A sculpture from the Border Art Residency Border Art Residency sculpture

It's difficult to see the precise point at which the Rio Grande stops being the border between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuaha, Mexico and starts being the border between Texas and New Mexico, which is only a mile or so before the river is wholly within New Mexico, which in turn is just a little south of the place where the Rio Grande is wholly within Texas, still within the city limits of El Paso. A little further upstream, the river passes from Anthony, Texas, to Anthony, New Mexico and geography settles down to a more comprehensible pattern: the Rio Grande marks the route of Coronado's explorations in 1540-42, and runs roughly A dissected sedan at Border Art Residency Border Art Residency dissected car north and south through the heart of New Mexico.

We tried to follow the Rio Grande north to Albuquerque and had fairly good success. We avoided freeways whenever possible; the local roads were truly scenic. Every square foot of the land along the river is worked hard: cattle and horses graze in small pastures or large ranges, cotton fields are about ready to be planted, and acre upon acre is devoted to the chili peppers which are New Mexico's claim to fame.

The fields are frequently fed by acequias, New Mexico project for roadside art New Mexico's roadside art irrigation ditches whose technology dates back several hundred years. We were astonished by the number of pecan trees; later we learned that the Stahmann family, whose enormous pecan orchard straddles Route 28, is the largest pecan producer in the world.

In La Union, a tiny crossroads town, we noticed a number of sculptures. The Border Art Residency is sponsored by some El Paso civic organizations, offering a residency program of several months to professional artists in the El Paso area. We were entertained by some of the projects.

We passed through the rugged beauty of New Mexico hills and plains, where there were few houses and no towns. Snow Sandhill cranes at El Bosque del Apache, near Socorro, New Mexico Sandhill cranes from the most recent storm was just melting, making beautiful clear colors. At one rest stop, we found another kind of public art: the state has commissioned large works by New Mexico artists to be placed along some of the scenic byways.

We couldn't resist the temptation to re-visit El Bosque del Apache, one of the best birding places we've found. (We admit we prefer watching larger birds, as they're generally easier for our old eyes to spot and identify!) We drove the double loop auto tour, finding the ponds and lakes and canals filled with ducks of many kinds, especially pintails and coots. A cloud of snow geese Snow geese landing in El Bosque We spotted a golden eagle and later a bald eagle, not to mention many hawks. We had great views of the sandhill cranes who winter here, congregating on fields especially planted by the Reserve with the grains they enjoy.

Just as we were nearing the end of our drive, we noticed a white cloud near a field. Soon it became apparent that the snow geese had arrived. They floated down in bunches too large to count, the sounds of their wings and calls clearly heard from our viewpoint. We watched several flocks come in for a landing and they were still arriving as we reluctantly left.