Come on along with us for 5 days of camping fun in the Land of Enchantment, where we had some weird and close encounters with botanical beauties, a bare-butted gopher, a swarm of bees, and voracious leaf-footed beetles! All this, and more while exploring a National Conservation Area, a Desert National Monument, and a New Mexico State Park, all within the Chihuahuan desert ecosystem.
After having just returned from a fabulous week in southern New Mexico (blog posts to come) where we hiked and hiked, and got reacquainted with the Spring-time desert flora and fauna, we seemed to be craving pine and fir trees and some mountain air. How high do we dare hike? Would there still be snow? These and more questions rattled about in my mind as we headed the truck up the 13 mile long and winding Sandia Mountain Crest Road (central New Mexico). Ahhhhh …… so invigorating!
Satisfying our craving (at 8500 feet in elevation) and answering the question about leftover winter snow (not a single snowflake to be found), we pulled up to the Tecolote Trail trailhead and began our ascent, in shorts and T-shirts. The first half mile up was brisk, both in temperature and pace, but after I was well warmed up it was time to open my eyes to investigate anything and everything growing, sprouting and blooming.
This was the earliest date (May 7th) in the Spring we’ve hiked Tecolote, so I was hoping to see a variety of wildflowers that were new-to-me species. I wasn’t disappointed! Blooming beautifully were the minuscule Pygmy-flower rock jasmine (in the primrose family), Arizona valerian (a species of honeysuckle), along with lance-leaf bluebells (borage family), and White Mountain bladderpod (a brilliant yellow 4-petaled member of the mustard family). Covering the slopes everywhere we’re the bright yellow flowers of Oregon creeping grape (aka creeping mahonia), and common along the trail were flats and flats of the dwarf purple and white lousewort (in the broomrape family), it’s flowers growing close to the ground amongst its deep green dense and curly margined fern-like leaves. Perky Sue (a happy yellow daisy) and the soft-like-a-teddy-bear prairie pasque flower (a type of buttercup) rounded out the bloomers that I could find.
These pages in my journal focused on the shrubs and trees showing growth alongside the trail, drawn from snippets collected during the hike.
It was a perfect morning for a hike! Wished you’d been there with us.
Until next time …… How’s your Spring is shaping up! Do you have a favorite plant that’s blooming, or a singing bird tending chicks? I’d love to hear your story.
P.S. This journal page layout was inspired by an amazing nature journaler, artist and teacher, Jean Mackay who loves all of nature and sharing her discoveries through illustration. Thanks Jean!
“The Full Moon of May brings bright brushes to paint the Earth canvas with infinite flowers. In the Full Moon light of this month, the flowers are said to grow at night, and even dance in honor of the moon.”
Oh my goodness! What a brilliant Spring Super Bloom is on display mere steps east of Albuquerque.
Alas, I found myself lamenting for months over the long and snowy wet winter we just climbed out of here in the East Mountains of central New Mexico. It seemed the back-to-back snowstorms since last November were never ending; snow shoveling every morning became the norm. But I know better than to whine. An abundance of winter moisture always results in a spectacular abundance of spring flowers. And this Spring has proven that true.
The last two months we’ve seen a mad splash of sunshine yellow from the blooming of a native winter annual called Golden Corydalis, aka Scrambled Eggs (Corydalisaurea). This member of the poppy family quickly converted the dusty hillsides from brown to a glowing yellow as the many-flowered stalks of this plant seemed to shoot up over last season’s dried grasses. Scrambled Eggs was the plant I thought would be our Spring super bloomer.
But, oh no!
During a full two weeks of being distracted by the glow of all that yellow, all around our feet, 1,000s and 1,000s of blue-gray-green rosettes began to grow. I noticed these rosettes (the very same mystery rosettes I described in my January journal), were rapidly expanding outward to make room for flower stalks heavily laden with little rosy orange buds. And then one day one of those buds unfurled into a brilliantly white 4-petaled flower. In the center of that flower were 8 lemon-yellow pollen-heavy anthers surrounding a 4-fingered lemon-yellow stigma, ripe for pollination. Of course …… now I knew with certainty ….. the flower blooming atop the pretty winter rosettes is the White-stemmed Evening Primrose (Oenotheraalbicaulis)!
Also known as Whitest Evening Primrose, it wasn’t long until more flowers began to appear. “But, wow, was it possible that all those 1,000s and 1,000s of rosettes would each produce a bouquet of flowers?” Hiking these foothills every day paid of. As the excitement of possibility steadily unfolded, hundreds of thousands of large 2-4” white flowers unfurled each evening about sunset to greet potential overnight pollinators, and to welcome hikers the following morning.
In about a week since I noticed that first open flower, this native Evening Primrose was carpeting the hillsides in white as brilliant and sparkly as newly fallen snow. The ground became “Snow White” with flowers, out-performing the still profusely-blooming Scrambled Eggs.
And the show won’t end any time soon …. there are still an unbelievable number of White-stemmed Evening Primrose buds awaiting their turn to enter the play from stage right! Now that’s what I call a true Spring Super Bloomer.
What marvelous transformations have or are happening outside your world this Spring?
Fascinated by the work that so many urban sketchers turn out, and further inspired by a few Sketchbook Revival 2023 sessions, it’s no wonder I wanted to try my hand at Urban Sketching. Joining the Albuquerque Urban Sketchers, my first outing was to a very iconic New Mexico shop called Jackalope. In some ways, this was a great place for lots of newbies (we didn’t have to brave the still freezing February temps), but then again it was very challenging. So many things to choose from! Here’s a few of my sketches. Because there were so many interesting trinkets, I decided to spend no more than 15 minutes on each, including some quick watercoloring.
All of that was really fun, but not as easy as some urban sketchers make it seem. So I began practicing and searching on-line for a bit of sage advice.
On Saturday (April 15th) the Urban Sketchers met again, this time at Old Town Farm, downtown Albuquerque. With the chance of sketching some rusted farm equipment and broken down barns, I wanted in on this event. And besides, the breezy day was supposed to be warm … ideal for a bit of plein air sketching! Well, on a Saturday, this place was buzzing with visitors, ranging from bikers and hikers; people sitting and enjoying a morning coffee and carrot cake; several teams playing something like bochi ball; venders; puppies for adoption. This definitely broke my fear of public sketching while giving me an opportunity to improve on my people sketching skills. Here’s what I found to draw in a few hours.
Hope you enjoyed my urban sketching efforts! Look for more posts in the future.
For the last 6 years, I’ve participated in an annual, 2-week long sketching/mixed media event, Sketchbook Revival, founded and hosted by a talented sketchbook artist, Karen Abend. Every Spring, Karen brings together a cast of creative artists for a mega on-line teaching marathon, where each day, 2 1-hour sessions are shared with hundreds of participants. These sessions cover topics like basic mark-making, collage, caricature creation, drafting and perspective, composition, urban sketching, flowers, mammals and birds, portraits, map making, story telling, and on and on! This year a session in textiles was even included. Techniques were taught in using a wide-variety materials, such as watercolor, gouache, markers, pencil and pen, colored pencil, and many forms of mixed-media.
The whole fun event is designed to stretch your creative comfort zone by trying new things and experiencing new approaches to art making. And as incredible as it sounds, all you need to participate is your time and whatever materials you have on hand. Otherwise, it’s totally free! Wowza!
If this sounds irresistibly intriguing, and you just gotta-wanna participate next year, I’ll include a link below to find out more. Meanwhile, check out the photos of my Sketchbook Revival 2023 creations, filling up my handmade sketchbook (oh yeah, the pre-work session includes instructions on how to make your own sketchbook). I never expect to create works of art during the event; many of my pages are just plain awful. But no matter the result, I always made it fun! Enjoy!
So if you’ve made it this far, and want to learn more about future Sketchbook Revival events, follow the link below:
March came in like a passive lion, allowing a few signs of Spring to peek through. My collection of nature snippets and decorative trail rocks was going well, until ……. Before long we were once again shoveling drifts and piles of snow, dumped on New Mexico thanks to California’s 13 atmospheric rivers that flowed from coast to coast. This was looking like the winter that would never end.
It was truly and literally “March Madness” out there. So, in the spirit of the crazy seasonal weather, an emergency road trip became necessary to search for some “Littles” filler. And I knew the perfect route to take …..
The Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway winds around the Ortiz Mountains and Cerrillos Hills, while passing through the historic mining towns of Golden, Madrid (MAH-drid) and Cerrillos (sir-REE-yoose). Today, there’s minimal mining taking place in them there hills. Today it’s all about art, and there’s some really weird stuff on display out there.
From Golden to just north of Cerrillos, the hillsides are adorned with metal sculptures like a Trojan horse, three boned fish on sticks, a scuba diver fleeing a curious dolphin, two-story tall origami made of folded metal, butterflies as big as pterodactyls, a squadron of green parrots, and a fleet of racing bicycles. You have to look around every bend in the road ….. they’re all there, and more!
It was fun “collecting” these images for my March “Littles” collection, but I needed one more. We had heard the story of Ethyl the Whale somehow living out of water, somewhere in Santa Fe. Sounded like the perfect weird addition to that blank spot on my page.
And there she was! Around the back side of the Santa Fe Community College, in a large, flat field was Ethyl, the 82-foot long blue whale sculpted out of single use plastics. Ethyl is HUGE! She not only holds the Guinness Book of Records for the World’s largest recycled plastic sculpture, she also delivers an important message about the health of our oceans.
Well, there you have it; my eclectic assortment of “Littles” to remember this March of 2023. Let me know what you think! I’m already looking forward to true Spring in April. Wildflowers should be popping up everywhere and maybe a few more bugs will make an appearance for my April “Littles.”
Thanks again to “Made by Fay” for the “Littles” inspiration!
Another species we searched for while visiting the Sonoran Desert surrounding Tucson last December, was the javelina. Certainly this elusive little pig-like critter was nearly everywhere we went, as attested to by the thousands of hoof prints echoing their presence. And many of those hoof prints were fresh! Certainly there must’ve been squadrons of javelina hiding behind every mesquite tree around the next countless bend in the trail?
But alas …. we never saw, heard or even sniffed out a single javelina. All we could do was record (and sketch) the herd of hoof prints, and then research this animal in the following months. Oh boy, did we really miss such a fascinating encounter.
Back at home, several months later, our friend Jim Silva was happy to share one of his javelina skull mounts for study and sketching. I’m thinking we may have been lucky not to have met up with a herd of their clacking canines during our travels!
Maybe another time?
Meanwhile …. If you’ve got a thirst for javelina knowledge, or just want to see my journal sketches, read on!