Valley of Fires RV Trip


The interpretive trail with one of the sources of lava in the distance.

I spent 3 nights in January at Valley of Fires National Recreation Area near Carrizozo, New Mexico.   The campgrounds are surrounded by fields of lava.  I now make a distinction between places to hang out for a while and places to just visit, see the sights, and move on.   This is the latter – not a place I want to stay for a long time.  But definitely worth visiting.

The RV sites are on a hill above the lava – water, electricity, and nearby – the finest restrooms ever!  Don’t miss those.  And views of sunrise, sunset, and lots of lava.
vof-3The campground for tents and cars is lower, against a wall of lava.  Very cozy, not so windy, but without the distant view.

Sunrise over Carrizozo.

Sunrise over Carrizozo.

The accessible interpretive trail is about one mile long.  Visitors are welcome to go off trail, but that is some rough hiking.  Cassie and I walked it several times.  The light is so different in the morning from the afternoon.

Cassie had to be on the leash.  The lava could be very sharp on dog feet.
It amazes me that someone put a fence through this land.
They conveniently provide a pipe-scope to identify the insignificant hill that produced a lot of the lava.
This juniper is over 400 years old.
I liked the camp site I had.  I sat out occasionally to read and just watch the world go by.  There was little wildlife to see – I realized how much I enjoy seeing animals.  Here we saw a ground squirrel (in the lava field) and a cottontail in the camp.  Lots of birds – mostly quick, small, and unidentified.
Beautiful sunsets every night.
So this isn’t a hang-out place, or a retreat spot, but I will stop here every time I go by – in the RV or in the car.  And I’ll walk that trail every time.

El Morro RV Trip – Part 2

[The first part of this trip to El Malpais is here.]

morro-2My goal for the second part of this trip was El Morro RV Park – perhaps better known for its Ancient Way Cafe, an excellent restaurant.  The park has cabins, camping, and full hook-ups for RVs, showers, washers and dryers, and great hiking.  No cell service for me, but they do have wifi.
I found a cosy site under the trees.  Plugged in the camera battery charger and retired to my chair with my book.  It was nice sitting outside reading.  And watching for wildlife – many birds, a squirrel and a chipmunk.  And chickens.  Some of the permanent residents here keep hens.
This tiny community is rich in artists – there’s a shop packed with fascinating creations; there is lots of outdoor art.  Being creative is just a normal part of life – and they show it here.

We hiked to the top of the mesa where there are acres to explore and incredible views.

View of the mesa where we hiked - taken from the next camp site.

View of the mesa where we hiked – taken from the next day’s camp site. The RV park is at the bottom of the slope at the far left.

A delightful couple from Colorado were in the space next to me.  They have a Tiger RV – only 16’ long.  Very sweet.  We had breakfast together at the restaurant and then we walked around the property, by the cabins, through the outdoor art gallery.

My idea of art - dents on an old truck.

My idea of art – dents on an old truck.

I stayed just two nights.  At $30/night, it’s more than I like to spend.  And I wanted to get to the campground just down the road at El Morro National Monument.  First we went to the visitors’ center and then hiked for a couple of hours – the long hike over the top.

It was nice to be able to take all the time I wanted.  It was a warm day and there’s not much shade on the top.  Cassie had to stay on the leash all the time, but she still got a good workout.  And she loves finding pools of water.

Trail to the top.

Trail to the top.

On top of El Morro.

On top of El Morro.

Atsinna ruins at El Morro.

Atsinna ruins at El Morro.

Not far from the visitors’ center is the El Morro Campground – no services except vault toilets.  But the sites are beautiful.  And it’s free.  I picked an east-facing site.

It would be perfect to watch the full moon rise.  morro-3

There are only nine spaces here and they filled quickly for the weekend.  Folks came on Saturday to pick piñons.  When they left, elk ventured in.
We hiked the shorter trail that goes along the the wall with the inscriptions.  We had all the time in the world to read them – from native Americans to travelers to soldiers.
I met my neighbor – a women traveling in a van with a severely disabled man and a big husky-like dog.  All interesting beings, but quite a job camping under those circumstances.  And they do it fairly often.  I was impressed.  Made my outings look so simple.
And I met a nomadic woman who was from Santa Cruz, my old stomping grounds.  Current Santa Cruz sure sounds different from my time there in the 80s and 90s.  I think the town got fat and greedy.  This camper lives a fascinating life and I hope to have her as a friend.  I invited her to visit Truth or Consequences.  One of the benefits of camping for me is meeting folks who like a similar lifestyle.

El Malpais RV Trip Part 1

October 2016

Even before I bought the RV I knew this was a trip I wanted to take:  El Malpais and El Morro – National Monuments in New Mexico.  And October is a beautiful month here.  Cottonwoods are turning yellow and gold; skies are full of cloud and color.  Cool enough to hike, warm enough to sit outside.
The drive there took longer than I expected – I really drive slowly.  Going north on I-25 I saw many RVs and trucks with travel trailers headed south.  Snowbird migration has started.
I-25 was easy driving.  And then I turned west on Highway 6 at Las Lunas to cut across to I-40.  At that point I have to get on the interstate for a few miles and I thought that might help me make better time.  Awful.  Lots of traffic – trucks, big RVs, everything going fast.  I got off at the first exit – it allowed me to get on Route 66.  Sigh.  It’s a beautiful drive through Laguna, Paraje, Budville, Cubero, San Fidel, and McCarty’s to the turn-off south on Highway 117 to El Malpais.  I was sorry to see that the Ranger Station and Visitor Center are closed permanently.  I stopped at the Joe Skeen campground.  There are about 8 or 10 campsites – picnic tables, shelters, and vault toilets – no other facilities.  There were only a couple of other campers, but some very noisy coyotes!  And dark, starry skies.

Cassie on the trail to the top of the bluff.

Cassie on the trail to the top of the bluff.

The campsite was at the base of a bluff with an easy trail to the top where we could wander for miles.  Cassie and I both liked it.  We walked there every day, sometimes twice.

Looking back at the RV.

Looking back at the RV.

Crack near the top of the bluff - will be at the bottom within 100 years!

Crack near the top of the bluff – will be at the bottom within 100 years!

Cassie loves finding water.

Cassie loves finding water.

One day we walked toward the Sandstone Bluffs and accidentally wandered on and then off Acoma Pueblo land.  Walked only about two miles, but both of us were tired when we returned.

Scaled quail.

Scaled quail.

My camera batteries were low – major crisis!  I have no way to recharge them except running the generator.  No one was around so I ran it about an hour.  Annoying.  A better plan is to move to the El Morro RV park to get electric hook-ups.

Lava flow.

Lava flow.

Leaving Joe Skeen I went sightseeing by way of the top of the Sandstone Bluffs which overlook the lava fields.  And a little way down Highway 117 to see Ventana Arch and the part of the Continental Divide Trails that crossed the malpais.  Then it’s just a short drive to the RV park.
malpais-12And some interesting rock detail.

The second part of this trip to El Morro National Monument is here.

Hillsboro – City of Rocks RV Trip Part 2

(Part 1 is here)

cr-1There are two roads from Hillsboro to City of Rocks State Park.  One goes over the Black Range through Emory Pass – shorter, but a climb on mountain roads.  Not my winter choice.  I took the flatter way – south to Nutt and west to Highway 180.  Turning off on Highway 61 (not Dylan’s) I went past Faywood Hot Springs to the park entrance.  It was an easy 90 miles.  There seemed to be a lot of traffic, then I remembered it was the Christmas weekend.

City of Rocks from one of the perimeter trails. My RV is just to the right of center.

City of Rocks from one of the perimeter trails. My RV is just to the right of center.

I found a fine campsite at #34 – Lacerta.  The sites are named for constellations and Lacerta is the lizard.   I liked that.  I needed to level the RV and did, but I don’t like the method I have – the yellow interlocking blocks.  They sank into the soft ground giving me only half the change I wanted.  Research time.

My campsite with Cooke's Peak in the background.

My campsite with Cooke’s Peak in the background.

The RV section of the park with electrical hook-ups.

The RV section of the park with electrical hook-ups.

cr-3Walked through the rocks, watched young folks playing.  The boulders remind me of being a kid in east San Diego county.  Lots of granite boulders there – a few as big as these.  Caves and forts and hideouts.  A great place to play.
I met Davey, a nomad who travels with three dogs in his car.  He invited me back for a drink later.  Nice, but not my thing:  drinking or being out after dark!  His parting shot, “I have TV” pretty much sealed it.  I understand if you are a full-time RVer, that a TV is nice, but that’s not what I want camping.

There were no camps within several hundred yards of mine.  Something in me relaxes with that.  There was a raven in the oak tree, and just after sunset, an owl on top of a tall rock. And later coyotes yipping.

Nice campsite.

Nice campsite.

We walked several times a day – around and through the rocks and on the perimeter trails.   There were miles of trails we didn’t get to.  Cassie had to be on a leash all the time.  It’s hard to tire her out that way.  On one walk we met Cheryl – our nearest neighbor.  She is making plans to photograph all the state parks – quite an ambitious and worthy goal.

Another nice picnic spot.

Another nice picnic spot.

It was a windy night – buffeted the RV.  I didn’t envy the folks in tents.  Woke up on Christmas morning to an inch or two of snow.  And still snowing – horizontally.  Beautiful.  This is Christmas 61 AB – After Buck – the glorious day I got my first horse.
The wind quieted down for a while, so we walked.  No one else in the rocks.  The peaks to the far west (Bullard and Burro Peaks?) were covered in snow.  The wind picked up and it started snowing again.  We headed back for shelter.  I finished my book by noon.  Oh dear, never get caught without a book to read!  The wind continued; the snow stopped and was soon blown away.

My Sunday morning view of Cheryl's tent.

My Sunday morning view of Cheryl’s tent.

cr-14Monday morning was windy and cold – in the teens.  The kettle was on and I could hear the owls again.  Walked through the rocks after sunrise and saw a fine red tail hawk facing the sun trying to get warm.  I understood. By noon I decided to head home.  On this whole trip, there was no sitting-outside-in-a-chair time.

116 miles home.  251 miles for the trip.

Hillsboro – City of Rocks RV Trip Part 1

This trip would cover holidays at least from Solstice through Christmas.  And it would be different for me because on our first stop, we would stay at an RV park.  Usually I prefer campgrounds – often state parks.hb-rv-sign

Hillsboro RV Park is not what I imagined most RV parks to be.  It’s not very big, it’s charming and close to the center of a small town.  And it is still a work in progress.  It backs up against Percha Creek which was a babbling stream when we arrived.  The owner, Kristen, is renovating vintage trailers which will be for rent.  Vintage trailers or RV parking or camping – so much in a small space.  She’s also working on a fire pit and hot tub area.
hillsboro-rv-showerKirsten is a high school art teacher and it shows in the details of her work.  She re-purposed the backdrop from the senior prom – a canvas painting of the Titanic’s ballroom – into framed pieces that make up the walls of the shower room. There is wi-fi in the park, but no cell service in the entire valley.

It was just a 34 mile drive for us.  I liked that.  There were three other RVs there, so I had my choice of many spaces.  None are large, but they are comfortable and level.  One occupant I never saw or heard, but the others were friendly and respectful.  My immediate neighbor, Charles, has a travel trailer.  He had come out from Virginia on a motorcycle in October and returned before Christmas with the trailer.  Farther away was Milo, a musician with a recording studio in his RV/bus.  I didn’t get to talk with him much, but he certainly seemed to live an interesting, creative life.  [Update:  1/7/17 I just heard Milo Matthews perform at the local Art Jam tonight.  He’s amazing – multi-talented singer songwriter.  I recommend checking out his itinerary in case he will be in your town.]
hillsboro-cafeThe first afternoon we took a short walk down the main street and back on the levee trail.  I saw three deer across from the museum.  Cassie didn’t see them.  She was leashed, so it would have been okay.  Hillsboro was very quiet this Tuesday before Solstice.  Nothing open except the Post Office.  The cafe here is very good, but closed during the holidays.
On Solstice morning, it was a little too cold to have the door open.  I missed that.  It was also quite overcast, so the the sun’s light was diffused.  I fixed my favorite start to the day:  tea and oranges.  “All the way from China” (Suzanne).  Thank you Mr. Cohen.

Nicely carved gate that is seldom used.

Nicely carved gate that is seldom used.

Shop window with reflection.

Shop window with reflection.

My book for this trip was “Fingersmith” by Sara Waters.  I did like the plot twists, but it’s not what I want when I camp.  It’s set in 1860’s London – urban, dirty, violent, not compatible with the great outdoors.

Later that morning we walked around town, up to the courthouse ruins, and to the cemetery.  I lost my phone (see the whole story here).  Eventually I got it back, but losing things is exhausting.


I liked this cemetery.  It’s maintained but not manicured – this is the desert.  I especially liked the handmade memorials.

Sad row with few markers.

Sad row with few markers.

It rained Wednesday night and most of Thursday.  Steady rain – so beneficial, but there was no sitting outside.  In all my time here I saw little wildlife.  I did hear a noisy woodpecker.  It was hard to see and impossible to photograph.

Friendly folks of Hillsboro.

Friendly folks of Hillsboro.

I had lunch at a friend’s home:  good company – fun, intelligent – and good food.  Having left Cassie for several hours, she was ready to play when I returned.  Throwing the ball for her was not easy nor much fun in the RV.  And didn’t give her nearly enough exercise.  I planned to give her a good run on Friday.  I was hoping to cross the creek and let her run on the other side, but by morning the creek was too high to cross.

I decided to head to the campground at City of Rocks State Park.  There are lots of trails there.


Lost and Found

Hillsboro, New Mexico, seemed like the perfect town for a holiday RV getaway – small, quiet, and photogenic.  And, as I was to learn, its best quality may be its people.

hb-cem-gateHillsboro RV Park is a charming park along Percha Creek.  I ended up staying three days.  On our first morning walk Cassie, my rescue mutt, and I went by the Post Office and I read the notes on the bulletin board: upcoming concert, lost keys in the cemetery, help wanted, accordion for sale, free cow manure, and other important topics.  Then past the cafe and up to the courthouse ruins.


I like taking photos in cemeteries, so we headed up the hill – the cemetery overlooks the valley.  The heavy gate was closed so I climbed through and Cassie went under.  The plots are dry and overgrown with grasses and a few mesquite bushes.  We meandered through all sections of the cemetery.  Most photos I took with my ‘real’ camera and a few with the phone camera.  Spent over an hour there.  Came back down the hill and took a few more photos at the museum yard.  And took the creek trail to the RV park.
After I was back 10 minutes I couldn’t find my phone.  Looked everywhere in the RV.  Thought maybe I had used it last at the museum so I retraced my path and found nothing.  I was going to have to climb back up the hill to the cemetery.  Cassie was delighted with this prospect; me, not so much.  The most likely place to have lost it was at the main gate when I clambered through.  But no, it wasn’t there.

I tried to reconstruct my wanderings through the graves to look at every path I took.  Finally, I got back to the one place I knew I had taken a phone camera shot.  Still no sighting. Then turned around and walked back.  Suddenly I saw some shiny flash of color – not phone, but keys!  Probably the keys that the bulletin board alerted me to.  I pocketed the keys and headed back down the hill.  In this holiday season, the only place in town that was open was the post office.  I handed the clerk the keys and the notice taken from the board.  She said she would call.  I left a note with her about my phone saying I was staying at the RV park.

Hillsboro on a quiet day.  The Post Office in the building on the left.

Hillsboro on a quiet day. The Post Office in the building on the left.

Walked back to the RV.  My neighbor, Charles, asked if I found the phone.  No, but I found someone’s keys.  He said to see Kristen, the park owner, because she knows the woman who lost them.  Turns out the woman had stayed at the park over Thanksgiving.

I went to the post office to get the keys – Kristen would return them.  When I got back, she was talking to a man in a car and called out to me.  “He found your phone.”  He left before I could do anything except shout ‘thank you.’  He found the phone at the gate and took it to the post office – the only place in town that was open.

I love Hillsboro.


My favorite concept that I learned this year is hyperbaton.  I didn’t realize it was a rule that I could not write “a blue tiny beautiful egg.”  That’s hyperbaton:  an odd order of words.  Adjectives must be in this sequence:  opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, purpose and then the noun.

e-of-eLuckily for this native English speaker, this just gets into our heads as we learn language.  I was never taught this rule and yet, I know how to order the adjectives.

This startling revelation came to me from “The Elements of Eloquence” by Mark Forsyth.  It is a delightful little softcover book (note the proper sequence).

In the same chapter as hyperbaton, he also reveals the secret of “ablaut reduplication.”  The word is hip-hop, never hop-hip.  Or flip-flop, not the reverse.  “When you repeat a word with a different vowel, the order is I A O.”  I had no idea that was a rule, a rule with a name.  Ding-dong.

Sentimental about a Tree

Always Backroads

I’ve just picked the first apricots off the scraggly little tree in my yard.  The entire crop will be about a couple dozen apricots – most will go to the birds.  And that’s fine with me.  But the taste of that real, that fresh apricot took me back to the wonderful tree that Dad planted at the family house in Lakeside, California.

Apricot tree in Lakeside backyard.

When I was planning to leave California and rent out the house, my nephew asked if I would be okay emotionally letting others live in the house that up until then had sheltered only family.  My response was that I could let the house go, but I was a little choked up about leaving the apricot tree.  It was about 35 years old, pruned to a perfect bowl shape and every year produced a huge crop of apricots.  They were almost too fragile…

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Childhood Replay

Yesterday I was watering a big pecan tree for a neighbor who was away.  I dug out a bit of a basin and filled it twice with the hose.  The memories returned of watering the avocado trees when I was a kid.  There were about 12 or 15 young trees in three rows on a slope above the horse corral.  Dad had already made the basins, but if I didn’t pay attention, I could over-fill them and a small crisis occurred.  Hurry, move the water wand to the next tree, grab the shovel and repair the damage.  Every tree was watered twice.

Today I was ironing some handkerchiefs – I sell vintage items online.  And I again returned to childhood.  My first ironing chore was pressing Dad’s handkerchiefs.  Not quite foolproof – I can remember the smell of scorched cloth and the permanence of that mark.  But they were the easiest thing to iron.

Now maybe I should go dry some silverware.  That was my first job in the dishwashing department.  Couldn’t break anything.  I, of course, graduated to washing and drying all the dishes and now have regressed to never drying anything.

There is something to the idea of becoming young again in our advanced age.  It’s a loop and I’m enjoying the replay.  Want to come over?  We could build a fort out of sofa cushions.