Monday, May 2, 2011

Recharging our batteries and checking out the local scenery in ABQ.

We have spent a few days in Albuquerque recharging our batteries with my very hospitable aunt and uncle visiting with them and my cousins.  We don't see them often so it's great to spend some quality time with them, not to mention they are great guides for the local scenery as well.  A few days ago we went to the Albuquerque Botanical Gardens and Zoo with my aunt Rebecca and cousin Jim.  I grew up in DC going to the National zoo and we are family pass holders for the Atlanta zoo, so I wasn't expecting to be all that impressed, but the Albuquerque zoo proved me very wrong.  The variety of animals and the quality of their habitats was better than most zoos I've been too.  It's well worth a visit if you ever come through Albuquerque.

I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around the vastness of the open space and the almost surreal feeling the landscape can elicit in someone (me!) who has spent their entire life on the east coast.  It's truly bizarre how the landscape (and weather!) changes so dramatically in a relatively small distance based on the altitude or which side of a mountain you are on out here.  For example, the Sandia mountains are on the east side of Albuquerque.  The east side of the mountains are VERY green and from a distance could be mistaken for mountains back east, but the west side of the mountains (the side you view from Albuquerque) are completely desert like, with no greenery whatsoever.  Just rocks, dirt and a few short shrubs.  It's hard to believe they are the same mountains. 

Yesterday we went up to Bandelier National Monument ( in the Jemez mountain range.  The highlight is Frijoles canyon which was home to human cliff dwellers over 10K years ago.  You can actually climb up into some of the dwellings themselves that were used as homes.  I have to agree with my uncle Bill when he said that sitting in these caves really causes you to literally feel the history they hold.  It was amazing to think people inhabited these dwellings for thousands of years and yet they were completely abandoned hundreds of years ago and nobody knows why.  We plan on also visiting probably the most famous cliff dwellers site, Mesa Verde, in southern, CO next week and it will be interesting to compare and contrast them, because from what we've been told Frijoles canyon was like a small village (even though it looks like hundreds to maybe a 1000 people lived there at once) and Mesa Verde is like a big city, respectively.

The drive to Bandelier from Albuquerque is nothing short of spectacular with just a continuous stream of awe inspiring scenery.  Along the way we stopped on an Indian reservation where they were selling some food made right there by the side of the road in little huts.  We had some "fry bread." It is similar to the type of flatbread eaten all over the Mediterranean, but instead of being baked it's deep fried...and it's AWESOME.  :-)  I wanted to take a picture of the native American women making it, but evidently they do not like to have their pictures taken.  There is some debate as to whether or not it's because they believe the pictures capture their souls OR they are just tired of tourists taking pictures of them.  Either way, I respected their wishes, which in retrospect was a good idea anyway because I have come to realize the out here, a digital camera becomes a sort of crack pipe.  Once you start taking pictures, it's hard to put it down because it seems like every 30 seconds you see something that is picture worthy.  At some point, you have to put the camera down and just enjoy the moment...but that proves much easier to say than do.  I can see this is going to be an ongoing battle on this trip.

Best quote of the last few days from Bella..."I think New Mexico is pretty much just like the regular old first Mexico."   I'm not quite sure what she bases that quote on, but it sure was cute when she said it.  :-)

Here are some pics from the last couple of days....enjoy.

PS...once again this was posted late at night so please forgive the typos... :) goes to my aunt Rebecca for not only being a fantastic host, but also taking some of the fantastic pics below.  You can tell which one's are hers and which are mine because her's are the ones that look like they were taken by someone who knew what they were doing.  :)

Isabella riding an ant at the Albuquerque zoo...she didn't even bother with a saddle.

Isabella riding the dragons tail...ABQ zoo had a fabulous kids area at the botanical gardens.

Is anyone seeing a pattern here?  I wonder how I can fit a pony in a downtown Atlanta loft?

ABQ botanical gardens had a very large organic farming area where they had an orchard, all kinds of vegetables and this small vineyard.  According to this sign the first vineyards in North America where planted by Spanish missionaries in New Mexico. 

This is kind of a random shot, but this is the view leaving the Trader Joe's parking lot.  Toto, we are definitely not in Atlanta anymore!

This was taken at some hot springs that we stopped at on the way to can't see it but the sulfur stank something fierce....seriously it was the, REALLY IT WAS THE SULFUR!

My cousin Jim and Bella looking at the interesting stuff growing in the sulfur rich pools of water.

These little caves were formed by the minerals in the water leaving deposits as the water flowed on what appears to be a giant piece of granite (but I'm not sure).

Picnic in Bandelier...somebody loves the camera.

This is a pic of me entering one of the caves carved into the side of the cliff that were used as homes.  Some of the dwellings were no more than 4x4, while others were a good 25 feet across and tall enough for me (6 ft) to walk around in standing straight up.

Bella and I looking out of one of the cave entrances down on the valley below.

This the view Bella and I had from the pic above.

This is another pic of us in front of the hot spring and you can see how big the mineral formation's hard to see, but down to the right in that dark area was a pretty decent waterfall.
On our way to Bandelier my uncle Bill took a little detour to a canyon he had never been to himself, but he wanted to see because some scenes from the movie "3:10 to Yuma" were filmed there.  This pic was taken on the road down that canyon.  Unfortunately there is nothing in the pic to give it scale so you can tell how HUGE that wall face is, but I think the different colors of the minerals in the wall make it an interesting pic nonetheless.  Trust me, it was BIG.  :)

If you saw the movie "3:10 to Yuma" with Russell Crow and Christian Bale you will remember the tunnel scene.  It was filmed in these two tunnels.

A shot of my uncle Bill's car heading for the first tunnel.

Aldie trying on my uncle Bill's cowboy hat on the valley floor of Frijoles canyon.  He liked it, so I think we are going to have to get him one of his own.

This is a view down into Frijoles canyon where the cliff dwellings were.

I think Bella is enjoying the there anything better in life than seeing your kids smile like this?  If there is, I have yet to experience it.

There were cliff dwellings all along the canyon wall you see on the left as far out as the picture goes...and still more behind the picture.  It looked to me that if all the dwellings were inhabited at once there must have been hundreds and hundreds of people living there at one time...maybe a thousand or more even.

My cousin Jim taking Bella up to see one of the dwellings.  Michelle, hurriedly trying to get out of the dice.  :)

Aldie getting a ride from his great uncle Bill...a big thumbs up to Bill, he carried Aldie up and down most of the canyon walk so I could explore the dwellings themselves and take some pics.

Bella and I sitting on the "front porch" of one of the cliff dwellings.

This is a picture of the cliffs where the dwellings were from the trees on the valley floor.  It's a gorgeous setting.  The valley is very green and has a nice little year round stream running through it (many of the streams up here are seasonal, usually only running when the snow pack is melting).  It's very easy to understand why people lived here for nearly 10 thousand years, but it's much harder to of hard to imagine why they left.

This is the walk approaching the canyon wall that holds the dwellings.  Most of the larger holes you see were dwellings, but this area did not have a walkway to actually get into any of them which is why you don't see any access ladders.

Bella and me in the front porch and my aunt Rebecca and cousin Jim in the entrance.  This particular dwelling had several rooms that were connected by small passages.  It was bigger than some apartments I've seen in NYC and London.

Another pic of the long canyon that was filled with dwellings....and check out the sky, that is exactly what it looked like.  We were there yesterday and it was 75 degrees and gorgeous.  Today, they got 6 inches of snow in that canyon.  Did I mention that the weather patterns out here are a little crazy?

Another shot of the canyon wall with dwellings.

Bella and Jim in one of the dwellings.

Michelle and Bella standing on a rock above a river below.   This was shot in the same canyon where the tunnels were that were from"3:10 to Yuma."  This pic is quite misleading as it looks like the river is pretty close, but that was a very steep and fairly deep ravine.

Petroglyphs on the canyon walls.

Another view of the canyon walls from the valley.

This a pic looking down from the cave dwellings.  Those remains you see are the foundations of the buildings that were built by the cave dwellers on the canyon floor.  

This picture has nothing to do with our trip, it's just a great picture of my beautiful wife and since it's this is my blog post, I can post whatever I want.  :)


  1. I love the western United States, and I'm getting pleasure out of reading of you discovering it. Thanks for taking us along :-)

  2. Awesome, awesome, awesome pics! Great details of everything Bren! I am really enjoying reading and looking at your blog, glad you decided to do one.

  3. Awesome pics. And yes Michelle looks beautiful!! :-) Love reading the blog - you are making me want to do a cross country road trip, which in turn will make Cash very happy!

  4. @'s my pleasure. I feel like such a neophyte about all this cool stuff our here, I guess that's cause I am. :)

    @ Shannon, glad you are liking need to do this yourself!

    @ Diana....same goes for you...we are barely into it and it's already awesome! :)

  5. Hey Everyone! We miss you! It was so quiet and empty in the house this morning....the cats looked everywhere for you. Tell Miss I. congrats on her lost tooth!

  6. OMG, you guys are having an amazing trip! Will you swing by Cocoa Beach and pick me up...I'll even take all of the pictures - probably not as good a Rebecca, but I'll be sure to capture the precious shots of Bella and Aldie :). Please keep the updates coming, I am enjoying the trip!