Not As Planned – Part 2

See Part 1 here.

After setting up at Little Arsenic campground at Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, I noticed several tents pitched nearby. About 8 or 10! The woman at the visitors’ center said that on Saturday a land art installation would be presented. This would be Neo-Rio, a festival in its 10th year. So I was surrounded by artists foraging for their creations. It was a rich atmosphere.

There are pleasant walks here – many level trails on the top of the mesa. And a few challenging trails to the river. Or rivers – the confluence of the Red River and the Rio Grande give this area its name of Wild Rivers. Cassie and I walked two or three miles each day – always in the early morning. The afternoons were still too warm for me – this at an elevation of about 7500 feet.

The confluence – Red River on the left, Rio Grande on the right as seen from the La Junta campground at Wild Rivers.

Little Arsenic Trail. None of my photos show how steep it is!

One morning we did start down the Little Arsenic trail – one mile to the river with an elevation change of 760 feet. It’s considered (by the automaton who wrote the guide) to be ‘moderate.’ Not for me. It’s very steep, uneven, and has many loose rocks. I had to watch every step. We made about 2/3 of the way down. That was enough if I wanted to make it back to the top. Really feeling my age.

And just to add to this feeling I learned that in a couple of weeks there will be a footrace here – down one Arsenic trail, along the river, and up the other Arsenic trail. Running. Good grief!

One day we walked to Chawalauna Overlook – a fine view both ways in the gorge. Just over the

The chunk of basalt that will eventually fall.

guardrail is a crevice – a huge chunk of basalt is ready to fall (within the next 100 years). It was about 700’ to the river. I could see shelters and tables there for camping. It would be quite a hike to those sites. Another thing I won’t be doing. But it would be amazing to be there.

Camping/fishing shelters along the Rio Grande.





Late Saturday afternoon Neo-Rio was ready for patrons. They offered their art, poetry, music, talks, and a feast. The sleepy little campground (Montoso) came alive. I would guess there were 150 people. We stayed a couple of hours, checked out the art, listened to poetry, and met lots of folks. Cassie is a bit of a magnet for introductions.

Rowen Willow’s invitation.

Spinners on Ms.Willow’s interactive “Roots of Wonder.”

The next morning we walked over there early. I could experience the art with no one around. Some pieces, like the Rowen Willow’s spinning toy, seemed lonely without anyone to play.

But Francisco Letelier’s fabric panels were playing in the breeze and needed no one. He had drawn intricate maps of the world on them.

One piece that I just didn’t ‘get’ the night before, called to me and I finally understood. I had a chance to sit quietly with Nicolette Codding’s “Shifting Paradigm” and appreciate its depth. It was very satisfying to have this time with the art.

Nicolette Codding’s ‘Shifting Paradigm’

Martha Shepp’s ‘The DNA of Root Words’

After a while I packed up and headed north.

The original focus of this trip – The Great Sand Dunes National Park – didn’t go according to plan either. There were no hook-ups (that’s what I get for checking the wrong website). And the spaces are pretty, but small and crowded. It was a busy place. I got to listen to the couple two sites away yell at each other as they tried to maneuver into their spot. After being surrounded by artists and space, this wasn’t fun.

Cassie and I walked towards the dunes, but it was about 1/2 mile to the base. I decided this wasn’t a good place for her. Dunes are difficult for short-legged dogs or is it small-footed dogs. It would be better to make the trip without her.

I decided to return to Wild Rivers. I think I came to the Dunes only because I had made up my mind three weeks ago to do it. But I was unprepared and therefore disappointed. Wild Rivers was the place for me on this trip. Change those plans.

When I returned, the best space available was #11 in Little Arsenic campground. I was happy to take it again. Several folks came after I did to look for a space with no luck. They really need more campsites here. Since I had driven two days in a row, I took it very easy for a couple of days here. There’s a reason not to drive every day.

I moved to Tetilla Peak on Cochiti Lake – the campground on the east side. I like it better than the other – not so big, not so crowded. Thought I might head home the next day, but it started to rain in the evening and was still raining in the morning.

My old RV and I didn’t like the idea of a wet interstate and going through Albuquerque. I decided to stay cozy in the RV and read more. It’s delicious to have so much rain in New Mexico. And so nice to not have to stick to plans.