On Christmas Day Eric and I decided to go to Polihale Beach before exploring Waimea Canyon. Polihale is an extraordinarily beautiful and uncrowded beach on Kaua’i's isolated west side. It is known for its 17 mile stretch of golden sand and hot, cloudless days. You can see the beginning cliffs of Na Pali from the northern end of the beach. I thought it was one of the loveliest places I have ever been.
For the ancient Hawai’ians Polihale was the site of a heiau (temple) from which they believed the souls of the dead departed for Po, the underworld.
The trip to Polihale involves 5 miles down a sandy road which is not suitable for 2-wheel-drive vehicles. We had to assist a group in a sedan which became stuck in the sand. Here are some photos from that day:
I purposely over-exposed a few photos to try to duplicate the effect of a beach painting. What do you think of the result?
As day dawned on my last full day at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, I discovered that I was totally exhausted. I had dragged myself out of bed at 4:30 a.m. for three days in a row, and I was not able to do it one more day. I decided to take a drive to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. Located on the banks of the Rio Grande, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is a wonderful 2,080-acre nature preserve.
Because I was tired from days of birding, I took the tram tour around the refuge. Although the noise of the tram drove most of the birds into the trees, we did get to view areas that most people do not travel to on foot.
An old cemetery on the refuge, Santa Ana Cemetery, is still visible. It is partly enclosed by the original hand carved ebony fence. There are approximately thirty graves and a tomb built of hand crafted bricks.
As we walked through this entrance arch, we saw and heard several Great Kiskadees calling. Although they followed us for quite some time, I was never able to get a clear photo of any of them.
There is a caption of the plaque at the foot of the large cross which reveals an interesting bit of Texas history about the drowning of Thomas Walter Jones, a surveyor born in 1827 and drowned during a river flood on July 23, 1858 following the treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo in 1848.
We were able to walk down to the Rio Grande. I was anxious to see the Rio Grande in South Texas, because it is the same river that flows near my house many miles to the north. The vegetation along the Rio is different, but the river looks very much the same.
As we walked near the Rio Grande, we saw a crossing where undocumented workers from Mexico cross into the US.
And this brings me to the border fence. I had never seen the border fence until I went to South Texas. I had always thought that it was a terrible idea and most likely an unworkable plan. After seeing it I know that both of those things are true. The border fence is clearly putting money in some people’s pockets, and that seems to be about all it is accomplishing. The local residents with whom I spoke were very unhappy about the border fence.
One problem is that the border fence is not built along the border, but often several miles inland. This leaves many areas trapped in a no-man’s-land between the fence and the border. Such was the case with several important birding and conservation areas, including Sabal Palm Audubon Sanctuary. An interesting article on the effect of the border fence on several important areas and on the Sabal Palms themselves can be found on the Nature Conservancy Blog.
Another problem is that the border fence is not a single fence, but rather a series of fence sections. Sabal Palm was closed for over a year, in part because of uncertainty over the border fence. Visitors now enter by driving through a gap in the fence. Amy Hooper took this excellent photo of the fence:
Spanish explorers called the river the Rio de las Palmas long before it was called the Rio Grande in the United States and the Rio Bravo in Mexico. They used the palm forest at the mouth of the river as a landmark as they sailed along the Gulf Coast. In those days, dense groves of Sabal Palms were found along the river up to 80 miles inland. Today the last stands of Sabal Palms are confined to a tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Sabal Palms Audubon Sanctuary and the Nature Conservancy’s Southmost Preserve. All three of those areas are now behind the border fence. Although there is access through gaps in the fence, many trees were sacrificed or moved when the fence was built.
Whatever your political beliefs, you should see the border fence and judge its potential for both effectiveness and harm for yourself.
On my second day at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival a fast-moving cold front moved through the area. I decided to drive over to south Padre Island to see what was happening in the coastal area. The strong winds had lured the kiteboarders to Laguna Madre Bay. I had a wonderful time watching them.
I made this short video. Be sure to watch the boarder in the back as he catches some incredible air 26 seconds into the video.
In my most recent post on this blog Bosque Bill and I had just finished our lovely picnic lunch at Fenton Lake, and we were planning to return to Corrales and Albuquerque’s North Valley. We returned along a different route along the Rio Cebolla via Forest Road 376.
There were brilliant golden swaths of Quaking Aspen all along the way.
We saw one area where the aspen were so beautiful that we decided to walk into the trees for a number of photos. Here are a few of them:
As we drove down the forest road along the Rio Cebolla we left the aspen behind. The river which merged with the Rio de las Vacas to become the Guadalupe River, descended into Guadalupe Canyon, and the vegetation became primarily Gambel Oak.
We descended farther down the logging road that wound through the Guadalupe Canyon along the river. Although he walls of the canyon became steeper there was still fall foliage along the road.
The Gilman Tunnels are at the narrowest part of Guadalupe Canyon, near the bottom of the canyon and close to the junction of the forest road with the State Highway. These tunnels were originally blasted out of the rock in the 1920′s for a logging railroad. They are not long tunnels, but they are an attractive feature of the drive.
After we drove through the Gilman Tunnels, the landscape opened up and we could see the beautiful red rock formations of the Jemez Valley.
It was a lovely day with spectacular scenery, fine weather, good food and great company. Happy birthday Bosque Bill!
Along with the Sangre de Cristo range 35 miles distant across the Rio Grande valley, the Jemez Mountains form part of the southern Rocky Mountains, which stretch over 2,000 miles north into Canada. The Jemez Mountains contain no great natural landmarks, rather they are a large area of mostly undisturbed forested wilderness, with rocky peaks, meadows, mountain streams, lakes and waterfalls. More unusual features result from past volcanic activity: There are hot springs, sulphurous vents and a caldera, which is a ring of hills comprising the remains of several long-extinct volcanoes. All the mountains form part of the 1.6 million acre Santa Fe National Forest. This area was the the site of the destructive La Concha fire this past summer.
Bosque Bill and I decided to take a trip to the Jemez last weekend to see the fall colors. It was Bill’s birthday, and we thought that that a photo outing combined with a picnic would be a terrific way to celebrate.
Our first stop was at a camping area near the Pueblo of Jemez, which is an independent sovereign nation with an independent government and tribal court system. It is a federally recognized American Indian tribe with 3,400 tribal members, most of whom reside in a puebloan village that is known as Walatowa, a Towa word meaning “this is the place.”
The scenery at this first stop was lovely, although the fall colors were just beginning to show.
We saw American Robins in the Rocky Mountain Junipers, feasting on berries.
Dark-eyed Juncos foraged on the ground.
Our next stop was Battleship Rock, a spectacular basalt rock cliff at the confluence of the Jemez River and the East Fork of the Jemez River. An interesting fact about this formation is that the basalt columnar joints are horizontal rather than the much more common vertical joints.
Before we took the road to Fenton Lake, we stopped to admire this hillside covered in flaming Gambel Oak foliage.
We paused to admire this lovely Mountain Bluebird.
On our way to Fenton Lake we stopped at an overlook where we got our first real look at Quaking Aspen and their spectacular golden autumn color.
We stopped and ate a lovely picnic lunch at Fenton Lake. We were joined by two Steller’s Jays …
… and this cute little Least Chipmunk.
Everywhere we went we were surrounded by gorgeous fall color.
In Part II of this post I will show you what we saw on our return trip.