Friday Update w/ Mountain Bluebird

mountain bluebird

Mountain bluebird, first week of December, 2010

Sometimes when I don’t have a fresh photo to post with a story, I’ll check the archives for something nifty on the same date a few years back. This one is five years old almost exactly, off by just three days! Yes, we have western and mountain bluebirds all year round in northern New Mexico (robins, too), but in the warmer months, you’ll mostly find them high up in the mountains. That this is totally opposite from what one finds in the East should come as no surprise.

It has been a very different fall this year. We’ve been taking weekly roundtrips to Alamosa, Colorado, ninety miles each way, most of that on nearly empty two-lane roads across the kind of landscape where you wouldn’t be surprised to see a flying saucer. At least I wouldn’t. Almost every time, the weather’s been spectacular, although we’ve been driving back at night since switching to Mountain Standard Time. In that respect, we’ve been uncommonly lucky and only had to bail out once because of snow. Each trip is an adventure. This last time I had to come to a stop in the middle of US 285 at San Antonio Mountain to wait for a herd of several dozen pronghorns (“antelope”) to finish jumping over fences and move on out into the vastness. Such beautiful animals, especially so close in the bright midday sun.

This is quite an undertaking on a weekly basis. The car has to be in perfect shape. I’m pretty good at that and also keep it clean and handsome. I enjoy the driving and the concentration, too. The scenery is remarkable: the impossibly deep gorge, the scary snow that caps the mountain ranges, the stupefying vistas with almost no one else around. It’s so intense and lazy dangerous. By that I mean it isn’t hard to get there, but that doesn’t mean it’s normal, and you’d better pay attention! I thought about that the other night, hurtling through the inky blackness some forty miles from nowhere. It was fourteen degrees outside. You want everything to keep on humming, all the little dials happy, heater working, tires good, at least until you see the lights of Taos in the valley far away, and hopefully beyond.

I don’t know why I write about such things. I’ve said it all before. It may have something to do with being present—that would be notable for me. After all, what could be more important than feeling good right now? This is a huge responsibility. I tried it recently and it only hurt a little bit. God bless and carry on.

  • Rita December 4, 2015, 9:51 PM

    I, for one, am glad you keep on writing about these things. You just made me think of being in a submarine. I feel that vulnerable driving at night in extreme weather. I have never been submerged, but I imagine the feeling of checking all the systems and being on alert must be similar.

    And I am always thrilled to see your birds. So blue! So beautiful.

    • JHF December 4, 2015, 10:46 PM

      The hardest thing at night is probably just staying on the road. For most of this route, there isn’t any sort of shoulder, just a ragged edge of asphalt with the white stripe faded away, and no reflectors. Twice this fall we had to drive back after dark in the rain as well. (Blink-blink, squint-squint.) Always a thrill, that.

  • Marti Fenton December 4, 2015, 10:06 PM

    I’m surprised you haven’t encountered a herd of Elk yet. Pronghorns! How fortunate. They are usually somewhere in the distance when I see them. I love the strange isolated silence of that stretch. The potential danger adds some excitement to it.

    • JHF December 4, 2015, 10:53 PM

      These guys were right there, less than 30 feet away. There were still more coming, stragglers and youngsters, but I moved on through a gap and travelled on. Yes, that is an awesome stretch of highway, and you’d expect to see some elk, what with all the “Elk Crossing” signs. If anything did happen out there, you’d be on your own for a while, especially at night! God knows how long it would take AAA to show up, assuming the phone works in the first place. Hours, maybe. Could get interesting.

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