Monday, October 24, 2011

Valles Caldera Weekend

It's Monday, so I thought I'd get my writing juices flowing by giving a recap of my weekend.

I've been taking a Quaternary Paleoclimate Seminar all semester, and this weekend we had a field trip up to the Valles Caldera. The caldera formed as a result of two eruptions: one at 1.6 million years ago, and another at 1.2 million years ago. The graduate students in my class went on this trip to help out and act as mentors to a freshman class in the "Freshman Learning Community". They have been taking a first year writing class that is split between Earth and Planetary Science and English departments. Peter, the instructor for my class, has been spending the semester teaching them about some of the geology and past climate in areas of New Mexico.

The Valles Caldera is beautiful this time of the year, all the aspens and cottonwoods are changing to a brilliant yellow color. I saw some of the prettiest foliage this weekend on this trip. We checked out some of the areas that had burned severely this summer. The caldera is also just really cool in general. I collected some pumice samples from an outcrop, and we also collected some sediment samples which we later looked at under a microscope. Right after the caldera formed it filled up with water and formed a very large lake that persisted for several thousand years. The sediments preserve evidence for how climate changed, which is why Peter is interested in them. We saw some really cool stuff in the samples we collected, bits of charcoal and also diatoms. I was very excited to look at the microfossils, I hadn't done this kind of work in years. I'm happy to report that my field group collected a sample that had about 5 different diatom species, and we got some good pictures of them for Peter with the microscope camera.

The place we were staying was also really cool. It's a retreat center that used to be where they sent wayward priests for rehabilitation. Now it's used for a variety of purposes. Mary, our host, fed us very well and the accommodations were some of the most comfortable I've experienced for field work. We had a spectacular view of beautiful scenery from the dining area, and we did some star gazing Saturday evening. It was also really nice getting to spend extended time with the other graduate students in my class. They seemed like fun people from the little I see them in seminar. I had a really good time hanging out with them.

I don't have my pictures from the weekend downloaded off my camera yet. Check back later for picture updates in this post.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mom's Visit: Days 7 & 8

 My mom is really into archaeological stuff, so on Friday we headed up north to Bandelier National Monument, and I hadn't been there yet myself. The monument preserves the ruins from ancient Pueblo dwellings that were build into the volcanic rock cliffs. The rocks in this area are made of welded volcanic ash, and over time this rock weathers into a weird Swiss cheese pattern. The ancient Pueblos enlarged these natural holes as part of their homes.

On the drive up. You can see the fire line from the Las Conchas fire near this farm.

Checking out a kiva. This structure would have had a ceiling on it originally.

Ruins from dwellings at the base of the cliff. You can see the "Swiss cheese" texture of the ash on the cliff.

Close up of the cliff rocks, and some cute cacti.

Mom and me in a cliff dwelling.

Over the summer the area was damaged because of flooding, so some trails were closed. The main loop was open, however, and we got to climb up into a few of the ruins.The Las Conchas fire up near Los Alamos resulted in a lot of forested area being destroyed, including part of the monument. With the trees gone, runoff from the few storms we did get resulted in flash flooding that damaged trails and some of the ruins. We also weren't able to drive into the monument ourselves, half of the parking was unavailable and we were bussed in. During the flooding, the monument had to destroy the bridges that went to one of the parking lots, they were trying to avoid log dams from debris collecting on the bridges. Still, I think we saw a lot and it was an excellent trip. It turned out to be a good day, it was a little overcast with partial sun, and it wasn't too hot. I hate nothing more than traipsing around in the heat. It had been a weird week for weather, it was more like the North East than the Southwest.

Saturday was a day to unwind from all the excitement of the past 7 days. We had a special lunch at La Crepe Michel, which is a cute French cafe in Old Town. We had delicious savory crepes for our meal, and then Matt and I got sweet crepes for desert. My mom got an apple tart that also looked amazing.

La Crepe Michel

Cute side alley in Old Town

Ristras and Dream Catchers
Places we ate during Mom's visit:
Maria's New Mexican Restaurant - Santa Fe

The Railyard Second Street Brewery - Santa Fe
2000 Vietnam Restaurant - Albuquerque
The Frontier Restaurant - Albuquerque
Il Vicino - Albuquerque
Sadies II - Albuqueruqe
La Crepe Michel - Allbuquerque

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mom's Visit: Days 5 & 6

Wednesdays are always hectic and busy, I have lab meeting, a seminar, and the PiBBS course. This keeps me at school from 11am-5:30pm. I had Matt and my Mom come in after lab group to have lunch with me after lab group, and many from my lab joined us. We had a big group of us at the Frontier Restaurant, which is kind of a landmark in Albuquerque. It's also a good place to get a quick lunch since it has a ton of seating and they get the food out fast. My mom got to meet my adviser and a couple other people in my lab, which was nice.

Later in the afternoon I decided I should go to my class, because I had a group project due the next week. The class ended up being a complete waste of time, and I would have better spent my afternoon with family. I did, however, get a little bit done in my office so it wasn't a complete waste.

We had to call it an early night on Wednesday, because we were going to be getting up at dawn again to go to the special shapes rodeo at the Fiesta. The special shapes rodeo is when they do an ascension in the morning with just the shape balloons. Unfortunately the winds were really strong and they didn't launch the balloons, but we did get to walk around and see all of them inflated.

Mom and me at the gate. Last year I went through the red entrance.

Meghan and Jason. We got to hang out with these characters at 4:30am.

I think Matt and I look pretty awake for before dawn.

Sunrise over Spider Pig

1) This is why our relationship works 2) We really want a cat 3) This balloon is hilarious

Some shapes... Look! It's an arc and a fish, and a cactus with sunglasses...

... a flying pig, Sugar Bear, and a cute cat balloon with a sketchy cat face on the back...

All the way from New Zealand, that's supposed to be a Kiwi.
After the rodeo, we stopped for coffee and Meghan and I were dropped off for our paleoclimate class. Immediately after class I headed home for more family fun time. We spent the afternoon at the petroglyphs. I always like going to the monument to look at the petroglyphs, it's a nice hike in some of the areas, and it's also a great place to bring visitors. My mom really seemed to enjoy it, despite the wind that day.

No petroglyphs were sat upon during the taking of this picture.

We hiked to the top of this hill, there were petroglyhs scattered around on boulders everywhere.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mom's New Mexico Visit: Days 3 & 4

After a weekend of getting up really early, we took a couple of leisurely days to recover. On Monday we hung around town, and went to Old Town earlier in the day for some shopping. My mom originally had the idea of getting a locally made ring, but nothing really appealed to her when we actually got in the stores. However, she ended up finding a watch with white buffalo stone inlay.

It hadn't occurred to me that Old Town would be crowded. Every time I've been before it's pretty dead. However, since the Balloon Fiesta was drawing people from all over the place, it was kind of a bustling place to be. There was even some entertainment in the town square, with music and dancing.

A Mariachi band in the town center. The guy with the guitarron kept making funny faces and wiggling his big eyebrows.

Later in the afternoon I brought my mom to the knitting club I usually go to on Mondays. We meet at 5:30pm after work at Bailey's on the Beach, a restaurant that is really close to campus, has tasty food, and sangria. My mom mostly went because of the promise of sangria, but I like to think she also wanted to meet my friends and hang out with me. Usually I like their food, but they have a habit of putting spice into everything. Unfortunately, the pasta my mom got was a little too spicy and we stopped on the way home to get her a burger. We had been eating a lot of spicy food lately, and we just needed to give our digestive systems a break.

Tuesday morning I had to suck it up and head in to school to go to class. It was my turn to lead discussion in my paleoclimate class, otherwise I might have skipped this one time. Tuesday also turned out to be a sucky weather day, so we had to take our wholesome activities indoors. We decided to get lunch at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, which was pretty good. I got pasole and an indian taco salad. Indian tacos are kind of like fried dough with taco stuff on top. This time it had carne adovada, which is always a good choice. Lunch was tasty, if not healthy.

It started to actually rain while we were at lunch, but we were already at the cultural center, so we decided to check out the exhibits and go through the museum. They have native dance performances pretty much every day, so we checked that out. Photos were allowed for this particular performance, although the lighting was bad and it was hard to get a good shot of the dancers who were moving fast. I can't remember what the first dance was called, but it was supposed to be the old way of doing the dance. The dancer was covered in eagle feathers. The second dance was the Jingle Dress Dance. The metal cones on the dress are supposed to call to healing spirits. The story that went along with the dance was that a grandfather was instructed to have this dress made for his deathly ill grand daughter. The little girl began to dance, and the spirits heard the jingling from the objects on the dress, and she was healed.

Traditional Dance

Jingle Dress Dance
The next program was done by some young adult Navajos, but since their presentation was more of a religious nature I didn't take any pictures. They demonstrated grinding cornmeal, the basket dance, and a bow and arrow dance. The "performers" looked like they were maybe in high school or college. We learned that the average age of a person within the Navajo nation is about 21, which is really young.

After the performances, we looked at an exhibit on the 19 Pueblos in New Mexico. In addition to the Pueblo, New Mexico also has resident Navajo and Apache Nations. The had a photo exhibit from Laguna Pueblo, and had images from Grab Day, which was associated with a movie documentary about the day and this tribe. It was a special project because many tribes are very private and don't allow photography in their villages. The rest of the museum exhibited the history, crafts, and traditions of the tribes of New Mexico.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mom's Visit to New Mexico: Days 1 & 2

What a fantastic week! Mom got in in the late evening last Friday for her 8-day vacation in New Mexico. The visit was timed with the balloon fiesta; after seeing my pictures from last year, my mom decided immediately that she must make it here for that week, specifically.

Saturday morning we were up and on the road by 5:30am, which by Fiesta weekend standards is late. We were on our way to one of the mass ascensions, where they inflate a launch literally hundreds of hot air balloons.

Balloons being inflated before lift off.

The Darth Vader balloon was back again this year from Belgium.

Two new shape balloons: Spider Pig and a huge butterfly (it's left antenna was having a  little trouble here).

Took this one for my Mom's friend Al who, like this balloon, is from Jordan.

"Stay inflated my friends"

The Bees
Just like last year, I took dozens more photos than will actually end up on this blog. I'll need to do something with them this time around, I certainly have enough for Fiesta themed photo presents for birthday's and holidays.

On Sunday we went to the Taos Wool Festival.
I always get an interesting reaction from people when I say I'm going to a wool festival. First of all, you get to see cute/funny animals. Secondly, the drive is beautiful. Third, there are lots of pretty things to look at and buy. So don't knock the wool festival until you've tried it.

An alpaca that is cute/silly.

Disapproving Llama, disapproves of me taking its picture.

I ended up buying some very nice yarn to make knitted gifts for Matt and my Mom. They picked the yarn, but the surprise will still be there when I finish the projects. I also left with a warm and fuzzy fleece headband and a drop spindle to make my own yarn. It isn't enough that I spend money and time on knitting and crocheting and materials, I now feel the need to make yarn too. Overachiever.

On the drive back from Taos, we stopped at the Rio Grande Gorge for a view over the bridge.

Rio Grande

My Mom, with the wind in her hair.

Taos Wool Festival Gang

Me and Matteo

Second tarantula I've seen in this area of NM. This guy was crawling around the ladies bathroom at the rest stop.