Bosque del Apache

Monday, December 3, 2018

We headed out toward Memphis early in the morning and pushed to make it in a day. Along the way we stopped at Biscuithead for breakfast, and having made Memphis by evening, we went to Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint for dinner.

Tuesday, December 4, 1018

This morning we drove into Arkansas and the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Looking for migratory waterfowl, we didn’t see a whole lot there. We stopped in at the visitor center and the very kind employee pointed us to Bald Knob NWR. Unfortunately, except for some mallards, we came up empty there too.

Our next planned stop was at Sequoyah NWR where we saw lots and lot of waterfowl and other birds, especially flocks of starlings and snow geese. We also saw an old opossum walking along the side of the road, and two small deer.

Seeing as it was late in the day, we decide to grab a hotel room and stay the night to return the next morning. We ate at Neumeier’s Rib Room for a pretty good dinner.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

We returned to Sequoyah NWR before the sun rose and saw Snow geese in the fields, and starlings along the way to the lake where I wanted to get sunrise photos.

After sunrise we drove around the Reserve and watched a coyote run out in front of our truck toward a flock of Snow geese. I urged Alan to drive up further quickly, then stop so I could get out as I knew what was about to happen. The coyote did as predicted and charged the flock of geese causing an explosive take-off, and I was lucky enough to capture it with the camera.

Coyote as he spooked a flock of Snow geese into an explosion of wings.
Fall pond.

After leaving Sequoyah NWR, we drove to Oklahoma City and stopped in at Nics Place – Triple D joint – for lunch. After lunch we walked down to the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the location where a bombing left 168 people dead, 19 of which were children. It was a very somber moment for both of us.

From Oklahoma City we drove to Washita NWR and spent some time there driving around looking for wildlife. We didn’t find much so we drove on to Texas where we stayed the night.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

This morning we got up ahead of the sun to drive to Palo Duro Canyon State Park, the second largest canyon in the USA. I was looking for the “ideal” spot for a sunrise, but just didn’t have much luck. I did catch and okay sunrise while down in the canyon though.

Still in Texas, we drove to Buffalo Lake NWR, but photo ops were slim. So, we headed to Cadillac Ranch, a funky roadside attraction in the Texas panhandle. While a bit underwhelming when viewed from the road, it was pretty cool to photograph up close.

While driving on toward Bosque del Apache NWR, we took a turn onto the old (OLD) part of Route 66, and stopped in at Kix on 66 for lunch. What a hoot!

Once done fueling up with lunch, we drove to Albuquerque, New Mexico. By the time we got there it was late and we knew we wouldn’t have time to do too much, so we stopped in at Petroglyph National Monument’s visitor center, got some good info and then drove a little ways down the road to Boca Negro trailhead and hiked all around. The first part of the hike was all uphill, and a bit of a challenge because the trail was steep and not well groomed – but easy enough to follow. Toward the top of the butte, I decided I’d had enough and headed down while Alan finished going to the top, then met up with me on the way down. There were more trails at that location so we hiked those too. All along all these trails we saw hundreds of petroglyphs. It was like a fun scavenger hunt.

We stopped and ate dinner in Ranch House Restaurant, and stayed at the Best Western Plus in Santa Fe.

Friday, December 7, 2018

This morning we slept in a bit, then went to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. This was a treat for me as I’ve always been an admirer of her work. After the museum we dropped in at the Tune up Cafe – another Triple D place – for lunch. Boy was that food good!

The next “challenge” for us was finding the trail Peidras Marcadas trailhead, part of the Petroglyph National Monument system. After several wrong turns, we finally found it. As we were getting our boots on, a large raptor flew right by us and landed in a pine tree with it’s lunch. It was hard to see the bird deep in the branches, but we think it was a Peregrine Falcon. We watch for a while, then struck out onto the trail.

A view from about half-way to the top of the butte with petroglyphs.

This trail was absolutely fun! We saw thousands of petroglyphs, and lots of wildlife – seemingly just in the backyard of Albuquerque. We saw rabbits, a hare, two unique squirrels, and lots of nice, new-to-us, birds. A very good afternoon!

Dessert Cottontail
Black-tailed Jackrabbit.
White-tailed Antelope Squirrel.
Rock Squirrel

From here we drove to Socorro to check in at our hotel for the next few nights, and then had dinner at Yo Mama’s Grill.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

We rose about an hour before sunrise to head into Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, and arrived at the first pond where we saw a few other photographers set up and ready to shoot when the sun gave enough light. We parked, got out our gear and set up on tripods in the same manner. Then we waited.

At first we heard the cranes out in the pond, then slowly, as the light crept up, we began to see them. There were hundreds of them, all waiting for the same thing as we were – light – and possibly warmth, as it was below freezing outside.

Eventually there was enough light to begin shooting, and then, after a while, the cranes got more active, and started to flap their wings in preparation for taking off to the fields where they would feed all day long.

More photographers joined the throng and a concert of clicks and snaps could be heard all along the pond, along with the occasional whispers between enthusiasts; everyone was respectful of the birds and each other.

We met a very nice couple, Eileen and Alan Johnson, while along the rim, and we kept seeing them during our forays into Bosque throughout our trip. Eileen and I exchanged contact information with promises to get in touch with each other.

Through some unseen, or unheard, signal, the cranes started flying off in small groups; two, three, sometimes five at a time. Throughout the early hours, with squawks and warbling, they all eventually left the pond. Happy birders and photographers slowly packed up their belongings and headed out into the refuge to see the birds in the fields.

Now that it was past 8:00AM, we headed on over to the refuge’s Visitor Center to get a map, stamp our NWR book, and ask a few questions. Then we also headed into the refuge.

We drove the dirt roads for about a couple of hours – getting the lay of the land – and shooting other birds, including a large flock of turkeys. While standing near the banks of the center pond, a group of Javalinas walked out across the field of view at the pond’s edge. When they saw all the photographers, they ran! That was fun.

Young Javalina

Pretty soon we got hungry and decided to go to lunch back in Socorro. We settled on Sofia’s Kitchen for lunch, then headed to Sevilleta NWR for a look-around.

Hooded Merganser
Snow Goose

After checking in at the visitor center at Sevilleta, we drove out on the recommended roads, but really didn’t see much. It was just the wrong time of the year for this particular refuge.

White-crowned Sparrow at the visitor center at Bosque.

Around 6:00PM we met up with the North American Nature Photographer’s Association (NANPA) group at a the Bodega restaurant where everyone introduced themselves, had dinner, watched a presentation, and got instructions about where to meet up in the morning.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

We all left the hotel at 5:45AM and set up at the first pond just like Alan and I had done the morning before. When we were done with that shoot, we stopped at the visitor center for a rest room break, looked around behind the center for quail, which we saw on a rooftop nearby, then drove out into the refuge. At this point everyone got separated, but we found a few from our group again at one of the fields. It was hit-and-miss the rest of the morning. We enjoyed ourselves in pursuit of the elusive bobcat sighting and clicking away at several of the waterfowl we came across along the way.

Road Runner

We made another stop at the visitor center before heading back to Socorro, and the El Camino for lunch.

Later that day we went back to the refuge for more shooting, stopping at the pond on the way out to watch the cranes fly in where we got some great silhouettes. Then we all met up at Frank & Lupe for dinner and to share stories.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The plan for the day was very much like Sunday’s, except we started out inside the refuge. We got a little turned and wound up at the Flight Deck pond where I got some great shots of the sunrise.

Bald Eagle on a snag at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Afterward we drove around again and finally caught up with everyone at the North pond where we just missed an explosive take-off of Snow geese. After this, Alan and I took off on our own and did a little hiking.

Upon a recommendation from two of the group, we hiked the Canyon National Recreation trail; a 3.15 mile trail out into the scrub and dessert and into a small canyon, then up a steep trail to the top of a plateau where we could see all of the refuge and more. We came down from the plateau, and hiked out, then ate a picnic lunch of sandwiches purchased at a convenience store the day before.

As we returned to the refuge we saw a good sized buck near the road. Alan slowed down so I could get a good shot of him, then a big truck approached and spooked him into the water. We watched as he dashed through the water and up through the reeds, and then he was gone.

We drove around the south end of the refuge, then hiked the Rio Viejo trail; a pretty 2 mile trail deep in the refuge. We saw several birds, but no other wildlife. Leaving that one, we headed over to the half-mile Boardwalk tail and hiked that. On this trail we saw lots of birds we’d never seen before.

To end the day, we met up with the group for dinner.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

This morning we all met up at the north pond again. The light was good and we watched the cranes as they all slowly made their exits to the fields. We chatted about gear and travel, and I tried to get a photo of Wendy, one of the other photographers from our group.

We toured the park again, searching in vain for that darned bobcat. What we did see however, were a couple of good-sized herds of deer. The second herd we saw we ended up encountering along a turn in the refuge. We parked off to the side and watched as the buck kept an eye on his does as they crossed the road. He was a big brute.

On our way to lunch I asked Alan to stop at a little souvenir shop where I picked up several braided bunches of dried hot peppers.

For lunch we met up at Bodega Burger for a final farewell. Afterward Alan and I chatted with Wendy and Jeff about life in a Roadtrek van.

With our bags packed, we headed straight to White Sands National Monument.

After a stop at the visitor center, we drove the eight-mile loop deep into the sand dunes. The sand, made up of gypsum, was truly white. Toward the far end of the loop we parked and I grabbed my camera while Alan climbed one of the dunes. I joined him and scouted for a decent shooting location. The sun was going down quickly and producing some beautiful colors in the sky over the mountain range to the west. I set up and took a few shots before it started getting too dark. At one point, after we got back to the truck, I dared Alan to slide down the closest dune. He’s not one to back out of a dare, so up he went, and down he came, getting a little sand in his clothes.

Sunset from White Sands National Monument

We left the monument before they closed and headed over to Las Cruses and had dinner at La Nueva Casita Café, then got a hotel for the night.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Today we headed to Texas in search of the Prada Marfa shop. It’s really an artist sculpture by artists Elmgreen and Dragset, situated about 1.4 miles northwest of Valentine, Texas, just off U.S. Highway 90, and about 26 miles northwest of the city of Marfa. It’s basically out in the middle of nowhere.

While we drove we discussed the possibility of living a nomadic life in a Roadtrek of our own. We could actually envision doing this. We got so into the subject that we passed the Prada Marfa by about fifteen miles before we realized we must have gone too far and we turned around and finally found it. What a laugh.

We drove on to San Antonio, had dinner at the Saltgrass Steak House, and stayed at a Drury hotel for the first time – it was very nice and inexpensive.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

We checked out of the hotel early in the morning and drove to downtown San Antonio and stopped at a few stores so I could search for freeze-dried garlic. I came up empty. We also stopped at Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia to purchase some conchas for our friends Helaine and Ted – well, mostly for Helaine.

We then headed to Lake Charles Louisianna to spend the night and had dinner at Tia Juanitas Fish Camp.

Friday, December 14, 2018

As we continued our trek toward Alabama, we dropped in at Lacassine NWR, west of Baton Rouge, for a quick look-around.

We stayed in Slidell, LA, and went to Vera’s Seafood for dinner. It was a good meal.

We stayed with our friends Helaine and Ted, who live just south of Enterprise, Alabama, for a few nights. We gave them some gifts we picked up in Cuba, and the conchas from San Antonio, and the braided peppers from New Mexico. then headed on home.