Summer Adventures ~ June 2016

Since we are now finishing up our second full week of school (already!!), I figured I had better try and catch up on our summer activities! Of course, if I were a smart person (which obviously I am not), I would have been filling you in as we went along, but somehow time just kept getting away from me. So, better late than never… Right? Yea, we will just go with that…

I think the best way to do this is to do one month at a time. So, here we go with June!

We kicked off the summer with some camping up on the mesa, about three miles from home, and we had a blast. The days of June were filled with hiking and exploring, trips to Albuquerque for visits to the aquarium and Museum of Natural History, drives through the mountains. As the month went on, we celebrated Liam’s 13th birthday at Gravity Park, Catheryn took a week long art class at Fuller Lodge and loved it, we made regular visits to the library and farmer’s market, even got some work done on the car. And as the first full month of summer came to an end, my parents came for a visit. We had a really nice time while they were here, exploring the park, taking small drives, and just catching up.

June just flew by, but at the time we were not too worried because we knew we still had two months of summer left. What we failed to realize was that they were going to fly by just as fast…

The Scenic Route

On a beautiful Saturday, we took a drive to Albuquerque. It was National Park Week, so we figured a new park was in order. We opted to take the scenic route versus the freeway, and it was definitely worth it!DSC_0072

The spring greens were so vibrant and the red rock was just amazing.DSC_0054 - Copy

Near the little town of Jemez Springs is Soda Dam. Here, mineral deposits have built up, creating a natural dam blocking the Jemez River. An underground hot spring has been flowing here for centuries.

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It was a fun place to stop and explore on our way to Albuquerque.

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Albuquerque has Petroglyph National Monument right in its backyard. In the visitor’s center, we watched an award winning film on the forming of the escarpment and the history of the petroglyphs, then we were ready to hit the trail.

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There are a few trails to choose from, but we decided on the Piedras Marcadas Canyon hike. It was beyond amazing.

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After a fun day of exploring, we had some New Mexican food at Sadie’s, then headed for home. We opted for the scenic route again, even though it was beginning to get dark. All that red rock was even more spectacular in the setting sun.

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I am not sure what next weekend holds, but I do know that wherever we go, whichever direction we head, we will find something truly amazing in our path…

Quemazon Trail – Take Two

Water? Check. GPS? Check. Correct trailhead? Check. All right, let’s try this again!

DSCN0462Off of the Nature Trail is Cave of the Winds Trail, a small trail marked with rock cairns. The trail is less than a quarter mile, but if you can find it, it leads to a 100-foot cave. The cave entrance itself is merely a crack in the rocks, so even if you are lucky enough to find the trail, you may not be able to find the entrance. In our trail book, it took the author three trips to find it.

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Lucky for us, our kids double as blood hounds, and there was no way they were missing out on this cave two weekends in a row. I just stood at the top of the trail, waiting, knowing that it was only a matter of time before someone yelled up that they found it. Sure enough, Liam was successful. “I FOUND IT!”

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We were armed with flashlights, and the kids had a blast exploring the cave. It was quite amazing, minus all the spray paint, of course. But then again, the kids did get to crawl through an opening labeled the “The Birth Canal,” and that doesn’t exactly happen every day…

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Once we were done exploring, we climbed the 200-feet slope back up to the trail, where Charbie was waiting somewhat patiently for us to return. I would definitely consider this trail to be “kid-friendly.” It is amazing what a difference being on the right trail makes!

Quemazon Trail – Take One

In the library bookstore, I found a great book on local hikes. There is a section on hikes that are perfect for kids, so we picked one off the list for the following weekend. Most of the kid-friendly hikes are either really short, really flat, or really wet, all things that make the young’uns happy. Our kids are old enough now that we can pretty much drag them on any trail we come upon, but sometimes it is nice to find one that has a “kid attraction.”

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The hike we chose went to a cave, and who wouldn’t like to explore a cave? So Rob plugged the trail coordinates into the GPS, we loaded our packs, and set out to find the cave. The trail started off at a pretty steep incline, but I thought it would level out soon. So we climbed. And we climbed. And we climbed some more. At this point I was wondering which part of this trail was considered “kid-friendly,” because I was no longer convinced it was even “adult-friendly!”

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The thing about us, though, is that we are stubborn, and once we start out, we have a hard time turning back until we have found what we are looking for. So we kept climbing. And climbing. The Quemazon Trail was only supposed to be a 2-mile loop, and this one was definitely longer, with no signs of a cave in sight.  DSCN0456

Eventually, though, we came upon a sign pointing to the Quemazon Nature Trail, only 1.7 miles away. Wait, the Quemazon Nature Trail? Was that the one we meant to take? So I dug the hiking book out of Rob’s pack to look up the trails. Sure enough, there were two: The Quemazon Nature Trail and the Quemazon Trail. We were on the latter. It was 3-miles one way (sounds about right), difficult skill level (um, yup), with an elevation change of 1,400 feet (so that’s what my thighs were trying to tell me). And no cave.

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We decided we were Quemazon-ed out for the day, and rather than head to the Nature Trail, opted to head back down the mountain to the car. Here is the cool thing, though: This particular trail was once the wagon road leading over the Sierra de los Valles into the Valle Grande. There are wagon ruts remaining today. We did not even notice them on the way up, but once I read about them, we kept our eyes open on the way down, and sure enough, they were everywhere! It was absolutely amazing!

DSCN0451The trip down was soooo much easier! Once we made it down, we decided to go check out the trailhead for the Quemazon Nature Trail. Yea, we were way off, and nobody was overly eager to get back out of the car, so we put it on the calendar for the following weekend. Perhaps if we started out on the right trail, we may even get lucky enough to find that cave…

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Happy Spring!

Let me just start by saying… I LOVE SPRING!! Something about life returning to the landscape makes me giddy as a little school girl. The trees are budding, flowers are blooming, birds are flying everywhere. It can all be summed up with one magical word: Love.

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I am not sure where this last month and a half have gone, but time has just flown by. We have been busy getting everything settled here, updating addresses and insurance, getting new license plates and driver’s licenses, finding a new doctor and dentist. Everyday has been filled with a dozen things that need to be done. I think we are just about settled, so things should calm down a little bit now.

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The kids have settled into a routine at their new school, and Rob has done the same with work. I agreed to fill a temporary position in the park and I will start tomorrow, so I guess it will not be too long before I settle into a new routine as well.

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Overall, I guess you could say we are doing great. When I jokingly ask the kids if they are ready to move, they all yell at me, “Noooooooooooo!!!” I am going to take that as a good sign. 🙂

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Burnt Mesa

I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have hiking trails right out our back door! The hardest part is deciding which one to do first! We used to hike all the time, but this last year or so we have been rather lazy. There was not much to choose from in North Dakota, so we did not get outside nearly as much as we would have liked. That is definitely not the case here!

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I see you!

We decided on a short five mile hike on the Burnt Mesa Trail. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on this trail, so Charbie had to stay home. It was an absolutely beautiful day! The trail meanders through an area burnt by past forest fires. What was truly amazing was just how much poop there was! Deer, elk, coyote, every other step you were dodging poop! We, of course, love this because we rather enjoy the critters.

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My place is usually in the back, making sure we do not lose anyone, so I think I have a “rear hiking” shot from pretty much every trail we have ever gone on. This one was no exception. 🙂 Eventually we end up all spread out, usually with the boys running up ahead, Rob following them, and Catheryn and I following shortly behind.

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The view at the end of this trail was amazing. We sat on a large rock for quite some time, enjoying the scenery, watching a couple of bull elk climb out of the canyon, and enjoying lunch. When the boys started screwing with the cactus, we figured it was time to be moving on.

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After we made it back to the car, we decided to drive down the highway for a little while. We normally turn off towards town, but continued on instead. We climbed and climbed and climbed. I am pretty sure Peej had never seen that kind of elevation before! We found many more hiking spots that will have to wait until the snow melts. Perhaps next year we will have to invest in snow shoes!

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9,115 feet!