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January 13, 2015
by David Ryan
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Wandering into a Surprise in Albuquerque

Last week the dogs and I drove a little over three miles to the other side of the Rio Grande to check out an acequia ditch in the “Pat Hurley” neighborhood of Albuquerque. We found a place to park near the ditch and started walking. Five minutes into our walk, it became very obvious to us that walking along this ditch was not going to work. The ditch path was full of goat heads.

We had hoped to wander along this ditch.

We had hoped to wander along this ditch.

If you are not familiar with goat heads, they are a seed from a spreading ground vine and are about the size of dried pea. The problem is that they have a vicious thorn. They are the only thing in the entire world that can stop a dog from walking.

I spent so much time pulling goat heads out of the dogs’ paws that it took us ten minutes to walk less than two hundred feet.

We bailed out of the ditch trail as soon as we could. Ironically, we found a small stairway leading to a nearby street where we bailed out. At the time, I thought that it was probably the best that Albuquerque could offer us in the form of a public stairway.

This small stairway and footbridge allowed us to escape the goat heads on the ditch path.

This small stairway and footbridge allowed us to escape the goat heads on the ditch path.

We continued walking along a series of residential streets at the base of an escarpment on the west side of the Rio Grande. I kept thinking that if Albuquerque were an older city, this would be a perfect place to find a public stairway.

When we reached Pat Hurley Park at the base of the escarpment, I had to rub my eyes. I thought that I had spotted some stairs. And when I looked again, there were stairs!

I thought I was seeing things when I spotted these flights of stairs scattered on the hillside.

I thought I was seeing things when I spotted these flights of stairs scattered on the hillside.

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After the stream leaves the wetlands it flows to the Willamette River.

December 27, 2014
by David Ryan
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A Wandering Surprise in Portland

Earlier in the month I flew out to Portland, Oregon to visit my daughter’s family. If you have followed this blog or have read The Gentle Art of Wandering, you know that Portland is a great place to wander. In fact, the book’s cover photo was taken on Portland’s 4T Trail.

While in Portland, my daughter, grandson, and I happened to walk the 4T Trail again. And again the combination of trail, tram, trolley, and train was a great way to spend the better part of the day. We even topped off the hike by having lunch at one of Portland’s many ubiquitous food carts. As an added bonus, our trip was delayed a bit by a protest march streaming through downtown Portland.

You can find a food cart for everything cuisine imaginable. It's like going through a cafeteria with several choices except that you're outside. You can find them all over Portland.

You can find a food cart for everything cuisine imaginable. It’s like going through a cafeteria with several choices except that you’re outside. You can find food carts all over Portland.

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Here's another look at the hoodoo later in the day. If you look closely you can see a quarter moon off to the right. The hoodoo almost looks like a bird getting ready to eat the moon.

December 12, 2014
by David Ryan
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Wandering in the Low Angle Light of Late November

Last month while driving from New Mexico to Tennessee, I was blown away by how wonderful everything looked. Even the Great Plains of eastern New Mexico and western Oklahoma looked fantastic. It finally dawned upon me that late fall’s low angle light was responsible for everything looking so great.

When it’s at a low angle, the sun lights up everything from the side and intensifies all the colors. Everything glows when the light is right. And when you add in the contrast of a brilliant glow on one side and a long shadow on the other, it is possible to see even the smallest details and textures. It may be the best time of the year to get out and wander.

You may remember the connection between Halloween and Groundhog Day that was mentioned in the recent blog post, Wandering Through the Bosque in Autumn. The same connection also applies to light. By the beginning of November the sun is low enough on the horizon to light up everything from the side. And sometime in February the details and contrast start to wash away as the sun travels higher on the horizon.

To check on this idea, the dogs and I went out with my friend, Bob Julyan, on the day after Thanksgiving to wander around the badlands the Ojito Wilderness. The Ojito is on public land and is an officially designated wildeness area about an hour northwest of Albuquerque. We thought it would be a perfect place to see how the light would play upon the details of the badlands.

Here is some of what saw in the area of the Hoodoo Trail.

As you can see, we picked a perfect day.

As you can see, we picked a perfect day.

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