Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Santa Fe and Taos

Yesterday was my day. I didn't see any burrowing owls or roadrunners, but I finally got to do some birding and a whole lot of prairie dog watching. We started our day at the Randall Davey Audubon Center. We followed the MapQuest directions precisely and almost destroyed the van driving up some horrible, unpaved hill with huge ruts. Thanks, MapQuest! That's the third time you've done me wrong this trip! We then used common sense and signage and made it to the place that reminded me a lot of Forest Park Nature Center in Peoria- except in the mountains. We took a long, beautiful hike before spending a lot of time in the area with feeders. We saw all the usual common birds (robins, etc.) plus ladder backed woodpeckers, pinyon jays, gray jays, Cassin's finch, mountain chickadees and several birds I still have in my brain but haven't yet identified. I will never identify all of the warblers and sparrows because there's no way I'll remember the correct markings. Logan got a little bored, but Kaylin loved it. We moved on to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. (By the way, I AM writing in paragraphs and my past couple of entries have been all lumped together; apparently by some glitch in Blogger.) It was a smallish place with a lot of her paintings, with some drawings and sculpture thrown in. I was hoping her work would really appeal to Kaylin and it did. Kaylin especially liked the flowers, mountain landscapes and clouds seen from airplanes. She wasn't crazy about the animal bones- did not see the beauty in the bones that O'Keeffe did :) When we entered, they lent each of the kids a book about O'Keeffe's childhood and how she became a painter. It was fantastically illustrated with reproductions of paintings we were actually seeing for real right in front of us. I think Kaylin enjoyed reading about how O'Keeffe did everything her own way and never followed the trends her sisters did or did anything the "accepted" way. Obviously, I enjoyed that as well, along with O'Keeffe being an introvert's introvert and preferring to do everything by herself. Anyway, the book was a great addition to the overall experience and I think all the adults going to the museum without children should request it! The museum also contained old photographs of O'Keeffe working in the field, including some of her painting inside her Model A Ford. Some of the photographs were taken by Ansel Adams. It was a really cool place. Logan was bored to death, but we couldn't have been there longer than 30-40 minutes. It just wasn't that big! We then left town and took the "high road" to Taos. It was a beautiful drive, winding through mountains, with beautiful views. This route also took us through tiny towns with crumbling houses and shacks it was unbelievable anyone could live in. We found an area with some leftover snow and stopped so the kids could play. It was probably around 70F so the snow was a novelty. Gene and Logan played catch while Kaylin and I looked for birds at a lookout area. It was a long and eventually boring drive, but we finally made it to Taos. I called Taos the "old people's Gatlinburg" because the main focus of this tiny town was the plaza of shops. The shops were more artsy and higher class than the strip in Gatlinburg, but the whole town was a tourist trap for sure. We went to an amazing toy store called Twirl. It rivals Gingerbread House in Bloomington for the best toy store I've been to. We walked around the other shops for a bit and then drove out and looked at the Taos pueblos. We didn't go walk around because it was getting late, but it's amazing to me that people still live there without electricity and running water. On our way back from the pueblos I noticed a prairie dog town. We stopped and watched for a while. Meanwhile, a dozen or more magpies flew around us. I don't care how common these guys are, they are beautiful and impressive! They made my day! We drove on into town and I noticed the cemetary was overtaken by prairie dogs. We stopped again and checked that out. Ewww. I can only imagine what they dig up! We took the "low road" back to Santa Fe. It is supposedly the cop-out drive for people who are in a hurry, but we all LOVED it and preferred it to the high road! It was a gorgeous drive alongside the Rio Grande with towering mountains and mesas all around. It was my favorite scenic drive of the trip. We plan to head out of town this morning. I wish we had more time because I'd definitely like to go back to the Audubon center and spend a full day driving around to the parks in town and checking out the prairie dog towns. I actually plan to do that this morning as soon as it gets light outside. Maybe I will get lucky and find a burrowing owl. A girl can dream :) I have completely fallen in love with the ravens here and get excited no matter how many I see. The ravens were my favorite thing about New Mexico and I will miss them! I hope to do one last thing this morning and that is to go to the Jackalope store just up the street from our hotel. It looks amazing. If it opens at 9 we'll go. I have conflicting websites that say both 9 and 10. Ten is too late. Ah, homeward bound! The kids have been great so far, but they were starting to get testy yesterday and I'm afraid the scenery is going to stop making up for the boredom of this long, long drive. I have a feeling the "Stop looking at me!" is going to set in today. Fantastic.

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