Hamilton Mesa is a beautiful place high in the Pecos Wilderness, one valley over the Sangre de Christo mountains from Santa Fe. Because it takes a while to drive and then hike there – and because I wanted to be there with evening and early morning light – I decided to spend a night. To save room, I just brought a hammock instead of a sleeping bag. Even so, with my cameras and tripods, plus water and some food, it felt like a significant weight on the hike in.
There was a little bit of a storm around, but the main one was supposed to be in a day or so, and I wanted some clouds as opposed to a clear sky. But it rained lightly off and on, and I had to keep my cameras covered, with one in a cheap waterproof housing so I could take photos without worrying too much. Occasionally I sheltered under trees waiting for the rain to pass, and then headed back to my hammock as it got dark.
I really thought I had it worked out. I had rain gear on so if it rained on me I wouldn’t mind, and a hat to cover my face. What I hadn’t realized, though, was how cold it got up there at night. Eventually, after shivering kept me awake, I built a fire and stayed by it’s warmth for the rest of the night.
Spring can be pretty unpredictable in Santa Fe, going from warm and sunny one day to snow and hail the next. I saw a storm coming into the mountains and thought it might be my last chance to spend some time in the aspens while they’re standing in snow. It was about 4:30 so I walked the dogs and headed up as fast as I could.
It was lightly snowing and pretty deep snow on the ground when I started climbing – the trail is strenuous at first; but then when one comes to the where the ground is somewhat more level there is a tremendous sense of exhilaration at how beautiful and hidden it is. The snow got stronger to the point where it was difficult to take photographs – but really really beautiful – and I thought I better start heading down as it was getting darker all the time.
I started back, and then suddenly the sun broke through and the snow stopped. It was as if the clock had turned back an hour. So I wandered around some more – everywhere I looked it was amazing. Finally as the sun set I slowly, somewhat reluctantly, headed back down to the car. Such soul food up there!
I spent an afternoon and night at La Plaza Blanca, made well known by Georgia O’Keeffe’s affinity for the place and her wonderful paintings. It’s not a place that many people visit, especially in winter, and it was wonderful to spend a very quiet night (with the coyotes for company) and early morning there.
It feels like the world that we all live in these days is very far away here, and there is a tremendous beauty; especially when the sun has just set or is just beginning to rise. I am very grateful to the Dar Al Islam mosque, on whose land it sits, for allowing people to appreciate it.
Here’s some pleasant news. My watercolor ‘Nocturne, Rutland Vermont’ has been accepted into the Masterworks of New Mexico exhibition. It will be up from March 31 to April 22 this year at the Hispanic Arts Building, Expo New Mexico in Albuquerque.
So here’s the thing. I’ve been a few times to this beautiful place where the east fork of the Jemez river travels through this beautiful little meadow with volcanic rock formations along it. But the trail stops about 2 miles in, and the river goes through a steep canyon where there is no room for a trail, and very steep cliffs. There’s another way in from the other side, but that stops at the canyon as well.
So I went out and bought some waders and strapped my crampons on them and headed out the other day. It’s a really beautiful place, absolutely quiet and remote feeling. It’s a little hard to tell from Santa Fe what the weather is going to be like, so it was overcast much of the time, but still very worth seeing.
I’m almost (probably not quite) finished with this watercolor of downtown Rutland Vermont. I wandered around central Vermont late one night last September, and was struck by the stillness in this scene, and that sense of being lost in time a little bit. As usual the painting looked pretty awful for most of it’s progress!