Posted by: tuulenhaiven | November 24, 2008

Final (Fabulous) Days in NM

Coming Home for DinnerWith the final hurrah of a spectacular “fly-in” at Bosque, where the snow geese flooded the fields and the sandhill cranes filled the sky, the Festival of the Cranes came to an end this evening.

I was up before dawn today so that I could wring the last drops of goodness out of my time in New Mexico, and now I have only to retell the story of the last few days and edit and upload about 150 pictures. I will then be free to turn my mind completely toward Seattle, where I will be by tomorrow night.

Let’s see, where to begin… (As Inigo Montoya said, “Let me ‘splain.” *thoughtful pause* No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”)

My day of down time in Socorro – Friday – was quite lovely. I found my way to the Old Plaza and had coffee at the Manzanares Street Coffeehouse. Somewhat satisfied (I still had huavos rancheros on the brain) I spent some time going in and out of galleries and shops, buying postcards and a few small gifts. Dad called me from the Refuge, where he was manning the Zeiss booth, and wheedled me into driving out there with some lunch for he and Ben from Eagle Optics. I took the opportunity to check out the Art tent and bought a few more things. I returned to the hotel and spent the rest of the afternoon writing postcards and letters.

San Miguel MissionFeeling fully recovered from the excitement of the last few days, I went out that evening seeking more. The Social on the Plaza sounded like a good idea, so I presented my ID and was rewarded with a beautiful pint glass with the Festival artwork printed on it. Inside the tent a mariachi band was circling, beer was flowing, (from the Socorro Springs Brewery and the Tractor Brewing Company) and posole and tamales were being dished out.

I got myself a Farmer’s Tan Red Ale and found a couple of people who had been on the Trinity Tour with me. They invited me to sit at their table, and we spent several pleasant hours chatting about the tour, the festival, birding, and other things. I was very pleased that I had been determined enough to attend the social by myself, strike up conversation with people, and have a good time – all things that have been hard for me to do in the past! The type of people who attend birding festivals make things easier for me, as they are very friendly and interesting, and, to quote my Dad again, “focused outside themselves”.

From the Social, I went to a performance by the Otero Dance Company at NM Tech. It was FANTASTIC! A mixture of salsa, tango, and gaucho dancing, the show portrayed historical settings of the dances and then modern interpretations of them. I was swept away into a world of color, rhythm, and music. The talented dancers fed off the excitement of the audience, throwing themselves wholeheartedly into their art.

I was particularly fascinated by the gaucho dancing, an incredible mix of tapping and stamping footwork, accompanied by drumming and guitar. As the oldest dancer in the group – Daniel Noce, from Buenos Aires, Argentina – explained, gauchos are comparable to American cowboys, only instead of lazily looping lassos, “we gauchos play with our BALLS!” He wasn’t kidding. He and another member of the group – Jared Marquez, I believe – performed amazing feats using ropes with balls on the end. They would use these to beat a rhythm upon the stage, whipping them around their heads and making whirling lines of fire, all the while tapping and stamping their feet, keeping beat with the drums.

You could see the mix of concentration and passion playing across Daniel Noce’s face as he danced with the ropes. He would build it up to a huge crescendo of sound and the joyous abandon evident in him was thrilling. He paused at one point and addressed the audience in a heavy accent, saying, “You guys are great audience. We dancers come here tired, but when we hear you, we – ” he pounded his chest and gave a resounding gaucho shout, “we give you our SOULS!”

It gives me shivers three days later. I was completely blown away.

The following morning I stood at Dad’s booth while he co-led a digi-scoping workshop. It was kind of fun. All the things I used to know about optics and Zeiss, from when I traveled to festivals more frequently, started coming back to me. And of course it is always fun to see people’s reaction when they look through the fabulous Victory FLs. I actually made a sale while I was there!

Guarding the ArroyoWhen Dad got back I took off for my Chupadera Arroyo hike. Led by Bob Merkel, a local naturalist, it was a four mile walk across the Chihuahuan desert. Bob was a veritable fountain of information about the plants and geology of the area, and I learned how to identify three different varieties of prickly pear cactus and how basalt is made. Bob led us back into the foothills of the Chupadera mountains, and showed us some excellent petroglyphs. He then instructed us to return to our cars, not by the sandy road we had walked in on, but by trekking straight across the desert.

I do love bushwhacking! We each went our separate ways, checking our position each time we got to the top of an arroyo, and aiming for the windmill that we had parked near. I quickly learned to stop when I wanted to look about me, for eyes were needed on the ground at all times while walking, lest I stumble into a black or brown spined, or eiderman’s prickly pear, not to mention the dagger or tree choya!

I went to bed early last night, (well, relatively) in preparation for a predawn wake up call. I wanted to get out to Bosque to watch the sun rise and the fly-out. I arrived around 6:15 a.m. and joined the lines of long lenses spread the length of the Flight Deck pond. It was COLD and dark, but the air was ripe with anticipation.

We waited. The sky began to lighten. There were hundreds of snow geese in the pond, making a racket, pearly white against the dark water. They were waiting too. Orange and pink tinted the clouds at the horizon. I took pictures of sandhill cranes backlit against the sunrise reflection. Tiring of my spot by my car, I walked up the road a little and paused behind a bunch of “serious” photographers who were adjusting exposure and shutter speeds on their $20,000 worth of equipment.

And They're Off!Suddenly the birds were up, harking to some silent command. In a huge “whoosh” almost every single snow goose on the pond took off into the sky, amid much honking and hullabaloo. I pointed my camera at the patch of sky unblocked by long lenses and took as many pictures as I could manage, and then it was all over.

The birds circled a couple of times and then dispersed to find places to hang out for the day all across the Refuge. The pros around me shrugged their shoulders and packed up – although a few especially intrepid ones went running up the road with their tripods bouncing to try and catch up with the geese. ?? I returned to my car and spent the next hour and a half driving the loops, thawing out, and taking more pictures as the gorgeous morning sunlight spread across Bosque.

Prickly Pear Eyes9:00 a.m. found me headed to the Canyon Trail, coffee and a couple of donuts having been hurriedly ingested, to meet up with Bob Merkel again. This time he led myself and the rest of the group through and up Solitude Arroyo, and back down into a wonderful canyon where evidence of eruptions, floods, and petrified sand dunes were literally attached to the walls. A whole new set of desert plants were identified, and my childhood interest in botany came flooding back to me.

In fact, when we got back it was all I could do to not rush to the store in the Visitor Center and by the fat guide to the plants and animals of New Mexico. That is, I did rush, but after standing there and thinking long and hard about it, I came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t do me much good when I got back to Maine. I decided to save it for when (yes, WHEN) I move back to New Mexico. To sustain me until then, I bought Mysteries and Miracles of New Mexico: Guide Book to the Genuinely Bizarre in the Land of Enchantment. Should be good airplane reading material!

After helping Dad break down the booth, we both hit the Refuge for one last photography extravaganza. Once again we found fields and ponds covered in birds, and our cameras reveled in how the light of sunset played along the wing feathers of sandhill cranes in flight. I could have watched the snow geese circle against the backdrop of the purple Chupadera mountains forever, but my stomach had other ideas, so we packed up and headed back to Socorro for one last meal at El Sombrero.

A week in New Mexico is never enough, but fortunately it’s not going anywhere, and I will return before long. Meanwhile, I have the chores of vacation to do – packing, mailing things home, navigating my way to the next port of call. Seattle is waiting for me, and hopefully my fair weather will follow, I’ll continue to encounter good people, and the food will be delicious.

I know at least that there will be no shortage of good coffee! So farewell New Mexico, sandhill cranes, and prickly pear. I have a date with the Space Needle. 🙂

(Incidentally, my talent for “summing up” falls far short of Inigo Montoya – but then, most things do!)
Landing Gear Down

//Another post that I was too tired to finish last night – but here it is, all neat and pretty!//


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