Friday, October 31, 2014


Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge in Northern New Mexico was beautiful! We spent 2 nights (there is a 3 night limit) and saw many raptors, sand hill cranes, prairie dogs, rabbits, deer, antelope, snakes, and more!
 I was walking along the lake and I came up upon this four-foot-long bull snake:
It stretched halfway across the road
I couldn't fit the whole snake in the closer-up photo, so here's the head
Here's the middle of it as it squiggled off into the brush
Here's the tail!
We saw this raptor swoop down and catch the rodent (you can see it in the bird's grasp) , then fly it up into this tree
Later, he flew out of the tree and moved to this brush pile. I wonder what he's thinking as he looks out across the refuge.
After Maxwell, we set out eastward. We stayed for one night each at several campgrounds.  We had good experiences at every one! We saw some gorgeous sunsets and sunrises, and lots of trees turning colors! We were at the following: Hasty Lake in Hasty, Colorado, a Kansas state park lake just outside of Greensburg, Kansas (a fascinating town that was completely destroyed in 2007 by a category 5 - wind speeds up to 315 mph - tornado, and has been rebuilt as a "green" community, with wind power and all LEED certified buildings. Great cinnamon rolls at the local coffee house, too!), a city park in Yates Center, Kansas called South Owl Lake County park, and one night at the beautiful (we'll go back, for sure!) Bennett Spring State Park in Missouri.  Now we've reached our destination of Shell Knob, Missouri, visiting family.  Table Rock Lake is catching the sunlight and the air is crisp and chilly - just like Autumn ought to be!  We'll be here for a couple weeks before moving on!

Hasty Lake campground
A photo through the back screen of the Chinook
Sunset in Greensburg
Same sunset
Same gorgeous sunset, over the dock
South Owl Lake sunset with lily pads
Orange sunset over South Owl Lake

Friday, October 24, 2014


Last week we said a sad goodbye to Bandelier National Monument, and headed north to Heron Lake, in the Chama Valley area of New Mexico. The lake was very low, but our campsite had a lovely view of what there was of it, and the surrounding mountains dotted with yellow-leaved aspens. The campground was almost deserted, with many loops closed and few campers, as the normal temperatures for this area are quite low by this time of year. We are benefiting greatly by an unseasonably warm Fall in northern NM.

This was our last hiking trail at Bandelier: the Tsankawi Trail, which takes you up and down steep ladders and along bluffs to cliff dwellings, beautiful vistas, petroglyphs. Often, the trail is over "tuff" - the soft white compressed volcanic ash that make up the cliffs here, and that the cliff dwellers dug into to make dwellings, trails, and steps.

This is the view after climbing the first ladder on the trail
Looking down the second ladder to the trail below. Rather steep.

One of the many awesome petroglyphs along the way

A classic spiral petroglyph
The little holes once held wooden roof-support beams, and this dwelling's cavate (dug out cave, to the left) was deep, with two storage caves off of it!

Foot-worn stair-steps in the tuff up to a small cave

Darell coming down the deeply worn trail of tuff

An upward climb with footholds
Then, onwards to Heron Lake State Park, in Los Ojos:
Our campsite in the Salmon Run campground loop
My shadow, taking a photo looking to the east from the lakeside
Looking west from the campsite

Reflected sunset to the east

Sunset to the west
Next morning, we woke up to this fog!
Foggy view of the lake from our campsite!
It didn't take long to drive out of the fog to the Brazos Cliffs above Los Ojos
The Chinook and Jeep at 10,000+ feet elevation
We ended the week at Sugarite Canyon State Park (no internet or phone service here), near the city of Raton (which has an excellent State Visitors Center - the parking lot of which we are in now: 4G, 4 bars!).
This Sugarite Canyon deer was about 8 feet away from our back door, and just stood there chomping leaves and looking at me as if he was bored!
Next stop: Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge!

Friday, October 17, 2014


Bandelier in Autumn! It's beautiful! The main attraction here is the canyon site of a Pueblo cliff village, complete with cliff-side caves you can climb into, ruins of stone structures (including a huge meeting place that is a stone-lined circular hole in the ground!), and a replica of the houses that were built against the cliffs. Alcove House is a huge cave 140 feet above the canyon, which is only accessible by a combination of stone steps and four steep (really steep!) ladders. Coming down the ladders was harder than going up! There are also many short (under 5 mile) hikes that we've been doing, which take you to the top and around mesas, down into canyons, near a waterfall, and into a flat plain caldera (volcano) where elk herds roam (we didn't see any elk, unfortunately!).
The days have been gorgeous!
The steep Falls Trail to the upper falls - the trail beyond the falls was washed away in a flood in 2011

Upper Falls (80-foot drop) outlook. The sign at top left actually says "Danger - Do Not Throw Rocks"
A far shot of Upper Falls
This is the end of the trail down into the Valles Grande caldera

Pine cones, one group of about 20 groups of cones knocked down onto the trail by a squirrel. The squirrel screeched at us, protecting his hoard, until we passed by.

Ticked-off squirrel
 Today we hiked the Frijolito Loop Trail, that went up the far side of Frijolito Canyon (where the main Pueblo Village hikes are) and to a mesa where there is an unexcavated village. There we found dozens of pottery shards (dating back 700 years, according to the Park Ranger), three intact obsidian arrowheads, and three tarantulas!
An arrowhead in Darell's hand

Pottery shard

Another pottery shard

Yet one more pottery shard

These critters move quickly!

Tarantulas are really shy - this one tried to hide down this hole
From the Frijolito trail, you can see across the canyon, into the Alcove House - see the eeny-weeny people climbing up one of the steep ladders into the cave?
 And now some random flora and fauna, Bandelier-style:
Huge bee's bum in a hollyhock at the Bandelier Visitor's Center
Scarlet Penstemon blooming near the Frijolito Creek

A very tiny brown butterfly

A single bell-shaped flower in the Valles Grande caldera plains

A weed

Same weed, different angle

Not the same bee - taken a day later at the Visitor's Center. Okay, I guess it COULD be the same bee.

Butterfly taking off from the flower, the micro-second that I snapped this shot