Good to be home

Joe Dodge Lodge and the Pinham Notch Visitor Center

November 26, 2007

It’s good to be home! Coming home always makes me realize how much I truly love Northern New Hampshire. I was away attending the National Interpreters Workshop in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was my first NIW and I found it to be energizing. Tim Merriman the Executive Director Of the National Association of Interpretation opened the conference; followed by Author Richard Louv both speakers were truly inspiring. Louv, the keynote speaker, and author of Last Child in the Woods Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, spoke for about one hour and I could have listened to him all day. His words made so much sense to me and filled me with so many ideas to bring back to the AMC, our family camps and naturalist programs. I highly recommend his book!

After the conference I traveled to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge to see the migration of snow geese and Sandhill Cranes, secretly hoping to catch a glimpse of a Whooping Crane. The Refuge is 57,191 acres located along the Rio Grande near Socorro, New Mexico. The Refuge is located at the northern edge of the Chihuahua desert, and straddles the Rio Grande, approximately 20 miles south of Socorro, New Mexico. The heart of the Refuge is about 12,900 acres of moist bottomlands--3,800 acres are active floodplain of the Rio Grande and 9,100 acres are areas where water is diverted to create extensive wetlands, farmlands, and riparian forests. As the snow geese approached the water their sheer numbers filled the sky, each goose amazingly avoiding the others as they each took their spot in the water, honking the whole time. 50,000 snow geese were in the refuge that morning; I have never seen anything like it. And then the sandhill cranes arrived. The cranes were in recently mowed fields looking for seed. The cranes call repeatedly as they fly in V formation, garooo-a-a-a. These huge birds fly in so gracefully, landing with their 6’-7’ foot wing span spread wide for an easy landing.

We then headed north to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, about 55 miles northeast of Albuquerque- a highlight of the trip. The cone-shaped tent rock formations are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. Tremendous explosions from the Jemez volcanic field spewed pyroclasts (rock fragments), while searing hot gases blasted down slopes in an incandescent avalanche called a “pyroclastic flow.” Precariously perched on many of the tapering hoodoos are boulder caps that protect the softer pumice and tuff below. Some tents have lost their hard, resistant caprocks and are disintegrating. While fairly uniform in shape, the tent rock formations vary in height from a few feet to 90 feet. In 2001 President Clinton proclaimed Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks a National Monument to be protected.

Our last stop was to Bandelier National Monument The ancestors of modern Pueblo people built thriving communities about 600 years ago. Several thousand ancestral Pueblo dwellings are found among the pink mesas and sheer-walled canyons. We hiked into Frijoles Canyon and Ceremonial Cave. Ceremonial Cave, about 2 miles from the Visitor Center, is actually a large hollow in the upper cliffs in which the Anasazi built an underground kiva (ceremonial meeting room). The view from the platform is quite impressive. To reach the 'cave' requires ascent of 4 steep ladders, totaling 140 feet – an exciting climb. (I will admit I paused at the second ladder for a second.)

Northern New Mexico is so incredibly different from Northern New Hampshire. As a naturalist it was exciting to see different birds, landscapes and plants- I was constantly asking “what is that, why is that, how did that happen?” I feel my curiosities have been renewed and I was anxious to get back home to bring my excitement, inspiration and renewed sense of rejuvenation to the AMC.