Land of Enchantment

The New Mexico board of tourism calls their state the “Land of Enchantment” and they are right.  As you drive across the middle of the state, you encounter a wide variety of beautiful ecosystems, lots of cute towns and great vistas.  I drove along US Highways 70 and 60 and avoided the Interstate. Below are some pictures and comments.

Above and below are examples of the changing biomes  that sometimes sit within a few minutes drive of each other.  Above are ponderosa pine.  The open park-like terrains is naturally kept that way by frequent small fires. The ponderosa pines are fire-dependent.  The young trees have black bark; as they get older -at around 100 years – the bark turns reddish.  Ponderosa pines have a distinctive smell and you could tell you were near them with your eyes closed. I stopped at the roadside where I took the picture to experience that. Below is a mixed juniper and pinyon pine landscape.  It is a bit drier than the ponderosa places.  Pinyon pines produce “pine nut” consumed by local people and wildlife.

Below – as you get into drier places, the trees disappear and you get various types of grassland.  I am less familiar with the specifics of those biomes. 

Below is almost entirely grass. The modern things you see are the “very large array,” a series of radio telescopes used to explore the far reaches of the cosmos, from the far reaches of New Mexico.  I guess that the elevation and clear air make that easier.

Below are lava bed. According to what I read, the lava oozed out around 800 years ago.  Some plants have since colonized.  It must have been nearly impassible on foot or in a wagon when people first found them.