Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Climbing Higher and Higher

Taos Pueblo
When we think of New Mexico, we often think of pueblos. Actually, I was expecting cliff dwellings, but the Taos Pueblo is a living, breathing town, where Native Americans still live in adobe houses, getting water from Red Willow Creek, which flows through the pueblo, and using no electricity. We were lucky to visit on Memorial Day, when they had a ceremony remembering their tribe's people who served in the military.
Ruins of San Geronimo Church
Our guide told of his people's history, including their conflicts with white men, since the arrival of the Spaniards in the 1600's. This is the remains of the original San Geronimo church, which was burned by the US Cavelry in 1847, filled with women and children. I wonder how these people can serve in our armed forces. Adobe is just dried mud and straw, which has wonderful insulating ability, but it does tend to melt in the rain, and requires lots of regular maintenance.
Broad-tailed Hummingbird
As we strolled through the village, tiny shrieking things dive bombed us. Turned out to be Broad-tailed Hummingbirds - another lifer for us. They fly so fast (a common characteristic of most birds out here it seems), that we couldn't get any photos, until I noticed this feeder strategically placed next to some drying chili peppers. I wonder if the nectar in the feeder is spicy. The noise they make (like mini-UFO's) is actually their wings. There aren't any Ruby-throats out here. Many of the residents have shops in their homes, and we made our contribution to the local community.
Taos Ski Valley
Heading up the mountain to Taos Ski Valley, we delighted in the sounds of cascading water in the narrow canyon, and the changes in the rock itself. The valley is mostly basalt, while the mountains are many colors of granite, with some alluvial conglomerate full of large round rocks interspersed here and there. Taos itself it at about 66oo feet in elevation, higher than Denver. We watched the aspens starting to leaf out at the lower elevations, and they were entirely bare at the top.
Snow along the trail
 We started on an "easy" trail at about 9900 feet, which turned into more and more snow. I finally wimped out about 3/4 of the way to the lake, around 11,000 feet, Dick thinks. When I wasn't actually climbing a steep gradient, it wasn't so bad. But the snow on the trail was either packed and slippery, or up to my knee if I stepped off the trail. I think we are about 6 weeks too early for hiking at the higher elevations. And the guy who writes the hiking book is obviously not a retired grandma if he thinks this trail is easy. I would never try one he thought was severe!
Gray-headed Junco
 As for birding in the mountains, I was surprised that the most common bird was the American Robin! Other little birds flitted in the tree tops, but this delightful Gray-headed Junco (another lifer) hopped on the ground so we could get a good look at him. On the way to the Ski Valley, we spotted a Cooper's Hawk soaring overhead, knew it by the long tail. When it started to rain (as usual) we headed back towards town, and found a white bellied buteo but couldn't get a really good look at him. Most likely a Red-tailed Hawk, I suppose, but it was fun looking in the guide for other possibilities such as Swainson's and Ferruginous. 
Back in town again, we enjoyed a soak in the jacuzzi, to ease our aching muscles, then happy hour and supper on our patio.
Black-billed Magpie
 The Magpies are noisy, but so flashy in black and white, that you can't help but admire them.
Sunset Panorama
As the sun started to drop, we went back to the Gorge bridge to enjoy the sunset. Found out that White Crowned Sparrows are resident all year in northern New Mexico, after spotting a couple under the sage brush. I never realized how long it takes for it to get dark enough to see the stars! A friend recommended an app called Sky Guide, and we had lots of fun with it as the stars came out. You just look at the star, point the phone in that direction, and it shows the constellation, and more astronomical info than we knew what to do with. We saw Mars, Jupiter and Saturn while standing out there in the dark. Too Cool!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A delightful day: history, culture, hiking, birding, relaxing, seeing the stars. The Big Sky of Montana has nothing on Taos and its broad valleys framed by mountains.
A traveling companion.