Friday May 5 (Cinqo de Mayo!) - Albuquerque, New Mexico
We had a great day in Albuquerque today with no further snafus! We started the morning pigging out, as usual, at the HIX breakfast buffet. I think we're going to have to go on diets after this trip, even with the hiking. Soon thereafter, we drove over to the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, where we planned to do some birding for a couple of hours. We had read in a travel book from the libary that the birding was very good there, and it vastly exceeded our expectations! We ended up staying for five hours and ended up adding approximately 20 new birds to our life lists. Wow!
There was a garden area with bird feeders that attracted woodpeckers, hummingbirds (black-chinned), black-headed grosbeaks, white-crowned sparrows, and others; and a large pond teaming with geese, beautiful wood ducks, mallards, and a few new ones for us, Northern Shovelers, Ring-Necked Ducks, and Pied-Billed Grebes. We saw several Roadrunners running around the park, very close up. Neat birds! Back along forested walking paths and near the Rio Grande River, we spotted various warblers, flycatchers, a beautiful Western Tanager, wrens, and Green-Tailed Towhees. All in all, it was a delightful and educational time, and the weather was again lovely - mid-upper 70s and a nice breeze. We couldn't ask for any better weather.
Rio Grande Nature Center State Park
Bear the Bird Man
Water bird viewing spot (lake behind wall)
Emily checking the bird book
How many turtles do you see?
We finally tore ourselves away from the park, ate our lunchtime snacks, then drove to Albuquerque Old Town to see the little shops and restaurants. I am shopping very little on this trip since my luggage is already very full, so we didn't stay long, but it was charming. Afterwards, we stopped in at a Walgreen's so I could buy some more band-aids for my pinky toes, which are still ailing me with blisters from the Grand Canyon hike. I am hoping that these don't continue to bother me throughout the rest of the trip as we have so much hiking ahead that I don't want to miss out on. Other than my pinky toes, we do seem to have recovered fully from that epic hike! Barry had one toe blister that was bothering him as well but now seems to be healed.
Petroglyph National Monument
We then headed northwest of town to the Petroglyph National Monument. We didn't spend a lot of time there, just took three short trails to look at various petroglyphs and take a few photos. The view of Albuquerque in the valley from the top of the mesa one trail climbed up was fabulous, as were the views of the Sandia Mountains to the east of the city. The long-range views out west are something this Carolina girl has never experienced and is endlessly fascinating. And I find the traditional-style adobe homes quite charming as well!
Note animal petroglyph on rock
We decided to go ahead and head to the restaurant we'd chosen for an early dinner since it was north of town and would be out of our way to go back to the hotel (not to mention all the construction right around where we're staying we'd prefer to drive through as little as possible). We went to the Casa de Benevidez, a lovely place we'd read about online. We got a great table outdoors and had margaritas (in honor of Cinqo de Mayo, of course!) and another great dinner. I ordered from the a la carte menu to keep the portions smaller, getting a beef enchilada with rice and beans, but it still ended up being a lot of food. Barry had chicken and cheese chili rellenos with rice and beans and sopapillas. The food was excellent! We ended up talking to a nice couple at the next table who also love to travel and have been all over the Carribbean (but not to the British Virgin Islands, so we recommended they check them out), and they really like living in the southwest and the low humidity. I can see why - we are already thinking about a return trip as we regret not getting to see Sante Fe this time, wish we'd had more time in Sedona, and so forth. Albuquerque is a big city but pretty nice overall, has great bike lanes and paths in many places, but a lot of traffic and road construction.
Tomorrow we head north to Cortez, Colorado and Mesa Verde National Park. Predicted high is 71 degrees with mostly sunny skies. Sounds nice!