Monday, October 21, 2019

Five great reasons to venture out from Albuquerque

Petroglyph National Monument, Boca Negra Canyon
One of the largest petroglyph concentrations in North America, the monument isn’t a single object but several areas featuring more than 25,000 highly fragile petroglyph images scratched on boulders along the volcanic cliffs of the West Mesa escarpment.  Boca Negra Canyon provides some of the most accessible, and therefore most heavily visited, petroglyphs in the Albuquerque area. 
Guides can help interpret the drawings--or use your imagination.
Archeologists believe that many of the images, including those in the Canyon Trail area at Boca Negra, date back at least 3000 years.  Although no one can say for sure what many mean, images often portray animals, birds, geometric shapes, and weapons. Guides provide interpretive talks to help visitors understand the historical importance of the drawings.
A short walk takes you to a variety of these prehistoric drawings.
Several short trails (with the city in near view) provide plenty of images to photograph and interpret however your imagination leads. 

Tinkertown Museum
As you head along the Sandia Crest Scenic Byway, but before reaching Hwy 14, stop to visit Tinkertown Museum.  You’ll find an amazing collection of wood carvings and other items created by the late Ross Ward. The main features are an animated Old West Town and Three Ring Circus.  Set among other historic relics, frontier humor and the thrill of the Big Top come alive in thousands of hand-carved figures, the majority done personally by Ward. 
A few of the creative figures carved by Ross Ward.
An artist and carousel painter by trade, Ward spent 40 years creating his dioramas and the museum proudly exhibits a sign saying, “I did all this while you were watching TV.”   What began as a hobby grew into a huge conglomeration of scenes and collectibles.

A small portion of the wondrous vignettes hand-carved by Ross Ward.
Walls and buildings made from 55,000 discarded glass bottles, metal sculptures, mining tools, and an antique wooden boat that’s been sailed around the world are on display in this private museum now run by his family.  Anyone with a fondness for quirky memorabilia and appreciation for creative passion will love this place.

Tinkertown closs for the winter on October 31 and will reopen on April 1, 2020.
Sandia Crest Byway

For an absolutely stunning drive, follow the Turquoise Trail as it heads out of Albuquerque on NM 14.  Past Tijeras Canyon and Cedar Crest the highway soon intersects with the Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway, otherwise known as NM 536.

A beautiful drive out of the city
Located on the east side of the Sandia Mountains, the byway curves sharply through the mixed conifer vegetation of Cibola National Forest to an altitude of 10,678 feet. You’ll see a rainbow of pastels—pink flowers, blue sky, and feathery white clouds—contrasting with multiple shades of forest green.  Trailheads for more than 40 hikes dot the roadside, and most are quite doable even for novices. 
Spectacular views from the trail.
If you choose not to detour for a hike you’ll arrive at the Visitor’s Center after 12 miles. There you’ll find the trailhead for a lovely, moderate hike to the Kiwanis Cabin.  The trail is well marked and maintained but not crowded.  For a little more challenge while hiking, take the rocky path on the rim and enjoy unobstructed views of rugged peaks across the mountain range. 

You’ll arrive at the Kiwanis cabin, built as a CCC project in 1936 to provide a place for hikers to stop and rest.  Perched on the peak’s edge it provides an excellent vantage point for photography enthusiasts. 
Landscapes to stop and admire
Back on Hwy14, drive northward to the old mining towns of Golden, Madrid, and Cerrillos for a look at life as it used to be. Galleries, antiques shops, and small museums attract visitors now. 

Take a Llama to Lunch
Leading llamas through Carson National Forest near Red River was an experience in nature appreciation with unanticipated depth.  Our guide kept a watchful eye on his charges, both human and animal, and a running conversation about the surrounding natural environment. 
Llamas usually follow well.

 “I want people to appreciate the nature that belongs to all of us,” says naturalist Stuart Wilde.  “The llamas are a means to accomplish this goal,” adds the owner of Wild Earth Llama Adventures, which provides excursions from half day to overnight.
Nature at its best
Not only will participants learn about llamas (very social and non-threatening) and fragile plant ecology, but they will also enjoy a gourmet camp lunch, beautiful scenery, and an empowering adventure for outdoor-loving people of all ages. 

Sandia Aerial Tramway
At the top of the tram, you arrive at Sandia Peak.
Your visit wouldn’t be complete without an overview of Albuquerque—and there’s no better way to do this than on the Sandia Peak AerialTramway.  The tram crawls 2.7 miles up Sandia Mountain on the eastern edge of the city.  While passing through four climatic life zones, spectators may glimpse deer, mountain lions, and small mammals, plus golden eagles, red tail hawks, and ravens.  
The Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway traverses
stunning mountain scenery.

After disembarking at the summit, visitors can hike or mountain bike, or enjoy golden sunsets while dining at High Finance Restaurant. From 10, 378 feet high, you’ll take in breathtaking vistas of the mountains and the sprawling city below.  Tram riders get a close look at the 300 million-year-old lime and 1.4 billion-year-old granite in the strata of the mountain, ingredients that make the mountain turn a pinkish watermelon color in late afternoon (Sandia means watermelon).

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier





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