The final 5 days of our Great Winter Road Trip were in Albuquerque with our friends Peg and Dave. They've been living there for 10 years already, so they know the good spots to visit! Since they both had to work during the week, we spent the first few days exploring on our own. The city is at the foot of the Sandia Mountains. Peg and Dave live just a few miles from the Rio Grande River as well. We enjoyed lots of hiking, geocaching and bird watching in the bosque. Bosque (bahskay) is the name for oasis like areas found along the flood plains of stream and river banks in the southwestern US. The most notable is a 200 mile bosque along the middle Rio Grande in New Mexico. The neat thing about that area is that although the trails are used for walking, biking, running and horseback riding, nothing is paved and it's all really rustic. It reminded me of playing in the woods at the end of Clarence Street when I was little! The area has a bunch of geocaches - which was fun - but the highlight for me was spotting a small Western Screech Owl sitting in a juniper tree just off the trail. I was able to get a bunch of pictures of the little guy. Screech owls are about 8 inches tall. Unfortunately, he spent the whole time squinting at us and never really opened his eyes - but I know he was watching!!
Another day we took a 2.7 mile tram ride to Sandia Peak. The view was spectacular - the only downside was the wind. Gusts up to 50 and 60 mph in the afternoon put the tram on "standby". Fortunately, we went in the morning and got up and down just fine. That afternoon we braved the gusty weather and hiked up and down the trails in the Petroglyph National Monument.
Over the weekend, Peg and Dave took us to see a few more places. Old Town Albuquerque was a great little spot for local shopping. We also drove north of Albuquerque to the Jemez (haymess) Mountains and hot springs, the Valles Caldera, Bandelier National Park and Santa Fe. In the caldera is a large meadow (12 to 15 miles wide) formed in the cone of the volcano. There we saw several huge herds of elk, they come down to feed in the winter. We figured there must have been nearly 1000 elk in each herd. It was amazing - but they were so far away that if you didn't stop and use the binoculars, you wouldn't even know they were there!
The Bandelier Mountains are the location of Frijoles Canyon and a major site of an old pueblo village and many cliff dwellings. By the late 1400's about 700 people lived in the canyon. The really cool part was that you could hike to and climb the ladders into the pueblos. We did lots of climbing and hiking -- but saved the final climb for our next trip. At the very end of the trail is the ceremonial kiva or gathering area. It is located in the cliff 140 feet above the trail - reachable by climbing several ladders! next time.....
In addition to Peg's wonderful home-cooked meals, which we really appreciated, we ate at several great restaurants. El Pinto is a popular area place that has pictures and autographs of some of their famous customers, including Barrak Obama, Hillary Clinton, George Bush, Mel Gibson, and Clint Black. The Range displays their famous autographs on fiestaware plates - Will Farrell, Ben Kingsley and Mary Stenbergen to mention a few.
So, we are now almost home. We are driving through thick fog in southern Iowa, watching the weather in MN. The predictions look like thick fog, rain and maybe some ice and snow as we get into Minnesota. Welcome Home.
57 days 8703 miles 18 states