Just a few of the sights along the trails at Datil Well campground.
A low growing cactus that the dog doesn’t always see.
And the nicest surprise – a rider, two horse , and a dog.
Just a few of the sights along the trails at Datil Well campground.
A low growing cactus that the dog doesn’t always see.
And the nicest surprise – a rider, two horse , and a dog.
Short camping trip to City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico. I camped in the Pegasus section, but not the best site (15a). It wasn’t level near the picnic table, so I camped a few yards away. It’s so nice here, it really didn’t matter.
Explore. This trip was planned to be exploration. Where could I find high altitude Forest Service roads? High altitude would get me out of the southern New Mexico heat. What do the campgrounds in the area look like? I’d take notes and then have more places to choose from.
There were two limiting factors that I resented a little. One was the upcoming Labor Day weekend. I wanted a quiet area to spend the holiday. And one of my choices, Trujillo Meadows, closes after Labor Day. This hampered my scheduling. Not that schedules ever work as planned.
My first stop on most trips north is Cochiti Lake, a COE campground. It’s a four-hour drive from home – plenty for me. But it’s not high altitude, so I get a site with electricity so I can use the air conditioning if necessary. Hot and smoky – couldn’t see the mountains. But just one night here.
My neighbors had a skoolie outfitted with a deck. Great place for watching sunrises and sunsets.
I left the next morning for Tres Piedras. Stopped for a few photos. It not easy in the RV – hard to make U-turns and often no shoulder to stop on. But I am happy when I do stop and get a photo or two that I like. Even an elk skeleton.
I couldn’t get the paper Motor Vehicle Use Map that I wanted for this area – Carson National Forest. I do have it on my phone, but that’s not so useful for me.
I chose FS road 84G that had been recommended. It has big granite boulders and acres of flat rock to walk on. And Ponderosa pines.
I found a spot with a little shade and tall trees to the west for shade later.
Many birds here – Bluebirds, robins, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and a new one for me, Clark’s Nutcracker.
I started reading “A Perfect Red” by Amy Butler Greenfield about cochineal. Fascinating.
Met some neighbors – both solo women full-time campers. One is 65 and one is 82. The 82 year old is a woodworker who designed and built the inside of her van. Very skilled.
There were lots of mushrooms in the forest – boletes and many I can’t identify.
Light rain fell mist afternoons, very light. I walked a couple of times everyday, but nothing strenuous. Once it took me about two hours to walk less than two miles – meandering, taking photos, and sitting! Beautiful morning.
After a few days I started having tooth trouble. Decided to go home and have it taken care of (trying to be an adult). So I cut this trip short, but I will come back here.
Does it bother you when someone enters your RV or home without an invitation? And then has a good look around. It happened to me on this last camping trip as I was sitting at the picnic table. A bold Bewick’s wren hopped into the RV, checked out the cab, and then spent about 10 minutes in the main room. Didn’t leave any calling card. But it sure was cute.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
A year ago I camped at the El Morro RV park. Wandering around the grounds, I came across a woodcarver. Serendipity. This was Loy Lewis, a carver from a long line of Zuni woodworkers.
He was working on elaborate pieces, mostly of ravens (crows?). I bought a small piece; my camp neighbors bought one of the bigger ones. Mine lives on my RV dash.
There are no photos of the subjects of this post – just the story of a delightful encounter.
Midnight. I’m asleep in my RV near Elephant Butte Lake when I hear owls. Not the soft hoo-hoo-hoo that I’ve heard elsewhere, but a raucous hoohoo-hoo-hoo. And a response that overlapped it. Quite the cacophony.
Looking out the window I could just see the silhouettes of two very big owls on the shelter roof – maybe 12 or 14 feet from where I sleep over the cab. They stayed about 15 minutes, very noisy, and awkwardly balanced on the metal roof.
I had to look up the call to be sure of their identity – Great Horned owls. It’s closest to the territorial hooting at this link. This was definitely the highlight of my trip.
(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.
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!
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!
Well, this RV trip was different, and not what I expected. A friend just bought a small travel trailer and needed some practice maneuvering it. We decided a nearby camping trip with a third friend would be in order. They could go for a few days, but I could fit in only a 24-hour period.
It was a busy, exhausting week for me. I had little time to pack or prepared the RV. But it’s only a day and I was camping with friends, so that wouldn’t matter. It just didn’t seem to offer much relaxation – pack the RV, drive 20 miles, set up – and be there. Next morning pack up and go home. Few expectations, no disappointments.
The surprise for me – how one evening setting by the Rio Grande watching the river and the birds, even a deer, and good conversation with friends, could refresh my attitude. The early morning the next day just added to the healing.
Maybe it means that I’m comfortable enough with the RV now that even a one-day camping trip is worthwhile. Something for me to remember.
Riverside, Caballo Lake State Park, New Mexico, USA.