Zuni Woodcarver

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.

Midnight Owls

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.

I was in the part of the RV over the cab. They were on the top of the shelter.

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!

Short Trip

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.

View of the Rio Grande from my campsite.

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.

Jemez Springs Trip

In March Cassie and I took off for Jemez Springs, northwest of Albuquerque.  This time I took the car and stayed in a delightful retro motel – The Laughing Lizard.  It’s right in ‘downtown’ Jemez Springs and has a fine porch where I sat and watched the light on the bluffs to the west.  Nice, clean rooms and friendly owners – it that weren’t enough, it’s next door to the Highway 4 Cafe.  One of the finest little restaurants I’ve experienced in New Mexico.

Downtown Jemez Springs.

Jemez Springs is in a canyon on the side of the Valles Caldera – there are so many things to see and do here.

 

Gilman Tunnels

Fenton Lake State Park. Nice to see lots of families there for Spring Break.

Valles Caldera National Preserve

Las Conchas Trail – one of dozens of options.

At the Caldera bookshop I bought a wonderful (= understandable) book, “The Geology of Northern New Mexico Parks, Monuments, and Public Lands.”  I can’t imagine anyone visiting here and not having geology questions.
We stayed three days.  Hardly enough time to scratch the surface of the area, but long enough to let me know I want to go back.

Valley of Fires RV Trip

vof-1

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.
vof-13
vof-12
vof-9
vof-11

Cassie had to be on the leash.  The lava could be very sharp on dog feet.
vof-7
It amazes me that someone put a fence through this land.
vof-8
They conveniently provide a pipe-scope to identify the insignificant hill that produced a lot of the lava.
vof-5
This juniper is over 400 years old.
vof-6
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.
vof-2
Beautiful sunsets every night.
vof-4
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.
morro-chicken
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.
morro-1
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.
morro-18

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.
morro-cassie

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.
morro-20

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.
morro-4
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.
morro-10
morro-16
morro-14
morro-13
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.
morro-9
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.
morro-top

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.
malpais-5
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.
malpais-7
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.
malpais-6

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.
malpais-9
malpais-8
malpais-10

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-11
malpais-12And some interesting rock detail.
malpais-15

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.
cr-4
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.
cr-9
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-12
cr-11
cr-10
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.
cr-7