Bisti and Beyond – Part 2

(Part One is here)


A very pleasant drive from El Morro to Grants, Milan, and Prewitt to Bluewater State Park. Again I took only the I-40 frontage road – Old Route 66. The park is just seven miles south of the highway.

I found a shaded, fairly flat site with electricity ($4/night with a park pass). The campsites are well spaced, but many are not very level. There are tables and fire rings, vault toilets, but no water. I heard that the system has been broken for several weeks. And the dump station is under construction. I’ll stay at least two nights. The park is long and narrow – the lake on one side, the dam on the end, and the canyon below the dam on the other side.

We walked around the campground and then called it a night. Tuesday was my first day alone for a while. I needed more like this. No involvement in anyone else’s drama. Just a few campfire stories to entertain.

In the morning, Cassie and I walked the Dam View Trail, past Piñon Campground. Piñon is closed for the season, but has beautiful hillside sites facing the lake. The trail was easy, not much elevation change.

On this trip I haven’t made a ‘nest’ for myself outside. On other trips I’ve set up my recliner and been happily ensconced with book, camera, drink, and journal. Part of it is that the newly remodeled ‘lounge’ is so comfortable. The table isn’t perfect, but I don’t have any ideas how to change it yet.

I’ve been amazed at the number of folks who come in after dark to set up. I don’t know if I could choose a site in the dark. This time I noticed those who came late often left early. I think they are travelers more than campers. They are headed somewhere and this is just a stop for the night.

I brought filtered water from home for drinking, especially for making tea. It lasted about six days. I switched to a Brita filter pitcher with the potable water in the fresh water tank. This is tap water from home that is okay, but doesn’t taste very good. Have to say the Brita filter didn’t improve the taste.

I can do without cell service and most wifi, but sure would have liked weather reports. Decided I’d head to Bisti/De-Na/Zin Wilderness area Wednesday and take my chances before the weather changed too much. Other than that one cold night, it was okay. And the days were just glorious. October is a beautiful month in New Mexico.

Early the next morning I started getting ready. One thing to do before we leave is to give Cassie at least a short walk. About 30 feet from the RV we came across two piles of horse manure. i had been told that there were wild horses here, but I had forgotten. Didn’t see them – just their calling cards. And Cassie did not alert me to anything in the night – a moonless night.

We started for Bisti – along Old 66 to the west and then north on Highway 371 out of Thoreau. Good roads all the way. I refueled at Thoreau because I didn’t know what to expect, but there were several gas stations on the way north. Bisti was about a 90 mile drive – then three miles on a good gravel road to the trailhead. Just a parking lot for a camp area, no facilities – this is a wilderness area. There were several other cars and one RV – New Mexico, Illinois, Colorado, Texas, and South Dakota. Good variety.

We hiked out towards two orange peaks – really orange. It was less than a mile out, but in the heat of the day, it was plenty for me.


I decided to stay the night, but I wasn’t sure I’d do more hiking. It is bleak in a wonderful way, but the good formations are about two miles out and the best are four miles. That’s more than I could do by myself. It would be better to camp out there for a few days. The only way I can see doing that is to hire someone to take the essentials out for me – water and food for two or three days, a tent, sleeping bad, and stove. That’s way too much for me. It remains a dream.

Staying the night was so easy with the RV – a bit of leveling and I was set. So much easier than tent camping. And I could have driven away if I wanted to.

Lots of folks came and went during the day – maybe 20 or so. That surprised me. A couple of guys came in late afternoon. They had huge backpacks – planning to be out there for a couple of days. They even had a beautiful red umbrella. There is no shade here.

It was a quiet evening. Someone came in a couple of hours before sunrise. He got his gear together and headed out. The first stop is the book where you sign in. Then there’s a stile off to the south to get through the barbed wire fence. But he didn’t go that way, he went straight to the fence, couldn’t get through and headed north – all this in the dark. He went out of sight and then about dawn showed up across the road and headed back to the trailhead. This time he found the way through the fence. He headed out for the wilderness. Now I was a bit quick to judge him as clueless, mostly because I like to do a lot of research, especially with Google Earth, to know where the trail is. Then I decided that maybe this is his way to get comfortable in a new area. I hoped so. This landscape eats clueless.

Sunrise at Bisti

I decided I would go back to Bluewater SP. Couldn’t find anything else in this area that was appealing and not too far north (read: cold). Pleasant drive back. I found a campsite on the edge of the canyon. And horses everywhere! About a dozen, mostly sorrels.


We took a short walk to see where the horses were going. Short because the clouds came in with lots of thunder and Cassie was not happy. We headed inside.

Got settled just in time for a few scattered showers. I loved being in the lounge, reading, with rain outside. It was cozy – like being in tree fort when I was a kid.

Cassie was not as comfortable on this stormy evening, so I decided to see what it would be like to sleep ‘downstairs.’ I usually sleep over the cab where the dog cannot go. But the lounge still converts to a bed so I tried that with just my sleeping bag. Very comfortable and Cassie was happy to cuddle.

We stayed two nights, hiked a little, read a lot (finished ‘Salt’ – very good history of my favorite seasoning). I like this park and will definitely come back to spend more time. I’d like to hike in the canyon – didn’t this trip because I just didn’t feel very energetic. On the way out, I saw that the new dump station was open, but I didn’t stop. I was headed home.

Came home after ten days and 768 miles. My longest trip so far and I loved the meandering aspect. I can do longer trips, but would like to work out the wifi issues a little. I like this RV travel!

Bisti and Beyond – Part 1

This trip started with a different plan than previous trips. I usually had one destination and some idea of how long I’d be gone, maybe three to five days. This time I wanted to meander, maybe have four or five possible destinations, and no time limits, no schedule. What would it be like just to wander in my RV?

One of the places on my list of destinations, was Bisti/De-Na-Zin Badlands wilderness area. And when I mentioned it to others, they also wanted to go. We picked the second weekend in October to meet and camp at a friend’s place and then go on to Bisti. So already I scrapped the part about no schedule. But it seemed like a good idea to have folks to go with on the first visit.

Still, I was restless so I left a few days before the others to camp on my own at El Morro National Monument. This is one of my favorite places in New Mexico – beautiful scenery, ancient ruins, and the stunning Inscription Rock. And good hiking trails – an important criteria for Cassie and me.

I took the same campsite (#4) that I had before – it’s large and almost level. I fiddled with the leveling blocks on the front wheels to make it okay for the propane fridge. It took a couple of attempts backing onto the blocks and then not being quite right, changing the blocks and backing onto them again. Finally got it. Then I saw a rattlesnake hurrying away from the front wheel, heading across the road. Where was it when I was messing with those wheels??! I’ll never know, but the snake and I were both happy to have it far away.

The campground filled up and I met several other solo women campers. One was car-camping – she was from New Mexico and worked at a state park. One tent camper was on her way from Alaska to Silver City and then to Seattle for the boat home. And one intrepid Canadian was tent-camping as she bicycled from Montreal to Los Angeles. Good conversation and great stories. The next morning they all continued their separate journeys. I wrote a post about this group here.

I stayed for another night and a wonderfully quiet day. I was reading Timothy Egan’s book about Edward Curtis, the photographer (and so much more), “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher.” Excellent book. I’ve read his book on the Dust Bowl, “The Worst Hard Time” – also very good.

Friday was certain to be a busy day. We started with a walk on top of El Morro. Then moved to our friend’s land. Cassie loved it there – no fences, no leash, and a dog she likes to run with.

It was nice sitting around with close friends. The talk is so different from that with folks I see for only an evening. Both good, both interesting. But different.

Turns out the guys in our group were both having health issues and didn’t want to tackle a place as difficult as Bisti. That’s okay, but I’m going anyway! But I’ll spend three days here first.

 

We walked a lot, found shards and an old coffee pot. The shards were left in place; the coffee pot has a new home near their porch.

 

 

 

I keep a journal open on the table and add notes throughout the days. I noticed that I wrote less about the RV itself the trip. Not so many ‘to-do’ and ‘wants’ lists. The first thing I listed was after about four days. Saturday night was a cold night (18°F) and as I stood just behind the truck seats I could feel cold air flowing. I realized why people put a curtain here – not just for privacy. I’ll look for a mattress pad or cheap quilt to hang.

I enjoyed the ‘lounge’ area – used to be the dinette. It’s very comfortable. It’s nice not to have a long list of improvements needed. Sure is a change from those first insecure trips!

Finished the book on Curtis and started “Salt” by Mark Kuransky. It’s a history of salt and it made me hungry.

I loved early mornings here. I took my cup of tea and went for a short walk with the dogs. The sun was just coming up.

On Monday morning I slowly packed up and left about 9AM to have a fine breakfast at Ancient Way Cafe with Wi-Fi! It had been frustrating not to be online enough to check the weather. I didn’t like being surprised by the cold night. I had 130 emails – most of which could be discarded. But there were a couple that needed a reply. I did a quick check of Instagram – so many photos. And a quicker check of Facebook – no way to keep up. The one thing that did bother me was my blog readings. I so enjoy taking time to read blogs that other folks write and see the photos they post. But I couldn’t catch up this time. I liked being offline for a while – no wifi, no cell service – but it would be nice to check in occasionally. Need to see if there’s a fix for this that I can afford.

After my leisurely breakfast, I moved to Bluewater State Park, about 80 miles away. I’ll leave that for part two!

Solo Camping

I camped for a couple of nights at El Morro National Monument (New Mexico) campground.

This was the view from my campsite.  There are only 9 spaces so it fills up quickly. I shared my space with a woman who was car-camping – that made 10 campers for the night.  Six of us were single women, including a young Canadian who was bicycling from Montreal to Los Angeles. I would guess our ages were from mid-twenties to seventies.  I was impressed that so many women traveled on their own.

What I Did Instead of Camping

Memorial Day and the Fourth of July weekends are prime camping days for a lot of folks. I’m not so keen on being out on the busy holidays. But I did spend a lot of time in my RV. I did some repairs, maintenance, and remodeling. And I bought several things for it. Well, for me. I’ll tell about the purchases in another post – after I can try them out and have a review to write.

When I camp, I write in a journal and make to-do lists of things I want changed on the RV. Well, those lists were building. I finally fixed the curtains around the sleeping area. In one place the velcro was coming off. And the curtain across the front of the cab-over needed to be a little shorter. I never thought much about it until I was getting into bed – then it bugged me. Well, it took less than half an hour to fix both things. I spent more time grumbling about it than it took to fix it. I also had to repair the closure on the reading pillow that I just made, but didn’t design very well. Again, a half-hour fix. And much relief.

Doing some routine maintenance just provides a little peace of mind. I cleaned the power plug to the generator. It wasn’t in bad shape, but I never really looked at it before. And I ‘graphited’ all the door locks. One was beginning to stick – all have been lubricated now. The RV is at the mechanic’s right now getting its annual servicing. And probably getting a new house battery. This one was so difficult to check water levels on, I may have damaged it. And it’s a very important part of the RV.

The dinette area before any changes.

The remodeling got off to a good start when I re-configured the dinette area (that story is here). I finally finished the table. It’s a wooden TV table, reinforced to strengthen it a little, with a larger board on top for decent sized work space.

The top will still fit in the frame to make the area into a bed if I want. The board I used for the top is an heirloom. It’s walnut from a family farm in Nebraska that my uncle made into a stereo cabinet in the 1950s. The cabinet has been repurposed and this is one of the doors. The finish was bad and the wood faded. I sanded and sanded. And sanded. And then refinished it. I added a few blocks underneath so it would fit securely on the small table. I like the flexibility of this arrangement – the table to be moved to the side or easily taken away.

Moved to one side – I think it will be in this position often.

I also replaced all the interior lights with LEDs to save on battery power. It’s an expensive exchange, but when I’m dry camping, battery power can determine how long I stay put.

A couple of upper cabinets had etched mirrors inset – too high to be useful. I covered them with cork, so I have bulletin board space now. I’m just not an etched mirror kind of person. I knew I didn’t want them from the start.

Another thing that had to go was the curtain covering the cab-over part. So it’s been almost two years and I finally got it changed! The previous owner had a short (why?) white ruffled curtain. Again, not my style.

Before.

I replaced it with a longer curtain that matches the window covers inside the cab-over – and covers an unmade bed or perhaps junk I might store up there! It made a big difference.

After.

Another thing checked off the to-do list. It brings such satisfaction to cross off those things. And maybe I’ve learned not to grumble and procrastinate.

All this time I’ve watched folks on social media camping and having a great time. I am SO eager to get out there. Just as soon as the RV is serviced, I’m heading for the hills. Where I hope it will be a little cooler.

RV Dinette Remodel

My Class C RV is compact (read: small) and one of my favorite features is the dinette in the back with lots of windows. I park at a campsite so that those windows face the view. If I’m inside, I eat at the table, of course, but it’s also a desk area. It’s the only sitting area.

The dinette, however, was not very comfortable. The table was big and I felt pinned into the seat. There was no room to stretch out with a good book. In a Facebook group I saw that someone removed their table, made the seating into a U-shape, and added a folding table. It was a light-bulb moment for me. Thank you for the idea.

Table is gone!

I’ve completed part of the project – the seating. The table is still being worked on. I fitted a board to support the new seat cushion, painted it to match the walls.

I found a remnant of upholstery material at Jo-Ann’s. This needed to be a budget-conscious job. So the fabric is sturdy, cheap, and not too bad to look at. The foam to go inside was expensive – that surprised me. Even with a half-off coupon, it was $23.
It all fits together nicely. And Cassie approves.
The table is next. I’m basically adding a larger top to a folding wooden TV table. The top needs to be big enough to be the support board in case I want to make this into a bed.
I made a reading pillow and two throw pillow for my new ‘sofa’ area. This was fabric I had on hand – probably from a yard sale. It doesn’t complement the new upholstered cushion very well, but it won’t show much with the table in place. I’m going for comfortable frugality here!
The temperature here is in the triple digits this week, so I’m staying home with the cooler running. But I’m eager to try out this new arrangement.