Hi, and welcome to my blog.  It occured to me that when you view the images in my galleries, that you would like have some idea as to the how, when and where.  Therefore, through this blog, I will attempt to provide some background and detail about the photo trip that resulted in the images posted on my site.

First Road Trip Of 2022

January 10, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

A year ago, on January first of 2021, Jane and I were ringing in the New Year with bubbly mimosas while watching the Tournament of Roses Parade on television.  Then and there we vowed to attend the next parade in person and spend some warm days away from the cold winter temperatures of Albuquerque.  A few days later Jane got us tickets to the parade and reservations at the Pasadena Sheraton.   As the new year approached, however, we became more and more anxious that the new Covid-19 Omicron variant would cause the parade to be cancelled.

The parade was not cancelled and we enjoyed our first road trip of 2022 to Pasadena, California.  It’s a comfortable two day drive from Albuquerque to Pasadena with an overnight in the Phoenix area.  For the holiday week, freeways were busy but not overly congested with lots and lots of eighteen-wheeler, big rig trucks.  You wouldn’t think there was a driver shortage with all the semi-trailer trucks on the freeways.

We arrived in Pasadena on a rainy December 29th .  The plan had been to spend time in the LA area sightseeing.  But the weather prevented that and we ended up spending the stormy weather channel surfing the TV in the hotel room.  After the storm system moved on, the rest of our stay was southern California sunny, but on the cool side.  The Omicron variant hadn’t stopped commerce in Pasadena.  On New Year’s Eve restaurants were busy and crowded.  Fortunately, Jane had the foresight to make dinner reservations well ahead of the holiday.

On the first day of the new year we were up at the crack of dawn for the half hour walk from the hotel to our grandstand seats along the parade route.  Masked up with our N-95’s, we walked past sleeping parade enthusiasts who had spent the night camped out along Colorado Boulevard.  Even in the early morning, vendors were already set up selling souvenirs and greasy, beacon wrapped hot dogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The parade was marvelous, everything we had expected.  The floats with their vast array of colorful flowers were beautiful and ingeniously engineered and constructed.  Among the many creative floats, the Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom float was my favorite.  Marching bands from around the country, with their skimpily dressed, baton twirling, majorettes performed John Phillips Sousa favorites.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the parade we maneuvered back through the throngs of people to the hotel to pack up, check out and head for San Diego where we had arranged to meet up with old friends.  In San Diego, in addition to reuniting with our friends, we spent several delightful days visiting familiar sights including a stroll along the Embarcadero and Sea Port Village, a ferry ride across the bay to Coronado, and lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, The Prado, in Balboa Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Year's End

November 06, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

This travel year has come to an end.  For the last few remaining months of 2021 Jane and I have been staying close to home.  In early October we ventured out to enjoy the annual Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  This year we did not get tickets for the event, but watched the mass ascension from the “side lines” east of the venue that provided a different perspective.  There were some special shape balloons this year that we had not seen before.  It was a different, more distant, view but we didn’t have to deal with traffic and crowds getting to the balloon park.

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In mid-October we were getting “cabin fever” and opted for a short road trip to Ruidoso, a small town located in the Sierra Blanca Mountains, in central New Mexico.  With peaks at nearly 12,000 feet, the mountains around Ruidoso provided a pleasant respite from the low lying Rio Grande valley back home.  Before starting on this outing, Jane had found that there was a very nice and modern theater, the Spenser Theater for the Performing Arts, located near Ruidoso.  This $25 million gem was just fifteen minutes from our hotel and we enjoyed a performance by the Brothers Four, singing old favorites from the distance past.  The Spenser Theater also hosts a collection of colorful Chihuly glass sculptures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were three nights in Ruidoso and spent some time exploring the surrounding area with a brief stop at historic Fort Stanton.  The fort was established in 1855 to control the then warring Mescalero Apache Indians.  Eventually the Mescalero Apache were relocated to a reservation just south of Ruidoso where we enjoyed a lunch and beer at their Inn Of The Mountain Gods Casino.  During our forays around town we discovered that Ruidoso is home to herds of elk that roam the back roads and like to forage on grasses at the golf course and school play fields.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon returning home from our short trip to Ruidoso, we found that the cottonwood trees along the Rio Grande had started their fall display of brilliant yellow foliage.  Jane and I took the opportunity to make several trips to the open space corridor along the river to hike among the colorful trees.  Overhead we heard the gravelly calls of the sandhill cranes as they migrated back to their winter stomping grounds along the Rio Grande.

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Armendaris Ranch

September 02, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

 

In the early 1800’s New Mexico, and most of America’s southwest, was still part of New Spain with the governor of the Northern Provinces of New Spain located in Santa Fe.  It was the custom at that time for the governor to award land grants as a favor for political or military service.  In 1918, Pedro Armendariz applied for a land grant, citing his military service and loyalty to the King of Spain and in late 1919 was awarded the Armendariz Land Grant consisting of 397,235 acres.  During the ensuing decades, first Mexico in 1821 and later the United States in 1848 controlled the New Mexico territory.  Throughout these governmental and subsequent ownership changes, the Armendariz Land Grant remained pretty much intact.  In 1990, the last owner of the land filed for bankruptcy and in 1994 Ted Turner purchased the property and established the 362,885 acre Armendaris Ranch. 

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The huge ranch, with a landmass greater than the city of Phoenix,  is located along the Rio Grande River in south central New Mexico near the quaint town of Truth Or Consequences (T or C).  The landscape is semi-desert grassland of the northern Chihuahua Desert. Since 1994 Turner has allowed the previously overgrazed land to regenerate and has established a number of environmental initiatives to restore native species.  One of those initiatives was protecting the Mexican free-tailed bat population at the Jornada Bat Caves located on the Armendaris Ranch.  I convinced Jane that we needed to photograph these bats and that is how we ended up at the Sierra Grande Lodge in T or C for a two night stay.

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About 761,000 years ago a shield volcano erupted and spewed out a large basaltic lava flow.  As streams of hot lave flowed, the top crust cooled creating lava tunnels.  Centuries of erosion later, some of the crust lava, the roof of the lava tube, gave way and collapsed into the tube creating caves.  Some of these lava caves are on the Armedaris Ranch and from June to September, several hundred thousand female Mexican free-tailed bats migrate from Mexico to utilize the lava tube caves as their nursery. 

When tens of thousands of bats emerge from the cave each evening around dusk, Swainson’s hawks gather in the sky to prey on the bats.  This was a wildlife event I wanted to try and photograph.  I scheduled two tours to the bat cave to maximize the opportunity to capture some keeper images.  The bat tour departs from the Sierra Grande Lodge, a Ted Turner Preserve property, at 3:30 PM and requires a two and half hour drive across the ranch on dirt tracks to the bat cave.  We left home around noon in order to check into the lodge well before the 3:30 PM departure.  Our guide for the tours was Ken, a retired biologist and accomplished photographer.

Unlike last year, this summer New Mexico is experiencing a more normal monsoon season with clear skies in the morning transitioning to huge cumulus clouds with extensive lightning and dark ominous cumulonimbus clouds by late afternoon with cloudbursts following in a random pattern.  That was the scenario when we arrived in T or C that afternoon.  By the time Ken picked us up for the drive to the bat cave, threatening clouds were all around.  Ken checked his weather app that showed the storms were concentrated to the west and east of our trajectory and we pressed on.

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The contrast between the lush grassland vegetation on the Armendaris Ranch and the overgrazed conditions we had seen in southwestern New Mexico during our trip to Silver City was astounding.  By not grazing cattle or sheep on the ranch and allowing nature to restore the land, a healthy diversity of thriving plants and grasses abounded.  As we traversed the extensive ranch property there was a sense of isolation and returning to nature.  Along the way, we encountered a number of desert species I had never seen, let alone, photographed.  The western desert tarantula was one that Jane discovered as we were waiting for the bats to emerge.  The white lined sphinx, a type of hummingbird moth, we found pollinating and feeding on evening primrose flowers.  Ken nearly ran over a prairie rattlesnake that was sunning itself in the middle of the dirt track.  I also give Jane credit for spotting a tarantula hawk, although Ken had to tell us what it was, a spider wasp that preys on tarantulas.

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Photographing the bats, however, proved problematic. The bats normally emerge from their roosting cave around dusk, a half hour before sunset.  We arrived at the cave at 6:30 PM and storm clouds to the west were obscuring the sun creating early dusk conditions.  The bats must have sensed that conditions that night were different and decided not the leave their shelter until nearly sunset.  We did see a string of bats fly out to forage for insects on the prairie but by that time it was too dark to attempt photography. That is why, as a form of insurance, I had scheduled two tours to the bat cave. 

The second night we arrived a bit earlier, but the weather was also a bit more threatening.  Ken had brought folding chairs so we would be more comfortable while waiting for the fly out.  We had barely set out the chairs and gotten cameras ready when it started to rain.  By the time we reached the shelter of Ken’s truck, a hundred yards off, we were pretty much soaked. This time the rain cells were right over us and Ken had to drive two hours on the water logged dirt track back to the paved road with torrential rain pelting down.  We made it back without incident but it was a scary ride.

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So, photographing Swainson’s hawks preying on bats was a bust but we experienced other photo ops during our two tours into the pristine grassland prairie of the Armendaris Ranch and the stay at Sierra Grande Lodge with its friendly staff was most enjoyable. Jane and I made a pact to return again to The Armendaris Ranch in the future to do more sightseeing in the area.  Of particular interest is a tour of the New Mexico Spaceport located not far from T or C and, of course, another chance to photograph Swainson’s hawks going after Mexican free-tailed bats.

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Glacier National Park In 2021

August 12, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

The American Automobile Association (AAA) predicted a robust return of vacation travel this summer with nearly fifty million travelers forecast to take to the roadways and skies.  Jane and I were willing participants in this enormous bubble of holiday travelers.  Our destination, along with throngs of other vacationers, was Glacier National Park.  In anticipation of record high visitations, the National Park Service limited visitors to the park by instituting a new ticket requirement for access to the Going-To-The-Sun Highway, the primary entry into the park.  We did not learn of this restrictive entrance requirement until it was too late for us to obtain a special ticket.  The only way for us to gain entry into the park by way of the Going-To-The-Sun Highway was to pass the park entrance station before six AM.  That meant getting up at 4:45 AM and hustling out of the cabin.

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We were a week at our time-share cabin at Glacier Wilderness Resort and only made the super early run into the park twice.  Each time the objective was to reach Logan Pass in time to obtain a parking spot before rangers closed the parking lot.  The Hidden Lake Overlook trail that starts at Logan Pass has always been a good location for spotting the park’s varied wildlife.  This time was no exception as we enjoyed watching and photographing bighorn sheep, mountain goats, hoary marmots, Columbia ground squirrels and the ubiquitous golden mantled ground squirrel.  Being on the Hidden Lake Overlook trail in July provided us the chance to observe some animal family interactions.  I was photographing a large, adult hoary marmot when I noticed one, then two and eventually three pups cavorting around the area.

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There are two areas on the east side of Glacier National Park that can be visited without the special ticket required for the Going-To-The-Sun Highway. So, after checking out of our time-share, we moved for a couple of days to the Glacier Park Lodge, built in 1913 by the Great Northern Railway, on the east side.  Two Medicine and Many Glaciers on the east side were inundated with visitors, who like us, did not have a special ticket.  We were turned back by park rangers during out first attempt to enter the park at Two Medicine because there were no parking spaces left.  It was suggested we arrive at this entrance early in the morning and that is what we did the second time.

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One of the scenic locations at Two Medicine is the Running Eagle Falls, a short walk from the parking pullout.  We made that our first stop and because we had arrived early, there were only a couple of cars there.  While photographing the falls, I noticed an American dipper flying along the water flowing from the waterfall.  Dippers are somewhat difficult to find because of their high elevation, clear stream habitat.  Obviously, I had to spend some time locating and photographing this bird.  It was “eagle eye” Jane, however, who spotted them first and had to point me in the right direction.  Eventually I was able to get some good images of the dipper, including a recently fledged immature bird being fed by an adult.  By the time we left Running Eagle Falls the parking area was full and numerous cars were parked along the shoulder of the road.

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From the Glacier Park Lodge to Many Glaciers is normally a little over an hour’s drive.  This year, however, the entrance road from Babb to the park entrance station, an eleven mile stretch, was under construction, making this section of the route dusty, bumpy and slow.  When coming to Glacier National Park, we usually include a visit to Many Glaciers because we have had fairly good luck in finding large mammal wildlife there. 

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Fishcap Lake, a short hike from the Swiftcurrent Lodge parking area, is where moose are frequently seen and that was our objective.  We checked out Fishcap Lake for moose twice.  The first time, we got there mid-morning and it started to rain shortly after we arrived.  We were not prepared for rain and settled ourselves under the protective canopy of trees along the shore of the lake and waited, and waited.  We were far from being the only moose watchers along the edge of the lake.  Other likeminded visitors were practicing patience waiting for one of the big animals to appear.  Finally after more than an hour of waiting, the call “moose” went out from somewhere among the spotters along the lake. A female moose and calf had come out of the forest at the far side of the lake.  She and her newborn scurried along the edge of the lake for a few seconds and disappeared from view among the willow bushes.  Only if you happened to have your camera pointed in the right direction could a shot be obtained while the moose was in the open.  Fortunately, my camera and I were looking where the moose appeared and was able to get an image of the adult and calf trotting along the edge of the lake.

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We arrived in the early morning for our second visit to Fishcap Lake.  It was a gorgeous sunny morning with brilliant reflections in the lake water, just the kind of morning you would love to have a moose walk into the lake.  Well that did not happen.  I waited and waited for more than three hours before my patience ran out.  Jane had the good sense to leave long before I did to relax at the Lodge.  The only distraction that occurred while waiting for a moose to appear was that a large spotted frog had jumped into the lake right in front of us.  It had been startled by a hiker passing by and offered some photographic relief during an otherwise boring morning.

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Glacier National Park is a special place and we enjoy every visit.  This July visit was unique.  Most of our visits to the park have been in late September.  Turned out that one of our neighbors also has a time-share at Glacier Wilderness Resort and we traded our time in September for their time in July.  This visit provided us a different view of the park with colorful wildflowers, instead of the golden aspen trees of fall, and young baby animals, instead of the larger grown up animals intent on bulking up for the winter hibernation.  I would be remiss, however, if not mentioning that this visit in July was hampered by extremely smoky conditions from the many wildfires in the west.  We felt sorry for first time park visitors who were not being able to clearly see the grandeur of the peaks and valleys of the great Rocky Mountains.

Other images from this trip have been added to the Glacier National Park sub-gallery in the National Parks and Monuments main gallery.

 


Crested Butte

July 18, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

After our nearly two-week, high desert adventure in May, Jane and I set our sights on a shorter, cooler trip to the Colorado Rockies.  At the high elevations of the Rocky Mountains, spring wildflowers arrive in late June so we planned this new adventure to coincide with the wildflower bloom in the Rockies.  We chose Crested Butte, “the wildflower capital of Colorado”, as our destination and rented a condominium apartment for five nights to serve as our home-base for exploring the high alpine meadows of the Elk Mountains.

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Crested Butte, established in 1878, was historically a coal mining town.  With the decline in the need for coal, mining operations closed down in the early 1950’s and in the 1960’s Crested Butte re-emerged as a ski destination.  During the summer, Crested Butte is a haven for dirt bike enthusiast with dozens of bike trails through the Gunnison National Forest.  Of course, we were there for the wildflowers and were not disappointed.

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Colorado Highway 135 dead ends at Crested Butte and from Crested Butte there are only dirt roads leading west and north.  I had consulted a guide book to Colorado’s best wildflower photography locations around Crested Butte by Andy Cook, a well known Colorado photographer.   So, Jane and I traversed all these roads in our quest to locate wildflowers locations mentioned in the guide book.  Each day we selected a different track to explore and we discovered the vast aspen forests and scenic backcountry of the Rocky Mountains around Crested Butte.  Jane’s favorite was the Ohio Creek Road with its stunning vistas and majestic mountains.  My favorite was Gothic Road that yielded vast alpine fields of wildflowers.

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In addition to the colorful displays of wildflowers, we also encountered a variety of wildlife, including mule deer, yellow bellied marmots, the ubiquitous golden mantled ground squirrel, a lone sandhill crane, and a fox.  Since my selection of camera equipment was based on flower photography, some of the wildlife, particularly birds, was too far away for my shorter focal distance lenses.  Nevertheless, some good images were acquired.  I will place the photos from this trip in a new gallery titled “Crested Butte, Colorado”.

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Jane and I so enjoyed the beauty of these high alpine mountain settings that we are committed to returning to Crested Butte for a future fall foliage photography expedition.

 

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