Sandia Crest

November 20, 2012

It was a beautiful sunny day today. We had the free hotel breakfast and headed right out on the highway. Our destination was Sandia Crest.

Sandia Crest view

Sandia Crest view

Sandia Crest is the mountain which stands high above the city of Albuquerque. On one side there is a tramway to the top, and on the other side a Forest Service road to the top. We chose the road, which zigzagged up from Highway 14 (the Turquoise Trail) through the forest to the summit, where there was a cluster of communication towers and the Sandia Crest House.

Kiwanis Cabin

Kiwanis Cabin

Although we were above 10,000 feet, the sun made it feel warm. We checked out the map and found that the top of the tramway was only about a mile and a half along the crest, so we decided to walk there. The trail was just about level, so it was not difficult. There was a bit of snow on the ground in shady areas, maybe from last week’s cold weather. There were a lot of chickadees calling and woodpeckers hammering. When we got to the top of the tramway, we found that it wasn’t running and the restaurant (“High Finance”) was closed. (We didn’t plan to spend $10 each on lunch entrees anyway.) The views were amazing, and it seemed like we could see half of the state from the crest.

American Three-toed Woodpecker

American Three-toed Woodpecker

By the time we got back to the Sandia Crest House it was nearly 2 pm, so we sat on one of the benches outside and ate our lunch. The place is well-known for putting out seed in a feeder to attract Rosy-Finches. There are three species of Rosy-Finch, which live only in the highest mountains, so they are hard to find. But all three species winter on top of Sandia Crest, so it’s a good place to come to find them.

Sandia Crest tramway

Sandia Crest tramway

We went in and bought tea and nachos, then went to sit on the deck by the feeder. Apparently the Rosy-Finches were in the area, but they weren’t coming to the feeder very much. The fir trees seemed to have a pretty good crop of cones, so maybe that was why. But eventually a single Rosy-Finch showed up at the feeder. Which species? Well, that was hard to say, even after comparing photographs of it with the pictures in the field guide. Eventually after some research we decided it was a female Brown-capped Rosy-Finch.

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch

It was 3:30 pm now and time to head down. Back in Albuquerque we returned the rental car, took their shuttle to the airport terminal, and then walked back to the hotel. For dinner we walked down the road to Applebee’s, which was at least 200% better than last night’s place for the same price. Tomorrow we would be heading home, and since our flight left Albuquerque at 6 am, we packed up as much as possible and tried to get to bed early.

November 19: White Sands

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