Category Archives: New Mexico True

Sunset with the cranes

Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a Love like that!  It lights the whole sky.  –Hafez (1315-1390), Sufi Poet

Mai and I spent Christmas Eve in a wildlife refuge about an hour south of Albuquerque.  Mai brought her tripod and used her Nikon camera to take video.  It turned out pretty good.  Here is  a clip below.  In case you like it, I’ve included links to more of her videos from yesterday.  Each one is different with the changing light and happy music from the sonorous birds.  Enjoy!

More crane videos from Mai at Sansai Studio:

Mai’s website is here:

Family cycling, an outdoor adventure

Visit Utah released this promotional video of a family touring the US Bicycle Route System across Utah.  Loving the concept of experiencing the Southwest in this way.  Cycling gets people that authentic experience we are craving, and is central for developing sustainable tourism.

Read the companion article on Visit Utah:

Find out more on the US Bicycle Route System from Adventure Cycling:

Read about our 25 scenic byways in New Mexico:

Cycling in the news

Cycling is a strategic initiative that creates positive system-wide changes.  Here are four stories from the news that show the depth and variety of cycling’s impact.  Cycling works wonders…

Founded in 2009, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, or NICA,  “spreads the gospel of healthy, active lifestyles to the community” by getting more kids on bikes.  Ryan McAllister, who launched a NICA program at a high school in Salmon, Idaho in 2015, says “the team has slowly begun to change people’s minds in the small town. It’s the kids who drive the change. They have fun riding their bikes, they tell their friends, they educate their parents, and, with the help of coaches, they work with other user groups to help them understand public land issues, stewardship practices, and cultural shifts.”


Supporting cycling for kids helps build health, confidence, and social skills, and is a practical tool that can help them get to school.  In the US we spend almost $1000 dollars on average per child on transportation to school, not to mention the incredible time commitment from parents transporting their children.  With bikes we could save money while giving kids freedom, independence, and an amazing array of wholesome benefits.  Cycling makes good economic sense, and kids love to ride.

Technology doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.  Bicycles are one of the most powerful disruptive technologies ever.  Sometimes the solution is simple and obvious.  But it takes more than technology, it takes cultural and behavioral changes led by people who are living the dream and understand the full capabilities inherent in the bicycle.  Embrace local cyclists!  The transportation evolution is led by your neighbors, friends, and local citizens.

Bicycles can unleash Americans from burdens like automobile debt.  In places like Africa, bicycles have even more profound impacts on human lives.  This story touches upon the perspective of female cyclists in Africa.  “A bike makes all the difference.”  Mobility freedom increases all freedoms.

What can cycling do in your life?

Cycling in beauty

“This is the most beautiful place on earth.  There are many such places.”
–Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Here are a few photos from places I’ve cycled the last few months in New Mexico.  One of the great pleasures of cycling is the sense of appreciation it builds for the places we live in.  Every ride the splash of wind, the lay of the light on the land, the wildlife I see gives exquisite pleasure and imbues me with a sense I am in the most beautiful place on earth in this moment.

Highway 64 takes you high into the Brazos Mountains above Tierra Amarilla with views of the Brazos Cliffs

The Sandia Crest road about halfway up. Those green patches are the ski slopes

Cycling is special like music.  It gives us a chance to express ourselves and sprinkles a little magic into our lives.  Every ride is a chance to be creative, explore our abilities, increase our capabilities, develop leadership skills, improve results and build up our trust and confidence.

When I go outside I experience the great mystery.  It’s like walking into an art gallery or concert hall.  The road is the pathway in, and the best ones are aligned in subtle ways to fit to place. Traveling there gives us an expansive feeling, like we are part of something greater than ourselves.  As much as we recognize this beauty, we can assimilate it into our understanding.  Cycling is a living communion, a humble conversation, touching infinity.  A way of learning.

Our effort, our sweat and breathing, is the sacrifice, the price of admission.  Suffering on a bike is not that bad, actually beneficial, when we realize we get way more than we give.  It’s a small fee to enter a much larger world.  It’s cathartic, cleansing, and happily satisfying.

“Every place, like every person, is elevated by the love and respect shown toward it, and by the way in which its bounty is received.” –Richard Nelson, The Island Within
I am grateful for cycling!  

Flying Days

Cranes lead an amazing life.  They sleep on water, glide on air, and feed from the earth.  Mai and I made our holidays a New Mexico stay-cation.  We visited our feathery friends down south.




My cell phone is at its limits trying to capture the majesty of these birds.  Mai took photos with her Nikon, and when she releases those, I can do a blog post with better imagery.  But I just had to put these up since these trips to spend time with birds bring such serenity and excitement.  Or as John Muir said, breaking clear away and spending time in Nature will “wash your spirit clean.”  Most of the birds pictured are snow geese, just because they are easier to photograph.  Cranes are more fun to watch, though.  They feed, dance, and play all day.  They talk a lot, too.




We live in a time where it is important to dream ecodreams.  Visions of humans as a part of a world where all life flourishes.  Wildlife reminds me of the equivalency of all times.  Our life would be much poorer if we loose it.  Future generations will judge us by our actions on this most important issue of our times, conserving land and biodiversity, the source of all wealth.




It is touching to see so many birds thriving.  People giggle with laughter standing witness to so many birds in action.  Managing the wetlands for harmonious relations between humans and other wildlife is a good example of Aldo Leopold’s principle of a land ethic, where “a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.”




We when drove down at predawn, we watched an almost new moon with just a sliver of edgy light rise slowly up above the Manzanos to the east.  The black disk shadowing earth’s orbiting companion.  There is a splendor to this time of day, greeting sunrise with the birds.  Although it is nothing but common, there is kind a momentary glory that hitches itself to your life.  When people come into contact with healthy nature and we receive it with impressionable senses, we are sowing the seeds for a brighter future, where our hearts are fresh, energetic, and true.



Land of Peace and Light

Mai and I visited White Sands National Monument on National Public Lands Day.  We walked in the pale afternoon on the gypsum sand dunes.  I was awestruck by the land and light.



With free admission as part of the celebration, the parking area and picnic grounds were bustling with activity.  Families were barbequing, taking photos, and children and adults alike were sledding down the slippery gypsum sands.  What a marvelous, festive scene.



If you want silence and solitude, all you have to do is walk westward over the first dune, then another, further yet, new horizons of endless sand appearing over each ridgecrest, and in minutes the white sands have swallowed up all but a few intrepid people.  Silence rules.



Walking is great in the park, and so is cycling.  White Sands offers full moon bike rides twice a year.  Bring the whole family.  Catering to cycling and walking like this, the National Park Service is my bike organization of the month for June, 2016 (a little catching up to do).  Peace.


Resources: White Sands full moon bike rides

Salinas Pueblo Missions

On Sunday I visited the Salinas Pueblo Missions on the far side of the Manzano Mountains.  From Albuquerque Mai and I took the road south down the sinuous Rio Grande rift valley for 40 miles and then veered eastward up to Abo Pass.  There are three main ruin sites to explore.

Abo mas



It is easy to zoom in and out of Albuquerque.  I like seeing the agriculture in the South Valley and the buffalo herd by the river at the Isleta Pueblo.  During winter you can see Cranes in the fields.  Then it’s on past the volcanic escarpment with creosote dotting the rippled and folded desert plains.  The long chain of the Manzanos presides over the eastern horizon.  Los Lunas feels like a suburban boomtown with cookie cutter homes snug up to the Interstate, a movie theater, shopping.  Off the interstate in Belen we passed over the river and into rural New Mexico.  Approaching the mountains the plains are sparsely populated with loose herds of cows and horses.  Joining highway 60 and climbing Abo Pass juniper and red sandstone abound.  It is these locally quarried rocks, the Abo Formation, that the missions were built from.

red green blue

Abo comb over


Abo green

I visited two of the missions and learned lots but left with even more questions.  This place is a confluence of cultures and geography.  The pueblo people were here and then the Spanish came from Mexico looking for riches and converts around 1600.  They forged an economy of agriculture and hunting, and traded salt from the nearby salt lakes.  It’s an austere landscape where the mountains meet the high plains.  Bison and pronghorn belong here.  I took the roads on the eastern flank of the mountains back to Tijeras and on home to Albuquerque.  The crisp colors of earth, stone and sky and unsettling vastness on this trip impressed me, but a brief hike in the foothills (following three pictures) reminded me that Albuquerque is a sweet spot too, in the echo of the arced and banked Sandia range, with the flow of the west mesa’s volcanoes somehow answering back, and the plaited and fertile river running between these massive landforms.  New Mexico is defined by open space and stabilized by rural traditions.  Now if we may develop an inclusive economy that brings good health and lasts.


Foothills blooming

piñon in foothills


Ten Thousand Cranes

Under the last full moon we visited Crane country along the river lands south of Albuquerque.  The cell phone I use for pictures serves me well most of the time, but for this post  I am adding a few photos with better resolution from SBI’s partner Sansai Studio.  The large birds in these photos are mostly either Sandhill Cranes or Snow Geese.

Sandhills in sky

Snow geese arc

Sandhills in field

It shifts your orientation to the world when you see the pattern of bird migrations.  Rivers such as the Río Grande are important flyways.  Past Belen any semblance of towns vanishes and the river forest, fields and pastures, mesas, mountains and dome of sky come to the forefront.

snow geese arcing

Snow geese go to bed

The Cranes jostled and called in the corn fields.  When they took off and flew overhead we could hear the whoosh from the air compressing under their beating wings.  Their feathers like fingers articulating their glide.  Flying in formation one bird may pause for a stroke and it sinks noticeably several inches before being buoyed in the invisible slipstream of the leading Cranes.  Efficient midflight rest.  Flocks were flying overhead at all depths shaping out the sky, their movements directed by an intelligence we may not know but are able to recognize.

snowgeese beat

Sandhills over mountains

Kids play

I get a sense of appreciation from our pilgrimages to this great bird habitat.  Gratitude for the irreducible living earth.  Without it there is no us.  Sharing the world, looking around at the couples, families, and kids playing in this atmosphere is heartening.  A place for all life’s variety.

special lighting

Six foot wingspan

Snow geese above

It is a life changing experience observing so many Cranes.  The true reality of the world shows.  Squadrons of life flying soundlessly higher than the tallest building guided by keen bird insight.

Sandhills flying

moonrise over shoulder

When it began to get dark the birds suddenly rose from the fields where they were feeding, all as one.  Waves of energy taken to the air, pulsating wings lifting them off into the night.  They roost in the river and ponds in their secret places.  I wonder how it feels to be a Crane.

faint shadows and stellar light

Cranes will save you

Being outside brings on surprises.  The play of light on land and water.  The healing power of nature.  The fabric of life and all the unexpected wonders that make the world whole and alive.

Full Moon up ove Manzanos


Cranes at Bernardo

This time of year the migratory birds are chomping corn, alfalfa and winter wheat up and down the Río Grande Valley.  On MLK Day 8,000 Sandhill Cranes were reported to be at the Bernardo preserve about 50 miles south of Albuquerque.   We could see the birds in the fields from the highway underneath a gauzy blue winter sky.  So many birds the fields were gray.

Bernardo four

Bernardo extraordinary

Cranes field drapery

We left the highway and pulled into the refuge. We opened the doors and could hear them immediately.  Loquacious bird life sounding all around us.

Bernardo entrance sign

Bernardo river bound

Bernardo layers

Cranes love birds

Bernardo beautiful

Birds were flying in V formations ranging in all directions at various altitudes.  We walked the loop road and went up onto the viewing platforms.  It was bird paradise, spectacular.

Bernardo on legs

Cranes take off

Cranes wingspan

Bird were everywhere.  Over the fertile flood plain, flying across the high desert and past distant mountain ranges.  Felt a world away from the city though the world is one and seamless.

Bernardo scene

Cranes and corn

You’ve got the rugged landscapes of Quebradas to the south, and the popular Bosque Del Apache refuge just past Socorro.  But Bernardo may be the sweetest spot of them all.

Bernardo flight by moon

Bernardo edge trees

Bernardo bird struck

These Cranes have been around for 10 million years according to the fossil record.  I wonder what they sense of all the human goings on.  The Hopi first, now more of us.

Bernardo blue moon

Bernardo sun

Bernardo high

Admire the birds.  There is something about their union with the sky that dissolves our worries.  They take us away from anthropocentrism and suspend our sense of earthly bounds.  Peter Matthiesen’s book The Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes is a good companion for birding.

Bernardo world away

Bernardo red earth

Cranes aloft

Bernardo sunset

Seeing these birds fly is like witnessing soccer players weave on the field in long elegant lines, or a cycling peloton echeloning out in the wind.  A consonance with ancient life and physics.

Bernardo deep push

Maple Dance

Deep in the canyons of the Manzano Mountains a special event occurs every year.  As the nights turn colder and the Fall equinox rolls by dashes of color appear amidst the green blanket of conifer forest.  Oaks turn rusty brown and maples glow yellow, orange and a fiery crimson red.

Manzano high

Manzano understory

Last year when we viewed the maples it invigorated our enthusiasm for making our home in Albuquerque.  This year my mother was here visiting and it was very enjoyable taking her to the Manzano forest to walk amongst the maples, oaks, and aspens embedded in the pine trees.

Manzano presentation

Manzano color

Manzano blue light

Manzano bloom

It rained the night before our visit.  Clouds peeled away as we arrived.  We heard water drops splashing on leaf canopies and grasses as we ambled up the forest road and trails.  Sunlight made the leaves glow.  It was like being in a 360 degree theatre except everything was live.  The light shifted as clouds washed past, momentarily eclipsing the sun.  We breathed in the aroma of wet leaves and essence of pine.  The sun warmed us even at its October angle.

Manzano coalesce sky

Manzano floor

Manzano trees

The diversity of the landscapes here creates rich habitat and environment.  It was startling to see the beauty of the maple forest up close.  The Taos Pueblo people have the sacred Blue Lakes up in their mountains as the pure source of wild water.  Albuquerque is enveloped in a wild world too, even if we are unaware or cannot always see it.  Sometimes you have to close your eyes and use your imagination to see the beauty that’s real and all around us.

Manzano bright on light

Manzano color blend

Manzano growth

The sky, the colored canopies, the evergreen boughs, the wildlife, people aloft on foot with the circling earth, magic happens when these elements come together in the high elevation sunlight of a Southwest pine forest.   Seeing the leaves changing and being there in a moment of morning glory with loved ones was an experience to remember.  I change too like the leaves, deepening my gratitude as life unfolds, growing more connected to the life that sustains us.

Manzano opening

Manzano introdcution

Manzano crooked light

Manzano soil starter