Category Archives: exercise

Living in the “Land of Enchantment”(NM): Carlsbad Caverns

Aaron and Paula standing at the entrance of Carlsbad Caverns

Aaron and I at the Cave entrance, about to descend 750 feet into the ground!

In 2014, Aaron and I took a trip down to visit Carlsbad Caverns in the SE part of the state. It’s a 4 1/2 hour drive down to Carlsbad, NM from Albuquerque. We had both been there several times as kids but never as adults.

Rather than stay in Carlsbad, we stopped off in Cloudcroft for the night. We love that little town in the middle of southern New Mexico at the top of the mountains. It’s name is very fitting as the clouds often get stuck at the 8,600′ elevation. Carlsbad is another 2 hour drive past, but it’s well worth the stop over. Especially in the summer, as the temps up in Cloudcroft are usually 20 degrees cooler than down in the scalding high desert sun!

Aaron’s family has a close connection to the small New Mexico town with a population of 674 (2010). His grandfather and uncles built a cabin there in the 1960s and the cabin has stayed in the family ever since. We have visited the cabin regularly for 20 years. We’ve always enjoyed hiking in the warm months and snow tubing in the winter. There are several nice campgrounds and a historic Lodge too. Even if you don’t spend the night, I highly recommend stopping in a Mad Jack’s BBQ for some of THE best BBQ you will ever have!

descending into the entrance of Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Descending into the main entrance of the cave. Though it looks scary, there is a paved, somewhat flat path leading into the cave.

The next day we headed out for Carlsbad. It’s funny when you go back to a place you haven’t been since you were a kid. You know how everything seems smaller? That didn’t happen at Carlsbad Caverns! I cannot imagine what I must have thought of this place as a little kid. The big room, is BIG!

cave formation in the big room at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

One of the many large scale formations in the big room.

It’s quite a downhill walk into the caverns, the good news is, there is an elevator at the bottom if you don’t feel ambitious enough to walk up and out. According to the website, the elevator is currently not working, but should be working again by May 31st.

We spent several hours walking around and exploring all the alien landscapes of the tremendous Caverns. I took well over 200 hundred photos, that I still haven’t edited! The few I’ve shared here are my favorite picks.

underground pool of water in Carlsbad Caverns

underground pool, there is water deep in the ground, even when the surface is a dry desert.

It’s impossible to get across the majesty of this place in words or photos. You simply have to see it for yourself. It’s like seeing the Grand Canyon in a photo, a camera flattens the image. I wish I could have captured it, but it’s nature’s beauty, it cannot be captured.

Giant stalagmites in the Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Giant stalagmites in the Big room

It is well worth the trip into the desert of eastern New Mexico! Any time of the year is good too, as the temperature in the Caverns stays in the high 50s year round. Follow one of the links I’ve provided for more information on Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Carlsbad, NM and Cloudroft, NM.

One of the muddy textures in Carlsbad Caverns National Park

One of the muddy textures in the Caverns

 

 

 

Series: Living in the “Land of Enchantment” (New Mexico) Bandelier

Looking up one of the several ladders at Bandelier National Monument

Looking up one of the several ladders at Bandelier National Monument

This series came about after a realization I came to a few years ago. I grew up in Southern New Mexico and now live in Albuquerque in Central New Mexico. I live in a state that is a very popular tourist destination. I am blessed to live in a place people dream of visiting someday. I live, as an artist, in a place artists have been drawn to for centuries for the quality of light, the gorgeous natural landscape, awe inspiring sunsets, great outdoor opportunities and I could go on and on.

Growing up I didn’t see New Mexico in this romantic way, in fact, I had dreams of eventually leaving. I left three times before I realized how much I loved it here.

When I returned to New Mexico the final time, we moved to Albuquerque, the largest city in the state. We’ve been here ever since (16 years) and I have come to really love my home state.

Part of the reason for this love is the many road trips we’ve taken to explore our state over the past 20 years. New Mexico has millions of acres of National Forests, National Parks and Monuments, State Parks and Wilderness areas, thousands of miles of hiking/biking trails, several ski areas, ruins from past civilizations, modern cities filled with numerous art galleries and museums and did I mention those sunsets!?

Ironically, many people in modern day America don’t realize New Mexico is one of the 50 states. It’s an ongoing local joke. New Mexico became the 47th state on January 6, 1912.

Rocky Mountain landscape with cloudy sky at Bandelier National Monument

Rocky Landscape in Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier is just outside Los Alamos, New Mexico. From the National Park Service website; “Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back over 11,000 years.  Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities.”

Carved wall of rock, petroglyph carvings and holes

Carved wall of rock, petroglyph carvings and holes

It’s been almost 7 years since we visited Bandelier National Monument. The photos in this post were taken then. Sadly, in June 2011, over 60% of the park was burned in the Los Conchas fire and then later, heavy rains caused flood waters that tore through the Frijoles Canyon and Bandelier National Monument. Many parts of New Mexico were burned by massive forest fires and then flooded during that time over several years of drought conditions.

Deer running in front of Bandelier cliff dwelling ruins

Deer are everywhere in New Mexico!

It will be years before these burn scars are covered with new growth, but it doesn’t take long for new growth to start. Looking back at photos from trips we’ve taken over the years, it’s difficult to forget all the favorite places that were changed by fire and flood over the last decade. Luckily for New Mexico, we’ve since had several years of good precipitation. The fire danger never goes away completely in the high desert mountains. After living here most of my life, it’s something you learn to live with as it’s the forest’s way of regenerating herself. Change is constant in the wilderness.

Frijoles Canyon from the cliff dwellings above at Bandelier National Monument

Looking down into the Frijoles Canyon from the Cliff dwellings

On a brighter note, I’m happy to have these photos and memories of the way Bandelier looked before the fire and I imagine eventually you won’t be able to tell there was a fire there at all.

Cave Kiva and ladder in the Bandelier National Monument Ciff dwellings

This is me at the top of the ladder to the “Cave Kiva”. Ladders were how the ancestral pueblo peoples accessed their cliff dwellings.

On this trip, we were playing tour guide to a friend who was visiting from California. We hiked the Main Loop trail up to the cliff dwellings and climbed all the ladders, even the super long, high ladder! It’s such an amazing place to visit, I always feel like I can sense the spirits of the Ancestral Pueblo people who once made this place their home. These special New Mexico spots have always felt sacred to me. They are sacred to most native New Mexicans.

Climbing the long ladder up to the kiva entrance. Not for people afraid of heights!

Climbing the long ladder up to the kiva entrance. Not for people afraid of heights!

When you visit, make sure you have comfortable clothes and shoes. Always, always, always bring plenty of water, a hat and suncreen, especially in the summer!

Kiva entrance in a cave at the top of the long ladder

Kiva entrance in a cave at the top of the long ladder

 

Bisbee, Arizona Then Home Again

photo of sunrise in Bisbee, Az

Bisbee sunrise

After the inspiring time spent at Chiricahua National Monument, we took a short drive over to Bisbee, Arizona. This small town is only a few miles away from the Mexican border.

photo of Aaron and Paula suited up to go into the Queen mine

Aaron and I suited up for our tour of the Queen mine

Bisbee was once the largest mining town between St. Louis and San Francisco! In it’s heyday the town had over 25,000 inhabitants. I forget the exact number but I believe there was 30 billion pounds of copper mined out of the hills and underground tunnels beneath Bisbee.

photo of fence post

Interesting fence post on a residence in Bisbee

The elevation is 5,300 feet so even though it’s located in southern Arizona, it wasn’t quite as warm as other southern towns in the state. In fact, after only a few days, a cold front blew in and we had wind, a bit of rain and lots of clouds.

photo of Main street in Bisbee, AZ

Main street, Bisbee, AZ

Bisbee High School

Bisbee High School

We took a tour of the Queen Mine which just happened to be just down the hill from the Queen Mine RV Park. It was an interesting and educational tour, even if it was a bit freaky being underground in the man made tunnels.

photo of the train ride into the mine

Riding the train into the mine

We stayed for a week and had plenty of time to explore around the town. Bisbee has some interesting architecture. It was quite a wealthy town when built back at the end of the 19th century.

shitter or sanitary car inside the mine

Sanitary or “shitter” car down in the mine

Aaron sitting on the shitter car

Aaron found this to be the perfect photo op! Sitting on the shit car! 🙂

boss' quadricycle in the mine

Boss’ quadricycle. This was how the mine foreman got around in the mine’s 2,500 miles of tunnels!

I located a gallery, 55 Main Gallery, that is now representing my art prints. I once sold my Paula Beck prints in the same space! I didn’t realize it was the same place until showing Aaron around the gallery. I found one of my old print racks, designed and custom built by myself with my stepdad’s help back in the early 1990s.The gallery had since been sold to a new owner, but apparently, the print rack came with the space and is still being used to display prints! 55 Main gallery has been in that location for 20 years now. My how the time flies by!

Copper Queen hotel

The Copper Queen hotel is at least a hundred years old and possibly haunted. We ate lunch at the restaurant there and enjoyed some live music in the saloon.

We got plenty of exercise while we were there as the town is made up of nothing but hills and stairs! Unfortunately, my bike tire popped while we were in the Chiricahuas and there is no bike shop in Bisbee. So, we walked everywhere and road the town bus a couple of times in order to get our groceries from the only store about 5 miles away from the RV park we stayed in.

stairs in Bisbee

Bisbee is famous for it’s stairs! They even have a race called the 1000 stairs race.

more stairs!

more stairs!

After a month on the road, we learned a LOT! We have since decided to return to Albuquerque for a few weeks to regroup and figure some things out. We have a Sunlight show booked in Phoenix for December 6th at the Fiddler’s Dream coffee house. We hope to book a few more gigs before then as well. This adventure is FAR from over, I can promise you that! 🙂

Be Careful!

Our shadows cast on the desert trail, walking the dogs out in the desert is a favorite for us, the dogs can run free and we can walk in peace away from traffic.

Our shadows cast on the desert trail, walking the dogs out in the desert is a favorite for us, the dogs can run free and we can walk in peace away from traffic.

The one phrase we’ve heard most often since taking off on our trip is “Be careful!” I understand the people telling us this have nothing but good intentions. I really do appreciate everyone’s concern. Last night when I heard it again for the hundredth time, it just struck me as such a funny thing to say.

The dogs are ready to get their run in!

The dogs are ready to get their run in!

First of all, of course we are going to be careful! What hit me more profoundly though was the fact that to do what we are doing, traveling around in an RV, is a risk. The type of risk that most people would never take. Maybe that’s why people tell us to be careful, because they cannot see themselves doing what we are doing. They see it as too much of a risk. Way too far out of their comfort zone.

fall colors on a tree in Las Cruces

Fall starts a bit later down south, but the trees are starting to change.

I guess it’s all in your perception. We see it as an adventure! No doubt, we are stepping out of our own comfort zone. We have lived the last 13 years in the same town, in the same house even. We have established ourselves in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We have a business, we have friends, family, in short, we have comfort in Albuquerque.

photo of Leon family in Las Cruces

We have enjoyed visiting with great friends, Saturday evening was spent with the Leon family, too much fun!

We spent two days with our lifelong friend Rob, here with his dog, Paco.

We spent two days with our lifelong friend Rob, here with his dog, Paco.

Visiting our hometown for the past week has reminded me of my adventurous spirit. I first left Las Cruces, New Mexico as a 17 year old. Newlywed, young mother, my husband was in the military, our first duty station just happened to be Hawaii. We were there for a short 8 months, but at the time it seemed like forever! It was so hard being so far from home, back in the days when long distance calls were expensive. But it was fun! I guess I’ve always been good at stepping out of my comfort zone. It’s just a part of who I am.

One of my record paintings hanging on the wall at the Leon family home! :)

One of my record paintings hanging on the wall at the Leon family home! 🙂

For years, when my kids were growing up, I wanted nothing more than to have a safe, secure life. Buy a house, get a steady job, stay in one place so the boys would have friends and feel like they belonged somewhere. It took a long time to get to that place. From that first adventure in Hawaii, to finally settling down in Albuquerque spanned a period of 15 years and at least 20 moves in 6 different states!

photo of Organ mountains

My favorite landmark in Las Cruces, the Organ mountains to the east of town. This view is from the front porch of our good friend Rob’s house.

Now that the boys are men, adults taking care of themselves (for the most part!), all I want to do is explore and move, enjoying the time spent traveling from one town to another. Unlike when the boys were small. All the moving back then was a nightmare. Now it’s just Aaron and me, we don’t have to worry about anything but what we want to do.

dogs running at park with Organ mountains in the background

And a view of the Organs from Young Park with the dogs running in the foreground

Way back when, at the young age of 16, when I had my first son, I promised myself that I would reward myself for the sacrifices of having kids at an early age by enjoying my 40s. I am now here and spending my 40s doing the things most people do in their 20s.

Ran into our friend and fellow musician at an open mic night. Big thanks to Tom Foster Morris for the cd he gave me for my birthday!

Ran into our friend and fellow musician at an open mic night. Big thanks to Tom Foster Morris for the cd he gave me for my birthday!

My promise to you all? We will be careful! 🙂

The Experiment is Over

photo of a New Mexico mountain meadow

New Mexico mountain meadow, who says NM isn’t green?!

We spent 13 months without a car. It was a great experiment! I really enjoyed riding our city buses and walking everywhere. There were only two things we knew we would miss about not having a car, 1. day trips to the mountains to go hiking and, 2. having a way to haul things. Number 2 was taken care of by the generosity of our parents letting us borrow their cars once or twice a month. I believe we were able to get a hike in only 2 or 3 times during the year, and that was what made us finally break down and buy our truck. We still plan to use the public transit and walk as much as possible, but it sure is nice to be able to hop in our truck and take a trip to the mountains.

Sun shining through the Aspens

Sun through the Aspens

We bought our “new” truck last week and spent the next few days fixing up a few things on it so we could go out on Tuesday to HIKE! I’m so happy that we did! We bought a 1987 Ford Bronco II, 4×4. On Tuesday, we took off north of Albuquerque to the San Pedro wilderness in the Santa Fe National Forest. We hiked a portion of the Continental Divide Trail, something we have been fantasizing about for months as we saved to buy our truck. The truck gets the same gas mileage as our old van, but the bonus is, we can go much further into the wilderness with 4 wheel drive!

photo of large aspen grove

We hiked at least a mile through a large Aspen grove, some of the trees were at least 80 years old, judging by the carvings on them from 1934!

On the way up the mountain, I was looking out at the forest and enjoying the scenery, trying not to pay much attention to the CRAZY 4 wheel drive road we were on, high up in the mountains with no guardrails! Luckily, my husband has lots of experience driving those types of roads. Still, it was better if I didn’t look ahead of us! Anyway, while I was watching the forest roll by, I could SWEAR I saw what could have possibly been a BIGFOOT! I so wish I would have had my camera out! What I saw, clear as day, was an upright, tall creature, yellowish brown colored, run through the trees to our right. By the time I asked my husband if he saw what I saw, it was gone. We were DEEP in the forest, on a 4 wheel drive road that had obviously not been traveled in a LONG time. We didn’t run into any people on our hike or anywhere on the 3 separate forest roads we drove on that day. If you have never been to the northern New Mexico wilderness, this is REMOTE country. FREAKED me out! To say the least!

photo of our pooped puppies

Juju and Raven at the end of the hike, Raven was pooped, but Osa was nowhere to be seen, she was having way too much fun chasing squirrels!

By the time we got to the trail head though, I had forgotten all about it. We were going HIKING! The dogs were THRILLED! We ended up going on a 4 hour hike through some of the most beautiful forests I have seen yet. There was at least a mile long Aspen grove with trees that had been carved by people (I hate it when people do that!) as far back as 1934! I love imagining the first people who walked through the forest, perhaps they marked the trees so they could find their way back the way they came.

photo of aaron and his truck

Aaron and his new “baby”, he even got to splash through some mud!

My husband was in heaven, driving his new 4×4 that switched very smoothly into 4 wheel drive and then back out again once we got off the mountain. What a wonderful day! Just the first of many to come!

photo of me with Juju at the end of the hike

Me with Juju at the end of the hike! I was standing on a tree stump, but Aaron cut off my feet in the photo!

Wake Up Call!

The past couple of weeks have been quite a doosy! (sp?) During the last week of March, on Tuesday/Wednesday I started having heart palpitations that really freaked me out! I have had them before, but usually just once in a great long while. Last week they started and didn’t let up. I had a bit of stress on Thursday and started having chest pains. Even more freaked out, I told my husband who immediately took me to the emergency room. Because we don’t have health insurance, we have to go to the local University hospital. This is an awful place to go to the ER! I figured with chest pains I would get back to see a Doctor right away, WRONG! It was over 12 hours before I was finally lead back to a bed at 4am in the morning. They ran every test possible and apparently my heart is healthy, thank God, but they still couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.

Now, for those of you who don’t know it, my dad died almost 4 years ago of a heart attack. He was only 64 years old. His first heart attack hit when he was 59. So, needless to say, I was a bit shaken. Perhaps I have always had a fear that this would happen to me, perhaps I caused it with my worry. Or perhaps I have inherited my father’s heart issues. We still don’t know. I go back tomorrow to get a mobile heart monitor which I will wear for 2 weeks. After that I will go back for another echo cardiogram stress test. Update: I now have my heart monitor and will be wearing it for 4 weeks, not two.

This scare was my wake up call. I have always been pretty healthy, last time my cholesterol was checked it was 93 for crying out loud! Of course that was 5 years ago and I have since turned 40. After my gall bladder surgery 2 years ago, we stopped eating so much meat, in fact, we usually eat vegetarian and recently switched to organic fruits and veggies. I have slacked off on my exercise routine lately and we have been doing a bit more social drinking than usual. However, as of that visit to the ER, I am back to my regular exercise schedule and eating right. The Dr. also suggested meditation which I have tried to do regularly, but now I’m back to everyday with that as well. Working on staying stress free as it seems stress makes it worse. Now that I’m wearing the heart monitor in my everyday life, it’s interesting to see how often my heart rate goes up.

Once again, I have been reminded of the brevity of this life. My sense of urgency has been renewed and I am working on getting back on track with certain goals I made for my art. Recently, I have slacked on those goals and let everything slide. NO MORE! It’s time to live my life to it’s absolute fullest!

Damn you Rocco!

Now that I’ve reorganized and started back on the road to following a business plan, I decided it was also time to whip my fat butt back into shape! I’ve gained over 30 pounds in the past year and I’m literally making myself sick. I haven’t felt ‘healthy’ in over a year, since I stopped my regular 5 day a week workouts. My back is always killing me.

Enter Rocco, personal trainer and recent Albuquerque resident. I found him on my favorite Albuquerque website, Duke City Fix, in a blog post about his Boot Camp workout class. He actually helped a girl lose 30 lbs. in 30 days on the MTV show ‘Made’. That was enough to get me interested. I had planned to go check it out since he offers the first day for free, but ever the procrastinator, I put it off. In the meantime, I added Rocco as a friend on Duke City Fix. So, yesterday, who shows up at Chroma Studios? Rocco himself! I guess he saw the sign for Chroma Studios and decided to stop in to check it out. Really nice guy. We had a nice chat and he gave me a few free passes for the boot camp. Now I guess I had no choice but to show up. He took the time out of his day, so why not go work out?
Damn you Rocco! What a workout! I haven’t worked out that hard since my days in real boot camp(Army) when I was 18 years old. I’m a little older now, to say the least! I seriously thought I was going to die, or puke, or both. Thank god by the time I started getting the sick feeling in my stomach we were on the next to last exercise. I have to admit it felt good, once I was done! Although, my ENTIRE body was shaking for about an hour afterwards! What an awesome workout, but I have to say it wasn’t like boot camp in one way, Rocco is a funny, nice guy! He made sure I did the exercises correctly and talked about eating candy at the State Fair! Nothing like the drill sergeants I had back in the Army. I’ll be back on Wednesday for sure, time to lose that 30 lbs!