Monday, January 28, 2013

Sunrise, Sunset at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in San Antonio, New Mexico

         I don’t want to move, to speak, or even to breathe—so fearful am I of altering the dawn dreamscape before my eyes.  Burnt amber hues saturate the sky’s canvas. Then magenta appears, along with powder-puff blue.  Finally a roiling dusky orange steals in from above and below, threatening to engulf the heavens in flames.  We point our cameras skyward while the marshes at our feet reflect this celestial palette here on earth.

A pair of ducks float in a Kodachrome marsh.
         Where are we?  Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in San Antonio, New Mexico.  Tim and I have journeyed south to see the Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese which congregate here in winter.  Flocks of cranes soar overhead, their prehistoric cries lingering in the air.  Clouds of geese rise as one from their nighttime watery roosts, the whirring of wings mimicking the roar of a jetliner powering up for take-off.

Top:  Snow geese awaken after a good night's sleep.
Middle:  The geese lift off as a single organism.
Bottom:  The flock fans out overhead.
 The birding is rewarding but the display of color and light at dusk and dawn is astonishing.   

No,  your eyes don't deceive you.  We witnessed
sunrises and sunsets like these every day.

Sandhill Cranes at Sunrise.

         Regular readers of this blog know I’m drawn to the natural world and I’ve gaped and gawked at many a stirring scene.  But this time was different.  For three days in January of 2000 Tim and I experienced sunrises and sunsets so reverent that at one point I turned to Tim and whispered:  “I can’t believe I’m alive to see this.” 

By the dawn's early light.

Silhouetted Sandhills at Sunset.

         I’ve not returned to Bosque del Apache and I can’t help but wonder whether or not the birds are still abundant, the sunrises and sunsets still ablaze.  
 Readers, have you experienced a jaw-dropping sunrise or sunset?  Where was it?

Birding and sky-gazing are not the only activities at
Bosque del Apache.  This hiking trail gives visitors a taste of
 southern New Mexico's desert.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Coyote Buttes—Wind Sculpture on the Utah/Arizona Border

         The next time you're outside on a windy day consider the wind's ability to construct masterpieces of nature.  Coyote Buttes, in the Paria Canyon/Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, is a one-of-a-kind example of wind-sculpted natural works of art.

         Several years ago, on a cloudless January day, Tim and I hiked Coyote Buttes North, commonly called The Wave.  This panorama of ridges and swirls symbolizes wild America; you may have seen the images below in coffee-table books extolling our country's scenic landscapes.

Perhaps you've seen this image on the cover of a "Scenic America" book
or calendar.  It's even better in person.
         The 2.5 mile hike to Coyote Buttes North crosses sand and slickrock.  Visitation is limited in this fragile area and a permit is required for those wanting to access the trail.  Click here for information on the hike, and on applying for permits.

Giant "Cinnabons" like these line the trail on the way to
Coyote Buttes North.

Tim stops to compose a shot of this
natural playground.

We discovered the ideal lunch spot—atop these
sun-warmed rocks on a cold winter day.

 When you find yourself standing in a spot like this,
remember to thank the wind.

This view shows the terrain traveled on the way to "The Wave".

Monday, January 7, 2013

Home Ranch Winter Getaway, Clark, Colorado

         Entering this Currier and Ives Christmas-card scene by motor car seems wrong some how.  A horse-drawn sleigh should be carrying us to the entrance of Home Ranch in Clark, Colorado . . .

"It'll nearly be like a picture print from Currier and Ives..."
This quote from the song "Sleigh Ride" describes our feelings
on arrival at Home Ranch.
         The Ranch’s cheerful employees greet us as we walk in the door; we’re shown to our room, The Bonanza, where we unload our bags and suit up for an afternoon of cross-country skiing.  Aspen Arches trail takes off through a tunnel of aspens, and skirts the horse pasture.  

Tim skies the Aspen Arches trail.

         After skiing we have a tough decision to make—lounge in our room or soak in the outdoor hot tub?  We choose the hot tub and watch a family flying down the hill behind us on inner tubes, their screams of exhilaration the only noise filling this peaceful afternoon.
         Dining at the ranch takes place in a large rectangular room; a wood burning fireplace adorns one end, two long tables fill the remaining space.  It’s a communal dining experience and, if that’s not your style, you’re out of luck at The Home Ranch.  This evening we dine with a family from Connecticut.   Jackie and Franz (originally from Holland) and their two kids have been vacationing at Home Ranch for the past six years, and they love these western adventures.

Hot tub in the foreground (intentionally left dark) and tubing hill
in the background.
         The following morning, after a breakfast of flapjacks and poached eggs, we dress in our long-johns and winter coats for a ride on the feed sleigh.  We walk to the barn and find two Percherons named Bob and Bill hitched to the sleigh.  Six other people arrive for the ride and soon we’re on our way.  Our sleigh enters the horse pasture and our wrangler Brady asks for volunteers to unwrap the 1,500 pound bale of hay and spread it about for the herd.  Tim busies himself with that chore—he says it’s hard work!—while I inquire about the use of draft horses.  Brady tells me that Home Ranch prefers feeding its animals with horses and sleigh, as opposed to tractors and ATV’s.  Nice and quiet.  But these brutes eat a lot of hay during the winter—up to 50 pounds a day for each of the 1,700 pound draft horses.

Rita and Tim pose with Bob and Bill.

Tim (green coat and brown hat) helps with feeding time
in the pasture.
         This afternoon we sign on for a 45 minute horseback ride in the snow.  I ride gentle Sequoia and Tim rides Hopi on our escorted outing, weaving through meadows and aspen trees.  After the ride it’s time for a final ski on the Big Meadow trail.  The views stretch from horizon to horizon, from valley floor to mountain peaks.  

Rita and Sequoia out for an afternoon ride.

The Lone Ranger rides again: Tim and Hopi cut a
striking figure on the trail.

Tim skies the Big Meadow with its expansive views.

        It may not have inspired a Currier and Ives print, but a winter weekend at Home Ranch combines 19th century outdoor experiences with 21st century lodging for an unforgettable stay. 
Visit this website to plan your own Colorado winter getaway:

Interested in Ranch Vacations?  Read my previous posting about a trip to Lone Mountain Ranch in Montana.