Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Day 2 Albuquerque: Paseo de la Mesa and Eating at a Mesa

Looking across the desert grasslands of the West Mesa Open Space at the grey clouds over Sandia Mountains

"Let there be spaces in your togetherness. Let the winds of heaven dance between you. Love one another, but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls."
Kahlil Gibran
Hiking in the grasslands. It's for the birds...or at least that's the inhabitants we encountered.

What is my very favorite thing about vacation with the hubby? Is the hiking? the dining? the quality time together? Sometimes. But today, it was snuggling in bed until 10 AM. Oh yeah. I rarely sleep past 7AM and when I do, it is almost never with the hubby. So today was a great treat, because we got to be lazy, cuddly and warm...all with a bit of snow happening outside! Thankfully, the snow didn't stick!

This hotel has a very nice complementary breakfast, mostly pastries and yogurt, but very high end stuff. Today, they served us quiche. Paul had a scone and I had a handpie, much like the ones my grandmother used to make. Delish! Then we were off to today's adventure: Paseo de la Mesa in the West Mesa Open Space.
It's pretty chilly and bit windy in Albuquerque, so it paid to bundle up a bit for today's hike.
A few years back, we visited Petroglyph National Monument in the northwest section of Albuquerque. This place was really enthralling. It protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America featuring designs and symbols carved into volcanic rock by Native Americans and early Spanish settlers from 400 to 700 years ago.  We highly recommend a visit. There are three trails through the mesa and petroglyphs---one as short as a 1.25 miles with a very high concentration of drawings and the 2.5 mile Rinconada Canyon loop which features about 300 carvings.  But that's not exactly where we went today, although we did stop into the visitor center to get directions to the hike in the West Open Space. We were greeted by one of the few wildlife finds of the day...
The roadrunner...the coyote's after you!
The Petroglyph park is contiguous with an area administered by the City of Albuquerque. The West Open Space is one of Albuquerque's lovely preserved lands that is open for the public and off the pathway of motorized vehicles. This particular area is in the vicinity of five extinct volcanoes that make up this section of the city and parts of the petroglyph park and the open space. The 4,200 acre parcel of land is predominantly north and east of the volcanoes and preserves vast expanses of mesa-top lava flows, small volcanic features, archaeological sites, arroyo courses and wide vistas.
The Mesa Grasslands Preserve consists of over 3,800 acres west of the volcanoes in the Rio Puerco Valley. This area provides valuable habitat for certain plant and wildlife including an open range for herds of pronghorn antelope. We never saw one antelope today, unfortunately. The signs on the way onto the walking path warn of rattlesnakes, but at 41F, no rattlesnakes were wandering about. Nor much of anything else. Paul and I saw one biker on a 9 mile hike across the grasslands and that was it!
A hot air balloon, seen firing the canopy above the grasslands preserve.
We had nice views of the extinct Butte and Bond Volcanic Cones along the way. The path is fully paved and follows the "services" going out to an airport at least 5 miles away. We never saw the airport, but encountered electrical lines, water lines and fiber optic cable placements along the pathway. 
Volcanic rock and snow

A look out at the mountains. Apparently. on a clear day many peaks are visible but we didn't exactly have clear skies. It was overcast and grey all day and made everything look a touch desolate.

One of the numerous birds we saw. I don't know this species but it was joy to see. We also saw quail and many smaller brown and grey birds that hopped amongst the grasses. We saw a raptor as well but it was too far off to identify.

The tumbling tumbleweed was a constant companion.

As you can see from the photo above, the West Mesa Open Space is fully paved for its 4.5 mile length. The grasslands, mesas and volcanic remnants were very bleak in appearance. It's not a hike for dramatic scenery in the wintertime, but I enjoyed walking amongst the barren landscape and watching the birds. There were some uphill sections, but overall, the only real challenge was the 9 miles out and back, which Paul and I are well conditioned for. I truly loved being out there. I would consider re-hiking this in another season of the year on a clear day to get the mountain views. But not in midsummer, as there is ZERO shade. 

After our hike, we thought a slice of pizza was in order so we went to Dion's. This is an Albuquerque chain with half a dozen or so locations. Uniquely, if they sell you one slice, you can still pick the toppings.
Veggies for me. Paul Parris is pepperoni pizza pie man.
We were able to come home, nap and shower and then we were off to Mr. Parris's culinary tour of Albuquerque. Tonight featured restaurant: Zinc. It's on Route 66, so we got our kicks there!
The interior of Zinc. Love the stars!
This place has some New Mexican features but also is a meshed type of cuisine with numerous other influences. We started with cocktails.
A 505-75 for me and the New Mexico/Mexico silver coin--a margarita of sorts--for Paul.
Food porn is about to occur. We split the appetizers and had a full entree each. But they were definitely east Tennessee size so I would not recommend it unless you are really hungry. We could have easily split one and ended up with a hefty "go box."

Duck eggroll with peanut puree

Tortilla chip encrusted stuff pork chop

14 oz ribeye with green chile horseradish for our cowboy Paul

Pumpkin pear upside down cake with creme anglais and milk chocolate ice cream. Yum.
This was a really nice meal...and way too filling. Even with a go box, I ate more than enough.

So overall, a nice relaxing day to sleep in, take a beautiful walk across a grassland and mesa preserve that represents a large part of the New Mexican ecosystem, and a really tasty meal to conclude. Another great day on this anniversary celebration.

"A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person."
Mignon McLaughlin.

Paul's Ponderings:  A great day out....I ended up doing a bit of work, but it did not interfere with our plans.   The weather was a bit more damp feeling than yesterday, but not a hindrance to hiking or being out and about.   Since we ended up doing about nine miles of walking we were eligible for a nice dinner at Zinc, where I'd never been before, despite having come to Albuquerque regularly for over 15 years.   Overall, a great day and tomorrow we head south to Las Cruces and White Sands!

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