Volcanoes and Rock Art

Three cinder cones appear on Albuquerque’s west mesa, few miles west of the Rio Grande River.

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Locals refer to them as the Three Sisters or the Albuquerque Volcanoes. Geologically, they are the visible remains of a fissure type volcano that was several miles long and spewed slow moving lava. This fissure is a small part of the volcanic activity generated by the Rio Grande Rift Valley. Link

The lava filled low lying arroyos and, upon cooling, formed a distinctive escarpment around one hundred feet high.

Much of the escarpment eroded into large rough boulders and cliffs.

However, some of the boulders have a smooth surface. Indigenous artists used stone harder than the basalt to chip designs onto the plane surface.

Some of the images are representational and depict humanoid figures

Some of the images appear to be more abstract.

Spanish era artists, inspired by their indigenous predecessors, also pecked away at the rocks as the cross in the picture illustrates.

Petroglyph National Monument protects many of these works of art. Link



Bosque Critters

Guest post by Ray Shortridge

The Bosque, a Spanish word for a forest, is about a one mile wide stretch of trees and underbrush, dominated by cottonwoods, on both sides of the Rio Grande River in New Mexico. The Bosque stretches some two hundred miles north to south along the middle reach of the river. The ecology of the Bosque is both interesting and daunting.

In Albuquerque, a state park interpretive center and multi-use trails (hiking, jogging, cycling, and horseback riding) are maintained by several public agencies. The trails meander for miles along both sides of the river, enabling people to experience nature virtually in their own backyards. The Rio Grande provides life giving water to a narrow strip of the high desert, and many species of critters inhabit the Bosque, as well as the river itself.

Around dawn, Owen (the namesake for this blog) rouses me to take him to the Bosque for a three to four mile walk.

Owen. Ready to explore

Along the way, over the years, we have encountered a number of critters, sometimes startling Owen into flight/fight mode, but more often, causing mere disinterest. Many of our encounters with small birds flitting about the underbrush or even larger ones seeking fish in the river or the irrigation ditches, for example, have little relevance for a canine. And Owen is a canine par excellence.

A heron surveying his kingdom
A peregtine falcon watching for prey

Owen pays little attention to beavers or muskrats swimming largely under water in an irrigation acequia.

Swimming beaver is safe from Owen.

However, once we came across a beaver on shore returning to its lodge a bit late from browsing on bushes in the moonlight, and Owen woofed at the poor critter and chased it until it plopped into an acequia and splashed him with water from a thump of its tail.

On another occasion, we followed a porcupine down one of the trails. Leashing a curious Owen to spare us a vet bill to remove quills, took some time, so the beast waddled off into the brush a distance.

We’re far enough away to be safe from the porcupine’s tail.

We have seen bobcat paw prints but have yet to spot one. A neighborhood website recently reported a bobcat wandering around, about a mile from the Bosque. A friend near the mountains reported that a female bobcat frequently peered through her patio door to terrify her domestic cats. Definitely, bobcats have a sense of humor, of a predatory sort.

Reportedly, here are reptiles in the bosque, mostly turtles (full disclosure: this turtle picture was taken at the Duck Pond on the UNM campus and that of the serpent at the nearby Petroglyphs National Monument.)

Turtles in the sun
The snake is too close for comfort

Cougar and black bears live in the mountain ranges on the east side of the length of the Bosque, and they travel through it as they move from one hunting range to another. Neither Owen nor I have spotted them, their spoor, or their scat. However, we have spotted the distinctive scat of coyotes. Once we spotted nine in a group, perhaps a couple of breeding pairs with yearlings and pups, heading north along the other side of the drainage ditch.

Coyotes are curious and have shadowed me and Owen on a number of occasions for a mile or more along the trails.

The Bosque is a migratory flyover route, and greater and lesser sandhill cranes migrate in from the Arctic tundra in the late fall and stay over until early spring. And, of course ducks and geese dwell in the waters of the river and the irrigation acequia.

Cranes having a grain party
Ducks enjoying a water break

Of course, the roadrunner is an interesting bird to watch, year around. It is so beloved, New Mexico uses its image as the logo for our light rail, the Railrunner.

Finally, one might encounter something mystical in the Bosque. This unicorn type beast is a whimsy of a quirky artistic soul, one of many choosing to live in Albuquerque.

Which of the Bosque beasts would you most like to encounter?

Travel by Tram

Albuquerque has spectacular views from its extremely safe Sandia tramway. According to the tramway, “it ascends from a base elevation of 6,559 feet (1,999 m) to a top elevation of 10,378 feet (3,163 m).

The tram reaching the top.
Great views
More great views from a trail near the tram
Great views at the top
The leaves are starting to turn at the top of the mountaim
Many folks ride the tram up and hike, ski, or bicycle down.
This heavy equipment looked like it was balanced on a sinkhole
A new restaurant is being built to replace the old one on top of the tramway
My brother and his husband seemed to enjoy the views

Afterwards, we stopped for food and drinks at the delightful Sandiago Grill at the base of the tram. In addition to fabulous views from inside and outside seating, their menu offerings have been jazzed up. The prices seemed a little higher than the last time I was there but are reasonable for the quality. My fish tacos were delicious. Unfortunately, this picture was taken after I’d messed up their plating. Forgive me, I was hungry!

Wow! Chainsaw Magic

I’m still putting up Japan pictures but my brother and his husband are visiting us in Albuquerque, NM so I thought I’d take a couple of side trips on my blog.

Onw of my favorite places to sit and sketch here is the woodcutters’ park at Pueblo Montaño. If you’ve ever watched chainsaw artists at work, youll realize how amazing these sculptures are.

The official name of the trailhead

The front of this one has a ghostly female image
The back has a fully fleshed out female visage

Love the little turtles on the back of this one

Different angles and lighting reveal new surprises