We visited the Albuquerque botanical gardens which was a pretty cool place, and huge. Their zoo, aquarium, gardens and aquatic park.

The garden is a 36 acre garden right beside the Rio Grande.

The garden showcases plants of the Southwest and other arid climates, and includes a 10,000 square-foot conservatory, formal gardens and a demonstration garden.

Besides beautiful gardens and water features, there was also a miniature trains and villages display.

The Sasebo Japanese Garden features a 16-foot waterfall that tumbles into a large pond, which is surrounded by winding paths that reveal beautiful views and interesting plant combinations.

It was a beautiful and warm day in the gardens.

There were plenty of turtles sunning themselves on rocks around the pond.

Camel Rock is a locally-famous and distinctive rock formation and landmark, located outside Santa Fe right off the freeway across from the Camel Rock Casino, which is also owned by Tesuque Pueblo.

One of the art galleries we visited in Santa Fe (one of the things Santa Fe is known for) the artist had painted several pictures of animals and told us of this wonderful wildlife rescue preserve located just outside Santa Fe. She goes there to take pictures of the animals to use in her paintings. It sounded like a really cool place so we made it a point to check it out. It was located between Santa Fe and Taos.

The place was called The Wildlife Center - www.wildlifecenter.org

We had an amazing experience here. They had a number of birds of prey here that were either disabled, permanent residents or others that were being rehabilitated after some sort of accident.

We came at the perfect time and we were the only visitors here at the time. They were taking a couple of the birds of prey out of their cages for a little exercise. This was a peregrine falcon that had been injured they were rehabilitating.

The peregrine is renowned for its speed, reaching over 200 mph during its characteristic hunting stoop (high speed dive), making it the fastest member of the animal kingdom.

While its diet consists almost exclusively of medium-sized birds, the peregrine will occasionally hunt small mammals, small reptiles, or even insects.

The peregrine falcon is a well respected falconry bird due to its strong hunting ability, high trainability, versatility, and in recent years availability via captive breeding. It is effective on most game bird species from small to large.

This is one of the permanent residences, a redtail hawk. This bird lost one of its eyes, believed to have been shot at by a local hunter.

Santa Fe was a super walking friendly city with a plethra of museums, art galleries and southwestern fare.

We wandered down to check out the local farmers market.

An example of the local fare.

Even a local REI.

This is a model of the staircase in the Loretto Chapel.

And the actual staircase. The staircase of the Loretto Chapel has been the subject of legend and rumor, and the circumstances surrounding its construction and its builder are considered miraculous by the Sisters of Loretto and many visitors.

Two mysteries surround the spiral staircase in the Loretto Chapel: the identity of its builder and the physics of its construction.

When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem, but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel.

Legend says that to find a solution to the seating problem, the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself, having come in answer to the sisters' prayers.

The stairway's carpenter, whoever he was, built a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today.

The staircase has two 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. Also, it is said that the staircase was built without nails—only wooden pegs. Questions also surround the number of stair risers relative to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway's construction.

This is Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, located 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe. The site was established as a U.S. National Monument by President Bill Clinton in January 2001 shortly before leaving office. Kasha-Katuwe means "white cliffs" in the Pueblo language Keresan.

I saw pictures of the place in some travel books and thought it was defintely worth checking out, and I'm glad we did.

The area owes its remarkable geology to layers of volcanic rock and ash deposited by pyroclastic flow from a volcanic explosion within the Jemez Volcanic Field that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago.

Over time, weathering and erosion of these layers has created canyons and tent rocks.

The tent rocks themselves are cones of soft pumice and tuff beneath harder caprocks, and vary in height from a few feet to 90 feet.

It was a great day for a hike.