From New Mexico I headed north to Rt. 160 in Colorado then west to the South Fork area. There is a NFS campground there called Big Meadows Reservoir and I stayed there 5 nights. What a lovely setting and area! The campsites are on the side of a mountain, terraced up, each one had a level gravel area with more than enough room for the Casita and truck. They each have a picnic table and fire pit, too. I was surprised that while I was there of the 47 sites maybe 10 were used at any one time.
The reservoir is apparently loaded with fish (lots of day visitors and campers fishing, nice for paddling or hiking around. The runoff makes a lovely waterfall so I played around with taking images at different settings with and without the ND filter.
The second night I was there turned out to be the clearest so it was good I took advantage of it. As it was some clouds moved in but I had a chance to get a few images. It was so dark there, had to really push the settings.
After leaving Bandelier I headed north to the Rio Grand del Norte recreation area. Found a nice spot in the Pataca campground, right on the Rio Grand River. There is a string of 5 small campgrounds along the river and I settled into the last one, furthers up river. Only 6 or 7 sites, 3 with shelters, no hookups. For 3 of the 5 nights I was the only one there. Very quiet area! There are a few companies that do rafting trips down the river but I never noticed the action. The recreation area is about 20 miles south of Taos so I went there for groceries, gas, etc. Had to drive about 8 miles from the campground to a rest area for decent cell signal.
One day I did a sort of loop drive, up through Taos, across 64 to 285 south. That drive took over the Rio Grand River Gorge Bridge. I cut back from 285 to the campground on a back road that was fine until the last few miles. When it got to the edge of the river gorge it turned to a narrow well worn dirt road the was partially washed out in places. Very steep and narrow (single lane), it was a good thing I tried it without the trailer. One of those things I’d rather not do again.
Rt. 64 west went by some rather unique houses. There were quite a few with variations on the theme. They are obviously built to make use of the sunlight.
The Rio Grand was a short walk from my trailer. Some folks came into the campground for day use, fishing or swimming.
Of course I tried for some night time images and was rewarded with a few nice ones.
I headed to the northern New Mexico area to escape the FL heat and humidity for a bit. At the elevation of nearly 7000′ Bandelier National Monument was a great first stop. The Juniper campground was about 1/2 full so it was easy to get in. With some shade and sun and water available it was a nice place to stay. Once settled in I took a drive over to one of the nation’s newest preserves, Valles Caldera National Preserve.
Valles Caldera, volcaron that erupted million years ago and was 500 times the size of Mt. St. Helens. Now elk graze there and visitors can follow trails throughout.
First view of the pueblo at Bandolier National Monument as you walk the loop trail.
It was hot the next day but later in the afternoon some clouds came in so I decided to drive down to the Pueblo and explore it. Sure enough there was a brief rain before I started out so I spent some time in the visitor center and shop. All very interesting. Then I did the hike on the Loop Trail. You have to admire the Natives’ knowledge of the land, and their wise use of the resources available.
From high up looking down at the kiva and some of the many rooms.
Milky Way over Bandelier.
Naturally I spent some time taking night images, too. The ambient light from Santa Fe & Albuquerque to the south wasn’t a lot of help, on the other hand it did light some clouds up nicely.
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Friday May 26 I was up bright and early to drive from Mammoth Hot Springs campground down to Canyon Village campground. That was the day it opened for the season and I had no idea if there would be a long line of folks waiting or not. I had to take the road on the west side of the park down to Norris then across to Canyon. It snowed a bit and I encountered a group of Bison with some calves making their way along the road. Eventually I got to the campground and was surprised to find I was one of the first to arrive and check in. Good thing they weren’t facing a rush of folks because their computers were not working right. The campground had obviously been plowed out and there were great piles of snow everywhere. When I first pulled in it was like backing the trailer into an icebox. As the days warmed up a bit the snow started to melt. I was assigned a nice site with good exposure for the solar panels which I set up promptly. This year I was pleased to see a few other trailers also had solar panels of one sort or another. It was extremely cold and snowed off and on the first couple of days I was there and I was amazed at the number of tenters. So glad I had the trailer even though the furnace was not working consistently.
There were some Bison in Hayden Valley, along with lots of Elk. I stayed at Canyon for 9 nights and didn’t see any Elk calves until late in my stay. The Bison were often close to the road but the Elk tended to stay on the other side of the Yellowstone River, a long ways away, even with the telephoto lens I have.
One afternoon while hanging around at a pullout I saw a black Wolf. It it was by itself, sort of chasing some Elk. I lost sight of it quickly and moved to another pullout later on. Lo & behold I saw movement and realized it was the Wolf, directly across the river from me. Managed to get a few shots of it, what you see here are greatly cropped.
Late one day as I was headed back to the trailer I came up to what was a growing “bear jam”. There was a pullout with no cars in it so I swung in and grabbed my camera. Just had time to catch it as it ran across the road and across a small open area into the woods.
Bison do swim, not going to win any awards but they can get from one side of the river to the other, with some drifting in the current.
One afternoon I was surprised and dismayed to see some obviously foreign visitors using a drone. Drones are not allowed in the park and it is stated plainly in various info sheets handed out. These people, along with the make and registration of their vehicle,were reported to the Rangers. I really hope they were caught and that the drone was confiscated.
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When I’m this far north I regularly check out a website that gives info about possible Aurora Borealis sightings. On May 23 when I was staying at Mammoth Hot Springs campground the possibility for seeing the aurora was good so I went out at about 10 pm. The ideal spot would be as high as I could get, but unfortunately the folks at MHS don’t see to understand about light pollution. The view from the parking on the Upper Terraces was compromised by the lights below so I found a better spot on a pullout just below there with trees to hide the lights. The yellow plume in the image is steam from one of the hot springs that is lit up by the lights. Once I was satisfied with that image I turned more to the east and was able to get a nice image of the Milky Way.
Three days later I got a notice that the Aurora might again be visible. O10:15 pm on the 27th I left the Canyon Village campground and headed south to Hayden Valley. When I had parked and got out to check the view I could immediately see some lights high above, Bingo! Quickly got the camera and tripod out. Wow! Had to put the 14 mm lens on to capture the sight. The vertical spectre was amazing and moved slowly from north to northwest then faded out. This phenomenon is called “Steve” in Aurora circles for lack of a better name.
After that I concentrated on the Aurora down near the horizon and moved to different spots to get different views of it with the Yellowstone River in the foreground. In some of the images you can see a bit of the Milky Way, but the moon is waxing and it isn’t the best time for that.
I went out the next night but didn’t see any lingering color. Once the moon was down low I did manage to capture the Milky Way, though not as good as it would be with no moon.
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A good scratching post
A variety of animals can be found in or near Lamar Valley, From the large Bison to the more delicate antelope, all are fascinating to watch. This time of year a lot of them still have not shed out their winter coats so they tend to look a bit shaggy or moth eaten compared to later in the year.
On my last trip out I was able to watch a black bear with her
cubs for a short time and then a grizzly with a yearling for a quick few minutes before she left. Click here for more images
Grizzly sow & cub (on the left)