Friday, May 19, 2017

Crazy Weather

We arrived in Denver area in mid-May for Ron’s grandsons’ graduations – Adam’s from high school and Harper’s from pre-K.  We always try to stay in beautiful Bear Creek Lake Regional Park, mostly for the location which is convenient to his daughters, but it’s actually pretty reasonable too.  This is about the only place we make reservations and we waited too long to do it.  We reserved one site for Sunday through Friday and another for the following Sunday through Friday.  The weekend was booked and we thought we’d park in daughter Kelli’s driveway for two nights.

After enjoying a wonderful reunion dinner at daughter Kim’s house our first night, we met Kelli, Harper and Elsie at the park the next day.  We enjoyed the multi-use path around the lake with 5-year-old Harper on his cool bike . . .

And 2 ½-year-old Elsie on her scooter.  ( Elsie will emphatically tell you that she’s 2 ½, not 2.)

The next day we walked 4 miles around Bear Creek Lake Park. 


Some of our route was along Bear Creek with the birds singing their little hearts out.

But some was across open meadows, where we saw these snakes whom we suspect were engaging in an x-rated activity.  We’re thinking they’re bull snakes. 


I’ll zoom in so you can see the love bite he is giving his sweetheart.

Adam’s graduation was scheduled to take place at beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheatre, but the morning of the big event, we awoke to white stuff.

We went to Kelli’s house where it changed to pretty big flakes.

Ron worked on Kelli's ‘honey do’ list with assistance from Harper.  Harper brought his own safety glasses, flashlight, and pliers.

Although the snow and freezing weather were predicted for days, Adam’s school seemed to be surprised by it and scrambled to move the commencement inside the school.  Of course this meant less tickets were available and we would miss his big event.  We were impressed to hear from Kim that the graduation would be streamed live on the school’s website.  We were not as impressed with the camera operator.

I did a couple of screen captures of the feed .  Here’s Adam walking across the stage to accept his diploma.  Not too bad for a screenshot. 


And here he is with the principal.  Really,  the camera operator couldn't aim a little higher?
 By the next morning, all the snow was melted on the grass, but Green Mountain across the way might have to change its name.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Wildlife!

I don’t know if you can really consider Canada geese to be wild – they’re everywhere.  But I couldn’t resist this adult and three goslings.

A close-up of two of the little ones.

We moved from Storrie Lake to Sugarite Canyon, another New Mexico state park, situated very near the Colorado border.  We had visited the park a few years ago and explored its historic coal mining camp and nearby Capulin Volcano National Monument, here.
 
There are two levels in the park – one along the river and the other a thousand feet higher on a cliff.  Since we were only staying overnight, we parked just off the road along a wide spot in the river.

Right across the road, these deer weren’t bothered by us at all. 


After we got settled, I suggested that we take the trail up to the campground on top of the cliff.  This was maybe not the smartest thing I had ever thought to do.

The trail was probably two miles and quickly took off uphill.  With all the rain earlier in the week, we could see lots of deer tracks and knew the animals also used the trail.

But wait!  These are cougar tracks!  Yikes!

And us without our hiking sticks.  So we broke off some hefty downed tree limbs, just in case, and soldiered on.

Once we reached the top, we read the trail sign which warned that we were in cougar country.  Funny, there was no sign at the bottom.

By this time, it was probably about 4:30 and I was worried about taking the trail back down.  When do cougars have dinner?  Sure, those tracks were days old, but once the trail dried, they wouldn’t leave impressions.  The only other choice was to take the road which was probably three times as long.

As we stood there, debating what to do, a miracle occurred!  The very nice driver of the only vehicle in the area stopped to talk to us.  After telling him and his passengers about our adventures on the trail, he kindly asked if we wanted a ride back down.  Yes!  Although there were already four people in the truck, Ron and I squeezed in.

(Now before anybody starts lecturing about accepting rides from strangers, let me reassure you.  These were four old people, just like us.)


But our wildlife adventures weren’t done yet.  Back at the rig, Ron looked across the river and saw a bear strolling along the trail.  You’re just going to have to believe me that this is a bear.  My camera was focusing on the bushes.



Sunday, May 14, 2017

Fort Union National Monument

But first, on our way to visit Fort Union, we passed this drive-in movie theater which employed a unique method of keeping the grass cut between movie showings.  At first I thought it was permanently closed, but the movie being advertised was a recent release.

On to Fort Union.  The fort was built in 1863 near the confluence of the Mountain and Cimarron branches of the Santa Fe Trail.



From 1821 until its replacement by the railroad in 1879, the Santa Fe Trail was the 800-mile supply route from Franklin, Missouri, to Santa Fe, New Mexico. 


Throughout the 1860s and 1870s. many of those supplies were unloaded and stored at Fort Union for disbursement to other forts in the southwest.

Although the supply function overshadowed that of the military, troops from Fort Union participated in campaigns against the Apache, Navajo, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Ute, and Comanche natives.

By 1891, the fort had outlived its usefulness and was abandoned.

I guess it’s not surprising that the jail is the most well-preserved building.

This was actually the third Fort Union.  The first was a few miles away at the base of nearby hills and built of logs.  It lasted for 10 years from 1851 to 1861.

The second was built in 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War with the goal of defending against an anticipated Confederate invasion.  You can see the outline of the massive earthwork fort in the foreground of the following picture.

Although it was never attacked, in March of 1862, soldiers from the fort helped turn back the Confederates at Glorieta Pass, about 50 miles to the southwest.


I’m not really a big fan of forts, but found this one to be interesting.  The signs along the walking route and the exhibits and movie in the visitor center were well done and fired my imagination.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Storrie Lake

We arrived at Storrie Lake State Park to beautiful clear skies and set up by one of the cute picnic table shelters.  We discovered that most mornings started out like this.

But by the afternoon, it looked more like this.

So Ron just had to find a project and decided we needed another 120-volt receptacle.  What a guy! 


One morning we went to the historic Plaza Hotel for breakfast.  The Plaza was built in 1882 and has hosted many famous people.  They have tours, but we just ate, then went and did our laundry.  
The hotel encompasses both the beautiful buildings seen behind the migrant worker statue on the old town plaza. 

Another morning we checked out the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge, where we walked the nature trail at the visitor center.  We really didn’t see wildlife as much as hear it.  The meadowlarks were in fine voice and I had to take a video to record the musical frogs.

No wonder they were so talented.  The sign said they were chorus frogs.

We drove around the refuge, but found all the viewpoints to be too far from the ponds to see the waterfowl, even with the provided telescopes.
 
We decided to take the Gallinas trail which leads across the refuge meadow and into a surprising canyon.

After wandering around awhile and wondering if we had missed the trail, we made it back out, 



Where we explored this fixer-upper. 

Ron wanted to know if that little opening to the lower right was a cat door. 

Once again, we didn't see much wildlife, but it was a nice hike.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Villanueva

Our next stop was Villanueva State Park which was packed for Cinco de Mayo weekend.  We arrived on Thursday, so we had parking options.  On Friday we watched some pretty fancy backing as good-sized trailers were forced to take small sites.  It was very entertaining.
We were right along the Pecos River and were further entertained by enterprising young people who carried tubes up river then floated right by us. 


The park has two nice hiking trails, both short, but with some serious elevation change.  First we did the Canyon trail, a two-mile loop which begins as an easy walk along the river.  But we knew it was going to the high point in the upper right of the picture. 


As the trail started uphill, we could look down on our rig.  We had chosen that spot from the satellite view on Google maps for the openness and easy access.  We couldn’t park right in the sun because the pay station was there, but we got enough morning and late afternoon sun for the solar. 


The campground layout is interesting.  Most of the sites are down along the river, but 11 of them are on top of the cliff.  If you click on the picture, you can see it better.  One of the sites on top would probably be better for us, but, although the one-way road was fine going up, I swear it was a 20 percent grade coming back down.  Yikes! 


After puffing our way up a particularly steep switchback, we enjoyed the view down the Pecos River canyon. 


The rest of the trail loop took us along the top of the bluff, 


With some sections looking like sand dunes, 


And others looking like they had been paved with flagstone. 


Eventually, we dropped back down to river level where Ron spotted these cliff swallow nests. 


The next day, we hiked the shorter El Cerro trail which climbs above the campground to a nice view of the valley below. 


Anybody know what this cool plant is?  I don’t think I’ve ever seen one.  Maybe some kind of fern? 



I really enjoyed this state park because of the trails, which is a good thing since the road in is not the best.  When we exited the interstate, there was a road sign that said it was not recommended for trailers.  But it was just a little narrow and curvy and we were far from the biggest RV that we saw arrive at the park.  We were without phone or internet during our stay, but we just had to leave before our respective daughters’ birthdays so we could call them on their special day.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Caballo Lake State Park

Continuing our tour of the New Mexico State Parks, our next stop was Caballo Lake.  After much discussion between ourselves, we parked below the dam instead of overlooking the lake.

We noticed the cliffs across the Rio Grande really took on color near sunset.

One more of the new fifth wheel.

Now if you're wondering why I'm posting so many picture of the RV, it's so you'll recognize us if you see us out and about.  And it worked!  Our friends Donna and Bob of Traveling-U.S.A. happened to also be at Caballo Lake and tracked us down.  We spent a fun afternoon catching up with them.

We also met Ron's daughter's mother-in-law and her husband for lunch one day.  We see them about every three years.  She has to be the happiest person I ever met, so lots of laughter ensued.

It was getting a little warm that far south, so we jumped 180 miles north to Albuquerque.  We normally park at Sandia Casino for a night or two, but bad news.  What used to be free, now costs a minimum of $28!  To stay in a parking lot with no amenities!  So we moved three miles to the Cracker Barrel where we had the best meal for less than that. We're copying your good idea, Dave and Marsha.