Sunday, December 13, 2015

Cieneguilla Recreation Area

Jeff and I wanted to get out of the house and do a little hike. It was cold on our mesa and we figured it could be windy everywhere or maybe we could find a small protected pocket somewhere. Jeff had a hike in mind but we had to find it first. We drove up toward Santa Fe (about 45 minutes north) and were following directions in his book but still couldn't find a real trail or parking pullout so we opted to do something else. This something else turned out to be a very nice surprise! Not only was the weather really really nice but the spot was spectacular! We ended up at the Cieneguilla Recreation Area on a trail you might as well call THE petroglyph trail. Albuquerque has amazing petroglyphs at 3 locations that are considered one park. There are thousands at those sites and just like here you can walk right up to them. This spot though has really spectacular ones and lots of them.

We started up the trail to the top of the bluff. It was a typical trail for here. We got to the top not having seen any obvious petroglyphs. We went atop the mesa and peered over the edge at a farm and saw a few pecked into the rocks so we opted to climb down to take a look. There were petroglyphs all over in the densest concentrations we have seen. They don't appear to be as worn as the Albuquerque ones. Just like Albuquerque though these are pecked into basalt. The view from on top of the bluff was of a couple mountain ranges and Santa Fe way in the distance. Snow capped the peaks and it was really pretty in the bright sun.




 At some point I will have to research the meaning of the things. For now though it is enough to have seen them.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Deadman Peaks: Continental Divide Trail

Yesterday it looked like the wind was minimal and as always that sun was out. Perfect day for a hike! The most difficult thing about hiking here is deciding where to go. We have a couple books, there are meet-up hikes and so many places everywhere that the decision-making is what takes time. We settled on a hike with "minimal shade" since it is winter...something around 5-7 miles (that's long enough for me) and something under 2 hours from home. The Continental Divide Trail is out near Cabezone on the road toward Cuba. It involves driving around a bunch on two track dirt about 35 miles from the nearest food/gas. The trail itself is over 3,000 miles long.

We got directions from the book Albuquerque 60 Hikes within 60 miles by Ausherman. We have done quite a few hikes in this book to lesser known sites like yesterday's...we didn't see a single person on the hike and only saw two trucks out there miles away. According to the book the unusual red rocks we saw were called "red dog" and are the result of  low-grade metamorphic changes in mudstone due to coal seam fires. There were lichens all over the rocks and hoodoos and layered rocks and mounds of very thorny cacti. The only way you would know there was a trail was if you noticed the cairn piles. This trail is out there!

Jeff is the teeny tiny orange dot on the top of the "Deadman Peak."

Hiking is always interesting here. The geology makes things very interesting but mainly it is the light....boy is there light and it changes how everything looks hour by hour!

Bingham NM - Blanchard Mine Trip

A couple months ago we joined the Albuquerque Gem and Mineral Club. I am not a club fan and I really dislike "meetings" but this group has some nice presentations and they have a once a month field trip to hunt/collect rocks and minerals. We took a trip to the Blanchard Mine where one of the members has a claim specifically to remove minerals. He has had the claim since 1987 and has pulled a lot of nice specimens out of it. Once a year he leads a trip and lets club members collect. We hear it is the most popular trip of the year. This is probably for a couple reasons - nice specimens AND you can get four wheel drive vehicles right up to the mine (rocks are heavy) AND it is only 1 1/2 hours from Albuquerque. All plusses.

We left the house at an ok hour (not too early) so we could get there by 9:30. When we arrived there were already 15 or so cars lined up. By 9:30 36 cars were there all signed in and we headed further up the two track dirt where we hopped into 4 wheel drive vehicles. Up we went. Around 20 people were allowed into the mine for about 1 1/2 hours. We were in the first batch. Mines are a lot more interesting than I originally thought they would be. This was our second mine (Galena King was the first)). The outside of mines usually have mounds of interesting rocks and minerals. Inside there are usually lots of minerals all over the ground and big chunks or streaks of stuff in the ceiling and walls. We were told not to hammer anything out over shoulder height. It was overwhelming to pick through what was on the ground...we really don't know what we are looking at at this point.

Jeff went to the end of the shaft (not far) and I plopped down just inside the mine not knowing where to look or what to do. I sat in a pocket and just started to look at things. I am glad I stayed near the made it easier to move my couple big "yard rocks" out. Things are heavy. Then I started to chip away at some streaks and gather up smaller pieces.


The cold temperature mellowed into a nice sunny windless afternoon when we exited the mine. We spent a couple more hours banging on rocks outside the mine and digging through piles in search of more treasures and waiting for a ride down. On the ride out someone pointed out a really long rock wall from ancient times. We would not have seen it.

We did a slight detour on the way home to check out the Apache Wetland area but it was the Crane Festival and I was grumpy and didn't want to deal with all the photographers and people heading out to wait for sunset when the whooping cranes fly in. I want to see it, but next year we may go ahead of the festival when no one is there. We drove home and admired our treasures!

Minerals found in this mine include: angle site, barite, bronchantite (green), cerussite, fluorite (lots), galena (gray cubes and heavy), gypsum, linarite (royal blue that we didn't find...maybe a couple dots of it), calcite and a bunch of other stuff. Originally it was mined to process galena ore then barite and fluorite. It was not a successful mine. It is in the Oscura Mountains on the eastern margin of the Rio Grande rift in fault block mountains. It is really neat to get to visit spots like this that we would not be able to go to on our own. It is way out in the middle of nowhere with nothing near it!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ghost Ranch Abiquiu

We wanted a day trip to try to find some fall colors. The leaf change seemed to be later this year than last but we figured a drive-around in the mountains would be pretty. We headed the Jemez Mountains but since we had gone all around there the weekend before we diverted toward Santa Fe. Ghost Ranch is somewhere I had been before but Jeff hadn't. There are several day hikes in very nice red rocks. Georgia O'Keeffe spent a lot of time here painting. The light in the South West is amazing and inspirational for many painters and photographers! The "ranch" is now a spiritual retreat of sorts offering all kinds of expensive workshops.

We got there a little late in the day so the only hike we could fit in before dark was the chimney peak hike. It is short but not too strenuous and does have great views of the surrounding landscape. We headed up with only a few other people on the trail. There are great hikes all over the South West. I will never get tired of red rocks and "painted" hills. There were moments of great light hitting the rocks if you were looking at the right moment. This area is 1 1/2 hours from our house so it makes a nice day trip!

Day of the Dead Parade - Albuquerque South Valley

A month or so ago we headed off to see the Day of the Dead Parade in Albuquerque's South Valley. We had not been to this part of town (not the best) and I really like Day of the Dead stuff so off we went. Not knowing the area the directions gave about where the thing started and ended we were unclear about where we were going.We didn't want to stand around forever so we didn't go early...but still managed to get there "in time" and enjoy the thing. First off...we are not big into parades or gatherings that are large but here in NM things are really calm, polite and there just aren't huge crowds anywhere. After going to the biggest thing the state offers (Balloon Festival) and having no problems we are giving large interesting events a chance.

We got to the area and there was some traffic. We did the detour and were channeled into an area with limited parking so we left and parked a short walk away. The sun was really bright and every one was walking around made up like fanciful skeletons in sparkly dresses or skirts or hats and ties etc. The people going to the parade were at least if not more interesting than the people IN the parade. NM is an area with a mixed population that blends well. People are just people here. The parade included some of the local Native American Tribes, a lot of different schools and different communities. It was a little too political for us. There were groups holding photos of missing people in Mexico...a group of bicyclists representing those killed while riding their bikes organizations with things to say about testing etc...The basic parade was all about really old cars, marigolds, skeleton people and animals and some floats. There were Native American and Latina Dancers and lots of cool costumes.

The parade route came with direct sun at the people's backs (hard to photograph and see since it was very bright) and the streets were lined with people. In a way it reminded me a little of Puerto Rico only it was quieter. Venders came around with ice cream and stuff and there was an area for Day of the Dead themed items. We watched cars and trucks and trailers come by full of skeleton people and it was interesting! The BEST parade we ever went to was in Puerto Rico - the 150th  annual parade in Ponce. The best and most costumes ever. This was a lot easier and calmer to be at though. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Galena King Mine

This is a little delayed (all right, a lot delayed) as a post but here goes... Jeff is still trying to go caving here in NM even though it is a nightmare getting permits, permission to go on land, and everything seems to be 6 hours away and gated. I gave up since I have no tolerance for groups that blab about doing stuff but rarely DO stuff. I have a rule that the activity has to be at least as much time as the time to get there.  I want to keep my Puerto Rico caving adventures intact since caving there was the most exciting and wonderful stuff I've ever done! Going into a short dust hole here just isn't on my list of enjoyable things to do. That said, a speaker came to the cave group meeting and gave a talk about the Galena King Mine. They mainly wanted help to install a gate across the openings and maybe get someone to rappel down a shaft to do some exploration. The gates are now up and as of today no one has even tried to explore or drop the shaft.

We met the Friends of Galena Mine people at the Kirtland Air Force Base and proceeded to get the background checks needed to be able to cross the base onto private land to enter the mine. It took an hour or more for everyone to get the paperwork and then off we went! We drove across the base and then loaded up the ATVs with cement, buckets, water etc so we would have supplies to close up the entrance to the mine. It was pretty warm out and sunny. We hiked the mile or so up (it is at 7,000 feet) and waited around ready to help. The group was around 10 people or so. The mine is private and people had somehow been finding their way in to break off minerals and haul them out. I am not sure where they would come from but the gate project was an effort to preserve the history of this mine and its booty. There is a nice group of people working on preserving the history here. They are also getting University students involved in the preservation and study of the mine.

This mine is small. We stood around a bunch and tried to be useful. We got some background information on the mine that I don't remember much of. It was first mined around 1910 for galena (type of lead) and later for fluorite. We were there to help out and take a tour hoping to see some of the fluorite veins. There was a temperature drop and it it started to snow! Weather is really unpredictable and 30 degree temperature shifts are pretty common. We did not, however, come prepared for this! I huddled inside the dusty shaft waiting for gate progress to be made so we could go in further and see the thing and get out of the cold! Several people left and in the end only a few of us were there to tour the thing.

Mines are not like caving. This one wasn't anyway. There is no climbing, route finding, water, etc. What WAS interesting though were the veins of intact fluorite. We went into the bottom entrance. The bottles here are set up so you can tell if a person or animal has entered (or may still be inside) the cave. With the dust you would be able to see bear footprints easily or people prints.

The total mine would take 15 minutes at most to walk through but we tried to stretch it out looking for cracks and crevices and holes (none). There was one spot at the end of the mine that had exceptionally large veins of purple fluorite in the shaft. We spent some time looking at that area and also taking some chunks of the stuff that had fallen (we had permission). Minerals are really neat! The fluorite was purple and almost bluish. At one point a black light was used to see show the mineral in a different way. We exited and headed up to the top entrance. There were mounds of white fluorite at its entrance. Flourite loses its color in sunlight. Still though, the white/clear stuff was neat too. We took some samples when we were done before heading out. We had some nice biggish chunks to carry out. Galena is very heavy and a small chunk could be 7 or 8 pounds! Once you find something though you just want it and keep walking (and resting) to get it out!

The best part of this trip was the nice people (and the little mouse a couple photos up) . I personally have a problem with the "don't share information" and "restrict access" mentality but I can understand it. It was the same thing with diving spots in the NW and even Puerto Rico is restricting access to its caves to "preserve" them. How many people actually get off their butts and explore stuff like this any way? The other nice thing is that we got pretty fired up about the minerals and have joined the Albuquerque Gem and Mineral Club which actively goes out rock and mineral hounding every month. The trips are to private mineral stakes or require permits but the group is with it and active. It'll let us visit places we wouldn't otherwise see in the state and start our extensive rock and mineral collection. We are even going to build a special shelf in the courtyard to display our finds. So as always we find ourselves doing things we never thought about...which leads to more things we never thought we'd be interested in. Not quite the level of excitement and physicalness we enjoyed (loved and hated) in Puerto Rico but some pretty neat and interesting things to do!