Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Magical Dawn

Dawn came with great clarity and magical purpose this morning. The bright summer sun topped the hills to the east across the Rio Grande, poured light on the river and trees and sleeping campers below, and  chased away the dark sheep clouds that had wondered in during the night. Within minutes all was light.

Dawn came with magical purpose, chasing away the black sheep clouds.
It is a magical semi-desert kingdom.

Vegetation along the river consists mostly of Cottonwoods and Salt Cedars. Salt Cedars are squat, gnarly trees originally from eastern Europe and long held here in low esteem because of their prodigious thirst, drinking what water there is and crowding out other trees. But now some are having second thoughts and questioning whether their reputation as water drunks is merited.

These trees, though, are a delight to the senses. Their tough, twisted trunks and branches, and gnarly bark and delicate foliage give them a saintly, rugged air -- Zen masters in arboral guise. Their squat lowness  to the ground makes them accessible to climbing and to just walking up to one and saying 'hello.'

The Salt Cedar's low, squat posture makes them accessible.
The Rio Grande has its source in the mountains of south Colorado and flows through New Mexico via Taos, Albuquerque and Las Cruces just above El Paso. In Texas it demarcates the border between that state and three Mexican states before finishing its 1800-mile journey in the Gulf of Mexico.

Here, where I am camping, it is held in check to feed two large lakes -- Elephant Butte 20 miles to the north, and Caballo Lake, created in the 1930s when a lake 96-foot hig dam was built during the Depression, where I am.

But there is still plenty of water. During most of the year water leaves the lake by dam spillway. I can hear it cascading in the distance.  The river here is narrow and swift. It flows about 15 miles an hour. To swim in it would be an exercise of winding up a mile down stream in short order. Yet the waters are cool and refreshing, and in the heat of the day I do wade in and sit among the heavy bottom stones that anchor the river bed and let the cool water wash over me.

The Rio Grande south of Caballo Lake Dam. In the distance the spillway.



  1. Beautiful photos. I'm a night-owl myself, by nature and by inclination, but whenever I can bring myself to change my rhythms and get up with the dawn I always consider myself adequately rewarded. Sunsets get all the press, but there is something so beautiful and peaceful and quiet about a dawn, being there to savor the world as it wakes up and rubs its eyes.

  2. Love the photos today. Sunrise is especially pretty.

  3. John, I'm so glad you're blogging again. This area is so beautiful in the early morning. I start most days on the Rio Grande, doing a little sketching, but this morning I walked a desert botanical trail at Elephant Butte. Take care, Sue