Friday, July 3, 2015

Quote of the Day

Is not life a hundred times too short for us to bore ourselves?
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Valles Caldera National Preserve

The Valles Caldera is almost like a Yellowstone in miniature. The vast valley is the remnant of an exploding supervolcano which erupted around 1.15 million years ago and the last eruption in the area was as recent as 50-60,000 years ago. The Bandelier Monument, which I visited earlier Thursday, is on the edge of this vast caldera. The central part of the Natural Preserve is a huge valley where cattle and elk graze. Surrounding the valley are large forests and tall mountains, some of them volcanic.

I'd been told by the ladies down at Bandelier that one could now just drive straight in, but I was told up at the visitor center that they still had in effect a strict 24 vehicle per day policy. The Americans in front of me were complaining loudly and huffing and puffing about this, while I quietly waited my turned and calmly asked if they had any reservations available for Friday. Lo and behold, they'd had a cancellation. My name was put into a big book and I shall get up in the wee hours of the morning to make the almost two hour long drive to be there before 10AM.

The National Parks Service is in the process of taking over the running of the place, so they basically have nuffin' in the way of stuff to sell. Most of the people working there don't even know if they'll have a job after this summer. Three of us were taken out in a van (on a short version of the drive I'll be having Friday) by a seasonal worker named Michael, who gave us a thorough briefing on the geology and history of the place and I really wish they keep him on.

Here are some samples of Thursday's photographic loot.

This photo was taken from NM Highway 4, which is a highly recommended route even iffin you're not visiting the preserve.

From the van tour.

We had a thunderstorm for parts of the drive. It made for lovely pictures.

A herd of elk.

Close up.

A surprised prairie dog. These cute critters are all around the visitor center, but they carry all manner of icky diseases, so resist the temptation to feed or pet them.

These flowers smell almost like skunk spray. I asked Michael if they had skunks and he immediately pointed to the flowers. Guess he's had that question before.

On the front wall of the visitor center they had two birds' nests.

Close up of the greedy lil' fluffballs.

Last but not least... this is the cabin which stands in as sheriff Walter Longmire's home in the TV-series. It is one of the buildings left over from when the preserve was a private ranch.

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument is located about an hour northwest of Santa Fe, in the Jemez Mountains. I trudged up and down the sights on the "main loop" today, the one most tourists take, so I figured I'd done a good day's work. I also took over 250 pictures, but have (blissfully) narrowed them down to the 37 in this folder.

I think I'm definitely on to something here.

The mountainside mainly consist of tuff, a soft rock that is the result of volcanic eruptions. So ancient injuns cut out caves, or simply improved upon already existing holes.

There were plenty of natural and unnatural holes.

This picture was taken out of the opening of a tiny room which I climbed a ladder to reach. I am becoming a real outdoorsman. Ok, you can stop laughing now.

This was the inside of the cave.

I didn't go inside this one.

A flash photo of the inside of a cave.

A long gallery of windows.

White Rock Outlook

White Rock is a tiny town in New Mexico, a few miles east of Bandelier National Monument. There is a visitor center there and a shuttle bus operating during the summer months that takes tourists to the monument. However, White Rock also has a purdy lil' thang all its own, namely a lookout point where you can see for miles.

Yours truly. I think skeptical selfies will be my new thing.

The Rio Grande.

Nice landscape.

Behind you there's a waterfall. Drive down the road at the opposite end of town from the visitor center, then take Meadow down to the Outlook. It takes 10 minutes in all, and it's really worth the (minimal) effort.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Quote of the Day

A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble right at his door.
- Confucius

Return to Santa Fe

I couldn't stomach navigating the streets of Albuquerque to find their local museum today, so instead I drove off early to Santa Fe. I am happy to report that almost four years after my last visit, it is still one of the coziest, prettiest towns in America, and the experience was made even better when I found a parking space right next door to the Palace of Governors on my first drive-by. I spent a happy hour walking around in the sunshine, taking pictures, window shopping and eating a burrito. I even bought another t-shirt. If you didn't already know it, an hour in downtown Santa Fe is a tonic for the soul.

People were sitting around the Plaza eating, talking or just chillaxing.

The shops around the square are among the nicest (but also the priciest) in all of America.

There were a couple of food stalls and the smell from them was delicious.

The Santa Fe skyline is all adobe.

These three were playing in one area of the square, but had to share auditory space with another kid who was seemingly banging away at some drums without any purpose, and an old guy playing the accordion. I gave the young 'uns five bucks and told them there would be five more if they could shut up the kid on the drums, but no luck.

This memorial commemorates, among other things, the fallen Federal troops who fought the rebels in the American Civil War. A far cry from the South and its "just cause" rubbish. Also, note the purdy flowers; there's tons of them around the plaza.

Some more history; this time from the Santa Fe Trail.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Quote of the Day

The supreme end of education is expert discernment in all things--the power to tell the good from the bad, the genuine from the counterfeit, and to prefer the good and the genuine to the bad and the counterfeit.
- Samuel Johnson

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sandia Crest

The Sandia Mountains is a range just to the east of Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can drive all the way to its highest point, at 10,678 feet (3,255 m). The side facing Albuquerque is quite steep, but on the eastern side it's a nice, lazy drive up the hill.

Panoramic views out over Albuquerque.

If you're disgustingly fit, you can walk the Sandia Crest for over a mile in both directions. There are also paths down both hillsides.

Skeeeeptical. I fucking hate so-called selfies and the only reason I could wish for a selfie-stick would be so I could bludgeon selfie-takers to death with it.

This is known as the Forest of Steel. The Sandia crest is home to quite a few radio transmitters.

Views towards the east.

My kinda place.

Quote of the Day

The difficulty in life is the choice.
- George Moore

Petrified Forest National Park

Monday I drove through mostly pleasant landscape from Phoenix, Arizona to Albuquerque, New Mexico. There have been parts with lots and lots of cacti, high mountain forests and cozy lakes, vistas that seemed to stretch forever and last, but not least, the Petrified Forest National Park.

The park has, as the name alludes to, lots of petrified trees. In fact, it has the world's highest concentration of them. Still, the most fascinating thing to me were the multicolored badlands that lay scattered along the way (the park partially runs together with the Painted Desert).

The trees are appx. 225 million years old, from a time when Arizona was almost at the equator. In addition to the trees and the badlands, they have found dinosaur bones in the area. I highly recommend a visit!

Petrified wood just outside the visitor center.

This skeleton looks almost like a prehistoric crocodile.

Inside the visitor center they also have this corner where kids can play paleontologists. Or make sand castles, what do I know.

The desert has colors.

It looks a lot like the Badlands up in South Dakota, doesn't it?

If you look closely you can just make out lightning slightly to the right of the middle.

Purdy hills and long, long views.


This is the Inn just north of I-40, which functions as a museum today.

The walls inside are decorated by some injun artist whose name and tribal affiliation has escaped my tiny mind.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Quote of the Day

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.
- John Lubbock

Lake Havasu City

Lake Havasu City lies in Arizona and is most famous for being the new home of the old London Bridge. The Bridge was sold by the City of London to wealthy (and quite possibly insane) oil man Robert P. McCulloch in 1968. It was torn down brick by brick and reassembled in Arizona, where it opened to traffic in 1971.

Lake Havasu is today an important recreational area for California and Arizona and the city has blossomed into quite the busy little place, although I must say I thought it was relatively quiet there for a summer weekend, but maybe tourist season hasn't quite started yet. The whole place gives off an impression of prosperity and the area down by the bridge looks like a friendly, but ultimately deranged attempt at recreating London in Arizona. I chuckled, but for all the wrong reasons. Take a look and judge for yourself.

A large fountain guarded by two silver lions, their pedestals read "City of London". Only it can't be London, cuz there are no beggars in the streets, no flocks of pigeons crapping on you and you can't hear a Scandinavian language being spoken anywhere.

Hammering up some diagonal boards on the outer wall doth not a Tudor house make.

This phone booth, which looked like the phone had been ripped out of it by chavs high on meth, was really the only authentic looking thing there.

Jesus wept.

The London Bridge.

From a different angle.

Surprisingly, the river walk was deserted.