to take the road north through Los Alamos to head back home. The biggest reason for this was to visit a Starbucks.  Dia was pining for a Starbucks drink.

We drove by the Valle Caldera preserve.   The caldera basin was just beautiful.


Valle Caldera

We had a fun but very long day.  We can’t wait for the next adventure!









Lower Rio en Medio

Last Tuesday my friend Dia and I hiked the Lower Rio en Medio trail just north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  I recently purchased a book of hikes around Santa Fe and this was the first one I chose to do.  It sounded wonderful…hike along a river and get to a waterfall.  What sounds better than that???  🙂

The hike started out just beautiful with lush undergrowth beneath oak trees with the stream gurgling next to us.

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Beginning of Lower Rio en Medio trail


Lush flowers under the oaks

Soon we were in tall Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Firs.  It was a warm day, but the shade from all the trees made for a very pleasant hike.


There were so many wildflowers blooming, including lots of wild roses.  Dia and I both love learning the wildflowers that bloom in New Mexico.  So we just had to stop and examine each flower we saw along the trail.

Soon into the hike, we had to cross the stream.  That water was ice cold!!!

We both had such a good time visiting and enjoying the beautiful weather and scenery.  This was an awesome trail.

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Kelly and Dia


Dia crossing one of the many times we had to cross the stream

Scarlett didn’t seem to mind the ice cold water at all!  LOL!


Scarlett having fun in the stream

There were so many “Kodak” moments along this trail.  It took us quite a while to walk upstream as every few feet was another beautiful spot.


My favorite photo I took of the river was the one below.  This was a beautiful spot along the trail.  New Mexico doesn’t have too many places where it seems cool and lush.


At one stop, I came up0n the fattest lizard I’ve ever seen.  He was feeding good on the bugs along the river!


But of course, the goal of the hike was to see the waterfall.  We soon came to a bunch of cairns to guide the way to the falls.



We were impressed with whoever built this particular cairn.

We were getting excited to see the falls.  We knew the trail was going to fork.  The right fork taking you up and past the falls and the left fork taking you below the falls.  When we got to the fork, we went right to see the falls from above first. Scarlett was happy to lead the way!


Such a beautiful glimpse of our goal.

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Next we headed back down the trail to see the falls from below.  The canyon really narrowed up and we had to trek through the water quite a bit.  It was so beautiful.


Then we came around a bend and there were the falls.  Just stunning!  I love waterfalls!


Dia immediately ran out to the rock to see the falls and feel the cool spray. I couldn’t resist photographing her there.


She said there was a cave behind the falls with smaller falls inside.  So I just had to go out there and see for myself.  Dia took my photo….I don’t look nearly as glamorous :-/



After peeking around the falls, I decided to go behind them.  It was awesome!



I came back out and thought to myself…I need to get my camera in here and take some photos.  Dia had a baggie from her lunch that fit my camera.  So I bundled it up and stuffed it in my shorts.  LOL!!!  But it worked!  I made it back around the falls and took a few pics.  It was tight quarters so I couldn’t get very wide view of the inside cave.

Scarlett didn’t like the falls.  She wanted to follow me but just couldn’t get up the nerve to get in the waterfall.


Scarlett was keeping an eye on me while I was behind the falls


Scarlett was unhappy that she couldn’t get to me.

When I came out from behind the falls, Dia got the courage to go in there.  It was exciting and COLD!!!


Dia navigating the slippery rocks

After having a nice lunch next to the falls, we took a few more pics before heading back downstream.


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One last pic of us and the falls


I love this photo Dia took.  Me capturing my sweet Scarlett as she relaxed in a small spot of shade.


I made Dia climb all over his tree for pics.  LOL!!  She’s a good sport!


I switched lenses so I could take some photos of the all the variety of butterflies we saw while hiking up the trail.

As we were heading back to the car, we starting talking about lunch…and margaritas!!


I loved hiking with my new backpack!  And it’s in my favorite color!

We had made plans to eat lunch at a restaurant nearby called Gabriels.  It’s a fabulous Mexican food restaurant known especially for their delicious fresh-made guacamole at your table side.


What a wonderful day spent with my wonderful friend Dia!