Monday, June 10, 2013

New Mexico Vacation--Day Two, Petroglyphs, etc.

The plan for the day was to do something outdoors in the morning and something indoors during the afternoon when it was going to be really hot. So in the morning we explored Petroglyph National Monument just west of Albuquerque. The area was a large boulder field made of basalt (black rock) covered granite (pink rock). Many of these boulders had pictures (petroglyphs) chiseled into them that could be as old as 2,000-3,000 years old according to archeologists. The imagines were thought to be made by ancestors of today's Native Americans, and the Spanish added to the collection starting in the 1600's. The images were simple and childlike with many different interpretations given to their meanings. The conclusion seems to be is we don't really understand them. Nevertheless, the scramble up the boulder field to the top of the mesa to see petroglyphs and a view of Albuquerque was worth it.

From this top view, we saw Albuquerque and the desert valley it was built in. Unlike the lush green that I am used to in the East, the city is a study of shades of brown. Not only is the ground brown, so are the houses. The brown (yellow brown, pink brown, brown brown) Pueblo style of houses with dirt/rock yards are prevalent.  Also from the top, we saw two of the five volcanic cinder cones from ancient volcanos that are to the west of the city. We set out to get a closer look at them, but a wrong turn prevented us from achieving our goal. 

By this time, the temperature was 102° F and it was time to change to indoor activities. We decided on the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. The museum was like the several other natural history museums we have visited before, but this one had some particularly impressive dinosaur fossils. However, the best thing about our visit were the very friendly and knowledgeable docents. We learned many new things that were not stated with the exhibits--including that the oldest age they have determined a dinosaur to live to is 30 years old. Also, cats are somewhat immune to rattlesnake bites. They will react to a bite, but it won't kill them. One person we talked to had a cat that had been bitten 5 times and was still kicking.

After a retreat to our hotel room for a short nap and a shower, we met one of Ward's virtual coworkers for dinner. They have worked together for several years, but have never met face to face. We ate at Sadie's where the locals come to get the best New Mexican food in town (or so the website says). The food was good and conversation was even better. 

Until next time, here are a few pictures from today.

The visitor's center also had a good display about native plants.

Can you see the bird and dog petroglyphs in the rock?

Not sure what all of these are, but the 4-pointed star was part of the Rio Grande style of petroglyphs.

Upper picture: Albuquerque with the Sandia Mountains in the background. Lower picture: a new neighborhood being built. Notice all of the brown houses.

One of the cinder cones we never got to see closeup.

At the Natural History Museum, this volunteer gave us a personal tour through the dinosaur exhibit.

New Mexico--Day One--Arrival and Sandia Peak

The skies were friendly, the baggage showed up, the car had Sirus radio, and the hotel found our reservations. In other words, the trip to Albuquerque went just like it was supposed to. A good sign for things to come.

One of the good things to come was we found out that the road to Sandia Peak was closing tomorrow until October because of extreme risk of forest fires. Since this was on our agenda, we hopped in the car and took off. The Sandia Mountains border Albuquerque on the east and have both a tram and road that will take you to the top.  Ward wanted a chance to drive the twisty-turny roads, so we drove. The visit to the Peak provided a day of contrasts. We started the day at 600 feet and ended up at 10, 600 feet on the crest.  It sure was a lot easier to breath near sea level. Also, it was 98°F in Albuquerque and 2 cooler on Sandia Peak. A welcome relief from the heat even if it was dry heat. We had a nice walk around their nature trail and learned about the geology and climate zones of the mountains. We had a lovely time walking in the cool mountain breezes. (Except for the copious gnats, but I won't mention them. It would ruin the mood.)

For dinner, we headed to historic Route 66 which goes right through the middle of Albuquerque. At one time this stretch of highway through town had over 100 hotels and restaurants supporting the traffic through the area. There aren't too many of the original businesses left but we found one for dinner. It was here that we experienced the question that comes with every meal in New Mexico, "Do you want red or green with that?" This refers to the red and green pepper sauce that gets put on most everything. Ward had both red and green sauces on his burrito and I had green sauce on the side. While they are flavorful, they are very spicy. A little goes a long way with me.

A very tiring but satisfying day. Here are a few pictures.

Ward checking out the view from Sandia Peak.

Sandia Peak was populated by firs, pines, and spruces at different elevations. However, I always get those trees mixed up so I can't tell you what was where.

The mountains have twice as much rainfall as the valley floor where the Albuquerque is located. Thus they have a wider variety of plants including this Canadian Violet.

These plants support wildlife including this mule deer.

This is where we had dinner. The neon sign is typical of the original businesses along Route 66.