Hiking and birdwatching at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, followed by (what else?) a green chile cheeseburger at the Owl bar & cafe – San Antonio, NM

The weather finally warmed up – at one point it was 67 but more often in the 50s – which made a 2.5 mile hike in gorgeous Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge nearly perfect. We had the Canyon trail to ourself – being here off season has its perks – walking on a deep dirt path through a valley and into a deep canyon and then, the one tricky bit, zigzagging up the canyon on a narrow path to walk along a ridge with a spectacular view of the vast valley, with blueish mountains in the distance, then zigzagging back down. The landscape reminded us at times of the hikes we love in Tucson’s Catalina State Park, with desert vegetation, mountains, dirt trail (but no Gumby-looking saguaro cacti here).

We drove the north loop of the 14-mile scenic drive, stopping at a wide expanse of water full of migratory birds, a hotspot also for migratory birdwatchers. We watched as egrets and ducks dawdled in the water and stunning snow geese, white with black-tipped wings, took flight and soared over the marsh’s orange and red tall grasses, set against a blue sky.

In tiny San Antonio, we had our pick of two bars famous for green chile burgers, both with outdoor dining, which we needed with our dog in tow and to a lesser extent with Covid still in the air. We went with the Owl Bar and café, a no nonsense tan adobe building outside, a fantastic old-style bar inside with red leather booths, a long bar decorated with memorabilia and knickknacks, dollar bills donated by patrons (eventually going to charity) tacked up on the walls with handwritten notes in the booths. The burger was fantastic, as were the crispy fries and onion rings.

Odd fun fact: this dusty one (flashing) stoplight town with a handful of worn homes on dirt streets is the home of Conrad Hilton (grandfather of Paris) who in 1919 went on to found the Hilton Hotel chain (and marry Zsa zsa Gabor). Word has it as a young lad, Conrad would walk, rain or shine, from his dad’s mercantile shop (which burned down but its bar was spared and is now part of the Owl Bar) to the tiny train depot and carry passengers luggage to their hotel rooms.

Green Chile cheeseburgers with a view
Owl Bar and Cafe

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