June 30, 2016

Peregrinating the Albuquerque Bosque

The Map.
Starting in the San Juans in Colorado, the Rio Grande "is the twenty-second longest river in the world and the fourth or fifth longest in North America" (Texas State Historical Society).  While the river is characterized by the area it flows through, the river from Elephant Butte Dam to the south to Cochiti Dam in the north is called the Middle Rio Grande.  And in the middle of the middle Rio Grande is the roughly 20 plus miles that flows through Albuquerque.  From an airplane, the Rio Grande is a brown ribbon bordered a green ribbon.  That green ribbon is the Bosque

I've always been fascinated really exploring an area, getting a sort of overview of an area then drilling down to really get it.  It's led to me hiking the Sandias from end to end and then hiking outlying trails multiple times, biking all the trails in the Cedro Peak area because someone put them on a map, trying different routes to get to my job, taking different routes to Denver to visit my family, etc..  So after largely ignoring the area for the better part of twenty years, I recently started becoming more aware of the bosque (the reason why will be revealed later).   

Bosque is a Spanish term for woodlands.  My bosque, the Albuquerque Bosque, stretches from the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge to the south and the Alameda Bridge to the north.  After walking many of the areas as discrete sections, we decided it would be nice to experience the bosque from "end to end," Our goal was to walk this bosque over the course of two days.  And with solstice approaching we decided we'd walk it as a sort of solstice ritual.

Don, Mindy, and Zoe getting ready to head out from Valle de Oro-Photo Credit:  Damien Flores

Upon planning our trip, we didn’t know two sections of the bosque because we hadn’t already hiked them in the last year:  Valle de Oro to the Tijeras Arroyo and the Open Space Visitor Center up to the Alameda Bridge.  

Our route was pretty straight forward:  we would walk up the east side of the river until Bridge Boulevard, cross the bridge to the other side then go up the west side until Central, cross the Central Bridge and go up the east side again until Montaño, cross the Montaño Bridge and go up the west side until Alameda Boulevard.  No particular reason for this route other than, in many cases, the map at the Rio Grande Valley State Park website suggested certain areas didn’t have a formal path.  Likewise, certain areas (especially Bridge to I-40 on the east side) receive a lot of traffic and one of the major goals was to not see a lot of people.  Of course, the weather sort of kept the traffic down a bit, but more on that later.  The far south and the far north required, at times, a bit of route finding.  In the case of the Valle de Oro section, we ended up walking along the wrong side of the Albuquerque drain and next to acequia and had to find our way through the Mountain View neighborhood back to the Tijeras Arroyo and into the bosque proper there.

Valle de Oro:

Valle de Oro

Almost to the bosque in Valle de Oro
According to their website, the Valle de Oro's purpose is to “[offer] a unique environmental education and recreation opportunity in a highly populated area while promoting a wildlife conservation message” (About the Refuge).  The map on the sign in the refuge said to walk to the southwest corner and we’d be able to access the bosque.  Being a former dairy farm the area is a big flat expanse of square lots almost devoid of trees with the bosque proper due west.  We started walking across the refuge startling Killdeer that nested along the ditches on either side of the dirt road.  We didn’t actually go to the southwest corner but did access the acequia road and started our journey north (on the west side of the acequia but east of the Albuquerque Drain, which would present a problem later on).  To our right was the acequia and then a river drain to the left, then the bosque proper, so we walked between the acequia and the drain.  On the other side of the acequia, we noticed a series of houses.  Some were empty while others had flooded fields from the channels into their properties.  Some of the structures looked like they had been abandoned years ago, and at others we were greeted by barking dogs, but no one was outside.
Looking south-but no channels

Dilipadated House

(Unless explicitly stated, all the photos were taken by me during our hike.  Originally, I wanted to use just the pictures from the hike, but as this piece progressed realized I didn't have the right photo to match what I was wanting to write, so I delved into my archives and included some of those as well)
Nice house with a flooded yard

Looking south-channels going into private property

Though the owners can access the property, the general public cannot access it from the east side of the acequia

Just past this farm the acequia turns east
After a couple of miles, we had no choice but to follow the acequia as it meandered east way from the bosque.  The houses that we passed at this point looked recent; some even looking like they’d been transplanted from the midwest.  And one, looked like a Jewish Temple with a six pointed start jutting out from the roof.  It also had a large performance space too.  Even after veering away from the acequia to check it out we couldn’t really figure out what it was. 

The acequia was actually getting its water from the Barr Drain, and we followed the drain as it veered to a north/south direction after previously traveling east/west.  Crossing one road the drain began to circle back to the river and we entered the bosque proper at the Tijeras Arroyo (where the Bosque Bike Path terminates at the south end).

Not sure if this is a temple or a performance venue

Rio Bravo:

Tijeras Arroyo
If you paid attention to the map, you'd be fooled into thinking that there really isn't any trails to walk from the Tijeras Arroyo to Rio Bravo.  While it is lightly traveled, there are interesting areas to explore.  People have driven in almost to the river; there are a couple of foot bridges that seem to go nowhere and even when we get to the river, it is merely a channel with an overgrown island blocking the view of the main river channel and the other side.  
At the Rio-the main channel is to the west of this island

A bridge to nowhere (at least today)
About halfway between the Tijeras Arroyo and Rio Bravo Boulevard, we come across a fenced in area where, the sign says that the City of Albuquerque’s treated sewage dumps into the river.  There is evidence of a lot more traffic (as it is a popular fishing spot), and we can see the line in the river where the treated, dark blue to black water merges with the brown, muddy Rio.  Graffiti covered signs boast of the water being cleaner after going through the treatment plant than it was entering the city.  
Where ABQ's treated sewage meets the Rio
Back into the bosque, we hike on a social trail and eat mulberries along the way until we hit the parking area of the Rio Bravo Picnic area.  At the Rio Bravo picnic area, we pass a ghost bike on the bridge and two memorials in the bosque then follow the loop trail over to the river's edge. 

Ghost Bike
Winter 2015-2016
This bosque is lined north-south with jetty jacks  on the rivers edge and, in spots, lines that go east-west.   Clearly the Army Corp of Engineers hasn't begun the process of removing them from this area, and with the ones that are along the river's edge plants have grown up and through them.  

A Poem:
Jetty Jacks

Like crosses in a veteran’s cemetery,
cross purposes mark an historical time,
Jacks swept up the detritus of a river overfull,
barreling down the floodplain and spilling tree trunks,
leg and arm sized branches into fields flooded for irrigation,
houses built too close,
an ecosystem designed around a continuous, yet intermittent flood.

Oh Rio, your jetty jacks speak to a past that is no more,
a river tamed and forced into a sandy channel,
rising and stranding reed filled sandbars,
crucial habitat for red cane,
invasive tamarisk, fledgling cottonwood,
tufts of wild grass,
flocks of geese
and the dinosaurs that fly, the Sandhill Crane.

Oh Rio you are tame yet wild.
A river who’s ecosystem seems wild,
but holds the carnage of a civilization's attempt to hide your effects.
Lines of jetty jacks stand at the ready,
some covered and overgrown,
buried in sand and protruding like an archaeological ruin,
or twisted and misshapen like particularly cruel car wreck.
Nothing remains for you to hold at bay,
Yet you remain, stalwart and always at the ready
for a flood that may never come again
and if it did, the parched desert would welcome it,
embrace the flow of water keeping this parched section of land alive.

Winter 2015
Winter 2015

Spring 2016

Winter 2015

Spring 2016

Spring 2016

Winter 2015

Spring 2016

Winter 2015
Winter 2015

Winter 2015

Occasionally, people have clipped the guide wire so that bikers can pass, or hikers can get to the river.  This is a well traveled path, but no one seems to be out today as we push on determined to get to a specific spot, from having visited the area a lot, with a good view for lunch.  
Downtown Skyline with NHCC
At the river's edge, one can see downtown Albuquerque, and, from this vantage point, the Journal Theater at the National Hispanic Cultural Center looks like it is downtown as well.  It's not, but the view makes it seem like downtown is next to the river and not a couple of miles east of it.  The trail follows a canal, which goes into this fenced area.  A tall fence, the area looks very fortified and inside it one can make out canals, small ponds, power generators, and pumps.  Though not marked on the bosque side, the area is a project trying to preserve the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow.  

-Late Fall 2015-

In 1994, the minnow got listed as Endangered and through the years it has generated a lot of press and consternation in the water starved middle Rio Grande.  At one point a judge forced Albuquerque to release some of its share of San Juan-Chama water into the Rio to keep the river wet for the minnow.   From the layout, water is pulled from the east side drain, diverted to make shallow pools and then released back to the river.  The pools stand empty now and in the 9 months of walking the bosque consistently, I've never seen this facility used.   Even during the summer solstice the river doesn't seem to be in danger of running dry. 

In this stretch of the bosque, we always stop and pop out to take a look at the Glass Gardens (though I knew it as as the Glass Graveyard).  Scattered from the acequia road to just above the actual bosque the area is littered with small pieces of glass and ceramic that sort of glint and sparkle in the day light.  Set up above the bosque proper, there are many ways through this area to the acequia road.

The Glass Gardens
Glass Gardens-Winter 2015

Early July 2016
The area is a registered historic sight, but also points out to the other history of the bosque (especially this far south) as a sort of unofficial dump.  Besides bits of glass there is concrete detritus and rebar scattered about.  One time, I spotted a coyote sort of meandering in and out of the trees, and our dog always seems to stick pretty close to us around here as well.

In addition, this seems to be a pretty popular area for illegal camping.  On more than one occasion I've come up on a tent or seen somebody bike by with empty gallon water jugs.  One time, I actually passed two sheriff cars on the acequia and saw them walk into the bosque at dusk with their flashlights out assuming they were looking for the muttering guy that I passed on the trail.  

Many times I get the sense that this section of bosque is a bit more wild than other areas.  Yet the area also boasts a very vibrant Yerba Mansa patch under the canopy of trees.  Small white flowers, they have some medicinal use but to us, they shimmer in the sun and the patch seems to elude any good photos that I try and take.   
Yerba Mansa

Early July 2016

Early July 2016

Early July 2016

Early July 2016

We pass the Yerba Mansa patch, a nice shaded spot next to the river, pass a bunch of downed trees and then through a burned area and over a canal coming in from the east. 
A dead tree in a burned area -Winter 2016

Down from this canal we pass this really lush area that offers a respite from the sun.  

As this over growth breaks, there's more evidence of regular use:  a couple of benches, some social trails including one that goes up to the acequia road.  I've spotted a porcupine roosting a couple of times (I always assume it’s the same one) here.  But not today, the waterfowl are mainly ducks and geese and at this time of the hike, we seem to be the only people willing to brave the sun.  We're hot and just before the bridge we get into the water and finally coax Zoe into really getting in not just drinking and getting her feet wet.  
Winter 2015

Winter 2015
At Bridge (or Avenida Cesar Chavez) we pop out to use the restroom at the NHCC and get some paleta at Pop Fizz.  We've been walking for four hours and it's hot.

I did say it's hot right?


Bridge Boulevard:
From Bridge to Central on the east side, the bosque is very well traveled.  While it represents the closest bosque to our house, we've grown more fond of the west side at this point.  There's not as much traffic and it doesn't feel like it's been entirely manicured.  So after our paleta break we cross the bridge and duck into the bosque again on the west side.  
View from the bridge
While it does have some easy access, the jetty jacks are still standing and mark the river's edge.  It's a narrow bosque with a few amenities and downed trees making a bit of route finding (if you want to stay in the shade) a challenge. There’s a lot more invasive species:  Salt Cedar, Russian Olive, Mulberry, and Tree of Heaven.
Winter 2015-2016

Salt Cedar & Russian Olive
Spring 2016

Winter 2015
Access to Valle de Bosque Park
Late Winter 2016

But we push on.  At this point, Zoe is staying close to us.  I've got some blisters forming and I'm hot. The distance between Mindy and I has increased and Zoe runs up ahead of me, lays down in the shade and waits then does it again when I catch up.  I'm beginning to think this is a very bad idea, but we make it to Central.

Parking area on the west side of the Central Bridge

We're not going to make it as far as originally planned (Montaño) and we'll be skipping the stretch of the bosque on the west side at Central heading north, which is pretty fantastic.   
Spring 2016

Then there's the Atrisco Drain.
Atrisco Drain
Spring 2016

Spring 2016

So it’s back over the bridge to the very well used bosque at the Botanic Gardens.

Central Bridge
Spring 2016
Rio Grande from the Central Bridge looking north

Sandia from the Central Avenue Bridge

Central Avenue:
The trail from Central Avenue to I-40 was controversial.  Depending on who you ask, the biggest mistake the city made in widening it, making it more accessible, and moving it away from coyote dens, the river’s edge, nesting areas was not entirely vetting the trail through concerned parties.  It's a common theme of this mayor's administration.  While I believe he has good intentions, he just seems a little impatient and at the end of the day just does what he was planning on doing.  From a walker’s perspective, it is a nice trail-clearly marked, with easy access to the river in spots, and well used. 

-Spring 2016-

Sculpted/Manicured Accessible Trail just before I-40
-Winter 2015-2016-
And then we’re at I-40 and making a phone call to get picked up.  We’d been on the trail since 9 AM and it’s now just before 4 PM.  We’re hot, but the river is quickly accessible under the interstate, and the parking area is relatively easy to get to.  I’m out of water; my feet hurt, and I’m hot.  Zoe just jump in the river now and though she doesn’t get in over her head, she does wade in so that the river cools down her chest. 
Under the interstate
Under the interstate with the bike bridge
Spring 2016

Parking area at I-40 Bridge
Spring 2016

Albuquerque Riverside Drain
Spring 2016

Beginnings of the I-40 Bridge
Spring 2016

Parking area in Duranes next to the Interstate
Spring 2016

Spider at the trailhead under the interstate
Spring 2016

Spring 2016
Another Poem:
in the Rio Grande gorge, cottonwoods conspired with Russian Olives
pulled as much water out of the river before it merged with the Red.
Those pesky humans dumped chemicals,
mine tailings,
nitrate laden water,
agricultural runoff and top soil in their river.
They stopped it.
The trees conspired to change the flow of the river,
stored it up in new lakes,
had a highway of deer teamsters
carry the water down to the cottonwoods and Russian Olives
in small quantities and bottles
and not let anyone else have it.

in the depths of Elephant Butte, bass conspired with trout.
They tired of Jet Skis, tow boats,
water skiers and tubers,
top water lures and crank bait,
casual swimmers, three day weekend barbeques, 
and drunks.
The fish nibbled toes,
dragged innocent children down to the depths,
stuffed and mounted
them on water made walls.

in the Rio Grande Bosque, cranes conspired with ducks.
They turned on dogs, 
horseback riders, and joggers.
The cranes ignored the grain that BLM rangers left behind,
posted memos and trail signs,
organized field trips,
and erected educational walks for viewing:
bird watchers,
and the elderly.

 in El Paso, Texas and New Mexico water managers conspired to take more of the Rio water away from human farmers, pueblo communities, and the desert. If the courts can mediate a settlement,
Albuquerque can sprawl even more; El Paso can grow even larger; and the natural communities and habitats that depend on the Rio can fend
for themselves.

Deeds are written; titles notarized for water, a naturally occurring chemical compound.

End of Day 1

Duranes Bosque:

This section of trail was the latest "improvement" in the mayor's plan for the Rio.  The trail is sculpted, level, and moves away from the river.  While the area at one time seemed to be a little wilder, it's used a lot more now.  
American Kestrel

A Dog Story

The last thing I want to be is someone who writes or take pictures of their dog.  It's a relationship that is only interesting to a segment of population that owns one and rarely are the stories or photos anything but normal run of the mill dog stories.  But here I am giving you fair warning that this is a story about my dog. 

After sixteen years together, three of them (some six years ago) trying to have kids, my wife and I adopted a six year old Australian Kelpie.  She's a beautiful dog mostly black with dark brown coloring, ears that stand up and swivel like a pair of satellite dishes, and very energetic.  Since she was an adult when she joined our house, we didn't have to house train her, put things away or out of reach, or any of the routine things one has to do with puppies.  But she has her quirks, which I won't go into now. 
Late Fall 2015

Part of the reason we adopted her, frankly, is because I'm not going to exercise unless I have to.  And she wants to exercise, full throated runs, most every day, twice a day.  There's a part of me that believes that she knows she only has one job and that is be annoying enough so that I'll walk her and by walking her I'll get my exercise.  And it worked.  At first, I started having random pains from walking more than usual but after a while the weight started falling off and pants that barely fit now have to be held up by a tightly cinched belt. 

Over time, she warmed up to us, was excited when we came home, and behaved so well we begin taking her for walks off the leash in the mountains or in the bosque.  While I'd been aware of the bosque for years, I rarely spent much time there.  Yet, it was the closest area to our house, had plentiful water (the Rio Grande) and in certain sections you could walk for a couple of miles with minimal interference.  I’ve fallen in love with the area, began snapping pictures with an old digital camera, and installed Photoshop on my PC at work.  In time, I was thinking that maybe this photography gig was really the art form I should've been pursuing the whole time.  Of course, I get no more encouragement for my photos than I get for my writing, which is to say some positive, enthusiastic responses, and some responses that are best described as "Bleh."  Part of that is that, in both art forms, I'm not really doing anything new.  I know that there really is nothing new, but I also know that I'm treading ground that has been walked before, many times, and my photos seem technically solid but lack a certain sort of surprise.

Frankly, this critique, as I write it, is not all that new.  I've never set out to write, now photograph, anything that I don't think my mother, given enough patience or rudimentary explanation could enjoy.  My work passes the mother test, which though Freudian, is really the only test or audience I'm really interested in.  Strange that she's my perceived audience yet I show so little of my work to her?  It's as if I know she'd get it and with that knowledge secured I can go out into the world knowing that I'm creating work with intention.

And I am.  So on most afternoons Zoe and I can be found piling into the truck:  her attached, at first, to her leash and two plastic bags, and me draping the digital camera over my neck.  In the bosque, she'd bound down the trail toward the river, hunt for a place to defecate, and after cleaning it up I'd take her off the leash and we'd make strides into the bosque. Zoe loves it. 

Boasting a variety of habitats, I've stumbled upon porcupines descending from their day time hiding places in tree tops, seen coyotes waddle off into the brush or bend over young mulberries trying to find some food, and seen muscrats burrowing into banks as we walk by.  In most cases, Zoe sticks around and follows our lead, but when it comes to rabbits all bets are off.

Rabbits must be the size of the prey she's bred to kill, cause if she stirs one up, which she often does, she'll rip out after them with no concern of where we are or where we're heading.  She usually lets us know that she's on to one by letting out a high pitched bark.  Clearly this bark is communicating that she is on to something and not distress so we move on in our general direction whistling and calling out her name to let her know where we're at.  Eventually she'll reemerge, tongue wagging and join us with a very big smile on her face. 

When I told my other dog owning friends of the sheer joy she experienced upon chasing a rabbit, they all nodded in agreement and said, "Oh yeah.  They love to chase them.  My dog has never caught one so I don't get too worked up."

Until she does, and Zoe has and brought the dead rabbit to me as if to show me she'd done her job.  I was horrified, and for the next half an hour spent the better part trying to get her to drop it.  She didn't want to, and she understood that I was a bit horrified at her actually catching and killing one but also a bit proud.  I suppose, it’s was like having your son win a fight with a bully.  On one hand you don't want him to resort to violence, but on the other maybe the bully had it coming.   This isn't all that different:  on one hand you don't want her to actually catch the rabbit but get a good chase so she'd tire out and sleep through the night, but on the other she caught a fucking rabbit.  How cool is that?  None of my friends can claim that their dogs have snagged one, and people who are a bit more sensitive to the needs and nurture of wildlife in the bosque were impressed.

So there it is; there's my dog story.  My dog laid around all that weekend, perma-grin on her face as if to say, "Now that's what a dog is supposed to do."

Rio Grande Nature Center:
This area of the bosque basically bumps right into the Rio Grande Nature Center.  In our walks in this area, we've come across more horses and a lot more people.  Though on the other side of the drain, the Nature Center is close to being the centralized hub for the bosque on the east side.  Inside the visitor's center there are displays. a viewing area, and an outdoor amphitheater.  Unfortunately they don't allow dogs and even a couple of the nature trails are off limits for dogs as well. 

So we look at the map and end up walking up the Aldo Leopold Trail, which is dog friendly. We follow a side trail that takes us to the river and can see the Oxbow on the other side.  Though not directly on our route, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this area as one of the true gems in the bosque.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been trying to recreate some of the natural functions and characteristics of the river before it was channelized, diverted, and managed. It's not easy to get to, but well worth it.

Looking west into the Oxbow

Sandia from the Oxbow
Spring 2016

Looking across to the West Side

This memorial is not an obvious area, but is along the Aldo Leopold Trail

Cottonwood seeds covering the ground like snow
In and out of the tree cover, east and west across the flood plain with some easy access to the river,
some ducking under or moving around jetty jacks, the area doesn't really feel like a desert and then,
suddenly, we run across some cholla in full bloom, a big patch of prickly pear, and tumble weeds caught up in downed trees.  When Zoe stops now, it is to pull a random goat head from her paw, which she sometimes lets us do.  

Cholla in bloom.

Buffalo Gourd

Montaño Bridge on the East Side

The Montaño Bridge is the last new bridge to be built over the Rio Grande in Albuquerque in 1996, and only recently (2006) was it converted from a two lane to a four lane bridge (though the bridge was obviously originally built to become four lanes and just needed to be re-striped to make it so). I'm not going to get into the deceptive politics of it, but expanding it to four lanes was probably in the original design.  The view of the river from the bridge includes some observation decks and toward the west side, people have started putting "love locks" on the bridge.  

Love Lock
Once on the west side, there's a nice park, a couple of compelling access points into the bosque including the drain road that goes south to the Oxbow.

While the area around Central may be developed to accomodate a lot of traffic, the west side bosque at Montaño is beautiful and wide.  Though it moved too fast and was too far away, it is also the only place where I saw a coyote on this trip.

The Giving Tree (my name)

The Giving Tree (my name)
Winter 2015-2016

Late Fall 2015

Sandia from the west side bosque
Winter 2015-2016

Another Dog Story:
Just north of Montano and over the newest bridge to cross the Rio Grande is a wide grassy expanse of cottonwood, Russian Olive, Coyote Willow, sage and scrub grass.  A dog walkers paradise and the sandy trails cross the area like highways in a Texas metropolis.  The remnants of the late sixties attempts to tame the river stand guard like misshapen crosses that run in parallel lines from the flood plain to the acequia.  Rusted steel and metal wire they run down these long slopes, confusing signals that mark a time long gone.  The west-side bosque is, simply put, beautiful and you can share the path with business executives tearing up the trail on mountain bikes, yoga moms talking on cell phones, teenagers looking for some hidden crevice to make out, and the occasional homeless just looking for a place to crash among the coyote willow on the river's edge.  The ducks and geese hold court on the sand bars that break the river in to channels and the view erupts at points of the reflective mud brown river, pink of the mountain miles away to the east, and lines of towering cottonwoods. 

Zoe, my dog, liked to tear off down a path of unfamiliar scents in the same general direction that I head, steered down paths by my sharp whistle.    I'd been trained to look at tree tops and branch nooks, looking for a nest or, if I'm lucky, a porcupine.  In the winter I'd realize that I'd seen the same, small one twice in the polluted and trash filled bosque of the south valley.  But in this bosque they eluded me. 

The sun was setting, and the shadows stretched out east as the birds chirped and the cicadas kicked in.  We were headed back and Zoe was worn out, walking with me, tearing down paths but coming back quicker and with much less hassle. 

I spotted it before she did, but not quick enough for her not to investigate.  Thinking it might respond like rabbit, she snuck up then lunged to land a few feet from it-a sort of visual "A-Ha." 

It didn’t move, and she held up.

I erupted in a frantic bit of, "No. Zoe.  Come here." Then remembered she might not be inclined to come my way if I sounded like I was mad at her.  "Zoe," I chirped. 

And she took a few tentative steps my way such that I could reach her in two quick steps and clip the leash on her and drag her back to the path, both of us watching the porcupine.

He didn't seem bothered by the intrusion and slowly moved toward a sloping single trunked cottonwood and begin to climb.  Never letting up, I took my phone out and tapped the thing awake, figuring I'd preserve the moment for posterity (though none of the pictures were very good). 

He was black with grey tipped quills, and in the dying light I was losing sight of him as he sort of melted into the bark  until he was twenty feet up the tree and tucked himself into a big black ball.

Zoe chose then to push against the leash, finally brave enough to get even closer, but I held her back, called her name, knowing that some day, today, I'd write this brief story of the porcupine, that thankfully, got away.

Open Space Visitor Center:

This bosque has a couple of well established trails, some simple signage, and boasts being connected to the Open Space Visitor Center.  The Center is not really connected to the bosque but separated from it by the Corrales Drain.  Being the bosque affiliated with the center, it also has some art (installed as part of the Land-Art Exhibit). 

While it would be nice to stop, we press on.  
Bob Wilson's "The Cube"
Spring 2016

Paseo del Norte:
We'd gotten an earlier start, but the heat of Summer Solstice is beating down.  My blisters from the day before start to act up again and the trail from the Visitor's Center to the Paseo del Norte bridge goes no where near the river.  The only indication that we are getting close is the massive power line that cuts through.  

Paseo, like I-40, is a bridge that doesn't have it's own access to the bosque because you really can't get off Paseo until Coors.  Paseo is designed to move cars, lots and lots of cars and they make the bridge sort of thunder above you when you walk under it.

That said, the easiest access to this area is to go to the Calabacilla Arroyo.  It's a nice parking area with an informational sign.  They've added art to the arroyo, but we don't walk up that way because we are on a mission, so it's drink some water, walk down to the river, cool off, and then find the trail north.

Finally a bridge

According to Google, it is only two miles from Paseo del Norte to Alameda.  I want to believe it, though it doesn't suggest that you walk those two miles in the bosque, which may mean it's a bit longer (of course).  But the end is near.  

Just past Calabacilla Arroyo is the Rio Grande diversion damn for the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.  Yep the area where we get our water.  

From the west side, you can access the area pretty easily.

Diversion Damn

Alameda Bridge:

Pedestrian Bridge
At the end of the second day, we are basically at the boundary of Corrales.  Originally, we thought about pushing on and pereginating there as well, but decide against it.  Largely because my feet hurt, the day is heating up, and Boxing Bear Brewing Company is just up 528.  

Zoe really doesn't like walking along the street.  There's too much traffic and at the first driveway she really starts pushing to get off the road.  We try to coax her to move on, but she doesn't and, finally, I simply just pick her up.

We're both really hot.  And I, for perhaps the first time in a long time, really feel like I've earned a beer.  
Photo Credit Reid Maruyama
Short of a couple of miscues, we set out to hike the bosque from Valle de Oro to at least Alameda. On the way we became more familiar with how the city and the river interact with each other.  From the city giving back much of the water it uses via the treatment plant to the south to the city taking water from the river to the north; from the drains, arroyos, and acequias we've peregrinated along the waterway  This waterway is how people can call this desert home.  We call it home.  

Seeing the bosque as a complete whole is not an easy task.  Too often the bridges seem to parcel sections and the sections all seem to have their own character.  I essentially did the same parcelling by using the bridges as a way of breaking up this narrative (with the exception of the Rio Grande Nature Center and Open Space Visitor's Center).  In reality, the bridges do divide the bosque but also connect one side to the other (at least structurally) and represent the easiest access points and most immediately used areas of the bosque.  From the forgotten and discarded nature of the bosque south of Bridge to the manicured trails and expansive areas around the "official"  visitor centers north of Bridge I can't help but see the bosque as mimicking the economics of Albuquerque itself.  The bosque in the south valley seems decidedly rural and much poorer.  The bosque in the north valley seems middle to upper class while the west side seems almost suburban.  

While we didn't see a lot of wildlife (mostly due to the season and the time of day we walked), I can't help but notice the invasive Russian Olive, Salt Cedar, Trees of Heaven, and Mulberry now and wonder if there is anything I could do to eradicate them.  Their numbers seem pretty overwhelming. Likewise, though they've begun removing some jetty jacks, I'm not sure they could, or should, really get rid of all of them.  
Jetty Jack in north of Bridge, east side.  Early Spring 2016
Bob Wilson's sculpture in the bosque by the Nature Center is broadly a metaphor for what we've done to the bosque since statehood.  Without our installing drains and jetty jacks, paving arroyos, and managing the acequias much of the north and south valley, Old Town and Downtown would be uninhabitable or subject to regular, costly flooding.  Albuquerque surrounded the Rio, which it needs to survive, but then had to tame it.  That story, as told in a book entitled, Reining in the Rio Grande:  People, Land, and Water is a fascinating tale and colors many of my thoughts about this area I call home.

Mindy, Zoe, and I plan to hike it end to end again in September, hopefully around the equinox and possibly heading from the north (Corrales this time) to the south (actually coming out where we are supposed to on the Valle de Oro).  Fall seems to start a bit later every year so we may not notice much difference, but we'll see.  
  June 30, 2016


happy mountain yoga said...

Enjoyed reading this, and seeing the variety of pictures . You truly send out the feeling, vibe, of the Bosque.

Traci said...

I love your writing, Don. I feel like I walked through the Bosque with you.

tree street said...

So grateful you wrote about so many aspects, getting it all down on cyber paper for us!