Bosque Del Apache and T or C : Great wildlife, good food, hot springs and a spa

Have you ever wanted to go somewhere on vacation and spend all day taking wildlife photographs but weren’t exactly into roughing it?  Maybe your spouse isn’t all that excited to spend the day watching you stare at a bird, waiting to take that perfect photo.  If that sounds familiar, do I have the trip for you.

On my 58th birthday, my wife asked where I would like to go for a few days and celebrate.  Expecting me to say Vegas or Dallas, I think she was a little taken back when I said Bosque del Apache.  Established in 1939 and managed today by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of 57,331 acres located along the Rio Grande at the northern edge of the Chihuahuan desert. As a Wildlife Photographer, I would have access to a core area of nearly 13,000 acres for viewing and photographing birds and other wildlife.  There are large holding ponds surrounded by fields of corn stubble.  The Rio Grande river runs along the eastern edge of the refuge.

The rest of the Refuge is made up of arid foothills and mesas, which rise to the Chupadera Mountains on the west and the San Pascual Mountains on the east. Most of these surrounding desert lands also are preserved as wilderness areas. This beautiful setting provides habitat and food for as many as 14,000 Sandhill Cranes during the winter months. Cranes begin arriving in November and stay on the Refuge as late as the end of February.

The Refuge is also home to over 32,000 Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese, as well as dozens of Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Avocets, the occasional Pelican, and many other birds.

Coyotes, Mule Deer, and Mountain Lions also are found on the Refuge. The area is a wildlife photographer’s paradise.

I think the majority of people who travel to visit Bosque del Apache tend to fly into Albuquerque, drive to Socorro, and stay at the Holiday Inn or Motel 6. If you’re willing to drive just a little farther south, you’re in for a real treat.  Just 56 miles south of the Bosque on I-25 is Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.  Now I know what you’re thinking, ” Why would I ever possibly want to stay in Truth or Consequences”?  To tell you the truth I thought the same thing until I went there.

As we exited the highway into Truth or Consequences my wife said to me,  I’m feeling a little Hotel California, “This could be heaven, or this could be hell”.  As we would soon discover we were in for a little bit of heaven.  Truth or Consequences is a city in  Sierra County, New Mexico.  In 2012, the population was 6,411. It is commonly known as T or C. It’s a clean, inviting, progressive little town with very friendly people.  We stayed at the Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa.

The Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa provide a relaxing, southwestern vacation destination with ultra-comfortable bedding and elegant accommodations. The Spa offers visitors the finest holistic spa treatments designed to melt away stress and tension, while the private indoor and outdoor hot springs honor the legendary healing traditions first established by the region’s Native Americans. We found the hotel staff to be friendly, accommodating, and attentive to our needs.  The free hot soaks that come with the room are just what the doctor ordered after a long day of lugging around a heavy super-telephoto lens. The healing hot spring waters, which rise at temperatures reaching up to 107° F, provide pure, untreated geothermal water, rich in beneficial minerals.   The lodge offers holistic spa treatments that include centering bodywork, muscle-soothing massage, skin conditioning wraps, and polishes, as well as custom facials, all enhanced by the area’s hot spring waters.  My wife said her massage and spa treatment were some of the best she has ever had,  We thoroughly enjoyed our stay.

The variety and quality of food in Truth or Consequences is also worth the trip. The Restaurant at Sierra Grande offers seasonal, contemporary American dishes with southwestern fare and global influence.  I can say the Bison tenderloin paired with local New Mexico wine was delightful.

Down the road from the Sierra Grande in the center of town is the Pacific Grill.  The restaurant offers fresh seafood and Asian options in a clean environment with good service.  The options we chose were flavorful and well prepared and at a reasonable price.  I would definitely eat at the Pacific Grill again when we return to T or C.

Our final dinner outing in T or C was at the Los Arcos Steak house.  The steaks are aged and trimmed by the restaurant and the staff bakes fresh bread daily.  Australian lobster tails and Alaskan king crab are offered and served in combinations with the steak.  The sirloin and lobster tail special was our choice on the night we visited, and it did not disappoint.  I can say it may have been one of the best steaks I have ever had.

If you live in the southwest and are looking for a good adventure, or if you plan to visit Bosque del Apache and get some great wildlife photos, then consider  T or C as your place to sojourn.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better place to photograph wildlife and relax for a few days.  If you choose to go, then the Bosque, great wildlife, good food, hot springs, and a great spa awaits you.

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