Tag Archives: Sandia Mountains

Up, Up and Away!

In a previous post about the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta I posted photos of balloons preparing to launch. The officials decided that the winds were calm enough for the launch, and the spectators watched as balloons rose into the beautiful blue sky. I have been taking photos at the Balloon Fiesta for years, and this year I decided to concentrate on photographing individual balloons.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Here is a short view of the mass ascension:

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The Balloon Fiesta-At Last

This year was an interesting one at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The first weekend was beautiful with flawless launches, but I never go on the first weekend because of the crowds, which are often more that 100,000 people. I usually go on Thursday, Friday and the second Saturday, because those days are dedicated to the special shapes, which are my favorites. This year it rained on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, I rose at 4:30 a.m., determined to see balloons.

It had snowed in the Sandias the night before, and it was cold as we stood around wondering whether the balloons would be cleared to launch.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011

Snow on the Sandias

The field was very wet and it was a bit breezy, which put the launch on hold. At 8:00 a.m. we got the word that the balloons were cleared to launch.

The balloons began to cold-inflate, which means that the balloon crew blows air into the balloon envelope with a big fan.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Cold inflation

In a very short period of time there were inflated balloons all over the launch field.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Balloons waiting to launch.

Airabelle the Creamland cow is always a crowd favorite.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Airabelle

Balloons continued to inflate and began to launch.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Special shapes inflating, balloon launching.

The official Fiesta balloon launched, the band played the National Anthem, and the launch was officially underway.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011

Official Fiesta Balloon.

Let’s sit back and watch the balloons prepare to launch.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Butterfly and basketball.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Iwi the Kiwi, from New Zealand.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

A cool dude.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Pepe Le Pew

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Spider Pig.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Butterfly and bees.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Wells Fargo Stagecoach.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Haunted Mansion and Clock.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Haunted Mansion.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Nelly-B

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Shark

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Kitty

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Balloon Fiesta Tourist.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Super FMG

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, October 8, 2011.

Zebra

I will post more Balloon Fiesta photos over the next week or so. Stay tuned.

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The Balloons Came to My House

The first weekend of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is always very crowded. For that reason I usually go later in the week. On Sunday the balloons came to my house.

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After the Fires

This would normally be a Wordless Wednesday post, but today I have something to say about what has happened in my beautiful state.

This weekend Bosque Bill and I went down the Calabacillas Arroyo access to the Rio Grande to see what was happening there in light of the monsoon rains that have occurred following the La Concha and Pacheco fires earlier this year.

It was a beautiful morning, and we enjoyed looking at the flowers …

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

Hyssop Lily

Hyssop Lily

Globe Mallow

Globe Mallow

Bee Plant

Bee Plant

Blue Flax

Blue Flax

… and the dragonflies and damselflies on the walk down to the river. I am not at all confident in my ability to identify dragonflies and damselflies. Please feel free to correct any mis-identifications.

Variegated Meadowhawk

Variegated Meadowhawk

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

Aztec Dancer (male)

Aztec Dancer (male)

Aztec Dancer (female)

Aztec Dancer (female)

Powdered Dancer

Powdered Dancer

We walked down to the Rio to enjoy the beautiful view of the river and the Sandias.

Rio Grande and clouds over the Sandias.

Rio Grande and clouds over the Sandias.

We watched Snowy Egrets flying overhead.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

And what does all of this have to do with the devastating New Mexico fires?

When we got to the edge of the river, we could see that the river was dark gray with ash from runoff from the burn areas. There was a great deal of black ash along the edge of the water.

Ash in the Rio Grande from runoff after the La Concha and Pacheco fires.

Ash in the Rio Grande from runoff after the La Concha and Pacheco fires.

There were chunks of burned Ponderosa Pine floating in the Rio.

Charred Ponderosa Pine bark.

Charred Ponderosa Pine bark.

John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal has written a blog post about how a fire affects an entire watershed. The damage from the fires and the subsequent flooding has devastated many beautiful areas in New Mexico including the Santa Clara Pueblo, Bandelier National Monument, Valles Caldera National Preserve and Dixon’s Apple Orchard. Many important birding and wildlife areas were burned. It will take many years for these areas to recover.

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A Walk Up to Sandia Crest

Recently I went to Sandia Crest with intrepid fellow explorer Bosque Bill to photograph hummingbirds and do a bit of hiking in the area. After Bill managed to drag me away from the hummingbirds, we went for a short hike in the Sandia Mountains.

Rufous and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds.

It was very difficult to tear myself away from watching the hummingbirds.

The walk is easy, and the trail is well-marked. Because of the drought conditions this year, there were many fewer wildflowers than we saw last year. However, we did see pretty purple Spreading Fleabane …

Spreading Fleabane (Erigeron divergens)

Spreading Fleabane (Erigeron divergens)

… and Indian Paintbrush.

Indian Paintbrush (Scrophulariaceae Castilleja)

Indian Paintbrush (Scrophulariaceae Castilleja)

The stunning view from Sandia Crest affords an 11,000 square mile panorama of the State of New Mexico.

View to the west from Sandia Crest, showing a partial view of Albuquerque, across the Rio Grande to Mount Taylor.

View to the west from Sandia Crest, showing a partial view of Albuquerque, across the Rio Grande to Mount Taylor.

View to the southwest across the city.

View to the southwest across the city.

View across the more gentle eastern slope to the plains to the east.

View across the more gentle eastern slope to the plains to the east.

View to the south along the Sandia and Manzano mountain ridges.

View to the south along the Sandia and Manzano mountain ridges.

Common Ravens flying overhead.

Common Ravens flying overhead.

Looking to the southeast we watched one of the Sandia Peak Tram cars ascend to the upper tram terminal. The Sandia Peak Tram is the third longest tram in the world, and the longest in the United States, rising from 6,559 feet at the base and traversing 2.7 miles to the 10,378 foot summit. Mid-span, the cables are 900 feet above the mountainside. At that point, if a passenger were to fall out of a tram car it would take the passenger eight seconds to hit the ground.

There is a restaurant at the top of the tram, and the upper terminal is at the top of the Sandia Peak Ski Area. Because the base of the tram is at the northeast edge of Albuquerque, it is possible to leave Albuquerque on the tram at 9:00 a.m. and arrive at the ski area fifteen minutes later. At the end of the day, you ride the chairlift to the top and then catch the tram for the ride back to Albuquerque.

Tram car, upper terminal and restaurant.

Tram car, upper terminal and restaurant.

Tram car, upper terminal and restaurant, a closer view.

Tram car, upper terminal and restaurant, a closer view.

The trail from the upper tram terminal to the Kiwanis Cabin first goes through the forest and then goes along the edge of the escarpment. The views from the trail are lovely.

A view of the hiking trail.

A view of the hiking trail.

The Sandia Mountains are a fault block range on the eastern edge of the Rio Grande Rift Valley. The Sandias were uplifted in the last 10 million years as part of the formation of the Rio Grande Rift. There is an impressive, moderately sheer drop of approximately 4000 feet on the east side of the Sandias. Climbing up the west side of the mountains, there is a gain in elevation from approximately 5,500 feet on Tramway Boulevard to 10,678 feet at the Sandia Crest rest. The Sandias encompass four different life zones because of the elevation change.

Trees at Sandia Crest, showing flagging from the strong winds.

Trees at Sandia Crest, showing flagging from the strong winds.

We walked up to Kiwanis Cabin, a rock structure built on the very edge of the crest by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. What you see in my photo is the third incarnation of the structure, as the first two were destroyed by fire and wind.

Kiwanis Cabin and intrepid explorer.

Kiwanis Cabin and intrepid explorer.

At one time there was another rock cabin at the base of the Sandias at the start of the La Luz Trail. It was an extremely popular party spot for local high school students, who would occasionally get into accidents when attempting to negotiate the winding road back to the city after a night of partying. I believe that the Rock House was demolished in the 1990’s, but a similar structure exists at another trail head in Elena Gallegos canyon.

On our way back from Kiwanis Cabin we again saw the lovely wildflowers in Kiwanis Meadow. I saw this beautiful Question Mark butterfly on some Spreading Fleabane.

Question Mark Butterfly on Spreading Fleabane.

Question Mark Butterfly on Spreading Fleabane.

Here is a closer look at the butterfly …

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

… and of the punctuation on its wings that gives the butterfly its name.

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

Do you see the question mark?

The Crest Trail between the parking lot for the Sandia Crest House and the upper tram terminal is an easy hike with spectacular views. To find out more about this hike, you might enjoy this website. You might also keep in mind that a hike at 10,000 feet can be strenuous for people who are used to sea level elevation.

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A Trip to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

In early December last year Bosque Bill and I went to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico’s newest national monument. Because of my work and travel schedule I never managed to put a blog post together on the trip. Kasha-Katuwe is a fascinating geological landscape of wind erosion, water erosion and hoodoos. The area’s striking geology is the result of layers of volcanic rock and ash deposited by a volcanic explosion. Over time, weathering and erosion of these layers created canyons and tent rocks, or hoodoos. The tent rocks themselves are cones of soft pumice and tuff beneath harder caprocks.

The day was fairly overcast, but I did get some photographs to share.

Cliffs near the entrance to Kasha-Katuwe

Cliffs near the entrance to Kasha-Katuwe

You can see the Sandia Mountains from the foot of the trail.

You can see the Sandia Mountains from the foot of the trail.

Starting up the trail at Kasha-Katuwe National Monument, New Mexico.

We got closer to the hoodoo formations as we started up the trail.

Large hoodoo at Kasha-Katuwe National Monument, New Mexico.

This large hoodoo was really impressive.

Sedimentary rock layers showing  volcanic tuff and rhyolite.

Sedimentary rock layers showing volcanic tuff and rhyolite.

Starting up the trail.

Starting up the trail.

Close view of tree roots showing water erosion from periodic flooding through the canyon.

Close view of tree roots showing water erosion from periodic flooding through the canyon.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Starting up the slot canyon trail.

Starting up the slot canyon trail.

Continuing up the slot canyon trail.

Continuing up the slot canyon trail.

Looking up from the slot canyon trail.

Looking up from the slot canyon trail.

Looking up a little farther along the slot canyon trail.

Looking up a little farther along the slot canyon trail.

A beautiful swirl in the rock.

A beautiful swirl in the rock.

Emerging from the slot canyon.

Emerging from the slot canyon.

Manzanita shrub, a closer view.

Manzanita shrub, a closer view.

A view up the cliffs.

A view up the cliffs.

Close view of a hoodoo.

Close view of a hoodoo.

Going back down the trail, a view of the slot canyon from above.

Going back down the trail, a view of the slot canyon from above.


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A Visit to Rinconada Canyon

Recently Bosque Bill and I decided to go for a walk in Rinconada Canyon in Petroglyph National Monument. It was a beautiful day, although not particularly filled with birds. The petroglyphs, however, are spectacular.

The path that we took runs along the edge of the volcano escarpment.

Rinconda Canyon, Petroglyph National Monument.

Rinconda Canyon, Petroglyph National Monument.

The landscape is very rugged.

Rugged volcanic landscape

Rugged volcanic landscape

Looking to the east you can see Albuquerque, and even farther to the east you can see the Sandia Mountains.

Looking to the east toward the Sandias.

Looking to the east toward the Sandias.

The scenery is striking, but it is the petroglyphs, images made by native people by pecking or chipping pictures into the rock, that are the main attraction.

Petroglyph grouping

Petroglyph grouping

This one looks like an alien. Perhaps he got lost on the way to Roswell.

An alien?

An alien?

An interesting Petroglyph grouping featuring a snake.

Petroglyph grouping

Petroglyph grouping

These grazing sheep or goats don’t seem to notice the snake.

Grazing sheep or goats.

Grazing sheep or goats.

This impressive fellow was likely carved by a later resident of the area.

Petroglyph

Petroglyph

Is this snake attacking a person?

Snake attack!

Snake attack!

This coyote seems a bit outmatched.

Coyote and snake.

Coyote and snake.

I like the way this face is made on two sides of the rock.

Two-faced

Two-faced

We saw petroglyph birds…

Dancers and a soaring bird.

Dancers and a soaring bird.

A bird on the ground.

A bird on the ground.

… and a few real birds too, although most were too far away for good photos.

Rock Wren

Rock Wren

White-crowned Sparrow.

White-crowned Sparrow.

Petroglyph National Monument includes volcanoes, archeological sites and thousands of carved images. It is a fascinating place.

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