New Mexico - North

As I write this, New Mexico has been my home for a decade or so, coming here from Oregon where I lived for close to four decades - the two states I have lived in the longest.  In the case of New Mexico, there are two pages of blog post entries, the following are for the northern part of the state.

The website has two galleries of photographs taken of birds in New Mexico; The Birds of New Mexico, USA - A to M; and The Birds of New Mexico, USA - N to Z.  Why “New Mexico, USA” you might ask - a slogan which is even on my license plate - because so many widely traveled Americans don’t know that New Mexico is part of the United States of America. 

The Bird Videos - Canada and the United States page on has a complete index to these and other videos from this area as well as a listing of individual bird species videos.  There is a video portfolio\s on bird species in this area:  The Birds of the United States and Canada

There are many sights to see within New Mexico.  One of the attractions in the northern part of the state is the Antonito to Chama train ride, shown in the video below (and see posts below).

On non-birding topics, has several photo galleries covering the state, including New Mexico - North which includes photos from the following New Mexico, USA locations:  El Moro National Monument; Bisti/Da-Na-Zin National Wilderness Area; Santa Fe; Ghost Ranch south of Chama; Bandelier National Monument; and Chaco Culture National Historical Monument.

The New Mexico - Chaco Culture National Historical Park and Pecos National Historical ParkNew Mexico - Bandelier, El Morro, and Aztec Ruins National Monuments and the Salmon Ruins and Museum, and New Mexico - Missions, Churches, & Haciendas photo galleries have images from those locations and of those types of sites.  The New Mexico - Forts photo gallery has photos from Ft. Union.

There are many Rock Art sites in the state of New Mexico.  My photo gallery for the northern part of the state is found at, Rock Art - Petroglyph and El Moro National Monuments:  Petroglyph National Monument, with multiple sites, is just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico.  El Moro, the site of Inscription Rock, is about two hours west of Albuquerque.

The flora of New Mexico is covered in two photo galleries: Flora of New Mexico - 1 and Flora of New Mexico - 2.

Given the length of time I have lived here, I have accumulated several stories, I start with a little one.

From a post entitled: Santa Fe


Santa Fe, especially the plaza area, is truly a tourist town.  Unlike locations like Steamboat Springs, however, it has character.  Character which it draws from its long history and an architectural style which is centuries old.

It does not hurt that I am personally attracted to the smooth flowing lines of adobe.  Especially in the suburbs, pseudo-adobe predominates - stucco over block or stick construction, and many times it has a more angular look to it which identifies its core. 

On New Years morning, we wandered the streets near the square and had the opportunity to enjoy the scene, sans people.  A number of the streets reminded me of the French Quarter in New Orleans - in most cases different materials but the same narrow streets lined in low structures.

Living far from most of the basic services, we always add on "chores" when we are in larger towns/cities.  Usually this includes grocery shopping, a chance to pick from a wider selection of goods than we find in T or C (for those outside the area, that is Truth or Consequences).  In that name is the sad economic reality of this area.  The town of Hot Springs changed its name to Truth or Consequences in a failed attempt to leverage economic development.  Sierra County, where I reside, is a poor county and anyone waving the promise of jobs (which rarely materialize) is able to sway the local government in any way that they wish.  I am not sure that the state government of New Mexico, which is headquartered in Santa Fe, is much different.

From a post entitled: Chestnut-collared Longspur

Last Tuesday, Jon and I took the opportunity to drive down to Hatch for lunch.  Along the way we  stopped to look at Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Horned Larks, Meadowlarks (sp?), Swainson's and Red-tailed Hawks, and Raven (sp?).  We also enjoyed a mid-afternoon Coyote chorus, which echoed through the hills, heightening our auditory senses and enhancing the crunch of snow under our boots.

folk art museum

On Thursday, Rebecca and I drove Jon to Albuquerque for an 8 a.m. flight Friday morning.  After seeing Jon off we headed north to Santa Fe.  Our Friday stops were at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian which had a beautiful collection of jewelry, primarily from the local Pueblos, and The Museum of International Folk Art which has an absolutely wonderful collection of miniatures and other examples of "folk art".  I heard more than one discussion about the difference(s) between folk art and fine art while I was there - none of which were very convincing (and many of which seem contrived).   We ate at the cafe which is part of the museum complex, a nice meal, and called it a day.

Saturday was spent doing a walk about in Santa  Fe.  Many of the shops seem to be overstocked with expensive trinkets, but closer to the US Court House the quality of the art seemed to improve dramatically.  I note, however, that Saturday morning we were in the area of the square and I was in a sour mood.  On Sunday, when we were near the Court House, there were few people about (it was a cold New Year's Day) and I was in a better mood.

On Saturday afternoon we ventured down to the Sandias for a try at Rosy-finches but found the area closed because of high winds and freezing temperatures.

We ate breakfast at a cafe on Burro Alley Saturday and Sunday morning.  They were very enjoyable meals - not Mexican and not pre-fab American.  (It reminded me of a Portland, Oregon experience.)

From a post entitled: Cowbirds

The last two weekends I have been in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico (USA).  For the most part the main activity of the trips was the visiting of Museums.  Four distinctly different museums.  The visitation started with the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe.  Construction of this building began in 1610 and the museum not only chronicles the building's history but that of (what is now known as) New Mexico as well. 

From a post entitled: Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad

Last Monday (October 6, 2014) we took a ride from Antonito, Colorado to Chama, New Mexico on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad (C&TS).  We spent Sunday night in Chama, a town which seems to owe its economic viability to the railroad.   Monday morning we boarded a bus which took us to Antonito.  The train left Antonito at 10:00 A.M., we stopped at Osier for an hours lunch, and arrived in Chama at about 5:00 P.M.

cumbres & Toltec Train

The trains run on narrow gauge (3’ wide) tracks, which helps them navigate the many sharp curves along the way.  The locomotive for our train was a coal-fired steam engine, the thick black smoke added immensely (pros and cons) to the experience.  Periodically we stopped to refill the steam boilers at water tanks.  The route is the “highest narrow gauge steam railroad in the UnitedStates” - if you add enough restrictive factors anything can be special - and spends a lot of time at elevations of 9 to 10,000’.  The scenery would be spectacular any time of year but we traveled in early October hoping to see the Aspens “in color” and we were amply rewarded for our planning.  A beautiful and rewarding venture, one that I would recommend to anyone.

The colors were amazing, the green evergreens bounded the Aspens which were every shade between lemon yellow and rust - and large swaths of the mountains were mosaics of these colors.

I like taking photographs of old trains and was allowed to roam freely at the rail yard in Chama.  Photographs from the trip have been added to the New Mexico - Chama Train photo gallery.

From a post entitled: Mission Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Poricúncula 

A week ago (October 7, 2014) we were at Pecos National Historical Park in northeastern New Mexico, USA.  This site has a nice little museum which features pottery from the Pecos Pueblo which is found at the site.  The ruins of the Pueblo are pretty much what you would expect at a site which dates from 1400 CE or so in the American Southwest.  That is, short walls of stones outlining rooms of a bygone era and some reconstructed kivas.  The earliest known inhabitants of the area date from 800 CE and lived in pit houses.  In about 1100 CE the first pueblos began to be constructed in the area.  

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico, USA Pecos (Ciquique) Pueblo Mission Nuestra Senora de los Angeles de Porciuncula de los Pecos

This post is about the remains of the Mission Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Poricúncula which are also found at the site.  Many of the Indian Pueblo sites in the southwest have an adjacent Catholic mission ruin.  The Pecos Indians abandoned the site in 1838 after their numbers had diminished to less than 20.

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico, USA Pecos (Ciquique) Pueblo Mission Nuestra Senora de los Angeles de Porciuncula de los Pecos

The first mission at the Pecos site was constructed in about 1619 and a larger one was constructed in 1625.  When the Pueblo people decided they had had enough of the Spanish and the Catholic Church they revolted and destroyed the mission in 1680.  During the next decade or so the Pecos Indians had significant difficulties with the Plains Indians and various internal power struggles.  When the Spanish returned they may have been seen as a significant stabilizing force and more readily accepted than would otherwise have been the case.  A newer, and smaller, mission was built in 1717 on the site of the previous large mission.  The ruins of the 1717 mission are found at the site today.  More information about this site can be found at Spanish Mission Churches of New Mexico by L. Bradford Prince, from which the painting of the old mission church and ruins at Pecos in 1846 (image right) was taken.

Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico, USA Pecos (Ciquique) Pueblo Mission Nuestra Senora de los Angeles de Porciuncula de los Pecos

John V. Bezy wrote a short paper on The Geology of Pecos .pdf which contains an aerial photograph of the site.  At the time of the paper the site was the Pecos National Monument (see for link).

From a post entitled: San José de Gracia de Las Trampas, New Mexico

Last week (October 7, 2014) we stopped to take a look at the San José de Gracia Church in Las Trampas, New Mexico.  We were not able to see inside but the exterior is beautiful.  Building started on this structure in 1760, nine years after the town was established, and ended in 1776.  The twelve families which settled the area originally were granted 46,000 acres of land by Governor Tomás Vélez Cachupín.

San Jose de Garcia
San José de Gracia Church in Las Trampas, New Mexico

At one time the church was used by Los Hermanos Penitentes a group which came into existence during the Mexican era of New Mexico.  This group is known by several names, but officially isLos Hermanos de la Fraternidad Piadosa de Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno.  Following Mexican independence from Spain, many churches in New Mexico found themselves without the services of a priest.  Community members formed organizations like Los Hermanos Penitentes to provide religious and community service.  This organization utilized elaborate membership protocols and practiced self-flagellation.   

San José de Gracia Church in Las Trampas, New Mexico

The church was originally named Church of Santo Thomas Del Rio de Las Trampas.  In the spring of 1943, John Collier took several photographs of the church interior as part of his work for the Farm Security Administration (one is shown here).  The altar screen, and other images in the church, were painted in ca. 1860 by Jose de Gracia Gonzales who probably painted them in Sonora.  Much more information about this church can be found at Las Trampas: San José de Gracia de Las Trampas.

From a post entitled: El Santuario de Chimayó

Last week (October 7, 2014) we made visits to four mission/churches as part of our trip to the northern part of New Mexico for the Chama train ride.  In the last two days, I have posted about our visits to two of the churches, El Santuario de Chimayó and Santa Niño de Atocha are the last of the four.  

El Santuario de Chimayó Chimayó, New Mexico

As the name indicates, El Santuario de Chimayó is located in the town of Chimayó, New Mexico, USA in the north-central part of the state.  It is a significant site for pilgrims in the United States.  Dirt, which is gathered in a small room off of the chapel, is said to have healing powers.  As needed, the dirt which is taken by pilgrims is replaced by dirt from a nearby hillside, no small deed because as much as thirty tons of dirt a year are required to meet the needs of the pilgrims.

El Santuario de Chimayó Chimayó, New Mexico

Like San José de Gracia Church, El Santuario de Chimayó, is an adobe structure - in this case with a metal roof added in the 1920’s.  And like the church in Las Trampas, this church in Chimayó has strong links to Los Hermanos Penitentes.  It was built in 1816.

Santa Niño de Atocha Chimayó, New Mexico

Santo Niño de Atocha is also located in Chimayó.  This is a small adobe chapel dedicated to children and has many moving images because of that.  There are displays of small shoes throughout the chapel, pilgrims bring these shoes as offerings because it is said that Santo Niño walks about the valley at night - wearing out his shoes.  This chapel was completed in 1856.  For me, it is the more impressive of the two churches in Chimayó.

From a post entitled: South of Chama

The last point of interest on our travels last week (October 6, 2014) was the area around the "Ghost Ranch", south of Chama, New Mexico, USA.   This area was made famous by the paintings of American artist Georgia O'Keeffe.  I have never particularly liked her paintings but I love the country she painted.  The hues, the shapes, the way the wind blows away the silence and deadens all other sound. 

Near Ghost Ranch New Mexico Area near the "Ghost Ranch" South of Chama, New Mexico

Laguna del Perro

On October 29, 2014, I was at Laguna del Perro in northeastern New Mexico.  The marker at the location reads:

Numerous salt ponds and lakes, of which Laguna del Perro is the largest, occur in lowest part of Estancia Basin, closed depression between Manzano Mountains to west and low Pedernal Hills to east.  Even paleoindians mined salt.  Basin was filled by 150-foot-deep lake in late Pleistocene time.  Elevation 6,100 feet.

The Pedernal Hills form the eastern edge of Spanish New Mexico’s 17th century “Salinas Jurisdiction.”  Pueblo Indians used salt from these salinas in trade with Plains Indians.  This salt was also prized by the Spaniards because of its use in silver processing for the rich Chihuahuan mines farther south in Mexico.

Laguna del Perro,  New Mexico

In the photograph above, the Manzano Mountains are visible on the skyline and part of the salt pan of the lake is visible across the middle.

Twenty thousand years ago this area was covered by 275,994 acre Lake Estancia which had no outlet.  As the water evaporated away, numerous salt playas were left behind, including 12-mile long Laguna del Perro.

From about 1100 CE and 1500 CE, the Tiwa built large pueblos in the Estancia Valley including Abo, Quarai, and Gran Quivira (see page 2 of Photo Gallery).  The Tiwa mined salt from the playas and traded it to (primarily) the Indians on the plains who used it as a meat preservative, to tan hides, and as a seasoning.

When the Spanish arrived they used Indian slave labor to mine the salt which they shipped south to be used to process silver ore through the amalgamation process (a.k.a. the patio process).

© Robert Barnes 2017-2018