New Mexico – Photographic Journal – 1 of 5

Los Alamos, NM – day 4
  • My first adventure of the trip is in Frijoles Canyon at Bandelier National Monument. I’m the first one there… and it is cold out here! I’m bundled up in my full winter gear, but know that in a short time, I will be stripping off the layers. The rangers tell me I should buy the annual park pass since I have a lot of monuments and national parks I plan on visiting. I agreed and bought my first America the Beautiful park pass ($80) which is good for one year, and it’s also good for 1/2 off entrance fees at BLM properties. I plan on getting my monies worth. But if you just want the one day price – $25 car.

I start along the path and become mesmerized in my surroundings. The canyon is quite spectacular by itself. As I pass by the cliff dwellings, I am in awe of the struggle, and rugged life these Ancestral Puebloans must have endured, particularly in winter. It was once a thriving community with 100 people living in it around the year 1150 to 1600 AD.

I took a side hike up Frey trail to get some overhead views of the area. The birds up here were more active than down below: Townsend’s Solitaire, Western Bluebird, Gray-headed Junco, Spotted Towhee, and American Robin were photographed.

I often stop to listen to my surroundings when I hike silently through the environment. This is often the difference between finding the shot, or missing it completely. On the way to Alcove House, I stopped to let some loudly chattering people go by (the crowds arrived while I had detoured). As soon as they passed, I heard it. Squirrels bantering! I quickly pulled the telephoto from my chest (I wear a camera vest), and went to find their location. These aren’t ordinary looking eastern squirrels that I am used too. These are pointed ear Abert Squirrel‘s. I was hoping to at least get a shot of one as they are so unique looking. But this is even better… these two were displaying their courting ritual of chattering, dancing, and chasing each other. By this time they were making quite a scene with their mating and oblivious to me standing right below them clicking away. When it was over, she quickly grabbed a nut, turned her back to him, and starting munching away. Despite his multiple attempts to get her attention. I had to laugh, it was quite comical.

After climbing some very steep ladders, I finally reached the Alcove house. Getting up is always easier than getting down, I could see the fear on a few trying to maneuver the transition down. If you fear heights, I recommend sitting this one out, even though the ladders are sturdy, safe, and attached to the mountain. But little kids may have issue, unless they are strapped to you (see image below).

I sat for a while, taking in the view and contemplating what life must have been like to live during this era. The average life expectancy was 35 years old. That seems so very young for life to end. I just turned 50, and hopefully have another 35 years left in me.

The Bandelier closes early (4:30), so it was time to move on. Still plenty of hours left till nightfall. Never do I waste daylight opportunities for exploring! As I was driving away, a few Mule deer passed in front of me. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect end to that adventure!


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