It’s a fine summer morning as I decide to ride my bike down to the Corrales Grower’s Market. I take the irrigation ditch road to the Rec Center, where the Grower’s Market is held twice a week.
It’s the peak of the harvest season. The vegetables and fruits on sale display a riot of color and bathe the senses in sounds and aromas.
Enjoy this photo essay of my visit to the Grower’s Market.
Corrales’ farmers depend on irrigation water delivered in acequias like this one.
The road along the irrigation ditch is designed for access to and maintenance of the acequia. It also provides a wonderful venue for walking, jogging, and cycling.
A large gate across the main ditch is lowered to raise the water level and allow the property owner to access the irrigation water. This is the opening through which water flows to the field to be irrigated.
Water flows from the main ditch through a smaller one to irrigate the farmer’s field.
Property lines back up to the acequia right of way. Many properties have gates providing access to the irrigation ditch road.
The hot, Mediterranean climate, and an abundance of irrigation water make Corrales an excellent place for growing wine grapes.
Corrales farmers take pride in their locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Nearly all the produce is advertised as organically grown.
Heirloom varieties, like this Mr. Stripey tomato, abound.
The Bosque Baking Company sells wonderful bread. The potato scallion loaf is my favorite.
Roasting green chiles is a harvest time tradition across New Mexico.
Corrales used to be famed for its orchards. Much fruit is still grown here.
For $5 you can get a huge breakfast burrito
Not just a place to buy food, the Grower’s Market is a family outing
Live music is featured every week.
At the other end of the rec center, the Hot Flashes practice their horseback drill routine.
First, you chop up some veggies into small squares.
Start with cherry tomatoes…
… then add some red peppers …
… spring onions…
… parsley …
… Garlic …
Finish off with some wild greens and canned white beans. Top it with homemade dressing and viola! … Salad is ready.
Yes, it tastes as good as it looks!
I was looking for a better app to post from iPad. The WordPress app is OK, but I was not entirely pleased with it. After reading a review of Blogsy, I purchased the app. This is my first post using Blogsy.
Overall I have a good impression of Blogsy. On this post, however, I had some issues being able to place images where I want them. This may just be a learning curve. I’ll find out as I use it more.
Also, this post was done from home, where I have a full speed wi-fi connection. The real test will come on the road. I’m hoping Blogsy will help me make a post while I am away on an adventure, with no wi-fi service available. Of course, the blog won’t actually be posted until I get service, but I hope to be able to write the post and include all the pictures, ready for uploading.
I had some problems uploading images with Blogsy. This turned out to be a limitation of my hosting package with my ISP. An upgrade to the hosting package (same price as before) solved the problem. The upgrade also positively affected my ongoing problems with child themes.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is one of the highlights of this area. Every year I try to go at least once. I find it an interesting experience, with each year being at least a little different. This year no one wanted to come with me; their loss, as it turned into an exciting adventure.
Dawn Patrol balloons fire their propane burners against the dark sky.
As usual, my plan is to leave early to beat the traffic. This time it works, and I am just walking in the gate to Balloon Fiesta Field as the Dawn Patrol takes off. Dawn Patrol is a group of balloons that take off in the dark, just before dawn, for a final check of the winds aloft. Wind conditions are briefed to the pilots before the mass ascension. The balloons look very cool as the envelopes light up against the dark sky when the pilots burn propane.
Pilots test the propane burner before inflating.
My friend Deborah is on the ground crew for a balloon. She had invited me to come to their site, so I make my way over to R6 where itsa Touchie Subject was preparing to take off. They are in the first wave of balloons. Soon the envelope is spread out, the gondola is attached to the envelope, the fan is started, and cold inflation begins. A gas-powered fan fills the envelope with air as it lies on the ground.
A gas-powered fan fills the envelope with cold air.
The next step is to light up the propane burner, and heat the air inside. The heated air rises and lifts the envelope to vertical. The ground crew are hanging onto the gondola to keep it on the ground. The “zebras” give the word, and hundreds of balloons take off.
345 balloons launch in one hour!
On Saturday a new world record was set for the number of balloons to take off in one hour: 345. Today there are slightly fewer, but still an awesome number.
The pilot sets down to refuel.
I am asked to participate in the chase crew. We pack ourselves like sardines into three vehicles and take off in pursuit of the balloon. The chase crew is in radio contact with “Fergie”, the pilot. He is soon down in a field for a change of propane tanks. Creating the amount of hot air it takes to keep a balloon aloft uses a lot of propane.
Ballooning Over the Rio Grande
Only three instruments: altitude, vertical speed, and envelope temperature.
I am invited to ride in the balloon on the next hop. How exciting! I clamber into the gondola, and soon we are rising above the treetops. I can see the Balloon Fiesta Field where the last wave is just launching.
The Rio Grande and Sandia Mountain combine to form a phenomenon unique to Albuquerque, known as the Albuquerque Box. When the Box is in effect, winds aloft are blowing in different directions. By changing altitude, balloons can fly back and forth. The Box is in effect today, and we change directions several times during the flight. The box effect dissipates as the sun warms the ground.
Splash 'N' Dash
Below us, a balloon is doing a “splash and dash”, where the pilot descends low enough to dip the gondola in the river. Fergie does not want to get the balloon wet, but he does descend very near the water. In fact, we startle a turtle and watch him frantically swimming under water, trying to escape the monster from the sky.
"Mom, look at the balloon!"
We ascend, cross Paseo del Norte, and fly over the ranches on the east side of the river. People are waving at us and taking photos. I wave back and take photos.
“Facilitate a Safe Landing”
Fergie is looking for a place to set down. A large green pasture presents itself, but in and around it is livestock: horses, a llama or alpaca, ostriches. Animals are often spooked by the sound of the propane burner and the pilot is responsible for any damages, so he elects not to land in the pasture.
Except for the livestock, this pasture would be a good place to land.
The wind takes us back over the bosque. We are flying at treetop level, ready to take advantage of any open space to land, but none presents itself. Fergie descends, hoping to catch a change of wind, but it is not enough and we must ascend to get over some trees.
Any landing you can walk away from ...
We are getting low on fuel, and it is becoming important to find a place to land soon. If we run out of fuel, we could be forced into an uncontrolled landing, and that could be dangerous. A large sandy area next to the river is coming up; this would be a good place to land.
The chase vehicle tries to get as close to the balloon as possible.
Unfortunately the wind does not cooperate, and we miss the landing zone. The wind is taking us toward the river. Rather than taking a chance of a better landing spot, and perhaps running out of fuel in the search, Fergie elects to set us down in the shrubbery on the river bank. Three bounces and we are down.
The chase crew has to carry the balloon, in pieces, through this willow thicket.
The plan is to keep the envelope inflated, with just enough buoyancy to keep the gondola off the ground. The passengers would get out and pull the balloon away from the river bank, over the thicket, and to the sandy area. But the wind picks up and blows the envelope sideways so that the angle is no longer safe to light the burner. So Fergie deflates the envelope. We will have to carry all the parts of the balloon out.
Near-empty propane tanks are carried out separately to reduce the weight of the gondola.
Fergie places a call to the Fiesta office and help is dispatched. We are in an inaccessible area, so gates to the Paseo de Bosque bike path have to be opened to allow the chase vehicles to come closer. We meet a policeman patrolling the bike path and he helps us make the arrangements.
The envelope is gathered off the willows. There are no tears in the fabric.
Eventually the chase crew arrives and with lots of hands the envelope, gondola, and propane tanks are separately carried through the willow thicket, across the sandy area, and through the tree line to where the chase vehicle, a 4WD Bronco, is able to drive. All parts are loaded into the trailer and the truck with trailer climbs the slope up to the bike path.
The gondola is disassembled.
Meanwhile the FAA shows up to investigate the “incident”. There is no damage to the balloon, there are no injuries to any persons, and the landing is in an undeveloped area. The pilot has “facilitated a safe landing”, so the FAA concludes there is no incident to report.
Back on the field, we have a tailgate party and the two “newbies” on the flight go through an initiation ceremony. I am now no longer a “virgin” balloonist.
Fergie fires the burner to make his balloon glow at night.
The evening program is a balloon glow followed by fireworks. A balloon glow is held after sunset. Pilots inflate their balloons and their ground crews hold the balloons down so they do not lift off. Following instructions delivered by radio, pilots light their burners in synchronized patterns. I watch our balloon inflate and glow for a while, then wander off a short way to take pictures of other balloons glowing.
For this adventure I elected not to bring my Pentax K20D DSLR. I have many pictures of balloons and did not feel a need for more high quality photos. I took the new Panasonic DMC-ZS10 instead. This smaller camera can hang on my belt and not interfere with activities, yet still be available when needed. I also elected to leave the Garmin at home, relying on the built-in GPS in the ZS10 to geotag the photos.
iPhone and Apps
Of course, I had my iPhone 4 with me. I used it to post the adventure in real time to both Facebook and Twitter. For these type of immediate updates I usually only use Twitter, as in my opinion it is more suited to these types of ephemeral posts. But more of my friends are on Facebook than Twitter, so I used both this time.
The app I use is TweetDeck. It’s pretty basic: take a photo, write a short post, and send. TweetDeck posts to both Facebook and Twitter. I like that because I don’t have to post items twice, once to each service. When I want to real-time post a photo, I take it with the iPhone camera so it is immediately available to TweetDeck.
Most of the other photos were taken with the ZS10. I am getting more used to this camera. It takes pretty good pictures, and I like the 16x zoom. I still do not like the lack of a viewfinder. The auto-focus is slow, as is the zoom; between those two features, by the time I find the subject in the LED display, the action is often finished.
I took all the photos in the intelligent Auto mode. I wasn’t really interested in making art, just documenting my adventure. iA mode works pretty well in most cases.
The ZS10 has a setting called hand held night shot. Since all my shots are hand held, I turned this setting on when I first set up the camera. Today I found out what it does. This setting is actually an HDR (high dynamic range) mode. When iA mode detects a need, the camera will take multiple images at different exposures and combine them into one photo. How cool is that! What’s more, the camera appears to apply anti-shake and auto-focus tracking at the same time.
I was taking pictures of the Dawn Patrol. The sky is dark, but there are lights illuminating the ground. The balloons would light off their propane burners, making their envelope glow. As I pressed the shutter button, the camera indicated it was going to take multiple exposures and to hold it still. I did, but the balloon was moving through the frame. I expected nothing but a blur, but the camera compensated and created a pretty good image.
When I import images from the K20D, I first copy them to the hard drive, then geotag them with data from the Garmin before importing to iPhoto. The ZS10 has already geotagged the images, so I imported directly to iPhoto. At the end of the import process there is an option to delete the images from the camera, and I accepted that option.
To my consternation, iPhoto imported only the first frame of videos. The entire video was nowhere to be found, not even on the SD card as I had deleted the images after importing. (However, the 16GB SD card still had 2 GB used.) This led to some furious googling and I learned two things.
By default, ZS10 records video in AVCHD format which iPhoto does not recognize. There is a setting to record in MOV format which iPhoto does recognize, by setting the REC MODE to Motion JPEG. I immediately set the camera to this mode, but of course it does not help videos that are already recorded.
iMovie recognizes and imports AVCHD format. I immediately fired up iMovie 11 and sure enough, it found and recognized the video clips on the SD card. They were hiding in a folder called Private.
iMovie is a little intimidating at first, but after some time I gained some proficiency in the tasks that I needed to do, which is simply trimming clips, splicing them together, and adding a sound track. It’s amazing what a soundtrack will do for a video clip! You can see the fruit of my labor in this blog.
I used YouTube to share the videos. I had to create an account and a ‘channel’. I exported the video from iMovie to a file, then imported the file to YouTube. iMovie has an export option to directly upload to YouTube. I tried it, and although all indications were that the upload was successful, the video never showed up in YouTube.
For the first time, there is no coyote serenade during the night. My alarm goes off at 5:20 – I snooze it a couple times before getting up. One advantage of not having showers available is that it takes less time to get up in the morning. <LOL>
People are waiting in line for the photo of the sun lined up in the doorways of the Great Kiva at Casa Rinconada.
By 5:55 I am at the girls’ camp. John has already left, so we pile into the car and head out to the park, where we are directed into the parking lot at Pueblo Bonito. A shuttle is waiting to take us to Casa Rinconada. Once there we walk up the hill to the great kiva, where Ranger GB is waiting on the east side. As GB leads the group to the west side, I understand why some people got up at 4:00 in order to be part of the first 16 cars – the only ones allowed to park at Casa Rinconada. There is a line of people aligned with the doors through which the sun will shine at sunrise. My place is at the end of that line.
Rather than taking a chance on getting a photo in the crowd, several of us made our own alignment. The sun will rise in the notch formed by the cliff in the background and the wall in the foreground.
GB is telling people to get their photo, then move aside so the people behind can can theirs. I am skeptical that this will work. I notice some people standing at the side and ask GB what can be seen from that vantage. “You can see the sun rise at the corner of the butte and the horizon, it just won’t be through the doors of the kiva.” I make a strategic decision to leave the kiva line and create my own alignment. I am not the only one to do this.
The western horizon is higher than the east, so the sun will hit the top of this ridge before rising in the east.
Sunlight on the ridge means the sun will soon peek over the eastern horizon.
As the sun rises, the hill to the west is illuminated first. The golden band moves down the sandstone toward the still-shadowed group of photographers waiting for the sun to peek over the eastern horizon. The eastern sky gradually lightens until … yes! the brilliant orb appears just to the left of the butte.
Sor'a is waiting for the sun to rise.
The sun rises in perfect alignment with the marker.
People greet the sunrise at the Autumn Equinox.
I get my photos from my ad hoc alignment. I think my photos are more dramatic than those from the official alignment through the doors. Also, I get to take many shots since my line is basically three people. This is a good thing, as taking photos directly into the sun wreaks havoc with the auto focus and auto exposure programs of the camera.
Facing west, people watch the shadows of the two kiva doors align.
Meanwhile, on the east side of the kiva, people are watching the shadows of the two kiva doors move into alignment. I manage to find a spot and get some images as the outline of the eastern door lines up with the opening of the western door. Finally I walk back around to the west and snap a photo of the sun lined up through the doorways.
As Ranger GB said the night before, this was not a representation of the Equinox. Everyone on the hill experienced the real thing. This is different from reading about it or seeing pictures of it.
Chaco had one last gift for us as we drove back to camp. A magnificent elk buck with a huge rack stood in the field, proudly posing for photographs. A fitting end to a memorable week.
The top of Fajada Butte, where the Sun Dagger is located.
One last visit to the Visitor Center to buy a souvenir tee shirt.
I look forward to the coyote serenade each night. It adds to that special feeling of being at Chaco. I am disappointed by the moon, though. It is waning, and no longer bright enough to be confused with sunrise. I begin to appreciate why the Chacoans developed an interest in astronomy. Compared to city life, the sun, moon, and stars are so much more a part of life here.
Breakfast is scrambled tofu with a red bell pepper. I find I forgot to bring an onion and also any oil. But I have butter for oil and the onion is not missed. Of course tofu is nothing without spices, which I brought premixed. This is a very pretty dish with the red peppers against the yellow tofu, and as I write this I wish I had taken a picture.
One other thing I forgot to bring is a long-sleeved shirt. Being out in the sun all day Wednesday, I have picked up a touch of sunburn, and I am afraid the bright sun will make me uncomfortable on this long hike. However, nothing can be done for it at this time.
This is going to be a long hike, nearly 8 miles, so I decide to leave the Pentax in camp, and rely on rely on the new Panasonic point-and-shoot for any photos. This allows me to carry my water and lunch in a Camel-back instead of water bottles stuffed in pants packets, and I can also carry a pair of binoculars.
I throw a couple extra water bottles into the panniers and ride my bike to the trail-head. On the way I stop at the Visitor Center to see if they have any long-sleeve shirts. They don’t. At the trail-head I fill out the back-country permit and bike the one mile to Casa Chiquita. The trail has been realigned and the round trip to Peñasco Blanco is now 7.8 miles instead of 7.2. No bikes are allowed past Casa Chiquita. Casa Chiquita is unexcavated, and to my untrained eye it looks like any other unexcavated Great House, so I skip it and start walking. I can see my destination, the Great House Peñasco Blanco, up on the western horizon.
I take the Petroglyph Trail, a spur that travels at the base of the sandstone cliff. From here I see six identified panels of rock writing. Many of the petroglyphs are of Puebloan origin, and many others are Navajo. The art styles are distinct, even to the method of marking the rock. Puebloan glyphs tend to be pecked into the stone, while Navajo symbols tend to be scribed.
I follow the trail across the canyon floor to the Chaco Wash. Ranger GB showed pictures at the Night Sky show of the wash as it was overflowing its banks just last week. It hasn’t rained since then, and the wash is now down to a small muddy stream, but the trail is still officially closed, as it would be easy to slip and fall on the muddy bank. A few yards upstream someone has placed a large rock in the middle of the stream and this has become the unofficial crossing. I cross with no problem, and am walking through a thicket of greenery, so different from the brown landscape almost everywhere else.
5000 years ago a large star exploded in the constellation Taurus, and in 1054 the light of the supernova reached earth. Chacoans were great astronomical observers, and they certainly noticed a new star that lit the night for a month, and was visible during the day. The supernova event was during the height of the Chaco construction time period and it would make sense that they recorded the event.
I climb up out of the wash and approach the base of the cliff. There underneath a ledge are three dark red pictographs: a hand, a crescent moon, and a star. Taken together, these symbols can be interpreted as instructions for locating the Crab Nebula, which is the remains of the 1054 supernova. Below the Supernova Pictograph is a fainter figure: three concentric circles. This is interpreted by some as a depiction of Halley’s Comet, which made an appearance in 1066, only a few years after the supernova event.
So far the the trail has been fairly flat, with only a slight climb to the Supernova Pictograph. Now I start the last 0.8 mile leg of the hike, up to the top of the West Mesa, to the Great House of Peñasco Blanco. I pass a couple who had started early and are returning from the city. Peñasco Blanco is where several Chacoan roads coming from the West converge; Pueblo Alto stands at the convergence of roads from the North; Pueblo Bonito is at the center. From Peñasco Blanco I can see both of these Great Houses, even without the aid of field glasses.
It is now noon, the sun is overhead, and I am feeling yesterday’s sunburn. I find a shady spot beside an ancient wall and have a sandwich and some trail mix for lunch. After eating and a few minutes rest, I am ready for the 3 mile hike back to my bike. Down by the Supernova, I meet three girls enthusing over the rock art. Across the wash, on the way back to the Petroglyphs, I pass two men in succession, getting a late start on the hike. By the time I reach the Petroglyph Trail, my arms and neck are prickling and my feet are dragging so I skip the spur and continue on to Casa Chiquita.
Bicycling uses a different set of muscles than walking does, so I feel better as I bike back to the trail-head. There I find a couple having their lunch. They speak what sounds like German among themselves, and we exchange only a couple of words. I suck on my camel-back but nothing comes out. Oh no! I have drunk all my water, and I still have the bike back to the camp, in the heat of the day! Then I remember the two bottles in the pannier. Saved! I shall survive this day after all!
Though it has a lower resolution than the Pentax DSLR, the Panasonic P&S camera has a more powerful telephoto lens, so I stop at the Staircase for some pictures. I also stop at the Fajada Butte Overlook for the same reason. Eventually I make it back to camp. On the way a yellow VW camper van passes me.
Surprisingly, I am not especially tired upon my return, so I make a tour of the campground. There is a Casita RV trailer parked at the far end; I want to meet the owners and ask them about the RV. On the way I am hailed by a woman who says, “We passed you.” She was in that yellow camper van. We end up having an extended conversation on topics ranging from archeology, to economics, to health, to education, and more that I can’t now remember. Christiana and her husband develop curricula for sixth graders that introduce them to soil, plants, and gardening. They live in Albuquerque, where they do a lot of gardening.
I notice the girls are back from their tour of Pueblo Bonito so I walk over to their camp and we have ourselves a good “chin wag”. The conversation is interrupted by their neighbor John pulling up in his truck camper. He reverses a couple times so I walk over to see if he needs help. He doesn’t, but offers a tour of the camper. He’s very happy with the camper and explains lots of features he put in the truck to handle the camper safely.
Gayle and Bandhu go off to photograph Fajada Butte at ground level while Sor’a and I go to the top of the cliff to watch the sunset. The trail closes at sunset and the Ranger yells up at us to be “down here!” by sunset. That admonition causes us to turn back earlier than we would have, so the photo of Fajada Butte from atop the cliff is partially obstructed by a closer cliff.
We are off the trail just at sunset, and join Gayle, Bandhu, and John (as well as everyone else camping that night – it is crowded) in the campfire circle to hear details about the next morning’s events. First the head ranger (the one that yelled at us) explains the traffic arrangements, then Ranger GB explains the astronomical event that will occur. GB throws in a lot of “informed speculation” about how the Chacoans may have utilized the astronomical alignments that are being found throughout Chaco. GB emphasizes that only two facts about Chaco Canyon are known and agreed by everyone:
A thousand years ago there were people here.
They built large buildings.
Ranger GB is answering many questions about ancient astronomical alignments, but I have heard most of the answers at the Night Sky program on archeoastronomy. We call it a night. Gates to the park open at 5:45; we agree to carpool at 6:00.