Posted by: tuulenhaiven | November 21, 2008

The Elephant’s Butte

Sunrise LightI got up at 5:30 yesterday morning and drove out to Elephant Butte Lake State Park, which is an hour and a half south, near the town of Truth and Consequences. It is the largest state park in New Mexico, and the reservoir that was made from damming the Rio Grande there is the biggest body of water. I turned off the highway as the orange light of sunrise was flooding the hills and mesas around the lake, turning the water into liquid gold.

An older gentleman and I were the first arrivals at Marina del Sur, hours early it seemed. 14 of us and the leaders were to depart around 9 on a 44 ft. twin-engine houseboat. I waited around the parking lot for awhile, looking at Western Grebes and Great Blue Herons, and then decided to venture down to the Marina and see if the guides had arrived yet.

They were there on the boat, Steve Green and Tamie Bulow. They greeted me warmly, offered me coffee and muffins, and were amazed and excited to find out that I was the daughter of Steve Ingraham. It turns out that I had met Tamie before when I was a kid running around Bosque (with that hooligan boy I hooked up with!)

Pelicans and the ElephantOther people finally started arriving, and the chilly air began to warm up as the hot New Mexican sun glanced down. Everyone introduced themselves and then we were underway. The morning was spent puttering around the lake, exploring corners of the shoreline looking for Clark’s Grebes and anything else that might turn up. People got equally excited over ravens as they did over the Clark’s. Coming from so many different areas of the country, everyone was looking for different life birds.

Steve was a bottomless chest of information about the lake and the surrounding area. I got a kick out of his ongoing monologue broadcasting over the PA system while he drove the boat, overlapping Tamie’s bird sightings and the general excitement as the people up on the deck moved from side to side scanning the water. While I found his stories about the surrounding ranches and vineyards, and the construction of the dam very interesting, most people were more intent upon discerning the difference in color of the Western and the Clark’s Grebe’s bills!

Lunch was delivered to us via speed boat, a local caterer having made it and a helpful marina employee ferrying it out. We ate beneath the warm sun as we came slowly up to Elephant Butte, the eroded core of an old volcano which the lake is named after. Although Steve said you needed at least three cocktails to make it look like an elephant, I could clearly pick ears and a trunk.

It was gloriously sunny and the wind was minimal. Everyone who had been on the trip before expressed great pleasure in the conditions. We came in off the lake just in time too, for the wind started to pick up and became quite ferocious later in the day. We spent the afternoon on land, walking along the trickling Rio Grande behind the dam site.

Gaudi-likeThere I saw rocks that looked like Gaudi sculptures, a giant snapping turtle, and beautiful trees with flaming yellow leaves. We were all almost birded out, so there was a lot of human chatter. Everyone in the group took a very lively interest in everything around them and they all talked to me at various points about my travels and my life in Bar Harbor. Many of them had been to MDI or Maine and shared their stories.

Back at the cars, I took a minute to give one woman a crash course in how to operate her tripod, and she gave me a big delighted hug for my efforts. I drove back in a happy daze, intending to return to the hotel and get some rest. However, the late afternoon sun was too tempting, so I turned off the highway and went back out to the Refuge to catch the fly in.

A Gaggle at DinnerI drove around the loops, stopping frequently to take pictures – mostly from inside my car as the wind was amazing. I got some good shots of the fields and sky filled with snow geese, and then finally returned to Socorro.

A shower and dinner at the Socorro Springs Brewery somewhat revived me, but another long evening of editing and posting pictures did me in. I decided to take today off, or at least the morning, and skip out on the field trip I had scheduled. Too much scheduling!! I am taking the morning at a leisurely pace, and plan to explore the Old Plaza in Socorro later. I have a Social and a concert to attend tonight, but for the moment I am being deliciously lazy.

I’ll get hungry soon, fortunately, so I won’t “waste” the whole day. I need to find some huevos rancheros before I leave New Mexico, and this seems like the perfect morning for it. 🙂


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