Friday, November 28, 2008

Kit Carson's home in Taos, New Mexico

Sunday (Nov 16) we visited Taos, New Mexico. First, we visited the nationally famed Taos Pueblo which I will post on my blog later. But first I wanted to share our experience about our visit to the Kit Carson home and museum.

We visited this place at least once before, probably back in 1969 or 1972. Additional improvements and restoration have been made since then, and I don't really recall too much about it from back then. I've highlighted a link in the previous paragraph in case you would like to read more about this place.

Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson was born Christmas Eve, 1809 in Missouri. But he ran away when he was 16; he had heard adventure stories from his brothers and others about the Santa Fe Trail and wanted to head west like many other young men desired to do. So at the age of 17 he became a part-time resident of Taos, New Mexico.

[Be sure to click on the photos to see a larger view.]
This photo shows the entrance into the museum via the courtyard. Note some blankets are hanging off to the right. Also note the turquoise colored door and window frames - typical of southwestern culture.

This is the horno, an adobe outdoor oven, also located in the courtyard. The courtyard was a place where much of the daily activities took place and where the children would play when outdoors. If you take a close look you will notice within the adobe that pieces of straw are showing. That is one of the "ingredients" for making adobe.

This photo shows the front of the house which faces what was known as Taos Canyon Road, and is now called Kit Carson Road. Again you can see the door and window frames painted in turquoise.

This sign was located on the side of the house just before entering the courtyard. It gives a brief summary on Kit Carson and the number of years he and his third wife occupied this house.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Back in the late 60s and early 70s my husband Dave and I took a couple of trips to Santa Fe, New Mexico while vacationing and camping along the way. We used to live in Denver, Colorado at the time. That was the first time I was introduced to the Southwestern culture and architecture. And I fell in love with both of them. Santa Fe was the epitome of modern day culture mixed with the western past. To me it was so "romantic." One of the things I remember most was visiting the Governor's Plaza where Native Americans would spread out their wares to sell to the tourists. Amazingly, this still goes on today. When we drove to Santa Fe Saturday morning (Nov 15) we had planned to walk around the Plaza and check out the vendors' wares. My husband is a jewelry buff, specifically Indian jewelry. He always wears a turquoise bracelet on one arm and a turquoise watch band on the other. And he enjoys "window shopping" when it involves Indian jewelry. Any other kind of shopping he hates.

When we arrived, the Native Americans were there selling their goods at the Governor's Plaza as usual. But taking a photo of it was impossible; all around the Plaza reconstruction was taking place. Everywhere we walked the sidewalks were packed with people/tourists, so getting around was definitely not like it was back in 1969.

Another place Dave wanted to visit was the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. Visiting the museum was quite educational. I did not know that much about the artist other than she was from New Mexico, especially in her later years. From September 26, 2008 through February 1, 2009 the museum is featuring "Georgia O'Keefe and the Camera: the art of identity." Many items were photos of Ms O'Keefe taken by other artists, especially the love of her life, Alfred Stieglitz. Other items on display were several of her paintings. Her early artwork was quite abstract, a form of art I really don't care for. But once she had experienced New Mexico through yearly vacations and then moving there after her husband's death (Stieglitz), her artwork turned to the beauty she found in and around New Mexico. Below is a banner hanging just outside the museum featuring the exhibit we saw.

I took these next two photos from across the street. Note the adobe structure, the classical southwestern architecture. More about this later.

This building was a block away and on our way back to where we had parked. This appears to be an office building. Again, note the adobe style architecture which is quite prominent throughout much of New Mexico. If you click on the photo to get a larger view you will also notice small brown items evenly spread out on the top edge of the roof and the patio roof. These are luminarias which are a New Mexico tradition, and have been for many, many years. Click on the link to read more about these "special" lights.
This is a close-up view of the luminarias as well as the "deco" wood mouldings around the windows and providing decorative support of the patio roof. If you should Google southwestern architecture you may find that many homes are also decorated with bluish or turquoise window and door frames. This was a tradition to keep evil spirits away.
Just a few doors down from the O'Keefe Museum was this building that looked like it had been a mission church at one time. But now it is the home of the New Mexico Museum of Art. Dave and I did not go in, but I was impressed (again) with the beautiful southwestern architecture.
Here is a side view of the museum.
I took this photo to point out the wood used with the adobe. This looks like a small balcony of sorts.
And here is a view of open style windows. And I think the pieces of wood sticking out of the adobe is the exposed portions of something called vigas. These are supposed to be the support beams inside the building.
In front of the museum, on the sidewalk, were several plaques honoring many artists and novelists. One of my favorite writers when I was a young girl was Willa Cather who wrote of pioneer times; and she and I share the same birthday (Dec 7th). I apologize for "cutting off" the plaque at the bottom, but there were so many people walking by that taking a photo was a bit difficult.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My New Mexico Vacation

This year I chose to spend 10 wonderful days in the state of New Mexico. My husband and I chose to stay overnight in Albuquerque from Friday, Nov 14 through Monday, Nov 17 while touring ABQ, Santa Fe and Taos. We didn't have to attend the Festival of the Cranes in Socorro and the Bosque del Apache until Wednesday morning (Nov 19).

We flew into ABQ Friday (14th) around noon. So first things first - we had to go to one of our favorite restaurants, Perea's, located on Central Avenue (old Rte 66). My husband loves getting Carne Adovada here; I ordered a taco salad. This restaurant is family run and is open during the week for breakfast and lunch. They serve some of the best tasting New Mexican dishes in Albuquerque. I don't necessarily have any favorite dishes at this restaurant, but I have never been disappointed in either their breakfasts or lunches. I highly recommend this place should one visit Albuquerque.

After filling our tummies with such good food we decided to look around Old Town window shopping. I've been wanting to get a southwestern style wall clock to put above our mantel in our year-old remodeled family room. My second choice was to choose a southwestern style painting. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to catch my attention. So after visiting Old Town we chose to check in to our motel room and unpack. After unpacking we still had a couple hours of daylight so we went to visit the Rio Grande Nature Center. I've never been there before, not even when we lived in ABQ. So this was definitely a new place to visit. It's more of an open space preserve. Below is the sign located right near the concrete blind. You can click on any/all photos to see a larger image.

This is Sandia Peak from the Nature Center. As mentioned earlier, we visited the center late in the afternoon. So as the sun was getting lower in the western sky, this mountain has a tendency to show what is known as alpenglow. Sandia is the Spanish term meaning watermelon. I think the Spaniards named this mountain for its shape and for its coloring at sunset. There was much to see and so little time. So my husband and I visited the center on Saturday afternnon, too. So some of these photos were taken on Saturday; others taken on Friday. As I walked along one of the riparian trails I saw and heard a few small birds, but could not get any decent photos. Below is an attempt at getting a couple of house finches as they perched on the bush.

The next several photos are the ducks I encountered, mostly on the pond, and others in the overflow channel. Again, some photos were taken Friday and others taken on Saturday. Below are a few mallards on the pond. And the photo was taken from the concrete blind.
This photo isn't best quality, but at least I can document that I also saw some Northern Shovelers on the pond.
Another pond dweller I can document was this Canvasback. (lifer!)
Here is another lifer for me, and the only photo I could get of this ring-necked duck. Don't you like his "crew cut" hairstyle? I'm not absolutely positive of its ID, but I could not find another duck in my field guide with that two-tone bill.
Other pond dwellers were American coots. Here's one swimming along next to a male mallard, and that's a northern shoveler in the foreground looking for something nutritious to consume.
Here is another shot of a couple northern shovelers behind a coot. This nature center seems to host several species of ducks during this time of year.
And here is another lifer, and one of my best photos! This male and female pair of wood ducks were found in the overflow channel. You really need to click on this photo to see a larger image. These are such beautiful ducks, and just look at that gorgeous reflection in the water. Not only is the male attractive, but I find the female attractive, too. I love that eyering of hers.
And last but certainly not least, I kept hearing sand hill cranes while I was walking along the trail heading for the Rio Grande River. But I didn't see any until I finally got to the edge of the river. Apparently, some sand hill cranes will winter here at this nature center. If only I would have known this and was interested in birding while I lived in Albuquerque. Oh well.
I certainly want to revisit this place when I return next year.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Skywatch Friday

Walking home from work last night I noticed the moon was close to full and was so attractive I wanted to get a photo of it. So I quickly grabbed my camera as soon as I walked in the door, put a Canon 70-300mm lens on and out the door I went. While photographing, I saw a plane headed south and I wanted to get a picture of it as it crossed in front of the moon. It looks like I got what I tried for.
I thought this would make a good Skywatch Friday photo. Check out others' sites for more Skywatch Friday.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Another visit to Palo Alto Baylands - part 2

As mentioned in my previous post, this little trip to the Palo Alto Baylands took place in early October. The previous post showed all the scenic landscape in the area and around the Bay Area. This post is strictly the photos I have of the birds Red and I saw. Red will be posting her photos very soon, and you will want to visit her blog since she has better quality photos.
Typical of what one would see at the Baylands, especially around the Duck Pond, are Canada Geese, mallards, even hybrid mallards, and lots of coots and gulls. Above is my one shot of the all too "common" Canada Goose. Below are some hybrid geese found near the snowy egrets. If you look closely you can also see a male mallard in this hybrid geese photo.
(Don't forget to click on the images)
This shot of the male mallard and American coot was also taken at the Duck Pond. This area is well visited and many of these birds are looking for a handout from the clueless folks who visit. There are signs posted all over asking people to not feed the animals, but nobody pays attention to the signs.
This pair of male mallards was taken along the trail, away from the Duck Pond. I so love seeing their bright green heads and dark curly "tails."
I felt like this snowy egret was sitting there posing for me.
Farther down the trail Red and I saw several different water birds. This photo has a mixture of American Avocets in their winter plumage and marbled godwits.
All marbled godwits here except for the one American Avocet. This was taken just about twenty feet away from the previous photo.
And then we saw Northern Shovelers, and I think the other birds are western sandpipers. If any experts out there can tell me differently, I would welcome the correction.
Here's another shot of Northern shovelers found on the opposite side of the trail.
Here are a couple of long-billed curlews offset by more American Avocets.
I would certainly say we had a very varied birdy experience for being there for just a few hours. Along with the beautiful sunsets and alpenglow of the hills around the Bay and seeing a good variety of bird species we "done good!"

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Another visit to Palo Alto Baylands - part 1

Early in October Red and I went to Palo Alto Baylands to see what was there and what we would find interesting enough to photograph. I found that I had so many photos to post I decided to split this trip in two parts. This will be the "scenic" part, and part 2 will be the birds we saw.
One of the most common wildflowers seen around here in riparian and scrub brush areas.
(Don't forget to click on the images if you want to see a larger photo.)
With daylight savings time still in effect Red and I went in the afternoon around 3 p.m. and stayed until just after sunset (around 6 p.m.). The photo above was looking toward the East Bay; and the photo below was looking north with the Dumbarton Bridge in the distance, one of the two bridges that connects the East Bay with the Peninsula. The Peninsula (more or less) consists of cities north of San Jose, such as Mountain View, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Redwood City, and San Mateo.

The history behind this great birding place is quite interesting. Red and I met a gentleman photographer while we were there and he mentioned to us that the history behind this place was that it once was a boat launch and yacht club. So I checked on the web to see if I could find historical info on it and found two good resources. The first one regarding the history is found here. Here is an excerpt from that web page: "Byxbee envisioned the development of the Baylands as a park and recreation center and in January 1921, the Board of Public Works recommended the initial purchase of 40 acres of marshland. Nine years later, Byxbee submitted a plan that included a municipal airport, a salt-water swimming pool, a yacht harbor -- yachting was his main recreation -- and clubhouse, a basin for seaplanes, and areas for playgrounds, picnic grounds, golf course, and a game reserve. The cost was estimated at 2.2 million dollars."
The second resource I found is here. Both resources are excellent reading about Palo Alto and about the Baylands in particular.
Photo above is looking south toward Mountain View with the Moffett Field hangars in the near distance. The U.S. Navy used to own this property, and then closed in the mid-1990s. These hangars were used to store blimps/dirigibles and have been landmarks to spot the cities of Sunnyvale and Mountain View. I do believe that the property now belongs to NASA. Here is a link to the history of Moffett Field.

Photo above is Mount Hamilton, located on the east side of Santa Clara valley. Atop Mt. Hamilton is the Lick Observatory, run by the University of California. Here is a link to its history.

Again, I'm looking across to the East Bay foothills. Notice the alpenglow. It was such a beautiful day there at the Baylands.
And here (above) is a shot of the sun setting in the west (of course!). And below another shot a few minutes later of the alpenglow.
This alpenglow shot was looking east, just south of Mt. Hamilton. I hope you enjoyed the scenery. Next post will be the birds Red and I saw along the trail of the bay and at the duck pond.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rancho San Antonio County Park - Los Altos/Cupertino California

A month ago, the first Sunday in October, Red and I visited one of the county parks here in our area. Rancho San Antonio is located in the foothills of Los Altos, although I always considered it part of Cupertino, the city where we used to live before moving to San Jose. It was a pleasant afternoon with temperatures around 70-75 degrees. Click on the link to read a little more about this park which has quite a bit to offer visitors, such as horse trails, biking trails, and a farm where children can pet the animals. There are also picnic grounds and most of the trails are well used, especially on weekends.
Above is a thistle plant I saw while walking around the picnic ground area. And below is one of the oldest Bay Laurel trees in this park. As you can see in the photo it was fenced off. I had to walk back quite a distance to get the entire tree into the photo.
Red and I didn't have a lot of time, but walking around we did see a few birds. Below are acorn woodpeckers. There were quite a few of them all over the area where we were walking. [Be sure to click on the photos to get a larger image.]

Another species we saw were starlings, quite a few of them.

As we were leaving the park, driving right outside of the entrance, we caught a glimpse of white, actually black and white. It was large and so we had to find a place where we could pull off the road. When we finally did, we watched in awe as this big white bird hovering above the ground and then take a dive. Both of us finally realized we were looking at a White-tailed kite. We saw it fly back up into a tree and then realized a short distance away from this bird was another kite perched in another tree. Photo op? You bet! Did we get a photo? Nope! We already had everything packed away in the trunk and we needed to get home. Well, at least we know what to look for when we return to this park. For the short length of time we spent there we certainly found some very interesting birds to enjoy. And just to note, the acorn woodpecker was a lifer for me.


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