23 October 2010


Cat on a Hot Stone Chimney, Magdalena, NM, Oct. 2010
As the weather changes, my cats get more "affectionate," which is our interpretation of their behavior as they move closer to us for the warmth we provide. My spoiled kitties just have to set aside their pride to crawl into our laps or dive under the blankets; some cats, such as my neighbor's kitty pictured above, don't always have the luxury of being inside and so must be more creative in finding heat. This bold little creature is often seen scaling fences and rooftops, so I'm not surprised to see her up there, just highly amused. My cats, staring and hissing from the warmer side of our glass doors, are less than amused... or maybe they're just taunting her.

16 October 2010

Autumn in the Magdalena Mountains

Autumn colors near North Baldy peak, Magdalena Mtns., NM, Oct. 2010

Autumn oaks, Patterson Canyon, NM, Oct. 2010
I've become positively addicted to hiking. Today, having pored over Forest Service and topographic maps, I set out to find a hiking route from lower Patterson Canyon up to the "main road" (such as it is) that winds south from Kelly Church across the western face of the Magdalenas. It was cloudy when I set out, so I kept my camera in its case and just hiked. And hiked. I found the route I'd hoped to (listed on one map as Forest Rd. 305) by cutting through a creekbed to get around a closed-off portion of another old forest road, and as I headed south I realized I was hiking straight into the view above. It took another mile or two and about 800 to 1000 feet of elevation gain to get to the spot from where I took this photo... and then the sun came out. Amazing. The hike itself, the discovery of yet another mine, and the other photos I got would have made it worth the effort, but... yeah, I'm pleased. I didn't have time to keep going upward (I set out at 2:30 this afternoon and had to turn back to get home before dark) but you can bet I'll be up there again to plow on towards the top. Just another 1200 feet or so to hit that 9400-foot peak. (Guess I'd better plan out more hikes if I want to get into good enough  shape for some serious peak-bagging...)
Aspens, oaks, and Ponderosa pines in the Magdalena Mtns., NM, Oct. 2010

14 October 2010

Feeling Prickly

Thistle at sundown, Magdalena, NM, Oct. 2010
The autumn light continues to entrance me; I've always noticed and enjoyed how the light changes as the sun "falls" toward its Winter Solstice, but now that I'm doing photography again, I am immersed in it and am fascinated by how it changes everything. The sun's lower angle illuminates new landscape details and highlights things I hadn't noticed all summer... and someday I'll have developed my landscape photography skills enough to really capture this (to my liking). In the meantime, here are some of my usual (but, of course, none the less lovely, to me at least) closeups of some beautiful "residents" of this landscape. I'm feeling prickly these days, a feeling always soothed by a long hike, so these seem especially appropriate right now... I hope you're all enjoying autumn, too, and would love to see your visions of it.

Cacti near Kelly, NM, Oct. 2010

06 October 2010

Who Knows Where the Time Goes

Black-Chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) female, Magdalena, NM, Sept. 2010

Across the evening sky
All the birds are leaving
But how can they know
It's time for them to go?
("Who knows where the time goes," Fairport Convention)

Our first hummingbirds arrive in mid-April, a good month before the last frost, and the last ones leave in early October, so any day now they'll all be gone... and the garden will be much quieter. The fiesty Rufous hummers come later and leave earlier -- funny that the most aggressive are also least tolerant of the vagaries of our mountain weather -- so the hardier, more peaceable Broad-tailed and Black-chinned hummers have lately had a few weeks of relative calm in which to fuel up for their winter journey. Many range maps don't put the Rufous hummers in our area, or just note them as passing through during their seasonal migrations, but anyone up here who has a feeder can attest to their strong presence for about three months every summer. Even the females, as shown below, are fiesty and territorial, often dominating feeders to the point where nobody can get a good drink for all the fighting. They're amusing to watch but I must admit that sometimes I just want to shoo away the Rufous so that everyone else can have a peaceful meal. But now that they're gone, with the rest soon to follow, I miss the excitement and drama of their aerial acrobatics.

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) females, Magdalena, NM, Sept. 2010

04 October 2010

Summer's Final Flourish: Hollyhocks

Peachy hollyhock (Alcea rosea), Magdalena, NM, Oct. 2010

Pink hollyhock and morning glory... a heavenly combination
For the first time in my seven years here I was able to grow hollyhocks, and they have been resplendent. The commercial seeds I tried in years past sprouted and then wilted, so this year I just took some seeds from a large clutch of old plants outside a neighbor's yard and threw them in my garden. They are clearly adapted to our weird microclimate because the plants are now over five feet tall. I'll scatter the seeds from these throughout the yard this fall for more gorgeousness next year; as the photo below shows I'll have enough to share with neighbors.

Hollyhock seeds

02 October 2010

Sunset over Magdalena, Oct. 2010

Painted Lady on chamisa, Magdalena Mtns., Oct. 2010
The best thing about yesterday's hike in the Magdalena Mountains was... well, all of it. We're having a warm autumn so far (unlike last autumn; it had already snowed by this time last year), which makes for delightful hiking and keeps the flowers and butterflies and other summer life abundantly busy. I had set out to just do some exploring but felt an urge to conquer the mountain as I got moving, especially as the crest and its changing colors came into closer view. The elevation gain was staggering -- close to 2000 feet -- and the old forest road I took had some serious straight ascents with only a few switchbacks. The loose, rocky trail made for tough footing, especially on the steep sections, which added just enough peril to make for a real challenge.

Although I did bring water, Lucy and I were both relieved when she finally found a good puddle, very near the top (we were at 9000 feet at this point). She took a few long slurpy drinks and then plowed right in to cool off for a few moments. Up to this point I had been more than happy to share my water with her but didn't have enough for her to wallow in....

As difficult a hike as this was, pushing through my resistance (both physical and mental) and reaching the top was exhilarating. From one spot (shown below; that fist-pumping shadow is me in my goofy but highly effective sun hat) I could see both west to the San Mateo and Sawtooth Mountains and east past the Rio Grande Valley to the Manzanos and Sacramentos. Just getting to almost 9200 feet above sea level on my own power felt like a great achievement and gave me some insight into why people become addicted to mountain climbing.

At the crest (looking east toward Rio Grande Valley and beyond), Magdalena Mtns., Oct. 2010

01 October 2010

Glorious Morning

Glorious Morning Glory, Magdalena, NM, Oct. 2010

As is usually the case here, the first day of October is gloriously sunny and warm, and my flowers continue to bloom as if they were going to live forever. We know better... but perhaps forgetting that is sometimes a good thing. So today, as my extended vacation from school winds down and responsibilities press in, I will go hiking way up in the mountains where the oaks and aspens are turning and the air is decidely crisp even at mid-day. I had planned to camp in the Jemez Mountains this weekend but an iffy weather forecast and anticipated crowds for the ABQ Balloon Fiesta will keep my feet here, where I live. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, wherever you go, and that you enjoy the always amazing turn of the seasons.