Albuquerque – Part 1

Sixteen years ago, fate decided that I would live in a dorm room on the 22nd floor of Lincoln Tower during my freshman year at Ohio State. The interesting thing about this was that the other person who fate decided would live there was a person named Will.

Will has a PhD in Quantum Physics, which I always thought was something that made-up scientists in movies had. He is a prolific rock climber, is an impressionist painter, was a member of the OSU rugby team, and dabbles in three styles of traditional dance. Not coincidentally, some of the coolest things I have ever done in my life featured Will close by, not the least of which included getting married. So when he told me that he was moving to New Mexico and that I should come visit, the decision to take his advice was pretty easy.

I left on Friday morning for a marathon day of travel that included driving to Indianapolis for a flight to Dallas to connect me to Albuquerque. I spent three nights in town, the first of which I was introduced to the best tacos I have ever eaten (braised ox tail), some excellent local beer (Tractor Brewing), and fantastic ice cream (with chile in all of it).

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Sunrise over the Sandias

The following morning we got up early and drove up to the crest of the Sandia Mountains which tower over the city so that we could catch sunrise.

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It had snowed in the mountains the night before, so when the sun was fully up the scene was pretty magical.

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Mountain Chickadee

Birding was only an incidental part of my trip, but I absolutely was prepared to see all kinds of new species, for I had never previously before been to the Southwest. Once the sun was fully up, I began to notice the activity of alpine birds that I had been reading about. The first of the trip was a Mountain Chickadee, a lifer which perched nicely in front of the orange stucco of the Sandia House lodge.

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But the scenery was so brilliant that I didn’t observe long. We hiked along the crest as the sun came up, and the shadow over the city below gradually receded.

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Albuquerque viewed from 10,600 feet

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The snowy mountains, accurately described as “dramatic af”

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Black Rosy-Finch and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch

By the time day was in full swing and more people began joining us on the trails (which I discovered were covered with waist-deep snow in places), we had to head back down so that Will could make a tango rehearsal for his role in an opera performance. I was energized despite the altitude making me feel like I had a hangover, and I became even more pumped when a small flock of the birds I had been hoping most to see landed in one of the spruces next to Sandia House. Of the three species of the Sandias’ most famous and celebrated birds the Rosy-Finches, I was able to pick out two of them: Black and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches, respectively. In the three hours we spent on the mountain, I saw three species of bird, but all three were lifers. The combination of the sunrise, the scenery, and maybe some mild altitude sickness had me feeling all light headed but happy. It was a great morning.