Sunday, October 30, 2016

Chiricahua National Monument

When I stated that Tent Rocks was my favorite national monument, I had forgotten about Chiricahua.  What a place for rock formations!  We decided our first stop in Arizona had to be there.

One of the best things about Chiricahua is the daily bus that will take you up to the Echo Canyon picnic area so you can hike back down to your car at the visitor center, an elevation drop of 1380 feet. You can take the longer 7-mile route, which I did last time (click here), or the shorter 4.5-mile route down Echo Canyon and Rhyolite Canyon.  We decided on the latter which I’ve highlighted on the map. 

It was a perfect day for hiking.  Before we had gone even ¼ mile, we looked back and spotted Cochise’s head in the rocks behind us.  (The top of his head is to the right as he looks up to the sky.)  Cochise was a great leader of the Chiricahua Apaches who lived in the area until 1886 when they were herded off to reservations in Oklahoma and New Mexico. 

I really like the Echo Canyon trail because it takes you right in among the rock columns.

We weren’t the only ones enjoying the trail.

More rocks – I can never see too many.

From the Echo Canyon trail, we followed the Upper Rhyolite Canyon trail down to the canyon floor, then climbed some to the Lower Rhyolite Canyon Trail. 

We found another friend along the way.  Funny how they all look pretty different, but have the same disgusted expression. 

I didn’t get a good overview picture, so I pulled this one out of the ones from our last visit.  What a place!

Back at the visitor center, we went in to check out the displays and watch the movie.  They had an informative area on the wonderful CCC, including this interesting set of statistics.  (As always, you can click on it to blow it up.)


We had one complaint concerning the monument.  The only campground was small with a 29-foot limit and we felt that there was plenty of open area that could be utilized.  We heard the ranger sending people into the national forest about five miles from the entrance.  Although that is where we stayed both this time and three years ago, I could just imagine the reactions of novices to boondocking.  “You want me to go where?”  We appreciated our spot in the forest, although we were surrounded by alligators.

Alligator junipers, that is. 

What we didn’t appreciate was the 5-mile road in.  I’m sure it wasn’t that bad three years ago.  Ron swears he’s never going back.  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Last Stop in New Mexico

On our way to Silver City, we stopped at the Gila Wilderness overlook.  In 1924, this was the first National Forest area to be so designated.  Looks pretty wilderness-y.

Silver City has a very quaint downtown area with decorative architecture.

I loved the mosaic murals on this old building.

Although it was 40 miles away, we knew it was probably the closest we’d ever be to Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.  Most of the drive was through heavy forest, but there were some nice views.

Once at the national monument, we took the 1-mile loop to see the cliff dwellings.

There are about 40 rooms built inside five natural caves.  According to the dating done on the incorporated timbers, they were built between 1276 and 1287.  However they left about 1300.  Seems like a lot of trouble for such a short amount of time. 

What I found most interesting is the fact that much of the ruins is in original condition.  For instance, this entire two story tower is original except the section between the two doorways and the section they put in the bottom door so kids wouldn’t crawl into it.

They had a pretty view.

We took the ladder challenge to exit the caves.  There was an option with steps, but what fun would that be?

Back down on valley level, we found various pictographs, which were painted with a mixture of water and powder hematite according to the sign.  This one was very involved.

Another was very traditional.

But I had never seen a hand done with a spatter paint method like this.  Adds credibility to my theory that kids did them.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Cat Walk

From Datil, NM, we took a new route south – NM 12 to US 180 to Silver City.  But on the way we stopped at a free BLM campground near tiny Glenwood to hike the Cat Walk.  I would describe this hike as very little effort for a nice reward.

Humm, I don’t think I’ve seen a pedestrian warning sign like this before.

But it looks to me like the rocks have mostly been imprisoned.

It’s an easy one-half mile walk up a canyon.

In the 1930s, those wonderful workers from the CCC built a wooden recreation trail along the route of a former water pipeline. It was replaced with metal grating in the 1960s and made wheelchair accessible.

It’s some impressive grating

With support beams that might be a bit overkill.

I thought it was all very cool.

All too soon we reached the end. 

The trail used to go another half mile, but in 2013 it was all closed when a flood washed out much of it.  In May of this year, the first half mile reopened and it doesn’t sound like the rest will ever be repaired.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Balloon Wrap Up

For a little clarification of our fabulous parking situation at the Balloon Fiesta, I shamelessly stole Donna's aerial view off her Facebook page.  For an account of their crewing experience, see Donna and Bob's blog here.

As you can see, we were lined up around an open field which was used by some of the balloons as a landing field.  Because we were over at the launch field both of the previous mornings, we never saw them fly overhead or land.  The third morning, as we were preparing to leave, we thought we might see some action.

Little did we know it was the day of a contest involving that same field.  The balloons were challenged to drop something (I should have found out what) onto a target in the middle of the open field.

I headed to the south end to watch them come from the launch field across Alameda.  At first it looked like all the balloons were headed straight to the field.

But alas, that fickle breeze shifted all of them slightly to the east.

Moving round to that side, I watched as they all passed over the main section of the RV parking.
The dog balloon in the upper left did drop their object and I saw some ribbons falling.  I spoke to a spectator in the northeast corner and she said it fell on the hitch of the trailer next to her.  Good thing it didn’t bop her on the head.

The one that came closest to where we were parked on the west side was this one that landed (I think just temporarily) in the canal behind us.  Our rig is second from the left.

 After all the morning excitement, we hitched up and continued our southwestward trek home.  We passed the Very Large Array (VLA) in Socorro County, New Mexico.  We didn’t stop this time, but it is a fascinating place reminiscent of the movie Contact.

 It’s a radio astronomy observatory with twenty-seven 25-meter antennae positioned on a Y-shaped track.  Each leg of the Y is 21 km or 13 miles long and the antennae are moved to different distances along the track.  The first time we visited, the units were very close together.  This time it looked like they were using all 13 miles of each leg.  You can barely see the next dish in line.

We stopped in Datil Well campground, where we saw this interesting historical sign.  Although it doesn't say it on this sign, they drove cattle along this route until 1971 and the CCC had built the local wells in the 1930s.  Somehow I don’t think of cattle drives as being that recent.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

More Balloons

Our second day at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta began a bit later.  We were still up before dawn, but took the shuttle bus as it was getting light.  It was a spectacular day as far as artistic clouds.

I really liked this balloon of balloons.

But it was special shapes day and the wind was iffy.  At one point there was a gust that did some damage and the special shapes balloons never took off.

I had to laugh.  It looked like some giant kid's pile of toys.

We wandered over to the chain saw competition.  The contestants had 90 minutes to complete their entry.  I know you can't really see this heron but I didn't want to use a flash and cause an accident.

This fire engine serves as a chase car.

It was fun to see all the balloons up close, but I was a little disappointed that they didn't take off.  On our way off the field, we laughed at the number of crew members for the Wells Fargo wagon balloon seen here.

Here it is deflated with the massive crew.  I wonder if they're all employees and were given the day off with pay.

We came back for the evening festivities and got to see the chain saw carvings from the second competition.  These took hours to make.  The bear won second place.

And this very unique oak leaf/acorn chair won the competition.

But for the reason we returned . . .  The Escapee Boomers traditionally crew for some of the balloons.  This involves getting up way too early, but we were offered the chance to help with the Special Shapes Glow on Thursday evening.  The glow involves inflating the balloons and our job would be to hold one in place.  Although I did picture us hanging on to the outside of the basket as it rises into the air, they assured me that wouldn't happen.  LOL

We helped with Annie the Lady Bug.

It's hard to imagine that big balloon is packed in this bag, but you see how many people it took to carry it.

Next came the basket.  Here the burners are being attached.

We spread out the balloon with her cute face up.

The untrained help (us and another couple) held the opening as a giant fan blew air to inflate the balloon.

And then the propane flames heated the air to lift the balloon to vertical.

Then our main job kicked in and we held the basket in place for about 15 minutes.  (Ron was holding for both of us while I took the picture.)

I have to say that the special shapes don't make as nice of a showing as the traditional balloons because they don't really show up well.  For instance, you can't see the car running through this auto repair one.

Once again, I didn't get a picture of our lady bug.  I didn't want to leave Ron holding it that long.

The Glow was followed by pretty impressive fireworks.  Here's a terrible picture of them.

I have to say it was a lot harder to get that giant balloon back INTO the bag.