new mexico

that whole other world…

For the last couple of weeks I have been in Santa Fe,  not scheduled to go back to NYC until next week.  It is always such a contrast to be here compared to the crazy energy of the big city.

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What other capital city do you know of where you can fish within steps of the Capitol building?  Santa Fe is grounded in her past and her traditions and that feeling of small town so lost elsewhere these days.  I always tell people Santa Fe is the perfect combination of small town and big city.  Everyone knows someone who knows someone here, it isn’t six degrees of separation,  it is usually two at most.  But unlike so many other small towns the big difference,  here in Santa Fe no one cares what you are doing behind closed doors.

Summer is also a time of color in the desert.  When the rains come in the right order and amount the ground bursts into bloom as part of its constant struggle to survive our arid surroundings. It has been a decent year so far, of course we could use a lot more rain **always**, but the spring tease was just enough to start the dance of life.

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As summer comes upon us here in the desert southwest another thought begins to enter everyone’s minds and most conversations, “monsoon season,”  that glorious interaction between the western winds and gulf moisture, the bringer of life.

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Into rainbow season we go,  full of hope for the storms ahead and always looking back at what binds the people to this land.  That thing I have such a hard time putting into words that brought me here.  That thing that kept me coming back year after year.  That thing that drove me to call this the only true home I have ever known.

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So, next time then…

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just another saturday in santa fe…

The Plaza is the heart of Santa Fe.  Even though it is surrounded by stores way too expensive for the average Santa Fe resident to even consider shopping in, there is still a sense of belonging and ownership when it comes to the Plaza.  Santa Feans have been gathering on the Plaza for generations.  Today was no exception,  beautiful spring weather, a jamming band and even a politician or two.  

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Another Saturday come and gone…

 

storm chasin’

Took off towards the hills today in search of big sky and adventure,  found both.   

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First sighting of Hermit Peak, the target of the trip.  Jutting up from the earth just outside of Las Vegas (Trivia tidbit.. ours here in New Mexico is the ORIGINAL Las Vegas, founded in 1835 it predates that one in Nevada by 70 years) is Hermit Peak a local landmark and sometimes movie backdrop.  Some of you might recognize it from “No Country for Old Men” or “Red Dawn” among others.  According to Wiki “it is named for the Italian religious recluse John Augustiani, who lived there in a cave he had dug into the earth around the time of the Civil War. His cave became the subject of pilgrimage by some devout New Mexicans, during his life and for a number of years after his death.”

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Chasing storms in New Mexico is always fun. Today was no exception,  the temp where this picture was taken 58, when we hit the snow that the storm was packing, the temp dropped to 36 in less than a mile.  Yes,  you heard it,  SNOW..  nice fat pellet snow. I had never seen pellet snow before I moved to New Mexico. The best way to describe it, imagine a huge beanbag chair exploding in the sky.

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This is as close as we got today… too cold for hiking.  A quick trip out of the car, scramble down a few rocks to get this view, click the shot and RUN back to the car to get warm.  It was about this time we came upon two mule deer,  but unfortunately I didn’t get the camera focused in time….  

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Gallinas…  last time they counted the population was about 286 people or so.  Nestled deep in Gallinas Canyon, the skies cleared for a moment but we had to keep moving to outrun the storm we had just come through.  When I got home I looked up Gallinas and found something very interesting,  so for the history buffs,  follow this link:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/07/070712-chaco-massacre.html

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Out the other side and back again,  until next time…

 

 

 

just back from the 1860s part three…

When last we met we were in the midst of the battle.  The fight lasted on and off all day as each side advanced and retreated several times.  Another interesting trivia fact,  while Las Golondrinas hosts the reenactment it is not the site of the actual skirmish,  the action was centered in Apache Canyon about 20 miles east or so (as the crow flies).  The nice field you are seeing here was not available for the soldiers instead the terrain was hilly, rocky, cactus,  juniper, piñon scrub.  In other words.. hell on earth.   

At the end of a hard day a temporary truce was instigated by the Confederates under the guise of tending to those injured and killed.  At the time the Union had no way of knowing that just a couple of miles down the road the Confederate Supply wagons had been set upon and destroyed,  leaving the men with little more than the shirts on their backs.  (Johnson Ranch, where the wagons were discovered by Union Troops is less than 2 miles from my home here in Santa Fe). 

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Calling for the truce…

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Removing the injured from the field.  Another interesting trivia tidbit,  the army finally had to train medics to be stretcher bearers as they found that they had too many volunteers more than willing to put down their guns and carry their fellow mates to safety (as it meant leaving the front lines themselves).

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The end comes full circle with the beginnings.  Already a new generation of history buffs being brought up.  Plenty of re-enactors out there for years to come!

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Until we meet again…

 

 

 

just back from the 1860s part two…

As promised, today we will get into the battle a little more.  A few interesting facts to start us off.  At the time of the Civil War,  New Mexico was not all that enamored with the U.S. Government.  Only becoming a territory in recent years,  The Mexican-American War had left a sour taste in many mouths and it wasn’t a given that if push came to shove they would join the Union in the fight.  The Confederacy was banking on this fact and believed that they had New Mexico’s allegiance well in hand.  But, as things often go when we fight wars in different cultures they were …. simply put,  IGNORANT.   If they had bothered to understand the people of New Mexico they would have realized there was one thing New Mexicans hated more than the Union….  Texans!

The animosity with Texas was deep rooted.  New Mexico had had a front row seat to how Texans operated.  Mexico invited the Texans in as friends.  This feeling was one-sided as the Texans took their first possible opportunity to bite the hand that had extended friendship.  Their dislike of the Spanish land owners was well known and New Mexico feared for their own existence every time Texas came into play.  Can’t say as it is much different now.  

So with this in mind we set the scene for the Battle of Glorieta Pass, fought over the course of a single long day among the juniper and piñon scrub.   Another interesting fact,  when the dust had cleared, the confederates supplies destroyed and it was obvious they had lost the battle,  instead of taking prisoners the Union Commanders just let them go.  The reason?  They had no food, water or supplies of any kind and had a 900 mile march ahead of them to get back to San Antonio.  The Union had no way to clothe and feed them, allowing them to leave was in their best interest.

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Come back tomorrow for the last batch.. more from the battle. 

 

just back from the 1860s…..

I am a huge history geek  I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated.  Even as a kid I loved history field trips, museums and especially re-enactors.  I have long believed that the best way to teach history is to get out of the books and classrooms and to live and see where the history was actually made. We are very lucky in Santa Fe because we have El Rancho de las Golondrinas ( the ranch of the swallows).  A village set during Spanish Colonial times.   Along with the lessons on New Mexico history they also play host to some of the best events of the year in Santa Fe.   We enjoy every visit, although that long climb up the hill at the end of the day is a killer. 

http://www.golondrinas.org/

https://www.flickr.com/search/?w=41089974@N07&q=las%20golondrinas%20

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.290272537747502.67123.287949161313173&type=1

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.307668676007888.73194.287949161313173&type=1

Yesterday was time to slip back to the 1860s and to the Battle of Glorieta.  A lot of people think that the Civil War was fought only in the east and while the majority of the battles were,  we had one right here in New Mexico.  Sometimes called the Gettysburg of the West it was a much needed win for the Union and helped to keep the Confederates from gaining a toehold in the west.  

Every year, on the first weekend in May,  re-enactors ( many related to those who actually fought in the war) gather at Las Golondrinas for a weekend of history doing.  The actual battle of Glorieta occurred in February but I guess the need for true accuracy is not nearly as great as the need for fingers and toes.   But it does give you pause when you realize that several thousand troops were marched into this often barren, seemly godforsaken land in the middle of winter without adequate supplies and expected to fight.  

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Come back tomorrow for part two.. a look at the cannons and the battle!  

 

 

into the land of fire and ice…

Yesterday was a grand day for adventure.  New Mexico is a land of vast beauty and extremes.  We have alpine forests (in grave danger of disappearing if we continue to play politics with science) and rugged desert terrain.  We have high-altitude and low.  We also have some of the most striking landscapes in the world. I say world as opposed to just the US because when you start to list the attractions you realize they stack up with those around the world not just here in the states.  From White Sands, to Carlsbad Caverns, from the Valle Caldera (a dormant super-volcano) to Tent Rocks it is no wonder movie studios are flocking to our state in record numbers in order to use the land of enchantment as a backdrop. 

One of the common misconceptions is that somehow the desert lacks color, nothing could be farther from the truth.. and while we are talking color let me just say, until you have seen a New Mexican blue sky you really don’t know blue.

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It has been very, very windy here, a normal spring phenomenon. Each year I hear myself saying it is windier than the last.  Whether this is actually true or not I don’t know.  When the sun came up yesterday and the winds were calm I knew it was a rare window for day trip to adventure.  Woke up the son and headed out.  Road trip ritual dictated that we stop at a convenience store and stock up on the treats reserved for the car only.  So fully stocked with gas and crap masquerading as food we headed off.  West.

I had seen the signs for the Ice Caves forever,  every time we had ventured west past Albuquerque,  but we had never had the opportunity to follow them.  It was the perfect day to remedy that once and for all.

Just to the south and west of Grants, New Mexico (about 2 1/2 hrs. from the house) is El Malpais National Monument and Conservation Area.  Malpais was named by the Spaniards who navigated around the treacherous area and called it as they saw it, simply, “bad land.”  And just why was it given this name?  Because it is a one of the largest lava fields in the world, if not the largest.  It includes among other things,  a 17 mile long lava tube.  It also contains another of nature’s great wonders, ice caves.

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Since 1946 the Candelaria family have run a tourist concession that includes an ice cave and access to the cinder cone of the Bandera Volcano, the largest cinder in the area which produced a 23 mile long lava flow.  

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The ice is a beautiful green color because of the arctic algae that lives within. The temperature inside the cave remains at a steady 31 degrees fahrenheit year round.

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Humans are very predictable… if there is a place to leave our mark we are desperate to do it.  Will anthropologists someday be studying a slice of petrified wood with a “dangerous dave” mark  just like they pour over petroglyphs today?

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The Bandera Volcano.  Last eruption 10,000 years ago the crater is nearly 1400 feet wide and 800 feet deep.

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After exploring the volcano and ice cave it was off to another part of the area for a three mile hike.  My time away from New Mexico proved to be a strong negative as I experienced my first ever bout of altitude sickness.  Luckily it was short lived although I am still worn out today from a pretty simple hike.  The trail wove in around the Bandera Lava Tube which is 17 miles long.  Can’t wait to go back on a warm summer’s night for the daily bat migration.

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All in all it was a wonderful day.  Another last chance to spend time with the son as he barrels into adulthood.  And the best part?  We left many things unseen so there will always be an excuse to go back.

Over the next few days I will be posting some B&W images from the day on my flickr and facebook accounts www.facebook.com/photographybybytegirl and www.flickr.com/photos/bytegirl 

eighty-eight days…

“Yes,  I think that is my longest ticket ever,” eight-eight days.. I spell it out because it just seems longer that way,  the words fit the length of time.  The Parking Attendant was astonished and we both gulped at the $6 per day charge holding my car hostage at the airport parking lot.  

Since we decided several years ago to live a life in two places at once,  this was the longest spent in only one place.   Originally supposed to only be a couple of weeks,  the universe intervened and eighty-eight days later I am back in New Mexico.

Finally back a week before May,  spring slipping past quickly heading into summer.  But spring in the mountains is a tricky thing,  it tends to take its time.   The view from my bedroom window yesterday morning, a clear sign of its fickle nature.

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This is also an opportunity to introduce Shaggy Peak to my blog.  Shaggy is my friend.  Shaggy greets me when I rise in the morning and is often the last sight I see when the sun sets.  A small peak of solid granite it helps to mark the border where the Rocky Mountains slide and tumble into the desert of New Mexico.  

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I tried to get close once,  harder than it seems.  One day though I will tackle the climb.

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Shaggy has been my friend and companion it has also been the backdrop for terror.  Fire is our real threat here in New Mexico and recent years have been especially hard for those of us who live in the trees.

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Shaggy has also given me color, including this new year’s eve sunrise from a couple of years ago.

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Shaggy at its best is often in the middle of turmoil and change, storms roll of her back into the valleys below.

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Not to say there isn’t also beauty to be found in a quiet cloudless sunset.  The ravens circling in the dimming light, coming down to roost in the pines below.

If you have made it this far with me,  I will leave you here with this next shot.  Obviously my favorite Shaggy Capture up until this point,  but who knows what tomorrow will bring

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Eighty-eight days without Shaggy,  way too many in a row…

spring sprung and it’s the bee’s knees

For the last few weeks it has been all about the NYC.  From people to parades, from eggs to street art the city always has a gift to give. But now I am back in Santa Fe and while it is a city it is no NYC (that is a good thing, btw).  Spring is here and my world is in bloom.  Today I visited  a couple of my favorite trees.  

Honey bees are everywhere buzzing away,  I can’t wait to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

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For the last couple of years a late frost has decimated the local apple, apricot and peach crops.  Fingers crossed that all these blossoms become fruit.

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So this is the first in a new category,  New Mexico.  Many more to come but if you are stuck on NY don’t fret.  Still so much left to see and do 🙂