After a dozen days away from my home visiting Karen in New Mexico, I got back home last night. While we made her home in Albuquerque our base camp, we were out and about almost all of that time.
This time rather than flying I took my SUV, driving about 2,000 miles all told. That includes the trip to White Sands National Monument about which I wrote you earlier.
Then last Friday I hiked up the Embudo Trail in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness east of Albuquerque while Karen took care of some errands. It was a comfortably warm day but awfully windy on this trail, which means funnel in Spanish — and the wind was certainly funneling though it.
The cholla cactus was already blooming. As were many of the fruit trees in Albuquerque, including an apricot tree in the backyard of Karen’s home. Of course, while it was still winter, spring is just around the corner.
Besides White Sands, our other major expedition was a three-hour drive to the Angel Fire Resort east of Taos. Karen’s brother, Ralph Metcalfe, who is a professor of mechanical engineering and mathematics at the University of Houston, and his wife, Ginger, who is a Realtor, went with us. They had rented a two-bedroom, two-bath condo at the resort, where we stayed from Saturday night until we went back to Albuquerque on Tuesday.
They call it Angel Fire, after the name of an 11,000-foot peak in those Sangre de Christo (blood of Christ) mountains. The resort community is at 8,600 feet, and we took the ski lift to 10,700 feet. There was a lot of well-manicured snow on the ground.
On Saturday night we went out to dinner at a quaint little restaurant in nearby Eagle Nest where we met up with more of Karen’s relatives, Dani and Gunner Mutz. Dani’s father is Karen’s and Ralph’s brother, and Gunner’s family owns the 10,000-acre Mutz ranch just north of Eagle Next, although Dani and Gunner live in Albuquerque.
I had intended to go Nordic skiing with Karen, Ralph, and Ginger. But I changed my mind when I got frustrated with how hard it was for me to lock my rented ski boots into the skis. Since I had brought along my snowshoes, I went snowshoeing with them as they went on their cross-country skis.
We went 5.4 miles around two easy loops. Unlike my recent showshoeing expeditions to Brainard and Bierstadt lakes, this ski trail had few ups and downs. On the outbound trail it was warm enough with bright sun. But at about the halfway point the weather changed abruptly and it started snowing rather heavily. And it was really cold going back down the ski lift.
On our second full day at Angel Fire they wanted to go downhill skiing and I wanted to hike. Since the condo was in walking distance of the ski lift, I was able to take my SUV and drive north to Cimarron Canyon State Park, where I made two separate hikes. The first of these, along Clear Creek Canyon, was supposedly well-marked, according to one of my trail guides, but in the deep snow it wasn’t. And before I had hiked very far, I lost the trail and had to turn back.
My Plan B was the lower Tolby Creek Canyon Trail, which I followed for more than an hour out until as I climbed the snow became too deep. My feet often sunk a foot or so into the snow, whereupon it became too difficult to be much fun.
On the way back from Angel Fire on Tuesday we stopped in Santa Fe for lunch and sightseeing. I saw the two things that I had missed when I was here last in September. One was the Palace of the Governors. Built in 1610, this is the oldest continuously-occupied public building in the United States.
The other was the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. It features the artwork of one of the most renowned artists of American Modernism. The New Mexican landscape inspired her work from 1929 until she stopped painting in the mid-1970s.
Back in Albuquerque, the four of us met up at a restaurant for an early dinner with Karen’s son, Karl. Then, on Tuesday evening we took Ralph and Ginger to the airport for their flight back to Houston. Yesterday I took a slow 11-hour trip back home with many good stops along the way, including taking an hour just to capture this final photo.
While my trip back home was pleasant and uneventful, today is a sad day. It was on this day one year ago that Catherine died.