We started by parking at the Visitor Center. Unfortunately, they were not open on Sundays. No sooner did we begin our ride than this little fellow started following us. I guess he doesn't get to see very many bike riders. Actually, we figured this hawk thought we would stir up some prey for him, and he didn't want to miss the action.
The first stop on the loop was the Fred Quintana Overlook. This friendly local was kind enough to point out the information plaques which surrounded a wildlife viewing platform.
We used the telescope provided to get a close up look at Crane Lake. The surface was completely covered in ducks and Canada geese. We looked carefully, but we were not able to spot any of the Sandhill Cranes that often fly by here in the fall.
The wildlife refuge is located between the plains and the mountains. The two ecosystems transition here. From our point of view, it looks like the plains go on forever.
At the far end of the wildlife refuge sits McAllister Lake. According to the Fish and Game website, this lake is open for boating and fishing. However, as we biked around, it looks like the lake has not been used for recreation for over 20 years. All the gates are locked and the restrooms are in disrepair. It seems pretty obvious that there is not enough water in the lake for boating.
At the halfway point, the paved road gave way to gravel.
Just past McAllister Lake, we left our bikes at the trailhead and began to walk the Gallinas Nature Trail.
In about a half mile, we could see that the prairie we were walking across was leading us to a canyon. On the far side, we could see the remains of a stone building.
As we approached the rim, the world below us opened up.
This little guy was sunning himself.
The prairie grass gave way to a very rocky surface. The trail was lined with rocks creating a walkway to another old stone house on our side of the canyon. According to the trail guide, these stone homes were built around 1920.
The pine roof beams have since weathered away, but the window sill is still in place. We decided to have our picnic lunch in the shade of a nearby tree, trying to imagine what life in this little stone house would be like.
We realized along our walk, that the trail guide was written from a different trailhead. If we continued to follow the trail further down into the canyon, we would have a much longer walk. We decided to use this point as our turnaround point because the rock formations were so interesting:
It was a quick ride back to the Visitor Center. Tomorrow, we move to Albuequerque to get ready for the Balloon Festival!