Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 3

On Day 3 Dia and I were up early again – ready to hit the trails for more beautiful sights.  This time Dia got a GIANT coffee from Starbucks so it would last her all morning long.  🙂

On our drive back from hiking to Emerald Lake the day before, we saw a beautiful waterfall in the distance.  I told Dia I wanted to hike to that waterfall.  So here we were heading to Alberta Falls.

The trail head is in the same area as Bear Lake.  So before heading to the falls, we took some very early morning shots at the lake.  Such a tranquil morning.  There was no breeze so the water was like a mirror.

The trail was in deep shade so early in the morning.  It was a challenge to get a photo of us together (lots of work editing those shadows).

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Dia and Kelly at Bear Lake

As we walked around the lake, the view started to open up and the shadowy areas began to lighten.

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Bear Lake

We came to one area that had giant boulders near the lake.  Dia climbed out on one to get a beautiful view.  A wonderful place for her to enjoy that coffee.

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I climbed an even higher rock and got a very wide angle view.  Gorgeous!

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Perfect reflection.

Soon we were on the trail to the falls.  The trail started off beautifully walking through an Aspen grove.

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Soon the trail started climbing and we could hear rushing water in the distance.  I couldn’t wait to see this waterfall.  I had seen photos online and knew it was going to be beautiful.  We came to Glacier Creek below the falls.  So much water! Not sure why it’s called a creek when it’s a raging river!

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Glacier Creek

After a little while of hiking, we could hear the falls in the distance.  The views were opening up and giving us more light on the trail.  Then finally we made it to the falls.  Stunning! The roar of the water was almost deafening.  A wondrous sound to my ears.

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Stunning waterfall.  I love how the sun’s rays were illuminated by the mist from the falls.

We stayed here awhile and took some photos of each other and enjoyed watching the waterfall.

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Doesn’t Dia look so adorable here 🙂 You can see why I love my friend.  She makes me smile all day long.

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Hmmmm….I see rabbit ears! LOL!

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Scarlett wanted her picture taken at the falls too!  😉

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My beautiful Scarlett enjoying the hike.

Then we decided to walk along the river above the falls instead of staying on the trail.  For some reason the trail leaves the water and we weren’t ready to do that.  I’m so glad we decided to walk upriver because the scenery was so beautiful.

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Glacier Creek

We spent quite a bit of time in one area.  The sound of rushing water and the privacy of the trees and being off trail.  It was so peaceful and relaxing.  We were truly enjoying God’s creations.

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The water was moving so fast!

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I tried to capture the feel of the water’s power.

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A raging river.

We were still feeling good so decided to continue up the trail and see if we could make it to Mill Lake.  We climbed higher and higher and the views opened way up.  Then we came to a bend in the trail and started walking into another canyon.  The views were so expansive.  Such a wonderful hike.

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I love this picture Dia took of me and Scarlett hiking.   🙂

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We came to a sign that said Mill Lake was 1.5 miles ahead.  By this time we had hiked 6 miles.  We were debating on if we thought we would make it to the lake and still have enough energy to get all the way back to the car.  We were somewhat undecided for a while.  Then Dia said “Let’s go!  We can do it! And someone said there’s a baby elk to see!”.  Hmmmmmm…… I was just about to agree when a big BOOM! sounded and I looked up to see this giant thundercloud above us.  WOW!

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Giant thunderhead.  Beautiful but scary when you’re out hiking.

That did it!  I did not want to be caught at 12,000 feet in a lightening storm.  No way! So we turned around and headed back to the car.

On one hand I’m sorry we didn’t go to the lake.  It never did rain.  I’m sure the views were fabulous.  But on the other hand, I know if we had gone we would have been so sore and tired by the time we got off the trail.  That would have extended our hike another 3 miles.  As it was, we ended up hiking another 10 miles this day.  We did 30 miles in 3 days!

I treated Dia to a wonderful dinner with wine for her birthday.  We even had enough energy left to do a little shopping in Estes Park.   It was a great way to end the day.

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When we got back to our hotel, we had one more treat for the day.  A mother Mallard was trying to take her babies to the little pond at our hotel.  When they saw me and Scarlett not too far away, they flattened themselves trying to hide from us.

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Mallards

We all stayed still and soon the mother felt it was safe enough to go to the pond.  🙂

 

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Safely at the pond 🙂

 

 

Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 2

It’s been a little while since I posted Day 1.  Sorry about that!  Life has been busy!

Day 2 was my favorite of the 3 days at the park.  Dia and I hiked most of the morning.  We took a hike that passed by 3 lakes.  Just stunning!  I think it was the most beautiful hike I have ever been on.  Seriously!  You’ll see why when you see my photos.  And trust me….they don’t do it justice!

We started out very early in the morning to miss the crowds and to hopefully get some pretty photos of the lakes.    And our planning paid off.

The hike started off in deep forest with a slight incline.  About a 1/2 mile into the hike we came upon Nymph Lake.  A beautiful little lake full of lily pads.

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Nymph Lake

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Lots of lily pads

Fortunately there was a couple there willing to take our photo.  Even though I had my tripod, sometimes it’s just easier to have someone take your pic.  🙂

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Scarlett, Kelly and Dia

Scarlett was wearing her new backpack.  We had her carry all of our water and snacks!  🙂  Being a working dog, she loved it.  Plus, it slowed her down some LOL!

After Nymph Lake we started climbing higher.   Soon we were climbing above the forest and the view started opening up.  So beautiful!

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Panorama of the trail.  You can just see the shimmer of Nymph Lake below.

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Stunning views

We came across the stream that fed into Nymph Lake.  It was flowing nicely.  I love hiking next to water.  Just that sound of the babbling brook can be so peaceful and rejuvenating.  Seeing as New Mexico really doesn’t have a lot of water, being in RMNP was so wonderful because it’s full of water.

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Dia at the creek crossing. Neat tree!

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Sweet little waterfall in the stream

As we climbed higher on the trail, it just kept getting even more beautiful.  I was never bored.  Every step was a joy.

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We started leveling out and the waters became calmer.  I figured we were getting closer to another of the 3 lakes.

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At this point Dia joked that we were hiking to that snow in the background.  Little did we know she was pretty close to the truth.

Soon we rounded a bend and there was Dream Lake.  I absolutely loved this lake.  It was my favorite lake of the entire trip.

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Dia and Kelly at Dream Lake

OMG! This lake was just breathtaking!  I could have sat here for hours.  The water was so clear we could see trout swimming along the shore.  Just beautiful!  The picture below is my most favorite scenic photo from the trip.

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Dream Lake – Just stunning!!!

Too soon we had to leave Dream Lake and keep hiking up the trail.  Dream Lake was long and skinny so there was lots of time to enjoy it as we headed up the trail.  Other parts of the lake were unique and I couldn’t resist taking a bunch of photos.

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Such a beautiful hike

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Dia loved this cool tree

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Clear water and perfect reflections

Soon we were climbing yet again.  Thankfully the trail was never too steep.  So it was an enjoyable hike the entire time.  And now that I think about it, Dia never once cried for a Starbucks.  That’s how great this hike was!!!

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I loved that from this point forward we stayed next to the stream.  At times we crisscrossed over it.  And at several points there were small waterfalls.  Gorgeous!

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What a great trail.

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Loved the bedrock this waterfall cascaded over.

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I had to scramble down between big boulders for this shot.  What photographers do for a photo!

Finally we were getting close to our final lake and the turnaround point for the hike.  We had made it to the snow that Dia had earlier joked about.  Granted, it was just here and there but we were at around 10,000 feet so it was cool enough for some of it to stay even in the middle of summer.  And what was on that snow????  A lifer bird for me!!!!  A Pine Grosbeak.  A beautiful male so pretty in his pink plumage.  This is the southernmost area you can see these birds in the US.  I was so excited!  I didn’t have my birding lens on, but thankfully he was close enough I got a decent pic with my regular lens.

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Pine Grosbeak

Right after seeing the grosbeak, we came upon Emerald Lake.  A stunning high alpine glacial lake.

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Emerald Lake

My favorite photo of the trip of Dia and I together.   Such a stunning backdrop.  Thankfully I had lugged my tripod along on this trip so I could get such great shots and pictures of us together.

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Kelly and Dia at Emerald Lake

We stayed here awhile just soaking up the views.  You could hear the distant waterfall.  So peaceful.  A lovely hike on a lovely day.

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Dia enjoying the view of the lake and distant waterfall.  Scarlett enjoying all the squirrels running around.  She let us know where every one was…

Too soon we had to head back down the trail.  Thankfully it was downhill the whole way back.  It was interesting to note how different the lakes looked when the sun was directly overhead.  I was so happy we got up at 5:30 to hit the trail early.  It paid off with gorgeous photos and no people.

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Nymph Lake later in the day

We were tired at the end of the hike.  We had a snack in parking lot and talked about what we wanted to do next.  Since we had just hiked 6+ miles we decided we wanted to drive around and see more of the park.

We ended up stopping at another lake – Sprague Lake.

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Sprague Lake

It wasn’t nearly as scenic as the other lakes, but was still nice to walk around.  Plus, there were lots of birds in the area.  Always a plus!

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Lovely wildflowers

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Juvenile Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Mountain Chickadee

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Mallard

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Cutie pie 🙂

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Mountain Bluebird

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Bank Swallow

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Steller’s Jay

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Dia couldn’t believe I got this dragonfly in flight 🙂

My favorite bird on this walk was a Song Sparrow.  He was kicked back, relaxing, and singing his little heart out.  So Sweet!

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Song Sparrow

As if we hadn’t hiked enough that day, I talked Dia into hiking from Sprague Lake down to Glacier Basin.  It was a pretty little downhill hike.  But I tell you, we were wiped out at the end.  Thankfully they have shuttle buses running that were able to take us back to our car.  While waiting for the bus, I saw a wasp carrying a large caterpillar.  He was moving fast so it was tough getting a pic.  But I was fascinated by this.  That caterpillar is going to be food for its young.

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Common Thread Waisted Wasp

After getting back to our car, we decided to drive around a little more.  We drove through the giant meadow of Moraine Park.  A beautiful area full of wildflowers and big vistas. And lots of birds!  I made plans with Dia to let me get up early the day we were to drive home so I could go birding in this area before we left.  I knew it was going to be great!

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Moraine Park

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Lovely wildflowers

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There are six Northern Flickers in this photo. Wow!

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Black-Billed Magpie – no longer my nemesis 🙂

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Bee Balm

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Brewer’s Blackbird male and female

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Williamson’s Sapsucker – I love this pic!

There was one river that we crossed every day.  It had beautiful rushing water.  I really wanted a picture of it.  We tried walking up next to it, but it didn’t do it justice.  Though we did see this sign…

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So I decided to walk back out onto the bridge for a pic.  Much better! So beautiful!

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Gorgeous!

When we got back to the hotel, we were pooped!  While I was walking Scarlett for her potty break, Dia sent me this text.  LOL! We had hiked 10 miles this day.  Plus 10 miles the day before.

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As we were getting ready for bed (at 7:30 pm HAHAHAHAHAHA!), I decided to take Scarlett out one more time to go potty.  When I looked out, I saw Bull Elk right outside our room!  WOW!  Of course, I had to grab my camera and take a dozen pics following them as they grazed.  What a great way to end a day!

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Bull Elk

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silver City Area Adventure

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

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

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

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Lobby of the Palace Hotel

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Lobby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What a unique hike

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Suspended above Whitewater Creek

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Beautiful!

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

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Valerie enjoying the hike

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

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

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Valerie and Kelly having fun!

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

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

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Those horses loved that apple Valerie fed them

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Cool old tractors

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Me in my brand new Jeep!

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

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We found a way down to the creek!

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I loved all the pools in among the limestone bedrock

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Stream flowing from pool to pool

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

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Windy road to the Gila Cliff Dwellings

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

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

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Bridge over the Gila River

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A beautiful trail

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We loved all the bridges

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Wonderful!

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Valerie

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Lovely!

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Kelly

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

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Gila Cliff Dwellings

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What a beautiful view!

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Valerie

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

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

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Panorama of the scenic view

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

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

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Delicious pizza!  It hit the spot!

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

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It was fun exploring for a few hours.

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Panorama of the park

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

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

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

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My beautiful friend! 

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

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View from the top of Emory Pass

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

20th Anniversary Trip – Day 7 Zion Utah

At the end of Day 6 we had arrived at our cabin at the Zion Mountain Ranch.  I woke up early the next morning to go birding and hopefully see the buffalo.  The very first bird I saw when I started walking was a Sharp-Shinned Hawk.  It was searching the pastures for breakfast.

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Sharp-Shinned Hawk

As I headed to the back of the cabin area toward the large pasture surrounding the property, I heard lots of deep grunting.  When I came closer to the pasture I saw this huge herd of buffalo.  It was a beautiful sight.  You could hear the grass tearing as they ate big mouthfuls of it.  And they grunted while they ate.  They were so close that I had trouble getting photos because I had my big zoom lens on my camera.

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Beautiful buffalo

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Cute baby!

You can see how close they are to the cabins in this photo.  One woman was enjoying her morning coffee to the wondrous sight of all the buffalo.  I think I took over 500 photos of these magnificent animals.

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Perfect morning breakfast scenery

My favorite photo was of this bull staring straight at me with red eyes.

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Now I just couldn’t resist taking this buffalo moment…….

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She’s looking at me thinking….how embarrassing…

Hanging out on the periphery of the buffalo herd was this uniquely colored bull.  I loved the colors of his coat and the shape of his horns.  He was quite a distance away and would never face me, so this was the best photo I could get.

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I soon moved on and found a few other birds to photograph.  The birds were far and few between which surprised me.

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European Starling

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Western Bluebird

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Green-Tailed Towhee

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Mountain Bluebird

Around the farmhouse, the chickens were gearing up for the day.  I liked the white rooster…he looks like he’s enjoying that stretch.

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Silky Rooster

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Bantam Rooster

We had decided the evening before not to stay a second night at the ranch.  When we looked at the amount of hours we were going to have to drive to get home from the ranch, we thought it best to drive to Page, Arizona, the next evening and cut about 2.5 hours off our travel time the last day.  This meant we only had until about 5 pm to stay at Zion before leaving for Arizona.  While eating lunch, I searched the internet for the best hiking trail to take for our visit into Zion.  We wouldn’t have time to explore any more than one trail.  We eventually chose the Emerald Pools trail.  It’s a 3-mile out and back hike that takes you to three different pools with stunning scenery and waterfalls as you climb.

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Trail to the emerald pools…it starts out paved but eventually turns into a single track.

As we started the hike, the sun was shining brightly overhead and it was pretty hot.  Tim was ahead of me on the hike by this time because I was taking so many photos.  I looked up and saw him standing above everyone.  He loves being different from the masses.  LOL!

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Can you see Tim?

The first pool is very beautiful with a long waterfall filling it.  I bet that waterfall is stunning during the spring runoff.

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The first emerald pool

I liked that the trail took you around the pool and behind the waterfall.

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After the first pool, you start climbing more aggressively.  This quickly gives you a view from above the waterfall.

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Beautiful even at a trickle

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Gorgeous!

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Climbing above the waterfall.

The second pool you see is just above the waterfall that fills the first pool…or would that actually be the third pool as it is downstream….hmmmm…  I didn’t take many pics of the second pool because it was filled with people.  It was very shallow and on bedrock so it made for a cool stop for hot hikers.

Heading to the top pool the hike became more steep.  The views got more narrow as you headed into a canyon.  As we neared the upper pool, the sun went behind the cliff and it made the hike much more beautiful and cooler.

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Cliff surrounding the upper pool

Our favorite pool of the hike was the upper pool.  Well worth the climb!

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Kelly and Tim at the upper pool

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What a beautiful setting

We spent quite a while enjoying this beautiful place and visiting with people from all over the world.  I enjoyed the mystery the shadows created.

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Soon we were heading back down.  The sun was fully hidden from the trail by this time.  I couldn’t believe how it transformed the trail.  What was beautiful in the sunshine turned to breathtaking in the shade.

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So many colors in the rock

The bottom pool was totally transformed.

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With the sun gone I could appreciate the delicate stream of water

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Emerald pool indeed

I loved the colors that became more rich now that the sun was gone.

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Such a peaceful setting

Soon we were back at the trail head in the sunshine once more.  We saw a lizard soaking up the sun.  He had gorgeous coloring.

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Tiger Whiptail

I wish we could have spent more time here but sadly the day had grown late and we needed to head to Arizona.

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Kelly next to Virgin River

I love the drive that goes through the lower end of Zion on Highway 9.   The scenery is stunning.  It was difficult to do it justice from a moving car.  Here are a few of my better shots.

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I love the crisscross geology of this sandstone

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So majestic!

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Beautiful sandstone layers

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A giant arch in the making

The highlight of the drive along Highway 9 through the park was coming upon some Bighorn Sheep right next to the road.  They are very used to people and didn’t care one bit that I got out of the car to take photographs.  At one point I was only about 15 feet away from some of the females.

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We first saw this group of Bighorn Sheep climbing along the sandstone cliffs

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We rounded a corner and saw some right next to the road.  Beautiful!

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A young one running to catch up with the others

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This female was grazing right next to me!!

 

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A majestic ram!

 

All too soon we were on our way to Arizona.  I was sad to leave this beautiful part of the country.  Some day I will be back to explore all Zion has to offer.

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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.

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Panorama of the views from Kiwanis cabin

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Panorama of the Kiwanis meadow

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Mule Deer with antlers in velvet

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

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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.

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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.

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View looking south from Kiwanis meadow

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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!

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Hiking in the clouds

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

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Sweet Scarlett posing for me again.  🙂

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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.

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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.

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Baby Western Bluebird

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Lesser Goldfinch

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Plumbeous Vireo

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Western Tanager – female

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Western Bluebird

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I believe this is a Nashville Warbler

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A very scrappy looking Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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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.

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Tram leaving the station

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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California Sister

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Field Crescent

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Painted Lady

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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.

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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.

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Natural art on the South Crest Trail

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

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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!

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Adult horned toad

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Baby horned toad

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

Lots of lizards on the trails too!

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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!

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Virginia’s Warbler

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

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Band-Tailed Pigeons

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Orange-Crowned Warbler

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Yell0w-Rumped Warblers having fun!

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

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Mountain Chickadee

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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MacGillivray’s Warbler

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

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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!

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Yellow Warbler

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Yellow Warbler

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Bushtit

Until next time!!!

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Scarlett says “See you again soon!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birding Along the Rio Grande & Botanical Gardens

Recently I took Scarlett for an early morning walk along the Rio Grande near Alameda Open Space.  There were lots of birds singing, enjoying the early summer weather.  I managed to get what is probably my best photo yet of a Summer Tanager.  For some reason I have a hard time getting a great photo of these birds.

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Summer Tanager

A Black Phoebe was feeding along the irrigation ditch next to the river.

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Black Phoebe

Then to my surprise, a whole flock of Cedar Waxwing flew in and started catching flying bugs along this ditch.  I didn’t know they did this.  They would fly out and snag a bug and fly back.  Not as graceful as the Black Phoebe, but still fun to watch.  I took several photos of them.  Who can resist photographing the beautiful Cedar Waxwings?!

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Cedar Waxwing

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Cedar Waxwing

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Cedar Waxwing

The day was so nice, so I decided to pop into the Botanical Gardens.

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Main path of the gardens

I figured the summer flowers should be blooming great by now.  And I was right!  The roses were especially nice.  Here’s a few of the best photos I took.

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There were quite a number of butterflies out, but most of them wouldn’t land long enough for a photo.  This Cabbage White was the most cooperative.

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Cabbage White

The Japanese Garden is always my favorite to visit.  I love the water features there.  I found this smaller waterfall that I never notice before.

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Black Phoebe

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While photographing the waterfall, I realized there were several dragonflies buzzing by.  I can never resist photographing dragonflies.  But they are such a challenge to get a crisp photo.  But I still try!

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I have wanted to get a photo of the red dragonflies for a long time.  I think the red color is so striking.  I finally had a cooperative subject!

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I also found a lot of dragonflies at the main pond of the Gardens.  The blue ones were very busy chasing each other.

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There were a lot of  bullfrogs singing at the pond.  And they have been busy reproducing!  I couldn’t believe how many tadpoles were in the water.

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This frog has a lot of Cottonwood Tree fluff stuck to him.

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Bullfrog tadpoles

On the main pond, there were a large number of young male Wood Ducks.  They look pretty scrappy changing into their adult plumage.

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Young male Wood Duck

The water lilies were blooming nicely in the pond.

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In the Memorial Garden area I saw this American Robin fly down and start basking in the warm sun.  He looked like he was really enjoying that sun bath.

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American Robin

Lots of House Finches were singing.  One of them was an Orange-Morph.  I don’t see this coloration very often.

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Orange-Morph House Finch

I need to visit the gardens more often.   They are very relaxing and provide lots of opportunities for photography.

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