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 🙂


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.  🙂


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!


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.


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.


Kelly and her Jeep (not her husband’s Jeep) 😉


Dia and Scarlett enjoying the drive up Old Fall River Road



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.


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.


Looking downstream



Scarlett, Kelly & Dia

Scarlett loves water – so of course we had to let her play a little before hitting the road again.


Scarlett enjoying the falls in her own way 🙂

Soon we were climbing higher and higher.  The views expanded.  Just glorious!


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.


Just before reaching the RMNP Alpine Visitor Center, we came across more marmot.  I liked how this one posed nicely for me.



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.


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!


Trail from the visitor’s center.


Breathtaking views!




Where’s Starbucks???!!!!!


Views of the visitor center from the top of the trail.


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.


Such a lush valley of green


These squirrels found a good home.


Dia happy with her Starbucks! 🙂


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


Savannah Sparrow

As we made our way toward Grand Lake we saw a turn off for Lake Irene.  What a serene little lake.


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!


Moose with calf

We also saw some nice bull Elk along the road.  One was really enjoying the good life of summer.


Very healthy bull Elk


Enjoying summer

Near Grand Lake I spotted an Osprey nest.  It’s always a good day when you see a bird of prey.




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.


Click, click, click….I took over 5,000 photos on this trip! Yikes!


Expansive views


I love the high alpine meadow flowers – so small and delicate.


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.


Scarlett was enjoying all the sights and smells.


So many smells!!!!

We stopped at one pullout to view a glacier.


Hmmmm…look at my Jeep keys precariously dangling from Dia’s hand….


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.


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.


What a cutie!


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!


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.


It was a full day of fun!!!  Off to bed early for another full day of exploring!


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.


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 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.


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.


Beautiful buffalo


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.


Perfect morning breakfast scenery

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


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


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.


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


European Starling


Western Bluebird


Green-Tailed Towhee


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.


Silky Rooster


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.


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!


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.


The first emerald pool

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


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


Beautiful even at a trickle




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.


Cliff surrounding the upper pool

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


Kelly and Tim at the upper pool


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.


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.


So many colors in the rock

The bottom pool was totally transformed.


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


Emerald pool indeed

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


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.


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.


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.


I love the crisscross geology of this sandstone


So majestic!


Beautiful sandstone layers


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.


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


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


A young one running to catch up with the others


This female was grazing right next to me!!



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.






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!”









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.


Summer Tanager

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


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?!


Cedar Waxwing


Cedar Waxwing


Cedar Waxwing

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


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.


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.


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.


Black Phoebe


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!


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!


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


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.


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


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.


Young male Wood Duck

The water lilies were blooming nicely in the pond.


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.


American Robin

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


Orange-Morph House Finch

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






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!

Exploring the Jemez River

I had a free day yesterday except for a short dental appointment with my dentist friend Valerie 🙂

So prior to seeing her, I decided to walk along the river at Alameda to let Scarlett run a little.  I was greeted by a singing Bewick’s Wren.  He was saying “Spring is coming!”


Bewick’s Wren

Nearby a Black Phoebe was calling as well.


Black Phoebe

Other than that it was pretty quiet.  Earlier in the week I had hiked in this same area and saw several good birds.


Spotted Towhee



Cinnamon Teal



Ruby-Crowned Kinglet – I love these guys!

After my dental visit (and Scarlett got to see her best friend Mya), I realized I had a whole afternoon free and it was a beautiful day.  So I headed off to hike the East Fork of the Jemez River.  Along the way we passed the beautiful red sandstone cliffs at the Jemez Pueblo along with some other fun sights.


Travertine Soda Dam


Gotta love the miniature pony


Red Sandstone Cliffs at Jemez Pueblo



Church in San Ysidro

Scarlett and I started the hike but quickly realized it was still icy and muddy as the trail is in the deep shade of a canyon.  I let her play in the river a little before heading back to the car.  I needed to drop some in elevation to avoid the remaining snow and ice in the area.


I taught Scarlett how to cross rivers on logs


Miss Scarlett enjoying the river water

So I chose to stop at Battleship Rock trail area.  The rock formation looks a lot like the prow of a giant battleship.


Battleship Rock

I’ve never hiked this trail before.  I was hoping to find the McCauley hot springs.  Sadly I forgot my trail directions and I had no internet in that deep canyon.  So I followed a trail I thought might be the correct trail.  It wasn’t the right trail, but as I came around a bend in the trail, I was happily surprised by a waterfall.  I love waterfalls and there are very few in New Mexico.  So I was thrilled to find it.


Scarlett was curious of the waterfall.  She wanted to play in it but couldn’t get the courage to actually run into it.  Silly girl!


If you look closely at the base of the falls you will see Scarlett looking at the splashing water

I couldn’t resist setting up the camera for a selfie with Scarlett and I.


Kelly and Scarlett

I knew by this point I had missed the trailhead to the springs.  The day was growing short so I decided to head back to the car.  I decided I had just enough daylight left to visit the Gilman Tunnels.  I figured the Guadalupe Rio would be flowing strongly with all the snow melt.  I did see a few birds while hiking.


House Finch in what will probably be a nesting cavity in a tree


Northern Flicker

The drive there is through a scenic valley.  There’s lots of interesting things to photograph. 🙂

DSC_6146DSC_6073DSC_6075The tunnels were constructed in the box canyon in the 1920s for a logging railroad.  The railroad has since been removed and now you can drive this scenic box canyon.


Gilman Tunnels


Rio Guadalupe


Guadalupe Rio Box Canyon


I decided to brave the steep trail down to the water’s edge.  It was so loud with the roaring water.

DSC_6116DSC_6126  Scarlett didn’t like it at all.  I had someone on the trail take our photo.  You can see Scarlett doesn’t like it.


Scarlett had her ears back – she didn’t like that deep rushing water!


There was a concrete wall where I headed down into the canyon.  It had a lot of graffiti on it.  Now I normally hate graffiti, but I have to say this one had a bit of beauty to it.  Almost like a work of art 🙂


As I headed back out of the canyon, I saw the cliffs were lit up nicely by the setting sun.


In Jemez Springs there’s a beautiful statue behind a church.  It stands out because it’s so white.


Lastly I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the old Big Chief sign of an abandoned gas station.  I’ve driven past it many times, but decided to stop today and take a photo.  It’s a landmark! 🙂


Big Chief sign at Zia Pueblo


It was a fun day! And Scarlett and I were pooped!

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Scarlett was one tired puppy.  She was happy to go to bed 🙂