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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.]]>
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.]]>
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:
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.
Chaco: Penasco Blanco at EveryTrail
EveryTrail – Find the best Hiking in New Mexico
I am blessed by two coyote serenades in the wee hours. This time I am not fooled by the moonrise and wait until the actual sunrise to start my day. Breakfast is chipotle beans over rice. The beans were pre-cooked and frozen, but the ice in the cooler has melted and I figure the sooner they are eaten the better. I take a leisurely breakfast, cook a Garden Patty for a lunch sandwich, pack water bottles in the bike, then reconsider and decide to drive to the trailhead.
The plan for the day is to hike the Pueblo Alto Loop (about 5 miles) and then the South Mesa Trail (about 4 miles). I figure that should take most of the day. I stop at the Visitor Center to pick up a backcountry trail guide and overhear that there will be a special program at Pueblo Arroyo at 4:00. That goes on my list and will replace the South Mesa hike if time runs short.
I fill out the backcountry hiking permit at the trailhead and circle the Kin Kletso great house before starting the climb up to the mesa. The trail follows a Chacoan path up the face of the cliff. My goodness! Those ancient Chacoans must have been half mountain goat! Except for the trail markers, it was nearly impossible to see a trail at all. The Park Service has done a superb job with this trail. Without being too dangerous, it provides a great challenge. Up top, the trail is marked by rock cairns. It provides a bird’s-eye view of Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl.
At this stage is is possible to return, but I decide to take the Pueblo Alto Loop. This adds another three miles to the hike and takes in Pueblo Alto and New Alto before circling back to an overlook of Chetro Ketl and Pueblo Bonito. By the time I circle New Alto and get to Pueblo Alto, all unexcavated Chacoan cities are starting to look alike. I don’t spend any time at Pueblo Alto and continue on the hike.
For reasons that are not understood today, the ancient Chacoans built a network of roads (almost) connecting numerous sites. By some counts, there may be as many as 150 Chacoan sites in the Southwest. Chacoan roads are known for being 30 feet wide, straight as an arrow, and not deviating for obstacles. Sometimes a road will end at a natural feature such as a bluff or canyon; sometimes a road will change direction for no apparent reason. Most of the time a road will continue in a straight line regardless of obstacles. There are many examples of a road ascending a sheer cliff by means of ramps, ladders, and stairways.
The Pueblo Alto Loop includes several Chacoan construction features. Along the bluff are stone circles and pecked basins. Up on the cliff I see masonry walls thought to be water diversion structures. On the way to New Alto I pass an excavated portion of a Chacoan road, including a small staircase carved from the rock.
By far the most impressive Chacoan artifact on the hike is the Jackson Staircase, named after the National Geographic photographer who popularized it. I am on the way back from Pueblo Alto when I meet a pair of hikers going the other way. They tell me the Jackson Staircase is just around the corner. When I see it, I am impressed. I see the remains of an earthen ramp leading from the canyon floor up to meet a series of steps carved from the sandstone of the canyon wall. The Chacoans did not let small obstacles such as sheer cliffs stand on the way of their roads.
I follow the trail around to an overlook of Chetro Ketl and then further around to the original overlook of Pueblo Bonito. From there I backtrack the trail to the path down the cliff. I turn on my iPhone video camera and make the descent with the phone in my hand recording the adventure.
Video: Descent from Pueblo Alto
Back on terra firma, I retrieve my lunch from the car. There are a couple picnic tables at the trailhead where I can eat in the shade. By the time lunch is over, it is nearly 3:00. That is not enough time to hike the South Mesa before the tour of Pueblo Arroyo at 4:00. I pass the time reading and playing games on the iPhone.
The tour leader at Pueblo Arroyo is Elissa, the SCA intern who had led the tour at Pueblo Bonito the day before. Much of the material is similar to that presented at Pueblo Bonito, though there are enough differences to keep it interesting. After the tour I head back to the campsite.
I make inroads on the rest of the watermelon, which is surprisingly good for being in a cooler without ice all day. A woman is walking past the campsites. We exchange waves and she comes toward my site. I meet her and find out she’s in a group of three women on a road trip. They are camped in the RV area because all the tent sites are taken, and she invites me to see their camp. Bandhu likes to sleep under the stars, but Sor’a has a unique european-design tent that is tricky to set up. Through some trial-and-error, I help her get the tent put together. Meanwhile Gayle has her tent set up and is inflating the air mattress.
This is how I met Sor’a, Bandhu, and Gayle.
Mouse over the pins in the map to see a thumbnail of the photo. Click on the Everytrail link to see a slide show, linked to the location where the photo was taken. The slide show contains many more photos than are in the post above.
Chaco: Pueblo Alto Loop at EveryTrail
The day starts before sunrise with a coyote serenade. The tent is beginning to lighten, so I get up and discover that it is still night; the brightness is caused by the half full moon. There is a faint glow on the horizon, an omen of sunrise to arrive in an hour. The campground is quiet at 5:30 so after taking care of necessities I go back to bed.
(A coyote just walked through my campsite as I am typing this, passing not 10 feet from me!)
While cooking breakfast – oatmeal with raisins – I discover that my meal plan is a day short! The decision to come out Monday instead of Tuesday was made at the last minute, and the meal plan had not been updated. Fortunately an extra loaf of bread had been thrown in along with a box of Triscuits. I should be able to survive this trip!
The plan is to bike out to Pueblo Bonito for the 10:00 ranger tour, perhaps tour another of the great houses, and return to camp for lunch. Only two bottles of water are deemed necessary, but two extra liters and some trail mix are thrown into the panniers “just in case”. It’s a good thing, too, as events transpire. The tour at Pueblo Bonito was led by Elissa, an intern from the Student Conservation Association. Actually she has a BA in Anthropology but can’t find a job and was fortunate to land this internship. She is very knowledgeable on the topic. After the tour I strike up a conversation with a couple going through the Great House. They said that a new ranger-led tour of Chetro Ketl has been added , so of course I go on that tour. Ranger Lauren was very knowledgeable and provided an instructive and pleasant tour.
It’s now after 2:00. I’ve used 3 of my 4 bottles of water and some trail mix, and I’m starting back to camp. The Chaco Loop Road is one way, so I can’t come back the way I came. Fortunately Pueblo Bonita is at the far end of the loop, so the return trip is no farther than the distance to get to Pueblo Bonita. Along the way is Pueblo Arroyo and Casa Rinconada. Of course I have to tour those two Great Houses. Without a tour guide, this takes much less time to accomplish. Casa Rinconada is where the Autmn Equinox event will take place.
The last water bottle is empty, and I am on my way back to camp, with only one stop to view the Chaco Staircase. It isn’t obvious, but I did eventually locate it. I’m looking at Fajada Butte and remembering some conversation about being able to see the Sun Dagger location, so I pull off at the Visitor Center to ask. Sure enough, at the Fajada Butte Overlook there is a telescope set up to allow viewing of the site. You can see the three rocks, but not inside where the spiral is located. The sun dagger is an ingenious way to track the motion of the sun and moon. That’s the last sight before arriving at camp.
All the ice has melted in the cooler, but the watermelon is still cold. I eat several pieces and share some with a couple who has hiked to Peñasco Blanco. This is a hike I am considering for tomorrow.
There are still three hours before the Night Sky program, so I decide to ride out to Wijiji. The big draw here is some pictographs on the canyon wall. I did not know about them and only found one by following a sign. Only one pictograph is visible to my naked eye, but after scanning the area with binoculars I found several more. I take several photos at max resolution in the hope that these additional pictographs would be visible after some digital enhancement. The camera has less maginification than the binoculars so I did not see these additional pictographs through the lens, but with RAW resolution I should be able to blow up the image quite a bit.
The Night Sky program is on Archeoastronomy and once again very informational. Telescopes were available for viewing celestial objects, but I was so tired after a full day that I could barely keep my eyes open. In fact I am constantly yawning as I type this blog entry. I’ve found that I need to record a day’s events immediately or they may never be recorded. Time to hit the sack.
Mouse over the pins in the map to see a thumbnail of the photo. Click on the Everytrail link to see a slide show, linked to the location where the photo was taken.
Chaco Canyon: Great Houses at EveryTrail
Click on any image to enlarge
The main point of this adventure is to see the Autumn Equinox at the Chaco Culture National Monument. I had tried to see it last year, but instead had a mishap on the way. Also, I found that the campground was full and I would not have been able to stay there in any case. So this year I am going earlier to assure of a spot in the campground. It has been many years since I have been tent camping, so I expect this to be a learning experience. I just hope I did not forget to bring something important.
As usual, it takes longer to get going than expected. Once started, the trip is uneventful. The campground is reached by 4:30, and even by that time the choice tent sites were taken. There are few empty spots by evening. I’m glad I came Monday for the Equinox which is on Friday morning.
Setting up the tent is a small struggle. I have a little scare when I can not find the tent poles at first, but they showed up. I am setting up the stove when I find I had forgotten to bring the 20-gallon propane tank. All is not lost, because I had bought two small propane bottles just this morning. It was a spur of the moment purchase. I did not think I needed these bottles because the stove and lantern could both be run off the large tank. Now I’m happy I made that impulsive purchase. I won’t have to eat cold food all week.
About sunset I wander to the campfire circle. The camp host gives a campfire talk on the subject of ravens. Did you know that ravens have the largest range of vocalization, second only to humans? A coyote wanders by during the talk, probably attracted by the recorded raven calls the speaker was playing. The whole audience stands to try to see the beast. A bat flutters overhead. All this against a most beautiful sunset behind Fajada Butte.
Petroglyph National Monument has several distinct areas. The volcanoes had been visited last summer. Today we visited Piedras Marcadas Canyon. This is a short hike in the area where the west mesa joins the sandhills on the west side of the Rio Grande river valley.
It was a wonderful afternoon for a hike; some thin clouds diffused the sunlight so it was not too hot. Rain the night before had cooled off the areas to a pleasant temperature. The sandy path is along the base of the mesa, with opportunity to clamber on the basalt rocks if desired.
As its name implies, Piedras Marcadas (“marked rocks”) is known for the petroglyphs inscribed on the blocks of basalt. In ancient times, a lava flow covered the area west of the river in a layer of basalt. The flow stopped before reaching the river, and over time the softer soil was eroded from underneath the lava, leaving a ledge of rock. The ledge eventually broke, creating a jumble of boulders along the edge of the west mesa.
Weathering created a patina on the rocks. People would remove this patina to create contrasting areas that form the petroglyphs.
I was not able to identify all the wildlife that was seen in the canyon. There was a pair or mourning doves, a small sparrow, several lizards, a chipmunk, something that may have been a large chipmunk, gopher, or ground squirrel (it was far away and shone white in the afternoon sun), and a jackalope! OK, so maybe it was only a jackrabbit, but it could have been a jackalope!
I tracked the jackalolpe … er … jackrabbit across the canyon floor, attempting to sneak close enough to get a good picture, but the creature was too wily and cunning to allow himself to be captured that way. These animals can blend in to the desert landscape so well that they become practically invisible unless they move. When motion is first detected, out of the corner of one’s eye, this rodent can easily be taken for a coyote, based on size alone. They can be huge!
I just bought a point-and-shoot camera and this was the first outing for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10. Why do I need this camera? When hiking in the desert and mountains, one should always be prepared with water, jacket/blanket, first aid kit, etc. A day pack works nicely for carrying this kit. But I carry my Pentax DSLR in a Targus backpack, and this leaves no room for another pack. A small P&S camera can be carried on my belt so that a day pack can also be carried.
Of course, I always carry my iPhone with me, and it take good enough pictures for my purposes. However, the iPhone (and most P&S cameras) does not do well for taking photos at a distance. Birds and wildlife come out as little black dots because they are usually too far away. The DMC-ZS10 has a 16X zoom, and this is the feature that sold me on it. The features of this camera are:
Here’s what I learned about this camera today. Note this is the first time I have used it, so there may be some learning curve still to come.
Short Hike in Piedras Marcadas Canyon at EveryTrail
EveryTrail – Find the best Hiking near Albuquerque, New Mexico
We have a 0600 flight, which means getting up very early. Of course, packing was not completed until late at night, so sleep was very slight. Not to worry, you can always sleep on the airplane! This early in the morning we were able to zip through security and were soon waiting in the departure area. I saw a woman using an iPad, which made me jealous, but not enough to shell out the bucks to get one of my own!
We landed right on time at 0940, and picked up our bags. My brother James was waiting at the cell phone parking lot and soon picked us up for the ride from Midway airport in Chicago to Berrien Springs, Michigan. It was an uneventful drive as we caught up on events.
James works for Adventist Frontier Missions (AFM), an organization that sponsors missionaries to unreached people groups. My visit coincided with their annual retreat, so in the afternoon we stopped off at the AFM training center where James had a commitment.
In the evening James and I attempted to play a computer game (Age of Empires) in multiplayer mode. That’s when I discovered his internet connection was not working. We also found that the software on Abigail’s laptop as not up to date. Looks like there will be some computer work for me to do during my visit.
James has a wonderful garden, which he showed off this evening. The sweet corn was ripe. It is the super-sweet variety, and was just wonderful eaten raw, seconds after being picked! James was afraid the raccoons would smell the corn and get it all in the night, so we picked all the sweet corn to use in a later meal.
I made pancakes for James, Pearl, and Simon this morning. The kids had made black raspberry jam from wild raspberries growing in the back yard, and this was delicious on the pancakes.
James took Simon to daycare on his way to work, while I took a look at the internet connection. The internet to the house was fine, but his wireless router had failed. James later picked up a new router which I installed for him.
Abigail met her roommate, Erica, at Lamson Hall. Together with Erica’s boyfriend, we moved Abigail’s stuff up to her dorm room on the third floor. There are no elevators in Lamson Hall!
AFM was hosting a picnic for the missionaries at their new training center. We joined them for a traditional picnic of hot dogs, potato salad, chips, and homemade ice cream. Most of the missionaries ere from southeast Asia (Philippines, Laos, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, etc.). They live in fairly primitive conditions a their diet can get monotonous, so they really enjoyed the picnic. I enjoyed visiting and discussing their work and adventures through the afternoon.
Today we joined James at the AFM training center for worship services. The missionaries were in charge of the programming, and they must have absorbed the time values of the people they work with, as meetings started late, and lasted longer than planned. Everything was very interesting and inspirational as they related tales of adventure and of God’s leading in primitive areas of the world.
This morning I helped James organize his office. Like most of us, he has accumulated lots of “stuff” that is not used on a daily basis. It was taking up valuable space and was not organized in such a way as to be able to find what is needed. We installed shelves on two walls that got stuff off the floor and able to be found. The office looks much better now.
In the afternoon, all of us went to St. Joseph, to Silver Beach on Lake Michigan. The Silver Beach Pizza was a wonderful place for lunch. Pearl and Simon took a dip in the lake. It was a beautiful afternoon for an outing.
Early Monday morning we dropped off the kids at day care, and headed north to the Pine River, near Cadillac. When I lived in Michigan, James and I would canoe the Pine River annually, and we decided to repeat the trip this year. I tried to talk James into taking kayaks, but he was afraid of doing the “Eskimo Flip” so we took a canoe instead.
Immediately upon pushing off into the river, we got hung up on a rock. Nothing really exciting, except for the fear that if we made a wrong move we’d dunk into the river, which was very cold. That rock did not want to let go, but we finally broke loose. We congratulated ourselves on navigating several of the Class I rapids without mishap. We caught up to three girls in kayaks and watched as one did not make a turn and was swept into the bank. She made the classic mistake of grabbing an overhead branch and we watched as the river swept the kayak out from under her. Splash!
We brought a bag of charcoal and some hot dogs, and grilled for lunch. Very tasty! Then James and I switched places in the canoe for the last part of the river. Once again there was a learning curve as we floated backwards down the river toward the churning Class I rapids. Back home with Richard I always sit in the rear and steer. This was my position the first part of the trip, and I was surprised at the different skills required in the front of the canoe. No worries – we quickly caught on and finished the float without incident. Then it was another 3 hour drive back to Berrien Springs.
Abigail and I spent Tuesday in Chicago. We chose to go to the Museum of Science and Industry to see the Body Worlds exhibit. This is an amazing exhibit, featuring bodies of real people (who had donated their bodies to science) preserved by the Plastination method. The Plastination process results in very realistic models of the body’s soft tissues. It was very impressive.
The sun was shining in Berrien Springs Tuesday morning, but by the time we got to Chicago it was pouring. Parking costs only $1 per hour, and the meters take credit cards. However, the first parking meter I tried was locked up with a software fault. By the time I figured this out and got a ticket out of another meter, we were thoroughly soaked. Abigail and I spent most of the day at the museum, and when we came out the sun was again shining. I consulted the Food Finder app which recommended Salonica and gave us a map. We walked to Hyde Park, under the ‘L’ tracks, past some gorgeous Victorian architecture, and enjoyed a good meal.
At Salonica, we met Ron the Piper, a self-styled street minstrel. Ron is a disabled Vietnam Vet that lives in the Hyde Park area, and he was full of information on every topic. Ron had his instruments with him and insisted on playing the recorder for us.
Abigail dropped me of at the Hampton Inn in Crestwood on Tuesday evening and then returned to Berrien Springs because she had classes on Wednesday. I had picked this hotel because Kayak.com said they had shuttle service to Midway airport. Unfortunately, while the hotel has a van they do not provide shuttle service to Midway, about 10 miles away. I was unable to get a resolution Tueday evening.
Abigail got lost on the way back to Berrien Springs. That’s not hard to do in a large, strange city at night. I brought up the maps app on my iPhone and was able to guide her onto a freeway. From there she followed the signs back to her dorm.
Wednesday morning I tried another run at the front desk to arrange a shuttle to the airport. The clerk was very nice and told me to come back at 10:00 when the shuttle driver arrived. I occupied my time by eating at the free breakfast buffet, taking a walk, and shopping at Target for a phone charger (I had forgotten to pack one).
No luck on arranging a shuttle to Midway. The hotel does not provide that service. However, I have to give kudos to Greg Freeman, the hotel manager. He had his staff contact Kayak to remove the erroneous shuttle information, and personally offered to take me to the airport. The rest of the trip back to Albuquerque was unremarkable.
Here are some notes on the tech tools I used on this adventure.
I did all the trip planning online. Airline tickets on Southwest.com, hotel on Kayak.com. While on Kayak, I signed up for My Trips. This is a free service that creates a trip itinerary. Since I booked the hotel on Kayak, that was automatically included in the itinerary. I forwarded the confirmation email from Southwest to Kayak and the airline reservations were automatically added to the itinerary. The nice thing is that the original booking email is saved and can be pulled up at any time. I manually added itinerary items for the canoe trip and a play (which we ended up not attending).
Kayak has an iPhone app that syncs to My Trips on the web. I found it very convenient to have my entire itinerary available in one place. The app will also initiate alerts to remind of items in the itinerary.
I used the Food Finder app to locate restaurants near the Museum of Science and Industry, and Yelp to get reviews on the selected restaurants. Food finder worked well for what I wanted. I liked the map feature that guided us as we walked several blocks to Salonica. Food Finder has no reviews, so I used Yelp to fill in the gap.
Apple’s standard Maps app was indispensable on this trip. The iPhone’s GPS function along with the Maps app guided me in many situations.
Of course, the GPS function and constant map downloads runs the battery in the iPhone down quickly. I wouldn’t recommend replacing a dedicated GPS receiver, but when you need help navigating now, the maps app is indispensable.]]>