Posts Tagged ‘birding’

Behind the Scenes with Richard: El Camino Real

January 9th, 2010

Imagine taking a 1500 mile walk from Mexico City to Santa Fe (or visa versa).  Something you would want to do?  Well after “exploring” this 7-month “hike” I can tell you it is not something I would look forward to doing but thousands of people did over a couple of centuries to find new homes and a new life in Northern New Mexico.

The “Royal Road” was in use long before Columbus landed in North America and was fraught with hardship and death.  Stretches of this amazing highway, which was a primary trade route between South and North America, were so thick with brush that clothes were torn, shoes destroyed and animals injured. Long stretches were void of water.  It wasn’t an easy hike but people continued this long walk until the railroads entered the scene in the mid-1800’s and shortened the trip from months to days and offered a ride in what was then the lap of luxury.

We stopped at the new International Heritage Center located just off Exit 115 of I-25 and received our first glimpse into what life must have been like way back when.  This is a fascinating new addition to New Mexico’s Department of Cultural Affairs and a place that really gives you a chance to look back in time and explore life a couple hundred years ago and even further back.  You can’t see this new building from the highway but the signs make it an easy trip.

Just north up the Frontage Road is Fort Craig.  I’ve always been intrigued by our early fortifications and was really interested in seeing what remains of one of New Mexico’s Civil War battle places.  The South was heading for California to find gold to help finance their portion of the war and the North was ready to stop the trip.  What the Northern troops (both regular army and volunteer’s number over 2,000 strong) did to “discourage” the Southern troops with actual weapons and slight of eye is really amazing.  This was not a place you wanted to be stationed.  Wool uniforms in the summer were incredibly hot and the cold winters along the Rio Grande made this a less than desirable post.   While there, be sure and ask about the huge food storage bunkers that were uncovered … and the thousands of rations of rice stored there.  Rice?   Yes, I asked the same question … how did it get there and why so much?  You’ll have to get those answers yourself.

Staying on the Frontage Road just a few miles north you’ll drive right into Bosque del Apache …one of those magical places you want to see at dawn or dusk when the wildlife … especially the birds … are flying in and out.  And I’m talking thousands and thousands of birds … not just your backyard variety either. Mid-November is prime bird watching time for Snow Geese and Sand Hill cranes not to mention Bald Eagles and hawks, too.  Four footed critters, as you might imagine, are also present.  I had no idea what I was in for when people started telling me about the annual crane migration but I have to say that this is one spectacular (director, Chuck, and producer, Frank tell me I use that word too much but it does describe what you’ll see) place to be year round … and if it is easier for you, you can stay right in your car and not miss a thing while you take in all the sights and sounds.

Behind the Scenes at the Bosque Del Apache

Behind the Scenes at the Bosque Del Apache

San Antonio is next along the Frontage Road and just a couple miles north of the Bosque.  I love San Antonio … and here’s why.  Two great green chile cheeseburger places … the Owl Café, home of the original green chile cheeseburger, and the Buckhorn Tavern, home of another great green chile cheeseburger. Both have received their fair share of national attention and it’s tough to decide which is best so don’t count on me telling you which one you need to try.  Do what I did … have them both and make sure you add green chile cheese fries to your order.  Come on … it’s not like you’re treating yourself to these delicious delicacies seven days a week!

Next to the Owl and across the street from the Buckhorn is a quaint little gas station that just happens to have the best home made fudge I’ve ever eaten.  Multiple flavors and I’ll bet you won’t leave with just one piece of one kind.  You’ll be sampling and loading up.  Another reason to forget your diet and waistline for a couple hours!

These three unique stops make San Antonio one of those places we always make plans to spend time while traveling north or south on I-25.

Socorro lies directly on the El Camino Real and was a major stop along the way to Santa Fe.  We actually spent three days in Socorro using it as our base of operations while we traveled in all four directions to check out all the things above and many other sights.  Check out our Socorro videos for more info on what you can see heading west out of Socorro … and our Socorro TV show, which will air again over the next few months.  We have great memories of getting after hours help fixing a flat tire there and how gracious the Mayor and the Convention and Visitors Bureau folks were to us.  A great little city along the Royal Road!

Next it was off to Old Town where you can truly imagine what Albuquerque was like when the Rio Grande really was the Rio Grande!  I can’t imagine too many of us who live in New Mexico who haven’t visited … and spent time in this great place that is such a huge part of our heritage here.

And the same applies to Santa Fe where the Royal Road ended for us.  We had a great tour of the Palace of the Governor’s and I had to take a few minutes to imagine what Lew Wallace, one of our early governors, was thinking when he wrote the epic novel, Ben Hur!  And he didn’t even know Charlton Heston when he wrote the book!!!  Moving on … the brand new New Mexico History Museum that opened in 2009 is next door to the Palace of the Governor’s are these are two places you can spend hours tracing New Mexico’s history from the earliest days of Spanish and Native American inhabitants through today’s modern settlers.  The History Museum is a very powerful 3 ½ floors of what we were yesterday and what we are today.

Behind the Scenes at the New Mexico History Museum

Behind the Scenes at the New Mexico History Museum

Why the Royal Road?  Primarily trade and the search for gems and gold.  Turquoise, silver and gold both have been sought after for hundreds of years.  And early pioneers from Mexico took the El Camino Real to seek their fortunes.

Take the journey to New Mexico’s Royal Road with your family and you’ll find more wealth than you ever imagined.  I know I did!

Travel Guide NEW MEXICO visits the Bosque del Apache

December 11th, 2009
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Bosque del Apache is Spanish for “woods of the Apache,” and is rooted in the time when the Spanish observed Apaches routinely camped in the riverside forest. Since then, the name has come to mean one of the most spectacular National Wildlife Refuges in North America. Here, tens of thousands of birds–including sandhill cranes, Arctic geese, and many kinds of ducks–gather each autumn and stay through the winter. Feeding snow geese erupt in explosions of wings when frightened by a stalking coyote, and at dusk, flight after flight of geese and cranes return to roost in the marshes.

In the summer Bosque del Apache lives its quiet, green life as an oasis in the arid lands that surround it.  The Refuge is 57,191 acres located along the Rio Grande near Socorro, New Mexico.The Refuge is located at the northern edge of the Chihuahuan desert, and straddles the Rio Grande, approximately 20 miles south of Socorro, New Mexico. The heart of the Refuge is about 12,900 acres of moist bottomlands–3,800 acres are active floodplain of the Rio Grande and 9,100 acres are areas where water is diverted to create extensive wetlands, farmlands, and riparian forests. The rest of Bosque del Apache NWR is made up of arid foothills and mesas, which rise to the Chupadera Mountains on the west and the San Pascual Mountains on the east. Most of these desert lands are preserved as wilderness areas.

Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bosque del Apache NWR is an important link in the more than 500 refuges in North America. The goal of refuge management is to provide habitat and protection for migratory birds and endangered species and provide the public with a high quality wildlife and educational experience.

The Bosque del Apache Visitors Center hours are M-F 7:30-4:00, Weekends: 8 -4:30.  There is a tour loop open daily, 1 hour before sunrise – 1 hour after sunset.

Bosque del Apache

September 28th, 2009
YouTube Preview Image

 

Bosque del Apache is Spanish for “woods of the Apache,” and is rooted in the time when the Spanish observed Apaches routinely camped in the riverside forest. Since then the name has come to mean one of the most spectacular National Wildlife Refuges in North America. Here, tens of thousands of birds–including sandhill cranes, Arctic geese, and many kinds of ducks–gather each autumn and stay through the winter. Feeding snow geese erupt in explosions of wings when frightened by a stalking coyote, and at dusk, flight after flight of geese and cranes return to roost in the marshes.

In the summer Bosque del Apache lives its quiet, green life as an oasis in the arid lands that surround it.

Elephant Butte – A Recreational Paradise

July 18th, 2009

City, lake, state park, reservoir, and a geologic landmark: they all spell FUN. Located just off I-25 South, this multi-purpose outdoor area is home to New Mexico’s largest waterway, Elephant Butte Lake State Park. Thousands of people flock to Elephant Butte annually to enjoy the lake’s offerings such as boating, water sports, camping, windsurfing, scuba diving, swimming, fishing, bird watching and a variety of great events.

Elephant Butte is named after a geologic formation bearing the shape of an elephant. The famous landmark is an island in the lake located near the dam. The City of Elephant Butte offers travelers and water lovers a variety of options including motels, restaurants, fishing and boating services and campgrounds.

Natural hot mineral springs abound in nearby Truth or Consequences, offering up healing waters and relaxation in many mineral pools and spas. Wildlife areas with birding trails provide aviary viewing opportunities, and several golf courses provide additional sporting options. Set on the northern edge of the Chihuahuan desert, with warm temperatures, Elephant Butte provides year-round recreational opportunities to adventure seekers of all ages and interests.

For more information about Elephant Butte, New Mexico, visit the Elephant Butte Chamber of Commerce.

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