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.

Valley of Fires RV Trip

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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.
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Cassie had to be on the leash.  The lava could be very sharp on dog feet.
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It amazes me that someone put a fence through this land.
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They conveniently provide a pipe-scope to identify the insignificant hill that produced a lot of the lava.
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This juniper is over 400 years old.
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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.
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Beautiful sunsets every night.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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malpais-12And some interesting rock detail.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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Cochiti Lake RV Trip (Part One)

cl-road-to-tetillaI like my trips to start on Sundays. I figure by the time I get there, the weekenders will be gone. But I left a lot till the last minute this time. I was overwhelmed with three trips to Las Cruces that week. The last one was on Friday and before I returned home the car’s ‘check engine’ light and the ABS light were on and I realized I had only one headlamp. I still needed the car for errands, so I didn’t want to take it to the mechanic on Friday. I was still sewing window covers for the RV on Friday afternoon. I got hung up on my own arbitrary schedule. Decided to give myself the weekend to

I made the window covers for the sleeping area out of a camping motif fabric. They need a few alterations, but work well.

I made the window covers for the sleeping area out of a camping motif fabric. They need a few alterations, but work well.

prepare, take the car to the mechanic on Monday and leave in the RV after that. I can leave on a trip any day I like. Problem solved.

Monday morning, August 22nd, Cassie (the mutt) and I were on our way. My plan was to spend most of the time at Heron Lake in northern New Mexico. That’s too far for one day’s drive, so I planned to make a stop for a night or two at Cochiti Lake, just north of Albuquerque.

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It feels good to drive the RV. Cassie settles in easily in the passenger seat. On the way up we were passed by a van with this slogan “Gleewood – Bringing mountain music to those in need.” Made me smile. I found out later they are a band from Ruidoso, New Mexico. Has to be a fun group.

I drove I-25 all the way to the exit for Cochiti – about 200 freeway miles. I had looked on Google Earth at the campgrounds and campsites available. I decided on the Tetilla National Recreation area on the east side of the lake rather than the State Park on the west. It looked a little more isolated and I was hoping that meant it was quieter. The campsites that looked best online were already taken, but I found a fine one near the overlook.
cl-overlook-pathIt’s easy now to set up the RV. I hooked up to the electric with my surge protector. And I covered the whole thing with a plastic bag. The cover to the plug didn’t stay on well and the surge protector seemed pretty exposed to rain and theft. I saw that someone covered theirs so I just copied. I turned on the propane, but I use it only for cooking and heating water. I leave the fridge on electric. I also leveled the RV, and then wondered if that was necessary since I wasn’t using the fridge on propane. It was good practice anyway.
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I paid for two nights. It’s more expensive here than at the State Park ($10 v. $4 with passes) but it was worth it to me. Both places have electric and water hook-ups, dump station, toilets and showers.

Another part of the plan for this trip was to be more active on social media. I wouldn’t have wi-fi, but I could post from my iPhone. I had already scheduled the AlwaysBackroads blog posts, so I didn’t have to worry about those. I was doing a photo-a-day challenge for August and wanted to keep that up. I would take photos on the phone and upload to Instagram and Facebook. It did make me think about getting MiFi so I could download photos to the computer, play with them and then post to any of my blogs. I’m certainly not going to do a post of this length from my phone!
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I had a great view to the west. The lake was not in sight – it’s down a cliff from here, but the Jemez mountains are beautiful. Just after I set things up, Cassie and I took a short walk – we both need it after several hours driving. We went to the overlook and then found a trail along the edge of the cliff. We had a good view of the the Rio Grande coming into the lake. It’s been raining a lot lately and the river was much muddier than the lake.
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I set up my reclining chair (Costco) outside. It rained a little, but the chair doesn’t stay wet, so I didn’t worry about sheltering it. I sat outside with my water, this journal, a book, my phone and my camera. Everything I need. I take photos for immediate online use with the phone, but the cl-coyotecamera has a great zoom lens for much better shots. I am getting better with the phone camera, at least I’m remembering to use it more often. When it’s too warm, I move inside. Even had the air conditioning on a few times. When the clouds return, I move back out. About 10AM one morning a coyote wandered nearby.

The first book I started reading was “So Long Marianne” by Kim Hesthamer. It’s the story of Marianne Ihlen, Leonard Cohen’s inspiration for many songs. I wanted to know more about her than just his song. She died a few weeks ago. Cohen had written her a letter when he heard she was dying. It’s one of the most touching notes I’ve read.

“…well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”

I think that would be comforting to a person near death.

I liked the book, but it made me sad. She was about 10 years older than me, but her struggles to find her passion, to find herself, were familiar. And I fear are still being repeated by young women today.
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Early Tuesday morning we walked down the boat ramp road to the lake. Really steep. I imagined trucks and boat trailers coasting into the lake.  There was an area with a locked gate, but I figured I’d ask the camp host if it’s okay to walk there. I wasn’t sure what is Federal land and what belongs to the Pueblo.
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Back in the RV I listened to a J. K. Rowling podcast about failure. On my phone – very nice to be able to do that. Rowling is one of my heroes. She had a vision for herself that survived not only poverty, but also great wealth and fame. She’s the definition of ‘grounded.’

That day (August 23rd) was the first anniversary of my having this RV. I should write to Dorothy, who sold it to me, to let her know how much I enjoy it. She was 88 then and her kids didn’t want her go go camping by herself. Sad that she didn’t sell it of her own accord. I was glad to be out in it on this anniversary. Thanks Dorothy.
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I finished the day watching the PBS show “Boys of ’36” about the Olympic rowing team. It’s a treat to be able to watch these programs here. I rarely take time at home for them.

cl-elkeOn Wednesday I finally met my neighbor three spaces down – my only neighbor on this loop in the campground. She’s Elke, an older German woman. She was here for the full 14 days allowed. And then she will head to another campground. She has a house in Santa Fe, but is tired of city life. She will probably come down to Elephant Butte someday.

cl-road-sun-treesThe morning walk took Cassie and me to the clump of cottonwoods down the road from the boat ramp. This is a day-use only area. We had it to ourselves because we went before the gate was unlocked. Near the shore there were about six or seven beavers in the water. I didn’t know beavers lived in lakes. They swam back and forth in front of me occasionally slapping their tails on the surface and diving.cl-2-beavers
I took a lot of photos. Not great – the sun wasn’t up here yet. In the viewfinder I had a clear view of the tail as it raised and smacked the water. In all the photos, I got only the splash. They didn’t give me any indication that I could see to hint that the action was coming. The camera and I were too slow.cl-beaver-splash

The days fell into a similar rhythm. A cup of tea. A walk down the boat ramp road before the day warmed up too much. Past the locked gate I could let Cassie off the leash which we both appreciate. She never found anything to chase, but lots of things to smell. The rest of the day is read, write, take photos, and watch the sky and mountains and birds. Mix and repeat. Move inside when it rains (never hard); move outside when it quits. Take another walk.cl-roadrunner

I was enjoying this routine. And the thought of packing up the next day and heading north just didn’t appeal to me. I paid for two more nights. The travel days are more taxing.
To be continued…
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See Part Two here.