Friday, May 1, 2015

Snakes! and Day Three of the Photo Challenge

Las Vegas, NM was our last stop in the "Land of Enchantment". This small city sits in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo mountains to the West and on the edge of the Great Plains to the East. We spent two nights at Storrie Lake State Park, just North of town, and managed to pack quite a lot into our short stay.

Las Vegas was established in 1835 when a group of settlers received a land grant from the Mexican government. Those settlers laid out the town in the traditional Spanish Colonial style with a central plaza. When the railroad came to town in 1880, the railroad company established a separate New Town one mile East of the plaza. Though the towns eventually merged, separate school districts still exist and locals still talk of the town feeling divided.

The central plaza of West Las Vegas.

There are lots of historical buildings in Las Vegas.
The Plaza Hotel has been in several movies.

Love the intricate details!

At the Old Town Drafthouse you can drink beer brewed in Las Vegas, NM!

Just South of town is Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge, it's a stop on the Central Flyway for migrating birds. Fall and Winter is the best time for bird watching, so with very few birds on hand we were happy to find the Gallinas Nature Trail. This short trail takes you across an expanse of grassland and into a beautiful rocky canyon full of ponderosa, juniper and pinion pine.

From the trail head we can just see the rocky walls of the canyon we'll drop in to.

On the way we saw our first snake, a bull snake, non venomous.

Approaching the canyon the plains abruptly end.

The red rock ruins of a stone cabin sit atop the canyon edge.
Below the rim old stone walls are remnants of cattle ranching in the 1920's

The landscape changed dramatically when we dropped into the canyon,
small springs provide a welcoming habitat.

Bald Eagles nest in the craggy rock walls of this canyon in the winter.

Returning to the trail head we came upon another bull snake!

Looking across the plains towards Las Vegas, Hermit Peak is the double humped mountain just right of center.
That is a hike we'd like to do next time we're in the area.

Here's another look at Hermit Peak.

After our hike we drove a few miles West of Las Vegas to the tiny hamlet of Montezuma. In the 1880's the railroad built a spur line and a castle to capitalize on the natural hot springs located here, creating a luxury resort destination.

Today the former castle (the third one, the first two burned down) and 100 surrounding acres belong to United World Colleges. The castle was restored in 2000 and can be toured during the school year on Saturdays. The hot springs are accessible from the highway and are free and open to the public; the area is policed by the college, who own the property.

A variety of hot spring fed pools dot the banks of Gallinas Creek.

Gallinas Creek.

Montezuma Castle from the hot springs.

Possibly an old power plant along Gallinas Creek.

Montezuma Castle.

Back at Storrie Lake we took an afternoon walk with the intention of circling the lake. Clouds were building, maybe we'd get a shower...the lake could use more water!

Fishing is popular here because you can drive right to the water.
Someone had dropped off a covered wagon on the shore, I think it looks more appropriate than the cars!

The bridge over the creek entering the lake was dilapidated and impassable, thwarting our desire to circle the lake.

But a trail continued up the creek, and what a creek it turned out to be!
We learned later this is a man made route using water diverted from Gallinas Creek to supply Storrie Lake

The THIRD bull snake of the day!

This guy was quite unhappy that we wanted to walk past him!

The upper end of the water channel. A fence kept us from continuing.

Storrie Lake State Park was a peaceful place to spend two nights. Half the sites are water/electric, half are dry. During our stay the water was still off for the winter and the dump station was closed as well. We had good Verizon signal.

Site 11 at Storrie Lake.

Today is Day Three of the Black and White Photo Challenge and today's photo is actually current! This is a second stone cabin that we saw on our walk at Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge.

Next up: Colorado!


  1. Great composition of the B&W photo.

  2. Love the picture looking up at the hotel...
    I saw my first hummingbird moth this week too, but it was way too fast for a photo!
    You and Hans sure packed in a lot in a short time...beautiful hikes Lisa!

    1. That moth was either brand new or dying...that's how I got the pic! ;-)

  3. Love those big Bull snakes - their coloring is amazing. Still, they're very "startling" to come across on the trail! Much more than the pastels of Florida, I love the vivid colors of New Mexico towns. Your B&W is wonderful - the old cut stones really pop!

    1. That last snake was really letting us know this was his space!

  4. Large bull snakes aren't usually aggressive and where there's a bull snake there aren't rattlesnakes... huge plus. Must have been warm and sunny to encounter so many snakes. Thanks for showing me a nice side of Las Vegas, NM.

    1. Good to know that bull snakes mean no rattlers!

      Yeah, Las Vegas has a less than pretty side to it...

  5. Three things I learned from your post, what the canyon looked like for we almost got there if not for the wind; the town we did not check out, I would have love the details on the plaza hotel; and finally I now know the names of the mountain! Thank you.
    I believe you will like all the CO SP you are going to. Although we could not get toCheyene SP (fully booked) we hiked there as well. we had hailstorm last night at Cherry Creek SP which scared us a bit remembering what happened to Island Girl last year.

    1. :-) I was drooling over Hermit Peak, but it's a pretty strenuous hike from what I've read (as well as a bit of a drive...).

      Cheyenne looks awesome, we booked 6 months in advance to get a site.

  6. Replies
    1. Thank goodness these were non venomous...they are still startling and a little intimidating!

  7. What gorgeous cloud filled skies! Love your B & W photo, too. We stayed at Storrie Lake several years ago and really enjoyed the peace and quiet and the hiking at the refuge (we were there in the fall, but the birding was minimal because of the drought). I like seeing the bull snakes, especially knowing that the rattlers are afraid of them!

  8. Great choice for your black and white. You had quite a bull snake day. Glad they weren't rattlers. Wonderful pictures of them. Quite a change of habitat on that nature trail. I really enjoyed your beautiful skies.