Albuquerque bosque at dawn

Guest blog by Ray Shortridge

During the summer, it’s more comfortable to take my routine three to four mile hike along the river at dawn, when the air is still cool. Owen the wonder dog usually accompanies me. He’s more interested in checking out the bushes along the way than watching the sun rise over the Sandia Mountains and light up the Rio Grande River valley, however.

At first, the valley remains in shadow while the sun climbs the east slope of the mountains.

As the sun crests the Sandia, the atmosphere refracts the sunlight into the red and gold colors of the spectrum.

The water fowl along the river banks quack, honk, and screech as with the coming of the day.

Wonderfully Wierd Bosque Art

Guest blog by Ray Shortridge

Hikers in the Rio Grande River Bosque come across some curious things that add Albuquerque’s reputation for quirkiness. These public art pieces are installed within the Bosque and other open spaces rather than along the city thoroughfares.

The cottonwood in Robert Wilson’s The Cube represents the life sustaining power of the bosque. The city of Albuquerque is symbolized by the repurposed fencing of the cube that surrounds the woodlands.

Encountering Arboreal Dome by Benjamin Forgey brings to mind the black monolith in the classic film by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

However, Forgey envisioned the structure, constructed of dead cottonwood limbs, to be a recreational place for picnics, storytelling, and the like. He also felt that some would quietly reflect while gazing through the dome.

Decades ago, steel jetty jacks were constructed to prevent erosion when the river overflowed its banks. They proved to be ineffective but were too costly to remove. The rusty structures remind one of “Rommel’s asparagus” defense works along coastal France prior to D-Day.

In her work, Salt Cedar + Jetty Jacks = Green, Jill Guarino Brown used a jetty jack as the frame for a funnel woven from salt cedars to demonstrate a repurposing of the metal structures as a mechanism for harvesting water.

Several artists teamed to produce The Web a land art piece that suggests the wonders of the bosque’s interconnected natural and human ecology.

An unknown artist used a slice of a tree trunk and pieces of bark to create a totem of a great horned owl, many of which live in the Bosque.

Perhaps, the little people who dwell in the Bosque built this elf circle.

Fairies, perhaps, but beaver definitely live in the Bosque and create their own distinctive sculpture.

The metal sculpture of dancing sandhill cranes is situated near an access point to multi-purpose trails through the Bosque. This piece reminds one of the annual migration of the cranes down the Rio Grande flyway from the Arctic in late fall and their departure in early spring.

Now that you know that these delightful pieces of art are hiding in Albuquerque’s bisque, will you seek them out?

Balloons Over the Bosque

Guest blog by Ray Shortridge.

The rift valley of the Rio Grande del Norte makes Albuquerque an addictive destination for hot air balloonists. Every fall, Albuquerque hosts the International Balloon Fiesta and balloonists come from all over the world to show off their ballooning skills. An ideal ballooning environment is caused by the Sandia Mountain Range shading the valley for a couple of hours after dawn.

This keeps the cool night air from rapidly warming up, thereby prolonging the buoyancy of the hot air balloon. Balloonists launching at daybreak can enjoy a lengthy ride viewing the Rio Grande, the river’s bosque (the longest cottonwood canopy in world), the lights of an awakening city, and the mountains.

Balloonists inflate the balloons by using fans to blow hot air generated by liquid propane gas into the envelope or bag. At night, during Balloon Fiesta, owners often tether their balloons to the ground with the burners lit, which makes a dramatic sight and is known as a “Ballon Glow”.

People often hire commercial balloonists such as Rainbow Ryders to take them up to enjoy the heady experience of unpowered flight. Often this is followed by a champagne toast. If you’re up for this adventure, make sure to wear a hat. Those burners are hot! In fall, winter, or spring, wear layers The early morning air at full altitude may be cool but it will likely warm up during your ride.

The balloon on the left seemed to follow me down a trail in the bosque, reminding me of the cult British TV show, The Prisoner.

When the balloonist ignites the propane burner to reheat the air in the bag, it sounds like a dragon is approaching. The roar can be a bit unsettling because one can hear it before before the balloon comes into view over a ridge line of copse of trees. A bevy of balloons make a great roar

Balloonists like to hover over the river. The waterfowl don’t seem to mind.

Thousands of balloonists from all over the world will once again rendezvous in Albuquerque this October for nine days and two weekends. It’s a spectacle worth seeing. Have you seen the new special shapes? They rock.