Salinas Pueblo Missions, Part II

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Abo is not far from Quarai (see previous post) though present roads take one around three sides of a trapezoid.  It appears to have been about a ten mile walk south from Quarai to Abo along the eastern slope of the Manzano Mountains in the days when the Spanish missions were built.  The sites are similar, but have worn and are maintained differently.


The Abo church and its buildings are surrounded by yellow grass – it would be good food for cattle if they were allowed in.  Instead of scraps of stone on the hillside, there are huge stone slabs where water ran.100_0930A

I came close to one ruin of a Pueblo building.  It is just tumbled stone, suggesting that one strong point for the Spanish conquerors was the ability to make better mortar.pueblo house A

Two plants particularly caught my attention.  The first was an nicely shaped four-wing saltbush.  Its four-winged seeds will turn golden in the fall.  I have one of these in my back yard; it gets too much water apparently, due to other plants around it, and is very shaggy.saltbush A

Another well-shaped plant I came across at Abo is one I have found in the arroyo near our house in a good season.  It shows up in summer after rain and is covered with white flowers all at once.  They don’t last long.  I have not learned its name.white flower A

Salinas Missions, Part 1

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On a trip to northern New Mexico last weekend I stopped to visit two of the Salinas Missions.  The Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, established in 1981, consists of three separate sites.  Each was once a native American pueblo, inhabited by people who spoke Tiwa.  Each became a Spanish mission site, with a big church and a number of outbuildings.  At only one site, Gran Quivera, is there much of the pueblo to see.  I visited that place quite a few years ago, before I had a digital camera.  Now that I’ve seen the other two, I am eager to go back.

This post is about Quarai, located north of Mountainair.  The church there is the best preserved and is often photographed.


Below is an attempt to photograph a grass I don’t know the name of, which has quite large heads for a grass.  I wondered if it is edible.

grassQuarai has a one mile “primitive” trail beyond the once settled area, where the “trail” is paved.  It becomes clear that the stone for building did not have to be brought from far away.

stone trail

Looking from the trail toward the green near the entrance to the ruins I had complicated thoughts: this green is neither natural nor a reconstruction of what was there when the Spanish mission was operating.  How hard the park service works, simply for our enjoyment!  Our tax dollars at work.


Two pictures show how different plants share space.  The first shows the orange flowers of desert globemallow, a plant which grows six feet tall and blows in the breeze in my back yard.


This second picture was an attempt to capture the sense of fall: red berries on what I believe is a sumac.  It is so intertwined with other plants that it is hard to tell.


My next post will have pictures from Abo, the third of the three Spanish pueblo mission sites in the National Monument.

A Mountain Hike


This past week I found the time to drive to Cloudcroft for a hike in the Lincoln National Forest.  I’ve been meaning to do this for years – since I moved to Las Cruces, in fact, and this was the first time I did it.  The air temperature in Cloudcroft, at over 8,000 feet, runs about 20 degrees cooler than the temperature here at 4,000 feet, where it has been up in the high 90s for many days.  The weather was beautiful; it only rained while I was in the car.  The beginner hike of two miles round trip was just my speed.

Osha Trail

Osha Trail

I hoped to see more wildflowers.  Those I did see are not known to me by name, but pleasing all the same, especially the one that pokes out of other plants’ leaves to give itself a green background.













The forest is primarily pines and maples.  At one spot, the baby maple trees were so thick they looked like ground cover.


I promised myself I would come back again soon.  It’s an hour and a half drive away, which in New Mexico, is not considered far at all.  I have no excuse.

After Rain

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The ground in my back yard is mostly sand between the bushes.  But then it rains and it becomes clear how many seeds are buried in that sand.   Rain is a good metaphor for all kinds of nurturing.  When the rain doesn’t come for a while, more yellow shows from the ground.  When it comes again, the ground is green.



Dry skin in winter,
wind burnt in spring, the ground
turns to green fuzz
after rain, grows out ragged
as an adolescent’s beard.


Half Way to Fall


It’s another cross-quarter day, the midpoint between the summer solstice and the fall equinox.  About this time I begin to notice the days are getting shorter, and there’s some logic to this, because of the sine wave nature of the changing sun patterns.  This means the changes are faster in the middle than at the peak and nadir of longest and shortest day.

This is the day commonly called Lammas.  it is the early harvest.  If you think it is too early to be harvesting grain, think corn.  We have been enjoying corn on the cob for a few weeks now.

Any harvest time is a thanksgiving time.  When we receive the bounty of the earth, we should give thanks, one way or another.  Here in the southwest we give thanks for the rain, which has come sooner and in greater abundance than for several years past.  Not enough to cancel the drought of course, but a pleasure all the same.  The plants too are showing their gratitude (to speak anthropomorphically) by putting out their flowers.  Here are two making a show in my yard this week.

Desert Globemallow

Desert Globemallow




The desert globemallow is a third generation plant from one I transplanted from the arroyo beyond our housing development.  The purple mat came with the house; it is hard to photograph because of its small size.  It takes many of the little purple flowers to make an impact.

Purple Mat

Purple Mat

The Way It Used to Be?



Sometimes the little guy wins.  Driving toward home on Interstate 40 we planned to stop at the Shell plus Dairy Queen between Tucumcari and Santa Rosa.  It had closed.  Our next opportunity, ten miles down the road, was this little gas station.  That white door on this side of it is the post office of Newkirk, New Mexico, a town which scarcely exists since the Interstate came through.   The market at this gas station had regular coffee with dry creamer.  No cappuccino machine?  How quickly we grow accustomed to our travel patterns.  But they did have small bottles of milk so we could skip the dry creamer.

For all its tiny size and old-fashioned look, this gas station has been redone, perhaps more recently than the road.  Route 66 is only to be found in sections, where the Interstate didn’t cover it up.  Back when I came through New Mexico with my parents, it was the main road.


These pictures are uncropped because for me part of the delight of New Mexico is the expanse of sky.  How is it different from the Midwest?  Perhaps it’s the dryness that makes it sharper.  Perhaps it is just that it is home.

Hike to Dripping Springs


The “blogosphere” is a strange world of unlikely connections.  One blogger who found my website is Russel Ray.  I enjoy his photos of San Diego so much that I’ve added him to my blogroll, the links in the right hand column of this page.  You might like his work as well, especially if you have any connection to San Diego.

I’m not as accomplished a photographer, but I’ve been practicing, so here are a few from a hike I took in the mountains last week.  It has been too dry to produce many wildflowers this spring, but there are other things to see.  I hiked up to Dripping Springs in the Organ Mountains, a three mile round trip to several old ruins.  Halfway up are a stunning pair of alligator juniper trees.juniprs

One of the ruins is Nathan Boyd’s sanatorium, built in 1917 for patients with tuberculosis.  That disease brought many “anglos” to New Mexico in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.Boyd's sanatarium

A more substantial ruin is Van Patten’s Mountain Camp, actually a rather nice hotel resort in its prime, built in the 1870’s.  It once had stairs up to a nice entrance.Van Patten front

On the way back down the mountain one can see, though it doesn’t photograph very well, the town of Las Cruces in the Rio Grande River valley.view of Las Cruces

It had been about six years since I made this hike.  The ruins are not much changed in that time.  Two other hikes at Dripping Springs can take you to a cave which once housed a hermit, before Van Patten’s time, or to a waterfall – when there is water in it.  I left those for another day.

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