Category Archives: vacation

Living in the Land of Enchantment: 10 Things to do in Albuquerque

There are so many places to see and things to do around here, it’s really hard to pick just one to write about! This week, I decided to write about 10 (make that 11)  things to do in the area. Technically, it’s more than ten, as I fit more than one into each number. Next time someone tells you there is nothing to do in Albuquerque, direct them to this post! 🙂

  1. Ride the Rail Runner from Albuquerque to Santa Fe.

    The ride alone is worth the trip as it takes you through the lovely New Mexico landscape. The tickets will only cost you $16 round trip! There are many stops along the route to start and if you take the train to the end of the line, you end up in the Santa Fe Railyard which is only a few short blocks away from the Plaza. The Railyard also has galleries and the famous Tomasita’s restaurant.

  2. Ride the Sandia Peak Tramway.

    This May will be the Tram’s 50th anniversary, and though I have lived in NM most of my life, I STILL have not ridden the Tram up the mountain. It’s just one of those tourist things locals rarely do. One day very soon, I plan on it! I have heard from MANY sources that it’s something one MUST do. I guess I prefer hiking up the mountain to riding up! UPDATE, Oct. 2016: I finally rode the Tram! It was awesome!

  3. Hiking the Sandia Mountains.

    Speaking of hiking, the Sandia mountains just East of Albuquerque have many, many miles of hiking trails! It can take a full day to hike to the peak, where the tram takes only 15 minutes. I have hiked to the South Crest several times and LOVE it! Please, make sure you go prepared. Water, jacket, hat. Many people have had to be rescued from these mountains because they don’t realize how quickly weather can change in NM. The weather can be warm and sunny in town and cold and rainy at the top of the peak.

  4. Petroglyphs National Monument.

    This is one of the largest petroglyph sites in Northern America. Volcanic rocks were carved by Native Americans and Spanish settlers up to 700 years ago, leaving behind interesting designs and symbols for us to ponder over. Another cool place to visit, related to the petroglyphs, are the volcanoes on the west mesa overlooking Albuquerque.

  5. Bio Park, Botanical Gardens/Aquarium/Zoo.

    Albuquerque has an awesome botanical garden with an indoor aquarium. The gardens are attached to the city zoo by a cool little open air train line that you ride between the two with out having to get in your car and drive. Also, while riding the train between the zoo and gardens, you will pass by Tingley Beach which is a series of three ponds, man made for fishing and remote control boats. In the summer months they have paddle boats you can rent for $10 an hour to paddle around the big pond in. The kids will also enjoy feeding the ducks and geese that call the ponds and river area home. The gardens are my favorite part, they have several different gardens, including a rose garden, Japanese garden and a farm with barn animals and New Mexico homestead. Great place to take the kiddos!

  6. Bike Ride on the Bosque Trail.

    While you are down near the Bio Park, right next door in fact, is the Central Ave. entrance to the Bosque bike and walking trail. The Bosque is the area of trees and open space that surrounds the Rio Grande River.

  7. See a Play.

    Albuquerque has MANY theatres, over 35 to be more specific! We can boast that we have the most live performance theatres per capita than any other city in the country. Just about ANY weekend in Albuquerque, you can find a show you might be interested in. The Albuquerque Theatre Guild website is a great place to start your search for that perfect play!

  8. Museums.

    Albuquerque has a great variety of museums for everyone in the family! There is the Albuquerque Museum of Art & History, the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, Explora, National Hispanic Cultural Center, Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, the Maxwell Museum of Anthopology, the Unser Racing Museum and several more can be found HERE. I’ve linked to all their websites so you can learn more about each one you may have an interest in.

  9. Antique/Thrift Store shopping.

    Albuquerque has large variety of Antique shops and Thrift stores. Most are concentrated on Central Ave between Carlisle and San Mateo or on Menaul Ave. between Carlisle and San Mateo, but there are others all over town. You can find some really great deals on a variety of stuff. I could write a post about all the awesome thrift stores in this city. I have spent many hours sifting through the many shops.

  10. Ghost Tours of Old Town.

    This is another attraction I’ve never experienced, but I personally know one of the tour guides and KNOW it’s worth it! Yet another thing I plan to do someday. The Old Town of Albuquerque is VERY old! Over 300 years! There are rumored to be many ghosts living in the back alleys and old adobe buildings.

  11. Visit MY Studio!

    I hope you will get in touch and come visit me in my studio when you are in the area. I don’t hold retail hours, but I am always happy to open up the studio for out of town guests! You don’t have to buy anything, but I’m always pleased to send an Albuquerque memento home with a fan. 🙂

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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

 

Chiricahua National Monument

Panorama shot taken from the top of Inspiration point. This spot was a 4 mile hike into the monument. Definitely, an inspiration! We ate lunch here, it was wonderful!

Panorama shot taken from the top of Inspiration point. This spot was a 4 mile hike into the monument. Definitely, an inspiration! Click on photo to see larger version.

We pulled out of Silver City, NM on November 7th and headed straight for Chiricahua National Monument just past the NM/AZ border. Another of those amazing desert mountain ranges that seemingly pops right up out of the middle of the desolate desert southwest.

In the Heart of the Rocks trail, so many huge, gorgeous rock formations!

In the Heart of the Rocks trail, so many huge, gorgeous rock formations!

Using my iphone maps as a guide, we ended up driving our RV down a scary dirt road. We have since bought an atlas in book form. No more trusting the iphone map app! It’s not necessarily that the dirt road was so bad, but we happened down said road at the least opportune time of day.

drivingdirtroad

The beginning of the dirt road we took

The sun was in that spot where it shines right into your eyes as you drive towards the horizon. The road was a bit twisty and of course we had never been on it before so we had no idea what to expect. Luckily, the dirt road only lasted 11 miles, but it was the most nerve wracking 11 miles! It seemed to go on forever!

Aaron throwing a stick for the dogs on one of our many walks down to the Silver Spur meadow

Aaron throwing a stick for the dogs on one of our many walks down to the Silver Spur meadow

Of course it didn’t and we eventually ended up in a beautiful mountain canyon campground. The Chiricahuas are known for their awe inspiring rock formations. They resemble crowds of people, sentinels watching over the canyons like ancestors of the Apache natives that once called this place home.

Taken on our first hike, back lit tree at the spot we ate our lunch

Taken on our first hike, back lit tree at the spot we ate our lunch

These mountains were the last stronghold of the Chiricahua Apache tribe. Geronimo was a member of this tribe and he fought hard to hold his homelands as long as he could. Though the story of the last Apache war is a sad one with the tribe eventually being put on a reservation like all the other Native Americans of this land.

There were numerous balanced rocks like this one all over the place.

There were numerous balanced rocks like this one all over the place.

Luckily for us all, the homesteaders that took their place loved the place so much that they saw to it that it was preserved for future generations. They were instrumental in seeing the Chiricahua National Monument and National Forest designated for the benefit of us now.

Faraway ranch is where the homesteaders settled and built their ranch in the late 1800s. The Riggs ended up being instrumental in getting Chiricahua designated as a National monument.

Faraway ranch is where the homesteaders settled and built their ranch in the late 1800s. The Riggs ended up being instrumental in getting Chiricahua designated as a National monument.

One of my more artistic shots taken at Faraway Ranch

One of my more artistic shots taken at Faraway Ranch

The landscape is reminiscent of the area around Silver City, the Gila Wilderness and National Forest. Deep canyons surrounded by tall rock formations and trees. Sadly, in 2011, this area was devastated by a man made forest fire. Much of the trees are now only charred skeletons, though there are still places where the fire didn’t reach and the shade of the tall trees is a relief from the heat of the sun.

This grouping automatically struck me as a family, daddy, mama and baby rock. :)

This grouping automatically struck me as a family, daddy, mama and baby rock. 🙂

The weather here is absolutely gorgeous this time of year. The temperatures ranged from the upper 30s lower 40s to the mid 70s while we were there. We spend two days hiking, a 6 mile hike the first day and a 10 mile hike the second day. We encountered a rattle snake on our second day, though we didn’t see him, we heard his warning rattle clearly coming from a pile of rocks on the side of the trail. Unfortunately, for our doggies, there was only one meadow trail leading to the old homestead where dogs were allowed. So we added on another 6 miles of walks with the dogs to make up for the fact that they had to spend hours at a time in the RV while we were out hiking.

Kissing Rocks formation

Kissing Rocks formation

I took 280 photographs during our stay! Everywhere I looked was another rock formation or beautiful vista, textures galore and birds, birds, birds. The hardest part about putting this blog post together was picking just a few photos from the pack.

Balanced rock formation

Balanced rock formation

There were no hookups at the campground, so we had to leave after only 3 days because our ice had all melted and honestly, after 22 miles of hiking, we were ready for a shower and a cold beer!

I call this one Ancestors. The entire time we were hiking through the monument it felt as if we were being watched by the Apache ancestors who once inhabited the area.

I call this one Ancestors. The entire time we were hiking through the monument it felt as if we were being watched by the Apache ancestors who once inhabited the area.

We are now parked in the Queen Mine RV Park in Bisbee, AZ until Monday. On Thursday I will blog about our stay, so far, in this cool little former mining town that sits a mile high in the hills just 5 miles north of the Mexican border.

One last grouping of rock formations. It was so hard to pick just a few photos for this blog post!

One last grouping of rock formations. It was so hard to pick just a few photos for this blog post!

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! 🙂

vacation over!

Back at work on a new series

Back at work on a new 9 canvas series

It wasn’t really that long a vacation! There has just been a LOT going on around here lately. Took some time off from painting, since I was feeling dried up of ideas. Sometimes, time off to recharge the creative batteries is a good thing! I think so anyway, and it has proven true as I am excited to get back to my art and have many ideas flowing through my head.

back at work two

currently working on….

Currently, I am picking back up on an idea I started over a month ago. The name came to me today as I painted. “All About Love”. This is actually part series, part multi-canvas piece. 9 – 6 x 6″ canvases all with a heart in different color combinations. That’s the beginning….. These are still works in progress.

All About Love

“All About Love”, nine 6 x 6″ canvases, work in progress

Camping, Aaron’s Music and Yosemite

Last week Aaron and I went to California for our annual anniversary vacation. Aaron had a gig in Santa Margarita, California on June 2nd, so we planned the trip around that date.

Fremont Street

Aaron and I standing at the entrance of the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas

We left Albuquerque on May 31st and drove to Sedona, Az the first day. We had planned on camping in Sedona that night but quickly found that there was no place available to camp, not even a primitive campsite! It seems we are pretty lucky here in New Mexico.

Dale Chiluly sculpture

Me standing in front of a Dale Chiluly glass sculpture in Las Vegas

On our entire 2,500 mile trip through Arizona up through California to Yosemite National Park, camping is basically limited to KOA campgrounds or established National Park campgrounds which must be reserved 6 months in advance! Unfortunately, we are more spontaneous than that, in other words, we don’t plan that far ahead.

paula

Me at the entrance to Yosemite Valley

We ended up staying in hotels all but our last night, when we stayed at the Williams, Az KOA. It’s one of the best KOAs we have stayed at, with the added bonus that they have a hot tub! Actually, TWO hot tubs!

bridal veil falls

Bridal Veil Falls

The second day we decided (spontaneously!) to head up to Las Vegas and spend a night there since we have never been. Now, if you know us at all, you know we have never had much desire to go to Vegas. It’s just not our style, we prefer to spend time in National Parks, camping, hiking and picnicking and if we do go to a city, it’s to visit museums, galleries or see the sights. Not that Las Vegas isn’t a GREAT place to see the sights! Anyway, we decided to go and experience it so we could say we did it. I have to say it was a lot of fun! We rode the roller coaster at the NY, NY casino, rode a double decker bus down the strip, and walked back to the Fremont Street Experience. We stayed at the Golden Nugget hotel so it was perfect that there were live bands playing on Fremont Street. We stayed out until 3am dancing to 80s cover songs(my favorite)! Oh and we played $10 on the slots and walked away with $30!

Half Dome in Yosemite

Half Dome in Yosemite

The third day was Aaron’s gig at The Porch in Santa Margarita, California. The place was packed and we discovered a couple of new musicians who shared the stage with Aaron. Jean Butterfield, Three Legged Sister, Don Lampson and another guy whose name is escaping me right now. Thanks to Laura Meyer for recommending it to Aaron. Everyone was very welcoming and the food was good too!

Aaron playing at The Porch

Aaron Lewis playing at The Porch in Santa Margarita, California

The fourth day we drove up to Yosemite. It was so amazing and awe inspiring, now THAT is my kind of place! I only wish we could have spent more time there. We had planned to camp, but there was not one single campsite available. There were some tent rentals in the Yosemite valley, but there is no way in hell we were paying $110 to stay in a TENT! This is apparently what is called “deluxe camping”, everything is set up for you, you just bring your suitcase. I don’t know about that, seems kind of counter to everything camping is about! For us anyway, to each his own I guess. Turned out the pass we had planned on driving over to go home was stilled closed for the season, so we ended up going back down to Fresno to get a hotel room. When we woke up in the morning it was pouring rain and the weather showed snow up in Yosemite! We were grateful that we didn’t end up camping that night! Since rain was forecast for the next couple days, we decided to head home a day early. So we drove back to Williams, Az and then the rest of the way home the day after that. As always, good to be back home!

Bicycle Commuting, Tom Waits and Cloudcroft

Sorry about the long gap between postings! Aaron and I took a little getaway vacation last week. We spent a couple of days at the family cabin in Cloudcroft, NM and then headed down to Las Cruces and ultimately El Paso for the Tom Waits concert.

Cloudcroft was a nice break from the heat. The second day we woke up to cloud cover and 50 degree F. temps! The first day we were there we had no water most of the day, it seems the village water people did some work and “forgot” to turn the water back on to the cabin. It took them 5 hours to get up there and turn it back on! Talk about slow moving, in a town the size of Cloudcroft, I doubt they were that busy!

Now, on to the Tom Waits concert! What a blast! It was definitely one of the best concerts of my life. Only second behind the Police last summer and pretty close to tied with the Page/Plant concert we saw in 1995. Waits is quite the entertainer, well worth the $90 ticket price! Plus it made my hubby super happy to see one of his favorite musicians ever.

Saturday we stayed in Las Cruces for my brother’s housewarming party. So, needless to say, we are dragging a little this week.

Yesterday we bought bicycles. Today was our first commute to the studio. WOW! I knew it was going to be a rough ride at the end because we live in the valley and the last few blocks to our studio are uphill, but damn! I thought my heart would jump out of my chest! Once again, needless to say, it’s going to take a little while to get back in hill riding shape. It’s been a few years since we’ve owned bikes, but it’s been even longer since I’ve used a bike for commuting. We decided that it was time to stop spending $80 a week on gas, and riding the bus isn’t really a big cut in money, but riding bikes is not only free(other than the price of the bikes), but it’s great exercise AND good for the environment. Time to put our money where our mouth is!