Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mills Canyon

Our plan was to return to Eagle Nest and the cooler weather, but we couldn’t resist a stop at Mills Canyon on the way.  According to the Allstays app, there are two free national forest campgrounds – one on the rim and one just for tents in the canyon along the Canadian River.  On Google Earth, both appeared to have large sites, but, believing the app, we stayed on the rim.

The next morning we drove the truck down into the canyon and discovered the reason for the ‘tents only’ designation.  It was bad enough that the road was dirt and potholed, but it was one lane with poor visibility and few places where two vehicles could pass.  It was really nerve-wracking, but we made it all the way down without meeting another car.  Whew!

When we could take our eyes off the road, the scenery was lovely.  Below we could see the remains of Mills Canyon Enterprise.  Established in 1881, thousands of trees produced tons of peaches, pears, cherries, plums, apricots, apples, walnuts, chestnuts, and almonds. 
Unfortunately, in the fall of 1904, the fields suffered massive flooding and the trees never recovered.

Here’s a sign about the enterprising Mr. Mills.  It seems he led quite a colorful life, but died penniless in the end.  How sad.

The remains of some of his ranch are available for exploration. 

I was surprised until I read the sign explaining that they had been 'stabilized.'

On the way back up, I took this out the window.  Although narrow, this was far from the worst part of the road.  We were thankful to have high clearance and 4-wheel drive.  Ron just knew that would come in handy someday.

We spoke to a ranger who said money was in the budget for road improvements, but we’ll believe it when we see it.

Ron has been doing some flintknapping – the art of making stone tools, using historical methods.  Here he is flaking a piece of obsidian using a deer antler.

He’s getting pretty good at making arrowheads.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Clayton (part 2)

Independence Day dawned bright and beautiful and perfect for the traditional 4th of July parade.  With only about 2800 residents, Clayton’s parade was not the longest, but it had plenty of gorgeous horses.

We’re guessing this piece of fire equipment was designed for prairie fires with those big tires.

Look at the lovely feathering on this magnificent horse.

Later we went back to the fairgrounds for the Lil Ears Junior Rodeo.  I think the flag would cover the entire ladder truck displaying it.

The rodeo consisted of three events and the kids competed in teams of four in four age categories from 3 to 15.

The first event was a relay where each child had to ride their ‘horse’ around the barrels.

Then things got a little wilder with the ‘cow milking’.  This one deserves a video.  Check out the expertise of the little guy who does the ‘milking’.

And for the final event, the teams had to herd the ‘cows’ over to the fourth team member who would then ‘brand’ them.  I kept taking pictures of the same team because they were just such darn cute little girls.

The adults had their own milking event with wild cows!  Check out this video.

But in my last post, I promised you some Mutton Bustin’.  The sheep are looking a little nervous.

Although it was fun to watch, the age of the typical participant was a bit shocking to us.  Just watch this little guy.

Looks dangerous to me, but this is cowboy country where kids are tough.

I think this was the winning ride, probably because he was the tallest contestant.

And here’s one more video showing a unique method which seemed to confuse the sheep.

There were more adult rodeo events after the kids, followed by fireworks, but we left after the kids were finished.  It had nothing to do with the fact that a huge storm was coming in.  (Well, not much.)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Clayton, NM

In the northeast corner of New Mexico, near the borders of Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas, lies the very friendly town of Clayton.  Clayton Lake State Park was our next stop.

In the spillway of the dam are about 500 dinosaur tracks from the early Cretaceous period (about 100 million years ago.)  When we walked over to see them, I neglected to take my camera, so this picture is from the brochure.  They are especially dramatic when the sun is low and after a rain.

Following the park ranger’s directions, we took a drive to see where the Santa Fe Trail came across the grasslands.  I guess not too many people take this dirt road.  The cows seemed amazed.

Here’s the sign.

It’s not like the wagon ruts of the Oregon Trail, but it does give you an idea of what the travelers saw.  There was not a fence or house in sight.  This is the edge of the Kiowa National Grassland.

Clayton plans events for the whole 4th of July weekend, including some I had never seen before, such as Crazy Goat Roping.  I know what you’re thinking and I also wondered if this was animal cruelty.  After all, I don’t even like zoos.  But these goats were smart and tricky.  They knew they only had to get from the chute to the other side of the pen and they were safe.  Usually the results were something like this.

But look at how expertly this little guy threw his lasso.  Too bad the goat was long gone.

Who knew goats were so fast and such powerful jumpers?

It was a ‘head and heels’ competition like the calf roping, but these guys don’t act like calves.  Even the experts had problems.  I had to laugh when this little guy evaded the man who was being honored as Pioneer of the Year.  You know he must have roped a few cattle in his lifetime.

I never realized how big of a loop the cowboys throw.  I guess this works well for roping steer, but most of the goats jumped right out of it.

This cute little 4-year-old went through the line multiple times.  Of course he never caught anything, but he was sooo serious.

There were more traditional events too, like bronco busting.  Poor things.

But I had to laugh at this horse who refused to come out.

There was a guest appearance by a group of trick riders – all girls.

This little 7-year-old amazed everyone.

It was getting dark and they were moving fast, so the pictures aren’t the best.

Here I almost missed her, but this little girl rode all around the ring standing on the horse.

This is just crazy.

We have our friends Donna and Bob to thank for recommending Clayton as the place to be for the 4th.  One night we all went to Pizza Hut where Donna got this hysterical picture of us and my halo. 

Next post - Mutton Bustin’.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Sugarite Canyon State Park

Situated outside of Raton, New Mexico, and on the border of Colorado is Sugarite Canyon which was our next stop.  We had already stayed there overnight on our way to Denver in May.  At that time we did a hike during which we spotted cougar prints.  This time we were prevented from hiking by heavy rain and muddy ground.

At Sugarite, there is a choice of camping areas.  One is at the bottom of the canyon along the river and the other is up on the rim.  You would think everyone would choose the top for the views, but the road up is pretty frightening.  Here is our lovely site.

We wanted to see the historic theatre in downtown Raton.  Our friend Mary had taken a tour of the lovely old building and recommended it highly.  Unfortunately when we asked at the visitors center, we were told the man who gives the tour is only there sporadically. We were unlucky and he was not available, but we did peek through the door.

Although the rain prevented us from hiking, it did produce a double rainbow.

But it also revealed that we had a leak at the top of our rear window.  Yikes!  Handyman Ron to the rescue.  What a guy!

Looking down from our site, you can barely see the steep dirt road that climbs up from the canyon to the rim 750 feet higher.

There was a bad fire here about 10 years ago and I thought the morning fog gave the scenery a spooky appearance.

After pulling the fifth wheel up that challenging road, you’d think we would have stayed longer than two nights, but we had to move on to get a good spot at Clayton Lake State Park for the Independence Day celebrations.  Of course this means I'm behind again.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

One day we decided to take the 84-mile loop around part of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  Heading north from Eagle Nest, our first stop was the ghost town of Elizabethtown.  This was a booming gold rush town in the 1860s.  There is a museum, but we didn’t go in.

I thought the church was very picturesque – too bad they added those modern doors.

When we looked inside, we thought they probably rented it out for weddings.

Whoa!  Looks like a dangerous place for cattle.

When I spotted the wagon wheels and the painted window, I had to take this for my father.

And on the road out, I stopped to take rusty stuff for my sister.   In the background is Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico at 13,161 feet.

Continuing on the loop, we turned west and drove over a scenic pass, then had a bird’s-eye view of Red River on our way down.

Red River is a winter ski resort/summer tourist town with some very cute architecture.

Now here’s an old car I can appreciate!

Heading south, we passed through Taos, but only stopped to eat at McDonalds.  We’ve been there several times so we decided to skip it this time.  But a little further south, we took a side trip on a dirt road to the rim of the canyon overlooking the Rio Grande.

Surprisingly, our trip back east on US 64 was the worst leg, due to road repaving.  Our last stop was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park.  The impressive monument was originally built as one family’s memorial to a young son killed in Vietnam.
 There is a UH-1 helicopter on display.  Almost 7000 of these helicopters – better known as Hueys – saw service in Vietnam.

The museum was excellent and a fitting tribute to our troops who fought and died in that conflict.  There were some interesting pictures, including this one of American POWs being released.

Our esteemed senator John McCain from Arizona is the first man on the right in the picture.