I’ve found mornings at the zoo to be quite a pleasant way to spend a quiet morning lost in my own thoughts. Hopefully, some more exciting adventures will begin again in 2022, but for now, I’m finding little ways to enjoy my downtime.
Itching to take my new toy out I reserved a ticket at the Albuquerque Zoo to spend a day enjoying some of my favorite enclosures.
Seven may be my favorite number, but it’s also the number of years my partner, Brian, & I have been married today.
What is a more romantic way to spend such a momentous day than taking a run around and getting lost in a Belly Button? The trailhead at the Arizona border sounded a whole lot less linty so we took off early in the morning, pups in tow, to try and beat the heat. We spent a better part of the day exploring the red rocks, but unfortunately got a little lost and could never find the end of the trail.
Much like our marriage, the hike had unexpected twists and turns, high and low points, encouragement and swear words, getting a little lost along the way, not quite how we anticipated it to turn out, but ultimately we did it together and are glad we did.
Sometime around 2015, I won an auction on eBay for a used camera. This particular camera was a Nikon D4 from the set of Joel Sartore’s Photo Ark. Up until this point I had only periodically played with full manual settings. Reminiscent of when I bought Mi Baja there’s no better way to learn a new skill than to jump in feet first. My D4 and I have had countless adventures over the years traveling not only numerous states but countries as well.
Recently my most reliant travel companion has been acting up a bit. A trip to Nikon for cleaning did not address the main issue. Before I could even get her back to Nikon for a diagnosis Brian surprised me with Nikon’s newest camera, the D6.
*insert lots and lots of happy tears here*
The following photos are from D6’s maiden voyage. I reserved a ticket to the Albuquerque Biopark’s Garden and spent the morning enjoying the sights and my new toy.
Rising 7,785 feet above sea level, Cabezon Peak towers nearly 2,000 feet above the surrounding valley. My first trip down highway 550 left me staring at this small Devil’s Tower wannabe. For two years I’ve dreamed of chasing down this peak – today I planned to make that dream a reality.
While I set out bright & early one morning with my goal in sight, my day would end in missed opportunities and even a few tears.
Like aspects of my life, my trip began long before I hit the steep slopes. I’d been researching not only how to reach this peak but how to possibly ascend it as well. Delving deep into the WWW I’d found a few (really) old threads indicating there might be a way to summit the peak w/out climbing ropes.
I began trekking the trail leading straight up to the base of the volcanic plug. Once at the base I circumnavigated the entire neck searching for a way to scramble the basalt behemoth. While never found a safe route to the summit, I did find snow!
My second set of tears came while descending back down the trail when a wild cactus jumped out of nowhere and bit me straight on the ankle.
All the photos in this post are straight off my iPhone 11. Why not my D4 you may ask? Well, she made it into my pack, but never out of the truck. She’s been giving me some issues lately that came to a head today before we even made it to the trailhead. Hopefully this isn’t the end of our adventures.
To be continued…
2020 was an interesting year, to say the least. While it wasn’t the worst year in the history of ever it most certainly won’t rank as one of the top ten. Here’s a little collage of the end of the year. Goodbye, 2020. I’m really looking to you for some new adventures 2021.
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Established in 1939 to provide a critical layover for migrating waterfowl, the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is just a hop, skip, and jump south of Albuquerque. Over the winter this outdoor haven is known as home to TENS of thousands of ducks, geese, and cranes. I’d heard whispers of this magical place but had yet to explore it myself until tonight. Hoping the holidays would keep a bit of the crowd at bay, I took off for a quick road trip tonight. The place did not disappoint. I cannot wait for my dad’s next trip to NM to show him this bird watcher’s dream come true.
Growing up in the Appalachian Mountains there are few people in my childhood who didn’t hunt. As a small child, when angry at my father, would threaten to joint PETA when I grew up just to piss him off. I clearly was the only non-hunter in a long line of hunters.
So when I married Brian, and my life combined with his, I promised that I’d at least give one of his favorite past times a try. Not long after moving to Alaska I took my hunter safety course. That was as far as I was able to get mentally.
Six years later, Brian won a veteran Oryx tag on the White Sands Missile Range. As a once in a lifetime opportunity, I didn’t want to miss the chance so I started mentally preparing myself. My plan was to shoot the way I’d come so comfortable with, Nikon in hand. However, as a secured military and missile range, cameras were not allowed, so my D4 stayed home while we scouted the range. Only a single photo, under strict guidelines was allowed by a point and shoot (or smartphone).
The hunt itself was over in less than two hours. I thoroughly enjoyed scouting & driving the dirt roads of a scenic place with such restricted access.
Most importantly, I am so thankful for all of the delicious meat that now sits in my freezer. I’ve never understood trophy hunting, but there are plenty of meals that may have passed by in my childhood were it not for the ability of my father to set the table with the food the land provided. Delicious, nutritious, and another happy memory.
Brian gifted my the tripod I’ve been dreaming about for years so I thought it was only fitting to take it out for it’s maiden voyage to the Valley of Dreams for a my first night shoot. I drug Monica along & convinced Mallory to drive down as well for a bit of adventure too.
We only had one night of clear skies, but it was enough to play around with the stars for my first time.
In the morning we meandered around the desert for a while, enjoying the otherworldly sights that New Mexico has to offer.
Another trip around the sun means another adventure for this slightly older gal.
Originally I had planned a blitz trip to the warm waters of Mexico for a swim with some whale sharks in their summer feeding grounds. Like just about everything else this year, those plans had to be altered thanks to the still present Covid-19 coronavirus. So, when I knew my original plans were going to be a no go, it was time to come up with a Covid-friendly alternative.
Enter Plan B: Tracking dinosaurs. Well, dinosaur tracking, er, tracks.
While well known locations such as Dinosaur Nation Monument exist within an easy drive, I was trying to respect local Covid-19 restrictions & stay within the borders of New Mexico. I’d heard you could stumble upon tracks out in the desert, or even bones if you were lucky enough, but I was hoping for something a little more predictable than an Israelite walkabout. Enter, Clayton Lake State Park.
And since I was going to have to take the entire day off to make it up there in time, why not make an adventure out of it. So I woke up early, threw my camera bag in the truck & hit the highway. I turned North on I-25, out of Albuquerque, and headed towards the Colorado border. Just over three hours later I arrived in Raton, a mere 10 miles from the state line, and turned east onto State Road 72 – a 36 mile stretch of windy country road that traverses the top of Johnson Mesa.
At the end of the road, in the tiny town of Folsom, I took a five minute tour through the two streets that compromise the whole town before heading south to Capulin Volcano National Monument.
Here I chit chatted with a park ranger about cross country motorcycling, picked up my annual park pass, then headed up the road to the summit of Capulin Volcano. At the top I ran into to young men standing in front of their vehicle. Hood up and clearly in distress, I hopped out of my truck & made a beeline towards them. I asked if they needed help and was immediatly dismissed for being a woman who most likely ‘knew nothing about vehicles or what it was like to be stranded a couple of hours away from home.’ Despite the immediate write off I offered them the only advice I could offer their poor attitudes, “Boys,” I said, “try and enjoy where you are while you’re here because bad days make for some really interesting stories.” With that being said I took my woman self and removed myself from the situation.
The smoke was thick from several local & regional fires – making for beautiful layers to my photography, but difficult to hike in. (Yes ma, I have been trying to get into a GP to get a Rx for my inhaler, but have been unsuccessful in landing one in network thus far) I took my time traversing the Crater Rim trail, stopping to enjoy the beautiful scenes both near and far along the way.
When I arrived at the entrance to Clayton Lake State Park I’d been on the road for somewhere near 8 hours, including stops and side tracks.
I was greeted with not only a closed gate but no trespassing signs posted all around. I’ll admit, I choked on a sob and held back a spring of tears that was welling up in the corners of my eyes. Outside my truck, I stood at the top of a cliff, overlooking the tiny lake and namesake to the park. From here, just a quester mile from my destination, I could see the short 1 mile loop trail I was originally destined to traverse. A gate I could, and most likely would, hop, but the no trespassing signs for this gal meant my journey ended here. My birthday had just been officially 2020’d.
Dejected, I crawled back into my truck and began the four and a half hour drive back to Albuquerque. Wanting to take an alternative route home, I headed south to I-40, then dead West to home. Along the way, when stopping for gas, along with getting myself locked into a closing gift shop, spotted the perfect lizard for the side of my humble adobe home. (Every house in our neighborhood seems to have at least one lizard hidden somewhere on its exterior. Except ours. I have been hunting for the perfect additon since I signed the closing papers) I’m calling this my win for the day.
A special thank you to all my friends and family for the calls, cards, texts, and gifts. Despite the otherwise seemingly regular birthday, I truly know how loved and lucky I am to celebrate such a day. Thank you. Xoxo.