Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Coronado State Monument

After driving past the Coronado State Monument sign multiple times I decided to check it out. I pass this monument going to Albertsons and Home Depot and wondered what could possibly be at such an odd location. The monument is located at 485 Kuaua Road in Bernalillo which is a half hour north of Albuquerque and about 15 minutes from our house. I picked an early morning before the spring winds would kick up and headed out. When I got there there was a nice sign, campgrounds, and a visitor center designed by Southwest architect John Gaw Meem (who I guess is a big deal). It was a very nice building plopped down along the Rio Grande river with a golf course in the distance and suburbia in the other direction. Odd. The site was excavated in 1930 and turned into a monument in 1940. It is the ruins and reconstructed kivas of a 1325-1600 Anasazi Pueblo with 1200 adobe walled surface dwellings/storage rooms, 3 plazas and 6 kivas. The dwellings/storage rooms are interesting when the docents explain that corn was stored at ground level and other levels were where people lived. The ruins don't look like much but do give you an idea of the size and layout. There are many other rooms that were re-buried when wind and the elements were threatening the construction. They were buried to preserve them. The construction was a ball or puddle adobe technique hand formed to make the walls. The balls were made by burning twigs and grass and combining the coal with dirt.

There are reconstructed murals painted in one of the reconstructed kivas after the originals were removed and restored and put on display in the mural room on site. They are spectacular but unfortunately you cannot take photos. They are one of the best examples of prehistoric pre-Columbian art in the northern hemisphere. There are also artifacts on display as well as a nice video.

There are trails that meander around additional ruins and go off toward the river. The location would have been a wonderful place to live. Not too many people walk the trails - I didn't see any one and only saw animal tracks and tumbleweed gatherings! School kids visit for tours and there were a couple busloads in the time I was there.

The only connection to Coronado that I could figure out was that Fransecso Vasquez de Coronado of Mexico wintered over in the Pueblo in 1540 while looking for the "seven cities of gold." Other than that I didn't understand why the site was named after him. That said, it is interesting as long as you have a docent explain what you are looking at. It isn't somewhere to spend a whole lot of time but for $3 why not go there and to the Jemez Monument nearby!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Trip To The Other Side

On Saturday we headed out to the "other side" of the Sandia Mountains via road 165 which is our Placitas road. This is a dirt road that crosses the mountains. I had gone up it about 7 or 8 miles before Jeff got here checking out Sandia Man Cave and assorted picnic areas. It is a lot cooler up there (as in foggy and chilly the day I went before) and there is running water from the Las Huertas creek. This is a good "get out of the heat" summer spot I am told. Also it it great for cross country skiing in the winter when the road closes. I have seen bikers on it but when cars go by it is dusty so I don't think I'd like that when there is car traffic. We passed the cave, passed some picnic areas and continued to Balsam Glade before the curves started to get to me and I needed a break. We got out and scoped out picnic areas, trails, benches etc.

We saw a really neat bird I had seen at the house. The trees started getting denser and denser the higher we went which is opposite of what they do in Seattle! There are oaks and aspens and junipers and pines and a lot of trees that look familiar that I don't remember the names of. In fall it must be as spectacular as now - new leaves now and changing colors in fall. We continued past Balsam Glade up to the Sandia Crest and headed back down. The next stop was Sulphur Canyon where we did a 3 mile mini-hike.
The dirt was red, the geology was really neat, the bright green new leaves were electric and we saw either an alligator pine or juniper...everything smelled like pine but I didn't look close enough to tell which it was. All the areas were garbage free with bathrooms that were open, clean and stocked and trails that were peppered with benches and picnic areas. Interpretive signs gave good information about trails, plants and animals. We then continued toward Albuquerque to look at bicycles (REI sale). It was then that I spotted the sign for Tinkertown! I had read about this - Ross Ward was a collector and carver who took 40 years to construct a miniature world of circuses, towns and storefronts that have moving items in them. He dragged them around to carnivals and did puppet shows I think. Anyway, it was an eclectic and interesting little stop. Not really a destination but great for kids and decent if you have any kind of imagination!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Cats, Of Course

The trauma of moving and losing Chicken and all that is dulling and the 4 cats we have here are adjusting well to living inside. In Placitas, which is High Dessert and very open space, the threats to cats and dogs are Great Owls and coyotes primarily. There are also bears and bobcats and other threats but owls and coyotes are notorious for picking off pets. People here LOVE their pets and just about everyone has catios and dog pens that are covered (so owls don't swoop in and coyotes don't climb in). We knew this and before Jeff got here the first thing I did was start work on the catio. I got a 10 x 10 dog run and covered it with welded wire and shade cloth but couldn't do the tunnel from the existing dog door to the run myself. This weekend we solved that problem and now everyone can enjoy sun on their fur, dirt all over, rabbits lurking, lizards teasing and the sounds of birds. That also means the people (us) can have window screens open and the door screen open and latched without fearing someone will burst through and take off. Our hope is that they love the freedom the catio offers and with this new option have no desire to be "out." In the off chance someone escapes (the catio is as securely put together as it can be and I have observed them and sat in it with them)at least they will have put their smells outside and will have the lay of the land. Our intention is that they never get out.

I forget who went out first but everyone soon followed. Tuca and Pollo were initially hesitant but turkey pieces got them into the tunnel and then they figured it out. Dakota the old fart has adjusted the quickest and he has a new lease on life and is playing more (he is at least 15 plus years old). Pollo seems content inside. Jackie is the boss. Tuca likes being able to go out and when she is inside has been hiding under the bed covers for most of the day for a month now. She is slowly coming out more. Pollo and Jackie actually team up and bat her when she is under the covers though and that doesn't help. I have planted cat grass and flowers so the cats can snack and hide. I also planted sweet peas and beans to climb on the chain link to give more camoflauge. There is/was a catnip clump until they decimated it in the first excursion out! I worried that green beans might be toxic to cats and after looking it up found out that they are fine but the chives had to come out. I guess more catnip is required! Anyway, with this new option they have new places to be and can breathe fresh air! On a side note, Blanco and Rip continue to adjust to their new owners in the old house. Blanco reportedly has been spotted in the ferns in the front and Rip is slowly working his way up top (but shows up for food of course). We are REALLY thankful the new home owners were willing to take them in. Those two could never have survived the trip and would not have adjusted at all.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Wild Horses of Placitas

We heard about the wild horses but for the first month hadn't seen any. I went to a meeting about them to learn more about the "issues" surrounding them and found it very informative. There appear to be people who believe they are damaging the land because there are too many of them. There are people who believe the horses were here first and should be free roaming. There are people concerned about hitting them with their cars which has happened and is possible because it is very very dark out here and the horses are very fast. The community invited a speaker who "manages" a herd of wild horses ... she manages the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. Their issues were the similar to the issues we have here only way more extreme. The meeting was a meeting of "deep listening." I liked that phrase. Of the many issues one is the drought, another is the size of the herd and BLM not allowing licensed people to use PZP as temporary contraception. In the end a majority want what is best for the horses which will include more fencing close to main roads, contraception (the neighboring Pueblo is licensed also to dart PZP) and a host of other things but it will be a long road to coordinate things since it involves the state and federal lands.

Jeff and I were very excited when we saw a family of 5 horses out near the open space land while we were on our way for a bird hike. I stopped and took a few photos as the horses stood around in the shade of people's houses and then milled around nibbling stuff.

A few days later we saw the same group outside our window standing near the cars. When I sneaked very quietly outside the took off down the road in front of the house. This morning I heard the cats growling and again, I looked out the window as the horses were coming up from the arroyo, into our yard, and then they followed the trail (ours or theirs?) down the back of the house to the other arroyo. They are huge, spectacular, wild-eyed, protective of the little one and a real thrill to see!!! I saw them one other time as I was driving out. I had just gotten onto the pavement when the herd bolted up the arroyo into the road in front of me and stopped. I watched for a while when another car spooked them and off they went. Jeff saw them in the dip on our short little dirt road when he got home from work. Lots of ethical considerations. Lots of questions about what is "right" for them. For now lots of magical encounters! I am just happy to see them and know most other people love them also.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hoodoos of Kasha-Katawe

On Saturday Jeff and I headed out to Tent Rocks for a hike. Located about an hour from our house in Placitas we headed up I25, off on exit 259, toward the Pueblo of Cochiti and then followed signs to the Monument. We bought an America the Beautiful Parks Pass so we could get free parking and entry to all the parks and monuments and Bureau of Land Management(BLM) trailheads. What a deal! There are 46 National Historic Landmarks and too many parks and trailheads to count. BLM manages the land at the park along with the Pueblo of Cochiti. The area was designated a National Monument in 2001. So what's a hoodoo? I kind of like the name "hoodoo" but also like their alternate name "fairy chimney." Both sound bizarre and magical and are interchangeable so you pick what you like best! Essentially and simplistically hoodoos are conical or tent like formations with a rock on top. They call the rock on top "caprock," and it is a harder material that keeps the whole thing from eroding away. The material beneath in this case is a softer pumice or tuff deposited by volcanic eruptions that occured  6-7 million years ago. You can see all the layers in the hoodoos and surrounding cliffs.

The parking area is really clean with a clean bathroom and color brochures about plants, birds, and the formations themselves. The trail is 1.5 miles for the canyon trail and that is where we headed first. We walked past smaller hoodoos toward the big ones that are 90 feet tall. We were dwarfed by them and as the morning light changed the place was creepy/moody and beautiful all at once. As we went into the canyon we could see all the straitions and the light was beautiful as it moved over the walls changing colors as the sun rose. The manzanita shrubs and pine (I think) were almost backlit as we went up.

We went up to the top where we had views of a bunch of mountain ranges including the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo. We could see Lake Cochiti in the distance. Mainly though we were looking down on the mini forest of hoodoos and even the ant-like people on the trail below!

We had lunch at the top before heading back down at a more leisurely pace. By now the sun was way up and kind of washed out all the subtle colorations of the rock. The sky however was a super clear blue which made for a nice backdrop.

From this perspective the shapes were different. I am always amazed at how different things look going to and from places. Every once and a while there were full size trees that looked like toy trees hidden in cracks. Looking up as we went down we could see lots of smaller hoodoos each with their little rock ball balanced on top. Even more tents were bundled together as we went back on the cave trail loop.

It was still pretty early (around 1) so we drove to the memorial overlook. We saw many other hoodoos that were on private land and then up at the scenic overlook we looked out at just about everything. The Hoodoos started at about 5570 feet and went to 6760 feet. I am not sure how high up the overlook was.

The wind had picked up along with the dust so we decided to head to Cochiti Lake. I'll write about that later. On the way out, as if the beauty hadn't been beautiful enough, lenticular clouds were forming over the mountains. I hadn't really seen these in real life before so it was a special treat to see at the end of an amazing hike! Enchanting? Absolutely. Hoodoo hoodoo hoodoos!